Br Consolmagno SJ on BBC Radio Scotland

Brother Guy Consolmagno SJ, Director of the Vatican Observatory, has joined presenter Cathy Macdonald for an interview on BBC Radio Scotland on Sunday morning.

Trying to identify the origin of the conflict between science and religion, Br Consolmagno explained the dichotomy started during the Victorian era, when they mistook the growth of technology with the growth of ethics. While we developed the idea that machines could reach heaven and provide everything without resorting anymore to God, the subsequent World Wars proved, instead, the two do not necessarily go hand in hand.

The planetary scientist expressed his difficulty in giving reasons to link science and faith: “I really have an hard time understanding why people think there is a conflict – he remarked – since they have never been presented as in contrast to me!”

Asked why the Vatican needs an astronomer, Br Consolmagno simply answered: “astronomy gets you asking bigger questions than what’s for lunch and it makes you realise you are in an universe that’s more than just your day-to-day problems. It puts a perspective on everything.”

Following St Ignatius’ vision of ‘finding God in everything’, the interviewee further shared how his work enables and indeed enhances his spiritual life: “the joy I get in doing science is the same joy I get when I am in prayer. Prayer is encountering God, and a way to encounter God is in God’s creation: so, it makes perfectly good sense to link the two.”

Going back to his personal experience, Br Consolmagno discussed with presenter Cathy Macdonald about the impressive collection of meteorites of the Vatican – all generously donated –, his education into science, and how his studies in Rome are actually less restricted than his research at the NASA laboratories.

Questioned about the possible existence of extra-terrestrial life, “it’s a matter of faith: I don’t have the data but I have faith it exists out there” the Jesuit answered. And regarding the apparent conflict that other forms of life may create with religion, Br Consolmagno explained it doesn’t really subsist, as the other living beings would once again refer to God’s creation, that is the whole universe, not just planet Earth.

The challenge of proving the connection, and not the division, between religion and science was the main focus of another interview Br Consolmagno gave last week. 12-year-old Fergus White from St John the Evangelist parish in Portobello talked with the Director of the Vatican Observatory upon his visit to the Lauriston Jesuit Centre on Thursday 19th July.

Asked whether he would be more comfortable defining himself as a religious scientist or as a Jesuit who is scientific, Br Consolmagno replied: “I am Brother Guy. I have always been fascinated by and in love with religion, and I have always been fascinated and in love with the physical universe: I cannot separate the one from the other.”

Listen to the Fergus White's interview:

'Adventures of a Vatican Astronomer' was part of the Summer events at the Lauriston Jesuit Centre. During the talk, Br. Guy Consolmagno SJ shared some of his adventures around the world and reflected on his experiences as a scientist at the Vatican.

Catch up with Br Consolmagno's interview on BBC Radio Scotland from BBC iPlayer, from minute 1:37:00