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The physics of complex systems

A new challenge for the Science and Faith dialogue?

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Professor Hector Mancini teaching seminar at classroom 10. PHOTO: Manuel Castells
21/05/14 16:56

Last Tuesday, May 20, Héctor Mancini, professor of the department of Physics and Applied Mathematics of the University of Navarra directed the seminar "The Physics of Complex Systems: A New Challenge for the Science and Faith Dialogue?", organized by the group of research Science, Reason and Faith (CRYF). It took place at classroom 10 of the Science Library building.

The speaker presented a synthetic overview of some of these new ideas in physics and their possible articulation with religion and the Philosophy in thought.

Words such as chaos, randomness, complexity, emergence of new forms and rules, spontaneous orderings (self-organization) and others like them, have marked the last two decades the research in theoretical and experimental physics, and make us think of a new, more complete and complex scientific paradigm.

This new physics does not seem to be confined to the traditional fields of inanimate subject , but has invaded with its methods the study of living beings, human thought or social organization, previously exclusive territories of molecular biology, Biochemistry , Philology, sociology or Economics. When dealing with living beings, words such as "emergence", "self-organization", "chance" need at least some clarification so as not to clash with theological concepts derived from Philosophy, such as "natural law", and many others.

What new challenges do these new advances in physics pose to the science-faith relationship? The field of "meta-questions" in physics, which seemed to be centered and limited to the problems of the origin and evolution of the universe, is beginning to extend to the origins of life, of human beings, and even of abstract thought itself. Questions that used to be associated exclusively with the relations between Philosophy or theology with sciences such as biology, sociology, history, are now also the object of study of physics.

Héctor Mancini has been director of projects of the Center for Research in Lasers and Applications (CEILAP), of the committee National Center for Scientific Research (CONICET) and the Ministry of Defense (Argentina), and more recently, director of the high school of Physics of the University of Navarra.