Skip to main content

Aliens free from original sin?

From wiki entry on original sin. I found this rather fascinating...

In an interview entitled "Aliens Are My Brother", granted to L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Father Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, stated: "In my opinion this possibility (of life on other planets) exists"; "intelligent beings, created by God may exist in outer space" and "some aliens could even be free from original sin" concluding "there could be (other beings) who remained in full friendship with their creator".[42] And on 5 March 2009, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, another astronomer working at the Vatican Observatory, told the BBC, in relation to the search for Earth-like worlds about to be embarked upon by the Kepler Space telescope, that "we Jesuits are actively involved in the search for Earth-like planets. The idea that there could be other intelligent creatures made by God in a relationship with God is not contrary to traditional Judeo-Christian thought. The Bible has many references to, or descriptions of, non-human intelligent beings; after all, that's what angels are. Our cousins on other planets may even have their own salvation story – including other examples of the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. We are open to whatever the Universe has for us."[43]


I have recently been trying to get my head around quantum mechanics. When I am debating creationists (an exercise not unlike banging your head against the wall), I often ask them why they are so willing to deny the theory of evolution and yet apparently have no problem accepting quantum mechanics which is a hundredfold freakier. Consolmagno's comments are interesting because he has obviously been pondering the challenges that RC doctrine is going to have reconciling itself with some of the mind blowing discoveries we are sure to see in the next century. I guess if your faith is based on fantasy, it shouldn't be too hard to accomodate fantastic reality.
Ken said…
James Blish covered some of this in his fine novel "A Case of Conscience".
If we ever do make contact with another civilisation, I'm willing to bet that it'll be using technology. You know, based on science and rationalism.

Mind you, aliens are bound to have their own religions on their planets - vestigial cultural artefacts that organisations can exploit to gain authoritarian power. They'll recognise the God-based greeting from a Vatican astronomer/ambassador for what it is, and smile knowingly.

"Ooookaaay," they'll say. "Say, is there anyone else there we can talk to? Maybe whoever built your equipment, perhaps?"
If the aliens have higher intelligence than us, they'll probably just eat us and, unless we're vegans, we'll really have no cause to complain.
wombat said…
".., we'll really have no cause to complain."

It's not going to stop me!

Bit of a laugh if they turn out to be more closely related to earth plants than animals though.
Paul P. Mealing said…
I think if consciousness gets to a certain level, that religion is an inevitable outcome. What that religion entails is anyone's guess - you only have to look at the diversity on offer within the human species.

Religion is consciousness searching for the meaning of its own existence. I don't find that unnatural at all.

Regards, Paul.
Paul P. Mealing said…
Concerning TAM's first comment, he's raised a very good point.

The more one studies quantum mechanics the more weird you realise it is. Nature's secrets are far from plumbed, whichever direction you look. And that includes secrets pertaining to biological evolution: Darwin didn't know anything about genes and DNA, and there's a lot that we still don't know; that only future generations will know.

Regards, Paul.
pikeamus Mike said…
This post reminded me of this comic:
Toby said…
Reminds me of the Arthur C Clarke short story, The Star, which begins with the line "It is three thousand light years to the Vatican".

Online here.
Unknown said…
I'm still trying to get my head around this. A devout catholic, who believes the creation story in Genesis, who also believes that intelligent life may be free from original sin... there is surely a huge amount of confused thinking being demonstrated here. Could any Bible-literate person please direct me to the part of the Genesis which says, "And on the eighth day, God created extremely intelligent life forms in His image..." and presumably forgot all about us lowly humans, we must have just been His trial run, his experimental guinea pigs! If you are a creationist, then you believeod created the Earth, humans etc 6,000 years ago. So did God also create aliens? Or if he didn't, then he must have made it so the conditions of the universe are "just right" for aliens to exist. He can't have done this by accident, for He is all knowing. And if there are these aliens withpout orignal sin, then they must have passed a similar "do not eat this apple" test and proven their loyalty to God or whatever. Would that mean He loves/respects them more? I wonder if they thought these comments through instead of saying what seems acceptable given our knowledge of other worlds just like this and the "uniquely human" concept of original sin. Hmmm.
wombat said…
Re: Quantum Mechanical weirdness.

