A Vatican astronomer explains why he sees God through the telescope

Reader Grania sent me a piece from the Catholic News Agency called “Vatican astronomer: science opens the door to dialogue.”  Of course with a title like that the article is bound to be dire, and Grania added a note: “The cognitive dissonance is strong in this one.” But that’s not completely accurate, for cognitive dissonance is the condition of mental disturbance experienced when one holds conflicting views simultaneously.  There’s no evidence that the astronomer, Brother Guy Consolmagno, is disturbed in the least.

Consolmagno is described as “curator of the Vatican Meteorite collection” in the article, a job that surely allows him plenty of free time. He’s also a Jesuit, and, like Pope Francis, is from Argentina, although he got a Ph.D. at the University of Arizona and served in the Peace Corps in Kenya. (By the way, the director of the Vatican Observatory from 1978-2006 was one Fr. George Coyne, a name that caused me genuine cognitive dissonance.)

It’s a short article, but one replete with acommodationism; and I’ll highlight a few choice bits.  One of its most annoying implications is that astronomy brings us closer to God and helps us understand the deity and his creation—but not just for Consolmagno but for everyone.

Of those who share his same field of study, the brother stated that “we are really all in this field of astronomy for the same reasons.”

“Astronomy is not going to make you rich, it is not going to get you powerful, astronomy is not going to get you girls, didn’t work for me anyway, but astronomy does connect you up with that same moment of joy that I also experience in prayer.”

Unless Jesuits are allowed to have connubial bliss, I doubt that Fr. Consolmagno can have “girls,” but the invidious part is comparing the joy of scientific discovery with that of prayer. Maybe the emotions are similar (I wouldn’t know), but I’d think the joy of finding out something new would be of a higher order than the joy experienced by communing with a nonexistent being.

But I quibble here; in the rest of the article Consolmagno implies that astronomy is for many—religious and layperson alike—a way to answer The Big Questions about humanity:

Highlighting how it was not his “cat” that wanted to look through the lens, the brother observed that this experience of wonder at creation speaks about man’s constant search for God, because “this is something human beings do, this is something human beings ask about.”

“They want to know what are those stars, why are there stars, why are we here, what is this all about, where did we come from,” he explained.

“This is what makes us more than just well fed cows and if you starve somebody from being able to ask those questions, you are denying them their humanity.”

Speaking of the link between science and religion, Br. Consolmagno observed that “it is an important part of being human to ask, who are we, how do we fit into this big universe, and it is an important part of being of human to recognize in this creation the hand of the one who made it.”

I’m not sure what the “cat” is about, although he may be invidiously equating it with the presumably incurious and dull “well fed cows”. But of course cats are curious!  At any rate, what Consolmagno elides is the question of whether religion can actually answer those questions we’re compelled to ask. Perhaps he thinks that Catholicism gives answers, but then what about the divergent “answers” provide by other faiths? And if it’s an important part of being human to recognize the Creator God, then, well, I guess that most of us here aren’t human.

“The astonishing thing to me about astronomy is not only that the universe makes sense and I can come up with equations and explain it,” he continued, “but the way it makes sense is beautiful.”

“God chose to create a universe that was at the same time logical and beautiful, one that I can enjoy with my brain and enjoy with my heart,” he stressed, going on to say that this “tells me something about who God is and how He creates and how He’s expecting me to relate to Him.”

I challenge Fr. Consolmagno to give me an example of a universe containing us that doesn’t “make sense.” I doubt he can come up with one, though I can think of a universe that makes more sense than his. It’s a universe, as Sean Carroll mentioned in yesterday’s video, that contains only one galaxy—ours.  Why would God want all those superfluous galaxies and uninhabitable stars, or those without planets? I suppose he could respond that there may be life in other galaxies, but then he’d have to further explain how those inhabitants could also be saved by Jesus, who lived and died on Earth. (Philosopher Michael Ruse once did this by positing an “intergalactic Jesus” who traveled through the universe saving people left and right.)

Finally, I’d like to know exactly what Consolmagno has learned from his astronomy studies about who God is and how he creates and how he wants us to relate to him.  I suspect his answer would involve not astronomical observations, but special pleading involving what the Bible and Church teachings say. Can you really find out how God wants us to deal with him by looking through a telescope? And if God wants to make those answers clear, why didn’t he just put them in his holy scriptures? Did God really need us to wait until the 17th-century invention of the telescope to fully understand what he wants? Why is God so coy about revealing his presence and desires?

Addressing the fact that many are surprised at the existence of the Vatican Observatory, Br. Consolmagno stated that “that’s part of the reason we exist; to surprise people.”

“To make people realize that the church not only supports science, literally… but we support and embrace and promote the use of both our hearts and our brains to come to know how the universe works.”

Let us be clear. We can never understand how the universe works by using our hearts. Our hearts tell us what makes us feel good, and how we’d like things to be—but not how things really are. The heart is notoriously bad at ferreting out the truth.

As for the “dialogue” between science and religion touted in the article’s title, well, that’s just wishful thinking. It’s not a dialogue, but a one-way monologue: science tells religion that its claims are wrong or untestable, but religion has nothing to contribute to science. Such a dialogue is purely wishful thinking on the part of the faithful, and most scientists won’t have anything to do with it. As Sean Carroll noted, the idea of god doesn’t add, and never has added, anything to our understanding of the cosmos.

Here’s Consolmagno:

Br_Guy_Consolmagno_speaks_with_CNA_on_Nov_22_2013_at_the_Vatican_Observatory_in_Rome_Credit_Marco_Gandolfo_CNA_CNA_112813

Photo: Marco Gandolfo/CNA

His appearance reminds me of someone, but I can’t put my finger on who. Maybe George Clooney with glasses?

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143 Comments

  1. Jesper Both Pedersen
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    sub

  2. gbjames
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Our hearts don’t tell us anything, of course. They pump blood.

    Or… by saying “the use of both our hearts” maybe he’s indicating that he, too, is an Doctor Who fan?

    Naa… probably not.

  3. Gerardo F Zambito Brondo
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    “Curiosity killed the cat”

    I guess he never heard that one.

    Maybe if he shares his “special” cigarettes, we can all see god or better things.

    • Bruce S. Springsteen
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      I figured maybe some Italian idiom that doesn’t translate to English well?

      • Gerardo F Zambito Brondo
        Posted November 30, 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

        Nope, the guy is from Detroit and the interview is in English.

  4. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I look through the telescope and you know what I hear God saying? “Stay in your infinitessimal corner and shut up, you inconsequential speck of presumtuous matter.”

    That is, if I could imagine God saying anything from amidst that ocean of vacuuous cold.

