Vatican Corner 10-18-2020

Named for the Roman goddess of beauty, the planet Venus is Earth’s broiling sister planet. It has a surface temperature of around 880 degrees Fahrenheit, a thick atmosphere of sulfuric acid, and has not been looked at as a possible place for life. More attention has been paid to other planets, such as Mars. However, on September 14, 2020, scientists announced that the gas phosphine was discovered in the clouds of Venus where temperatures are much cooler and equivalent to temperatures found on earth. The gas phosphine is relatively easy to detect using modern microwave telescopes, and the scientists stated in their papers that they determined through various analyses that a living organism was probably the explanation for that chemical because they could not think of any other explanation. On earth phosphine comes from certain microbes. On Venus with its acidic clouds, phosphine should not survive unless it is being produced as fast as it is being destroyed. Other researchers argued that the chemical instead could be the result of an unexplained atmospheric or geologic process. Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, the Director of the Vatican Observatory discussed the possible discovery of life on Venus. He cautioned against getting carried away too quickly, but reminded that “the scientists who made the discovery are themselves very, very cautious about not over-interpreting their results.” Consolmagno said that “if anything living exists on Venus it doesn’t change God’s relationship with man.” He said “Life on another planet is no different than the existence of other life forms here on Earth, and both Venus and Earth and every star we can see in our telescopes, are all part of the same universe made by the same God.” He said “for that matter, the existence of [other] human beings does not mean that God does not love me, God loves all of us, individually, uniquely, completely; he can do that because He’s God…that’s what it means to be infinite.” “It’s a good thing, perhaps, for something like this to remind us humans to stop making God smaller than He really is,” he said. Astronomers are discovering thousands of planets in orbit around other stars and there are estimates of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy. Some atheists claim the discovery of aliens would destroy organized religion, however a survey of religious people found that most are comfortable with the idea of intelligent aliens and do not see it threatening their beliefs.