Catholic priests, scientists head to Rome to ponder alien life
Little green men OK - female priests not OK
The Vatican may be a little closer to deciding how it deals with the tricky problem of extra terrestrial - and most likely non-Catholic - life forms, as it wraps up a conference on astrobiology this week.
The Vatican Observatory has been running a "joint study week" on Astrobiology this week together with the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
The Vatican has been already deemed 2009 to be the International Year of Astronomy, with the Pope kicking off proceedings last December by saying what a standup guy Galileo was, and musing on the pagan origins of the Roman cityscape.
According to Marc Kaufman at the Washington Post, the study week includes sessions on how life might have begun on Earth, what harsh environment microbes on earth point to on other planets, and how lifeforms on other planets could be recognised.
Of course, you might be forgiven for thinking the Catholic Church has many of these issues - particularly the first - licked. But the one true church can be broader than expected at times.
As Kaufman points out, NASA is already pondering how the news of extra terrestrial life might affect things down here on Earth.
Clearly, the Vatican is pondering some of the same issues. Some in the Catholic Church don't see a theological problem with the idea of extraterrestrial life per se. God, being omnipotent, would be perfectly at liberty to create other lifeforms.
Last year, Vatican Observatory boss José Gabriel Funes told Papal inhouse paper L'Osservatore Romano: "To say it with St Francis, if we can consider some earthly creatures as 'brothers' or 'sisters', why could we not speak of a 'brother alien'? He would also belong to the creation."
Funes even suggested aliens might not suffer from that human burden original sin. Which would arguably make it easier for the Vatican to accommodate alien life, as it wouldn't feel duty bound to covert any aliens it encountered.
But Kaufmann quotes one of the conference's speakers, Paul Davies, a theoretical physicist and cosmologist from Arizona State University, who believes the issue is being downplayed by religious leaders.
"The real threat would come from the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence, because if there are beings elsewhere in the universe, then Christians, they're in this horrible bind. They believe that God became incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ in order to save humankind, not dolphins or chimpanzees or little green men on other planets."
Whether we'll see a definitive statement on whether aliens can join the Church of Rome any time soon is debatable. After all, the Vatican has only just welcomed back a chunk of the Church of England, a mere 500 years after Henry VIII broke with Rome. ®
@Anonymous Coward 12:46
>>The church may not be able to prove anything, but until you can prove them wrong your worse than them. There views don't harm people, but many people get strenght and hope from them.
Church views do harm people;
Historically; Crusades, Inquisition to name but two (and the understandable Islamic backlash)
In recent history, on the day of remberance it's probably inapropriate to mention it but Hitler used his Christianity to justify his actions, perhaps if the Pope condemmed him then his public support would have been weakened and millions of people would not have suffered?
Dogmatically; If the laws of Duteronomy or Leviticus are followed then there are horrific and unjust punishments.
Look at the suffering caused by Mother Theresa, if the donated money went to medication rather than to the Vatican then less people would have suffered and died, on that note why did she take money from the Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier?
I find your comment about condoms absolutely disgraceful, saying that using condoms is a sin, and worse actually saying that they don't prevent HIV infection has caused millions to suffer, and no, saying "well, they shouldn't have sex outside marrage" doesn't make it right, by a long chalk.
>>many people get strenght and hope from them
Ignorance maybe bliss, faith in a non existent afterlife, belief that you are one of the few chosen ones to be saved, belief that one of the various gods thinks that you are special might be a comfort, but wouldn't it be better to just be nice to people, be good for the sake of it not because you think it might give you eternal life but because it's actually the right thing to do?
Don't waste your life worshipping a non existent god and following irrelevant dogma, if you want to be good, then be good, don't judge people for having consensual sex before marrage or with someone of the same sex (or even with themselves!) just because some ancient scrawlings are interpreted in a particular way.
There are many, many people who work in the church because they want to be good, and in fact are (I think) good people, if the church wasn't there they would still work for charities, be good people support others, try make the world a bit better, they don't really need the church or it's dogma and neither does anyone else.
Only once you are free of (religious) dogma can you be an altruistically good person.
@AC "There views don't harm people"
In Ireland, their views included institutional physical and sexual abuse of women and children, sanctioned by the highest levels of the Catholic organisation, until the end of the last century. Look up the Magdalene laundries and the Christian Brothers. The last Magdalene asylum closed in 1996; the Christian Brothers are still operating today.
Today, the Catholic ban on contraception is directly hurting millions of people in Latin America - you *do* need contraception inside marriage if you want a planned family. As is the Catholic ban on all abortion, including a ban on abortion in cases of rape (even rape of children) which ensures victims are doubly violated. The Catholic organisation has directly interfered with investigations into physical and sexual abuse by clergy in all countries in which these investigations have taken place. Catholic priests in Africa have been allowed to use the church as a vehicle for ethnic cleansing with no comeback from the Catholic organisation.
"Funes even suggested aliens might not suffer from that human burden original sin."
No sin, no need for the church, right ?
No sin means they're angels or Jesus himself or at least 2nd cousins to Mary.
And what if the no-sin-little-green-men just happen to develop a taste for human flesh ?
Holy aliens eating believers ? How would a christian respond to that ? Will they think it's the rapture (via alien digestion) ? I mean, why not ? God works in mysterious ways, right ?
And even if this is not the case, no sin means they're more or less like the animals on earth. Will the church start converting poodles and lolcats next ?