Thinking Anglicans

A Vatican astronomer and aliens

Guy Consolmagno, SJ, who is an astronomer at the Vatican Onservatory, is visiting Britain to speak at the British Science Festival today (Saturday). He spoke to the press beforehand.

Alok Jha in The Guardian: Pope’s astronomer says he would baptise an alien if it asked him.

Richard Alleyne in the Telegraph: Pope Benedict XVI’s astronomer: the Catholic Church welcomes aliens.

James Dacey on the Institute of Physics blog: Pope’s astronomer hits the bar.

Vicky Davidson in The Big issue in Scotland: God’s Astronomer.

Clive Cookson in the Financial Times: Pope’s astronomer would welcome alien life.

John von Radowitz in The Sydney Morning Herald Smart aliens ‘would be God’s children’.

David Derbyshire in the Mail Online: I’d love to baptise ET, says Vatican’s stargazer.

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MarkBrunsonBill DilworthPat O'NeillRobert Ian WilliamsPluralist Recent comment authors
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Bill Dilworth
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I think Bradbury had it right in “Christus Apollo” – God will have become all sorts of strange Flesh.

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

The only extra terrestial life are the angels and the fallen angels. They can fantasise all they want , but they will find no extra-terrestial life.

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

What next ? Acceptance of gays, protestants, animists –atheists- wymin even ?!

bobinswpa
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bobinswpa

RIW angels? You mean winged people flying between the palace in the sky and earth???

BillyD
Guest

I’m curious, RIW – is this just your own hunch, or are you basing it on something more authoritative?

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

RIW:

And you know this how (and why)? Is there some papal infallible statement on it?

Ashpenaz
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Ashpenaz

Unless, of course, the alien was divorced or used contraception.

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

“The only extra terrestial life are the angels and the fallen angels. They can fantasise all they want , but they will find no extra-terrestial life.”

And you know this how? Sounds to me a bit like the sun revolves around the earth because the Bible tells us so …

God’s expansive and gracious creativity just on this planet argues for a celestial largesse!

JCF
Guest
JCF

“they will find no extra-terrestial life”

Hate to burst your (geo-centric? http://www.geocentrism.com/) bubble, RIW, but I believe we’ve already FOUND life “extra-terrestrially”—on Mars?

[What are your astro-physisist bonafides for making such a claim, anyway? O_o]

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

RIW, there are hundreds of millions of galaxies with hundreds of millions of stars in each. To believe that we are the only inhabited planet assumes an arrogance that is unbelievable. It would mean that, if you are a believer, that God saw fit to place sentient beings on only one planet. Such a conceit would mean we humans are placing ourselves a little higher than the angels. We may never find extra-terrestrial intelligent life, or come into contact with it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I strongly believe it does exist, but that space is so vast, that… Read more »

evensongjunkie
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evensongjunkie

Nice try RIW, I see you’re trying to join the fray on this string by throwing out some far-fetch fantasy! Always fun to have a good time learning to look at ourselves and laugh….you can do that can’t you?

And agree wholeheartedly Peterpi, to assume we’re the only ones worthy of God’s attention is just plain out-of-control conceit. There is intelligent life out there….that’s why they’ve avoided us!!!!!

Susannah Clark
Guest
Susannah Clark

What happens if aliens only procreate with other aliens of the same gender? Or if aliens only have one gender? Will they need to remain celibate? And what happens if the aliens are machines (the most likely form of alien to emerge from advanced technology and survive the times and ditances of interstellar space)? Is there a place in heaven for the robotic consciousness? I think he needs to do a bit more work on the whole subject. And were aliens also made in God’s own image? Would an alien, one day,be allowed to become Pope?

Ashpenaz
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Ashpenaz

I’m rereading Pilgrimage by the Christian Sci-fi writer Zenna Henderson. She creates a race of aliens who live in exile on earth after escaping the destruction of their home planet. They refer to God as “The Presence” and it’s clear from the context that this is their way of referring to the Christian God. The problem in the book is that most people hate them because they’re different and they have to hide themselves and their unique abilities from outsiders. I’m amazed at how well this book addresses many of the issues we’re looking at today.

