Header Schemes

Navigation route

marianoaArtigas_lesson 2015

Lesson 2015: Can we talk about God in the context of contemporary science?

Mariano Artigas Memorial Lecture 2015


Interview with speaker

Full video

Text in PDF

Full text:

A simple glance at the section of books on scientific knowledge dissemination in a bookshop of our cities would show us today that not a few books have the word "God" on their cover. In English-language works, in the systematic index by concepts, the term God has already conquered a space of its own among other terms such as General Relativity and Grand Unified Theory. Although part of this phenomenon, as some authors admit, is due to the fact that the Big Questions still attract the public today - the questions of whether the universe has a Creator and whether life has its origin in God are precisely examples of these big questions - it is significant that the notion of God has become the subject of discussion in a field, science, where we would not expect it. Nevertheless, Albert Einstein had already put us on notice some years ago when he stated that he was not interested in a particular phenomenon or in the meaning of a particular line in a spectrum of light; what attracted him was to find out how God had created the world. Some thinkers have observed that the "God question", ignored by the 20th century Philosophy because it was considered too compromising a question in a climate of weak and relativistic thinking such as the one we are living in, is unexpectedly re-emerging in science. Some scientists (or those who disseminate their discoveries) are indeed convinced, like Paul Davies, that science today offers us more reliable paths to God than those offered by religions; others, like Stephen Hawking, are convinced that contemporary science can easily show that the universe does not need a Creator. How to reconcile these very different conceptions? It may also be worth recalling the areas of the scientific research , or the reflections developed from it, which make reference letter today the notion of God, or equivalent notions (Creator, Absolute, Understanding, Orderer, etc.), in order to affirm or deny it. This notion seems to arise in three main areas: (a) the problem of the origin of physical reality, especially in cosmology; (b) the question concerning the intelligibility of nature and the origin of natural laws, and thus its relation to mathematics and the natural sciences; (c) the discussion on the possibility for the sciences to affirm or deny the existence of a finality in nature, as happens in biology at purpose of the discussion on the "engines" of evolution or on Intelligent Design, or also in cosmology, when the thesis of the Anthropic Principle are exposed. In this Lesson we will try to examine more closely the philosophical reasons why the topic of God is back at the centre of the discussion in the scientific context, because we will ask ourselves if, in this context, the notion of God the Creator has a meaning or, on the contrary, if it has no meaning at all. An author like Mariano Artigas was particularly sensitive, in his writings, to the topic that now interests us and we would like to try to start as he would have done, that is, by first clarifying what our epistemological criteria are.

1. Some epistemological clarifications

In general terms, it seems clear that the notion of God, as it is usually understood in the philosophical or theological sphere, cannot be the object of the natural sciences, since these examine the real insofar as it can be verified experimentally, above all in the quantitative dimension. The Philosophy proposes an approach to the notion of God, to the point of formulating possible conclusions about his existence, either from the existence of the cosmos (natural theology, metaphysics), or from the nature, existence and destiny of man (questions of existential subject : freedom, meaning of life, moral conscience, etc.). The image of God that philosophical rationality can attain possesses attributes that do not in themselves exhaust the image of God as understood by theological reflection on the basis of the biblical revelation transmitted by the Hebrew-Christian tradition. However, in order to be meaningful for human reason, the image of God of biblical revelation must also account for - even eventually surpass, but not contradict - the attributes required by the image of God grasped by philosophical reason. To ask how the notion of God can be arrived at by means of scientific-philosophical rationality does not mean to strive to give some demonstration of the existence of God in the context of the rationality of the sciences, for this would be contradictory, because of the proper object of a scientific analysis which cannot have God as its adequate object. It is equivalent, instead, to asking whether the notion of God is a meaningful notion for a subject who lives in an intellectual context such as that of scientific rationality. Answering this question does not entail showing the appropriateness of the reference letter to God in the areas of scientific discussion we have listed above, or in other analogous ones. On the contrary, it is a matter of pointing out whether the scientist is obliged to take into consideration the philosophical knowledge about God and to listen to the revelation and theology that speak to him about God because he recognises, also in the context of scientific rationality, that this notion is not a pure "nonsense". In the famous "five ways" formulated to demonstrate the existence of God1 , Thomas Aquinas (1224- 1274) divided each test into two parts: a) the presentation of a philosophical argumentation that arrives at the existence of a First Motor in act, of a First efficient Cause, of a Being necessary in itself, of the infinite Cause of finite participations and perfections, of a final Cause; b) the affirmation "and this is what everyone calls God" (intelligunt, nominant, dicunt Deum). The question now is whether the second part of the argument, which refers to a pre-understanding (heuristic, existential, intellectual, rational, etc.) of the term God, can also be accepted by those who approach reality in a limited way and modelled by the rationality of the sciences. In order for a philosophical or theological notion of God not to be judged as "meaningless" - i.e. to be judged sensible - by a scientific rationality, there must be a "semanticarea " available to formulate a speech (Logos) about the Absolute, a area that scientific rationality can recognise, or indicate, as meaningful. We point out the following four semantic areas as "candidates" for such recognition:

