I love this story. A Jesuit brother named Brother Guy Consolmagno who works as a Vatican astronomer is being awarded on Thursday one of planetary science’s most illustrious awards, the Carl Sagan medal. That is awesome in and of itself of course–astronomy is fascinating, and it’s great to see a Catholic brother being recognized for excellence in the field–but the best part about it is that it’s another piece of evidence to support the idea that the Catholic Church is not anti-science; in fact, it’s very, very pro-science.
To quote the Detroit Free Press article:
Last month, Pope Francis made headlines because he said that evolution is not in contradiction with church teaching. The pope, leader of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, said the universe wasn’t created by God’s “magic wand.”
Consolmagno said he’s constantly battling the unfounded perception that Catholic teaching is incompatible with science.
“There’s nothing new in what he was saying,” Consolmagno said of the pope. He noted that evolution is based on genetic theory, first discovered by the Catholic monk Gregor Mendel, who died in 1884.
“But so many people have bought into the lie that science and religion are opposed, so the pope has to keep reminding the world otherwise,” Consolmagno said.
Everyone remembers the dust-up between the Vatican and Galileo–and that was a mistake, no doubt. The Church changed its tune after a hundred years or so, and did eventually issue a formal apology to Galileo. But Roman Catholic clerics have contributed a lot to scientific progress over the years, as well, and somehow that seems to have escaped society’s notice.
There’s only one reality, and the truth can’t contradict itself. Science and faith need to complement each other; they reveal different aspects of the world, but they’re both talking about the same world. They can’t truly disagree. Where there are apparent conflicts between religion and scientific discovery, it means we need to do some more thinking and studying, not stick our fingers in our ears and start singing “La la la, I can’t hear you!”
As Catholics, we believe that God is the source of Reason, and that his creation reflects a divine logic and meaning. We do not side with the creationists, who insist that dinosaur bones are a demonic trick to deceive us about the age of the Earth. We say that science is good, because it reveals truths about God’s creation, and therefore can help inform us about the Creator. Studying the universe–whether looking at the big, interplanetary picture like Brother Guy, or studying microscopic organisms in a lab–is a good, worthwhile, Catholic pursuit.
Bravo to the Vatican astronomers in general, and Brother Guy in particular!