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RE: [ufodiscussion] And on the eighth day . did God cr eate aliens?

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  • Jahnets
    Actually a pretty good article but I have a question... What makes him think he hasn t already been baptising half aliens??? If we are from the fallen as he
    Message 1 of 2 , Nov 30, 2005
      Actually a pretty good article but I have a question... What makes him think
      he hasn't already been baptising half aliens??? If we are from the "fallen"
      as he points out, how does he figure we are not the offspring of aliens???

      And on the eighth day … did God create aliens?

      As the Pope’s astronomer, Guy Consolmagno must reconcile faith and science,
      then work out what to do if ET phones Rome
      By Neil Mackay

      MY grandfather, a rampant atheist, liked nothing better than savaging the
      priests that my devout Irish Catholic grandmother invited home in the hope
      of saving his soul. After laying into them about the dubious credibility of
      immaculate conceptions and self-replicating loaves and fishes, he’d declaim,
      with a flourish: “And what the bloody hell is Genesis chapter six all about,

      For those not up to speed on the Old Testament, this part of the creation
      story deals with a category of creatures called “the Nephilim”, a non-human
      race that apparently inhabited the Earth around the time Adam and Eve got
      kicked out of the Garden of Eden. My grandfather would holler: “What are
      these things? Little green men from outer space?” At which point, the
      deflated priest would be led from the house as my grandmother crossed
      herself in the face of her husband’s wickedness. Even in the 1950s, priests
      knew that aliens and the Church didn’t compute. If there were
      extraterrestrials out there, their existence could effectively herald the
      death of God – cutting the ground from beneath key biblical truths, not
      least of which is the claim that humankind was made in God’s image.

      Half a century on, the Catholic Church is finally getting round to asking
      what it would mean for their religion if humankind were to establish the
      existence of intelligent aliens. The question weighs heavily on the mind of
      Guy Consolmagno. Sitting among his telescopes in Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s
      summer palace, Consolmagno is puzzling over whether or not the Catholic
      Church could – or should – baptise an alien. Were such creatures discovered,
      ought the Pope to consider ordaining an ET? And if the human race ever
      masters interstellar travel, should missionaries be sent into outer space
      ... ?

      Consolmagno, a 53-year-old Jesuit brother from Detroit, is the Pope’s
      astronomer, with the run of the Vatican’s observatory here at Castel
      Gandolfo, in the hills outside Rome. Despite the aristocratic-sounding name
      and the arcane, slightly eldritch subjects he immerses himself in, Guy
      Consolmagno appears surprisingly Earth-bound: a self-confessed “nerd” from
      MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who’s into Star Trek.

      It’s his job to reconcile the wildest reaches of science fiction with the
      flint-eyed dogma of the Holy See. Right now, he’s off on a mental meander
      about “the Jesus Seed” – a brain-warping theory which speculates that,
      perhaps, every planet that harbours intelligent, self-aware life may also
      have had a Christ walk across its methane seas, just as Jesus supposedly did
      here on Earth in Galilee. The salvation of the Betelguesians may have
      happened simultaneously with the salvation of the Earthlings.

      “Is original sin something that affected all intelligent beings?” he asks.
      “Is there a sort of ‘cosmic’ Adam predating even life on Earth? Is Jesus
      Christ’s redemptive sacrifice sufficient for the whole universe? Would there
      be a parallel history of salvation on other planets?”

      Consolmagno’s job is to shore up the crumbling edifice of the Church against
      the acidic drip, drip, drip of rationality and science . “To me there is no
      clash between faith and science,” he says. “My religion teaches me that God
      created the universe, but my science teaches me how he did it. Religion
      doesn’t become obsolete like a science text book. In 3000 years, people will
      still be reading the Bible, but they will not be reading the science texts
      of today.”

      That tension between science and religion is the backdrop to his life’s
      work, and Consolmagno has been granted a special dispensation from the
      Church to produce a book called Intelligent Life In The Universe? Catholic
      Belief And The Search For Extra-Terrestrial Life. Published by the Vatican’s
      Catholic Truth Society, it explores an issue which could – theoretically –
      reduce the spires and steeples of Rome to rubble.

