Voyager 1 is the most distant human-made object from Earth. After sweeping by Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, it is now in interstellar space about 15 billion miles (24 billion kilometers) from Earth.
Voyager 1 and its twin, Voyager 2, both have tiny bits of humanity as their gold record.
Messages in a Bottle include greetings spoken in 55 languages, sounds and pictures from nature, an album of recordings and images from multiple cultures, and a written welcome message to Jimmy Carter, which occurred when the spacecraft left Earth in 1977. was the US President.
The Golden Records were made to last up to a billion years in the space environment, but in a recent analysis these discoverers may have encountered, astronomers calculated that they could last for trillions of years without any stars coming from the far side. can be present.
Having spent my career in religion and science, I have thought a lot about how spiritual ideas combine with technological achievements. The incredible longevity of the Voyager spacecraft presents a uniquely tangible entry point into the pursuit of ideas of immortality.
For many people, immortality is the eternal existence of a soul or spirit that comes after death. It can also mean continuing one’s legacy in memory and records. With its golden record, each Voyager offers such a legacy, but only if it is discovered and appreciated by an alien civilization in the distant future.
life after death
Religious beliefs about immortality are numerous and varied. Most religions expect postmortem careers for an individual soul or spirit, and these range from living forever among the stars to reincarnation.
The ideal eternal life for many Christians and Muslims is to live forever in the presence of God in heaven or heaven.
The teachings of Judaism are less clear about what happens after death. In the Hebrew Bible, the dead are only “shadows” in a dark place called Sheol. Some rabbinical authorities give credence to the resurrection of the righteous and even to the eternal state of souls.
Immortality is not limited to the individual. It can also be collective. For many Jews, the ultimate destiny of the nation of Israel or its people is paramount. Many Christians look forward to the general resurrection of all those who have died in the future and the coming of the kingdom of God to believers.
Jimmy Carter, whose message and autograph are immortalized in Golden Records, is a progressive Southern Baptist and a living example of the religious hope for immortality.
Now battling brain cancer and approaching centenary, he has thought about dying. After his diagnosis, Carter concluded in a sermon: “It didn’t matter to me whether I died or lived. … my Christian faith includes absolute belief in the afterlife. So I I am going to live again after I die.”
It is plausible to conclude that the ability to see the Golden Record and become aware of Carter’s identity billions of years into the future would provide only minor additional consolation to him.
Carter’s knowledge of his ultimate fate is a measure of his deep belief in the immortality of his soul. In this sense, he probably represents people of many religions.
For those who are secular or non-religious, there is little solace in appealing to the continued existence of the soul or spirit after one’s death.
Carl Sagan, who came up with the idea for Golden Records and led its development, wrote of the afterlife: “I know of nothing to suggest that this is more than just wishful thinking”.
He was more saddened by the thoughts of missing important life experiences than he was horrified about the expected destruction of his conscious self with the death of his brain—such as watching his children grow up.
There are other possible alternatives to immortality for people like Sagan. These include cooling and preserving the body for future physical resurrection or uploading one’s consciousness and transforming it into a digital form that will remain out of the brain for a long time.
Neither of these possible paths to physical immortality has yet been proven possible.
Sailor and Legacy
Most people, whether secular or religious, want the work they do while they are alive, to carry on in the future the continued meaning as their fruitful legacy. People want to be remembered and appreciated, even cherished. Sagan summed it up well: “To live in the hearts we leave behind is to live forever”.
With Voyagers 1 and 2 estimated to have existed for over a trillion years, they are about as immortal as it gets for human artifacts.
In about 5 billion years, when the Sun’s fuel would run out, all living species, mountains, oceans and forests would have long been wiped out, long before its expected death. It would be as if we and all the wonderful and extraordinary beauty of planet Earth never existed – a disastrous thought for me.
But in the distant future, two Voyager spacecraft will still be floating in space, awaiting discovery by an advanced alien civilization for which the messages on the Golden Records were intended. Only those records will remain as the testimony and legacy of the earth, a kind of objective immortality.
Religious and spiritual people can find solace in the belief that God waits for them after death or after death. For the secular, hoping that someone or the other will remember humanity, any waking and appreciative aliens would have to do.
James Edward Hutchingson, Professor Emeritus and Lecturer in Religion and Science, Florida International University.
This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.