Sunday, October 11, 2009

An Astronomer At The Vatican

This is an interview with the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno.

It sounds as if a high-school student interviewed him. I mean, is this the best that the reporter can actually ask him? The questions were amateurish and benign! I have tons of questions I would like to ask. For example:

1. How old do you estimate the universe to be based not only on your observation, but also the consensus among astronomers? Would this be contrary to the biblical interpretation on the age of the universe? What about the Young Earth's interpretation of the age of the universe?

2. What is your view of the treatment received by Galileo by the church? {Oh c'mon, you knew that one was coming, didn't you?}

3. If there are other life forms in the universe, do you think that they would have the same set of beliefs? I mean, if there is only one god, shouldn't they also had the same revelation? Does the bible predict their existence?

4. Does the Big Bang model of the origin of the universe contradict the biblical description? If it does, which one has the larger empirical observation in its corner?

5. etc etc...

Instead, all we get is this fluff of an interview.



Anonymous said...

Well, I've actually talked to Brother Guy about pretty much all of those questions.

Question #1; he believes, and it is official Church doctrine, that the Young Earth belief is heresy, and the universe's actual age is best determined by scientific observation of background radiation, and other methods as developed by scientific knowledge over time. Church teaching does not have any opinion on the age of the universe -- only that correct scientific observation of God's creation will be able to determine it.

2. Brother Guy points out that Galileo was persecuted for falling politically afoul of some cardinals -- his prosecution was about political manipulation, not about science. The Church was, internally, using Galileo's observations from the time they were published. The Church looks bad with that affair because it shows that the Church was, at that time, being led by political, secular affairs -- not because of any faith-vs-science thing.

3. Brother Guy collaborated with Michael Burstein on Burstein's Nebula-nominated story SANCTUARY, which deals with some of those questions.

4. Brother Guy just published a paper on what every Jesuit should know about science, which includes that issue, and states that the Big Bang is what happened, and the Biblical story is a metaphor which is there to teach us moral lessons, but that the Big Bang is the one that's empirically true.

Do you go to science fiction conventions? 'Cause, if you do, try to get to one where Guy is. He's a wonderful man; I think you'd get along pretty well.

Anonymous said...

Vatican Astronomer says:
"Intelligent design isn't science, even though it pretends to be...If you want to teach it in schools, intelligent design should be taught when religion or cultural history is taught, not science.",2933,176050,00.html

MattPatt said...

Yeah, just to follow up on xiphias -- several of your proposed questions seem to be assuming that Catholic doctrine includes both young Earth creationism and a "literal" interpretation of the Bible, when in fact neither is the case. Asking them would just be setting up an easy strawman to demolish, which would probably be almost as big a waste of time as any other fluff interview. Catholicism of course has a million and one problems, but these two weird beliefs aren't actually among them.

ZapperZ said...

My questions did not pertain to Catholics in particular. It was more of a general issue with the Christian faith, of which Catholics are a part of. The Young Earth believers did a literal interpretation of the Bible. If this is a "heresy", then Christians of any denomination should stand up and object to such abuse and not leave it up to biologists to denounce its fallacy. I certainly would not sit still if someone bastardize physics, and would not wait until an anti-science group to denounce the faulty physics being used.


Anonymous said...

If this is a "heresy", then Christians of any denomination should stand up and object to such abuse and not leave it up to biologists to denounce its fallacy.

The Jesuits do. Including Jesuit biologists. "Christians" and "biologists" are not separate sets.

This, of course, has no effect on Protestants, because the entire point of Protestantism is that the Catholic Church doesn't get to decide what is or is not Christian teaching, and Jesuits are Catholics.

Most Protestants, of course, don't believe in "Intelligent Design", either. It is only a very small number, worldwide, of delusional fundamentalists, mostly out of the Southern Baptist tradition, who do. The problem is that those delusional fundamentalists have a disproportonate influence over some parts of Southern American culture, as well as a few parts of the Midwest.

The delusion is localized to the United States.

Anonymous said...

Zapperz last post made me smile - clearly s/he has had an education which has studiously avoided history - in particular the history of religious wars in Europe between Catholic and Protestant factions.

What Catholics and the saner Protestant sects have learnt from that long and deadly period of history is to try to concentrate less on the things which divide them, and more on the things that unite.
Of course, Young Earth lunatics aren't sane, but rather than a return to burning such heretics at the stake, the various churches restrict themselves to statements such as the one I quoted above which points out that the Catholic Church respects science and supports scientific knowledge.

ZapperZ said...

You have to give me SOME credit for having a bit of intelligence here. I'm NOT ignorant of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. However, you should also learn from history that the conflict also has nothing to do with differences in beliefs, the same way the famine in Africa has very little to do with weather pattern! It had a lot more to do with geo-political issues! Furthermore, such conflicts are no longer as apparent nowadays, even taking into account Northern Ireland!

This means that the set of "beliefs" are similar enough!


Peter Jackson said...

Let's be just a little self aware, with some of our comments, about (cracked or not) pots and kettles.
We're in a similar position now to the one the church was in Galileo's day. Can we honestly say we're always open minded about new concepts that conflict with the ruling paradigms of our time? Are we always entirely satisfied we're not often a little self satisfied!?

ZapperZ said...

Where did any reference to cracked pots or kettle came into this discussion?

You are also forgetting one important difference between us now and the Church back in the galileo days - we HAVE shown that we can make huge paradigm shift! When high-Tc superconductors was discovered, after after many years of established knowledge of conventional superconductors, we accepted them VERY quickly when we get verified, independent empirical observations. This is valid physics at its best! So the notion that we are no different than the church back in the dark ages is a total fallacy. The very fact that we can and DO make changes to our knowledge continuously is sufficient proof of that to falsify your assertion.


Anonymous said...

Your views of Catholicism seem a bit high schoolish themselves.

You clearly haven't kept up with the latest doctrine or read much else on Guy. He is no dummy or boot-licking toady of the Church.

Go after the Christian fundies who do believe in all the nonsense you are worried about.

ZapperZ said...

You need to read a bit closely on what I wrote. Never at any given time was I going after the Catholics. In fact, one of my closest friend is a catholic priest, and we talk very often about not only the official catholic church's view, but also his person view.

Again, keep in mind that my original criticism of the article is NOT towards Brother Guy. It was the wimpy set of questions that he was asked! Now, anyone would like to dispute that, or are you happy with being given such FLUFF?