The Truth is Out There

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Via Breitbart, I submit the following without comment:

The Vatican's chief astronomer says that believing in aliens does not contradict faith in God.

The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, says that the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones.

In an interview published Tuesday by Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Funes says that such a notion "doesn't contradict our faith" because aliens would still be God's creatures.

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  1. “Flying Spaghetti Monster” crack coming in 3..2..

  2. Can we give the Vatican some credit for not trying to contradict science? (Also, credit to the Jesuits. They always come off as incredibly well reasoned theologians.)

  3. Oh those crazy Jesuits.

  4. So that novel I read where the Church sends some Jesuits in an asteroid to Alpha Centauri to convert the aliens there was TRUE! I knew it!

  5. Damn, that’ll teach me to preview before submitting wisecracks.

  6. Bill Clinton, after he became President asked his staff to find out whether there are UFOs, and who shot JFK.

    For once I and Bubba would have done the exact same thing.

  7. I advise you all to not take the cruciform implant.

  8. CS Lewis thought the same. Covered it in both fiction and non-fiction. He considered the following possibilities:

    A. Aliens wouldnt be “fallen”
    B. Aliens would be corrupted and unredeemable
    C. Aliens would be fallen and the gospel would need to be spread to them.
    D. Aliens would be fallen and had their own means of salvation.

    I think those were the only options he considered. He also said we would have to figure out which applied after meeting them.

  9. Neil,

    And what answers did he receive?

  10. I believe that there are aliens, because I refuse to believe that in all the vastness of the universe, humans are as good as it gets.

  11. Jim Bob, that first Hyperion novel is still one of my all-time favorites. The series steadily declined thereafter, although Dan Simmons generally rocks. His Song of Kali is also one of the best horror novels ever written, IMO.

  12. Robc-

    He wouldn’t tell us if he did recieve any, but I bet he did.

  13. Can we give the Vatican some credit for not trying to contradict science?

    No. Once the Vatican retracts their demonstrably false pronouncement that latex condoms don’t stop HIV/AIDS then we can talk about giving them credit. Until then, they’re a pariah.

  14. Bill Clinton, after he became President asked his staff to find out whether there are UFOs, and who shot JFK.

    And Chris Carter and the X-Files were born…via secret government funding.

  15. Episiarch, I know your feelings about 80s tv shows. But what about 90s tv shows?

  16. Pratchett, as always, said it best:
    The truth may be out there, but lies are in your head.

    And I’ll add that it is the RCC [among many others] that keep them there.

    Shirley Knott

  17. He wouldn’t tell us if he did recieve any, but I bet he did.

    Once again, using the presidency for personal gain.

  18. Didn’t the Vatican astronomer get in trouble last year or so for saying something about evolution, or birth control or something? I think it was evolution.

  19. We have not one speck of physical evidence that alien life exists anywhere. So aliens are rather like God in that way. It’s understandable that the church should encourage faith rather than empirical observation. However, the vastness of the universe makes the existence of alien life appear plausible, whereas the vastness of the universe seems to make many fundamentalist Christians recoil in horror, clinging to their visions of God’s 6000 year old playset. At least the Catholic Church is trying to come to grips with reality.

  20. R C Dean,

    I have read almost all of Simmons’s published work except Song of Kali. I will purchase it when I can.

    His characterization of far-future religion may be more apt than even I thought, though. When we make contact, it won’t be long before somebody’s telling the aliens the good news.

  21. Um, did robc just mess up and admit to being Neil?

  22. Oh, sorry robc, my bad.

    I thought:

    And what answers did he receive?

    referred to the CS Lewis questions. As in, you had posted twice in a row and forgotten to switch identities. Stupid me.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

  23. A good article on ET (or lack thereof) and the human prospect, from a cosmological point of view:

    The Great Filter: Are We Almost Past It?

  24. In an interview published Tuesday by Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, Funes says that such a notion “doesn’t contradict our faith” because aliens would still be God’s creatures. “And,” he added, with glee, “we could have sex with their children”.

  25. If you take the stories about angels in a literal sense would they not technically be “space aliens”. Also, how would the INS handle space aliens? Is this really what INS Division 6 does**

    ** NOTE: If you do not understand this reference you obviously have not seen Men In Black.

  26. Fluffy,

    No one could I pull off Neil. Not within my skillset.

  27. Fluffy,

    Also the filter thing autofills my name, so I dont screw up naming on those occassions I do post under a fake name.

  28. “If you take the stories about angels in a literal sense would they not technically be “space aliens”.”

    I think this is what Van Daniken argued.

    I remember reading those books as a kid and thinking “wow, this guy just PROVED they are out there and have been here!”