Perhaps the correct perspective is that q-m is natural and normal, and that our mindset, evolved in a large scale classical way, is weird.
wombat said…
Marc -

If you were translating the bible into an alien language you would have reasonable grounds to interpret "Man" as "one of us" or "people" rather than referring to a specific species. There would seem to be a fair chance that anyone who could read it would be able to stretch the interpretation to refer to themselves.

Then again theres a whole lot of stuff it doesn't mention. Guinea-pigs for example. Glaciers. Set theory. Why mention aliens to trouble our poor little brains?
wombat said…
Paul -

Not so sure religion is a necessary outcome. Philosophy perhaps, but I would not take theism or even supernaturalism as inevitable. There appear to be people who have no real interest in introspection so why not a whole species?
Paul P. Mealing said…
Hi Wombat,

It's not just quantum mechanics that stretches our imagination. Wherever you look in science: cosmology, biology, neuroscience; they are all frontiers. Surely, the one thing we've learnt from studying nature, is that once you've uncovered one mystery another one lies underneath.

Nature's layers seem to be truly endless, yet we seem compelled to believe that we are always at the final layer.

Regards, Paul.
Paul P. Mealing said…
Hi Wombat, again.

Every human culture has religion, so I think, yes, it is inevitable.

I don't necessarily equate religion with ignorance and stupidity - it has many different faces.

As for a belief in the transcendent, that has many faces as well. There is a strong tendency to put all religion and all religious believers in the same mould - that is fruit cake. I don't agree with that approach. Religion doesn't have to be theistic, but that doesn't make theists superior to atheists, or vice versa.

Regards, Paul.
wombat said…
Paul - "Every human culture has religion, so I think, yes, it is inevitable."

Well thats just it - every human culture. What about non-human intelligence? Well we've got chimps, dolphins, elephants and dogs to look at. Maybe there is a threshold of intelligence which they don't cross but on the other hand could it be that there are ways of being intelligent to the extent of having a memory, a society, a model of the world and possibly a theory of mind without evolving a religion?

At what point would you suggest that a philosophical system e.g. Epicureanism or humanism crosses the boundary into being a religion? (Funny if aliens turn out to be humanists!!)
wombat said…
As a follow up to ideas about non-human religion maybe a couple of snippets about local non-humans and awareness of mortality might be food for thought.

Mourning chimps ok its a Fox thing but heres a bit from Huffington as well here.

Marginallly more respectable is a bit on
elephants in Newscientist
Paul P. Mealing said…
Hi Wombat,

I'm not going to comment on other species 'religious' beliefs - if they believe in the transcendental, which requires an awareness of death, then we are unaware of it. I believe a lot of species are aware of death; they all seem to fear it; but it doesn't answer the question. And, yes, I know elephants mourn their dead, as do primates, and so do many species I've observed, including dogs and birds.

In answer to your question regarding philosophy, it becomes religious when it considers the transcendental, which all cultures have done at some time. When they ask the question: is there something beyond life on Earth, effectively.

No one can provide an answer, but it has never stopped the question being asked.

Regards, Paul.
Martin said…
I read this post earlier today, and it's been bugging me all day, because there's surely an opening for an entirely new and utterly naff sci-fi genre: Christians in Space. The premise is simple, alien life force is found in the Galaxy so the Church launches a missionary effort to convert lost souls. Just think of Captain Kirk with bibles.
crystal said…
I've read one of Br. Guy's books - he studies meteorites and takes care of the Vatican's collection of them. Jesuits in space ... The Sparrow :)
wombat said…

Is that an accepted definition? It seems a bit too broad to me. I'm sure that many philosophers have seriously considered the transcendent and either declared it out of scope or decided it does not alter their ideas about how to live ones life.
(Ayer springs to mind.)
Paul P. Mealing said…
Hi Wombat,

Yes, it is a broad definition. It's a common sense definition, effectively.