  5. Bruce S. Springsteen
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    *presumptuous, rather. Squeak.

    • Bruce S. Springsteen
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      *and vacuous. Spellcheck, why you hate me?

      • Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        Spellcheck is telling you to use the dictionary like God intended.

        • Bruce S. Springsteen
          Posted November 30, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          When you type like a myopic Saint Bernard, spellcheck is supposed to be your savior.

    • Matt G
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Funny – when religion tries to speak to science, a squeak is the only sound they make.

  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    No, no not Clooney, I think Brian Blessed or maybe Paul Lassiter but with a beard.

    This is how the religious bother me, not by potentially looking like famous actors, but by implying that those that do not share their delusion are somehow broken; and they do so while speaking so serenely and looking so innocent.

    Of all things, I found this same annoyance in the popular TED video where the speaker is a young boy who talks about home schooling….he showed a slide detailing what makes people happy and the last point was “religious and spiritual”. There was no discussion about this last point but I found it soooooo offensive. I’m not religious and no I’m not spiritual either but I’m just as happy as the next guy and if I’d stop getting migraines, I’d be positively felicitous but prayer isn’t going to make my migraines go away, science will (and does in the form of medication).

    • Posted November 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Glad I missed that Ted “talk”.

      Religion/spirituality is supposedly the salve that people can turn to in times of adversity, right? In my experience, it is precisely in those times of adversity – REAL goddamned adversity – that the salve of religion/spirituality breaks down. I’ve seen it again and again… the ultra-religious seem more blindsided than their less-religious counterparts. Then the “why me” stuff comes out, and the deistic explanations by the caregivers have to try to ameliorate the extra crises CAUSED by the dissonance. It’s as if the lack of imagination in the ultras robs them of empathy before it’s their turn to be sick, then robs them of the ability to deal when it IS their turn. Harmful, stupid, and predictable.

    • Marcel Volker
      Posted December 1, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      Reminded me of Ronan Williams, instantly.

      Glasses, beard, grey hair, broad smile, happy face. And robe (well Williams is retired but you get the idea).

  7. Surangika Senanayake
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    How does he see the world? Flat or round?!

  8. Posted November 29, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a problem with the dude believing in God and looking at the stars. Watching Orion last night, I was awestruck at the cosmic beauty…it made me feel insignificant and small but also gave me reassurance to somehow be a part of this whole giant sympathy of existence. We are speculating on both sides of the argument (as I see it), so what is wrong with an agreement on the pure awesomeness of the whole thing?

    • Jesper Both Pedersen
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      As long as his religion doesn’t impair his execution of his science then sure, go for it.

      I don’t know how you look for god in astronomy and I doubt he does as well. He just links the awesome feelings to his particular god, but it doesn’t tell us anything about his god.

      His broad statement that astronomy somehow explains god is just gibberish and some astronomers might find that slightly annoying, but hey, free speech, to each his own and so forth….

      • Posted November 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        How about if his religion helps enable an odious and harmful enterprise like the Catholic Church? Or confuses people about what science tells us. Francis Collins, after all, tells us that human morality and the universe’s fine-tuning are evidence for God.

        And yeah, free speech, and also free speech to those of us who hate religious obscurantism and value reason.

        • Jesper Both Pedersen
          Posted November 29, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

          “To make people realize that the church not only supports science, literally… but we support and embrace and promote the use of both our hearts and our brains to come to know how the universe works.”

          If this is his only purpose then I don’t see the major harm. It’s just empty talk without substance that doesn’t have the least to do with science. He’s by no means doing science any favours with his statements, but I don’t think they’re intended to. It’s just catholic marketing directed at catholics. Maybe his intentions is to encourage young catholics to get into science. I have no problem with that as long as they do their work according to the scientific method.

          This guy has obviously reached a conclusion about the god hypothesis despite the lack of evidence and that could be a problem, but I don’t know how he could possibly cheat or tamper with the data collected so I, again, can’t see the immediate harm.

          Yeah, he’s annoying in the usual pious fashion, but other than that I find him rather harmless.

          • gbjames
            Posted November 29, 2013 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            He’s harmless, perhaps, compared to someone like Pat Roberson. But he’s not harmless in that he supports an awful and destructive institution by both his membership in an international criminal organization and by spewing woo about the compatibility of science and religion. So, no, I can’t agree that he’s harmless, except as measured against even more awful religionists.

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted November 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

              Isn’t that a bit harsh, I mean, should we treat every catholic as a criminal?

              He says he wants to protect astronomy from creationism and even though I strongly disagree with his views about the god stuff, I really don’t have any reason to suspect him of foul play.

              Call me a big softie, but I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.

              • gbjames
                Posted November 29, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

                Define “treat”.

                You’re a big softie. I’m not.

                I think liberal believers need to be held accountable for the support they lend to the theory by which their unpleasant brethren justify heinous acts, including subjugation of women, opposition to choice in dying, denying equal rights to gay people, and helping spread HIV among millions of people.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 29, 2013 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

                “Define “treat”.”

                To hold every catholic legally accountable for what the catholic church does and has done in the past.

                “I think liberal believers need to be held accountable for the support they lend to the theory by which their unpleasant brethren justify heinous acts, including subjugation of women, opposition to choice in dying, denying equal rights to gay people, and helping spread HIV among millions of people.”

                Ideologically yes and don’t get me wrong I find their ethics disgusting, but how are we going to hold them legally accountable and how do we decide who to hold accountable?

              • gbjames
                Posted November 29, 2013 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

                I didn’t advocate imprisoning all Catholics. But I do think it is wrong to give a pass to liberal/nice/friendly/non-creationist priests. They are morally responsible for supporting a criminal organization even if they don’t themselves rape any children or preach about how condoms don’t protect against HIV.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 29, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

                Then I pretty much agree with you. Morally ( or intellectually if you prefer ) they need to stand up and face the music for their ideology’s wrongdoings.

              • John Scanlon, FCD
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

                should we treat every catholic as a criminal?

                How about every Nazi? every member of the Ku Klux Klan? every Hell’s Angel? every mafioso?

                Sure, they may be your best buddy and good to their mother, but they voluntarily support an organisation that has a centuries-long history of murder, child-rape, warmongering, and suppression of truth.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:17 am | Permalink

                You forgot communists, muslims, buddhists and protestants.

          • Yiam Cross
            Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:20 am | Permalink

            I would also question the credibility of anyone who claims to be a scientist but demonstrates a willingness to believe stuff and nonsense because it makes them feel good against all the evidence.

            The only reason these people are out there, being photographed with a background of complex astronomical tools (microscopes? Really?) is to cynically represent religion as somehow credible by donning the mantle of the scientific method. It’s a great big marketing trick using an argument from authority.

