"The Dance of the Fertile Universe: Science and
the Search for God"
George V. Coyne, S.J.
McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy
Le Moyne College
Former Director of Vatican Observatory
UVA - Minor Hall Auditorium - 5:15pm
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What is the modern scientific understanding of the development of the universe? We observe, in multiple ways, that it is dynamic and evolving, but did we come about by chance or by necessity? Beyond this elemental inquire, what are we to make of the massive scale and "fertility" of an observable universe that is open, still unfolding, and yet explainable by the order of constant chemical and physical properties and the unpredictability of random variations that not only allows for new material forms but, most unexpectedly, human consciousness by which matter becomes both aware of itself and, in certain respects, free to desire and to act beyond its immediate material constraints. Fr. George Coyne, former Director of the Vatican Observatory and now McDevitt Chair of Religious Philosophy at Lemoyne College, will take up these initial questions and then ask: What do answers to these questions reveal about the purposes and ultimate ends of modern science, as well as about the constant, older and widespread quest to understand the invisible, eternal God who, according to a wide spectrum of religious believers, created the order and dynamics of the universe?
Professor George V. Coyne, S.J. received his PhD in Astronomy from Georgetown University in 1962 and the Licentiate in Theology from Woodstock College in 1966. In addition he has received honorary doctorates from various universities, including the University of Padua, the Jagellonian University in Krakow; Marquette University and Boston College. Since 1966 he has been associated with astronomy programs at the University of Arizona. From 1978 to 2006, he was Director of the Vatican Observatory, which is headquartered in Rome with a research branch at the University of Arizona. His research interests have ranged from the study of the lunar surface to the birth of stars; and he pioneered a special technique, polarimetry, as a powerful tool in astronomical research. Currently, he is studying cataclysmic variable stars, the interstellar dust in the Magellanic Clouds, and the detection of protoplanetary disks. Along with his astronomical research, he is a deep student of the history and philosophy of science, and in 2008 he received the prestigious Mendel Medal from Villanova University.