Brother Astronomer by Guy Consolmagno
Adventures of a Vatican Scientist

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In the current debate over science and religion, we tend to overlook the fact that not all religious traditions are anti-scientific. People are often surprised to hear that the Vatican supports an astronomical observatory, yet the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest astronomical institutes in the world, with its beginnings dating back to the reform of the calendar in 1582. Astronomy was one of the core subjects (along with arithmetic, geometry, and music) in the great medieval universities, taught by the Jesuits. Following the tradition of his order, Jesuit brother and working astronomer Guy Consolmagno considers himself to be a "missionary of science;" his mission: to undo the false assumption that the Church remains hostile to science. Blending memoir, science, history, and theology, Consolmagno takes us on a grand adventure. We revisit the infamous "Galileo affair" and see that it didn't unfold in quite the way we thought. We tour the Vatican's extensive meteorite collection and learn how astronomy progresses despite its dearth of tactile evidence. We get a rare glimpse into the world of working scientists and see how scientific discoveries are proposed and advanced (it hasn't changed much since Galileo's time). We learn the inside story of the "Mars meteorite": how can we be sure it's really from Mars, and why can't scientists agree on whether or not it contains evidence of life? With Consolmagno as our guide we travel to Japan and see how geology informs planetary science; we go to Africa and witness mankind's innate curiosity about the heavens, even in the midst of desperate poverty; and we hunt for meteorites in Antartica. Most importantly, we see how science and religion can come together in one individual, and by extension, how they both are needed to answer the big questions. What would it mean to us if we did find life elsewhere in the universe? How did the world begin, and why does it follow natural laws? "Science and Religion have an intimate tie," Brother Guy writes, "Without faith in a Creator God, one who looks at His universe and declares it Good, how can you justify the belief that this universe is worth studying; indeed, that the universe even makes enough sense to be able to be studied?"

About Guy Consolmagno

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Brother Guy Consolmagno is an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory. He obtained his Ph.D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona and went on to teach at MIT until 1983, when he joined the Peace Corps. After two years of teaching university and high-school physics in Kenya, he returned to the U.S. He took vows as a Jesuit brother in 1991, and since then has studied philosophy and theology at Loyola University, Chicago, and physics at the University of Chicago. He has also spent several terms as a visiting scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center and as a visiting professor at Loyola College, Baltimore, and Loyola University, Chicago. His area of expertise is in the study of small solar-system objects, such as moons, asteroids, and meteors. At the Vatican, he serves as curator of one of the largest meteorite collections in the world. Consolmagno's writing has appeared in numerous journals and magazines including Sky & Telescope, Leonardo Jesuits in Science, Ad Astra.
Published March 24, 2000 by McGraw-Hill. 246 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel, Science & Math, Religion & Spirituality, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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The triumph of his book is its persuasive argument that doing science can be a religious act--""that studying creation is a way of worshipping the creator."" Regrettably, that triumph is confined to only a minor portion of the text, which overall, despite its other merits, has a ragtag feel, with...

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