Vatican Looks to Heavens for Signs of Alien Life

Ariel David reports for AP:

VATICAN CITY — E.T. phone Rome. Four hundred years after it locked up Galileo for challenging the view that the Earth was the center of the universe, the Vatican has called in experts to study the possibility of extraterrestrial alien life and its implication for the Catholic Church.

“The questions of life’s origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration,” said the Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, an astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory.

Funes, a Jesuit priest, presented the results Tuesday of a five-day conference that gathered astronomers, physicists, biologists and other experts to discuss the budding field of astrobiology — the study of the origin of life and its existence elsewhere in the cosmos.

Funes said the possibility of alien life raises “many philosophical and theological implications” but added that the gathering was mainly focused on the scientific perspective and how different disciplines can be used to explore the issue.

[continues at AP]

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  • http://www.xenex.org/ xen

    It is good to know the Pope has also been watching that awful “V” retread on TV.

    Seriously, though, alien life (which statistically must exist) is so unfathomably far away that religion can pretty much ignore its implications. I would hate different religions to send messages into the cosmos, asking aliens which Super Friend they like best, especially given that the answer would take 20,000 years at the very least to get back here. All current gods you can think of have existed to the human mind for fewer than 5,000 years and Jesus with have morphed into a crab with laser claws in another 18,000 years if he is remembered at all.

    • Rob

      You're assuming that alien life is far away. Just because they haven't landed on the White House lawn doesn't mean they aren't around.

      • http://www.xenex.org/ xen

        Let me put it this way: The edge of our solar system is not Pluto, but the Oort cloud. Using our very best technology, it would take us 10,000 years to get there (even at 100 times that speed–well beyond the hypothetical ken of physicists at this time–I can't imagine many beings hazarding the trip). Its edge is about one light-year away. After we transversed the edge, we do not come to another solar system for about 3.5 light-years. Then we are at Alpha Centauri, which is probably not habitable. (Even if it is, we've detected nothing from them. In fact, we've had no luck with any of our galactic neighbors, and we've been searching actively.) So, if alien life is out there, the chances that it is even relatively close to us is quite literally astronomically improbable.

        I do firmly believe there is alien life in the universe (the Drake Equation supports this, which is what I meant when I said that they must statistically exist). But they are not close and they certainly are not the Grays or Reptiliods of science fiction.

        • http://disinfo.com/ Raymond

          Xen, you're missing a piece here. Time dilation would allow an alien space traveler to get here within his lifetime, he could just never go back home because hundreds or thousands of years would have passed back on his home planet.

          Example: Raymond and Joe and Austin are flying to Pluto at like .99999999 the speed of light. Pluto is 5 light hours away. For a person on Earth or on Pluto, 5 hours would pass before we arrive. For the three of us, only two or three minutes would have passed!

          Assuming 1 Min of perceived time in the ship is 2.5 light hours/ hours on earth, you could cover a distance of about 146 light years per year, at sub light speed. Over a lifetime, you could travel nearly a tenth of the way across the galaxy. Amazingly, just within 100 light years, less than a year's travel for you in your ship, there are 15,000 or so star systems.

          Granted, I have no idea how to get going that fast, but perhaps the V's do… ;)

          • http://www.xenex.org/ xen

            Oh, sorry, I wasn't aware we could make stuff up and pretend it is real. In
            that case, the Zeti Reticulans could always use their ansibles to
            communicate with the Hive World once they are done using the star slip drive
            to teleport. The best part is, they can always go faster than light on the
            trip home, so they will arrive there before they left! How foolish to have
            overlooked that. My bad. ;)

            Seriously, though, I am working on a UFO based novel for National Novel
            Writing Month and what you posted was awesome justification. Thank you,
            Raymond!

          • http://disinfo.com/ Raymond

            Awesome! Two of my roommates are writing novels this month for the very same reason. Anyway, “time dilation” or “the twin paradox” became pet subjects for me after watching “Planet of the Apes” and “Flight of the Navigator” in the same weekend. Please send me a link at the end of the month if you hit 50k words.

          • http://www.xenex.org/ xen

            I've been posting the near-daily installments at
            http://xenex.org/fates/pine/

  • http://www.xenex.org/ xen

    I’ve been posting the near-daily installments at
    http://xenex.org/fates/pine/