VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Science and religion are not at odds
but are united in the continuing search for truth in unlocking the mysteries of
The scientific conference titled, "Black Holes,
Gravitational Waves and Space-Time Singularities," is an opportunity to show that "the
church supports good science," said Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, director of the Vatican
"We are hoping that this meeting will also be an
encounter of people with very different opinions but very close friendships
that come from having the same common desire to understand the truth of the
universe and how we can understand that truth," he told journalists May 8.
Renowned experts from around the world were to meet at Vatican
Observatory in Castel Gandolfo for the May 9-12 conference, which seeks to bring together
science and religion in the continuing search for truth in understanding the
mysteries of the universe, he said.
The 2016 discovery of the existence of gravitational waves,
predicted nearly 100 years ago by Albert Einstein in his general theory of
relativity, was to be
one of the topics of discussion. The discovery could open a new chapter in understanding celestial events and black
hole regions in the universe, something that previously could only be hypothesized.
The conference also will celebrate the scientific legacy of Msgr. George Lemaitre, one of
the fathers of the theory that the expanding universe could be traced to an origin
point, also known as the "Big
As historic as Msgr. Lemaitre's theory was, Brother
Consolmagno said, the Belgian priest was also mindful that the God's creation
of the universe wasn't just a one-time occurrence but an event "that
"If you look at God as merely the thing that started
the Big Bang, you reduce God to a nature god, like Jupiter throwing lightning
bolts," he said. "That is not the God we as Christians believe in. We
must believe in a God who is supernatural and we then recognize God is who is
responsible for the existence of the universe and our science tells us how he
Bonanno, an Italian cosmologist at the National Institute for
Astrophysics, told journalists that the conference also aims to dispel the "myth"
that religion fears science,
because the search for truth "will bring us to God."
"We should not be afraid. Fear is not from God. Rather,
we should go in search of this truth because truth -- if we have this attitude
of humility which was (Msgr.) Lemaitre's attitude -- we can also change our
ideological preconceptions," he said.
"The search for truth is what unites us," Brother
Consolmagno added. "Those of us who are religious will recognize in the
truth the presence of God,
but you don't have to make that theological leap to have a desire to know
"The first step in recognizing the truth is that you
don't already have it," he said, adding that people cannot consider
themselves good scientists nor good religious people "if we think that our work is done."
Regarding intelligent design, Brother Consolmagno said that
its original intention as a way of looking at the universe and seeing "the
design of a good God" has been misused.
"If you mean that you can use our scientific ignorance
as a way proving the existence of God, that would not be a God I would want to
believe in," he said.
God, he continued, is not something one arrives to at the
end of scientific research, but rather its starting point. In that way, "we then
can see the hand of God in how we observe the universe."
"I am afraid of a God that could be proved by science
because I know my science well enough to not trust it," the director of
the Vatican Observatory said.
Brother Consolmagno said it was important for scientists who
are believers to make their science known to their fellow parishioners and
remind them that "science was an invention of the medieval universities
that the church founded."
"The logic of science comes out of the logic of
theology and if there is a rivalry, it's a sibling rivalry," he said.
"We need to know that it's a crime against science to say, 'only atheists
can do it' because that would eliminate so many wonderful people from so many
different religions who could contribute so much to science."