Thanks to my friends at NetGalley I was able to get an advance e-copy of a fun book by Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ, and Father Paul Mueller SJ. The book, Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?...and Other Strange Questions from the Inbox at the Vatican Observatory (Image, 2014).
I have to admit that I had no idea what I was in for when I requested this book. But, like frequently happens, something about the title caught my attention. (C’mon, admit it, you’re intrigued too at the thought of baptizing an ET.)
And now that I've read the book, I think I would, but only if she asked to be baptized. But the book is not science fiction, (although some of the questions come close). The authors, both Jesuits, are on the research staff at the Vatican Observatory. They have extensive backgrounds in science, and describe their book as being “what it’s like when science encounters faith on friendly, mutually respectful terms.”
People ask questions all the time, and the authors are among those who try to answer them. They engage in a series about the questions over several meals over a 6 day period. The lively exchanges are bantering at times, and engaging as they try to use faith and science to answer questions about the creation, about planets “what happened to Pluto?”, about the star of Bethlehem, how the world will end, and yes, they talk about aliens.
I’m not a Catholic, so some of the references were not familiar, and it was not quite as light a read as I had mistakenly expected and been looking forward to (Think Matt Mikalatos and “Night of the Living Dead Christian”). It was not a book that once I started reading I couldn't put it down (actually I don’t think I’ve ever read a book like that) and it actually took me a couple of attempts to get started.
The authors have done their research, and know their business, and they do present it in an enjoyable manner, but some of the material is, by nature, (at least from my perspective) not the most interesting subject matter. (Some of my STEM friends are shuddering at that statement!)
The thing that most intrigued me though, were the questions. These are supposedly actual questions asked by real people, so it’s interesting to see what people are thinking about when it comes to creation, end times, “Space: the Final Frontier” and how to get around the idea that science and faith can’t co-exist.