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Vatican Says Alien Life Plausible 775

Posted by timothy
from the well-that's-charitable-of-the-vatican dept.
An anonymous reader writes "According to BBC, the director of the Vatican Observatory stated in an article titled 'Aliens Are My Brother' that intelligent beings created by God could exist in outer space. 'The search for forms of extraterrestrial life does not contradict belief in God. — Just as there are multiple forms of life on earth, so there could exist intelligent beings in outer space created by God.' Mind that this is not the same director who said that evolution is more than a mere theory — that was Father Coyne. I myself agree. There might be intelligent beings created by God in outer space even if there are none here on earth."
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Vatican Says Alien Life Plausible

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  • But of course... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Blinded By The Light (1248724) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:08PM (#23409764)
    But of course only WE were created in His image, right?
  • by Mab_Mass (903149) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:11PM (#23409806) Homepage Journal
    You know, after a long history of not-so-good behavior in the face of science (eg, Galileo), it is good to see that the Catholic Church is recognizing that much of current scientific thinking is consistent with scientific ideas.

    In fact, Catholic high schools even teach evolution, recognizing that you can still choose to believe in God as the creator alongside a belief in evolution as the mechanism of creation.

    I see the acknowledgment of the possibility of alien life along this same vein. I wonder, though, how the creation of freaky-ass-bug-eyed aliens would fit into the "God created man is his own image" idea. Perhaps that God is so wacky and cool he can take on any shape?
  • by spineboy (22918) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:14PM (#23409868) Journal
    I'm glad that the Catholic Church is taking an educated view of the sciences, with the support of evolution, and now this. Of course this will also lead to many useless comments about pedophilia, non-existance of God, and other useless flame wars.

    Scientific illiteracy here in the states is really bad, and I'm embaressed that my church has a more progressive attitude than our current administration. This should change with the next admin thankfully.

    This is Slashdot, and everyone needs to get their 2 cents in, but please try to submit meaningful/useful posts.
  • Re:Catholics (Score:2, Insightful)

    by popmaker (570147) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:16PM (#23409908)
    And, of course, their public relations. Considering all the recent sex-scandals and the Pope's alleged Hitler Youth past, as well as some other stuff. They have to maintain an image, you know.
  • And who.. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by denoir (960304) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:22PM (#23410024)
    ..created God?

    It's the same old problem of infinite regress when you try to state that a complex thing has to have a more complex designer. An über-powerful deity has to be much more complex than a human (or alien) and you end up with a bigger problem than the one you started with and you have explained exactly zero. And that's without even mentioning that there is no evidence of any form of supernatural creation of living beings (or anything else for that matter).

  • by bugs2squash (1132591) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:23PM (#23410038)
    I don't like to see childish attacks on anyone either. But it seems to me that the only reason the church is taking these strides is because it has been attacked on these issues in the past.

    Do you imagine that the church would have made these statements without external pressure ?

    Hell no, this is simply to inoculate the church against the inevitable progress in tolerance, and discovery and to try and carve out some future relevance.

    Seems like the rock of the church is being eroded by the water of enlightenment - and about time too.
  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:1, Insightful)

    by gnick (1211984) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:26PM (#23410074) Homepage

    I'm waiting for an answer from a legitimate authority.
    He said, "The search for forms of extraterrestrial life does not contradict belief in God." Are you suggesting that the search for forms of extraterrestrial life does contradict belief in God? I can't imagine any "legitimate authority" that would support that, although several may debate belief in God on other grounds.
  • Re:doubtful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by illegalcortex (1007791) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:30PM (#23410138)

    I don't see how the catholic clergy can just say "yeah alien life doesn't contradict our religeon" without addressing these questiosn.
    Of course they can. The answer will just be "I don't know" and/or "God works in mysterious ways", same as their answer to numerous other major theological questions.
  • Re:Catholics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Logic and Reason (952833) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:35PM (#23410224) Homepage

    Hell is a metaphor
    Excuse me? Hell is definitely not a metaphor in Catholic theology. I'd like to know where you got this idea.
  • by clonan (64380) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:39PM (#23410274)
    If god is omnipotent than he(she/it) can appear in any form (say a burning bush).

