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Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist [Paperback]

Guy Consolmagno , Brother Guy Consolmagno
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Feb. 12 2001 Adventures of a Vatican Scientist
¿[A] brilliant defense of science¿s place in the religious life (and vice versa).¿¿Publisher¿s Weekly Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno¿s moving and intellectually playful memoir of a life lived in the active interplay of science and religion is now available in a handsome paperback edition. Blending memoir, science, history, and theology, Consolmagno takes us on a grand adventure. We revisit the infamous ¿Galileo affair¿ and see that it didn¿t unfold in quite the way we thought. We get a rare glimpse into the world of working scientists and see how scientific discoveries are proposed and advanced. We learn the inside story of the ¿Mars meteorite¿: how can we be sure it¿s really from Mars, and why can¿t scientists agree on whether or not it contains evidence of life? Brother Astronomer memorably sets forth one scientist¿s conviction that the universe may be worth studying only if it is the work of a Creator God.

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From Publishers Weekly

It's the last two words of its subtitle that will arouse interest in this amiable book--and deservedly so. Like other Jesuit scientists before him, most notably Teilhard de Chardin, Consolmagno conveys well a passion for science wed to faith in God: two objects of devotion that, as Consolmagno realizes, many see as mutually exclusive. The triumph of his book is its persuasive argument that doing science can be a religious act--"that studying creation is a way of worshipping the creator." Regrettably, that triumph is confined to only a minor portion of the text, which overall, despite its other merits, has a ragtag feel, with Consolmagno moving from a look at his monastic-scientist's routine to discussions of his specialty, the study of meteorites; a history of Galileo's problems with the Church; a mini-autobiography; and Consolmagno's experiences hunting meteorites in Antarctica. And, in fact, the final chapter reveals that much of the book consists of reworked versions of the author's past talks and papers. Other than the brilliant defense of science's place in the religious life (and vice versa), no section of the book excels, though all are serviceable. The hard science discussions are elegant but rather technical; the Antarctic narrative, while enjoyable enough, lacks the alert wordsmithery of the practiced storyteller; and some of Consolmagno's statements, such as that all of Western science's achievements result "from the Incarnation," are so bald as to deny anyone but a devout Christian any grip. Even so, the book works, and well, for Consolmagno is a charming writer, witty, self-deprecating and, above all, genuine. There's not a whit of posturing in his words, but, instead, a sincerity and enthusiasm that are consistently congenial and infectious. 60,000 first printing; author tour. (Mar.) FYI: Brother Astronomer launches McGraw-Hill's ambitious new trade science program, which in the year 2000 will publish books by, among others, Ellen J. Prager, Alan Lightman and Joel de Rosnay.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Consolmagno, a Jesuit brother for the past ten years, has spent 25 years as an astronomer. He is now at the Vatican Observatory, where he curates one of the largest meteorite collections in the world. Consolmagno's book is an uneven mix of memoir, science, and religion; four large sections cover meteorites and comets, the perceived rift between science and theology, his life's path leading up to the decision to join the Jesuits, and his recent participation in a scientific mission to the Antarctic. The threads connecting these disparate topics are clear, deft writing and a mind at home with science and faith. However the four sections, while interesting in themselves (the last one on Antarctica is especially wonderful), do not make a cohesive whole. In addition, parts of the text were conference presentations or previously published articles, adding to the book's cut-and-paste feel. Recommended for larger collections.
-Michael D. Cramer, Cigna Healthcare, Raleigh, NC
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
MY FIRST reaction on arriving at the Specola Vaticana-the Vatican Observatory-was one of stunned astonishment. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A delightful romp June 25 2004
Format:Hardcover
Brother Astronomer is a delightful romp into the life of a joyful and spirit-filled man. Brother Guy exemplifies the bridging of the purported gap between faith and science; in his writing and his life and his combination of these two vocations he belies the simplistic and all-too glib pronouncements so many trot out about the rift between science and religion. Whether you come to this book from the religous or scientific side, read it with an open mind and heart, the way it was written.
Brother Guy writes with considerable insight and frankness, and will certainly make some people most uncomfortable as he demonstrates some convincing parallels betweeen science and religion. Those who quickly dismiss his comments on this similarity simply reveal that they were ready to do so a priori, even before opening the pages of this book. He handles science and religion in an even-handed, balanced and refreshingly gentle manner, and I admire his intellectual and spiritual integrity, how he never forgets there is one truth underlying everything, and that this truth will be what it is, and not simply what we want it to be.
