Space, the Bible, alien life and the Pope’s astronomer

Science and religion have often appeared at loggerheads, but Papal astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno says there is no need for conflict.

Brother Consolmagno said while literal readings of the Bible suggested the world was young, the perpetration of that belief, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary, was simply “bad theology”.

“It’s almost blasphemous theology,” he told Fairfax Media during a visit to Brisbane on Wednesday.

“It’s certainly not the tradition of Catholicism and never has been and it misunderstands what the Bible is and it misunderstands what science is.”

And that was why Brother Consolmagno, a decorated planetary scientist, struggled when asked how he reconciled his faith with his science.

For him, there was nothing to reconcile.

“I grew up with the nuns in my school teaching me science,” Brother Consolmagno said.

“Science is a way of getting close to creation, to really getting intimate with creation, and it’s a way of getting intimate with the creator.

“It’s an act of worship.”

Brother Consolmagno, who has returned to his native United States after more than 20 years at the Vatican, said any science book more than three years old was probably at least partially out of date.

So, in that regard, the Bible should not be used as a basis for scientific study.

“Science goes out of date – it’s supposed to,” Brother Consolmagno said.

“Now, if you’re turning the Bible into a science book, then you’re saying you should throw it out after three years and you don’t want to do that.

“…The very concept of a science book didn’t exist when the Bible was written – that’s the misunderstanding of theology, of the Bible.”

Brother Consolmagno said science, like religion, was not literal.

“The search for literalism, the search for absolute truth, isn’t what science is about and it’s not what religion is about,” he said.

“If you want a sound bite answer [to the reconciliation question], my religion tells me God made the universe and my science tells me how he did it.” Continue reading


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