    Therefore god must have created us in the image of the only part of him that doesn't change. His morality, his way of thinking and his personality. We have a dim image of this immutable portion of god.

    Therefore aliens COULD look very different but still be created in his image.

    The only remaining question is how did they get so many light years from eden?
  • by Kelbear (870538) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:49PM (#23410428)
    Why do the aliens need saving?
  • by pubjames (468013) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:50PM (#23410448)
    Well, I would prefer it if they made policy changes that actually changed people lives, like dropping their stupid stance on condoms.
  • by nweis (1095487) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:52PM (#23410470)
    Let's think about this a little more. Are the animals of Earth descendants of Adam? Can animals be saved by Jesus' blood? Do animals have another "way to salvation"?

    Why assume that extra-terrestrial creatures would be any different than Earth animals in this regard? Even if an alien race existed that was "special" in the same way you believe humans to be special, that would not necessarily mean that the aliens would have their own original sin.
  • by Per Abrahamsen (1397) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @05:53PM (#23410490) Homepage
    For all the people (at least the non-Jews) living before Jesus.

    It is a pretty old theological problem, as far I know the "consensus view" is that there probably exists some special arrangements for them.
  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:04PM (#23410634)

    Not religious myself, but if you'd have a clue about catholicism you'd know that they argue that god's children are free beings, living to choose and work out their destiny.


    They also argue that if you pray for something really really hard, the invisible man in the sky might make it happen. So which is it? Is prayer useless because god never interferes? Or is god an egomaniacal prick, who'll let thousands of people die for no particular reason, but will intervene in human affairs when you ask him real nice like?
  • Re:Finaly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Forge (2456) <`kevinforge' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:06PM (#23410674) Homepage Journal
    There are two main theories groups that attempt to explain the creation of the Universe and the origin of life and humanity.

    Group 1. Big Bang & Evolution. Essentially this version says, it all just happened, mostly by accident but with the amount of time and mass involved it was inevitable.

    Group 2. Created by God (or gods). Essentially this version says it all originated from the imagination of a being with virtually unlimited intelligence and power.

    You know what I find cool? That under both scenarios it's almost inevitable that we will encounter other intelligent life, somewhere out there.

    Why? Because accidents tend to repeat when the conditions allowing them are also repeated. Sul isn't that uncommon a sun type so why shouldn't other Yellow dwarfs have wet rocky planets? And why shouldn't some of those mud-balls have critters on them ? Even intelligent critters?

    As for the creation version. That makes it even more likely that the universe would be swarming with intelligent life. Religious people believe the Earth is teeming with life because God enjoys playing with DNA. So why wouldn't he just go wild when working with whole galaxies rather than just a single planet?
  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Knuckles (8964) <knuckles@NoSpAm.dantian.org> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:13PM (#23410748)
    You don't understand the catholic mindset :)
    The whole point is to believe in it against all odds and, specifically, despite the fact that nothing happens.

    I find it weird, too.

    OTOH, I can imagine that the mere act of such a submission to a state of mind can have certain desirable effects (and, of course, also undesirable ones). I don't think it's an accident that many other religions propagate a certain way of "giving up".
  • Re:Might be life? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by setagllib (753300) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:18PM (#23410810)
    Steve Jobs is Buddhist. He could believe he is a Buddha himself, and the funny thing is, even if he's wrong there's nothing wrong with that. It's not like there's an ISO Standard Buddha, and nobody would take his sutras seriously anyway.
  • When you get right down to it, nothing can contradict that a supernatural being exists outside of it's actually appearing to us ... at which point it would become a natural being since we could observe it.

    I can believe that the only two people in the world are Steven Hawking and Darl McBride and that ice cream is made from grub worms. If anyone provides me with evidence to the contrary, I can always say "Ah, but that's just what $DEITY wants you to think!"

