In May 2008, we reported on an article titled “Aliens Are My Brother” by Father Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory. Funes speculated that there could be many forms of intelligent life throughout the universe, and that some could be “free of original sin.” The Vatican recently concluded a five-day conference on the topic of astrobiology, a field studying the question of life beyond earth.
According to Funes, eliminating the possibility of alien life would “put limits on God’s creative freedom.”
One attendee, University of Arizona astronomer Chris Impey, claimed we may discover alien life within only a few years. According to Funes, eliminating the possibility of alien life would “put limits on God’s creative freedom.” He continued, “The questions of life’s origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration,” and added that the question has “many philosophical and theological implications.”
The Vatican also hosted a conference this year on Darwin’s The Origin of Species, which—the AP notes—“snubbed proponents of alternative theories, like creationism and intelligent design, which see a higher being rather than the undirected process of natural selection behind the evolution of species.” We continue to find it stunning that some of even the highest officials and leaders of the Roman Catholic Church consider the notion of an intelligent designer to be flawed.
The Associated Press mistakenly portrays a false dichotomy at work in the situation, saying that Pope Benedict XVI wants to “[strengthen] the relationship between faith and reason” and that the Vatican Observatory is working hard to “bridge the gap between religion and science.” Not only do we reject that dichotomy (admittedly a common one) as false; we also reject the idea that leaving the question of alien life for evolutionary astrobiologists to answer is a way of serving both faith and reason. First, although the Bible doesn’t state it outright, the absence of intelligent alien life is implied (see the links below). Second, the idea that there could be intelligent life in outer space is almost entirely based on evolutionary presuppositions: namely, that life can appear wherever the correct material factors exist. Yet almost totally absent from this proposition is any compelling scientific evidence.
It seems the effects of the Galileo affair have had a permanent impact on the Roman Catholic Church’s attitude toward science.* Now, they are so unwilling to give the appearance of interfering in otherwise secular science that they reject even fundamentally Christian views.
*Readers may wonder why our Christian ministry would bring up what some critics say is an embarrassment to Christianity: the bad treatment of Galileo by the religious leaders of his day. The often-heard claim is that Christianity was anti-science during the time of Galileo because the Catholic Church accepted an earth-centered solar system and persecuted Galileo for his contrarian belief in a sun-centered one. However, the Church’s belief was based on the acceptance of ancient thinkers like Aristotle and Ptolemy, not what the Bible actually teaches. Much pagan thinking had seeped into Catholic teaching, and the Church's acceptance of the ancients’ beliefs of the universe was the cause of the Galileo affair, not the Bible’s teaching.
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