January 18, 2022
What was claimed
NASA just hired 24 theologians to assess how the world would react if we discovered extraterrestrial life.
NASA funded a program undertaken by 24 theologians to study how major religions would react to the discovery of extraterrestrial life, but did not directly hire the academics. NASA funding for the program ended in 2017.
Several social media posts Claim that NASA just “hired” 24 theologians to study how humans would react if scientists discovered extraterrestrial life, with the suggestion that it did so to prepare for imminent contact with extraterrestrials.
As other fact checkers have written, the social media posts emerged in the wake of a December 22 Times article titled “Heavens above: Nasa enrolls buyer to prepare for an alien discovery.”
The fact that NASA hired the theologians was also reported towards the end of 2021 by Unilad and Dazed.
The Times article features an interview with Dr. Andrew Davison, a priest and theologian based at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Theology, who was one of 24 theologians to have worked in a NASA-funded program at the Center for Theological Inquiry (CTI) in Princeton, United States.
The program, reports the Times, looked at how the world’s major religions would react to news of the discovery of extraterrestrial life. However, this work took place between 2016 and 2017, and the 24 scholars were not directly hired by NASA.
A NASA spokesperson told Check Your Fact: “The NASA-funded portion of this research was completed in 2017, and the researchers involved in this study were selected exclusively by CTI.
“NASA was not involved in the selection of researchers for this study, and individuals who receive a NASA grant are not agency employees, advisors, or spokespersons. Thus, researchers and the academics involved in this study were not hired by NASA, but rather received funding through the CTI to carry out this work.
Image courtesy of Laurenz Heymann, via Unsplash.
This article is part of our work to check for potentially fake photos, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this and find out how to report Facebook content here. For the purposes of this diagram, we have called this claim partially false because it is true that 24 theologians studied this subject, but they were not hired by NASA and the program described ended in 2017.