Re: Judaism and extra-terrestrial life

Russell Hendel (rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu)
Wed, 13 Nov 1996 00:48:27 -0500

Turkel, Klein, & Caesar (v2-87,85 etc) discuss the compatability of
the Torah with extra terrestial life. I suggest that by viewing
the Torah laws as dealing with __fundamental spiritual issues__
we can easily argue that other planets if they had intelligent
life would require a Torah like ours.

Many people are unaware of a delightful study by the Rand
Corporation, "Habitable Planets" by Dole, whose purpose is to
study the properties a planet must have in order to sustain life.

A simple example will give the "flavor" of the study: "Life is
based on the cell; the cell is based on an aqueous environment;but
liquid water requires certain temperature ranges. Hence any
habitable planet must have temperature ranges at least in the 32-
212 range." The above book even calculates "how frequently" a
planet is habitable in outer space

In the spirit of this book I would like to show how intelligent
life on any planet would require a Torah much like our own:

Intelligent life necessitates...
* "instinctual reproduction" for its perpetuation, and hence
the Arayoth Laws are needed to prevent "instinctual excesses"

* an animal hierarchy, kingdom or cycle so that higher forms can
feed on lower forms--hence Kasruth laws are needed to promote
purity by focusing on which forms can and can't be eaten

* Consistent periodic cycles of light and dark (see the above
book)---hence we need the various Calendar laws & holidays.

* We can be a bit more speculative: If we accept the allegorical
interpretation of lulav and ethrog: "holding 4 diverse parts of
the _plant_ kingdom symbolically affirms the unity of all _people_",
then any habitable planet requires lulav-ethrog laws (albeit
possibly with differently named plants). If every planet has in
its development a "bully tyrannical" Egypt which abuses human
status then we require the "Egypt exodus" laws.

What then is the issue? Whether life exists on other planets?
Rather the issue is whether the Torah is a cosmic book which
applies everywhere independent of a particular people and
history. Rightly does it say: "God acquired me (The torah) at the
beginning of history; I was the first of His creations...It is
thru me that planet kingdoms reign..."(Prv 8:15,22-loose poetic
translation).

Respectfully, Russell J Hendel, Ph.d.,ASA, rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu