The Center for the Study of Religion presents
a Religious Studies Symposium:
Taking the UFO Phenomenon Seriously, that is, Religiously
The fourth in a series of events hosted by CSR during the 2017-2018 academic year on the theme of "Religion, Narrative, and Media" will present a conversation between Jeffrey Kripal (Rice University) and Diana Pasulka (University of North Carolina Wilmington).
"Biological Gods: Science (Fiction) and Some Emergent Mythologies"
- Jeffrey J. Kripal (J. Newton Rayzor Chair in Philosophy and Religious Thought, Rice University)
This lecture will focus on three texts: Philip K. Dick’s VALIS (1981), Whitley Strieber’s COMMUNION (1987) and Barbara Ehrenreich’s LIVING WITH A WILD GOD (2014). In each case, we will see how the author describes a deeply personal, life-changing encounter with what any earlier culture would have recognized as a deity or demon. Each author engages these earlier religious interpretations but finally moves outside of them to posit actual invisible species in the environment that interact with human beings at their own whims and for their own interests, perhaps, the authors speculate, to "feed off" of human emotion or to tame, domesticate or evolve us via sexual communion and interspecies symbiosis. The result is a new set of evolutionary panpsychisms, erotic vitalisms and biological polytheisms that pose a challenge to the reigning materialisms and projection theories of conventional science and the humanities.
"The Incarnational Technological Sacred: The Case of the Crashed UFO Artifact"
- Diana Pasulka (Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of North Carolina Wilmington)
More than half of American adults and more than seventy-five percent of young Americans believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life. This level of belief rivals that of belief in God. Diana Pasulka’s research uncovers specific mechanisms at work behind the thriving belief system in extraterrestrial life, a system that is changing and even supplanting traditional religions.
Over the course of a six-year ethnographic study, Dr. Pasulka interviewed successful and influential scientists in Silicon Valley, professionals, and entrepreneurs who believe in extraterrestrial intelligence, thereby disproving the common misconception that only fringe members of society believe in UFOs. She argues that widespread belief in aliens is due to a number of factors including their ubiquity in modern media like The X-Files, which can influence memory, and the realist effect produced by the search for planets that might support life, as well as alleged alien artifacts that have recently made news in outlets such as the New York Times. This discussion explores the intriguing question of how people interpret unexplainable experiences, and argues that the media technologies have helped create new religious forms, among which the belief in non-human intelligent life is one example
Moderator: Sarah Iles Johnston (Arts and Humanities Distinguished Professor of Religion, Ohio State University)
Addional information for and directions to the Ohio State University Faculty Club can be found below:
Admission to this event is free and open to the public. For any questions, please contact (614) 688-8010.
Parking for this event is available at the Union South Garage, which can be accessed from High Street or from College Road S. Metered parking is also available along W. 11th Avenue west of High Street, and on W. 12th Avenue across from Hale Hall. Information about ADA accessible permits and parking can also be found here.