  1. area to which the incompleteness of formal language points (openness to a transcendence beyond language).

  2. area to which the ontological incompleteness of contingent physical reality points (openness towards a metaphysical-necessary foundation, beyond the empirical plane).

  3. area of meaning that gives reason for the rationality, order and intelligibility of the cosmos (beyond the nature of the cosmos itself: perception of a Logos ut ratio).

  4. area of meaning that accounts for the personalist-existential dimension of scientific activity (openness towards the ultimate meaning of the search for truth: perception of a Logos ut verbum).

In particular, these four areas are, to a certain extent, linked to the "philosophical foundations" of the scientific knowledge . They are, respectively, a) logical-epistemological; b) ontological; c) logical-rational; d) anthropological foundations. These are "openings" of language and scientific method towards other forms of knowledge and other sciences. We could speak of four "windows" that are present in the house of science. The windows belong to the house, that is, the scientific method can thematise them, point them out, but through them we see "beyond the scientific method" in the strict sense. Through them we can see the external world, we see the landscapes surrounding the house of science. In this approach we will follow and develop an intuition that Mariano Artigas made clear in his work The Mind of the Universe (2000), where he stated that science "transcends itself". In this work, the author examines the "presuppositions" of science, the complete analysis of which is, however, the task of Philosophy and theology: ontological presuppositions, epistemological presuppositions and ethical presuppositions. There are three types of presuppositions, he stated: "The first (ontological) concerns the intelligibility and rationality of nature and is linked to the natural order. The second (epistemological) concerns the human capacity to know the natural order and includes the different forms of scientific reasoning. The third (ethical) refers to the values that the activity of science implies: it includes the search for truth, rigour, objectivity, intellectual humility, cooperation "2.