Erika Baker
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Erika Baker

“Unless, of course, the alien was divorced or used contraception. “

All aliens are gay.

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

I may be wrong..but according to the infallible word of Scripture…the creation order is God, angels and men…and that the earth is the unique creation of God , for his purpose of populating Heaven. I believe the earth is the centre of God’s creation if no so the centre of the Universe.

Interestingly there is a growing movement of geocentrists..however I am not committed to that view.

Bill Dilworth
Guest

“but I believe we’ve already FOUND life “extra-terrestrially”—on Mars?”

Wow, I must have missed a memo…

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

I’m curious, RIW – is this just your own hunch, or are you basing it on something more authoritative?

Posted by: BillyD on Saturday, 18 September 2010 at 10:45pm BST

Come on, Billy. What could be more authoratative ?

Bill Dilworth
Guest

Perhaps RIW will have answered by the time this is posted. I don’t know what his answer will be, but a brief glimpse at Google turns up all sorts of people who make it a point of religious faith not to believe in extraterrestrial life. It mostly seems to be a fundamentalist attempt to defend Genesis, as it were: there can’t be extraterrestrial life, because evolution is a lie and Genesis 1 doesn’t mention a special creation anywhere except Earth.

Pluralist
Guest

People forget that when the aliens make contact, they will require us to join their religions. After all, with eight legs, four arms and surround vision for dark and light, and having cracked simultaneous destination-arrival travel, we shall be much the inferior.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

RIW even you don’t take Scripture absolutely literally, so maybe we have a little leeway for interpretation here. The bible and all its stories relate to human beings and to earth, and God was incarnated as man to redeem mankind and to deal with the sin of Adam. That people at the time may have thought there is no-one else in the universe and that their thinking was therefore geocentric can be assumed. So talk of redeeming the “universe” with man at its centre and as pinnacle of creation can reasonably only have referred to earth. The sins dealt with… Read more »

Pat O'Neill
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Pat O'Neill

RIW:

Since the Bible is the story of MAN’s redemption, the existence of other intelligent life is clearly irrelevant, hence its absence from the story. To use that as evidence for the non-existence of aliens, is rather like using the non-mention of Europe in “Tom Sawyer” to prove that Mark Twain didn’t know of it.

Bill Dilworth
Guest

“…but according to the infallible word of Scripture…”

RIW, you realize that you’re privileging your own view of what the Bible says over the Vatican’s, don’t you?

mynsterpreost (= David Rowett)
Guest

I thought scriptural infallibility was a Protestant hang-up, not de fide for an RC – which is why the RC church has never had the problems with evolution which some of the Reformation churches have encountered. You live and learn….

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

Robert, ‘flat-earth’ (or earth-only cosmology) arguments are typical of the closed-minded attitudes of those whose personal security is wrapt in what religionist, or indeed atheist, gurus can provide in the way of doubtful, but comfortable, certainties. Even Rome, by virtue of its own planetarium, shows an interest in scientific observation – which is always open to new discoveries – where once its ‘certainties’ precluded the idea of cosmic reality (e,g, Galileo). People who Move from one Christian denomination to another – just to find ‘certainty’ on problems of God’s relationship to human beings which suit one’s own prejudices, is hardly… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
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Cynthia Gilliatt

In “Paradise Lost” John Milton surmises that there may be other planets with other life. It’s long enough ago that I taught the poem that I can’t recall precisely where that is. At least once, that surmise outraged a fundamentalist student.

john
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john

As with evolution, I think ‘fundamentalists’, though they say very silly things, better intuit the size of the theological challenge posed by possible extra-terrestrial life or the multiverse and such matters. It’s a matter of perspective and scale. It’s also a matter of the claimed uniqueness of salvation through Jesus (by definition, thus far, restricted to ‘homo sapiens’). The Vatican astronomer’s desire to baptise an alien reminds me of Keith Ward’s desire to baptise a computer – once computers attain consciousness – as they may. One should be glad there are Christians who think, because they are precious few.

