“Imagine if a Martian showed up, all big ears and big nose like a child’s drawing, and he asked to be baptized. How would you react?” – Pope Francis, May, 2014
Brother Guy Consolmagno and Father Paul Mueller hear questions like that all the time. They’re scientists at the Vatican Observatory, the official astronomical research institute of the Catholic Church.
In Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? (Image, Oct. 7, 2014) they explore a variety of questions at the crossroads of faith and reason, and show how science and religion can have different but complementary ways of looking at the same issue.
“This book is about what it’s like when science encounters faith on friendly, mutually respectful terms,” writes Mueller.
Although the authors are serious scientists, the book is written for an audience of educated laypeople who are interested in both science and religion, and how each operates in our society.
“We simply want to share with you the joy and hope— and fun— that we find in doing science and living faith,” writes Mueller referring to his goal for the book. “We hope that our hope and joy will be contagious!”
Written in the form of a dialogue, the book takes place over the course of six conversations between the two authors. The six conversations are meant to recreate the sorts of conversations the authors have had with each other, with other Jesuits, and with people they’ve met through their work.
In answering those questions, the authors dispel the assumption that science and faith must be at odds with one another.
“Science and religion have common historical roots—the war between them (if there is one) has not been eternal,” notes Consolmagno. “And many people who do science are also religious. At least for them—as for the two of us—religion and science are not at war at all.”
“Paul and I are very fortunate,” Consolmagno writes. “We get to live and work with a group of Jesuit scientists who take both science and faith very seriously. We all work together in the lab, but we also pray together in the chapel. In our daily lives, we don’t feel any particular conflict or tension between science and faith.”
6 questions that are addressed in the book:
- How do you reconcile The Big Bang with Genesis?
- What happened recently when astronomers debated the status of Pluto as a planet?
- Was the Star of Bethlehem just a pious religious story or an actual description of astronomical events?
- What really went down between Galileo and the Catholic Church – and why do the effects of that confrontation still reverberate to this day?
- Will the Universe come to an end?
- And… could you really baptize an extraterrestrial?
About the Authors
BROTHER GUY CONSOLMAGNO, SJ was born in Detroit, Michigan, earned undergraduate and masters’ degrees in Earth and Planetary Sciences from MIT (in 1974 and 1975), and a Ph. D. in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona in 1978. He worked as a post-doctoral fellow and lecturer at Harvard University’s Department of Astronomy, and MIT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences; served in the US Peace Corps, teaching physics at the University of Nairobi; and was a physics professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, before entering the Jesuits as a brother in 1989. At the Vatican Observatory since 1993, his research explores connections between meteorites, asteroids, and the evolution of small solar system bodies. In July of 2014, he was awarded the Carl Sagan Medal for outstanding communication by an active planetary scientist to the general public from the American Astronomical Society.
FATHER PAUL R. MUELLER, SJ is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. He attended a Jesuit high school and earned a degree in physics at Boston University before entering the Society of Jesus in 1982. As part of his Jesuit training, he earned masters’ degrees in divinity, philosophy, and theology, along the way developing an interest in religion-science issues. After being ordained a priest in 1993, he attended the University of Chicago, where he completed a fourth master’s degree (in physics) and a doctorate in the history and philosophy of science through the interdisciplinary program in Conceptual Historical Studies of Science. He served as professor of philosophy at Loyola University Chicago from 2004 until 2009.
For more information, visit ImageCatholicBooks.com
To request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Brother Guy Consolmagno or Father Paul Mueller, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, firstname.lastname@example.org, 719-268-1936.