Sunday the 11th of April

...to the ends of the earth

“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Pope’s stargazer visits Scotland

The pope’s stargazer is set to attend a series of events in Scotland, aimed at exploring the evidence for God’s existence.

Br Guy Consolmagno an American research astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory was due to arrive in Scotland today after he accepted an invitation to attend a series of events organised by the interdenominational Grasping the Nettle (GTN).

GTN is backed by Scottish church leaders and promotes dialogue on how faith and science can work together.

In advance of his visit, Br Consolmagno, a Jesuit religious brother, who is also a theologian and an acclaimed orator said: “I am thrilled to be coming to Scotland to participate in the ‘Grasping the Nettle’ programme. It’s so important to dialogue with students and the general public, of all faiths and sciences, how faith enhances our science and science our faith. Both seek truth, and find it in joy.”

GTN exists to offer the public the opportunity to test the hypothesis that the Christian explanation of existence makes far more sense than the atheist view that the sheer wonder and complexity of our existence is a result of us being favoured by multiple throws of a cosmic dice.

Br Consolmagno said: “The claim that somehow a scientist must be atheist is a holdover from the Victorian idea of materialism. But consider the 19th century physicist James Clerk Maxwell, whose famous equations led to the overthrow of that misconception and opened the door to modern physics. He was a man of deep faith; and, of course, a Scotsman. I am honoured to visit the land of his birth.”

Br Consolmagno will give a number of academic talks and will also attend schools conferences during his four day visit.

Ahead of this week’s visit, Very Rev John Chalmers, Former Church of Scotland Moderator and Ambassador at Large for GTN said: “Those of us who are a part of GTN believe that the search for God is not incompatible with holding a deep respect for science and its success in helping us to understand our place in the physical universe. We are searching for meaning and purpose and as well as exploring our inner space we find inspiration in outer space.”

The Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh Leo Cushley said: “Br Guy Consolmagno is a high profile example of one whose work combines matters of science and matters of God, demonstrating once more that there is absolutely no inherent conflict between scientific understanding and belief in a creator; the more we know about science, the more we see the imprint of a creator. That we have a Jesuit speaking at an event hosted by the interdenominational body Grasping the Nettle underscores the commitment of the Church in Scotland to speak with one voice on the issue of science and God.”

GTN chairman the former Church of Scotland Moderator, Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison, said: “The current secularist narrative in our society is that belief in God in an age of science can only be for the feeble minded. Having an erudite astronomer, who is also a man of faith, visit us helps underscore the fundamental message of Grasping the Nettle: at the Christian interpretation of our existence makes the best sense of the big questions that lie behind it.”

GTN challenges the idea that increasing scientific knowledge implies that science and religion are in conflict, that we have outgrown the need for God, and that all questions of importance can only be answered by science.

Scottish Church leaders are convinced of the need for an informed and respectful dialogue on ‘the Science/God issue’, in which we learn respectfully about scientific questions from scientific experts but also recognise that science in itself does not answer the ultimate questions of existence.

GTN invites the whole nation to examine the ways in which the contemporary sciences are complementary with or indeed part of an integrated whole with a theistic understanding of life and aims to transform the public understanding of the issues at the heart of the “science-God debate”.

Professor John Spence, Chairman, Search for Truth Charitable Trust said: “GTN is an ecumenical movement by Scottish Churches to inform all concerned that modern science does not lead to atheism. The visit of a high-profile guest such as Dr Consolmagno at the invitation of the ecumenical GTN demonstrates to both Church and society that Christians really can sing from the same proverbial hymn sheet.”

GTN’s resources include the international TV series ‘The God Question’ – used widely in the UK but also across the world. The TV versions have been broadcast in more than 20 countries, largely on mainstream television.

Previous GTN events have featured international experts from Norway, Spain and the USA as well as internationally known speakers from the UK.

Br Consolmagno will visit from today, Tuesday 29th October, to Sunday 3rd November.

He will give a talk at Glasgow University on the ‘Adventures of a Vatican Astronomer on 30th October at 2:30pm at Glasgow University Memorial Chapel, Glasgow. The event is being run in association with the Presbytery of Glasgow.

The same evening he will address the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow on 30th October at 7:30pm in John Anderson Lecture Theatre, Strathclyde University, Glasgow.

On 31st October, he will be at St Bride’s Hall, Motherwell, for a Schools Conference in Lanarkshire being run in association with the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES). Later that day he will give a talk at the Institute of Physics Talk on ‘Strange Cosmologies’ at 6:30pm at Boyd Orr Building, Lecture Theatre 222, Glasgow University, Glasgow.

On 1st November, there will be a Schools Conference in Angus at Grove Academy, Broughty Ferry. This event is being run in association with Christian Values in Education Scotland (CVE) And later at the Dundee Science Centre will give an Illustrated Talk – Discarded Images: The History of Strange Ideas (including God?)

He will also attend the major event of the weekend, the GTN National Conference on 2nd November, held in Heriot-Watt University.

Picture: Br Guy Consolmagno.