2. The meaning of a reference letter to the Absolute beyond formal language

As we know, the programme of logical neopositivism (R. Carnap, B. Russell, O. Neurath), wished to arrive, in the logical aspect, at unambiguous and formally complete axiomatic languages. Once logic was recognised as a "founding" theory, this property was automatically recognised also for mathematics, so that a complete basis was provided for all mathematizable sciences, i.e. for the empirical knowledge typical of the natural sciences. Consequently, statements of a metaphysical (or meta-empirical) nature were to be openly acknowledged as meaningless, because they have no correspondence with the world of facts. But this programme proved to be unrealisable, because it collided with the impossibility of defining, axiomatically, a formally complete logical-mathematical system, i.e. one that would provide from within itself all the elements necessary to formulate any decision and carry out any calculation. This project, moreover, was also faced with the necessity of incorporating every system and every language, in order to make them comprehensible, within a goal-language or a goal-system of more general value, external to the initial one: the object language (a language "of which" one speaks) must necessarily be distinguished from the goal-language (language "in which" one speaks). If one does not make the appropriate generalisation in order to arrive at ever more open and richer levels of language, one necessarily falls into antinomies, which in turn express the fact that "semantics" cannot be reduced to "syntax". This means that: a) there is no complete syntactic system (rules to be followed) that can do without semantics (meaning to be given to the objects that follow the rules); b) if the system can be considered complete from the point of view of syntax, semantics must be sought in areas external to the system itself. One of the main objections raised by logical neopositivism to metaphysics and religious language is that any speech about what transcends the empirical level (such as precisely a speech about God) does not possess the characters of a universal, unambiguous and communicable language, because it may contain assertions whose truth or falsity cannot be verified, being detached from the "world of facts". To answer this criticism, it is useful to recall the philosophical pathway of Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). Bent on founding a language that could eliminate any ambiguity and contradiction from the philosophical speech precisely by means of a rigid connection with the world of facts, Wittgenstein eventually showed implicitly that this programme was impracticable, thus distancing himself from the Vienna Circle and the neopositivist perspective. Contrary to what the neopositivists claimed, in Wittgenstein's reflection transcendence and the existence of an Absolute were not denied. They were received within the Philosophy as an opening, as a referral to the unspeakable, to a meaning and a foundation external to philosophical language, since without them language would in fact have been impossible (the "first" Wittgenstein of the Tractatus); and they were also received within real life, as a search for the reasons for living and as a criterion of truth of the meaning of the very terms of language (the "second" Wittgenstein). For Wittgenstein it is not possible to deny the problem of meaning, but the fact that it is inexpressible "within the world of facts" makes it, in scientific terms, a pseudo-problem; only if it were possible to look at the logical world of the facts of science with perspective would we realise this, and the realisation itself can be indicated as "something mystical". Thus in the Tractatus Logico-philosophicus (1921):

"The meaning of the world must be outside it" (6.41). "We feel that even if all the possible questions of the sciences were answered, they would not even come close to touching our vital problems" (5.52). "The inexpressible really exists. It manifests itself, it is 'the mystical'" (6.522). "The mystical is not as the world is, but the world is [exists]" (6.44).

Wittgenstein's philosophical journey goes beyond both the Kantian and the neo-positivist positions. The question of meaning and the openness to the unspeakable arise within the analysis of the scientific knowledge , and not outside it, as Kant had argued. Although it cannot be adequately expressed, the goal-language arises as a demand of the limits of language recognised within language itself. The employment of the analysis of language to elaborate a critical speech on the notion of God simultaneously finds both the limits and the transcendence of our knowledge: man is more than his language and the analysis of language, by touching the limits of human rationality, also reveals its ineffability. Wittgenstein concludes the paradox of empiricism and logical neopositivism and, overcoming them, lays the foundation of a Philosophy capable of recovering the meaning of the problem of God. A God, however - it must not be forgotten - of whom language cannot speak, but only experience can show. Analogous results to those of Wittgenstein will be obtained, in adjacent disciplines, with the demonstration of the incompleteness theorems of axiomatic systems (Gödel, 1931), of the necessity of metalanguages and of the impossibility of a definition of all the true statements of a system (Tarski, 1935); of the limits of any automated logical operation and of the inability to "judge from outside" the process (Turing, 1937); of the existence of notions of infinity that do not belong to mathematics (Cantor, 1884). All these authors agree in affirming that the semantics of scientific language is not exhausted by the formalism of empirical sciences: there is a "significant" space for notions that belong to a goal-language, or transcend empirical analysis.

3. The ontological incompleteness of contingent physical reality and its openness to a metaphysical-necessity foundation

The impracticability of a self-referential science on the logical level also has a correlate on the ontological level. Since the analysis of science cannot completely define the scientific language and the criteria of truth that this language requires, closed to the goal-empirical dimensions, this analysis also requires ontological preconditions. This is equivalent to saying that, prior to the analysis of the sciences, it is necessary that the entities Materials "exist" and "exist according to a specific nature". The necessity of an implicit ontological foundation for the activity of the sciences can be made clear by developing the following perspectives:

  1. At the basis of every natural science there is a Philosophy of nature, and at the basis of every Philosophy of nature there is an ontology: but every ontology must face the problem of the contingency of being.

  2. For science to be able to study its objects, it is necessary that these objects exist (as entities): science cannot give a reason for their existence, nor for the ultimate why of being as such, dealing only with the transformations of one entity into another.

