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When religion (Pope Francis) met science (Stephen Hawking)

Pope Francis and Stephen Hawking: Faith and reason reach out to each other

British scientist Stephen Hawking and Pope Francis met face to face on November 28 in the Vatican, just days after that renowned astrophysicist had confidently declared that asking “what was before the Big Bang” is meaningless, since it “is like asking what lies south of the South Pole.”

The meeting between these two charismatic figures, world-renowned representatives of the Catholic Faith (Francis) and of reason based on scientific knowledge (Hawking), was rare but cordial, although they have completely opposite stances regarding the idea of God.

Pope Francis considers God to be an infinitely merciful Father, greater than the Universe He created — the same Universe that Hawking has been studying for decades and which he believes arose from nothing, without divine intervention.

Hawking stated that “the discovery of the expansion of the Universe” — the “big bang” theory —  has been one of the “most important intellectual discoveries” of recent times. However, “With James Hartle from the University of California, I worked out what physical conditions the early universe must have, if space-time had no boundaries in the past. Our model became known as the ‘No-Boundary Proposal,’” said Hawking, during the Science and Sustainability conference organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences at the Casina Pio IV in the Vatican.

Although the Big Bang is a well-accepted theory among experts, and it is fundamental for the formation of galaxies and planets, there is still no convincing answer to what happened before the explosion, what caused it, and consequently the reason for existence. Nevertheless, the theory fits into a logical explanation of the universe. “The message of science is that we are the children of logic and not of chaos,” explained Italian nuclear physicist Antonino Zichichi, a colleague of Hawking, in an interview with Vatican Radio.

Pope Francis and the Big Bang

In a discourse in October of 2014 to a Plenary Session of the Academy of Sciences, Pope Francis—not biting the “apple of discord” between faith and science—affirmed that the Big Bang is an act of God’s love.

Read more at Aleteia. 

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