I have only a small flickering light to guide me in the darkness of a thick forest. Up comes a theologian and blows it out." So complained 18th-century French philosopher Denis Diderot. It is true that much that passes for theology fails to illumine the path, and it does not help to claim that nontheological reasoning is often equally opaque. Thankfully, a few lights shine brightly.
José Gabriel Funes, who runs the Vatican’s astronomy program, is not bothered by the idea that there might be intelligent life on some other planet, such as on the recently discovered Kepler 452b which appears to be earthlike. “Just as there is a multiplicity of creatures on Earth, there can be other beings, even intelligent, created by God,” Funes said. “This is not in contrast with our faith because we can’t put limits on God’s creative freedom.” He does not believe that the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligent life would mean there could be another Jesus. “The incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the universe,” he said. Pope Francis has already said the church should be open to baptizing extraterrestrials, should they ever be encountered (Washington Post, August 1).