I rarely visit eBay, but right after Christmas I got caught-up in a high stakes bid for an out-of-print book written more than thirty years ago by an assistant pastor at a church in Fall River, Massachusetts. This was my first excursion into the world of online auctions, but I was confident because my entrepreurial nephew, John, was back on break from school. I knew John had bought and sold on eBay before, so I didn't hesitate to ask his advice on how to improve my chances for nailing a winning bid.
I also felt confident because it seemed more than lucky that the book was available at all. Right after learning about it I checked my usual online sources in hopes of finding a copy, but not one bookseller had the title. Then somehow I got the idea to look on eBay and, well, there it was. Just one copy. Just one bid submitted. And just a little more than twenty-four hours left in the auction. I didn't speculate much about karma or destiny. Instead I quietly acknowledged the good opportunity and did what any self-respecting consumer would do: I joined eBay, signed-up for PayPal, and plotted strategy.
The work in question is Many Worlds, One God, by Kenneth J. Delano. It was published in 1977 by Exposition Press in Hicksville, New York, and runs 141 pages. The ISBN 13 number is 978-0682486442. As far as I was able to determine, Exposition, a small vanity press, ceased operations sometime in 1984.
Details of publication are usually of zero interest to readers (being a former publishing house GM, they always interest me), but in this case there's an added feature on the copyright page that makes the work and its contents special: the page includes a nihil obstat and an imprimatur. A nihil obstat is an official approval granted by a designated censor in the Roman Catholic Church. Its presence certifies a work does not contradict Catholic teachings on matters of faith and morals. An imprimatur is the final approval and official declaration by the bishop in the diocese where the work is to be published, indicating the content is free from errors concerning Catholic doctrine.
Rev. Delano undoubtedly knew the value of obtaining an imprimatur when writing about controversial subjects. Many Worlds, One God is described on its dust jacket as "An intelligent discussion of the existence of extraterrestrial life and its impact upon mankind."
When Many Worlds, One God was published, Kenneth Delano was an active amateur astronomer and member in both the Astronomical League and the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers. Before Many Worlds, One God, he wrote Astrology: Fact or Fiction?, which was published as a mass market paperback. I know little more about his first book, except that it was favorably reviewed in Homiletic & Pastoral Review, a well-known Catholic pastoral magazine. I have no idea if it also bears an imprimatur.
I find it interesting that in Many Worlds, One God Delano suggests that churches should raise questions "in anticipation of the discovery that we are not alone in the material universe." Questions like:
"How many people have premised their religious beliefs on the uniqueness of man?
How many would be capable of conceiving a relationship between themseves and God as being founded on anything else but the belief that the one God finds only one being, the human being, worthy of His attention?
Would the people say with David, 'What is man that Thou art mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visiteth him,' not with the psalmist's devout wonder, but rather with enervating skepticism about God's concern for humanity?
How many would survive the incomparable revolution in thinking that may be forthcoming with the discovery of alien intelligences?"
These questions are good ones that have yet to be addressed either informally on local levels or through official Catholic or Protestant positions. That said, I doubt anyone's surprised about this, including Rev. Delano, who is now retired.
For me, the value of this very readable book lies in its official sanction, its unique mention of the role churches can play in assisting believers with the presumed future discovery of life beyond Earth, and its thoughtful non-technical presentation (circa 1977) of a broad range of relevant topics. The latter includes evolution, the nature of life in space, extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI), communicating with sentient beings, UFO phenomena, cultural impacts of the discovery, and "astrotheology." Delano's bibliography contains an equally wide range of sources, not exhaustive by any means, but helpful to general readers.
I also appreciate that Delano wrote his book with a concern for people. His Introduction makes this clear:
"Now is the time for all of us to start making the necessary mental preparations for the revelation that we are not alone in thge universe. If our minds have not been prepared beforehand for the detection of or an encounter with ETI we will suffer the shock of having to adjust too rapidly to a fact about which the world's religions have had little or nothing to say. The agitations experienced in the past over the theories of Copernicus and Darwin will seem to have been, by comparison, tempests in a teapot."
Whether he is correct about this or not (I can picture scenarios that suggest he is), it seems to me that Rev. Delano deserves credit for emphasizing the need for people of all faiths to take a confident approach in matters concerning the prospect of intelligent life outside our solar system:
"Any person possessing a religious faith that conveys an adequate idea of the greatness of God's creative ability, of humanity's humble position in the universe, and of the limitless love and care God has for all His intelligent creatures, should not be afraid to look at the evidence. . .that indicates that we humans are not the only ones in the universe having intellects and wills capable of knowing and loving God."
Confidence on eBay has its rewards, too.
At 1:30 am on December 27, just minutes before bidding closed, I increased the existing bid by $.25 and soon after received confirmation that I won the item.
Many Worlds, One God, and twelve dollars US.
Next stop: "Billions of Earths" and a 2000-Year-Old Computer Kenneth J. Delano, dust jacket photo for Many Worlds, One God (1977). For editorial use only. Banner bus photo credit: Dorothy Delina Porter.
Next stop: "Billions of Earths" and a 2000-Year-Old Computer
Kenneth J. Delano, dust jacket photo for Many Worlds, One God (1977). For editorial use only.
Banner bus photo credit: Dorothy Delina Porter.