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A Cosmic Meeting of Church and Science

A Cosmic Meeting of Church and Science

Bob McDonald is one of Canada’s best known science journalists, bringing science to the public for more than 40 years. In addition to hosting Quirks & Quarks, the award-winning science program that is heard by 500,000 people each week, McDonald is also science correspondent for CBC TV’s The National and host and writer of the children’s series Head’s Up.

In his most recent post, McDonald connects science and religion, quite literally—with religion (in this case, Pope Francis) video-calling the International Space Station for a chat—a quirky meetings of worlds that shows how far the Catholic Church has come from its persecution of Galileo.

From the post:

Pope Francis made a video call to six astronauts aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. It’s the second time a pontiff has communicated with the ISS. This connection between church and science has come a long way since the embarrassing arrest of Galileo more than 400 years ago.

The Vatican has been operating telescopes since 1582, when the Gregorian Tower, located in the Vatican, was commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII to reform what is now the Gregorian Calendar. It was later known as the Vatican Observatory. Since then, the Vatican has built telescopes in Rome, as well as south of the city at Castel Gandolfo, and in Arizona, where the 1.8-metre Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope has been operating since 1993.

The astronomical community uses the modern instrument to investigate near-Earth asteroids, exobiology, extrasolar planets, stellar evolution and cosmology, contributing data for scientific papers.

The Vatican’s long history of astronomical observations is in sharp contrast to the Inquisition that put Galileo on trial in 1633 for teaching that the Earth moved around the sun. At that time, the church believed that the Earth, and in fact humanity, was at the centre of everything, and back then, if you disagreed with the church it was considered an act of heresy, punishable by death.

Read Bob McDonald’s full CBC post here.