SCIENCE MUST NOT BECOME THE CRITERION OF GOOD
VATICAN CITY, 28 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Vatican, the Holy Father received participants in an inter-academic conference entitled "The changeable identity of the individual", promoted by the "Academie des Sciences de Paris" and by the Pontifical Academy of Science.
In his address to them, Benedict XVI first expressed his joy and their inter-academic collaboration which, he said, "opens the way to vast and ever more profound multidisciplinary research".
In our time, said the Pope, "the exact sciences, both natural and human, have made prodigious advances in their understanding of man and his universe". However at the same time "there is a strong temptation to circumscribe human identity and enclose it with the limits of what is known. ... In order to avoid going down this path it is important not to ignore anthropological, philosophical and theological research, which highlight and maintain the mystery of human beings, because no science can say who they are, where they come from and where they go. The knowledge of human beings is then, the most important of all forms of knowledge".
"Human beings always stand beyond what can be scientifically seen or perceived", the Pope affirmed. "To overlook the question of man's 'being' inevitably leads to refusing the possibility of research into the objective truth of being ... and, effectively, to an incapacity to recognise the foundation upon which human dignity rests, from the embryo until natural death".
"Starting from the question of the new being, who is produced by a fusion of cells and who bears a new and specific genetic heritage", the Holy Father told his audience, "you have highlighted certain essential elements in the mystery of man". Man, said the Pope is "characterised by his otherness. He is a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being who is loved and is made to love. As a human he is never closed within himself. He is always a bearer of otherness and, from his origins, is in interaction with other human beings".
"Man", said the Pontiff, "is not the result of mere chance, of converging circumstances, of determinism, of chemical inter-reactions. Man is a being who enjoys a freedom which ... transcends his nature and is a sign of the mystery of otherness that dwells within him. ... This freedom, which is characteristic of human beings, means they can guide their lives to a goal" and "highlights how man's existence has a meaning. In the exercise of his authentic freedom, the individual realises his vocation, he is fulfilled and gives form to his deepest identity".
"Human beings have the specific ability of discerning what is good", the Pope concluded. "In our own time, when the progress of the sciences attracts and seduces for the possibilities it offers, it is more necessary than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries to ensure that science does not become the criterion of good, that man is still respected as the centre of creation, and that he does not become the object of ideological manipulation, arbitrary decisions, or abuses".
AC/.../ACADEMIE DES SCIENCES VIS 080128 (530)