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Vatican looks for alien life

Published by onlines on November 15, 2009


Catholic Church explores astrobiology at conference

The Vatican has hosted a conference to study the possibility of alien life in the universe and its implication for the Catholic Church.

The study was part of events marking the UN-designated International Year of Astronomy.

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

He presented the results 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.

Chris Impey, an astronomy professor at the University of Arizona, said it was appropriate that the Vatican would host such a meeting.

“Both science and religion posit life as a special outcome of a vast and mostly inhospitable universe,” he said.

“There is a rich middle ground for dialogue between the practitioners of astrobiology and those who seek to understand the meaning of our existence in a biological universe.”

Thirty scientists, including non-Catholics, from the US, France, Britain, Switzerland, Italy and Chile attended the conference, called to explore among other issues “whether sentient life forms exist on other worlds.”

This is not the first time the Vatican has explored the issue of extraterrestrials. In 2005, its observatory brought together top researchers in the field for similar discussions.

In the interview last year, Funes told Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano that believing the universe may host aliens, even intelligent ones, does not contradict a faith in God.

He said: “How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere.

“Just as there is a multitude of creatures on Earth, there could be other beings, even intelligent ones, created by God. This does not contradict our faith, because we cannot put limits on God’s creative freedom.”

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