The faith of a scientistGuy Consolmagno is a planetary scientist with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a former Peace Corps volunteer and a Jesuit monk. He works at the Vatican Observatory near Rome, where he’s in charge of its meteorite collection.
I’ve had this book on my shelf since shortly after it was published in paperback, and turned to it again after slogging through John Horgan’s “The End of Science,” reviewed here recently, with its occasional militantly atheistic tone. It has always bothered me that rationally, the only supportable theological position is agnosticism, but many astronomers, particle physicists and others peering at the edge of the universe seem to be as devout about their atheism as ... well, as a Jesuit monk is about his faith.
This book is part autobiography, part musings on the method of doing science and part a personal manifesto of why Brother Guy believes in God and the Roman Catholic Church as well as in the scientific method. Consolmagno’s description of his personal faith won’t resonate with either those hostile to religion or to religious fundamentalists who believe in the literal accuracy of the Christian Bible. He reflects the moderate Christian theology that says there can be no conflict between true religion and true science. That thought doesn’t resonate with either creationists or scientists who believe the only God is in their mathematical descriptions of a self-generated and self-sustaining universe.
Consolmagno isn’t convincing, however, when he dismisses the impact the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life would be on Christian belief. “We’re all God’s children,” he says in effect, but brushes over concepts like the universality of original sin that would roil theology as much as quarks and dark matter now roil physics.
by John Hoog