Grasping the Nettle events feature Vatican stargazer

The Pope’s stargazer is visiting Scotland this week to attend a series of events aimed at exploring the evidence for God's existence.

Brother Guy Consolmagno
Brother Guy Consolmagno is the director of the Vatican Observatory

Brother Guy Consolmagno, an American research astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, has accepted an invitation to attend a series of events organised by the interdenominational Grasping the Nettle.

Grasping the Nettle was set up to promote dialogue on how faith and science can work together and has gained support from many church leaders.

In advance of his visit, Bro 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.”

God and science are compatible

The group offers the public an 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.

Very Rev John Chalmers, chair of the Church of Scotland's Assembly Trustees 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.”

Bro Consolmagno will visit from Tuesday 29 October to Sunday 3 November and will take part in events in Glasgow, Motherwell, Dundee and Edinburgh

He 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.”

Schedule of events

As well as giving a number of academic talks Bro Consolmagno will also attend schools conferences during his four day visit. His engagements include:

Wednesday 30 October

  • A talk at Glasgow University on the ‘ Adventures of a Vatican Astronomer 2:30pm at Glasgow University Memorial Chapel, Glasgow
  • An address to the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow 7:30pm in John Anderson Lecture Theatre, Strathclyde University, Glasgow

Thursday 31 October

  • Schools conference at St Bride’s Hall, Motherwell in Lanarkshire being run in association with the Scottish Catholic Education Service (SCES)
  • A talk at the Institute of Physics on ‘Strange Cosmologies’ 6:30pm Boyd Orr Building, Lecture Theatre 222, Glasgow University, Glasgow

Friday 1 November

  • Schools Conference in Angus at Grove Academy, Broughty Ferry run in association with Christian Values in Education Scotland (CVE)
  • An illustrated talk at Dundee Science Centre on Discarded Images: The History of Strange Ideas (including God?)

Saturday 2 November

Challenging secularist thinking

Catholic Archbishop of Edinburgh Leo Cushley said:

“Brother 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.”

Grasping the Nettle's chairman, 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.”

The group challenges the idea 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.

Professor John Spence, Chairman, Search for Truth Charitable Trust said:

“Grasping the Nettle 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.”

Find out more about Grasping the Nettle