On baptizing an extraterrestrial

On baptizing an extraterrestrial November 27, 2018


JPL image of eight planets plus Moon
This montage of images from California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows the eight planets of our solar system (excluding Pluto but including Earth’s moon). Now, though, Planet X may bring the number back up to the familiar nine.  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


The Vatican astronomer, Guy Consolmagno, SJ, Ph.D. (who, by the way, delivered a wonderful speech at a March 2016 conference of the Interpreter Foundation under the title of “Astronomy, God, and the Search for Elegance” that’s well worth watching), has recounted an amusing experience with the press:


“Except they kept asking me questions like ‘What is your biggest source of conflict about the Pope?’ Or ‘Has the Pope ever tried to suppress your scientific work?’ Completely out of left field!

“They didn’t want to hear me tell them how much Pope Benedict supported the Vatican Observatory and its scientific work. So, finally, frustrated that they weren’t getting the story they wanted out of me, one of them asked, ‘Would you baptize an extraterrestrial?’

“What did you answer?”

“Only if she asks!”

“I love it! How did they react?”

“They all got a good laugh, which is what I intended. And then, the next day, they all ran my joke as if it were a straight story, as if I had made some sort of official Vatican pronouncement about aliens.”




Speaking of aliens (or, at least, of alien worlds), here are a couple of links that you might enjoy:


“The Dawn of Interplanetary Geology: NASA’s newest Mars mission is poised to transform the most terrestrial of sciences.”


“How Historic First Mission to Mars Surface . . .  Ended in a Crash Landing: A half century ago the Soviet Union made memorable first introduction to the Red Planet.”




You may or may not be aware that bees are in crisis.  Which is more serious than many people imagine.  And they’re also, in their way, highly intelligent:


“Are Bees Also Victims of their Intelligence?”




And, speaking of intelligence:


“Let’s Kill the GRE”




We still have a great deal to learn, though:


“The 11 Biggest Unanswered Questions about Dark Matter”




“The ghostly presence of virtual particles defies rational common sense and is non-intuitive for those unacquainted with physics. Religious belief in God, and Christian belief . . . may seem strange to common-sense thinking. But when the most elementary physical things behave in this way, we should be prepared to accept that the deepest aspects of our existence go beyond our common-sense understanding.”

Antony Hewish, British radio astronomer and 1974 Nobel laureate in Physics


Posted from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia



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