          • Posted November 30, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

            The fundamental problem is that pretty much every organized crime syndicate / terrorist organization / whatever runs substantial charity / education / whatever feel-good programs. And those programs are often very effective, and sometimes the only hope for those they serve. See the IRA, the PLO, the Mafia, Hamas — even the Nazis with their Hitler Youth.

            One might be tempted to give those who work, say, in Catholic Charities a pass for all the genuine good they do.

            But the problem is that all the good they do is overwhelmed by the evil they whitewash.

            I don’t care how many meals on wheels the local Catholic diocese gives to homebound seniors this time of year; it can’t compare with the million Africans dead each year from AIDS and the two million new AIDS cases there each year — numbers that would be a minuscule fraction were it not for the Catholic Church’s unapologetic genocidal campaign to spread the disease there.

            Considering that the Church still doesn’t think there was a problem with the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Conquistadors, and the like, and that they’re doing the exact same thing in Africa today with respect to AIDS that they did in the Americas with Plague-infested blankets…well, yeah. I see identification with Catholicism as just as horrific as identification with Nazism or the Khmer Rouge or Stalinism. If Consolmango was the chief astronomer of the KKK, but still an all-around nice guy, you wouldn’t have such warm feelings for him, would you? Even if he didn’t think it was right to burn crosses on people’s lawns, even if the thought of the Klan’s past made him uncomfortable, even if he’s only in the Klan because his parents were…you still gotta take a step back and ask:

            What the fuck?

            How the fuckity fuck fuck can somebody still, in this day and age, pledge allegiance to an organization with that kind of history, one that continues its atrocities to this day, and that offers as a fringe benefit to its members a private child rape service?

            The sheer overwhelming numbers of Catholics in our midst means that you’ve got to be careful about confronting them in person, just as if a quarter of the American population were openly Klan members. But it by no means is reason that they should be given a pass simply for not taking an active hands-on role in the Church’s dirtiest of dirty work.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted November 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

              Not to mention that those same people in the Catholic church who deliver the meals and help the poor would most likely still do it if they weren’t affiliated with the church because they feel good about helping other people. Sure, the odd one might do it out of some sort of indoctrination but I doubt the majority do.

              So therefore, the people may not all be bad, but their institution is & that ruins it for them a bit.

            • Jesper Both Pedersen
              Posted November 30, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              Where crimes are commited prosecution should off course follow and those responsible should be given no free pass. That’s a given and I think many if not most catholics would agree.

              My point is, if we want to hold every single catholic accountable for what the catholic church does and has done in the past, then I think we should be honest and apply the same thinking to our own responsibilities.

              I know I’m not proud of all the deeds my country has done in the past and what it continues to do at the present. For one thing, I remember something about some WMD’s being used as an excuse to invade another country that turned out to be….well, a lie, or gross incompetence in intelligence. A shitload of innocent people has died as a consequence of my countries actions.

              Other than use my vote to express my disagreement at elections and signing various petitions, I don’t really know how to take responsiblity for my country.

              I’m having a hard time seeing how every individual catholic could take responsibility for the shitty things their chruch has done and is doing…unless you expect them to renounce their religion entirely.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

                *country’s…not countries…only got one. :-)

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

                Well, do you see Fr. Consolmagno, or any other Catholic officials, speak up and protest the Church’s stand on birth control, abortion, and gay right? Nope. But you see plenty of us decrying the bad things our government does. The difference is that we don’t get excommunicated if we do.

                What Church doctrines do you think Consolmagno disagrees with? You don’t know, do you? And you won’t. Because that malevolent organization silences dissent.

                And it’s easier to leave the Church than it is to renounce your citizenship and move elsewhere.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

                Listen, I think it’s fine to write about this dude and criticize his statements as they clearly makes no sense. But this interview wasn’t about the atrocities the church is responsible for. I don’t know squat about his views on those matters, but I’m simply giving him the benefit of the doubt.

                Maybe naively, but who the deuce knows.

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

                Try a thought experiment.

                Re-read the original article, but mentally substitute “Nazi” for “Catholic,” “Reichstag” for “Holy See,” and “Führer” for “Pope.” Or, if you prefer, use other terms suitable for the Klan, Hezbollah, the IRA, Stalinist Russia, or the like.

                Would you still consider the person’s prominent in those organizations irrelevant? Would you still give said person the benefit of the doubt?

                You might object to equation of the Church with those other institutions, but at the least be aware that that’s exactly how a great many of us view the Church.

                And, yes. I would agree that there were many rank-and-file members of each of those horrific institutions that were basically decent people at heart. But, despite their good intentions, they still allied themselves with and supported some of the greatest horrors in all of history, and it is the support of the convivial masses that made those horrors possible. Even to this day, the Church would not be capable of shielding child rapists from prosecution or of perpetuating its African genocide were it not for the fact that a quarter of the American populace lends it their financial and “moral” support.

                Again, if these people were members of the Society for Creative Anachronisms, it wouldn’t be a problem. But they’re active, proud, and outspoken members of the Church, and they’re explicitly doing what they’re doing at least in part as a form of publicity to proclaim the wonderfulness of the Church.

                That makes the horrors of their Church all the more deserve to take center stage, even if the goals of the “But I’m just following orders!” is to make people like you think of what a wonderful nice and fluffy bunny the Church is.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

                The problem is that citizenship is largely involuntary, whereas membership — especially active membership — in the Church is entirely voluntary.

                I completely agree with you with respect to the invasion of Iraq — and I have a similar horror about the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the out-of-control NSA, the continued free reign given to those who caused the financial meltdown, the use of torture, and on and on and on and on.

                But emigration isn’t really a practical option, and renouncing my citizenship while remaining a resident would be near suicidal, with no advantage gained. I could refuse to pay taxes…and, again, ruin my life for no advantage. So, I vote my conscience (I’m a registered Green) and I speak out when I can.

                The situation with a practicing Catholic is entirely different. Consolmagno, Ken Miller, Andrew Sullivan, and the rest are all perfectly free to renounce their Catholicism and denounce the Vatican and the Church as the horrible perversions they are. There are countless other churches which would be more than happy to welcome them into the fold should they wish to retain their Christianity; for example, the United Church of Christ generally stands on the right side of morality and civil rights and politics in general (even while being as batshit fucking insane as the rest with the religious nonsense). If the membership numbers for the Catholic Church and the UCC were reversed, the would would be a much better place, and I would, indeed, much more generally regard religion as a peculiar variation on the Society for Creative Anachronisms theme.

