Vatican searches for extra-terrestrial life

Nov 10, 2009
This picture taken from a terrace in Rome on October 19, 2009 shows a view of Saint Peter's Basilica at The Vatcian. Is there life on other planets? The Vatican has asked that age-old question over the past five days during a "study week" on astrobiology gathering leading scientists from around the world.

Is there life on other planets? The Vatican has asked that age-old question over the past five days during a "study week" on astrobiology gathering leading scientists from around the world.

"The questions of life's origins and of whether life exists elsewhere in the universe are very suitable and deserve serious consideration," said the chief papal , Father Jose Gabriel Funes.

Although the questions "offer many philosophical and theological implications," the gathering of about 30 leading astronomers, geologists, biologists, physicists and other scientists "focused on the scientific perspective," Funes said, according to the Vatican news service.

The event hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences was held to mark the International Year of Astronomy.

"There is a palpable expectation that the universe harbours life, and there is hope that the first discovery is only a few years away," said Chris Impey of the University of Arizona.

"It is appropriate that a meeting on this frontier topic is hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences," Impey said. "The motivations and methodologies might differ, but both and posit life as a special outcome of a vast and mostly inhospitable universe."

Technological breakthroughs have led to the discovery of more than 400 planets beyond the solar system, he noted.

His colleague Athena Coustenis of the Paris-Meudon Observatory, told AFP she thought that if life exists "we will find it soon," and most likely within our solar system.

In astrobiology, "we realise every day that reality goes beyond fiction," she said.

The participants hoped to publish their conclusions in a book, Funes said.

The Jesuit priest broached the question of extraterrestrial in an interview last year, when he said the search for aliens did not contradict belief in God.

"As an astronomer I continue to believe that God is the creator of the universe," Funes told the mouthpiece, the Osservatore Romano.

The possibility raises a difficult theological question concerning redemption from the original sin, which by Christian tradition occurred in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit of a particular tree.

Funes told the Osservatore Romano: "If other intelligent beings exist, it's not certain that they need redemption."

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Vatican gives nod to Darwin, not Design

Jan 19, 2006

The official Vatican newspaper has published an article praising as "correct" a recent U.S. court decision that intelligent design is not science.

Exploring planets in distant space and deep interiors

Feb 14, 2009

In recent years researchers have found hundreds of new planets beyond our solar system, raising questions about the origins and properties of these exotic worlds—not to mention the possible presence of life. Speaking at ...

Expectations For A Final Theory?

Oct 25, 2005

Martin Rees is Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge and Britain's Astronomer Royal. He is the author of numerous popular science books, including the bestselling Just Six Numbers: The Deep ...

New solar twin could shed light on another Earth

Mar 24, 2006

ANU (Australian National University) astronomers have discovered a nearby solar twin which may shed light on the search for planets that are similar to Earth and that may even support life. HD98618 is only ...

Recommended for you

Amazing raw Cassini images from this week

13 hours ago

When Saturn is at its closest to Earth, it's three-quarters of a billion miles away—or more than a billion kilometers! That makes these raw images from the ringed planet all the more remarkable.

Europe launches two navigation satellites

13 hours ago

Two satellites for Europe's rival to GPS were lifted into space on Friday to boost the Galileo constellation to six orbiters of a final 30, the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

SpaceX gets 10-year tax exemption for Texas site

14 hours ago

Cameron County commissioners have agreed to waive 10 years of county taxes as part of an agreement bringing the world's first commercial site for orbital rocket launches to the southernmost tip of Texas.

Voyager map details Neptune's strange moon Triton

16 hours ago

(Phys.org) —NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft gave humanity its first close-up look at Neptune and its moon Triton in the summer of 1989. Like an old film, Voyager's historic footage of Triton has been "restored" ...

How the sun caused an aurora this week

17 hours ago

On the evening of Aug. 20, 2014, the International Space Station was flying past North America when it flew over the dazzling, green blue lights of an aurora. On board, astronaut Reid Wiseman captured this ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Truth
1 / 5 (1) Nov 15, 2009
What this development means is that religion, at least the Catholic religion, is finally and blessedly going through its own evolution, just like biological organisms, slowly but surely shedding past cumbersome structures and adapting new, more efficient ideas. I am extremely happy to see that the Vatican is interested in the Universe and the abundant life that it surely harbors. Finally, no more "we are the center of the universe" or "we are the only beings ever created". What a refreshing change in the weather! By showing scientific curiousity and healthy open-mindedness, the Vatican is poised to become the prime example of vibrant and exciting intellectual inquiry, showing the way for the rest of the world's religions, many of which unfortunately remain stuck in 12th. century darkness and bias.