    The only thing a belief in a deity doesn't support is non-belief in a deity.
  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:1, Insightful)

    by LandDolphin (1202876) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:21PM (#23410844)
    It's all part of God's mysterious plan.

    When something good happens, God granted your wish. When something bad happens, it's part of God's plan, and he knows better hten us.

    Remember, God works in Mysterious ways.
  • Re:Finaly! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cheater512 (783349) <nick@nickstallman.net> on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:22PM (#23410872) Homepage
    Group 1 doesnt say its inevitable that we'll meed other intelligent life.
    It says that there probably will be other intelligent life.

    The chance of us meeting them is next to nothing.
    Space is *big*.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:33PM (#23411006) Journal
    The important message is that good scientific ideas can come from anywhere, even from Catholic priests, and you don't judge an idea by where it came from, but by whether or not it does a good job, for example by making falsifiable predictions.
  • Re:Finaly! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheNarrator (200498) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @06:41PM (#23411110)
    You are applying human categories of thought to life forms that evolved completely separately from us.
  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @07:02PM (#23411366)
    Exactly. Who gives a fuck what the Vatican says? It's not like they've ever proven themselves to be a reliable source of information in the past. They're about as relevant to the discussion as the british royal family.
  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rycross (836649) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @07:20PM (#23411544)
    Personally I got tired how all the good things that happened in my life were God's blessings and how all the bad things were just part of some incomprehensible plan. A lot of non-believers like to talk about how religion is popular because it gives people hope, but for me it was a millstone around my neck. Imagine the kind of self-esteem issues one develops after being repeatedly told that you didn't really earn the good things in your life, and that the bad things in your life happened for some reasons beyond your comprehension.

    I feel a lot better now that my life is my own to control. And its nice to know that sometimes bad things happen for no reason, and not because I've inexplicably displeased some supreme being.

    Sorry, kind of off-topic, but I felt like sharing. The kind of logic you outlined in your post is probably the #1 reason I'm no longer religious. I always find it amusing that so many people view religion as comforting, since it was quite the opposite for me.
  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rycross (836649) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @07:28PM (#23411636)

    So you hate the Catholic Church because their God (who happens to also be the Jew's God, Christian's God, and, come right down to it, the Muslim's God), drowned thousands of innocent children in a tsunami. Nevermind that He did NOT drown several billion other children that day.

    I'm not sure if you're being serious, because my sarcasm detector is wonky, but are you seriously suggesting that not committing heinous atrocities is an admirable quality in a all-powerful being? That'd be like praising my friend John because, as far as I know, he hasn't killed anyone and dumped their bodies in the river. Or maybe like people who proudly state that they take care of their children, as if not leaving them to die in ditches is some extraordinary praise-worthy quality. Its kind of expected that normal people not do horrible things, much less omniscient, omnipotent beings.

    Personally I'd like to describe God in terms other than "Allows thousands of people to die for no reason, but at least he isn't genocidal." Well as long as you ignore several books of the Old Testament.

  • Re:doubtful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pbhj (607776) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @07:57PM (#23411934) Homepage Journal

    I don't see how the catholic clergy can just say "yeah alien life doesn't contradict our religeon" without addressing these questiosn.
    Naive ever? You think Christian theologians haven't questioned the salvation of alien beings?

    http://answersingenesis.org/articles/nab/are-ets-and-ufos-real [answersingenesis.org] is clearly not buying the whole alien thing.

    http://www.beliefnet.com/story/35/story_3519_1.html [beliefnet.com] is open and suggest a path of Christ to have been presented to other worlds.

    does that mean that any intelligent alien life is doomed to hell because they don't have the benefit of baptism and the forgiveness of original sin
    Original sin goes back to Adam and so probably the doctrine doesn't come in to play. The one thing we can be certain of is that God is a fair judge and that people will be judged according to what they have heard. Baptism, in any case, is not a requirement for salvation only faith in Jesus Christ son of God.

