FACT CHECK: Has NASA ‘Just Hired’ 24 Theologians To Study How Humans Would React To Alien Life?

Charlese Freeman | Contributor

A post shared on Facebook claims the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) “just hired 24 theologians to assess how the world would react if we discovered alien life.”

Verdict: Misleading

NASA partially funded an independent research project that brought 24 religious experts together in 2016 and 2017 to study how humans might react to the discovery of alien life. The researchers selected, however, were not hired by NASA and the project concluded in 2017.

Fact Check:

NASA is frequently the subject of online misinformation. The most recent example of the trend appears to be a Dec. 28 Facebook post that claims “NASA just hired 24 theologians to assess how the world would react if we discovered alien life.” (RELATED: Did Nasa Spend More Than $165 Million To Develop Pens That Work In Space?)

The post appears to be based on a Dec. 23 article from The Times, a U.K.-based newspaper, titled, “Heavens above: Nasa enlists priest to prepare for an alien discovery.” The article describes how Rev. Dr. Andrew Davison, a priest at the University of Cambridge, participated in a program along with 23 other religious experts aimed at studying how humanity would react to the discovery of alien life. The article explains this program took place at the Center for Theological Inquiry (CTI) in Princeton, New Jersey, was partially funded by NASA and occurred between September 2016 and June 2017.

There is, however, no evidence that any of these religious thinkers were “hired” by NASA. The article from The Times makes no mention of this claim. Check Your Fact searched NASA’s press releases and found nothing about the agency hiring theologians to study human reactions to alien life.

“The NASA-funded portion of this research concluded in 2017, and the researchers involved in this study were selected exclusively by CTI,” explained a NASA spokesperson in an email to Check Your Fact. “NASA was not involved in the selection of researchers for this study, and individuals who receive grant funding from NASA are not employees, advisors, or spokespersons for the agency. Thus, the researchers and scholars involved with this study were not hired by NASA, but instead received funding through CTI to conduct this work.”

The notion that any of this occurred recently, as the Facebook post suggests, is likewise incorrect. Both the NASA spokesperson and the article from The Times state the program concluded more than four years ago in 2017.

Charlese Freeman

Contributor

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