Two Vatican Astronomers: A Twitterscript

Trent Gilliss, online editor

Two Jesuits who work at the Vatican ObservatoryBrother Guy Consolmagno, curator of meteorites, and Father George Coyne, its former director (whom you might recognize from his appearance in Bill Maher’s Religulous) — have been on our interview list for years. Yesterday, Krista was finally able to interview them, together, from a recording studio in Arizona. These two astronomers had a great dynamic between them and have a bit of different perspective from most of the “hard” scientists — usually physicists — we have spoken to over the years. Oh, and they have great sense of humor, as you can see in the video to the right of Br. Consolmagno’s appearance on The Colbert Report.

We’ll start producing this interview while Krista’s out on tour speaking about her new book, and we can’t wait to release this program! In the meantime, Colleen and I tweeted some of the lines that struck our ears. A transcript of our Twitter stream:

  1. For the next 90 minutes, tweets from Krista’s interview w/ two Vatican Observatory astronomers: Fr. George Coyne and Br. Guy Consolmagno.
  2. Milky Way
  3. 68 degrees in Arizona. They’re rubbing it in since it is frigid today in Minnesota.
  4. Fr. George is a Jesuit who grew up in Baltimore. Tells a great story about a priest who hooked him up w/ books from the Reading, PA library.
  5. Br. Guy grew up in Detroit and transferred to MIT when he discovered they had the largest science fiction collection!
  6. Br. Guy joined Peace Corps b/c he “couldn’t see the point of studying stars when people are suffering.” Realized that all people love stars.
  7. Fr. Coyne: if all we do is feed and clothe people, we’re all going to be naked; what really makes us human is music, the arts, science…
  8. Br. Guy: you don’t find answers to theological ?s by looking through a telescope; you don’t go to the Bible to find answers to science.
  9. Fr. George: “the God of religious faith is a lover.”
  10. Moonset
  11. Fr. George: “My understanding of the universe does not need God. I don’t need God in my science.”
  12. Br. Guy Consolmagno: “The tragedy of Haiti is the tragedy of death. … There isn’t any answer to that.”
  13. Fr. George Coyne, astronomer: “To limit our human experience to scientific knowledge is to impoverish all of us.”
  14. Br. Guy Consolmagno, on seismic and cosmic activity in the creation of life: “The climate will change. … The Earth is not a paradise.”
  15. Fr. George Coyne: “To have faith is an extreme risk. ‘Rock of Ages’ is a nice hymn but…”
  16. Br. Guy Consolmagno: “We know our understanding of the universe is incomplete; our understanding of God is incomplete.”
  17. Br. Guy Consolmagno: “You have to experience something before you can react to it.”
  18. Fr. George Coyne, an astronomer on his science: “It’s exciting to be ignorant.”
  19. Fr. George Coyne, when he presents papers at scientific conferences: “I’m not dressed as a priest. It just confuses things.” Funny moment.
  20. The Vatican Observatory is staffed by all Jesuits, except one diocesan priest. But the observatory was not founded by the Jesuit Order.
  21. Visuale Orion
  22. 4 Jesuits have asteroids named after them: Xavier, Loyola, and the 2 chaps Krista is interviewing: Fr. George Coyne + Br. Guy Consolmagno
  23. Br Guy on Galileo: why is it that 400 years later he’s symbol of science religion clash when that’s not what it was about at his time?
  24. Br Guy: Don’t just learn science from reading Newton & Galileo, but also from Plato, Shakespeare, and scripture
  25. Br. Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit astronomer: “Truth can sometimes only be expressed in a poetry.”
  26. Fr Coyne: language of universe is math; it’s a tool to understand beauty; we absract to understand
  27. Br Guy: Being able to do science is trying to understand how God plays with us
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