  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:2, Insightful)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @10:10PM (#23413080)

    You misunderstand. God doesn't value life for its own sake, he values it for what it accomplishes -- testing and teaching souls.


    Ah, I see. Can you tell me what the 3,000 people who died on September 11th learned from their experience? Having their bodies ground to dust must have been especially illuminating!

     

    If you think about it logically you'll realize that attempting to use trivial logic to "prove" that religion makes no sense is a supreme arrogance on your part. It presumes that all of the billions of believers that have lived, died and thought on these matters are stupid or otherwise completely unable to see such simple contradictions.


    You got it. Millions of people before me also believed that the earth was flat, yet I know it to be round. Moreover, even though your church threatened to kill a great man for saying so, we also know that the world revolves around the sun, and not the other way around. Clearly "millions of people say it is so" is not a very good way of determining the truth.

    While we're at it, where do you get the arrogance to NOT believe in Zeus and Athena? Millions of people before you believed in them! REPENT SINNER!

    Seriously, it's not my arrogance that blinds me - it's my skepticism which gives me the tools I need to see. Believing is easy: all you have to do is listen attentively to what others tell you, memorize it, and then repeat it to yourself and others. It takes a lot more effort to question what you've been thought, and a lot more thought to come up with a logical alternative.

     

    If you see so clearly something that billions "miss", including millions who have studied the topic much more deeply than you have, you're either an earth-shattering genius... or wrong. Which is more likely?


    Well, Western Scientists are, without doubt, of a much higher overall intelligence than the rest of the population. And this elite group of intellects happens to be overwhelmingly atheist or agnostic - even in the US. So I'll let you figure out the answer to your own question.

    In any event, as I said earlier, truth is not determined by voting. I don't give a damn if you can get 5.99999 billion people to all agree that fire isn't really hot - I'm still not going to throw myself onto that pyre. Why? Because no matter how many fools try to lie to me, I have the tools to analyze the world on my own. Why would I rely on the word of fanatics, frauds, tricksters, and charlatans, when I can use my mind instead?
  • Re:Mythbusters (Score:4, Insightful)

    by somersault (912633) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:04PM (#23413534) Homepage Journal
    The thing is, as far as we know we have no control over what happens after we die. We may, like in Discworld, get to choose. That would be nice; you would get your fading into nothingness and I would get to go meet my ancestors, watch the history of the world in 3D, and maybe hang out with God and have a few beers :)

    I just had a strange thought while wondering how to phrase my own thoughts on the nature of the universe (possibly multiverse? was reading a bit about it on wikipedia earlier) and how amazing it is that anything exists. I always get freaked out by it when I think about how something has just always been there. Even now.. it really just makes no sense. No science can explain it, religion can't explain it.. and my thought was that even if God exists then he could be just as confused at his own existence as I am about mine... It's just not possible to conceptualise something coming from nothing, or something just always being something. No matter how much I think the Universe makes no sense though, it still hangs on defiantly and makes the stairs in the hall creak.

    Has any philosopher ever made a similar statement about God probably being as confused at his origins as we are? ;) It seems quite likely they have I suppose, I'm not very well educated in such matters.
  • Re:Finaly! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Devout_IPUite (1284636) on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:49PM (#23413818)
    Faith and delusional are derived from concepts involving evidence, reasoning, and proof. All logical concepts in the strictest meaning. It's generally considered that math (regardless of branch) is discovered, and that logic is a subset of math (discrete math). I think an alien would be hard pressed to be considered intelligent with no concept of logic, and would be capable of groking faith & delusion with. However, earthform sex is never going to make any sense to those poor suckers.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 14, 2008 @11:54PM (#23413846)
    They wouldn't be affected by original sin and hence wouldn't need to be saved, or baptized or anything of that nature. They would be as like adam and eve before original sin (unless they have their own scripture that said otherwise).
  • nitpick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aepervius (535155) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @12:19AM (#23413992)
    "So even in the oldest context, Evolution fits fine with the Bible." which would somehow say that the bible is the mass to measure everything on it.

