Vatican astronomer says creationism is superstition

The belief that God created the universe in six days is a superstition and a "kind of paganism" that both discredits religious faith and demeans science, Br Guy Consolmagno SJ has declared.

Ekklesia reports that Consolmagno, a Jesuit brother who in his scientific work has pioneered the field of gravitoelectrodynamics, described creationism, which proponents want taught in schools alongside or in place of evolution, as a "kind of paganism".

Far from being a Christian viewpoint, it harks back to primitive beliefs in "nature gods" who were held responsible for natural events, he commented.

He added that a "destructive myth" has developed in modern societies that religion and science are competing ideologies - and that this is fed by creationism, which scholars say is a distortion of the biblical texts it claims as its own.

Br Consolmagno works in the Vatican observatory in Arizona. He is also curator of the Vatican meteorite collection in Italy. In addition to his work in astronomy, he studied philosophy and theology at Loyola University, Chicago, and physics at the University of Chicago. He has spent several terms as a visiting scientist at the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Consolmagno, who spoke recently at the Glasgow Science Centre in the UK, argues that the distinctive Christian understanding of God's transcendence recognizes divine creativity in the unfolding of natural phenomena which had been previously attributed to vengeful gods.

He declares: "Religion needs science to keep it away from superstition and keep it close to reality, to protect it from creationism, which [turns] God into a nature god. And science needs religion in order to have a conscience, to know that, just because something is possible, it may not necessarily be a good thing to do."

Christian theologians, scientists, secular groups and those working on the conversation between religion and science are concerned about the spread of creationist ideology in the United States and now in some parts of Europe.

Simon Barrow from the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia said of a recent UK poll that shows strong support for creationism and its cousin Intelligent Design: "The poll seems to indicate a worrying level of confusion, and the churches are among those who have a clear responsibility to explain why creationist ideology is false - and how nature as understood by science is fruitfully related to the divine as understood from the experience of a historical religious community."

He adds: "The situation is not helped by the general media's failure to report that Christian scholarship is overwhelmingly opposed to creationism, to seek comment from experts in the theology-science interface, or to understand the use and misuse of biblical texts from an interpretative standpoint."

Along with senior bishops who wrote to Tony Blair about the issue back in 2002, the Archbishop of Canterbury is among those who have opposed the teaching of creationism in schools, describing it as "a category mistake" because it confuses the Christian understanding of the universe as divine gift with a specific theory of origins.

Vatican astronomer says creationism is superstition (Ekklesia 22/5/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Vatican Observatory

New Washington Archbishop favours Intelligent Design in schools (CathNews 19/5/06)
Vatican Observatory head clashes with cardinal on evolution (CathNews 8/8/05)
Vatican Observatory sponsors conference on evolution (CathNews 22/6/04)

Vatican Observatory head calls intelligent design 'absurd' concept (Catholic News Service 28/3/06)
Most Americans favor teaching evidence against evolution, poll shows (Catholic World News 7/3/06)
Is evolution compatible with Christianity? (Australasian Catholic Record)

23 May 2006