  3. The analysis of the natural sciences is based on the formal specificity (essence, nature) of things, in addition to their existence.

Empirical analysis therefore requires two conditions: that the entities Materials exist, and that they exist according to a specific nature. The notions of "entity" and "essence/nature", proper to the Philosophy of nature, are non-deducible presuppositions within the method of the natural sciences that nevertheless make science possible. Acknowledging the existence of such ontological presuppositions is equivalent to acknowledging that there is a semantic area of intelligibility that transcends the physical-empirical real. The denial of the existence of a semantic area that "transcends" the empirical analysis of the sciences is typical of the attempt to found a self-referential science, which avoids the problem of being, ignoring it (materialism) or wanting to give it a justification from within empirical formalism. This fact generates some inevitable contradictions, especially in the field of physical cosmology, when it denies the existence of an ontological foundation that makes its analysis of physical reality possible. For example, if cosmology ends up attributing to subject the properties of a philosophical Absolute (eternity, necessity, uncaused first cause, etc.), in spite of the experience of physical reality.), despite the experience of its contingency; or if it attributes to a coherent mathematical formalism, of a descriptive character, the value of a sufficient reason to explain the existence of the cosmos that this formalism describes or represents; or also when it seeks to give a reason for the existence and nature of time from within time itself; or, finally, if it tries to give a reason "for everything", looking for a law or an all-embracing formulation, which turns out to be the foundation for everything real ("Theory of Everything"), finding the same incompleteness and the same antinomies that occur in the logical realm. In substance, the scientific research perceives the necessity of having to admit an external foundation to its method when it recognises that the analysis of the physical real always starts from some measurable magnitude, implicitly assumed (mass, topology, space-time, physical vacuum, virtual energy, etc.), from which it is possible to construct the successive probabilities of existence of entities that proceed from it.

"If the super-gravity theory achieves the goal it sets out to do, it will tell us not only why the particles exist as they do, and not others, but also why they have the mass, charge and other properties that characterise them. All of this could come from a mathematical theory that encompasses all of physics (in the reductionist sense) in a single super-law. However, a new question arises: Why that super-law, and not another one? This is the ultimate, terminal question: physics may be able to explain the content, origin and organisation of the physical universe, but not the laws (or super-law) of physics itself. Traditionally, God is credited with establishing the laws of nature and creating the things (space-time, atoms, men and everything else) upon which those laws apply. In the 'free lunch' scenario, the laws alone are sufficient; the universe can provide the rest by itself, including creation itself. But what about the laws? They must already exist, so that the universe could exist. It is necessary in a sense that quantum physics exists so that a quantum transition can generate the cosmos "3.

The existence of an ontological foundation that gives a reason for the being and the specific essence of entities Materials, which is also the ultimate cause/reason for the presence of a form/information that transcends the subject itself, refers to a semantic area of intelligibility that science "does not consider a contradiction in terms", and whose existence it "accepts as reasonable". We call, therefore, with the generic name of "speech on the Logos" a speech that can be developed within this semantic area of intelligibility, to which we have alluded in the two previous passages, which also correspond to two "windows" of the scientific method towards the outside, that is, as a need to transcend formal language and as a need for an ontological foundation that gives a reason for all empirical representation. In the activity of research of a scientist, or in the philosophical reflections that he formulates on the basis of his activity, it seems that a certain reference to a Logos can appear when: a) he sees in nature a "goal-rational" otherness; and when: b) the study of the real puts him at contact with a "subjective-dialogical" otherness. We will look at both aspects in the next two sections.

4. The perception of a Logos ut ratio in the analysis of natural sciences

One of the ways by which the scientist gains access to the notion of Logos is through reflection on the reason for the rationality of the universe, on the reasons for the intelligibility and stability of the laws of nature. Physical reality, in fact, can be understood in mathematical terms; it presents itself through laws that are stable in time and space; in it, the same elementary particles are all rigorously identical and the physico-chemical properties of the various elements follow precise Structures of coordination. The physical universe manifests a kind of "foundation of rationality" with which the researcher inevitably enters contact. First pointed out by Maxwell, the "enigma" of intelligibility has been discussed by Planck, De Broglie, Einstein; and, in more recent times, it has been mentioned among others by Paul Davies, John Barrow and Roger Penrose. This is attested to, among many possible citations, by the following statements:

