By Robin Gomes
“To know the universe, at least in part; to know what we know and what we don’t know, and how we can go about learning more; this is the task of the scientist,” Pope Francis said on Thursday. “Whether as scientists or believers, it is always important to start by admitting there is much that we do not know,” he told 60 participants in the 2018 Vatican Observatory Summer School in Astrophysics.
Sixty undergraduate and graduate students are participating in the June 4-29 summer school which has as its theme, “Stellar Variability in the Era of Large Surveys”.
No end to learning
While admitting there is much we don’t know, Pope Francis said “it is equally important never to stop at a complacent agnosticism.” “Just as we should never think we know everything, we should never fear to try to learn more.”
The Pope said that metaphysics is one way of seeing things which acknowledges the “First Cause of everything”, which he said is “hidden from tools of measurement.” Another way of seeing things is through the eyes of faith, which accepts "God’s self-disclosure".
Harmonizing these different levels of knowledge, he explained, leads us to understanding, which hopefully will make us open to wisdom.
United in common understanding
Noting that the participants came from diverse countries, cultures, expertise and backgrounds, the Pope said they can work together and help “develop a common understanding of our universe.”
The new and large astronomical surveys on variable stars which the participants are studying, the Pope said are in themselves the result of collaborative efforts by many nations and teams of scientists.
As man’s understanding of the vast universe grows, so does our need to learn how to manage the "flood of information." The Pope said the way astrophysicists handle vast volumes of data is a sign of hope to others who feel overwhelmed by the information revolution of the internet and the social media.