Guy Consolmagno and Paul Mueller
DISCLAIMER: I've heard Brother Guy Consolmagno speak several times, and spoken with him very briefly.
In some ways I'm the wrong reader for this book. None of the science, and not much of the philosophy, is new to me. Even the specifically Catholic aspects of the dialogue are not entirely unfamiliar. Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial? is genially written and unsophisticated, but I didn't find it terribly challenging.
In essence, WYBaE? is an extended riff on what Steven Jay Gould termed "Non-overlapping magisteria." Science explains some things. Religion explains some things. They don't explain the same things, but that doesn't invalidate either domain.
It's a familiar refrain, but it's not an entirely satisfying one. Both science and religion make some claims to universality. That is, most scientists would agree with the statement "Nothing is exempt from scientific inquiry," while theologists have historically been very clear that "Nothing is irrelevant to the Divine purpose."*
But some universalities are more universal than others.
The difference becomes clear in WYBaE? in the chapter "What Was the Star of Bethlehem?" The authors first discuss a variety of plausible astronomical hypotheses. When they turn to the religious side, they aver that the story of the Star doesn't have to be taken literally to be religiously meaningful. The Bible operates in many modes, including story-telling. Sometimes a good story is the best way to communicate a truth.
Fair enough. But they do not--they cannot--entertain some hypotheses that the scientist would consider equally plausible. Is it not possible that the episode of the Star, as written in Matthew, is no more nor less than a propaganda piece? That, in other words, it was either (a) a folk tale (or what we'd now call an urban legend) that eventually got written down, or (b) a conscious attempt to "sex up" the story?
Such things manifestly do occur. I certainly don't assert that they did occur in this case. As a matter of science, however, I'm free to suppose that they might have occurred. Brother Guy and Father Paul, for all their erudition, are prohibited ex cathedra from even considering these explanations. So they don't.
Still, the book is a quick yet searching overview of the interface between science and faith. I'd recommend it as an introduction for non-scientists who are interested in Catholic teaching on the subject. I wouldn't recommend it to religious fundamentalists, however, because the authors flatly state that the Bible is not meant to be taken literally; if that doesn't square with your beliefs, nothing in this book will sway you.