BRISBANE, Australia – An influential Catholic astronomer who works at the Holy See’s Vatican Observatory told a news outlet last week that the literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account is ‘almost blasphemous theology.’
Guy Consolmagno is Coordinator for Public Relations at the Vatican Observatory, which is an astronomical institute operated by the Roman Catholic Church. A popular speaker and author, Consolmagno often comments on matters pertaining to religion and science.
In an interview last week with Australia’s Fairfax Media, Consolmagno forcefully disparaged the young earth, literal interpretation of the biblical creation account, comparing it to blasphemy.
“It’s almost blasphemous theology,” Consolmagno alleged, according to the Brisbane Times. “It’s certainly not the tradition of Catholicism and never has been and it misunderstands what the Bible is and it misunderstands what science is.”
The papal astronomer said he rejects the literal interpretation of Genesis and instead finds truth through “science.”
“Science is a way of getting close to creation, to really getting intimate with creation, and it’s a way of getting intimate with the creator,” he claimed. “It’s an act of worship.”
In the interview, Consolmagno said the Bible is not supposed to be science book.
“Science goes out of date—it’s supposed to,” he insisted. “Now, if you’re turning the Bible into a science book, then you’re saying you should throw it out after three years. … The very concept of a science book didn’t exist when the Bible was written.”
According to Consolmagno, neither science nor religion is about absolute truth.
“The search for literalism, the search for absolute truth, isn’t what science is about and it’s not what religion is about,” he opined.
Consolmagno’s comments last week are not the first time he has emphatically criticized the literal interpretation of Genesis. In 2006, according to The Scotsman, he described the young earth creation position as “a kind of paganism.”
Many influential leaders of the Roman Catholic Church have endorsed evolution and disregarded the literal interpretation of Genesis. In 1950, Pope Pius XII declared that there is no intrinsic conflict between Catholicism and evolution, and, in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI stated that “there are … many scientific proofs in favor of evolution.”
However, many Christians maintain that the literal interpretation of Genesis is accurate, despite what critics claim. Brian Thomas, science writer for the Institute for Creation Research, said Consolmagno’s position—including his statement that science and religion are not about “absolute truth”—is self-contradictory.
“Wait a minute,” Thomas said in an interview with Christian News Network. “Does he mean that it’s absolutely true that science is not about the search for absolute truth? What experiment did he do to lead him to that conclusion? Likewise, does he mean for me to take as absolutely true his religious statement that religion is not about the search for absolute truth? If his science or religion has given him the truth that science or religion cannot give truth, then his statement cannot possibly be true.”
The Bible, says Thomas, offers a straightforward account of true historical events.
“Consolmagno implied that those who believe in biblical creation mistakenly use the Bible as a science text, but this misses the mark,” Thomas told Christian News Network. “The Bible supplies information about the past, so when people believe what it says, they do not pretend the Bible is a science book—they simply take its history straightforwardly. It’s about history, not science.”
Thomas then explained that science primarily deals with current phenomena—not past events.
“Empirical science directly investigates only present, repeatable phenomena, not the past,” he said. “So the real mistakes here involve pretending that science directly investigates the past—like when secularists falsely assert that light from distant stars reaches us from billions of years ago—and pretending that Scripture does not clearly convey actual history.”
One’s beliefs about the past have significant implications, according to Thomas.
“Either God really created the cosmos the way He said He did and when He said, or He did not,” he argued. “If He did not, then we should jettison Scripture. Fortunately, historical science—like young-looking spiral galaxies, fast-fuel-burning blue stars, heat-emitting Saturn, and still-icy comets—clearly confirm the Bible’s history.”