An Interview with William Stoeger,
Astrophysicist and Theologian

ws.bmp (921654 bytes)

William Stoeger, S.J.

Dr. William Stoeger, S.J. is a Jesuit priest from the California province of the Society of Jesus, and is also an astrophysicist working for the Vatican Observatory. He is based with the Vatican Observatory research group at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

He works on the cosmic microwave background radiation, and areas of cosmology dealing with constraining our models of the universe with astronomical data, and he also works on black hole astrophysics, especially the astrophysics of galaxies and quasars, and some quantum field theory.

At the same time he is also very interested in the relationship between religion and science, or more precisely, the relationships between theology, science and philosophy. He is an adjunct associate professor of astronomy at the University of Arizona.

The following audioclip uses Real Player. Download a
free Real Player at

You can hear William Stoeger, S.J. talk about: On Black Holes


On God's Action in the World:

We know that God does act in the world, and we have some experience of that action, both God’s creative action, and God’s special redemptive action and God’s outreach to people, to individuals and communities, and the question is how can we better understand that action in light of the natural sciences because I think there is a very clear tradition, especially within Christianity, that God is speaking to us not only through Scripture, but God is also speaking to us through the beauties, and the wonder and the intricacies and the harmonies of creation, and so what we discover, either about the way our brain works, and how it coordinates our behavior, or what we discover about the biology of the cell, or the chemistry of DNA, or the working of cosmology or physics, all those things are going to tell us, at least a little bit, about how God acts in the world.

On Who is God?

Another area that I think is quite important has to do with is who is God, and this is something that everybody can appreciate, I think, when we realize that coming through an experience of what the universe is, both on the large scale, that it consists of at least 300 billion galaxies, and each galaxy on the order of 100 billion stars, and then looking deep within the underlying structure of the universe in the microscopic realm to see the wonderful intricacy and harmony of it all, does tell us something about who God is, and also something about who God isn’t. Many times the God that we image is extremely small, and I think that both the science of the very small and the science of the very large forces us to abandon images of a small God and espouse an ever-expanding concept that God is beyond anything that we can really define or characterize.

On the Caution Necessary in Using the Ideas of Physics in Philosophy and Theology:

When we bring over certain concepts from physics to philosophy or theology, we can make the mistake of thinking that the physics really demonstrates some particular analogous or imaginative idea that occurs in philosophy or theology, we have to be very clear of where the limits of the physics stops and where the image that we take from physics transcends the science, itself, and moves us in completely different directions. So I think people need to be very much aware of what the limits of the different disciplines and the methods they use really are. And also being very careful to say that just because this idea originated in quantum physics or this idea originated in cosmology that its application is therefore without question in philosophy or theology because by the time you have taken it to philosophy or theology it has morphed into a completely different way and the rigor and critique that philosophy and theology, themselves, bring to bear on their work then has to be brought to bear on how that idea is used and developed in the new discipline.