      The Roman Catholic Church has, in the past, been obliged to rue its
      mistakes: the Crusades, the Inquisition, wartime acquiescence by certain
      clergy with Nazism. But it was the scientific cock-ups, not the moral ones,
      that really threatened the institution’s authority. Having taken more than
      350 years to admit its mistake in convicting Galileo of heresy for insisting
      that the Earth orbited the sun, the Church seems keen to demonstrate that it
      is no longer the natural haven for scientific dunces: hence, Consolmagno and
      his peculiar little book.

      It’s Consolmagno’s job to finesse any looming doctrinal difficulties that
      the search for extraterrestrial intelligence may present for His Holiness
      Pope Benedict XVI. For instance, if aliens were discovered, then why would
      the Bible – supposedly the word of God – contain no information about his
      non-Earthly creations? If they turn out to be green blobs or sentient
      gaseous spirals, what’s all that talk in the Bible of humankind being
      created in God’s image? What if the aliens wanted to convert us to their
      God? And do ETs go to heaven? Consolmagno’s role is to scientifically,
      metaphysically and theologically take the lethal sting out of such a debate;
      to marry Christian faith with the possibility of discovering a talking crab
      in the next galaxy.

      But how does the prospect affect other faiths? According to Dr Mona
      Siddiqui, senior lecturer in Islamic Studies at Glasgow University, the
      discovery of aliens would merely signal that the human race had learned a
      fraction more about the universe. “The question wouldn’t be: ‘What does this
      say about our relationship to God?’, but: ‘What does it say about us in the

      “God would remain, but the way we think about his ‘creation’ – the universe
      and everything in it – would change.” Unless humankind finds a way to
      communicate with the creator, says Siddiqui, “then the mystery of God
      remains”, no matter what discoveries we make about intelligent life
      elsewhere in the void.

      Ephraim Borowski, former head of philosophy at Glasgow University and
      current director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities, also remains
      sanguine. “My gut tells me that the discovery of alien life would have no
      more impact on faith than the discovery of Australia,” he says. “When that
      land was discovered and people of different racial characteristics were
      found, there was no problem in recognising them as human. If an ET was
      discovered, would it be that much different?

      “Even if we take Genesis literally – with the story of the creation of the
      sun, moon and stars – we are not told what was going on on those planets.”
      Although Judaism sees humans as the only creature gifted a soul, Borowski
      has a fanciful explanation for how humanity could reconcile something
      physically vastly different from ourselves – a giant self-aware spider with
      a gift for pottery, say – with evidence that the alien creature was just as
      capable of love, fear, jealousy and abstract thought as us.

      “If we came across an alien with whom we could enjoy a visit to the National
      Gallery,” he muses, “then we might take the view that this creature was a
      different shape to a human and so not biologically like us, but it
      functioned like us – or even better than us – and so could be seen to have a
      soul; to be effectively human.”

      Only the Church of Scientology waxes enthusiastic about the prospect of
      extra-terrestrial life. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland refused to
      participate in a debate related to a Sabbath Day newspaper , and the Church
      of Scotland was reticent in putting forward a spokesperson on the subject.

      Dr Richard Holloway – the controversial former primus of the Scottish
      Episcopal Church – insists that only a faith which has embraced modernity
      could cope with the daisy-cutter level fire and brimstone that would rain
      down on organised religion in the event of a flying saucer landing on the
      Esplanade outside Edinburgh Castle. “Christianity has dealt with dinosaurs,
      Darwin and the emancipation of women,” Holloway says. “It gulped momentarily
      and moved on. Good religion is not hermetically sealed. A religion that is
      held with lightness and less intensity can adapt. It won’t be stuck in time,
      but move with the times.” Ultimately, he believes, the discovery of aliens
      would just underscore how big a mystery the universe and its creation – or
      creator – remain to us mortals who are just passing by.

