“Science is a wonderful way to experience an intimate sentimentwith Creation and, by it, to become intimate with the Creator,” said the Director of the Vatican Observatory, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno. In the pages of the Italian daily La Repubblica, he revealed that he venerates “the God of joy” through science.
The American astronomer spoke about the possibility of “another life than our own in the universe”: other places, including in our solar system, have all the ingredients to make life possible as we know it on Earth … we know that they are places where it is worthwhile to send spatial missions . . . It’s worthwhile to make an effort to find the proofs. All science begins by this form of ‘faith.’”
As for the possibility to enter into contact with extra-terrestrial intelligences, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to communicate with them. All things considered, we sometimes find it very difficult to communicate, including with members of our family.
Would you baptize an alien? “Only if it asks me,’ answered Brother Consolmagno.
He mentioned the present mistrust vis-s-vis science. “There is great fear of the truth in our days, even the truth of love. As children, we learn that all there is to be known we can read in books, but when we mature, we realize that everything that we learn leads to new questions. The more we know, the more we understand that we don’t know.”
“The error is to think that our objective is to find ’answers.’ The real objective is to always have more confidence with these questions. If you think that your wife is ‘a problem to solve,’ your marriage is probably in a grave crisis. We should think of science and religion as ways of learning to know truths without one ever arriving at an end,” he said.
“Science is a wonderful way to experience a sentiment of intimacy with Creation and by it, to become intimate with the Creator,” he affirmed again.
A False Idea of God
He stressed that to “say that no God exists, it’s necessary to have a rather precise idea of how that god is of which one says he doesn’t exist . . . Perhaps I wouldn’t believe either in that god in whom many don’t believe.”
“I suspect that many who believe themselves to be atheists think that, because the idea they have of God is in fact a false idea,” he continued. “Perhaps they imagine God as a sort of God of nature, for instance of Zeus, who holds all the atoms on his rope without giving any autonomy to the universe, and even less so freedom to humans. They might think that God is vindictive or wrathful.”
For the astronomer “the problem, clearly, is that we cannot really understand what God is or who He is; we can only imagine Him by analogy. And sometimes, our analogies color our picture in an erroneous way. If you think of God as a father, which would suggest Jesus Himself, but if you have a very bad relation with your father, you could have a deformed image of what is meant by God as “father.”
Through Science, the God of Joy
To the journalist who asked him the question of what he sees in the stars, “the sky, science or God?” he answered in a more personal tone: ”I see the stars. But the stars remind me of the science I learned and of my good friends who taught me that science. They remind me of my childhood, when my father taught me the names of the most brilliant stars, they remind me of when I went with my friends to look at the stars in the dark skies, or when I stayed lying down to appreciate the majesty of the skies above my head. The joy I felt was the perception of the presence of God. In other words, it’s through science, among other things, that I venerate the God of joy.”
Finally, the Jesuit defended the Church’s respect for science. “All those who want an example of the Church quarrel with science always mention the Galileo case, in good part because it’s the only example that comes effectively to mind. However, if one looks carefully at the history of Galileo, one will discover his trial, which was certainly unjust, had more to do with local politics than with faith and science.”
“The case of Giordano Bruno, had nothing to do with science. His idea of numerous stars with planets was already present in the writings of Niccolo Cusano at the end of the Middle Ages and Thomas Aquinas also speaks of how God could create numerous worlds. These cases re-emerged at the end of the 19th century by anti-clerical Italian government to take part in a systematic attempt to discredit the Church . . . at the moment when the most renown astronomers in Italy, Angelo Secchi, was a Jesuit priest.”
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester