Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, the new president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, has no doubt that life exists elsewhere in the universe and that when humanity discovers it, the news will come as no big surprise.
He suggested that the likely discovery -- whether next month or a millennium from now -- will be received much the way that news of planets orbiting far off stars has filtered in since the 1990s.
"The general public is going to be, 'Oh, I knew that. I knew it was going to be there,'" Brother Consolmagno told Catholic News Service prior to a presentation last week at a NASA/Library of Congress symposium on preparing for the discovery of life in the universe.
A planetary scientist who has studied meteorites and asteroids as an astronomer with the Vatican Observatory since 1993, Brother Consolmagno has raised a number of questions that cross the threshold between science and religion in a new book, "Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? ... and Other Strange Questions From the Inbox at the Vatican Observatory," which is set to be published in October.
Co-written by Jesuit Father Paul Mueller, another Vatican Observatory astronomer, the book uses a series of easy-to-read conversations between the two in an effort to explain how the Church supports science and to provide insight into how religion works.
Not all is as black and white as people imagine, and there's no conflict between science and religion, Brother Consolmagno said.
"The bigger questions, the religious questions, they're handled by science. The religious questions give you the framework that gives you the motivation to ask the science questions, gives you the confidence the science is going to work and explains to you why I get this excitement at holding a rock from outer space," he explained.
The forthcoming book addresses questions about the Big Bang theory on the origins of the universe and the creation story in the Book of Genesis; the circumstances surrounding the star of Bethlehem; the end of the world; and the church's inquisition of Galileo Galilei as he wrote about a sun-centered solar system.
Source: Catholic News Service