NASA has hired 24 theologians to answer one question: how will humans react to news that intelligent life exists on other planets? That is, of course, if that news is ever discovered. NASA hopes the theologians at the Center for Theological Inquiry (CTI) in Princeton, New Jersey, will provide answers.

This is the latest of multiple partnerships between NASA and CTI. In 2014, NASA awarded CTI a $1.1 million grant to study “worshippers’ interest in and openness to scientific inquiry called the Societal Implications of Astrobiology study.”

One of the 24 theologians enlisted is University of Cambridge religious scholar Rev. Dr. Andrew Davison, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry from Oxford. Davison says his research so far has already seen “just how frequently theology-and-astrobiology has been topic in popular writing” during the past 150 years.

Davison has a book coming out in 2022, “Astrobiology and Christian Doctrine,” which will cover part of CTI and NASA’s joint spiritual exploration. Davison’s “most significant question” is how theologians would respond to the notion “of there having been many incarnations [of Christ]” in the universe.

The New York Post reports:

Studies have shown links between religiosity and belief in extraterrestrial intelligence. Research published in 2017 found that people with a strong desire to find meaning, but a low adherence to a particular religion, are more likely to believe aliens exist — indicating that faith in either theory may come from the same human impulse.

With NASA’s support, CTI’s director Will Storrar said they’d hoped to see “serious scholarship being published in books and journals” to come out on the subject, answering to the “profound wonder and mystery and implication of finding microbial life on another planet.”

According to the Times, Davison’s book notes that a “large number of people would turn to their religions traditions for guidance” if extraterrestrials were found, and what that means “for the standing and dignity of human life.”

“Detection [of alien life] might come in a decade or only in future centuries or perhaps never at all, but if or where it does, it will be useful to have thought through the implications in advance,” Davison writes.