Would You Baptize an Extra- terrestrial? G. Consolmagno
Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?: ….
and Other Questions from the Astronomers’
In-box at the Vatican Observatory
Witty and thought provoking, two Vatican astronomers shed provocative light on some of the strange places where religion and science meet.
“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.
Pope Francis posed that question – without insisting on an answer! – to provoke deeper reflection about inclusiveness and diversity in the Church. But it’s not the first time that question has been asked.
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? they explore a variety of questions at the crossroads of faith and reason: How do you reconcile the The Big Bang with Genesis? 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?
With disarming humor, Brother Guy and Father Paul explore these questions and more over the course of six days of dialogue. Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial will make you laugh, make you think, and make you reflect more deeply on science, faith, and the nature of the universe.
©2014 Guy Sj Consolmagno and Paul Sj Mueller (P)2014 Random House Audio
“Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?” is an example of how both of these interests can merge together in one book without contradicting each other. Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller are two highly educated researchers for the Vatican Observatory who take on some of the most common questions related to their work and theology which they have encountered over the course of their careers.
The book takes the format of a conversation between the two men over six days, where each day has a specific question as its focus. The first question on the Big Bang versus Genesis (my favorite chapter from the book) is a chance to share that God is the author of Nature and the Bible, and that a person should not freak out when Science and the Bible seem not to be harmonious. Science and the Bible look at life from different angles with different purposes. The chapter on Pluto focuses on the demotion of the planet, as well as information about the galaxy. The Galileo question is one steeped in history which expounds upon how his work influenced modern science and thought. The Star of Bethlehem chapter is a discussion about the possibility for miracles and a scientific explanation on unexplained spatial and natural phenomena. The End of the World question is a chance to talk about the potential of life ending via meteor while at the same time encouraging people to embrace life given and not wait to be “spirited away to another world.” The title chapter discusses the possibility of life in other parts of the Universe while not minimizing OR maximizing our “specialness” on Earth.
There are some great nuggets of insight in this book. One of my favorite lines from the book comes early when Mueller discusses the need for the “faith in the ultimate unity of truth” (p. 54). There are other profound moments throughout the book. The writers use Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner as an extended metaphor throughout the book, which seems to work. A reader with a curiosity about how faith and science can be in harmony would enjoy this book.
At times I felt like someone without basic background knowledge on the various topics in the book might end up confused, lost, or disinterested. I at times I lost interest throughout the book trying to follow some of the writers’ extended object lessons and wanted them to get to the point quicker. The hardest part for me in reading the book was the “dialogue” format in the text where the writing bounces back and forth between the authors.
“Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?” is a good book for an example for how to respectfully discourse both religion and science. For all the things about it I am not to crazy over, there are just as many good and enjoyable moments. This book should be worth considering for reading if the person considering it enjoys a good, well-balanced conversation.
***I received my copy of this book for free through the Blogging for Books program. I was not obligated to post a positive review; the opinions in this review are my own.***
About – Ever tried to rectify science and religion? Wondered about genesis vs. the Big Bang? How about what was going to happen when the world ends? Or even the question Pope Francis asked, would you baptize and extraterrestrial? Fr. Guy Consolmagono and Fr. Paul Mueller, priests, work for the Vatican Observatory, and have degrees in science, are asked these questions and more which they now present in this book. To help explain, they write as if they are having a conversation together in various locations (from art galleries to Antarctica). They talk science and religion and how they don’t compete with each other even if they don’t always seems to agree. Yet, God created both and they both share important truths of our world and Heavenly Father.
Personal Opinion – Like most Catholics (or Christians for that matter) I have heard the arguments on science vs. religion before which is why I was interested in this book. I might have wanted a way to show how religion is true and science can prove it when I started this book (which the authors warn against) and learned some interesting things (such as the Vatican has an observatory and astronomers! 😉 ). The idea of using conversation style writing and locations was intriguing in the beginning and seemed like it would help explain the science and religion is similar forms so it might be more understandable. But, it got awkward pretty quick. It didn’t seem to be used as effectively as it could and, on occasion, the authors got on tangents on the location for a couple of sentences that felt like the chapter was going off topic for no good reason. I struggle with science so that didn’t help me and the explanations seemed long winded and over done. To a scientist, everything was probably necessary and it was pretty much understandable but overwhelming. I could only read so much at a time and then needed a break, yet, at the same time, I felt like if I kept reading everything would come together clearer. I did appreciate what they were trying to do. This book I would recommend to someone who understands science more than me, even borrow them the book. But, someone who struggles with science, I would tell them about the book but hesitate in giving it to them.
Disclaimer – In exchange for an honest review, I received this book for free from the publisher through Blogging for Books.