Vatican: Faithful Should Listen to Science
By NICOLE WINFIELD, Associated Press Writer
A Vatican cardinal said Thursday the faithful should listen to what
secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks
turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason.
Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture,
made the comments at a news conference on a Vatican project to help
end the "mutual prejudice" between religion and science that has long
bedeviled the Roman Catholic Church and is part of the evolution
debate in the United States.
The Vatican project was inspired by Pope John Paul II's 1992
declaration that the church's 17th-century denunciation of Galileo was
an error resulting from "tragic mutual incomprehension." Galileo was
condemned for supporting Nicolaus Copernicus' discovery that the Earth
revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at
the center of the universe.
"The permanent lesson that the Galileo case represents pushes us to
keep alive the dialogue between the various disciplines, and in
particular between theology and the natural sciences, if we want to
prevent similar episodes from repeating themselves in the future,"
But he said science, too, should listen to religion.
"We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: the atomic bomb
and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that
wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link," he said.
--> "But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links
with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism," he said. <--
"The faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular
modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the
faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity."
Poupard and others at the news conference were asked about the
religion-science debate raging in the United States over evolution and
Intelligent design's supporters argue that natural selection, an
element of evolutionary theory, cannot fully explain the origin of
life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.
Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or
Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996
statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis."
"A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said.
"(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."
He was asked about comments made in July by Austrian Cardinal
Christoph Schoenborn, who dismissed in a New York Times article the
1996 statement by John Paul as "rather vague and unimportant" and
seemed to back intelligent design.
Basti concurred that John Paul's 1996 letter "is not a very clear
expression from a definition point of view," but he said evolution was
assuming ever more authority as scientific proof develops.
Poupard, for his part, stressed that what was important was that "the
universe wasn't made by itself, but has a creator." But he added,
"It's important for the faithful to know how science views things to
The Vatican project STOQ has organized academic courses and
conferences on the relationship between science and religion and is
hosting its first international conference on "the infinity in
science, philosophy and theology," next week.
On the Net:
Vatican project STOQ: http://www.stoqnet.org
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: There are many instances where science
and religion _can_ be reconciled; so often people tend to dismiss all
religious thinking as nonsense, which is a pity. Think in terms of a
'bigger picture' when confronted with seeming discrepancies between
the two. PAT]