Why hasn’t the Catholic Church stepped in to quiet its chief astronomer? Father Jose Gabriel Funes recently held a five-day conference at the Vatican about the possibility of extraterrestrial life. It brought in 30 astronomers and other scientists from around the world. The message was clear: extraterrestrial life is possible and recent scientific efforts could produce startling news in the next 10 years. In 1600 an Italian philosopher was burned at the stake for such a suggestion. Funes has been out front on this issue for several years now. His view puts the Catholic Church on the forefront of consideration of extraterrestrial life in major religions. Does it challenge church doctrine? It seems not. The Catholic Church is working proactively to consider the issue and embrace the concept. It makes sense both from a religious and business standpoint. Why put yourself at odds with something that you can so easily incorporate? If god created humans why couldn’t an all-powerful god create aliens too? Simply embrace it all and go about your business. If we discover microbes on a distant moon or space aliens land in Fresno, you’re covered.
Among the current religions who is less likely to embrace ET? I don’t think it’s a matter of the religion itself, but rather the fundamentalist nature of that religion. People who take the bible as an absolute word of god might be troubled by the lack of reference to extraterrestrials. The same conflict could be found with Islamic fundamentalists. These groups are also more likely to feel threatened here at home. Some fringe religions could view extraterrestrial First Contact as an end of the world scenario.
So, here’s a high five to the Roman Catholic Church for supporting a rational discussion of the possibilities of extraterrestrial life. And here’s hoping everyone else can be as broad minded.