For a long time, the Vatican has had a theological position on extraterrestrial life. There is even a Graham Greene-meets-Arthur C. Clarke novel about the implications of our encountering intelligent aliens. Today, Slashdot links to an interview with the Vatican astronomer. After outlining some of the possible scenarios for such a meeting, he goes on to make an excellent case for the importance of Christianity to the development of science; then undermines it with his last sentence:

“The whole scientific enterprise really does coincide well with Christian theology. The whole idea that the universe is worth studying is a Christian idea. The whole mechanism for studying the physical universe comes straight out of the whole logic of the scholastic age. Who was the first geologist? Albert the Great, who was a monk. Who was the first Chemist? Roger Bacon, who was a monk. Who was the first guy to come up with spectroscopy? Angelo Secchi, who was a priest. Who was the guy who invented genetics? Gregor Mendel, who was a monk. Who was the guy who came up with the Big Bang theory? Georges Lema,An(Btre, who was a priest. There is this long tradition; most scientists before the 19th century were clerics. Who else had the free time and the education to gather leads and measure star positions?”