Brother Guy Consolmagno of the Vatican Observatory spoke yesterday afternoon at St. Thomas More, Yale’s Catholic chapel. His lecture, entitled “The Universe: Who’s Responsible for this Mess — Free Will and the Anthropic Principle,” is part of the second annual Thomas E. Golden Jr. Fellowship in Faith and Science.
Consolmagno, the author of “Brother Astronomer: The Adventures of a Vatican Scientist,” has worked at the Vatican Observatory since 1993. After arriving on campus yesterday, Consolmagno has attended various events around campus with students, faculty and alumni. His visit will conclude tonight.
The Golden Fellowship, which is one of several offered by St. Thomas More, highlights the chapel’s capital campaign to build a new 30,000-square-foot student center.
“The intellectual progams at St. Thomas More complement its spiritual progams to model for the University how faith-filled intellectual discourse can have the same legitimacy and credibility as any of Yale’s departments,” said Matthew Wrather ’02, an associate in the chaplain’s office who helped coordinate Consolmagno’s visit.
Consolmagno began his lecture with a discussion of the methodology and basic ideas of science.
“Science, like philosophy, can be defined as humankind’s attempts to understand itself and its place in the universe,” he said. But Consolmagno added that theories can be “perfectly logical, perfectly reasonable, and perfectly wrong — There’s nothing in science that can’t later be changed by new data.”
Consolomagno then moved on to explain the anthropic principle — the idea that an all-powerful God must exist because the odds that a life-supporting universe would come into being are so low.
He contrasted the antropic principle with two other explanations of the universe — Newtonian physics and quantum physics.
“But all these explanations are missing something,” Consolmagno said.
All three explanations fail to account for human free will, he explained.
“Existence of free will is proof that traditional science does not trump everything,” Consolmagno said. “Science cannot even begin to handle the existence of free-will choices.”
Psychiatry professor John Young said he was impressed by the talk because Consolmagno acknowledged a wide range of opinions.
“I enjoyed it very much and I thought that he embraced a wide range of perspectives and focused it on questions that are important to everbody,” Young said. “He inspired us to understand how our faith can be integrated with science and gave strength and joy to that process of integration.”
Mary Hollis ’06 said she enjoyed the lecture because of its accessibility.
“It was very easy to understand even though I have limited scientific knowledge,” Hollis said.
Consolmagno’s visit continues today with a lecture at the Peabody Museum and a final prayer service tonight at the chapel.
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