His book is undoubted going to be equally unacceptable to both scientific as well as religious fundamentalists, two groups which possess in common a remarkable ignorance of both religion and science.
As a professional academic scientist and believer in God who has never had any problem reconciling the two equally profound sides of my life, I may be prejudiced in my approach to this book. But I don't think so. So set your judgementalness aside when you pick up Brother Astronomer. Read it, enjoy it, go with the flow of the book and take delight in the time you spend with this delightful man.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Book from an Interesting Man July 28 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
In "Brother Astronomer", Br. Guy Consolmagno describes his life and views as a Jesuit brother who is also a professional astronomer. In this book, the author (who is also the author of "Turn Left at Orion", a highly regarded handbook for amateur astronomers) covers a number of topics: how science is done, the interaction between science and religion, the often-positive role the Cathollic Church has played in the history of science, and an expedition the author made to Antarctics to gather meteriorites. The parts do not always mesh well, which is why I gave it only four of five stars; however, individual chapters are quite good. For example, the opening chapter, which traces a problem in planetary science as a case study of how science is done, would be well worth showing to any teenager who is interested in science; while the chapter on religion and science will be of interest to anyone who has an open mind on the issue of whether "Jerusalem" can have anything to do with "Athens". Well worth reading; highly recommended.
By the way, my wife and I have had the pleasure of hearing Br. Guy speak at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago on several occasions; if you get a chance to hear him speak in person, you won't be disappointed.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A Living Example of the Science-Religion Conflict June 20 2000
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Consolmagno is a good writer and has produced an entertaining account of his "adventures" as a participator in both the world of science and religion. However, even pleasant reading should contain well reasoned thinking from someone calling himself a scientist. On this account his book fails to address or justify several premises he presents. One major pronouncement in the book that "science and religion are not all that different" is indeed off the mark , especially coming from a man who should know the definitions of science and religion. Religion is the "belief in and reverence for a supernatural power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe" (Amer.Hert.Dic.). This is the antithesis of science, which seeks to find logical explanations for what we observe in the universe through the use of observation, experimentation, logical argument, strict empirical standards, and measured skepticism. The author implies that both seek to answer the same questions, which may indeed be true, but the methods and initial assumptions are not. Several places in the book the author gives us a hint that he is someone who thinks of himself as a scientist but throughout the book he instead present us with a submerged image of his distrust of scientists. For example, the author provides an analogy in which he subtly suggests equates scientists and non-believers with tone-deaf people. Claiming that since tone-deafness is "not their fault" he can not "criticize them for it". But that he "might get bent out of shape if a tone-deaf person insisted that" his "love of music was an hallucination based on lies his parents taught" him. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars a brief review of Brother Astronomer's book May 22 2000
By Brad4d
Format:Hardcover
(Brother)(Dr) Guy Consolmagno has given us a delightful book, obviously written by someone who has comfortably lived (and uncomfortably adventured) in the two worlds of scientific and religious inquiry. The author discusses his infectious enthusiasm for both "worlds," although he doesn't think there is an essential line between the two. During the course of this book, you will travel to the ends of the earth to look for fragments of another world, understand why serendipity (and a good high school English teacher) are often major parts of a successful big-league scientific presentation, and learn why the Vatican maintains one of the world's best meteorite collections (in a home built by the pope who helped condemn Galileo). You will also find how Dr C answered the "killer question" -- namely, why care a fiddle or a fig about the makeup of Jupiter's moons, when people are suffering on earth? (Dr C mentions he briefly gave up science, joined the Peace Corps to directly help starving people, wound up teaching science to Kenyan students, and came away convinced that scientific development can provide one of the soundest foundations for preventing ignorance and starvation. It can also provide a sound foundation for religious understanding). Dr C discusses how the established church helped found modern science and scientific thinking (Galileo's trial was a correctable aberration, just like the regrettable dark alleyways occasionally taken by scientific minds). The established church and science have traditionally been partners in seeking methodological and insightful understanding, appreciating truth in our world, and combating ignorance and superstition. Read more ›
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