by Guy Consolmagno, SJ and Paul Mueller, SJ
A Completely Honest Book Review by Lee Modlin
I have to admit, I wasn’t sure how to take this book before I began reading it. The title had me wondering just how serious the authors were going to be. The subtitle should have given me a hint that this would be a semi-humorous attempt to answer legitimate questions that the authors have received throughout the years. I must note that I am a reviewing a digital copy of an uncorrected proof that was given to me by the publisher in exchange for my review. That being said, let us begin.
The authors are both members of the Vatican Observatory, which is “the official astronomical research institute” for the Roman Catholic Church. They are also both Jesuits. Consolmagno is a Jesuit brother and Mueller is a Jesuit priest. They openly admit that they are approaching this book from the perspectives of scientist, philosopher, and Catholic theologian without any conflict between the different views. The topics discussed in the book come from five years worth of e-mails from people who were seriously looking to find a balance between science and faith.
The book is divided up into six different sections, each one tackling a different issue. One interesting aspect of the format is that each section is set up as a conversation taking place in a unique location. Some are real places, such as the Art Institute of Chicago, and some are fictional, like a dining room at the end of the universe. During the introduction to the book, the authors lay out their presupposition that there is less conflict between science and faith than most would like to believe. They even go so far as to remind the reader that this supposed “eternal war” between the two is a relatively recent occurrence, dating back to the Victorian era. The truth is that “religion and science are not at war at all.”
Once I realized that the title of the book was not it’s true subject matter (although they do address it at the end) I was better able to read along and enjoy it for what it is. It is a serious (and honest) discussion of faith and science. It sincerely addresses the conflict in a manner which is not insulting to those of us who may disagree with the conclusions the authors have made. I believe books like this are important because it reminds those of us who take a more literal approach to the Bible that there are God-fearing Christians who disagree with us. It also shows us that we can have these types of discussions without resorting to name-calling.