      The central question posed by the discovery of aliens would be: “Are they
      fallen like us?” If so, says Holloway, did they have their own version of
      Adam and Eve? Did they have a saviour? If they aren’t fallen, then are they
      living in some pre-Edenic paradise with no need of a saviour? “The biggest
      fact that plays against the belief in a benign creator,” says Holloway, “is
      meaningless pain and suffering. If we discovered intelligent life on a
      planet that believed in no God and was just as brutal as our own planet,
      then that might be seen by some as the ultimate definition of a Godless

      For the Vatican and Consolmagno, the theological puzzle is more tricky. As a
      scientist, Consolmagno can’t reject the possibility of alien life. But as a
      theologian he has to perform an intellectual somersault in order to make
      sure that the chance of an ET cropping up somewhere in the universe doesn’t
      shunt the Christian God to the outer fringes.

      Consolmagno says he believes in ETs – and that they too are God’s creatures
      and no challenge to Rome’s authority. His belief is a bit like his faith: he
      can’t prove it, but he’s certain nonetheless. “I can’t be sure I’m right,”
      he says, “indeed I could well be wrong, but still, I have a hunch that
      sooner or later, the human race will discover that there are other
      intelligent creatures out there in the universe.”

      At the core of Consolmagno’s reconciliation between science and religion is
      an almost hippy way of thinking about spirituality and the universe. He
      cites the opening lines of John, Chapter One: “In the beginning was the
      Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the
      beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him was not
      anything.” He interprets this as meaning that the word of God – the spirit
      of the essence, the meaning of God – existed before anything else, and is
      part of everything in the natural universe: even a giant mindworm on a
      planet orbiting Alpha Centauri.

      “After all, we are all made of stars,” Consolmagno says, quoting the US
      singer, Moby. His thinking is this: just as the word of God echoes from “the
      beginning” until now, in all of us, so the stuff that formed the first stars
      remains present within the minerals from which we are all made. In
      Consolmagno’s worldview, God and science are one. Apart from certainty in
      God the creator and Christ the saviour, he believes almost everything else
      is unknowable. It means Consolmagno can maintain his faith in God, but still
      believe in the Big Bang. The Lord is an infinite physicist – an all-knowing
      Stephen Hawking – who started the whole process of life, the universe and
      everything else by flicking a switch, triggering an almighty explosion some
      10 billion-plus years ago and allowing his creation to unfold in accordance
      with his omniscient, and highly mathematical, plan.

      Consolmagno considers himself a free thinker, who wears both a dog collar
      and his MIT graduation ring as evidence that he can be a “fanatic and a nerd
      at the same time”. He’s happy to point out Biblical disparities – including
      the bit of Genesis about the Nephilim that vexed my grand father – and say
      it’s just silly fiction. Nor does the Bible’s failure to mention dinosaurs
      mean that Christians have to question the existence of T-Rex. “The Bible
      doesn’t tell you how to programme your VCR either, but you know it’s there,”
      he adds.

      Consolmagno’s natural audience, he says, is the devout. “They are the people
      who fear even thinking about science, as it might make them question their
      faith. But a faith that is afraid of the truth has no faith.” Part of his
      mission is to show the blinkered that even the most fantastical of
      scientific discoveries would, at least in his opinion, not trash the
      teachings of Christ and the prophets. “The discovery of extraterrestrial
      life will not destroy the Church,” insists Consolmagno. “What it might do is
      help us discard the bad ideas in religion – the narrow views, the hubris,
      the divisiveness.”

      But what about the deep-rooted paranoia evident in so many science fiction
      works, that alien life, if it’s out there, might one day attempt to destroy
      humankind? “We’ve seen when human cultures interact that nobody comes out
      superior,” Consolmagno says. What about the genocide of Native Americans
      when white Europeans “interacted” with their culture? “Hmmm,” he says, “it
      could happen, I suppose, but the important thing is that the Native American
      culture did survive.”

      Consolmagno, it seems, remains the eternal optimist. God is great. And for
      him, the Church, in the face of everything that we know, is safe, secure and
      a source of succour for the souls of us all – no matter what planet we’re

      Intelligent Life In The Universe? (Catholic Truth Society, £1.95) is out now

      27 November 2005

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