This report was contributed by Alessandro de Vecchi.
The wide and complex theme of light, from an interdisciplinary perspective, bringing together science, philosophy, theology and even magic. This is the ambitious goal of Fiat Lux – Let there be Light, an international Conference that will take place June 3-4 in Rome, in the auditorium of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum, concluding June 5, at the Faculty of Engineering of the Sapienza Università di Roma in San Pietro in Vincoli.
The event will convoke scholars, scientists and artists from diverse parts of the world. ZENIT spoke to one of the initiators of the Conference, Fr. Rafael Pascual, a professor of philosophy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.
“The idea for this project – Fr Pascual recounts – came about several years ago through meeting professor Eugenio Fazio, of the Faculty of Engineering of the Sapienza, who had already organized several conferences on the relationship between science and faith. It was in this context that we got to know each other and thought about organizing this wide-ranging meeting. Since UNESCO had declared 2015 as the International Year of Light, we reckoned that the right moment had come. Our goal is to provide the occasion for persons belonging to diverse fields of expertise, to meet, exchange ideas in the philosophical, theological and scientific disciplines, and thus achieve a mutual understanding – which often is lacking in specialized congresses.”
In the scientific area, there will be two Nobel prize winners in chemistry: Israeli professor Ada Yonath of the Weizmann Institute of Science (at Rehovot, Israel) and German professor Stefan Hell of the University of Heidelberg, Germany. Yonath received the prize in 2009 for her studies on the function and structure of the ribosomes inside cells. Her contribution, like others, will therefore deal with light as the source of life and energy for biological organisms. Hell was awarded the prize in 2014 for his studies on the development of technologies for optical microscopy.
Other renowned experts in optics, photonics, biology, astrophysics and astronomy will give talks. Vint Cerf, the “evangelist” of Google, considered one of the “fathers” of the Internet, will deal with the theme of light as an instrument of communication. The theme of light in art will also be treated, the discussion being enriched by the participation of diverse artists and an art exhibit.
Ample time will be reserved for the philosophical and theological areas, from mystical theology to spirituality. “In theology – Fr Pascual insists – God is presented also as Light; this is a theme that ranges across the whole Bible. One of the primary examples is found in the theology of John, where God is referred to as light, emphasizing that all that belongs to the light is of God. The light that enlightens the darkness is therefore a fundamental element of St John’s theology. It is the light of faith and salvation. It is also the light as creation: in the Book of Genesis, the first act of creation is in fact the creation of light.”
Among the philosophers, deserving special mention is the presence of professor Evandro Agazzi, president of the International Academy of Philosophy of Science. “In philosophy – Fr Pascual notes – we often speak about the light of knowledge. Other than reflections on the nature of light, we use the metaphor of light as illumination, the light of the intellect, the true source of knowledge. St Thomas Aquinas speaks of the “agent intellect” as the light that illuminates the image we form through the senses, elevating it to the intellectual level. This enables us to know. According to Thomas, this light is a sort of participation in God’s light. All of this links us to the idea of “Uncreated Light”, also present in the thought of St Augustine. There’s also the question of the visible perception of light, how we interpret light according to colors. This too is a philosophical question since we can ask whether colors really exist in reality or are just something we believe we see.” And speaking of optical illusions, Silvan the magician will be on hand to speak about how light is an essential element for a magician in order to hide their tricks from the audience.
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Information on the congress, the participants and their contributions are available on this site: www.fiatluxconference.com.