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Opening Arguments

Extraterrestrial brothers

This is fascinating:

Believing that the universe may contain alien life does not contradict a faith in God, the Vatican's chief astronomer said in an interview published Tuesday.

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

"How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?" Funes said. "Just as we consider earthly creatures as 'a brother,' and 'sister,' why should we not talk about an 'extraterrestrial brother'? It would still be part of creation."

In the interview by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Funes said that such a notion "doesn't contradict our faith" because aliens would still be God's creatures. Ruling out the existence of aliens would be like "putting limits" on God's creative freedom, he said.

Do I get to see evidence of alien life, or must I take it on faith? Just kidding. I'd think finding alien life would add  to faith in God, or "a" god, anyway. Why would an omnipotent God create the universe in all its vastness and just do this one tiny experiment?

Posted in: Religion, Science


Wed, 05/14/2008 - 8:54am

I don't know. Why would he create an inerrant Bible that makes his creations believe that the sun revolves around the earth?

Harl Delos
Wed, 05/14/2008 - 10:24am

"Why would an omnipotent God create the universe in all its vastness and just do this one tiny experiment?"

But is it an experiment? Or is it just "His Plan"? If I want a barbecue full of hot coals, I light a single sheet of newspaper, let it get the briquettes started, then I spread the briquettes, knowing that the coals will continue to turn red, then gray.

Current thought is that we may not be the only life, but we're probably the only intelligent life in the universe:

Within a thousand years, we'll be able to build "generation ships" that make interstellar travel possible - and within a thousand years of landing on another planet, those outposts of humanity will be able to build generation ships as well. Thus, it will take relatively little time for us to fill the universe.

Evolution takes such a long time to develop intelligence, compared to the relatively short time needed to fill the universe, that we wouldn't need to go looking for it; it'd be staring us in the face.

And since it isn't staring us in the face, it doesn't exist. Of course, those who believe in angels, etc., would say that it IS staring us in the face. Even so, this exercise in logic says that if there is other intelligent life, we'll probably find it on Earth, not elsewhere. (Presented without endorsement. I first heard this argument a few months ago, and I haven't found any major flaws in the logic yet, but I'm not entirely sold, either.)

Larry Morris
Wed, 05/14/2008 - 12:37pm

"And since it isn

Harl Delos
Wed, 05/14/2008 - 7:54pm

As I said, presented without endorsement. (I lean towards the idea as I lean towards relativity and I lean towards evolution: favorable, but obviously in need of refinement.)

Your argument asserts that we're world-bound. I don't buy that. As individuals, I would concede that we're almost world-bound; we're pretty much limited to this solar-system. As a species, however, that's not true.

Bussard solved the problem of fuel consumption. We can gather interplanetary hydrogen, and fuse it to produce quite satisfactory amounts of power.

We are limited to how much acceleration and deceleration we can take; we're basically just water balloons, and we squish (technically referred to as bruising) pretty easy. However, the idea of a generation ship - where the spacemen that arrive at the other end are the grandkids of the original spacemen - means that rapid acceleration and deceleration are not needed.

We don't need gravity; we can use centrifugal force instead. We just have to stop thinking of an interstellar space ship as a spear; it'll be more like a bicycle wheel, traveling sideways.

Successful species at the top of the food chain - and if a species is going to develop intelligence, it needs to be at the top of the food chain - seem to be necessarily very aggressive at obtaining the resources it needs. That makes generation ships - or some better technology conceived when we develop better science - pretty much inevitable, not just for us, but for anything else we recognize as life.

It's a lot easier to adapt to a lesser gravity than a greater one. If there were intelligent life on Jupiter, they'd see Earth as a treasure trove of resources, just as we see the asteroid belt as a source of wealth. I don't think we'd have trouble finding them; more likely, we'd have trouble missing the eviction notice that they serve.

Larry Morris
Thu, 05/15/2008 - 3:24pm

Well, ... I could have sworn I know what your first post meant, but, ... oh well - at any rate, I must admit that the last time I heard of "generation" ships was in one of the older SciFi books I love. But, sadly, it's only that, SciFi. We'll be lucky to be around in a 1000 years, let alone ready to do something as far-reaching as that - sorry, Harl, I believe that will remain relegated to the SciFi pages, there are so many breakthroughs to make, regardless of your flowery hopeful ideas, that, even so far out, it seems impossible, ...and, please, before you jump on "it seems impossible" with both feet and 6 paragraphs, I do realize we do the impossible every day - this is in a different class.