  29. I think it is important that the assertion was that a belief in aliens would not contradict a “belief in God.” Belief in the truth of the scriptures, however, is quite another thing. Genesis, Chapter 5, says quite clearly, “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him…”

    We styled ourselves “God’s favorites,” because we were made in “the likeness of God,” and were given dominion over all of “God’s creatures.” I think it is interesting that the vatican assertion was that aliens would also be among “God’s creatures.”

    So would aliens simply be animals? If they didn’t look or think much like us, which species would more accurately reflect “God’s likeness”?

    While belief in aliens would not necessarily preclude belief in “God,” it would be hard to believe in a God who made us in “his likeness” — i.e., the God of catholicism — if we were to encounter sentient aliens, Unless, of course, they seemed exactly like us.

    Not being especially religious, I nevertheless hope that I live to see the answer to these questions.

  30. No way could I pull off

    Sigh, my lack of typing skills would give me away.

  31. Episiarch, I know your feelings about 80s tv shows. But what about 90s tv shows?

    Well, Neil, would you say that Beverly Hills: 90210 was better before they graduated, with its insanely campy morals and drug/alcohol hysteria, or that it was better after they graduated and became a sort of Melrose Place-lite?

    I say before graduating. Nothing can beat Brenda saying “but Brandon, she smoked pot!!!”

  32. Sigh, my lack of typing skills would give me away.

    I don’t know about that.

  33. JAM,

    Since I mentioned CS Lewis above, I will also mention that he covered the “God’s likeness” issue within his Space Trilogy.

    The aliens on Mars(who were much older than the human race) were of all different shapes. But still all made in the image of God. The aliens of Venus (who were younger, in fact newly created) looked like humans. Only green skinned, IIRC. The main character was confused, but it was explained to him that it was obvious. Once God took human form, all his creations from that point on that were made in his image looked like men.

    Maybe not theologically sound, but it was interesting. Quick review:
    Out of the Silent Planet – mediocre at best
    Perelandra – very good
    That Hideous Strength – ditto, gave me nightmares, only book to ever do that

  34. I think before they graduated, after that it jumped the shark.

    What did you think of Lois and Clark?

  35. I read something in SciAm about a Level I Multiverse. Apparently it’s fairly commonly accepted by cosmologists that there’s probably intelligent life elsewhere in the universe (although the odds that such ET-ALFs have come into direct contact with earthlings is exceedingly small).

  36. Episiarch,

    Jenny Garth is going to be playing the school counselor or something in the new version of 90210 coming out soon.

  37. What did you think of Lois and Clark?

    Didn’t like it.

  38. after he became President asked his staff to find out whether there are UFOs, and who shot JFK.

    Neil, he got the exact same answer as everyone else: “No” and “Lee Harvey Oswald”.

  39. No. Once the Vatican retracts their demonstrably false pronouncement that latex condoms don’t stop HIV/AIDS then we can talk about giving them credit. Until then, they’re a pariah.

    Technically this is true though. The NIH says proper use of condoms reduces the risk by 85%. Stopping it would mean 100% reduction for proper use. This doesn’t mean that their recommendations aren’t bunk, but they’re technically right.

  40. Neil, he got the exact same answer as everyone else: “No” and “Lee Harvey Oswald”.

    ‘Cept he probably got a knowing wink with each answer.

  41. The NIH says proper use of condoms reduces the risk by 85%. Stopping it would mean 100% reduction for proper use. This doesn’t mean that their recommendations aren’t bunk, but they’re technically right.

    That’s not the Vatican’s stance. According to the link, the Vatican’s stance is that the AIDS virus can permeate the condom. This is simply false. There is a difference between condom failure rate (which has to do with breakage and unexpected removal) and the ability of latex to prevent the passage of viruses.

  42. I hear-a also that-a the Holy Father says if they are intelligent, you know, like-a us, then they should be converted and some a them the Church, she’ll-a ordain, too.

    But not-a the female aliens. That would-a be going too far!

  43. Cardinal Trujilo cannot retract the statement about condoms. He’s dead. (Although I suppose the Church is founded upon the idea that death doesn’t stop all communication).

    In his own words, he based his statement on scientific studies (I can’t vouch for the studies). catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=488

    While Trujilo claimed condom failure rates of 15-20%, the WHO claimed it was more like 90%. Is it worth it to quibble over 5-10%?

  44. Apparently it’s fairly commonly accepted by cosmologists that there’s probably intelligent life elsewhere in the universe

    Even if the emergence of intelligent life is very rare, we have no reason to believe it is completely unique. The universe is very large. In a very large universe, even very rare events will happen many times.

    (although the odds that such ET-ALFs have come into direct contact with earthlings is exceedingly small).

    Over a sufficiently short time frame (in cosmoligical terms, tens of thousands of years is pretty short), sure.

  45. I remember reading those books as a kid and thinking “wow, this guy just PROVED they are out there and have been here!”

    That is understandable. Now if you’re an adult and still swallow that Chariots crap, you have a problem or six.

