The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 27, 2013

Vatican astronomer lectures at UC-Beckley campus

By Wendy Holdren
The Register-Herald

BECKLEY — The long-standing University of Charleston Speaker Series is now a part of the UC-Beckley campus, as Father Christopher Corbally came to Carter Hall Tuesday to discuss astronomy and religion and how the two intersect.

Corbally, president for the National Committee for Astronomy at Vatican City State, held a presentation titled, “Star Wars: When Astronomy & Religion Meet.”

His discussion had nothing to do with Luke Skywalker though; he instead posed questions about original sin, incarnation, and the concept of souls existing in our bodies.

While many views exist about the disconnect of religion and science, Corbally said he believes the two are inherently intertwined.

He discussed the Big Bang Theory, the explosion of supernovas, and the creation of planets from elements from stardust in space.

He displayed a comic about the Big Bang Theory on the projection screen with God holding a blown up brown paper bag saying, “This is going to be fun!”

Corbally said he was glad to hear many of the audience members laugh; “We need to have a light-hearted approach to the creator of the universe.”

He even discussed whether or not life on other planets or in other solar systems would have a spiritual connection.

“There are shared ideas of God with extraterrestrials,” he said.

From the perspective of diversity and unity, as well as the beauty of the world, Corbally said it is likely that extraterrestrials would share the idea of “the Creator.” Additionally, he said this means extraterrestrials would not be a threat to religion.

He noted the following quote by Charles Miser: “Saying that God created the universe does not explain either God or the universe, but it keeps our consciousness alive to mysteries of awesome majesty that we might otherwise ignore, and that deserve our respect.”

Corbally was born near London and entered the Society of Jesus (S.J.) in 1963. He holds degrees in philosophy, physics, astronomy and theology. After ordination, he obtained a PhD in astronomy at the University of Toronto in 1983. Since then, Corbally has been a research astronomer of the Vatican Observatory and was its Vice Director for the Vatican Observatory Research Group in Tucson until 2012.

He is a member of the Royal Astronomical Society, the American Astronomical Society, the President of the National Committee for Astronomy in the Vatican City State for the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

He was the president of the IAU’s Division IV (Stars), 2009-2012 and is a member of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, for which he was president from 1999-2002.

For more information about upcoming speakers in UC Speaker Series, contact Scott Castleman at 304-421-2057.

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