By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
Four hundred years after it put Galileo under house arrest for arguing that the sun, not the Earth, is the center of the universe, the Roman Catholic Church this week sponsored a conference on the search for extraterrestrial life. At a time when the relationship between Christianity and science has been widely portrayed as an adversarial one (think Bill Maher's Religulous or the recent God & Country debate on Darwin's Origin of Species) the conference reminds us that leading authorities from both camps—like the pope and the worlds' top astronomers—believe the two need not be in conflict.
And for all the attention Pope Benedict XVI has received for his outspoken traditionalism and social conservatism—he recently said that condom distribution in Africa could "aggravate" the continent's AIDS epidemic—the E.T. event is a reminder that Benedict is also trying to modernize the church by reconciling faith and reason. Earlier this year, he convened a conference to celebrate the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species.
With a recent poll finding that just 4 in 10 Americans believe in evolution, one might be tempted to ask who's more antiscience: the Vatican or the average American?