  46. I believe that there are aliens, because I refuse to believe that in all the vastness of the universe, humans are as good as it gets.

    Although I’m open to the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe, I do believe they would have to be equally as slimy as the human race or worse. The reason being that in order for intelligence to evolve, natural resources need to be scarce enough on the home planet that intelligence is an asset worth evolving (i.e. it carries enough advantage to be naturally and/or sexually selected).
    The scarcity of natural resources is what causes human sliminess (i.e. politics).

  47. Jesus clearly hasn’t come back yet because he’s busy being crucified on other planets. Using a conservative estimate from The Drake equation of two civilizations per galaxy, three years of Jesus time per civilization and 125 billion galaxies, he’ll be back in 750 billion years.

  48. life on other planets would be a blow to hardcore creationists since the Bible seems to make it clear that no other planets were mentioned. Obviously there are ways to reconcile this: God could have placed simple forms all around the universe. Or there could be denial that the life is actually extraterrestrial – it could be blamed on contamination from whatever probes detected it.

  49. While Trujilo claimed condom failure rates of 15-20%, the WHO claimed it was more like 90%. Is it worth it to quibble over 5-10%?

    Dead or not, he wasn’t talking exclusively about failure rates. He was talking about the AIDS virus passing through a latex condom, which simply doesn’t happen. Failure rates are almost exclusively due to human error, not due to the physical properties of a condom.

  50. What about aliens grown from stem cells?

    My kittens are hoping any aliens we find are small and delicious.

  51. In a very large universe, even very rare events will happen many times.

    And if evolution is a universal phenomenon, it will help act as a catalyst for intelligence wherever life appears.

  52. There was a Wired magazine article which they discussed that the Catholic Church theologians in the 17th presumed life on other planets and wondered if Jesus was their messiah or if they would have their own messiah. The Catholic Church also has physicists priests and the like.

    As for Jesuits, I was taught by one who wasn’t convinced there was a god (and he intimated he wasn’t the only Jesuit to believe that). It got me to thinking.

  53. I believe that there are aliens, because I refuse to believe that in all the vastness of the universe, humans are as good as it gets.

    But are they in our light cone?

    My guess is, probably not. The weak anthropic principle says it doesn’t matter how big the fluke that produced us was. So intelligent life could be almost infinitely improbable.

  54. I guess they’re going to start letting the Gelgameks appear in public now and not just at secret Vatican meetings about pedophile priests.

  55. Over a sufficiently short time frame (in cosmoligical terms, tens of thousands of years is pretty short), sure.

    ‘Course, this scenario’s possible.
    Alien: Greetings, Earthling, we come in peace.
    T-Rex: RaaarrrggggHhhhh!
    Alien: Argh! Motherf***ing T-Rex bit my arm off!

  56. Shouldn’t this be about extraterrestrials rather than about humans crossing borders, illegally or not?

  57. As for Jesuits, I was taught by one who wasn’t convinced there was a god (and he intimated he wasn’t the only Jesuit to believe that).

    Jesuits have some interesting ideas about faith. In short, at least some of them define faith as believing in something in spite of your doubts.

    They regard the utterly convinced, those who harbor no doubts, as being somewhat (dangerously) deluded.

  58. They regard the utterly convinced, those who harbor no doubts, as being somewhat (dangerously) deluded.

    Idunno if I am buying that one . . .

  59. Abdul, Abdul, Abdul…

    I believe you missed the greater point of my post.

    Cardinal Trujilo cannot retract the statement about condoms. He’s dead.

    I assume Trujillo’s statement was an official statement on behalf of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, not just a personal musing. A full retraction by the PCF, or any other authorized Vatican spokesman would suffice. In the spirit of Realpolitik, they wouldn’t even have to admit they was wrong — the goal here is harm reduction.

    While Trujilo claimed condom failure rates of 15-20%, the WHO claimed it was more like 90%.

    I think you mean that WHO claimed an effectiveness rate of 90% (which is a 10% failure rate), not a failure rate of 90%.

    Is it worth it to quibble over 5-10%?

    Yes. That’s a huge number of infections prevented and lives saved.

    The overall point is that the PCF was lying, in direct contradiction to scientific evidence, and they knew it.

  60. If some aliens dropped by 100 million years ago, didn’t find us because we weren’t here, and then had themselves a Berserker War, that would explain why we haven’t heard from them. And as a bonus, the Berserkers should be showing up any day now.

  61. Heh, this thread simply can’t be complete without mention of The High Crusade, by Poul Anderson.

    I don’t see intelligent life on other planets as contradicting the bible. There’s no reason why ol’ Yahweh would’ve seen it necessary to mention other planets to Moses & Co. However, if even an appreciable fraction of the alien worlds required the services of Jesus, then there might be, uh, issues. 🙂

  62. “the likeness of God,”

    You assume this has something to do with physical form…not required by any means.