                But, in the real world, people like Consolmagno, Miller, and Sullivan publicly and vociferously pledge allegiance to an organization as horrific as any in history, including the Nazis, Stalinist Russia, the Khmer Rouge, and the like. There’s just no valid excuse for a moral person to do something like that. At best, they can plead willful ignorance and laziness…but how does that make them any less culpable in the ongoing African holocaust than a Berlin socialite and proud Nazi who never touched a gun less culpable for the German holocaust?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

                “I don’t know squat about his views on those matters, but I’m simply giving him the benefit of the doubt.”

                The man is a priest in the Roman Catholic Church! How can you possibly claim to know squat about what he thinks about RCC beliefs and policies?

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

                Well, let’s just agree that catholic priests are douchebags then. ;-)

                Hopefully they’ll soon allow the other half of the population to join the hood. That oughta shake things up a bit.

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                The problems with the Church can no more be addressed by investiture of women priests than the Mafia can be tamed by having a woman as Don. It can no more be “changed from within” than the Klan or Al Qaida or the Khmer Rouge.

                The institution is fundamentally corrupt, rotten to the core. It needs to be consigned to the scrap heap of history along with its moral peers of the Nazi party, Stalinism, and all the rest.

                That will never happen so long as the Church continues to enjoy popular support amongst not only its members but by outsiders such as you who publicly apologize for it.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

                Hehe… Sure thing, I’m an apologist for the catholic church. And an accommodationist.

                Don’t you think the inclusion of female priests would be progress compared to how it is today?

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

                I think that the Church coming to see women as equals that results in them taking part in the Church equally would be more important than actually appointing women to the clergy. So in other words, I don’t know that women would make it better – it would be the change toward more secular values that would make it better.

                What I think would make a real difference is to allow priests to marry like they used to. That would be a good first step.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                What I think would make a real difference is to allow priests to marry like they used to. That would be a good first step.

                That would be a major improvement. The celibacy thing is seriously f*cked up. But I still think that the more the old patriarchal system is shook up by the empowerment of women, the better. It’s gradual progress, but progress nonetheless.

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

                Dont you think the inclusion of female priests would be progress compared to how it is today?

                Only in the sense that Kleenex is sufficient treatment for SARS.

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                “Don’t you think the inclusion of female priests would be progress compared to how it is today?”

                Sure. So what?

                There’s this mountain of a steaming heap of awful offal that is the RCC. It would be better to have the mountain be a bucket of offal smaller. We’d still be left with a mountain of offal.

                There is no reason to excuse those who seek to keep the mountain around.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

                So what? It is better than the status quo imo. If that is considered an excuse for the catholic church and its priests to continue their shitty politics/preaching, so be it.

                Empower the women and shit will start to happen…

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

                Frankly, that’s a rather condescending attitude towards women, to place them on a pedestal like that.

                For all the horrific problems of the current Pope, he’s nowhere near as bad as a Pope Bojaxhiu would be. And tell me you haven’t heard of all the horror stories of nuns terrorizing students left in their care! Dave Allen‘s experience is humorous, yes, but only because of how instantly recognizable the imagery.

                The notion that a person’s genitalia is an automatic indication of the quality or nature of said person’s politics and / or morality and / or leadership abilities or whatever else you’re angling for on this one is rather insulting. Women are people, too, every bit as much as men, with all the strengths and weaknesses.

                Sexual discrimination is still a serious problem in our society, yes — particularly in religious institutions. And, legally, the Church should no more be permitted to discriminate against women than the local golf course.

                But thinking that letting Women into the Vatican will somehow magically stop the Church from murdering Africans by the millions or from raping children and shielding the rapists from prosecution…well, that’s about as naive as it gets.

                Throwing the Pope and the Cardinals and the Bishops in prison and confiscating the Church’s assets, just like we’d like to do to any other organized crime syndicate and its leadership…that would do the trick.

                But there is no way in Hell that change will come from within the Church.

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

                Frankly, that’s a rather condescending attitude towards women, to place them on a pedestal like that.

                Thanks, mate.

                I’m sorry if any women on this board feel offended by any of my posts here and my expressed opinions on female priests.

                It wasn’t my intention to be condescending towards anyone.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

                Blockquote fail, but you get the picture.

              • gbjames
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

                Jesper, you are moving the goalposts. This thread is about (if I remember correctly) whether it is reasonable to hold Catholics in general and priests in specific accountable for their church. The fact that the obnoxious institution that is the RCC would be better if you remove this or that little bit of awful is not really relevant. Nobody in his/her right mind would object to a reduction in the level of awfulness. Heck, the new pope is in some ways less hideous than the retired pope. But the institution remains to carry on. And the astronomer priest may (or may not) be a decent collector of meteorites. But he is still a priest in service of an institution that systematically works to retard social progress and keep the world benighted.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

                Jesper, you are moving the goalposts.

                Really?

                I’ve only stated that I don’t know what this guys opinions on various church doctrine are.
                I’m sorry if that is enough to earn me the badge of an apologist.

                Consider me your local catholic apologist from now on…that might lead to some fun discussions.

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

                Retarding social progress is one thing.

                A million dead Africans every year and countless children raped is quite another.

                You’ll pardon me if I don’t give a flying fuck about who they let play dress up and serve zombie cannibal tea. The only way to reform the Church is to throw everybody in the Vatican along with all the bishops and a significant number of priests worldwide into jail.

                The brutal, honest truth is that the Church is radically more violently destructive than the Klan and modern Neo-Nazis combined. All this talk about what meaningless symbolic “reform measures” they could (but never will) implement just serves to layer on yet more whitewash on an institution that’s already brighter than Tom Sawyer’s fence.

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

                You’ll pardon me if I don’t give a flying fuck about who they let play dress up and serve zombie cannibal tea.

                I hope you’ll forgive for giving a flying fuck about women in power and that they could help make positive changes.

                I’ll even go out on a limb and throw in Islam while we’re at it. The more power to women in Islam as well, the better.

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

                Would you also have suggested that the first thing Nazi Germany should have done would have been to let some token Jews into the Nazi Party? That the the first thing the Klan should focus on is expanding its poll ratings in the gay community? That the real problem with the Mafia is that they don’t have enough Irishmen in its ranks?

                See, some of us are concerned more with substance than cosmetics. And some of us have enough sense of proportion to know that an aspirin is useless to somebody with a compound fracture.

                In this case, an aspirin really is worse than nothing, for it gives you not only the false sense that you’re doing something but makes you feel morally superior because you think you’re proposing something practical “real-world” that’s still purest fantasy.

                It’s a damned bit lot like prayer, in that regards.

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

                I don’t get this post, Ben.

                Are you insinuating that I somehow feel morally superiour to you and that I’m shallow because I think female priests would be an improvement?

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

                Well, yes, in so many words.

