ad aspera per astra
May 13, 2004 5:11 AM   Subscribe

Ad Aspera Per Astra - an interview with Brother Guy Consolmagno, one of several full-time Vatican astromomers at the Vatican Observatory. He talks about the Church's take on astrobiology and the eventuality of encountering an alien race. The idea of the Church's mission beyond the Earth is something that's come up in a few good books, like The Sparrow and A Canticle for Leibowitz. Interesting to hear an actual Jesuit's take on the matter. [Via BoingBoing]
posted by ubersturm (8 comments total)
Interesting, ubersturm. As I started reading your post, I thought this is like The Sparrow and then lo and behold... I had no idea the Vatican was actually interested in this stuff. Thanks for the post.
posted by lobakgo at 8:44 AM on May 13, 2004

Interesting post. But were you thinking of A Case of Conscience by Blish? Because Canticle is set right here on Earth.
posted by languagehat at 9:44 AM on May 13, 2004

If I may derail for a second.

If you're looking for The Sparrow (and you should be). It is in the fiction and literature section of your B.B.B. (big box bookstore), even though it is full of radio telescopes and spaceships and asteroid mining and first contact with aliens.

Why? because it deals with big, grown up topics like faith and meaning and free-will vs divine plan. Science fiction? That's for those greasy fat guys in the Star Trek uniforms, we're talking about our Giant Invisible Sky Daddy here, that's literature!
posted by Capn at 9:51 AM on May 13, 2004

haven't read a case of conscience, although it's been recommended to me. no, i was thinking more of the third section, fiat tuas voluntuas. at the end, brother joshua boards a rocket ship with a small group of members of the ancient order of leibowitz, headed towards alpha centauri. contact with aliens isn't a part of canticle, but the idea of the church's mission and responsibility extending to other worlds is connected to that topic. (and, of course, there's miller's implied cynical question on whether man is inherently flawed and bound to simply repeat the cycle of civilization and apocalypse on other worlds.) a bit tenuous, i guess, but i've always counted it as a monks-in-space book, even though space isn't the main focus.
posted by ubersturm at 9:58 AM on May 13, 2004

Maybe my Latin is a bit off, but aren't the words switched around in that intro phrase?
posted by oissubke at 10:30 AM on May 13, 2004

"been up too long studying for finals." although i suppose i could pretend that it was a witty commentary on the fact that brother consolmagno studies meteorites...
posted by ubersturm at 10:43 AM on May 13, 2004

Interesting stuff, well done. I went to a panel discussion at the Astrobiology conference the interview is from, on Terraforming Mars - life on mars, really. One of the things that really struck me was that the SciFi authors (Kim Stanley Robinson and Greg Bear) were taken very seriously alongside the real scientists (Head of Rover project, NASA's "Planetary Protection Officer" who has the coolest job title *ever*, etc.)

It was really neat to see that the authors weren't seen as goofy ways to draw an audience, or make the subject sexy and/or 'approachable', but as legitimate thinkers working on the same issues from different perspectives as the scientists. They handled the questions about the historical and societal aspects, and as such were taken quite seriously, the same way questions about subsurface biology might go to a different panel member than those on, say, atmospherics.

I think people are starting to realize that Science Fiction is one of the best ways we have to adress certain questions and perspectives, and the material in this post/thread seemed to bear that out.

Good stuff, thanks!
posted by freebird at 1:03 PM on May 13, 2004

As much as I love SF I think the insights it offers are still overlooked by the mainstream. That said, the talk I attended last week "How will robots come to live among us?" had me reaching around the back of my chair for my tinfoil hat.
posted by xpermanentx at 3:00 PM on May 13, 2004

« Older Next step, X-ray specs!   |   1,3,7-trimethylxanthine gives you wings. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments