Nobel Conference 49 Profile of George Coyne

Posted on September 16th, 2013 by

This year’s conference title, “The Universe at Its Limits,” implies a notion of boundaries—spatial and temporal, beginning and end. As a result, we inevitably consider the questions of where the universe came from, when it emerged, where it’s going, and whether its development is the product of necessity or chance, design or randomness. The debate over possible answers to those queries is often framed in terms of science versus religion.

George V. Coyne, PhD is a veteran of these debates. Born in Baltimore in 1933, he trained as a mathematician and astronomer. He is also a 60-year member of the Society of Jesus, a congregation of Catholic priests founded by Ignatius of Loyola in the sixteenth century. Father Coyne’s approach to the debate is refreshing: Both science and religion have proceeded on the incorrect assumption that “God is Explanation,” so, to the degree an explanation succeeds or fails, God’s existence can be asserted or denied.

By contrast, Coyne maintains that the formation of the universe resulting in human life has proceeded according to both necessity and chance, in an environment of increasing chemical and biological complexity, “prolific with possibilities,” as he puts it. The not-yet fully explained processes behind the unfolding of life in the universe neither compel nor disprove belief in God. Yet, Coyne writes, “For the modern religious believer, modern science reveals a God who made a universe that has within it a certain dynamism and thus participates in the creativity of God. . . . [God] allows, participates, loves.”

George Coyne holds the McDevitt Chair in Religious Philosophy at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, N.Y. He was director of the Vatican Observatory from 1978 to 2006. Holder of ten honorary degrees, he earned his BA at Fordham University and his PhD from Georgetown, with postdoctoral work at Harvard and the Lunar Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona. Evidence for his longstanding interest in the relationship between science and religion can be found in his bibliography of over 100 scholarly articles and books, and in his organization of a series of conferences on the theme “Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action.”

Please join us for Nobel Conference 49, “The Universe at Its Limits,” on October 1 & 2, to learn more about Dr. Coyne’s work. Tickets are now on sale. For ticket information and information about the conference, and its invited speakers, visit


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