Fathers Gabriele Gionti and Matteo Galaverni, both astrophysicists working at the Vatican Observatory, have proposed a new theory attempting to describe the laws of gravity during the Big Bang. While Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity describes the effects of gravity on large objects in the universe, such as planets or stars, the tiniest objects in the universe, like atoms, electrons, and quarks, are described by quantum mechanics. The research by the Vatican scientists is part of a larger effort in the scientific community to develop a quantum theory of gravity, which would allow scientists to understand how gravity functioned during the Big Bang when the universe was very heavy and dense, but also very small.
According to information from the Catholic News Agency (CNA), the priests’ aim was to look at the calculations of gravity through a simpler mathematical frame than in previous models. The prevalent Brans-Dicke theory does not always work, while being very complicated and dense. By trying to narrow down the various theories about cosmological inflation, the priests hope to contribute to the finding of a reliable theory that explains how the universe operates.
For the Vatican scientists, their research is further confirmation that “our universe appears mathematically ordered and harmonious.”
“It makes sense for a person of faith to think that this order is the fruit of a Creation by a benevolent God,” the priests told the CNA.
This is not a proof of the existence of God, but an ‘aesthetic’ reasoning, in the sense that from the mathematical beauty of this universe believers are inflamed with a love for God who for love created this universe. As believers, we know that God created this universe in a relationship of Love with the Son and that this Love is actually the Holy Spirit. When we do science, it is like finding traces of this Love in the universe and, therefore, a trace of God. This is why we say sometimes that doing research is a form of prayer.
The paper by Gionti and Galaverni was published in April in Physical Review D. For the two scientists it is “just one part of the much broader scientific effort to understand the universe,” adding that the Vatican Observatory is “very pleased with the publication and to have been able to make this contribution to scientific knowledge.”
Contrary to anti-clerical prejudice, the Vatican has been active in scientific research for centuries. With roots dating back as far as 1582, the Vatican Observatory is one of the oldest observatories in the world. The research by Gionti and Galverni follows in the tradition of other priest-scientists of the past, such as Fathers Giovanni Battista Riccioli and Francesco Maria Grimaldi, who discovered the phenomenon of acceleration due to gravity, and Father Georges Lemaître, the originator of the Big Bang theory.