There was a brief flurry of surprise a while back that Richard Dawkins acknowledged the possibility of extraterrestrial life, and that it was even possible that aliens might have visited Earth — for some reason, creationists thought this was hilarious, although it’s actually a very clear element of scientific thought. We can admit a possibility — Dawkins even admitted the possiblity of a god in The God Delusion — but that does not imply that we think there is evidence for such a thing, and evidence is a necessary prerequisite for an idea to enter the purview of science. It was a little strange to see giddy creationists pointing out a commonplace statement, as if it somehow revealed a confusion in Dawkins’ mind, when it really just exposed the ignorance in their own.
Well, I expect a repeat performance now. A Vatican astronomer said intelligent beings could exist in outer space, and that this does not contradict their religion. To which I can only say, sure, big whoop, not a big deal — it’s just speculation.
Of course, being a Vatican astronomer, he’s got to go on and assert that these beings were created by God, and might be free of original sin, yadda yadda yadda. It’s pretty much all vapor, but I still expect a good creationist howl of protest.