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An audience with the Pope’s astronomer

By James Dacey

If you are a regular follower of this blog, you may remember that a few weeks ago I went to see the Pope’s astronomer, Brother Guy Consolmagno, who was giving a talk at the British Science Festival in Birmingham.

Here is a video of that talk in full in which Brother Guy discusses many things including science, religion and the Catholic church’s view on extraterrestrial life. On serious topics such as how he squares his belief with his rational scientific thought, Consolmagno was a lot more candid than I had expected. For instance, if you skip to just over 7 minutes in you can hear how his decision to become a Jesuit just before his 40th birthday was based on a botched calculation regarding his age.

The loudest laugh of the night came when Consolmagno dismisses the idea that Catholics read the Bible as if it were a literal truth, as if it were a science book. “That’s not a Catholic idea… that’s a protestant idea,” he says with a mischievous grin on his face. (See 11 min 30 sec in.)

Video credit: David Evetts from the Birmingham Astronomical Society

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  1. Religious concepts, beliefs and explanations preceded science and its ongoing revelations. There should not be disputations between the two, there should be joint acknowledgement of the original benefit of theory that is then elevated to fact and law by virtue of humankind’s expanding curiosity and intelligence. Are these not mutual virtues to be revered and supported?

  2. Alfred Bhulai

    The Catholic Church never officially, in its infallible papal/conciliar pronouncements, changed the literalness of the bible. It is modernists like the recent popes since John-Paul II and Br. Guy who are trying to influence Catholics to their ‘understanding’ of the bible.
    The Earth is still officially being orbited by the Sun. They only apologised for Galileo’s treatment; they did not “infallibly” say he was right.
    Alfred Bhulai

  3. Keep in mind, there’s nothing in science that disproves many strange tenets of the faith, like resurrection. Science creates models based on assumed axioms which are then derived to hypotheses that are confirmed by observation. Observations are only a double negative– inasmuch as they support the assumptions of the theory, they only do not disprove them. As per Gödel etc. the observations do not logically entail the axioms; they do not “prove” them in the sense that most anti-religious people claim is necessary to “prove” the principles of faith. On the subject of resurrection, angels, and such, why not? There is a lot of energy in the universe. If God moves through hidden dimensions beyond the Planck limits to exercise direct power in those limited circumstances when He has been observed by those he allows to observe him, what of it? Uncertainty may apply to macro scales in ways we don’t yet have the capacity to comprehend. If a quasar beyond the light horizon is extinguished, would it ever have any effect through “normal” spacetime on our world? No. But, it might have just brought someone’s pattern back from the dead in a restored and perfected form that can move through those hidden dimensions as well. Considering how alien the conclusions of quantum physics are to our minds as they are trained on everyday observations of our physical world, is it really scientific to shut out the possibilities of a much more magnificent existence than what some people and forces would lead us to believe?

  4. Marco Avanzi

    Astronomers of the Vatican Observatory are Jesuits who throw with their research a bridge between science and faith.
    I was lucky enough to attend lectures of Father George Coyne is former Director of the Vatican Observatory, that the current Director Father Jose Funes, both are people with considerable scientific knowledge and a great humanity.
    The Observatory also has a website done very well with science news, photos and video about astronomy and other interesting news.
    I wonder if one day it will come true as suggested by another Jesuit priest astronomer of the Vatican Observatory, Brother Guy Consolmagno, you can meet other intelligent creatures from outer space and to bring them the word of the Lord.
    We hope that this new evangelization can take place as soon as possible we just have to keep waiting.

    Best Regards


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