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 yesterday.
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 were low.
Speaking at the British Science Festival in Birmingham, Dr Consolmagno 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 Consolmagno, 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.’
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.
‘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 Consolmagno, 57, the curator of the Pope’s meteorite collection, is a trained astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican’s observatory.
On ‘intelligent design’, which claims that Darwin’s theory of evolution cannot explain the complexity of life, he said: ‘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.
‘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.
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