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“What Can We Learn From the Pandemic? Can Science Exist Without Faith?”

Zsófia Nagy-Vargha 2021.04.19.

“Large epidemics in history have often resulted in cultural-historical divides” said Cardinal Péter Erdő on Kossuth Radio’s program Faith, Science, Society. E. Sylvester Vizi, the former president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, sees that the current pandemic “can also be an anti-babel,” or in other words the fight against the common enemy can bring good to humanity. A cardinal, a Calvinist bishop, a rabbi, and a brain researcher all sat down at one table to discuss the relationship between faith, science, society, and the conclusions that thinkers and believers could draw from the epidemic that plagued the entire world. Slomó Köves, the leading rabbi of the United Hungarian Jewish Community and Calvinist Bishop Zoltán Balog also took part in the discussion.

The original article was published by our sister site, Ungarn Heute. Translation by Márton Jász

The volume entitled “Faith, Science, Society” was published, in which natural and social scientists, lawyers, theologians shared their thoughts on important questions such as; can the existence of God be proven through rationality, or does a bridge exist between spirit and matter, and between faith and mind? The aim of the book is a dialogue between believers and non-believers about our world and ourselves, as well as followers of various religious and scientific trends.

On the occasion of the publication of the book, Kossuth Rádió seated Archbishop Péter Erdő, Calvinist Bishop Zoltán Balog, Chief Rabbi Slomó Köves and brain researcher E. Sylvester Vizi, former president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, publisher of Hungary Today.

“Why shouldn’t we consider the epidemic as a Divine warning?” Can we learn from the pandemic?

“In the Middle Ages, people viewed epidemics as God’s punishment. It was thought to be collective sin, but it also always included the possibility of renewal,” emphasized Cardinal Péter Erdő. According to the Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest, globalization and excessive travel cause huge pollution, and it is important to consider whether all this will be necessary even after the epidemic. This period also draws attention to rethinking the value of work, as it is now clear which jobs are the ones without which society cannot function in any way.

Cardinal Péter Erdő. Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI

Brain researcher E. Sylvester Vizi also sees that the epidemic can teach humanity something new again and that religions can provide effective help in this.

There is a common enemy that we do not see, we do not apprehend and only know little about. The current epidemic could be Anti-babel.”

According to the professor, the epidemic can even be a “Pentecostal miracle” because everyone sees one goal in front of them, that we need to defeat the coronavirus. “And that serves a common good,” Vizi stressed.

E. Sylvester Vizi. Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI

According to Rabbi Slomó Köves, although epidemics have a scientific cause, there is always some spiritual reason behind them.

There is an invisible enemy that shows our own vulnerability. An epidemic draws attention to this vulnerability.”

Calvinist bishop Zoltán Balog called the pandemic a “divine pedagogy” and also drew a parallel with the history of the Tower of Babel:

I see a warning that humankind did not respect the boundaries that nature had set. But Divine Judgment is by all means a healing judgment. As it was with Babel, so it will be now.”

According to him, if humanity only awaits the moment when it can return to a pre-pandemic life, it will most certainly lose.

We should definitely think about what we can learn from all this.”

“Faith cannot exist without science, just as science cannot exist without faith.”

Péter Erdő recalled when they wanted to establish a Catholic university in Hungary after the regime change. During the decades of communism, faith had nothing to do with the world of science. “Yet reality is ONE,” Erdő stressed, adding, “What we approach in faith is also approached by scientists with the ability of human intellect.”

E. Sylvester Vizi highlighted the oeuvre of the Benedictine monk Jáki Szaniszló, who tried to approach the question of faith from a scientific point of view. “He has shifted to a dimension where provability has diminished. In addition to the measurable, he also drew attention to the importance of the immeasurable.”


Stanley L. Jaki (Győr, August 17, 1924 – Madrid, April 7, 2009) Templeton Prize-winning American historian of Hungarian descent, philosopher of science, Benedictine monk, theologian, physicist, university professor. He is the author of more than forty world-renowned books, as well as more than eighty scientific and theological essays as well as dozens of critiques, accounting terms, encyclopedia articles, and an English translator of the works of Immanuel Kant and Giordano Bruno.

Citing poet Attila József, the former president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences said: “God can be seen in action in all things.” According to the professor, this is the most common realization for natural scientists: the more you immerse yourself into the study of the environment, the more you realize its order. He cited genetics as an example: “Fruit flies  only have half as many genes as humans, yet they are still composed from the same basic elements. It’s like the world is made of lego-cubes.”

According to Slomó Köves, “Not only can faith not exist without science, science can be dangerous without faith.”

Rabbi Slomó Köves. Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI

According to the rabbi, faith is similar to science because both need to be practiced. The rabbi, however, warned that no one should approach the Bible scientifically, because the meaning is more important, as well as how the writing affects each person’s personal history.

The search for truth is the basis of scientific motivation, but also the basis of religious existence.”

emphasized Köves.

Bishop Zoltán Balog also spoke about the fact that the scientific and literary-critical approach of the Bible can do a lot of damage. According to him, to the question, “Why are we in the world?” natural science cannot give an answer. On the other hand, it can give an answer to how creation took place, for instance.

Bishop Zoltán Balog. Photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI

The “Faith, Science, Society” volume was also published in English. The authors of the studies would have attended a conference, but it could not be held due to the pandemic. Thus, the book was made from a written version of their lectures.

Featured photo by Zoltán Balogh/MTI

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