"We are never sufficiently astonished by the fact that a science is possible, that is, that our reason provides us with the means to understand at least some aspects of what is going on around us in nature. "4 "One might say that the eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility. The fact that it is comprehensible is truly a miracle. "5 "You find it strange that I regard the comprehensibility of nature (insofar as we can speak of comprehensibility) as a miracle or an eternal mystery. However, what we might expect, a priori, is precisely a chaotic world, completely inaccessible to thought. We might expect (indeed, we should expect) that the world would be governed by laws only to the extent that we intervene with our ordering intelligence: it would be an order similar to the alphabetical order of the dictionary, whereas the subject of order, which creates, for example, Newton's theory of gravitation, has a very different character. Even if the axioms of the theory are established by man, the success of such a construction presupposes that there is a high Degree of order in the world goal, i.e. there is something which, a priori, one is not at all entitled to expect "6.

The observation of the order and rationality of the cosmos is sometimes directly related to the notion of God, as in these two quotations from Albert Einstein and Paul Davies:

"It is true that at the basis of every slightly important scientific work is the conviction, analogous to the religious feeling, that the world is founded on reason and can be understood. This conviction, linked to the profound feeling of the existence of a higher mind that manifests itself in the world of experience, constitutes for me the idea of God. "7"In the course of my scientific work I have come to believe, more and more strongly, that the physical universe is constructed with such astonishing ingenuity that I cannot regard it merely as a pure and simple fact. It seems to me that there must be a deeper level of explanation. If one wishes to call such a level God, it is a matter of taste and of definition "8.

The scientific method cannot demonstrate that rationality, intelligibility or order respond to a "design preliminary ". In fact, the empirical sciences cannot prove the existence of a final causality of subject intentional, because they can only bring to light the lower levels of this finalism, by defining them as "coherence" and "rationality", or also as "teleonomy" (especially in the biological domain). Consequently, the Logos that science knows often does not refer beyond the laws themselves. resource This explains the frequent use of expressions such as "cosmic code", "intelligent cosmos", "cosmic mind" or "theory of everything" (understood as immanent universal law). From our point of view, things do not change much because, in both cases, we are accessing a semantic area that is recognised as meaningful, which goes beyond the scientific method in the strict sense. For some authors, such as Freeman Dyson, the finding of rationality does not refer to a notion of God, but simply to an Understanding:

"From the existence of these physical and astronomical coincidences I draw the conclusion that the universe is an extraordinarily hospitable place as a possible habitat for living creatures. And since I am a scientist accustomed to the thinking and language of the twentieth century, and not those of the eighteenth century, I do not claim that the architecture of the universe proves the existence of God. I claim only that the architecture of the universe is consistent with the hypothesis that the mind plays an essential role in its functioning "9.

The most frequent implicit position is, in these cases, the pantheistic one, for which the universe and the Understanding that governs it are the same thing, they coincide. The scientist can overcome the pantheistic position only by a successive abstraction, bringing out, for example, the problem of contingency: if the cosmos has a mind which does not transcend it, such a mind will be contingent like the cosmos itself; it would be more sensible to suppose that there is an Absolute which gives reason both for the rationality of physical reality and for the existence of a necessary foundation in itself; which presents itself, therefore, not as "one with the world", but as the "Other of the world". In support of the overcoming of pantheism there is also the illogical sense, which places the perception of the rationality of the cosmos in relation to other forms of knowledge that suggest, or in some cases even philosophically guarantee, access to a transcendent Absolute. It is, however, very important that the question of the reason for rationality and order arises within the sciences "as a question". Questions such as: Why is the universe rational, why are its laws intelligible, why is there a harmony between the structure of the cosmos and the laws that make life possible, etc., are questions that are directed towards a area of meaning, towards a Logos that the sciences recognise as meaningful.

