Papal astronomer discusses astronomy and God
Vatican astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno will lecture on "Astronomy, God and the Search for Elegance" March 1 at Appalachian State University. His talk begins at 7 p.m. in I.G. Greer Auditorium. A reception will be held prior to the talk beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium's lobby.
Consolmagno also will participate in a panel discussion exploring the connections between science, religion and society March 2 at 7 p.m. in Room 114 Belk Library. He will be joined by Department of Philosophy and Religion faculty members Dr. Jesse Taylor and Dr. Tom Ellis, and Dr. Rahman Tashakkori from the Department of Computer Science.
The programs and reception are open to the public. Consolmagno's visit is sponsored by Appalachian's College of Arts and Sciences.
In his talk, Consolmagno discusses how scientific theories must do more than merely satisfy the data; they must do so in a way that is "elegant," a term favored by mathematicians. He says Kepler, Maxwell and Einstein are examples of scientists who found that a sense of esthetic "rightness" helped them to direct their scientific intuition toward theories that could be expressed rationally and mathematically and then tested against nature.
Consolmagno will use astronomical images to explore the way that a person can proceed from an emotional appreciation of the beauty of the stars and planets to a deeper understanding that satisfies reason and emotion. He says that ultimately, the link between elegance and rational truth has profound theological implications.
Consolmagno joined the Jesuit order in 1989 after completing a Ph.D. in planetary science from the University of Arizona and working as a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard College Observatory. He took his vows as a Jesuit brother in 1991 and was assigned to the Vatican Observatory in 1993.
He has been a visiting scholar at St. Joseph's University, Fordham University, Loyola College (Baltimore) and Loyola University (Chicago). He also has been a visiting scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center.
Consolmagno has coauthored five astronomy books: "Turn Left at Orion," "Worlds Apart," "The Way to the Dwelling of Light," "Brother Astronomer" and "God's Mechanics."
He is curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Castel Gandolfo, one of the largest collections in the world. His research explores the connections between meteorites and asteroids and the origin and evolution of small bodies in the solar system. In 2000, an asteroid was named in his honor.
The Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical institutes in the world. It was founded in 1891 by Pope Leo XIII and originally was located behind the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. When light pollution began to threaten work at the observatory, it was moved to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence southeast of Rome. The Vatican Observatory Research Group also operates a research facility at the University of Arizona.