Vatican astronomer: Creationism is "a kind of paganism&

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grant
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Vatican astronomer: Creationism is "a kind of paganism&

Postby grant » Thu May 11, 2006 12:03 pm

One news article:

BELIEVING that God created the universe in six days is a form of superstitious paganism, the Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno claimed yesterday.

Brother Consolmagno, who works in a Vatican observatory in Arizona and as curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy, said a "destructive myth" had developed in modern society that religion and science were competing ideologies.

He described creationism, whose supporters want it taught in schools alongside evolution, as a "kind of paganism" because it harked back to the days of "nature gods" who were responsible for natural events.

Brother Consolmagno argued that the Christian God was a supernatural one, a belief that had led the clergy in the past to become involved in science to seek natural reasons for phenomena such as thunder and lightning, which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods. "Knowledge is dangerous, but so is ignorance. That's why science and religion need to talk to each other," he said.

"Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which at the end of the day is a kind of paganism - it's turning God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not be a good thing to do."

...


(more at the link)

And another, older, interview:
AM: And how did you come to work for the Vatican?

GC: Long story. I'd been an astronomer for 15 years before I decided to enter the Jesuits. And I did my undergraduate work at MIT and my doctorate at Arizona. And at one point I wondered why was I wasting my time doing astronomy when people are starving in the world - a little voice of conscience.

So I joined the Peace Corps. While I was there, I discovered that I loved teaching. But mostly I discovered that the people in Africa, the people in Kenya, where I was, wanted to know about astronomy. That's what they wanted from me. And they were as fascinated and as excited about it as I was, as anyone in America.

And I understood then why it's important. It's one of those things that makes us more than just well-fed cows. It satisfies a really deep hunger to know, to go someplace, to explore. And that is a hunger that is as human, as basic to human beings as food and shelter and anything else. And it's denied to a person only at the cost of denying them their humanity. By telling poor people, "No, no, you have to go hunt for food, you can't do astronomy," you are saying that they're less than human. And that's wrong. And it's a tragedy.


and

AM: And why does the Vatican fund this research?

GC: There's a political reason. It's a simple one, that they want the world to know that the Church isn't afraid of science, that they like science, that science is great, this is our way of seeing how God created the universe, and they want to make as strong a statement as possible that truth doesn't contradict truth, that if you have faith, then you're not going to ever be afraid of what science is going to come up with. Because it's true.

And the one time in history that they screwed up on this, the Galileo affair, the Church was wrong. And we've admitted it was wrong. How many times has science abused the Church? How often have you heard a scientist apologize to the Church?

AM: Do you think that was the only time in history that it happened?

GC: The whole scientific enterprise really does coincide well with Christian theology. The whole idea that the universe is worth studying is a Christian idea. The whole mechanism for studying the physical universe comes straight out of the whole logic of the scholastic age. Who was the first geologist? Albert the Great, who was a monk. Who was the first Chemist? Roger Bacon, who was a monk. Who was the first guy to come up with spectroscopy? Angelo Secchi, who was a priest. Who was the guy who invented genetics? Gregor Mendel, who was a monk. Who was the guy who came up with the Big Bang theory? Georges Lemaître, who was a priest. There is this long tradition; most scientists before the 19th century were clerics. Who else had the free time and the education to gather leads and measure star positions?

AM: Okay, but you brought up Galileo, I didn't. Are you saying that was a single incident, or was it a period of time --

GC: A bit of both.

AM: -- and if it was a period of time, when do you think it changed, and how and why do you think it changed? Because it took a pretty long time to apologize.

GC: Well, yes and no. You probably aren't aware of all the other apologies before the most recent apology....
Last edited by grant on Fri May 12, 2006 5:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby LoveSickJerk » Thu May 11, 2006 12:40 pm

I dig it! I'd like to see if this gets any larger amount of press, or some sort of reaction from the Big P. Though that last part about Galileo seemed kinda out of place...

Side Note: Brother Consolmagno has an amazing name. His name should be a rock band.

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Postby Betty Felon » Thu May 11, 2006 8:13 pm

That's very well put and entirely refreshing to read from a man of faith. I'd love to read more about how he came to realize that the pursuit of knowledge regardless of practical concerns is worthwhile.

But it does make a lot of sense to tie the pursuit of such knoweldge to a spiritual need. Putting a value on knowledge like astronomy is a kind of faith isn't it?

A friend of mine in the Peace Corps in Senegal experienced the same thing. She there to teach soil science so the village can increase thier food production and break out of a cycle of poverty, but her friends there are more eager to learn impractical knoweldge about the world outside the village.

Strange, though, that Brother C. says that the Christian faith came up with "the idea that the world is worth studying." If it's an inborn human need, certainly every culture that had a chance to progress beyond mere survival would start to study the world around them, ne?

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grant
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Postby grant » Fri May 12, 2006 5:40 am

Putting a value on knowledge like astronomy is a kind of faith isn't it?


He actually goes on at length about that elsewhere in the interview.

Strange, though, that Brother C. says that the Christian faith came up with "the idea that the world is worth studying." If it's an inborn human need, certainly every culture that had a chance to progress beyond mere survival would start to study the world around them, ne?


Well... he does get a little Christo-centric near the end there, but the list of monk-scientists is pretty impressive. It's actually kind of interesting that most of the other advance-of-knowledge things I can think of from other Big Religions are all more philosophical/abstract (Maimonides' mathematics and those Hindu zeroes.)

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Postby LoveSickJerk » Fri May 12, 2006 8:24 am

Betty Felon wrote:That's very well put and entirely refreshing to read from a man of faith. I'd love to read more about how he came to realize that the pursuit of knowledge regardless of practical concerns is worthwhile.

But it does make a lot of sense to tie the pursuit of such knoweldge to a spiritual need. Putting a value on knowledge like astronomy is a kind of faith isn't it?

A friend of mine in the Peace Corps in Senegal experienced the same thing. She there to teach soil science so the village can increase thier food production and break out of a cycle of poverty, but her friends there are more eager to learn impractical knoweldge about the world outside the village.

Strange, though, that Brother C. says that the Christian faith came up with "the idea that the world is worth studying." If it's an inborn human need, certainly every culture that had a chance to progress beyond mere survival would start to study the world around them, ne?


Thank you for articulating what I was thinking. I couldn't put words together for the life of me yesterday!
I think a contributing reason the list of Scientist-Christians was long because most (if not almost all) of the classic institutions for learning were run by clergy, and the only way you could get access was to study with them, and that meant, at times, becoming part of the order.


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