Is Anybody Out There? – Professor Frank Stootman

The Search for Extra-Terrestrial IntelligenceImage result for extraterrestrial life

“So often people think I’m looking for little green men and that’s just not true.”

“For me it’s freeing because I think science is thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

“It’s part of human curiosity to know who we are and where we fit.”

This is the discussion that unfolded when an astrophysicist was pitched against  an evergreen, down-to-earth, but highly productive garden-variety radio host.

‘Aliens or not’

Frank Stootman

The astrophysicist happened to be Professor Frank Stootman, a former director of SETI Australia and the leader of the L’Abri Fellowship in Australia.

SETI is the acronym for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.

The radio host was none other than intrepid, resourceful, and cerebrally intuitive 20Twenty host Neil Johnson.

The unanswered question was whether this matchup was celebrated and confirmed across the universe with an alignment of the planets to signify the significance of the occasion.

 

‘It might sound a bit crazy’

Neil Johnson

Neil Johnson

As far as Professor Frank Stootman is concerned his accreditation starts with his faith. That being the case, why would an intelligent professorial person who is a Christian want to search for extra-terrestrial intelligence when there’s no biblical reason to do so?

Frank admitted it might sound a bit crazy but what interested him was the scientific search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

“So often people think I’m looking for little green men and that’s just not true.”

‘What is the truth?’

“What I was involved with in SETI was more about a survey. The potential of there being life out there in the universe and also intelligent life,” Frank described, saying his involvement was more as a surveyor.Image result for extraterrestrial life

Frank qualified his role from a scientific viewpoint and that was to determine whether or not there is life beyond planet earth and what is the truth of that issue.

“Are we alone in the universe? So the question for me is the question of truth. It’s answering that particular question that the scientific SETI search has been trying for a long time.”

‘Astrobiology for Christians’

But Professor Stootman said the search for a form of life in space comes under the umbrella of Astrobiology.

“The question now is: Is there any life in the universe elsewhere and that really is the big question,” Frank stated, adding the quest is to determine what is true about the natural world we live in.

Again the professor made it clear that he’s a committed Christian.

“I would argue strongly that I follow Jesus and I’m therefore called a Christian on the basis that there is truth and I subscribe to that,” Frank declared, saying it’s because of what he believes that makes him interested in truth.

‘Cosmic meaning”

“Science is also a quest for truth and I’m equally committed to some of the things people believe and I’m Image result for Astrobiology imagesinterested to know if some things are true and if others are not.”

If that’s the case, would Professor Stootman be willing to encourage any potentially young Christian scientists to pursue a career in Astrobiology?

He said they need to ask themselves other questions other than what is true in the natural world.

“But what is true in terms of who I am, where do I fit in my search for cosmic meaning and significance, and where do I fit in the universe,” Frank shared, saying these are the kinds of questions.

‘Much bigger questions’

“I’m interested in holistic truth not simply in measuring the world. I want to know why it functions this way, why the laws are this way, and why humanity is this way. These are much bigger questions,” Frank said.

He explained how his enthusiasm has extended into these other areas because of his interest in truth.

“And I would want to say to young people who subscribe to following Jesus to keep going.”

“In the many years I have been a Christian I have never found that searching for truth has somehow or other countermanded my Christian faith,” Frank confessed.

‘I like to puzzle out things’

Professor Stootman said it’s too narrow a view for any scientist to say they’re only interested in the natural world. But he’s not discounting his own interest in the natural world by saying that.Image result for cosmic holistic humanity images

“Of course I’m interested in the natural world and how it functions. Of course I like to puzzle out things and how things work. But it inevitably leads to bigger questions.

“Why the universe is the way that it is, or why we as human beings are the way we are, and what differentiates us from the animal kingdom,” Frank stated, saying the question of philosophy is always there.

‘Philosophy and theology’

“And it’s not just because I’m interested. If you look through history and people like Albert Einstein, or you look Image result for quantum mechanics imagesat the early number of people in Quantum mechanics, inevitably people moved into philosophy,” Frank informed.

He said that once you start to look at how the world functions you move in that direction.

20Twenty host Neil Johnson mentioned philosophy and theology having their differences.

‘Science and God’s thoughts’

“When you think about God it moves us into the realm of theology, whereas philosophy has a broader acceptance with the questions and issues of science.”

Professor Frank Stootman gave an almost Jesus-like biblical response.

“For me it’s freeing because I think science is thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

That may explain why the professor doesn’t believe there are any limitations for a faith-believing Christian scientist come astrophysicist.

‘To the glory of God’

“I believe God has created a real world, has created real form, has created laws and principles, has created information, and it’s these things I can un-puzzle.”

“And these things are not only to the glory of God but they’re also to the benefit of humankind,” Professor Stootman declared.

On the subject of extra-terrestrial beings and the fact that nothing has been discovered so far. Does this imply that SETI has been a waste of time?

Frank said that would in some ways be in the eye of the beholder.

‘Are we alone of not?’

“For many people SETI represents a kind of deep-seated question of whether we are alone or not,” Frank said, saying SETI has its own questions.

“Does evolutionary thinking mean that elsewhere in the universe we should equally have found where it was possible, life and maybe intelligent life like us,” Frank queried, saying there are many layers to this.

He said the importance of the results has driven many people to provide a substantial amount of money throughout the years in the search for life other than on earth.

‘Human curiosity’

“It’s a quest that some might be ambivalent about.’Image result for extraterrestrial life

“But there are people who climb mountains, there are those who want to go to Mars. There have been people who have gone to the moon, those who do white-water rafting in the most dangerous rapids in the world.”

“It’s part of human curiosity to know who we are and where we fit.”

If you would like to listen to the full audio interview click play below

Image result for Professor Frank Stootman pics

Frank and Heather Stootman

Footnote:

Frank & Heather Stootman are both science trained. Frank holds a PhD in Physics and Heather a PhD in Chemistry.

Frank is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Western Sydney (UWS). This is an honorary appointment following many years of lecturing and research at UWS. His primary scientific interests are astrophysics and computational simulation. He has lectured extensively on the relationship of Christianity (Revelation) to Science (Natural Philosophy). He has eclectic interests in philosophy, music, history, politics, the arts, and film. He is a keen amateur videographer and video editor.

Heather has administered the home, a business and L’Abri for many years, raising three adult children and assisting with three grandchildren. Heather likes reading, sewing and family history. She sings in a local community choir, loves to garden, and does a lot of listening!

Both Frank & Heather have been involved with L’Abri, in various capacities, for over 30 years. They like to help people to see that God is and that becoming and being a Christian is not simply a matter of head knowledge but also heart knowledge too. Rather than what one achieves in life, it is living before God faithfully and authentically with integrity that is the real measure of a person.

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