    Theologians typically refer to the likeness being some more abstract aspect of God(e.g., freewill, morality) rather than physical appearance.

    A red-herring, in otherwords.

  63. if even an appreciable fraction of the alien worlds required the services of Jesus, then there might be, uh, issues. 🙂

    IF the belief is in a being omnipotent and existing outside of time and space, then not really.

  64. You know, if we did encounter aliens more advanced than us, the most salient question would be whether the aliens practice something like liberal democracy.

    Because if not, they’d most likely subjugate or exterminate us.

  65. Question:
    Why does any rational person care about what a guy who believes in utter nonsense thinks about life in the universe?
    There is no god, and there are likely numerous other civilizations in the universe.
    And it’s pudding time.

  66. Jamie,

    Why does any rational person care about what a guy who believes in utter nonsense thinks about life in the universe?

    Personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass what any Vatican official thinks. However, the fact that a large number of people do believe what they say makes it necessary to respond to them.

    Although it’s tempting to not engage their lies and thus hasten their slide into irrelevance, that contradicts the principal of harm reduction.

  67. “Why does any rational person care about what a guy who believes in utter nonsense thinks about life in the universe?
    There is no god, and there are likely numerous other civilizations in the universe.”

    Because, unfortunately, the Vatican is a very influential institution. Any bit of rationality that comes out of the Vatican might convince Terra’s Catholics to be a bit more rational themselves. I call this a good thing. It liken it to the PRC moving a bit towards capitalism; far from perfect, but a positive move nonetheless.

  68. they’d most likely subjugate or exterminate us.

    So you’re James Woods’ character in “Contact”?

  69. Because if not, they’d most likely subjugate or exterminate us.

    Or, worse, grilled medium rare, on the plate next to the spuds.

  70. All this talk of God and aliens and not one mention of my favorite cute cult, the Raelians?

    They advocate capitalism as the best way to advance science (yay!), liberal sex ed (yay!) and also an IQ qualifier for public office (yay?)

    Oh and something about building a landing strip for the spaceship that is definitely coming back sometime soon.

  71. they’d most likely subjugate or exterminate us.

    It’s how nearly all human societies behaved pre-Enlightenment. I don’t know any reason to think aliens would be better than us.

  72. Or, worse, grilled medium rare, on the plate next to the spuds.

    Why not? Worked for the Aztecs.

  73. Here is a list of things that will send me to hell. Take effeminancy and drunkedness. Am I going to hell because I wore an earring? Am I going to hell because I get drunk a lot? Hell, am I going to hell because I got drunk while wearing and earring?

    My question is, do the aliens have to deal with all these stupid bullshit rules?

  74. “12.SEDITION – any offense against the state short of grave insurrection or treason: tumultuous assembly of people in opposition to lawful authority: the stirring up of such opposition.”

    Troy, this is the one I am going to hell for.

  75. “26. The Ultimate Sin of Damnation – Rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God”

    And this one

  76. I can’t let this opportunity pass without pimping my favourite ‘Jesuit & space aliens’ short story – Clarke’s ‘The Star.’

    (Ah, the Society of Jesus. History would be so much less interesting without you…)

  77. “…after he became President asked his staff to find out whether there are UFOs, and who shot JFK.”

    “…he got the exact same answer as everyone else: ‘No’ and ‘Lee Harvey Oswald’.”

    If Bubba had been smart, back in those days before too many people knew how to photoshop things, he might have enlisted facial recognition software to scan through the states’ DMV photo records, in search of a face (possibly disguised or altered) that statistically matched Elvis’. After that exercise, he would have at least been able to say with some confidence that, if still alive, Elvis didn’t have a driver license or DMV ID card, which would have been more information than he probably got from the JFK and UFO questions.

  78. Re “in his likeness”: this can’t possibly be referring to the physical form of humans, since in Christian theology God does not have a physical form of his own (aside from Jesus, but that’s another story). It’s more likely a reference to the ability of humans, like God, to choose their actions, in contrast to the wholly instinct-driven behavior of other animals.

    So, if aliens exist, and they have free will, then they too would be “in God’s likeness”.

    Also, the text of Genesis 1:28 does not say man was given dominion over all God’s creatures:

    And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

    The list of dominated entities would not include creatures not inhabiting Earth.

  79. if even an appreciable fraction of the alien worlds required the services of Jesus, then there might be, uh, issues. 🙂

    The Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus’ sacrifice was done “once and for all”. I believe the Catholic position would be that aliens would be in the same boat as a Buddhist monk living in India in 400 BC — they would be saved by Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice, but judged not by their faith in Jesus, but according to a different standard, since they obviously never had the opportunity to hear the Gospel.

  80. I’m reminded of Ray Bradbury’s short story, “The Man”.

  81. Pro Libertate:

    Romanian, or Interlingua?

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