Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Vatican astronomer's views seem to be based more on science fiction than on the Bible

On September 18, 2015, Pope Francis--a Jesuit--named American Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno to be the new director of the Vatican Observatory, replacing yet another Jesuit, Father Jose Funes of Argentina. As reported by Carol Glatz of Catholic News Service, September 18, 2015:

...Brother Consolmagno is a planetary scientist who has studied meteorites and asteroids as an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory since 1993.

He had been serving as president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, coordinator of public relations and curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest in the world.

A graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brother Consolmagno was a post-doctorate lecturer at Harvard College Observatory and at M.I.T. before serving in the U.S. Peace Corps in Kenya where he taught physics and astronomy. He entered the Jesuit order in 1989 when he was in his late 30s.

His research focuses on meteorites, asteroids and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system.

He was honored for his work by the International Astronomical Union in 2000 with the naming of an asteroid after him, the "4597 Consolmagno," a small, 12-mile-wide rock orbiting near the sun.

Author of numerous books on science and faith, he received the prestigious Carl Sagan Medal in 2014 for his ability to communicate accurately and clearly the discoveries of planetary science to the general public.

The same day the Vatican announced Brother Consolmagno's appointment, Pope Francis met with the observatory staff and guests taking part in a special symposium sponsored by the papal astronomers...

...Pope Francis encouraged continued and deeper dialogue between science and religion, underlining the special role scientific research can have in promoting interreligious dialogue, "which is more urgent than ever today..."
As reported by Dennis Sadowski of Catholic News Service, September 19, 2015:

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, the new president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, has no doubt that life exists elsewhere in the universe and that when humanity discovers it, the news will come as no big surprise.

He suggested that the likely discovery -- whether next month or a millennium from now -- will be received much the way that news of planets orbiting far off stars has filtered in since the 1990s.

"The general public is going to be, 'Oh, I knew that. I knew it was going to be there,'" Brother Consolmagno told Catholic News Service prior to a presentation at a NASA/Library of Congress symposium on preparing for the discovery of life in the universe Sept. 18-19.

A planetary scientist who has studied meteorites and asteroids as an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory since 1993, Brother Consolmagno said he hopes the questions about life on other planets will focus more on how humanity sees itself.

"When we say human, human as compared to what?" he asked.

While the discovery of life elsewhere will not prove nor disprove the existence of God, Brother Consolmagno expects that it will open the door to ponder what form salvation history may take in other intelligent societies.

The longtime Vatican astronomer addresses the same question and a series of others that cross the threshold between science and religion in a new book, "Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? ... and Other Strange Questions From the Inbox at the Vatican Observatory," set to be published in October. Co-written by Jesuit Father Paul Mueller, another Vatican Observatory astronomer, the book uses a series of easy-to-read conversations between the two in an effort to explain how the church supports science and provide insight into how religion works...

...In his presentation Sept. 19 bearing the same title as his new book, Brother Consolmagno suggested the idea of discovering extraterrestrial life may be so appealing to humanity, with all its pain, injustice and disease, that there is hope that "any race advanced enough to cross the stars to visit us must also be advanced enough to show us how to overcome all those human ills. They look to the aliens to be saviors of mankind."

Other symposium participants from around the world involved in searching for life on other planets addressed topics such as how society should cope with the discovery, astrobiology and theology, the moral status of non-human organisms and moving beyond preconceptions of what life is.

An avid reader of science fiction, Brother Consolmagno will receive the Carl Sagan Medal from the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society in November. The award is being given for his work in communicating planetary science to the general public.
As reported by Wisconsin Public Radio, September 22, 2015:
Consolmagno, who is a graduate of MIT and has been working at the observatory since 1993, has spoken out frequently on the possibility of extraterrestrial life and doesn’t believe that being human is a prerequisite for believing in God.

According to Consolmagno, the "image" of God as described in the Bible is an idea, not a literal physical likeness.

"An entity is aware of itself, aware of other entities and able to make choices maybe to love or not love, to interact or not interact. That’s the essence of what the image and likeness of God is about. It has nothing to do with how many tentacles you have," he said.

As Consolmagno has said before, "Any entity -- no matter how many tentacles it has -- has a soul."

To those who wonder if this is out of step with Roman Catholic theology, Consolmagno points to the fact that the faith is already filled with supernatural intelligent beings: Angels. In addition to not being human, he said angels are also "intelligent beings free to choose or not choose creations of the Creator."

Consolmagno admits that his fascination with these topics is driven not only by his love of science, but also by his love of science fiction. He was initially attracted to MIT for his doctoral work because of their large science fiction library. He said he enjoys the large questions being asked in both science and religion, and sees the challenges presented by both as a good thing.

"A religion that doesn’t challenge you is not much of a religion and, frankly, a science that doesn’t challenge you is not much of a science," he said.
One "extraterrestrial" whom Brother Consolmagno is probably not expecting to see is the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be coming back to Earth from Heaven (Zechariah 14:2-5; Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; Acts 1:11) to rule as King.

The perceptive reader will notice that Brother Consolmagno's choice for Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a place to pursue his doctorate was initiated not by a desire for greater knowledge of God's creation, but by MIT's large library of science fiction, and it's science fiction, not the Bible, from which he derives his beliefs about intelligent life on other worlds. As for angels, scripture says:

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14 (NIV)

Never trust a Jesuit.

HT: Dracul Van Helsing

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