If it's 'out of scope' then one assumes that the philosopher doesn't think it necessary to consider.

And I agree: one doesn't need to consider the transcendental for 'ideas about how to live one's life'.

But you asked me at what point does philosophy become religion, and I gave you a 'common sense' response. There are others here, far better qualified than me to provide an answer, I'm sure, but that's mine.

Regards, Paul.
mrG said…
My God you people have trouble doing science. I mean, how can you do 'science' when you can't even read?

Look, really look: the article said the aliens may be free of original sin -- did even one of you bother to look that up to see what it meant? I mean in a real book, from a credible source.

It's not about religion, but it may have something to do with a previous news item that told us the very best most effective and economically viable ecology strategy is to remove the humans, citing the vast improvements in the natural ecologies where ever humans have excluded themselves (eg the no-mans land between North and South Korea. That there may be alien beings out there who, like many of our own aboriginal tribes, never sought to exploit, pervert and ravage their environment, is that so terribly hard to imagine?
Joseph said…
C. S. Lewis wrote a series (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) based on the idea that original sin is limited to the Earth–Moon system.

On the other hand, Vernor Vinge wrote a story “Original Sin” about a species with more original sin than humans.

On the gripping hand, R. A. Lafferty wrote a story “Name of the Snake” in which the aliens had original sin but the sins were different.
qraal said…
Harry Harrison's "The Streets of Ashkelon" describes an encounter with aliens who don't have religion or an idea of God - they crucify a missionary to see if God will resurrect him.
Anonymous said…
yes aliens are free from "original sin" are pagans. yipee!

Popular posts from this blog


(Published in Faith and Philosophy 2011. Volume 28, Issue 2, April 2011. Stephen Law. Pages 129-151) EVIDENCE, MIRACLES AND THE EXISTENCE OF JESUS Stephen Law Abstract The vast majority of Biblical historians believe there is evidence sufficient to place Jesus’ existence beyond reasonable doubt. Many believe the New Testament documents alone suffice firmly to establish Jesus as an actual, historical figure. I question these views. In particular, I argue (i) that the three most popular criteria by which various non-miraculous New Testament claims made about Jesus are supposedly corroborated are not sufficient, either singly or jointly, to place his existence beyond reasonable doubt, and (ii) that a prima facie plausible principle concerning how evidence should be assessed – a principle I call the contamination principle – entails that, given the large proportion of uncorroborated miracle claims made about Jesus in the New Testament documents, we should, in the absence of indepen

Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism refuted

Here's my central criticism of Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN). It's novel and was published in Analysis last year. Here's the gist. Plantinga argues that if naturalism and evolution are true, then semantic epiphenomenalism is very probably true - that's to say, the content of our beliefs does not causally impinge on our behaviour. And if semantic properties such as having such-and-such content or being true cannot causally impinge on behaviour, then they cannot be selected for by unguided evolution. Plantinga's argument requires, crucially, that there be no conceptual links between belief content and behaviour of a sort that it's actually very plausible to suppose exist (note that to suppose there are such conceptual links is not necessarily to suppose that content can be exhaustively captured in terms of behaviour or functional role, etc. in the way logical behaviourists or functionalists suppose). It turns o

Why do atheists think Christians believe unreasonably, if they don't?

How reasonable is it for the religious to believe the central tenets of their respective religions? According to many atheists: not very. Many atheists suppose it is in each case unreasonable for Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Bahá’ís, Quakers, Mormons, Scientologists, and so on to believe what they do. The religious person usually takes a different view of at least their own religious belief. They suppose science and reason do not significantly undermine, and may indeed support, the core tenets of their own faith. The same is true of non-religious theists. They consider their brand of theism is reasonably, or at least not unreasonably, held even if no particular religion is. Indeed, many theists consider atheism unreasonable. Even when participants in discussions between atheists on the one hand and defenders of some variety of religious or theistic belief on the other include intelligent, philosophically sophisticated and well-informed people striving to think carefully and objec