peterpi
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peterpi

Bill Dilworth, you missed the memo about finding simple life on Mars because the original news stories were from about 15 years ago. They concerned claims by some scientists about finding alleged microscopic fossils of bacterial life in an ancient meteorite discovered in Antarctica that is believed to have been blasted from Mars. Since then, other scientists have shown that the alleged fossils that were found in the meteorite could have been the result of natural physical and chemical processes, none of which processes require life. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ALH_84001 But at the time, the local newspaper asked a fundamentalist Christian minister about… Read more »

Richard
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Richard

According to the entry on ‘science’ in the Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, the 19th century English scientist William Whewell was lambasted by colleagues for suggesting that man was alone in the universe; the existence of extraterrestrial life was then seen as an inherently Christian conclusion.

Steve Lusk
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Steve Lusk

RIW’s position is the salvation of the Anglican Communion. The Bible doesn’t mention the Americas or the Pacific Ocean, so the decision of the inhabitants of those areas to ordain homosexuals and women is a non-issue. We’re fictional beings to begin with, so what we do can’t affect anyone over there in the real world.

Laurence Roberts
Guest
Laurence Roberts

When does the thought of life on other planets and spheres make me, for one, feel less alien ? It is a joyous thought. As is, for me, the thought of evolutionary processes at work now, bring ing who knows what into the future ?

Some of the creatures from the various god-planets can be disconcerting, oppressive, entertaining, colourful, thrilling and inspiring by turns !

I won’t ‘divulge’ here the effects upon my demeanour of say, the Vatican, the Southern Baptists or the Mormons – but so many make one’s mind go zing !

drdanfee
Guest
drdanfee

Rightwing believers need aliens like a fish needs a bicycle?

Bill Dilworth
Guest

“People forget that when the aliens make contact, they will require us to join their religions.”

If our contact parallels other contacts through our own history, they certainly will, Pluralist.

I’ve seen several science fiction novels that deal with the theme of evangelizing other planets (eg. The Sparrow) – does anyone know of one that deals with Earth as a potential mission field for aliens?

john
Guest
john

On a closely related matter, I am glad to see that Keith Ward has responded to Stephen Hawking. http://www.churchtimes.co.uk/content.asp?id=100242 Ward, unlike the Pope or Tom Wright, is a serious theologian who never stops thinking. He is also an Anglican. After all the spurious razzmatazz of the Pope’s visit (which, I admit, has depressed me), we should never forget that Anglicans have better theologians and that in the end this is very important, because it marks precisely the difference between a closed and always circular system and an open and generous system which maintains tradition to the extent that it can… Read more »

Robert Ian Williams
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Robert Ian Williams

I would like to hear the other side of the argument and wish i could attend the following:

http://www.galileowaswrong.com/galileowaswrong/

JCF
Guest
JCF

FWIW, peterpi (and I in NO way claim to be authoritative on this subject—or any other, for that matter! }-p), I was thinking of the discoveries of the Mars rovers—which I believe are characterized of “highly consistent with”, though not conclusive for, life (yes, *simple* life. Not sentient . . . as far as we know! ;-D)

Lynn
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Lynn

Robert (RIW), I suspect you are a Protestant, biblical fundamentalist who loves the liturgy. Your views, generally, do not reflect the devout Roman Catholics I know; they are quite conservative on most issues.

When you crossed the Tiber, I doubt you realized what a diverse group the cradle-yet-conservative are in the Western world. Great faith requires a bit of awe about God’s creation. You will be accepted by the Church if you show a bit of intelligent disagreement – after all, the Church isn’t particularly consistent. God’s love, however, is so.

MarkBrunson
Guest

Scripture is not infallible.

Only a completely faithless idiot would believe it was.

Mynsterpreost (=david rowett)
Guest

I thiknk what depresses me about gatherings like the geocentrist conference is that so much time and effort is going in to such a dead-end pursuit – just like all the ‘young earth’ nonsense. I think the Rule of Benedict would disapprove strongly of that sort of mania! ‘Quid geocentrismus cum Christo?’ as Alcuin might have said…:-)

Malcolm+
Guest

Seems to me that C.S. Lewis once dealt with the question of extra-terrestrial life. One of the interesting issues was, does the Fall apply to those on other planets?

