20 September 2010

A hat tip to the Pope's astronomer

Guy Consolmagno, who is one of the pope's astronomers, said he would be "delighted" if intelligent life was found among the stars...

...he said that the traditional definition of a soul was to have intelligence, free will, freedom to love and freedom to make decisions. "Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has – has a soul." Would he baptise an alien? "Only if they asked."

...Responding to Hawking's recent comments that the laws of physics removed the need for God, Consolmagno said: "Steven Hawking is a brilliant physicist and when it comes to theology I can say he's a brilliant physicist."

He dismissed the ideas of intelligent design – a pseudoscientific version of creationism. "The word has been hijacked by a narrow group of creationist fundamentalists in America to mean something it didn't originally mean at all.

The pope's astronomer said the Vatican was keen on science and admitted that the church had got it "spectacularly wrong" over its treatment of the 17th century astronomer Galileo Galilei.
Photo credit David Sillitoe/Guardian.


  1. A brilliant theologian is someone who knows everything about nothing.

  2. Wow! Who knew? Oh, right, TYWKIWDBI...

  3. The Catholic Church has had no issue with evolution for at least the last half century. Pope Pius XII published an encyclical in 1950 stating that there was no opposition between evolution and religion, because the two were in separate, nonoverlapping magisteria. (In other words, evolution never explained the *origin* of that first spark of life, only what happened to it afterward. In evolution there was still room for the Catholic God.) Pope John Paul repeated and strengthened this statement in 1996, in a document called "Truth Cannot Contradict Truth."

    Stephen Jay Gould wrote a fascinating article about all of this back in 1997, called "Nonoverlapping Magisteria." You can read it here:


    The fact that even educated people are surprised to learn that the Vatican has no issue with evolution shows how loud, powerful and aggressive the voices of ignorance have become in the US. They get so much press that it seems like the whole world is mired in this conflict. In fact, this profound ignorance is largely limited to our nation (and, alas, those nations to which we have exported it).

  4. The Catholic Church hasn't exactly made their acceptance of evolution known to its members. I was uh...urged to attend regularly by my parents up until seven years ago, and I don't believe a person in the congregation would have been able to cite the sources Fletcher does.

  5. Mac -- really? I'm fascinated. Do you think that's part of the schism between American Catholicism and European Catholicism?

    Here in Portugal, there's just no question about whether creationism is anything but a fairy tale. In fact the Portuguese are invariably astonished to learn that creationism is actually taught in some US schools.


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