                With an institution waging genocide by the millions in Africa and whose official policy and practice continues to be to shield the innumerable chid rapists in its leadership from prosecution, do you really think the genitalia of its new inductees into the inner circle will make a damned bit of difference? Do you really think that, even if they were to make such a change, those women would be any different from the sadomasochistic Whore of Calcutta who withheld even basic sanitation — let alone palliative care, let alone standard-of-care treatment — from her victims, all whilst rubbing shoulders with the world’s worst petty dictators of banana republics and flying on her private jet to get the best possible medical care for herself?

                The problem isn’t even remotely the gender ratios of Vatican citizenship. Not even hypothetically.

                The problem is the dozen Africans dead from AIDS whose blood is on the Church’s hands just in the time it’s taken me to type this post, and no number of women in the leadership of the organization responsible could even hypothetically make a difference.

                What you propose amounts, without hyperbole, to a suggestion that one of the biggest problems with Nazi Germany was the distinct lack of Swiss nationals in the Reichstag, and it really would have done wonders to their legacy had that balance been a bit different.

                b&

              • gbjames
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

                “I’ve only stated that I don’t know what this guys opinions on various church doctrine are.”

                Well, no. You also said that you have a hard time holding individual Catholics responsible for the actions of the church. And you also equated membership in a church with citizenship in a country. These are the things that you are receiving push-back on.

                Nobody is going to disagree that the RCC would be better (in some marginal way) if this or that hideous doctrine/policy were changed.

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

                But I haven’t changed my view. Legally speaking I can’t hold all catholics responsible, I thought we agreed on that.

                Those with the power and the decision makers are those who should be held legally responsible. Not the common catholic on the street, or every priest for that matter.

                I already agreed with you that morally and ideologically speaking they should be held responsible for their church’s ethics/doctrine.

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

                I already agreed with you that morally and ideologically speaking they should be held responsible for their churchs ethics/doctrine.

                You may have indicated a desire to such a sentiment, but your other words consistently indicate you believe otherwise. For example, your repeated indication that you don’t know what a Catholic priest in the Vatican thinks of church doctrine and that, regardless, said beliefs should be off-limits in this type of discussion.

                If you truly held him morally and ideologically responsible for the Church’s horrific practices and policies, at the very least you wouldn’t be making such excuses for him.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

                “…said beliefs should be off-limits in this type of discussion.”

                Where the deuce have I written that anything should be off-limits in this type of discussion?

                And could you direct me to where I make excuses for the priest and his statements?

                I mentioned that he spoke about protecting astronomy from creationism. I have no problem with that.

                And you can call me apologetic and accommodationist untill the cows come home. I don’t give a hoot. ;-)

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

                said beliefs should be off-limits in this type of discussion.

                Where the deuce have I written that anything should be off-limits in this type of discussion?

                In your very first non-“sub” post in the thread, for starters. And your next one. And the one after that. And the one after that….

                His broad statement that astronomy somehow explains god is just gibberish and some astronomers might find that slightly annoying, but hey, free speech, to each his own and so forth….

                If this is his only purpose then I dont see the major harm.

                Call me a big softie, but Im giving him the benefit of the doubt.

                Shall I continue…?

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

                How the hell, pardon my french, do you get from those sentences that I think anything whatsoever should be off-limits? You haven’t considered that you’re reading a bit much into my words?

                Anyway go nuts Ben, and please do continue if you feel like it.

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

                It’s not just me; it’s everybody else — including our host — who has taken you to task in this thread.

                If you truly don’t understand how your arguments have been coming across as by-the-book Catholic apologetics, you at a minimum need to re-read your Aristotle, Machiavelli, and Orwell.

                You should also contemplate long and hard about the history of the phrase, “Only following orders,” and consider the consequences of its variations — many of which you yourself have offered up in this thread.

                You might finish with reading some other Catholic apologetics, such as Bill Donohue, and see how many parallels you can find between your arguments and theirs.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

                Nah, that’s fine, I’ll take your word for it.

              • gbjames
                Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

                “But I haven’t changed my view. Legally speaking I can’t hold all catholics responsible, I thought we agreed on that.”

                You introduced the word “legally” into this. Responsibility has a broader application than just courts of law. Why do you keep pretending that I want to put this deluded priest in a jail cell? I don’t.

                I want people like you to point your finger at the man and as him how he can live with himself. I want you to ask other nice Catholics how they can look themselves in the mirror while supporting a medieval institution that represses people and spreads disease while pretending to be an authority on morality.

              • Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

                I want people like you to point your finger at the man and as him how he can live with himself. I want you to ask other nice Catholics how they can look themselves in the mirror while supporting a medieval institution that represses people and spreads disease while pretending to be an authority on morality.

                Yes, this exactly.

                Or, at the least, is it really too much to ask of non-Catholics that they refrain from making excuses for the Church, the horrors it perpetuates, and the people who support them?

                If you feel uncomfortable asking the soft-spoken man why he pridefully throws his lot in with child rapists and mass murderers, that’s fine, I get it. But why on Earth the rush to defend him, to shield him from criticism, and to do everything possible to draw attention away from those who are asking him the hard questions?

                So long as it’s okay for nice people to be Catholic, the Church will merrily keep on raping children and massacring Africans. It’s only when the nice people wake up and realize what they’re enabling that the Church will become vulnerable to legal and governmental actions to stop their criminal organization, and the only way the nice people are going to wake up is if we rub their noses in the messes they’re making.

                When Catholics are afraid to let slip their Catholicism for fear of people asking them how many Africans they infected with AIDS today or how many children they helped rape, that’s when the Church’s reign of terror will be nigh — along, of course, with the Church itself in any recognizable form.

                We don’t make excuses for Neo-Nazis or Klansmen when they do good or nice things. Why should we for Catholics, especially the Catholics are the ones actively spreading AIDS in Africa and sheltering child rapists from prosecution? The Nazis and Klansmen are tame and ineffectual in comparison — barely even a blip on the radar.

                b&

              • Jesper Both Pedersen
                Posted December 1, 2013 at 1:21 am | Permalink

                I introduced the term legally because you asked me to define what I meant by “treating every catholic as a criminal”.

                Take a look at the thread and please point me to where I’m pretending that you want to imprison this guy, because I’d like to retract that statement then.

                You guys are accusing me of moving the goalposts, of being an apologetic and an accommodationist, of feeling morally superior and for being condescending towards women. I think that’s a bit over the top given what I’ve written in this thread, but as I said to Ben earlier, have at it.

                And I’ve never been accused of being a catholic enabler/apologist before, so forgive me while I find my footing in this new territory.

              • Posted December 1, 2013 at 4:01 am | Permalink

                It’s time to knock off this one-on-one discussion. It is, as usual, going nowhere, so please stop it. I’m serious, both of you.

    • Andrew Platt
      Posted December 2, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      Orion is spectacular, isn’t it?

