Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Father, the Sun and the Holy Space Ghost

Did you know that the Vatican has its own astronomy program? Did you further know that it's run by like actual scientists and not, say, some dude ranting about how the stars are just angels waving Zippos at some kind of celestial Lynyrd Skynyrd concert?
"Goddamn took them long enough..."
-Galileo Galilei
Yup, contrary to popular perception, an organization who used to light people on fire for suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun is actually pretty pro-science. In fact, when asked about NASA's recent discovery of 452b, a potentially earth-like planet, their head space priest, Father José Gabriel Funes, had this to say: " is probable there was life and perhaps a form of intelligent life..." Cool, right? It sort of flies in the face of the idea that western religions are necessarily hostile towards science. 

Check out what else he said:

"The bible is not a scientific book. If we look for scientific responses to our questions in the bible, we are making a mistake."

-Father Funes, crushing it
"Planck time? Quantum singularity? Quarks? What the hell are quarks?
Look, this is the bronze age, why don't we just start with 'let there be light?'
"Ok, who had the barbecued disappointment?
I mean, seitan. Heh. See what I did there?"
Holy shit, right? I mean here in the States we have entire museums dedicated to spitting in the face of the geological record by insisting that people used to ride around on dinosaurs and school boards who grudgingly present evolution as some kooky alternative like the vegan option at a barbecue and here's this guy working for the people who brought us the Inquisition casually pointing out that religion isn't science and vice versa. So like suck on that, Kirk Cameron, Richard Dawkins and everyone who feels strongly about things.

Of course being a Priest, Father Funes did have to make this about Jesus saying that while there're probably aliens, there probably isn't an alien Jesus:

"The discovery of intelligent life, does not mean there's another Jesus. The Incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the universe."
Although in fairness, Space Jesus is only slightly more preposterous
than a 1st century inhabitant of Roman-occupied Judea being a white guy.
How quickly would you beam back up
if the first humans you met tried to
hand you a copy of The Watchtower?
Um...ok. Somehow I feel like the first question we ask when we finally meet aliens shouldn't be 'have you invited Jesus into your heart?' I mean, judging by the great lengths we go to to avoid people who talk like that on our own planet, I say we skip the topic altogether. But Funes is a priest, so of course he's going to put questions about extraterrestrial life in the context of his belief system. It's literally his job. Actually, the only thing he said that kind of gave me pause is "I don't think we'll ever meet a Mr. Spock." Yeah, so while he has no scientific or theological problem with aliens, Father Funes is depressingly realistic when it comes to the likelihood of actually meeting any.

And he's got a point. We have absolutely no idea how to deal with the unimaginably vast distances between stars and it's entirely possible that interstellar travel will always be out of reach. On the other hand, Funes believes in an ordered, sensible universe presided over by a benevolent deity. Is warp drive really all that crazy by comparison?
Ehh...probably. (source: science)

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