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Society Of Catholic Scientists Prepares For Conference On Non-Human Intelligence


By Perry West

The Society of Catholic Scientists (SCS) will hold its 2021 conference in Washington D.C. on the subject of non-human intelligence. 

The conference is titled “Extraterrestrials, AI, and Minds Beyond the Human” and will take place at the Hilton Hotel from June 4-6. The event will also be live-streamed. 

Conference discussions will provide scientific and theological insights on the subjects of real and hypothetical intelligences, especially extraterrestrial and artificial intelligences. 

“There’ll be 13 talks. Half of the talks are going to be about extraterrestrial life, and there’s going to be talks by some big experts on that subject,” Dr. Stephen Barr, president of the Society of Catholic Scientists, told CNA. 

Four of the invited speakers will discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life from their respective fields of study – astrophysics, astrochemistry, evolutionary biology, and Catholic theology. 

The speakers will include Jonathan Lunine, director of the Cornell Center for Astrophysics and Planetary Science; Karin Öberg, professor of Astronomy and director of Undergraduate Studies at Harvard University; Simon Conway Morris, chair of Evolutionary Palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge; and Christopher Baglow, director of the Science and Religion Initiative of the McGrath Institute for Church Life of the University of Notre Dame.

“[Öberg is] a rising star at Harvard, a tenured professor there, she’s also a convert to the Catholic Faith. She is an expert on biochemistry that goes on in other planets,” Barr said. “There’s a lot of excitement because in recent years astronomers have discovered large numbers of planets orbiting other nearby stars. They could learn a lot about these planets – how far they are from the star, how big the planet is, even things about the chemistry of the planet in some cases.”

During the conference, the St. Albert Award Lecture will be issued by Lawrence Principe, professor of the Humanities at Johns Hopkins University.

The conference will also include two Poster Sessions – one for presentations on the conference’s theme and another for presentations on topics such as the correlation between science and faith. 

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The Catholic News Agency (CNA) has been, since 2004, one of the fastest growing Catholic news providers to the English speaking world. The Catholic News Agency takes much of its mission from its sister agency, ACI Prensa, which was founded in Lima, Peru, in 1980 by Fr. Adalbert Marie Mohm (†1986).

4 thoughts on “Society Of Catholic Scientists Prepares For Conference On Non-Human Intelligence

  • April 20, 2021 at 9:49 am

    On one hand it makes sense that since the universe is so huge, it is only logical to assume that there may be other intelligent beings living on other faraway planets, although in Scriptures there is never the slightest indication that God has other children living elsewhere in the universe; not even our mystic saints have ever given such a hint. However, a lot of UFOs have been sighted by people from the ground and by pilots in the air; but how come that not a single one has come down to earth to see what was going on here?

  • April 20, 2021 at 10:14 pm

    I have degrees in physics, but you don’t need such training to fail to see what is really going on when progressive Catholics demonstrate little resistance when they gravitate to beliefs without considering their potential for contradicting major tenets of a Catholic faith. The notion of extraterrestrial life is rather unfounded on scientific grounds, and potentially evil when expanded to promote an evolutionary concept of human perfection.

    The appeal of having “more advanced life” forms telling us how to live assumes that the endowed truths, which are woven into our divinely created human nature, expressed in the words of Our Savior are quaint, outmoded, and inadequate for those minds continuously in search of validating their own sense of superior enlightenment, in many ways better than those who are not a part of their “search.”

    Open mindedness can always be carried too far. When we open a can at both ends, it all falls out. We may decide to remain unreflective concerning Old Testament references to our uniqueness in the universe, but we can, at least, apply some real science to understanding the razor’s edge of more than twenty interactive physical variables that are necessary to sustain life on a habitable planet. Among these are a planet of the exact gravitational mass; an oxygen rich atmosphere; liquid water and large continental land masses; a G2 dwarf home star of the right temperature and mass; an orbital path that is neither too close or too far from the star; a single moon able to stabilize the tilt of the planet’s axis and the movement of its tides; a magnetic field strong enough to deflect the sun’s harmful radiation; and a position in the very narrow habitable region of a spiral galaxy. All the necessary factors for life appearing at the same time on the same planet are conservatively estimated as one in ten to the negative 23. The possibility of even a single inhabitable planet other than our own in the entire universe is virtually non-existent.

    The temptation might remain to resort to the popular science fiction writer’s fiction that life can be of a sort that doesn’t involve carbon based protein molecules, but it is helpful not to lose sight of the fact that there is no such thing. Physics and chemistry work the same way throughout the entire universe as they do right here. It is important to resist being swayed by even some credentialed scientists, of an anti-religious inclination, exhibiting uninhibited silliness when the temptation presents itself to side with half-baked ideas that can be used to insult religious faith.

    As far as the idiocy of computers having cognizance goes, electrical circuits can no more make value judgments than a light bulb can contemplate beauty.

  • April 21, 2021 at 6:33 am

    Edward Baker, we’ve had 2000 years of Christianity and look at the mess the world is in. If you can’t see or admit that, your faith has blinded you to the truth. Think about that, isn’t that an insult to your creator, refusing to see the truth? Didn’t Jesus say: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

    These scientists have their faith but are open to allowing their faith to expand through science and education, why aren’t you? What are you afraid of, learning that the truth of your creator’s universe might be far grander than you’ve allowed yourself to consider? To put it bluntly, isn’t it also an insult to your creator to willfully not use the brain God gave you?

  • April 21, 2021 at 8:17 pm

    Why aren’t you capable of expanding your thought enough to at least consider a remedial course in reading comprehension? There is nothing iin my comments that is at odds with an expanded understanding of anything. On the contrary. An argument that proposes considerations to the implications of what is known about the physical universe is consistent with expanding that comprehension. And your argument is premised on the idea that Christianity has ever proposed utopia on earth. On the contrary. It recognizes the imperfectability of the human condition, the permanent imperfectability of the human condition.
    Such questions regarding value judgments about the human condition and the alterability of the human condition have nothing whatsoever to do with science. It is an abuse of authority of science to pretend that they do. Obviously you know very little or nothing at all about science but need to be impressed with yourself as a heroic defender of its frequent morally bankrupt abuse of values. It is the use of claims of science that has been one of the recent sources of crimes against humanity over the last century for which you pretend to have such concern and for which Christianity has served its creator by constantly warning humanity of its potential for destructive vanities. All of Stalin’s crimes were premised on the pretext of “science.”
    Despite your ridiculous assumption that you can know the heart and mind and soul of everyone you baselessly refer to as a “scientist” while referring to them as intrinsically pure, scientists as a sociologically identifiable group, have historically committed or supported crimes against humanity with as much impunity, if not more, than any other identifiable group.
    Human beings are sinners. All human beings. All sinners are prone to deluding themselves about their sinfulness and prefer to tell themselves their sins are not sins and that they are not sinners. This is why sinners create both personal and collectivized denial processes that often gravitate to ideological belief systems enabling them to effectively deny their sins and explain evil in the world in terms of other people or other cultures or other races or other countries or other civilizations or other periods of history. This is why tyrannies and wars happen. Christianity exists to warn humanity, not to eliminate its problems of to eliminate free will. Christians and scientists are each only judgable as individuals by God.


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