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October 14, 2008 at 6:00 PM EDT
411 Willard Straight Hall
Scientific theories must do more than merely satisfy the data; they must do so in a way that is (to use a term much favored by mathematicians) “elegant.” Kepler, Maxwell, and Einstein are examples of scientists who found that a sense of esthetic “rightness” helped them to direct their scientific intuition toward theories that could then be expressed rationally, mathematically; theories that could then be tested against nature. By looking closely at a handful of astronomical images, we’ll explore the way that one proceeds from an emotional appreciation of the beauty of the stars and planets, to a deeper understanding that satisfies both reason and emotion. Ultimately, this link between “elegance” and rational truth has profound theological implications.
Dr. Guy Consolmagno is an Astonomer at the Vatican Observatory. He is the author of several books, including Brother Astronomer: Adventures of a Vatican Scientist (McGraw-Hill, 2001), and God’s Mechanics: How Scientists and Engineers Make Sense of Religion (Jossey-Bass, 2007). He formerly served as the Chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society, and as a visiting Professor of Physics at Fordham University.