    So it should read "the bible stories can be made fit with evolution (which we know to be a very successful theory at explaining all life today as we know it)". It is not that evolution fits, it is that the bible is interpreted in the light of evolution.
  • Re:Finaly! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EvolutionsPeak (913411) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @12:35AM (#23414086)
    Gravity and electricity are also just theories. Evolution is at least as much a fact as these things.
  • Re:It's both (Score:2, Insightful)

    by English French Man (1220122) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @04:43AM (#23415190)

    AFAIK, Evolution is still a theory. A very convincing theory, I do not doubt that, but a theory nonetheless.

    Exhuming a skeleton is not a fact that proves something about how life works, scientifically speaking, it is more a clue. Evolution is the best explanation found for all the scientific observations made on bones and live species, but it is not proven.

    Evolution is the most likely scenario (by far, because no other theory have so many really convincing clues) but it is still not factual.

  • Re:Finaly! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by saigon_from_europe (741782) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @05:45AM (#23415440)

    The real question is whether they would accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
    First time I heard that someone from Vatican mentioned aliens, I think it was the same guy, he mentioned that if they exist, they are Christians. This statement slightly contradict that, as he mentioned here that those aliens might be free from our original sin, hence they would not have notion of the Christ, at least not our Christ.
  • Re:Finaly! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iocat (572367) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:01AM (#23417440) Homepage Journal
    First, I want to give a shout out to the Vatican, for discussing the potential of aliens (and acknowledging evolution as settled science) while other religions are still like "lalalaeverywordofthebibleistrue,eventhetyposandbadtranslations."

    Second, assuming for a second the whole Christianity ball of wax is true, there's no reason that God wouldn't send down his other son, Skip, to some aliens, in a form they could understand. The ideals Jesus taught weren't restricted by a specific geography or biology. "Be nice to each other" might resonate as well on Argus-7 as it does on Sol-3.

  • Space is Big (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bareman (60518) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @10:40AM (#23417942) Homepage Journal
    And time is big.

    Meeting alien life isn't just a matter of somewhere, it's a problem of somewhen as well. There probably have been and will be countless instances of intelligent life that just never traverse the same space at the same time as another.

  • Misleading Title (Score:3, Insightful)

    by afabbro (33948) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @12:51PM (#23419758) Homepage
    Normally when one says "The Vatican says," he is referring to an encyclical by the Pope or a statement by one of the chief offices. This a an astronomer who happens to be a priest speculating. He works as director of an observatory, but it's not like this is Church policy.
  • Re:nitpick (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Yunzil (181064) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @01:23PM (#23420462) Homepage
    3. Skip over Genesis chapter 2, which disagrees with Genesis chapter 1 :)
  • Downright wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by aepervius (535155) on Thursday May 15, 2008 @03:28PM (#23422976)
    From skeptic anoted bible :

    In Genesis, the earth is created (1:1) before light (1:3), sun and stars (1:16); birds and whales (1:21) before reptiles and insects (1:24); and flowering plants (1:11) before any animals (1:20). The order of events known from science is in each case just the opposite.

    A few clarification why it is not the correct order :
    1) Bird were certainly late at the party after the reptile were created.
    2) Sun and star were certainly created before planet and earth (heavy element were created in novae IIRC)
    3) Whales are mammalians, a late addition to the animal worlds. Certainly came after the reptilians and insects.
    4) more damning as said above angiosperm are a late addition only 130+ million year old roughly [tolweb.org]

    Quote : " 2. Go throgh a textbook on evolution with the list you wrote in step one and you will discover something very odd. Same order."
    Only if you don't know when flower came into the evolutionary tree, ignore that whale are mammals, ignore that byrd are late addition too, ignore basic astronomy. Oh well anyway let us ignore science altogether , and you are right

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