“Guy, do good science.”

Thanks to Jerome Christenson of the Winona Daily News, here's another notable media entry about the beautiful blending of faith and reason in Catholic thought. You can view the story here, but what follows are some great bits ...

As a Jesuit, Brother Guy Consolmagno is seeking an understanding of God and the universe — through prayer and through his telescope.

Consolmagno is a research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory. He will speak on “Astronomy, God, and the Search for Elegance” at 7 p.m today in Somsen Auditorium as part of Winona State University’s Big Sky series.

“Most major religions have a concept of ‘the heavens’ ... the perfect realm of the gods,” said Jennifer L.B. Anderson, WSU associate professor of geoscience and one of the organizers of the Big Sky series, and Consolmagno’s talk will address the intersection of spiritual and scientific approach to understanding the universe.

She said that within the scientific community the Vatican Observatory is highly respected as “real astrophysicists doing real scientific work.” In fact, Consolmagno said, one of the primary purposes of the observatory is to be an ongoing demonstration that the church is supportive of science and scientific research. He said that upon his appointment to the observatory in 1993, the first instruction he received was, “Guy, do good science.”

Historically, the church has fostered science and the academic life, he pointed out, and churchmen have been in the forefront of scientific advancement — in fact the originator of the Big Bang Theory of the origin of the universe was a priest.

“There is nothing in the Bible opposing evolution,” he pointed out, “but there is something in the Bible against astrology.”

Biblical literalism is a recent development, not traditional Christianity, he said.

“Until recently, most literature was poetry,” he said, and in the ancient world, using the language of poetry, not science, was “how they described the natural world.”

To apply a modern reading to a 2,000 year old text “does violence to the text,” Consolmagno said, “and that’s not me saying it, it’s Augustine saying it.”

Pope Benedict fully supports the observatory’s research and independence, both philosophically and financially — one half of 1 percent of the Vatican’s annual budget, roughly the same percentage NASA draws from the United States, he said. As a former professor, the pope understands the academic life, Consolmagno said, and in his meetings with him found Benedict to be “remarkably personable one-on-one.”

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Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.