An Astronomer’s View of the Christmas Sky

  • Article
  • 2000 words
  • Level: all audiences

This 2018 article Written by Kyle Peterson and published in the Wall Street Journal is based on an interview Peterson did with Vatican Observatory Director Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J.  The article touches on the Star of Bethlehem, the history of the Vatican Observatory and the unique opportunities for science that the V.O. allows, Galileo and Newton, and God coming before science.  Peterson notes a deeper problem with dragging science into religious arguments:

“[Doing that] always makes the science come first and God come at the end of your chain of reasoning,” Brother Consolmagno says.  “To a scientist who’s a believer, it goes the other way around.  I’ve already experienced God.  I’ve already had religious experiences.  I’ve already had things that have made me look at the universe and say: ‘What’s going on?’  Whether they’re tragedies like the death of a loved one or miracles like the birth of a loved one, there are things that make you say ‘I’m experiencing something that’s more than physical things can explain.  Where did this come from?’  Or maybe it’s just something as simple as: ‘I exist.  Why do I exist?  Why does anything exist?  Why does existence itself exist?’”

Facing such questions, he offers a hypothesis: “Let’s assume that there’s a God that’s outside nature, who is responsible for the existence of the universe,” he says.  “When I start with that axiom, does the universe makes sense?  Does the universe made more sense than if I assume it’s all done by random chance?  Am I able to see things I couldn’t see before?  Am I able to understand things I couldn’t understand before?  Is it an axiom that works?”

“And to me, yes—that’s the answer.”

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