On meeting an intelligent extraterrestrial, what should we do? We could try to communicate with it; we might even be able to understand each other — assuming they’re not too busy pounding our planet into mush. We could even try setting up some kind of alliance. It might save our race, after all.
Also, we might want to baptize them should they get within water-splashing distance. Well, that’s what one of the Pope’s astronomers would be happy to do, if ET was willing.
The relationship between science and religion hasn’t always been so cosy. Not so long ago, the Vatican would have shuddered at the suggestion that alien life might be out there. But these are modern times and — although religion and science mixes like water and oil — we have a more progressive Church that seems to be trying to embrace scientific innovation.
The Pope even has a meteorite collection and depends on the Pontifical Academy of Sciences — of which troublemaker Stephen Hawking is a member — keeping senior cardinals and the pope up-to-date with the latest scientific developments.
Guy Consolmagno, a Vatican scientist, said he’d be “delighted” if intelligent alien life was found in a recent Guardian article. “But the odds of us finding it, of it being intelligent and us being able to communicate with it — when you add them up it’s probably not a practical question.”
Granted, the fact we have no clue if there’s any life beyond our little blue marble of a world is troubling. If we have no experience of alien life, how can we possibly speculate about what form it will come in, let alone whether or not we can communicate with it?
Consolmagno went a step further than simply chatting with potential intelligent alien life. He’d also be happy to give said aliens admission to the Church by baptising them. “Any entity – no matter how many tentacles it has — has a soul,” he said. Fortunately, he’d only carry out the ritual “if they asked.”
Sensible, as we have no idea how ET would react if we started flinging dihydrogen monoxide at it without permission.
Image: An alien from “Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking” (Discovery Channel)