      How could anyone look at a region where stars are being created by completely natural processes and have their belief in a creator God enhanced?

      • Posted December 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

        I think they can- and I do feel that way. Orion has led to countless generations of humans thinking all kinds of crazy things through the ages.

  9. Alex Shuffell
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    “…astronomy is not going to get you girls, didn’t work for me anyway…” I think this may have been a kind of joke, it was just a terrible as the rest of his piece.

    “{Astronomy] tells me something about who God is and how He creates and how He’s expecting me to relate to Him.” If it can tell us any of a Creators intentions the least it shows us is that we are insignificant. The vast size of the universe, the distances between anything and the many billions of years that it takes to get something like us tells us that the universe does not exist for us, or because of us. We are apart of it just as much as every other rock and tree and hydrogen atom. He should know a few different ways that our planet, or most of the life on it, can be so easily taken away, leaving no evidence that someone was here. This I see as cognitive dissonance, or maybe he really is that vain to believe it. He is a tourist sight seeing than an explorer trying to discover something new.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

      I think it didn’t work for him because he wasn’t using all the sly pick up lines referencing his big telescope. I mean you when you’re in the line of business that involves phallic symbols, you need to know how to take advantage of that! :D

      • Posted November 29, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

        My message to the good padre… issued in a sidelong stage whisper: “pssst. you might want to ditch the dress.”

        • Posted November 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

          …kilts excepted. Some chicks really go for a guy in a kilt.

  10. Alex Shuffell
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    I did a bit more Googling of him. He seems like a decent bloke. An interview with The Scotsman has a few great quotes from Consolmagno that I never expected to hear from anyone in the Vatican.

    “Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism”

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/world/creationism-dismissed-as-a-kind-of-paganism-by-vatican-s-astronomer-1-1116595

    And I like his name. It reminds me of the Consul the Chimpanzee, he was really cool.

    • pacopicopiedra
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      Keep religion away from superstition? That’s like saying keep the wind away from air.

      • Alex Shuffell
        Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        My mistake. I should have paid more attention to what he said instead of getting over excited by the unexpected quote. He is still the usual theistic type unsure of what he believes but able to say with full confidence of what he can’t explain. He says he needs science to keep religion close to reality, but probably not too close, he might start asking awkward questions and openly thinking about different explanations that don’t require magic. He does not like the idea of his god being a Pagan nature god, but in the original post he was all over his god creating the universe and seeing gods work in astronomy. That is still creationism, the universe is still nature.

  11. Sastra
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    “They want to know what are those stars, why are there stars, why are we here, what is this all about, where did we come from,” he explained.
    “This is what makes us more than just well fed cows and if you starve somebody from being able to ask those questions, you are denying them their humanity.”

    The Vatican astronomer is trotting out another deepity. A scientist can ask “what are those stars, why are there stars, why are we here, what is this all about, where did we come from?” And a scientist will eventually come up with purely mechanistic answers which have no relation to morals or meaning and they will still pronounce themselves satisfied. That’s what astronomy does. It looks up at the sky for answers about what is up in the sky.

    However, if you want to find out the meaning behind the stars — what they are trying to tell us – then you need to delve into that area of theological astronomy known as astrology. Astrology looks up at the sky for answers about ourselves.

    If the Vatican astronomer is not really trying to place astrology on a scientific footing — then what the hell could he be going on about? If science is going to help us answer our questions about God then we have to start with the first one: does God exist. Form your testable hypothesis or stfu.

    Let us be clear. We can never understand how the universe works by using our hearts. Our hearts tell us what makes us feel good, and how we’d like things to be—but not how things really are. The heart is notoriously bad at ferreting out the truth.

    Now you know damn well that Consolmagno is using another deepity here. By “the use of both our hearts and our brains to come to know how the universe works” he means using our CURIOSITY and intelligence. Our sense of WONDER and our intelligence. Our PASSION and our intelligence. Our COMMITMENT and our intelligence. Our LOVE of TRUTH and our intelligence.

    I mean gee, the way you put it here it’s like you think the Catholic apologist ONLY means that people have a super special method of intuition and hope called “faith” which allows them to ferret out the truth. But instead he means BOTH things. The reasonable one when someone criticizes him … and the unreasonable one when he’s speaking to the choir.

    Dishonest deepities are dishonest.

  12. Posted November 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    The religious musings simply destroy any credibility he might have as a scientist. Another accomodationist playing the “wide-eyed, childlike wonder” card: “It’s awesome, so it must be God!”

    And what’s with the petrographic microscope in the background? Is he looking for divine instructions in thin-sections of meteorites, or using the unholy oils to determine the Adversary’s index of refraction?

    • Alex
      Posted November 30, 2013 at 2:36 am | Permalink

      Well, he is the curator of the meteorite collection, so…

  13. John Dickinson
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Everytime I read one of your critiques of a religious burp such as the one critiqued here, I want to say “in other words, ‘bullshit'”. “Bullshit” would be as much as these things deserve, but, sadly, intelligent people have to sink their time into responding politely in order to keep the woo from polluting the world too much. I still think that the addition of “bullshit” assessments from the likes of me should be added to the more tolerant critiques.

  14. Richard Olson
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    Some minds interpret a feeling of deep harmony with Nature or the cosmos as a moment of “prayer”. I think its a natural tendency but one that is best outgrown. IMO it belongs to the childhood and early adolescence of the human race.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      I feel awe looking at objects in space, knowing how far away they are and that I’m looking into the past & realizing that the universe is really big.

      However, I don’t go the next step & think there is a god behind it. When the universe “looks” back at me, I see it as cold & apathetic. It’s just there & it’s lovely….that is all.

      Some religious people would call me broken for feeling that way.

  16. Greg Esres
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    (Philosopher Michael Ruse once did this by positing an “intergalactic Jesus” who traveled through the universe saving people left and right.)

    God was apparently content that the thousands of generations of humans before Jesus would go to hell, so it’s unlikely he exerted Himself to send another Jesus to any other intelligent species. They’re going to just have to wait until we get around to visiting them ourselves. As usual, mankind has to do the things that God was too lazy to do Himself.

  17. Posted November 29, 2013 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    To think about.

    https://www.google.fi/search?q=aliens+are+demons&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&rls

    Who are our ancestors?

    • Posted November 29, 2013 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

      Do you get snickered at a lot? Let me rephrase that… do you know you get snickered at a lot?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        I think we have a troll. yurki1000 is also posting stuff on the vaccine thread advocating vs. vaccines.

        • gbjames
          Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

          No doubt. Click on yurki1000’s gravitar.

        • Posted November 30, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

          Yep. Either that, or severely mentally ill. I hope its merely a troll, for its sake. I messed up and posted before “hovering” long enough to see the tangled web of disordered ramblings that could indicate either.

