Papacy’s admission to possibility of extraterrestrial life taken as clear sign of devious plot

I imagine that, by now, people who haven’t heard the Vatican’s acknowledgement that life may exist elsewhere in the universe are probably outnumbered by people who haven’t seen Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope– or as it was once more properly known, Star Wars (separate rant about renaming originals so they better fall in line with sequels – yes, I’m talking about you, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark – available upon request). And judging by the number of Google responses to “pope alien life” (1.5 million), strong opinions on the topic vastly outnumber people who didn’t think Star Wars episodes 1-3 sucked.

What’s really interesting is that, while this concession by the papacy seems to be pretty clearly intended to get everyone on both sides of the whole creationists vs. evolutionists debate working toward consensus, it seems to have polarized both sides. Or, rather, vocal minorities on both sides. Predictably, these vocal minorities largely stick to explaining how stupid everyone on the other side’s beliefs are. And that, my dear friends, is like the primordial ooze from which world-class conspiracy theories gain life (if not primordial ooze, then that clay into which God breathed life back in his days as a gardener).

I’ve seen one theory growing in several places – my apologies for not thinking far enough ahead to actually note where, but one is the discussion following this article on Slashdot, about half way down the page with the subject “the paranoid in me says”, the gist of which is that the Church made this announcement as pre-damage control for a forthcoming announcement by global leaders that we are in communion with extraterrestrials.

While I admire this thread’s contributors’ out of the box thinking, I’m a little disappointed at the lengths to which their theory goes. The Church made this announcement to help prevent rioting? Pish posh. I’m not Catholic, and do not have strong feelings, positive or negative, about the Church’s agenda, owing largely to my complete ignorance on the subject. But if I were a sci fi writer, and the Pope was a Melrose Place-caliber nogoodnik in a yarn I was spinning, his reasons for making this decree on extraterrestrials would be wholeheartedly in support of expanding the empire of the Church.

To wit:

  1. Say we find ourselves in the presence of aliens that don’t meet our definition of intelligent. Animals. Non tool users. The church’s official position would then be that, as with terrestrial animals, they have been put here (i.e., in the universe) under the dominion of Man. Which is great not only in that it shows that, back in the Eden days, God was planning for a future when Man eventually made his way to neighboring spheres, it also keeps the PETA people off our backs if it turns out these new lifeforms turn out to be a handy fuel source, fashion accessory, barbeque dish or otherwise valuable commodity.
  2. Say they are indeed intelligent. The likelihood of them being humanoid approaches zero. It then follows that they will not have been created in God’s image, the way we Homo sapiens have been, and therefore fall a rung or two down the spritual foodchain from us. You know, just in case we need to aggressively commandeer their territory, or could use cheap labor after we relocate to their world. Obviously, we’d certainly try to do things with grace and sensitivity; but it’s always nice to have a fallback plan pre-approved by a higher authority, just in case.
  3. Say they’re not only intelligent, but humanoid. Maybe exactly like us, maybe as different form us as Klingons from Wood Elves. Understanding the infantismal smallness of this possibility, the creationist crowd will consider it inarguable proof of divine design. Adherents to the theory of evolution will likely be right where they are now, albeit with some interesting new riddles to work through, and will quickly be replaced by a subset of their ranks, the agnostics, who will turn their attention to figuring out how life pulled a trick like that. 

One way or another, it’ll be an interesting day.

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