Friday, December 11, 2009

George Coyne on the evolution of life in the universe

George Coyne is a priest and a scientist. He holds a license in mathematics, one in philosophy and a doctorate in astronomy. He was the director of the Vatican Observatory (astronomical research and educational institution) from 1978 to 2006. He published numerous scientific papers throughout time.

Father Coyne's approach is an accommodationist one – his balanced take on science and belief reconciles rationality with an elaborate theology that has nothing to do with nowadays religious kooks and their apprehension or plain denial of science.

The following video is a lecture on astronomy held by George Coyne, in which he also references the way he, as a scientist, can still be a believer. His faith, of course, is not based on the literal interpretation of the bible, nor does he think that God is some kind of anthropomorphic entity who interferes with people's lifes.

There are some very interesting points that George Coyne makes throughout his speech, such as showing that the physical formation and existence of the universe is a necessary condition for the emergence of life as we know it, but that it is not a sufficient one (it does not necessarily 'follow' that life should exist). He also hints at his skepticism in regards to some of the biblical miracles. And a lot more.

It is an inspiring lecture about an hour long, followed by an almost half-hour session of questions from the audience; this part should not be skipped either, as it makes Fr. Coyne address some issues that he did not refer to during the presentation. These being said, enjoy!

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