  18. Matt G
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    Well, better to see god through a telescope than on your plate at breakfast as you’re reaching for the jam.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

      Or watching your dog prepare to take a crap.

      • Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

        LOL – I was thinkin of Jebus on a doggy butt too – a classic pareidolia

  19. Brian
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Brother Guy Consolmagno is from Detroit not Argentina. Or so says Wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Consolmagno

  20. Posted November 29, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    …“we are really all in this field of astronomy for the same reasons.”

    This is another way theists try to deal with the existence of atheists, aside from claiming we’re joyless robots. Theists who recognize we’re not joyless robots explain this by claiming we’re not really atheists. Wonder and emotion and an appreciation of beauty can only. One from god. When I’m moved by a symphony, I’m actually worshipping god. If only I’d admit this to myself.

    What arrogance.

    • Posted November 29, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      …can only come from…

      (I swear it was correct before I hit post. It’s almost enough to make me believe in spooks.)

      • Matt G
        Posted November 30, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

        You are using an iPad, are you not?

        • Posted November 30, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

          iPhone 5s.

          Is that a thing w Apple products?

          • Matt G
            Posted November 30, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

            You hit the space bar twice quickly instead of space bar followed by the letter C (which you intended to do). Hitting the space bar twice quickly inserts a period and a space, which is a shortcut for ending a sentence.

            • Posted November 30, 2013 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

              Ah. Yes, I’m familiar with the space bar double-tap. It happens accidentally much more frequently with the 5 than it did with my 4, for some reason. But because it happens more frequently, I’m usually more careful about proofreading when I type things on my phone. I really could’ve sworn nothing was wrong when I hit post. Just goes to show how easily mistaken we humans can be, I guess.

  21. cherrybombsim
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

    I think you’re being way too harsh with your assessment of this guy. He has his chops in Astronomy, and he understands perfectly well that not everyone shares his faith in the Deity, and he is basically cool with that. Everybody in science carries some ideological baggage with him or her, the ones that are really annoying are the ones who let it go to their head and think they know everything.

    • Notagod
      Posted November 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      No, he wants to inflict everyone with his gods, for instance:

      the brother observed that this experience of wonder at creation speaks about man’s constant search for God, because “this is something human beings do, this is something human beings ask about.”

      What disappoints me is how many people can so easily forget or excuse the harm to societies caused by god fantasies.

      • Notagod
        Posted November 30, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

        The last paragraph is mine and I shouldn’t have indented it as part of the quote from the article.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 30, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      He does seem like a nice fellow but I think what he says is worthy of disagreement. Sam Harris says it best:

      Moderates do not want to kill anyone in the name of their God, but they want us to keep using the word “God” as though we knew what we were talking about. And they do not want anything too critical said about people who really believe in the God of their fathers, because tolerance, perhaps above all else, is sacred. To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world – to say, for instance, that The Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish – is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it. But we can no longer afford the luxury of such political correctness. We must finally recognize the price we are paying to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.

      Harris, Sam. “Reason in Exile.” The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2004. 22-23.

  22. jakc
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    According to female friends who attended Jesuit colleges, apparently Jesuits are the one order of priests who can date.

    • Matt G
      Posted November 30, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      How far can they go?

      • Posted December 11, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        That depends on whether or not the have a car and if so how much gas they can afford …

        /@

  23. Peter Ozzie Jones
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    From the award winning cosmologist Sean M. Carroll, 2003:

    “Why (Almost All) Cosmologists are Atheists”

    http://preposterousuniverse.com/writings/nd-paper/

  24. Posted November 30, 2013 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Because he wants to see god; it makes him feel better.

  25. MorsGotha
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    Prof Ceiling cat states: “His appearance reminds me of someone, but I can’t put my finger on who.”

    He immediately reminded me of Rowan Willams, the old archbishop of canterbury.

    • Posted November 30, 2013 at 5:11 am | Permalink

      I was thinking a younger Billy Connolly with a Herman Munster ‘do.

      • Robert Bray
        Posted November 30, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        Prof. Coyne himself?

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 14, 2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink

          No way.

  26. wnwd
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 3:40 am | Permalink

    “There’s no evidence that the astronomer, Brother Guy Consolmagno, is disturbed in the least.” …umm, really?

    • Notagod
      Posted November 30, 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      cognitive dissonance
      n. Psychology
      A condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions, such as opposing the slaughter of animals and eating meat.

      The “Bro” isn’t even aware that he’s got gum in his brain gears. Though, Grania is correct in the assessment that Consolmagno’s brain functioning is strongly below optimal and should be experiencing cognitive dissonance.

      • Notagod
        Posted November 30, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

        I’m not certain if the condition needs to be recognized by the sufferer to be considered a psychological condition. Is the presence of the conflict enough or does the sufferer need to have the ability to recognize it?

        • Matt G
          Posted November 30, 2013 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

          I always thought that being in denial of having contradictory views was part and parcel of cognitive dissonance.

  27. Kurt Helf
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    I was thinking he looked like former Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson with a beard.

  28. sailor1031
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    “Perhaps he thinks that Catholicism gives answers,”

    No he knows that catholicism gives the answers.

    “but then what about the divergent “answers” provide by other faiths?”

    They are wrong.

    “And if it’s an important part of being human to recognize the Creator God, then, well, I guess that most of us here aren’t human.”

    We already know we are “less than human” having been explicitly told so by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor.

  29. Kevin
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    “a name that caused me genuine cognitive dissonance.”…that is funny. Names are overrated, it is the person that matters and there is at least one Coyne who is awesome.

  30. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 2, 2013 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    “His appearance reminds me of someone, but I can’t put my finger on who. Maybe George Clooney with glasses?”

    I was going to say, “Maybe Jerry Coyne with a beard” ;)

  31. Posted December 2, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I wonder how old the Vatican meteorite collection is …

    As for this hapless fellow, I really feel sorry for him, in a way, because people like that often get trapped. Something like, they only know one way to get through school, or to help people the way they want, and then they are, in order to keep doing what they want to do (science, informal social work, etc.) they have to keep “in the cloth”.

  32. johnqpublic1
    Posted December 11, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Here is where the dialog will ultimately lead if done in honesty. Pretty much where the dialog started 500 years ago:

    • Posted December 11, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

      “We seem to find ourselves in part of the Universe that is perfectly tuned for life.”

      But how could it be otherwise?! (Leaving aside definitions of “perfectly” for now. ;-) )

      /@

      • Posted December 14, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

        How about “we are the only life in the entire universe” Tegmark

        • Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          How would Tegmark know such a thing?

