The Pontifical Academy of Science has concluded a five-day study week devoted to astrobiology, the scientific study of extraterrestrial life. I haven’t read any report about their “findings” as yet, but there are statements from participants in the study in this article on the Catholic News Service site. This is a rather unique “science” in that it isn’t investigating any objective reality in order to better understand it, but rather it is investigating the possibility of the existence of an unknown reality, namely material life — vegetative, animal, or rational — outside of our planet. Do you see a problem with the terminology? How can this be called “scientific study” if there is no formal object of study at hand? One doesn’t “study” extraterrestrial life, like astronomers study the stars and planets, one looks for extraterrestrial life. If he finds such an object he can then study it. Waste of time? You betcha!
I have nothing against stargazing, quite the contrary. It was meant by God to give man a contemplative experience of His omnipotence and infinite immensity. I wrote a short column a while back on the beauty of the night sky seen far enough away from artificial lights. It was titled: Of Things High and Deep. If the telescope, however, becomes more important than the naked eye, this, I believe, is symptomatic of our modern man’s preoccupation with what is beyond him or (in the case of the microscope) beneath him, with the unattainable and the destructive, with the abnormal and the unnatural, rather than the immediate visual beauty that God’s wonderful creation presents to man’s unexaggerated gaze. Don’t misunderstand, I am not saying that these amazing inventions are anything but neutral — they can be used for good or bad — all I am saying is that the contemplative experience depends on immediate sight and immediate sound of natural creation, un-manufactured and right before us. You’re not going to find God by using a telescope or a microscope, but He is found in what He has put in front of every man.
These astronomers (I speak of those who are members of the Academy) can search the galaxies with their massive refracting and reflecting telescopes, searching for water, carbon, and oxygen all together on a nice cozy planet, custom made, just like the Earth, for life, and they will be wasting their time. They give no glory to God in this enterprise because, it seems to me, they are seeking for some new revelation, imagining that such a discovery would improve on what has been revealed by Our Lord and His Church. Since God has created such a massive universe, they argue, then perhaps He has created intelligent life elsewhere, for He surely could have if He so desired. What is this but idle speculation? “Perhaps, perhaps.” “Could have done, would have done.”
The problem is here on this planet. This is the place where souls need to be saved. This is where the Fall of man took place in Adam. This is where death entered by the divine sentence. Why, even the earth was cursed and lost its state of perfect harmony. Saint Paul writes that “every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now” (Romans 8:22). If there are creatures on other planets then they, too, groan and travail in pain, for the inspired text says that such is the lot of “every creature.” Now this would make no sense at all if there was intelligent life on other planets. If such existed, they would not be the seed of Adam, therefore, they would have no original sin, for all have sinned in Adam. (Our Lady alone being singularly preserved). Even to speak of the “possibility” is to compromise the divine and Catholic Faith in Christ’s universal redemption.
This planet Earth is the place where the holy gospel was meant to be preached to “every creature.” This is the place where the Incarnation and the Redemption took place and is still taking place at every Mass. This is the place where the Immaculate Conception took place and where Mary still awaits more hearts in which to reign as Queen.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, two angels appeared in the sky saying to the infant Church: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven?” (Acts 1:11) Imagine what the angels would say to those looking for spaceships, or peering through telescopes for alien life! This is the mission of the Church: “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned (Mark 16:15).
I have not gone into so many other Biblical, theological, and definitional arguments that would refute this idle speculation of extraterrestrial life. If I find more time I will do so later.