Two friends before the truth
Posted by Marco Sampognaro on 2 January 2013 ·
“Christ the King Boston High School.” “Hello, may I speak with Salve Fr. Medina?” “I’m sorry, but he’s in class now.” “OK, I’ll call back tomorrow.” The next day: “Christ the King Boston High School.” “Hello, is Fr. Medina available?” “I’m sorry, he’s celebrating Mass…”
Science and faith, yes. But it is only a problem of method: you need to call him directly on his extension. After several attempts, he respondes: “Hello friend, how are you? An interview on faith and science? Good, I have something to say.”
José Medina received his degree in Civil Engineering at Madrid, was later ordained a priest at Rome, and today is principle of a high school in Boston. For many years he taught physics. Sì, potrebbe avere qualcosa da raccontare sul tema di questo mese.
“When I became a priest, fr. Massimo Camisasca sent me to America and said to me: I think you should be a professor, but see what you think. At the time I had no great desire to continue studying, but I trusted Don Massimo’s words and sought to build some relationships in the world of education. Decisive at that time was my meeting with David Schindler. His lectures, besides rekindling in me the desire to study, put me in touch with various authors, in particular von Balthasar, who conveyed to me a striking intuition.”
What is the intuition that you are speaking of?
That the truth can never be exhausted, comprehended, grasped entirely. This struck me very deeply. This, moreover, is an intuition that is very common among scientists, although not in popular science, nella divulgazione. An example would be the force of gravity. It is said: objects fall because there is gravity. This is not true! The theory is not the reason why things fall. The reason why things fall is a mystery. We don’t know why they fall. The cause of motion is, in its deepest sense, unknown. Gravity is a great mystery: we know that it exists, but we don’t know why it exists. Another example would be entropy. Thermodynamics shows us that nature tends to disorder, not towards order. That it has a destructive capability, and never constructive. And so, where does the order come from? How does one explain this opposition?
So, in teaching science, the most important thing to bear in mind is that every theory describes, but does not explain. Every science, therefore, has an aspect that is mysterious.
Isn’t this just a question of semantics?
Every scientist must be very precise in the choice of the words which he uses. Using incorrect words, one risks impoverishing reality. A reduction is necessary in order to formulate a theory; but it must always be accompanied by the awareness that reality itself is greater. When a Newton depicts a world without air, it is useful, because it helps to understand; but it can give the illusion that we understand everything, and this is not the case. There is, however, a person through whom we can understand all this better.
Who is this person?
Albert Einstein. His greatness was that of questioning what had been considered unquestionable, such as time and space. He broke the schema according to which time and space are absolute. He, too, then ran the risk of becoming a slave to his reduction: to explain the expansion of the universe, which could not be deduced from his theory, he introduced a constant which made his numbers work. But at the end of his life he realized that he was mistaken. Einstein is the greatest example of openness in a scientist to the mystery. He is the most religious scientist who ever existed.
What do yo umean by openness of science to the mystery?
Science today is reduced to technology, and thus to power. To ways of creating things, or for using them better. But the original position of the scientist is not this: it is that of a person moved by reality. It is a position of contemplation, a virginal attitude. No one more than Einstein expressed this being moved, this love for reality just as it is. It is a matter of knowing reality ever more deeply, without the pretense of possessing it. The problems arise when science (but also philosophy, theology…) is treated as power, and not as being moved by the real.
Since science is this movement, then faith and reason, theology and science are not opposed to one another. The big bang and creation speak to us of the same thing, though in different language. The very dogmas are an understanding of what is man before the mystery. The problem is that science understood as power does not accept the accompaniment of theology. It could in fact accept theology as a friend with who seeks to understand together the reality with which both are faced. In their genuine essence, they are in dialogue: they each seek greater understanding and should help one another, not wanting to be more powerful than each other or proving the errors of the other. Faith and science walk together in a progressive understanding of the knowledge of things.
A beautiful image…
It is a beautiful challenge. But in it science must recognize its inability to explain the why, the ultimate reason for things. It is like an ultimate limit, which some scientists reject. And in doing so they reduce reality to their explanations.
Please sum up three basic principles to remember.
One: the way words are used is fundamental. One must learn to use words correctly.
Two: study is contemplation before the mystery of reality.
photo: The material around SN 1987A