5. The finding of a Logos ut verbum in the scientist's research activity.

The scientist is the protagonist of another important finding : he perceives in physical reality a kind of "dialogical otherness", is surprised by its capacity to "dialogue" with nature and wonders how significant this is. Scientific activity can be similar, in some cases, to a dialogue between man and the Absolute.

"The scientist] becomes aware of the existence of a central order [of the world] with the same intensity with which he enters into contact with the soul of another person "10.

"Physicists handle mathematical techniques with difficulty because experience has taught them that they are the best, indeed the only, way to understand the physical world. We choose that language because it is the only one in which the cosmos speaks to us "11.

In the description of the phenomenology of the scientific work the term "revelation" is not infrequently used. When scientific activity examines reality by capturing in it the existence of a dialogical otherness, nature is then recognised as worthy of study, capable of justifying the corresponding intellectual effort, because it makes it possible to arrive at a truth and a beauty independent of the cognising subject. The scientific research is not conceived as a pure commitment to oneself or to the academic community, but as a commitment to truth, to which we dedicate ourselves with intellectual passion. As some authors have already pointed out, both the search for truth, proper to any authentic scientific research , and the "experience of the foundations", perceived in the face of logical and ontological inadequacies, can converge in an access to the Absolute and, as a consequence, in an experience of a religious nature.

"In the greatest scientists the scientific experience of truth is in some sense theoria, that is, vision of God "12.

"No poet or prophet has contemplated such profound wonders as those revealed to the scientist. Few will be so obtuse as not to react to the material knowledge of this world of ours with a sense of reverential awe that deserves to be defined religious "13.

Mariano Artigas also pointed out the availability of scientific experience to provide vital lymph for a true experience of the "religious" in a page of his aforementioned work The Mind of the Universe: "A religious attitude, basically, implies openness towards God and a new perspective that arises from the contemplation of the divine dimensions of the world and of each of its parts, especially of other human beings. To the extent that scientific progress favours this point of view, it can be considered a source of religious inspiration "14. In the consideration of scientific experience as a perception of the sacred, it is true, there can also be some ambiguities. The image of the Absolute perceived by scientific rationality is expressed through a philosophically imprecise language, often mixed with ambiguities and not infrequently tinged with pantheism or deism. The difficulty, already well known in the field of the general Philosophy , of being able to know the character staff of the Absolute is not hidden. In any case, it would be a mistake, in our opinion, not to value this approach, even if it is imprecise and unfocused. The philosopher and theologian, rather than denying it or highlighting its weakness, should purify and strengthen it, showing its true image: that of an Absolute which transcends the universe because it is distinct from the latter. In reality, the more "personalistic" the canons by which the scientist places himself before the real world, the less profound the aforementioned discrepancy becomes. If an impersonal approach seems in fact more in tune with pantheism (All is One), those who never lose sight of the perspective of their own personality vis-à-vis the world and share with others a realistic knowledge of things, will be more easily disposed to listen to nature, to be amazed by it, to recognise it as distinct from themselves and to recognise their Creator as Other than nature and distinct from themselves. In the same vein, the idea of being able to know the Logos as Verbum also allows one to speak - as in fact happens in the testimonies of some scientists - of a "revelation", in which nature goes to meeting of researcher. Where this manifests itself, it is no longer susceptible of being defined as a simple "intuition", an immediate understanding of something that was previously obscure and is now clearly visible, a vision of greater coherence that, in final, could only have a psychological origin. The statements of many scientists seem to mean something else: it is rather a word (logos), external to the subject, that challenges him, a message that awakens in him a surprise and moves him implicitly to respect, gratitude and sometimes also praise, as an implicit form of dialogue. This Logos is linked to an aesthetic experience, is marked by the characteristics of a mystery that encloses the hidden meaning of the world, and has as its gnoseological point of reference letter an implicit metaphysics, open to the real and ready to learn what nature and its laws teach. In this status, it is easier to admit that it is not nature, per se, that reveals something, but a Someone who reveals Himself through it.

