By Michael Swan
TORONTO, Canada (The Catholic Register) – In the COVID era, there’s no news like science news the fastest vaccine development in human history has been news all year.
But public exposure of science has also exposed us to the dangers of half-understood or deliberately manipulated science on social media. Who can forget the Wisconsin pharmacist who deliberately sabotaged vials of COVID-19 vaccine because he believed it would change people’s DNA?
Jesuit astronomer and president of the Vatican Observatory Br Guy Consolmangno has a plan to help Catholics, or anybody, think more rationally and less politically about science.
“We want to be able to pull it out of the culture wars,” Consolmagno told The Catholic Register.
Consolmagno and his team based in part at the old Vatican observatory in Castel Gandolfo, Italy, and also in Arizona have used funding from the Templeton Foundation to launch a new website and social media strategy, vaticanobservatory.org.
Think of it as the Catholic, good-science site where you can find podcasts, daily articles, graphics, spectacular photos and lesson plans for every grade level.
The need for better public engagement with science could not be more acute, St Joseph’s College professor of science and religion Denis Lamoureux believes.
“The culture is so polarized and the extreme left and right spin information to support their views. They even do it with scientific information,” Lamoureux wrote in an e-mail.
Lamoureux believes the Internet is the place where misinformation and twisted agendas must be met.
“With all the craziness going on in the culture, it hit me that it’s the Internet that has definitely contributed to this,” he said. “Any complete fool can set up a website and say anything they want. And there will be people who will believe in madness.”
Getting science out of the culture wars isn’t all that difficult, said Consolmagno.
“Even the most arch-fundamentalist of the Evangelical Christians will still talk about what they believe as ‘creation science,’” he said. “They still love the caché of that word ‘science’ and rightly so.”
It’s not all conspiracy theories spawned in dark corners of the worldwide web. Even major, real scientists with big media profiles, such as Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson, have a penchant for making people of faith nervous about scientists. On April 11, Dawkins tweeted out, “Roman Catholics are required to believe that communion wine actually is literally the blood of Christ, and the wafer literally is His body. Not symbolically but literally. Not a metaphor but literally. That way madness lies. At very least it’s a pernicious abuse of language.”
“These guys have personal agendas that are not favourable to the Church,” points out Consolmagno.
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