          /@

          • Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

            A fair question. I do not know the detailed answer. He thinks that if there are other civs out there, their signals would have reached us by now. It would be too convenient that we would be the first to form (and keep the Copernican Principle intact which is his goal).All the other planets we have found do not seem hospitable. Etc. Just my third hand understanding and speculation.

            • Posted December 15, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

              Seems to me that Tegmark doesn’t have even an academic grasp on the scale of the Universe. (I won’t hold it against him that he doesn’t have an intuitive grasp; human minds just aren’t wired like that.)

              Specifically, human civilization has been broadcasting radio waves for less than a century. The earliest signals were damned weak. None of our broadcasts have been bright enough to be detectable past an hundred light years or so, and that’s just a thousandth of the way to the other side of our galaxy. For quite some time, now, our radio emissions have been decreasing as they’ve become more efficient and as we’ve moved to copper and fiber for all but the last short hops. We’re already well past peak radio emissions. Call it a century that we’ll be detectable to others in a bubble a light-century across, if you want to be generous…and that’s literally less than a single drop of rain in the ocean for the entire history of the Earth by comparison.

              Interstellar travel is right out; it’d take the entire energy budget of the whole civilization for a year to get a schoolbus-sized ship to our nearest star in a decade. Colonization isn’t economically feasible until you’re exhausting your own star’s resources, and doing so would likely require physically impossible feats of engineering. Worse, thanks to exponential growth, a species that did start colonizing the stars…well, if the intervals between the establishment of new colonies were as long as human civilization has existed, if they got started about the same time as the dinosaurs went extinct, they’d have already overrun the entire galaxy.

              Just our galaxy alone is far more than big enough that there could trivially be a million or more civilizations comparable to ours happily doing their thing right this very moment, and not a single one of us will ever be physically capable of detecting any others.

              And that’s just our own galaxy….

              Once you start to comprehend just how big the Universe is in both time and space, the fact that we haven’t spotted any other travelers on this deserted stretch of highway even though we’ve been driving for almost an hour already isn’t at all surprising. The notion that we can extrapolate from that to a claim of uniqueness is even more hubristically absurd than earlier claims of geocentricism.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted December 15, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

                Much of what you say makes sense, and I surely cannot talk for Tegamrk. You say our signals have barely reached 100 light years, Granted. But what are the chances we were the first considering a naturalistic universe? Unlikely. Thus the allusion to the Copernican Principle. More likely under those circumstances earlier civilizations started 100s of millions of years before us, and their signals would have reached far into the universe by now. Also signals in the CMB make geocentrism a real possibility.

              • Posted December 15, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

                But that’s just it. At an hundred light years, the signals are already so dim as to be basically undetectable. A million times that and you’re way past homeopathic territory.

                (This is just basic inverse-square geometry. Shine a flashlight in your eye from a few inches away. Look straight at it from across the room. Look straight at it from the other side of the street. Look at it from the top of that distant mountain.)

                And what signals in the CMB? It’s one of the most homogenous phenomenon in human experience. Sure, we have maps of the fluctuations therein, but only because we’ve developed incredibly sensitive equipment specially developed just to detect those fluctuations. And it’s exactly the type of distribution predicted by modern cosmology, especially the Big Bang and Inflation.

                Plus, the fluctuations we do observe in the CMB are on a scale so massive that the Milky Way is less than a drop of water in the ocean. That’s absolutely not the result of any sort of intelligence; minds simply don’t operate at even the least insignificant fraction of those scales — the speed of light sees to that.

                Cheers,

                b&

  33. Posted December 16, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Ben-

    “the fluctuations we do observe in the CMB are on a scale so massive that the Milky Way is less than a drop of water in the ocean”

    True, and the earth even tinier yet. BUT the noise in the CMB is aligned to our equinoxes (quadrapole/octopole) and equator (dipole- no longer attributable to peculiar motion). THIS is spectacular! And it is reinforces with other independent observations of the same alignments.

    I understand the argument about radio signals. We should at least be able to concude there is no other intelligent life forms in our galaxy (at least not at or above our level).

    • Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      First, I don’t know what you mean by “noise” in the CMB.

      But I can hazard a few guesses.

      I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that whoever has drawn the “OMG! Cosmic alignment focussed on us!” conclusions was not one of the original researchers. And I’ll bet you more dollars to more donuts that the original researchers would dismiss those conclusions as, “Not even worng.”

      Continuing the bets…well, anything that’s aligned with the Earth is also aligned with the ecliptic. And you wouldn’t believe the sources of noise associated with the ecliptic. You can actually see some with your own eyes: the Zodiacal Light is the dust in the plane of the Solar System, and, in the right conditions the Sun lights it up halfway across the sky long after dark. It’s a tapering triangle pointing away from the Sun. (You do, of course, need clear, dark skies to see it.)

      Other sources of noise in the ecliptic include the Sun, the solar wind, the magnetic fields of the other planets, the Earth’s magnetic field, and our own constellation of artificial moons. Oh — and the Oort cloud, too. All of that stuff is equally aligned with the Earth, and all of it is making noisy emissions up and down the spectrum, especially in the single-digit-Kelvin range.

      My last bet would be that the original researchers would attribute whatever it is that you’re calling “noise” to one of those types of effects, even if they can’t (yet) identify exactly which one.

      And we most emphatically should not conclude that we are alone in the galaxy. A civilization exactly parallel to our own a mere hundred light years away would almost certainly escape our detection, and us theirs. And that’s not even a tenth of a percent of the way to the other side of the galaxy! Worse, a civilization on the same trajectory as ours that’s only a century older could easily escape our attention if they’re as close as 50 light years away, and they might not yet have noticed us, either.

      Civilization is big and important to us, but it’s literally a candle in the Sun. You’re not going to even notice it unless you’re right on top of it.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        Keep in mind that the CMB measurements are not alone in correlating to our ecliptic and equator. Other independent observations also correlate, and some of them are unquestioningly outside the potential influence of galactic contamination (i.e., galaxy rotations or handedness). Also, our equatorial plane’s angle relative to the sun’s orbital plane is unique, and the correlations are not in a statistically significant manner to mars or venus for instance.

        And as for noise, I think the subject of this article suffices (CMB multipoles). ;)

        • Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

          Sorry the article is not about CMB multipoles, but this is what I meant about noise. It is clearly not noise, but rather a signal.

        • Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          If you’re claiming that the significance is of the CMB’s mysterious alignment not merely with the ecliptic but with Earth’s equator…well, sorry. That doesn’t even pass the sniff test. Precession alone has that changing on a 26,000-year cycle.

          You’re suffering from cosmic pareidolia.

          Sorry.

          b&

  34. Posted December 16, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    At this moment the dipole is statistically correlated to the equator as are quasar polarization distributions. You are making a lot of assumptions.


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