Mynsterpreost (=david rowett)
Guest

‘I would like to hear the other side of the argument’ Hmm, this faux-reasonable dialectical style which I find in polemical literature concerns me. In a different context, we wouldn’t have much time for listening to ‘the other side of the argument’ re domestic violence, or people trafficking, would we? In this sort of faux-sciencey polemic, the ‘other side of the argument’ rarely proceeds from a scientific perspective (as in, say, the steady-state universe vs the Big Bang debate of a few decades ago) but rather from a dogmatic one masquerading as science. Would anyone try and do the Young… Read more »

Bill Dilworth
Guest

Cynthia, the reference to life on other worlds is found in Book VII of Paradise Lost:

“Witness this new-made world, another Heaven
From Heaven-gate not far, founded in view
On the clear hyaline, the glassy sea;
Of amplitude almost immense, with stars
Numerous, and every star perhaps a world
Of destined habitation; but thou knowest
Their seasons: among these the seat of Men,
Earth, with her nether ocean circumfused,
Their pleasant dwelling-place.”

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

The Astronomer at the Vatican and the controversial editor of the Vatican newspaper have no magisterial authority within the Catholic church.

I will not believe that there is extra-terrestial life ( other than the Heavenly host) until I am shown it.

Erika Baker
Guest
Erika Baker

“I will not believe that there is extra-terrestial life ( other than the Heavenly host) until I am shown it.”

You mean until the Pope tells you that you must believe it.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

Robert:

Do you similarly not believe in the existence of sub-atomic particles? Or anything else that your own senses cannot detect? Is ultra-violet light non-existent? Is sound above or below the register of human hearing non-existent? I presume you have never actually seen a virus…what causes you to catch a cold then?

peterpi
Guest
peterpi

From RIW’s link to the website, “Galileo was wrong”: “‘Galileo Was Wrong: The Church Was Right’ is one of the most unique and penetrating books you will ever read. Now complete in Volumes I and II, authors Robert Sungenis and Robert Bennett take you on a tour of science and history the likes of which you would have never believed possible …” That last sentence I can believe wholeheartedly, though not in the manner the authors intend, LOL Actually, RIW, I almost agree with you in one way: I will not believe sentient extra-terrestrial life has ever visited Earth until… Read more »

Mynsterpreost (=david rowett)
Guest

“I will not believe that there is extra-terrestial life ( other than the Heavenly host) until I am shown it.”

eppur si vive:-)

Father Ron Smith
Guest
Father Ron Smith

“I will not believe that there is extra-terrestial life ( other than the Heavenly host) until I am shown it.” – Robert I williams –

Shucks! Another “Saint Thomas”. Jesus must still be frustrated by the “I won’t believe unless I see it with my own eyes” crowd. Not very Catholic, and totally against the ethic of the ‘magisterium’.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

Bill Dilworth – thanks for the PL quotation.

On the matter of extra-terrestrial life: all I have to do is look at the pictures from the Hubble to know that the creation is vaster and more complex than we can take in. I’d say the odds are that the Creator has delighted in creation of life in other places in that vastness. What artist paints only one picture? What poet writes but one peom?

Tobias Haller
Guest

RIW, can you point us to the magisterial _denial_ of the possibility of life on other worlds? Or is this merely a pious opinion? Are you claiming that the Vatican astronomer is speculating in contradiction to church teaching? Or simply expressing an opinion with which you disagree.

Christopher (P.)
Guest
Christopher (P.)

Re: Richard above on Whewell. William Whewell was an intensely active scientist, Master of Trinity College, Cambridge (Newton’s college some 200 yers before), and author of multi-volume works on the scientific method. His “Of the Plurality of Worlds” (1853) started a debate within Britain on the subject. His argument was more from prudence than anything else: that the current status of knowledge did not allow one to conclude that ET life existed. (He also added the argument that, if ET life had existed, it was likely extinct elsewhere, given the age of the universe and the likely path of all… Read more »