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Infinite Canaan: Science, Religion, and the new Space Race
It’s something out of a bad dream—or a mediocre sci fi story. The Earth is becoming uninhabitable, so a wealthy fraction of humanity hitches a ride offworld to live in a shopping mall under the dominion of the corporation that wrecked the planet in the first place. Meanwhile, conditions on Earth approach infernal. Meanwhile, the space colony amplifies every earthly social crisis thanks to unreliable technology, tight living quarters, and the oligarchic control of information, water, and air. We know this story never ends well, but the present moment finds us buying it wholesale from a few charismatic CEOs in agonistic partnership with the big national space agencies. This is the era of “Space 4.0,” or “NewSpace.”

This lecture seeks to explain the intensifying “NewSpace race” as a mythological project. In particular, it reveals the escalating desire to colonize other planets as a boundless extension of the particularly Christian style of “dominion” that globalized the Earth. From the Doctrine of Discovery that “gave” Spain the New World through the Manifest Destiny that carried white Americans across the continent, the Christian imperial myth of “human” supremacy has justified genocide and ecocide as “necessary means” toward utopian ends. Now with the advent of NewSpace industries, the exploitative ethos of European colonialism has been unleashed outward in all directions, burnished with a half-religious assurance that everywhere we go is ours, and every land is our Promised Land

The question, then, is whether there might be a different approach to exploring outer space. Is there a way to learn from other planets, moons, and asteroids without exploiting them? Is there a way to see land as important in its own right, rather than a mere container for “resources”? How might we inhabit outer space without bringing our most destructive tendencies along with us? And might we find ways to heal our ravaged Earth in the process?

Sep 23, 2021 07:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Please note: The recording of this event will be recorded. After the event you will received a digital recording of the event. It will also be made available for purchase on the Westar website.  Thank you.


Dr. Mary-Jane Rubenstein
Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University; core faculty in the Science and Society Program
Mary-Jane Rubenstein is Professor of Religion at Wesleyan University; core faculty in the in the Science and Society Program; and affiliated faculty in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program. She holds a B.A. in Religion and English from Williams College, an M.Phil. in Philosophical Theology from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from Columbia University. Her areas of research include continental philosophy, gender and sexuality studies, science and religion, and the history and philosophy of physics, ecology, and cosmology. She is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe (2009) Worlds without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse (2014), and Pantheologies: Gods, Worlds, Monsters (2018). She is also co-editor with Catherine Keller of Entangled Worlds: Religion, Science, and New Materialisms (2017).