Daily Mail, By DAVID DERBYSHIRE, 17th September 2010
Intelligent aliens may be living among the stars and are likely to have souls, a senior Vatican scientist said today.
|The Pope's Astronomer, Guy Consolmagno,|
says that intelligent life elsewhere is probable,
but believes that we are unlikely ever to
The Pope’s Astronomer, Guy Consolmagno said he would be happy to 'baptise an alien' – but admitted that the chances of communicating with life outside the Earth was low.
The pronouncement raises the tantalising possibility that the Vatican may one day send missionaries into space to convert aliens to Christianity.
Speaking at the British Science Festival, Dr Consolmangno also dismissed Creationism and claimed that the revival of 'intelligent design’ – the controversial theory that only God can explain gaps in the theory of evolution – was 'bad theology’.
Dr Consolmango is one of a team of 12 astronomers working for the Vatican, said the Catholic Church had been supporting and funding science for centuries.
A self-confessed science fiction fan, he said he was “comfortable’ with the idea of alien life.
Asked if he would baptise an alien, he replied “Only if they asked.’
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He added: “I’d be delighted if we found life elsewhere and delighted if we found intelligent life elsewhere.
“But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it - when you add them up it’s probably not a practical question.
“God is bigger than just humanity. God is also the god of angels.”
In the middle ages, the definition of a soul was to have intelligence, free will, freedom to love and freedom to make decisions, he said.
Those characteristics may not be unique to humans.
|New frontiers for Christianity: NGC 300, a spiral galaxy similar to the Milky Way, and located in the nearby Sculptor Group of galaxies. Taken at the La Silla Observatory in Chile|
'Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has has a soul,’ he added.
In practice, machines were unlikely to be smart or human-enough to have souls.
Dr Consolmango, 57, the curator of the Pope's meteorite collection, is a trained astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican’s observatory.
He dismissed 'Intelligent Design' - a form of Creationism which claims that Darwin's theory of evolution cannot explain the complexity of life - was 'bad theology'.
'The word has been hijacked by a narrow group of Creationist fundamentalists in America to mean something it didn’t originally mean at all. It’s another form of the God of the gaps,’ he said.
'It’s bad theology in that it turns God once again into the pagan god of thunder and lightning.’
The phrase 'Intelligent Design' was centuries old and described the idea that God could be discovered in the laws of space and time and the existence of human reason.
Anyone out there? The discovery of aliens would raise huge theological problems for the Catholic Church.The Vatican was 'very aware' of what was going on in the world of science, he added.
The Pontifical Academy of Science, of which Stephen Hawking is a member, kept the senior cardinals and the Pope up-to-date with the latest scientific developments, he said.
The discovery of aliens would raise huge theological problems for the Roman Catholic church that would make the debate over women priests, clerical abstinence and contraception pale into insignificance.
Contact with aliens would also raise complex questions for theologians about whether extra terrestrials would be spared the stain of original sin and whether they - like humans - were 'made in God's image'.
Dr Consolmagno said the Catholic Church was keen to promote science.
However, he admitted that the church had got it 'spectacularly wrong' over its treatment of the 17th century astronomer Galileo Galilei whose observations with telescopes confirmed that the Earth went around the sun - and not the other way around.
Galileo was accused of heresy in 1633 and forced to publicly recant his theories. He lived the rest of his life under house arrest in his Tuscan villa.
In 1992 Pope John Paul said the church's denunciation of Galileo's work had been a tragic error.
Two years ago Pope Benedict XVI paid tribute to the astronomer at an event marking the 400th anniversary of Galileo's earliest observations. Pope Benedict had been criticised in the past for appearing to condone the heresy verdict against Galileo.