Vatican astronomer to speak at three free events
Friday, Feb. 26, 2016
Brother Guy Consolmagno
SALT LAKE CITY — Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican Observatory and president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Interpreter Science & Mormonism Symposium and the Summerhays Lecture Series, and also give a presentation at Juan Diego Catholic High School.
All three events are free and open to the public.
Brother Guy, who studied planetary sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a PhD from the University of Arizona, also served in the Peace Corps and taught college physics before entering the Society of Jesus in 1989.
“Since 1993 he has served as an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory and was curator of the Vatican meteorite collection until his appointment in 2014 as president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation,” according to his biography. “In September 2015 Pope Francis appointed him Director of the Vatican Observatory.”
In 2014 Brother Guy won a Carl Sagan Medal from the American Astronomical Society for “outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public;” in addition to more than 200 scientific publications, he is the author of six books, including the best-selling Turn Left at Orion (with Dan M. Davis) and Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (with Fr. Paul Mueller SJ).
Brother Guy initially was invited to Utah by Jeffrey M. Bradshaw, vice president of the Interpreter Foundation, which is presenting its second annual Science and Mormonism symposium with the theme “Body, Brain, Mind and Spirit” at Utah Valley University.
Bradshaw, a senior research scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, said he has read many of Brother Guy’s works, and the first time he heard him at a conference, “I was intrigued by many of the things he did. Here was a passionate scientist, a passionate believer, somebody who loves technology – in other words, somebody who understands people like me – and he was not unwilling to state all of those beliefs in front of a mostly skeptical crowd.”
While Brother Guy will give the keynote address at the March 12 Interpreter symposium, the daylong event will feature many other speakers, as well, including Stephen H. Webb, a Catholic theologian, author, and First Things columnist; and James E. Faulconer, the Richard L. Evans Professor of Philosophy at Brigham Young University.
“We feel a lot of commonality in the issues and challenges we face as believers in science,” Bradshaw said, adding that he would like those attending the symposium to understand “that many mainstream scientists believe in God. I’m hoping that believers who are struggling with contradictions in their lives will realize this is the life of a scientist. Scientists, I think, make good believers because we’re able to accommodate contradictions in all areas of our lives.”
In his keynote, “Astronomy, God, and the Search for Elegance,” Brother Guy will speak about the fact that “scientific theories must do more than merely satisfy the data; they must do so in a way that is (to use a term much favored by mathematicians) ‘elegant,’” according to the abstract for his speech. “By looking closely at a handful of astronomical images, we’ll explore the way that one proceeds from an emotional appreciation of the beauty of the stars and planets, to a deeper understanding that satisfies both reason and emotion. Ultimately, this link between ‘elegance’ and rational truth has profound theological implications.”
Brother Guy is an excellent fit for the symposium, Bradshaw said. “I think that what he speaks to in both his choice of topic – on the elegance of the universe – and his faithful presentation of the things that he’s studied will resonate with the ordinary person as much as the scientists who attend.”
Two days before the Interpreter symposium, on March 10, Brother Guy will speak on “Encountering God’s Personality in Creation” during the annual Summerhays Lecture on Science and Religion at Brigham Young University’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences. His lecture will be titled “Encountering God’s Personality in Creation.”
This will be “a tremendous opportunity for everyone living along the Wasatch Front because “he has such a deep understanding of really interesting topics in planetary science and has done some groundbreaking research in those areas, and not only that, he’s the director of the Vatican Observatory, which puts him in a very prominent position in terms of international religion,” said Jani Radebaugh, professor of geological science at BYU, who is helping to coordinate Brother Guy’s visit. “To be in a culture that values both of those things, science and religion, the way we do in Utah, means that his coming is a real gift to all of us, and we’ll benefit a lot by listening to him no matter what our levels of understanding are in terms of science, because he’ll help us understand those things and help elevate all of us.”
Both Brother Guy and Radebaugh are University of Arizona alumni; he contacted her after accepting the invitation to speak at the Interpreter symposium, she said, and she asked if he also would give the Summerhays lecture.
“He’s been making this journey through the universe and the solar system in a scientific and spiritual sense, and he’s able to bring all of us along with him, and that’s a real gift,” Radebaugh said.
The final venue at which Brother Guy will speak while he is in Utah is Juan Diego Catholic High School, where he will present “Adventures of a Vatican Astronomer” on March 13. He will “share some of those adventures, and reflect on the larger meaning of our common experience as scientists ... not only what we do, but why we do it,” according to the press release for the event.
“It seems like a natural fit” for Brother Guy to speak at the Skaggs Catholic Center, said Molly Dumas, the high school’s public information officer. “He’s not just a brilliant person but he has his faith aligned with that … Brother Guy will be talking about why science and faith go together: Why is it important to have an observatory in the Church? Why is it important to couple knowledge with faith exploration? Space exploration and faith exploration – that’s what we’re doing as well.”
Prior to the lecture, the school will host a public reception with displays by students that will include the recent science fair winners and LEGO robots.
Brother Guy Consolmagno in Utah
All events are free and open to the public.
Thursday, March 10, 6:30 p.m. — Summerhays Lecture on Science and Religion in the JSB Auditorium, Eyring Science Center, Brigham Young University, Provo. Br. Guy’s topic will be “Encountering God’s Personality in Creation.”
Saturday, March 12, 9 a.m. — Interpreter Science & Mormonism Symposium: Body, Brain, Mind and Spirit at Utah Valley University, Orem. Brother Guy’s topic will be “Astronomy, God, and the Search for Elegance.” After his keynote address, the symposium will continue with various speakers until 3:30 p.m. For information, visit www.mormoninterpreter.com.
Sunday, March 13, 3 p.m. — Presentation in Juan Diego Catholic High School auditorium, 300 East 11800 South, Draper. Brother Guy’s topic will be “Adventures of a Vatican Astronomer.” Preceding the presentation will be a public reception with student STEM displays, science fair winners, and robots in the Great Hall beginning at 2 p.m.