6. Concluding remarks

At the end of this journey, we can answer the question we asked at the beginning: whether there is an intelligible speech about God also for the scientific rationality of our time. We have seen that there is a semantic area available for a speech about the Absolute, a area that scientific rationality can recognise or indicate as something meaningful also for those who, like scientists, study nature with the methods and instruments of the experimental work and of logical-mathematical formalism. Specifically, this area can be accessed through four "windows", which correspond to as many "ways of transcending", but also to some true and proper "foundations" of science. These are the ontological and logical foundations of empirical analysis, highlighted by their incompleteness and therefore by their ontological (towards being) and epistemological (towards the notions of nature, form, truth, etc.) openings. So are the openings towards the perception of a Logos, grasped as intelligible reason, but also as source of meaning and motivation that moves the researcher to consider that nature deserves to be studied and truth deserves to be sought. At summary, we can propose the following observations as a conclusion:

  1. Physical reality is "sample" with a "givenness" that science does not create, but receives; what is imposed on scientific experience as something that is given, can give rise to a religious experience that "recognises the given as gift" and knows how to welcome the passage from the perception of a logos ut ratio to that of a logos ut verbum.

  2. In describing their experience of study and research, many scientists speak of the physical real as an "objective and coherent otherness, characterised by a formal specificity". The connection between this perception and the notion of the Absolute can be established by operating a passage from the "problem" of the foundations to that of an "experience" of the foundations, which turns the scientific research into something akin to an "experience of the sacred".

  3. The scientific study of nature continues to manifest an openness to "mystery" and it is always reasonable to ask whether the world has an explanation; the research of this explanation refers to a notion or a semantic area that is not considered a contradiction in terms; where the possibility of a logos about God acquires meaning.

This area of study therefore seems to exist, and it exists simply because the method and instruments of the scientific work can be transcended without being contradicted. Here lies the possibility of a meaningful notion of "God" also for the scientist; a notion which he cannot judge as meaningless, but which continues to challenge his scientific activity and his own life.


(1) Cf. Summa theologiae, I, q. 2, a. 3.

(2) M. Artigas, The Mind of the Universe, Templeton Foundation Press, Radnor 2000, p. xix.

(3) P. Davies, Dio e la nuova física, Mondadori, Milano 2002, p. 298. (The translation is ours).

(4) L. De Broglie, Fisica e Metafisica, Einaudi, Torino 1950, p. 216. (The translation is ours).

(5) A. Einstein, "Fisica e realtà" (1936), in Opere scelte, Bollati-Boringhieri, Torino 1988, p. 530. (The translation is ours).

(6) A. Einstein, "Lettera a M. Solvine", 30.3.1952, in idem, p. 740. (The translation is ours).

(7) A. Einstein, Come io vedo il mondo, Newton Compton, Rome 1988, p. 32. (The translation is ours).

(8) P. Davies, The Mind of God, Mondadori, Milan 1993, p. 7. (The translation is ours).

(9) F. Dyson, Turbare l'universo, Boringhieri, Torino 1979, pp. 290-291. (The translation is ours).

(10) W. Heisenberg, Fisica e oltre, Boringhieri, Torino 1984, p. 225. (The translation is ours).

(11) J. Polkinghorne, Scienza e Fede, Mondadori, Milano 1987, p. 72. (The translation is ours).

(12) M. von Laue, History of Physics, Academic Press, New York 1950, p. 4. (The translation is ours).

(13) G. Simpson, Evoluzione. Una visione del mondo, Firenze 1972, p. 213. (The translation is ours).

(14) M. Artigas, The Mind of the Universe, p. 331: "A religious attitude basically implies openness toward God and a new outlook that stems from the contemplation of the divine dimensions of the world and every one of its parts, especially other human beings. Insofar as scientific progress favors this outlook, it can be considered a source of religious inspiration".

Nested applications


Prof. Giuseppe Tanzella-Nitti

Full Professor of Fundamental Theology, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome.
He has been researcher in radio astronomy at the CNR in Bologna and astronomer at the Turin Observatory.
publisher of the Interdisciplinary Dictionary of Science and Faith (DISF).
Further information.


Date and time: Tuesday, 20 October 2015, at 12 noon.

Venue classroom Magna. Central Building . University of Navarra. Pamplona

Funding: Activity carried out with funding from the Templeton Foundation.

You may be interested in_ leccion_artigas15