.- Meeting today with members of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, Pope Benedict XVI said that, “Christianity does not posit an inevitable conflict between supernatural faith and scientific progress,” and assured the scientists that the Church supports their scientific research so long as it is a sincere search for the truth.
The scientists visited with the Holy Father as part of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Academy, which is considering the theme, “Predictability in Science: Accuracy and Limitations."
Pope Benedict noted that some people, “have seen in the progress of modern science and technology one of the main causes of secularization and materialism: why invoke God's control over these phenomena when science has shown itself capable of doing the same thing?”
However, the Holy Father continued, “God created human beings, endowed them with reason, and set them over all the creatures of the earth." In this way, he said, man became "the steward of creation and God's 'helper.' ... Indeed, we could say that the work of predicting, controlling and governing nature, which science today renders more practicable than in the past, is itself a part of the Creator's plan."
"Christianity does not posit an inevitable conflict between supernatural faith and scientific progress," he stressed.
That being said, “Man cannot place in science and technology so radical and unconditional a trust as to believe that scientific and technological progress can explain everything and completely fulfill all his existential and spiritual needs. Science cannot replace philosophy and revelation by giving an exhaustive answer to man's most radical questions: questions about the meaning of living and dying, about ultimate values, and about the nature of progress itself," the Pope affirmed.
Pope Benedict then went on to address the issue of a scientist's ethical responsibilities. "His conclusions must be guided by respect for truth," he said, "and an honest acknowledgment of both the accuracy and the inevitable limitations of the scientific method. Certainly this means avoiding needlessly alarming predictions when these are not supported by sufficient data or exceed science's actual ability to predict. But it also means avoiding the opposite, namely a silence, born of fear, in the face of genuine problems. The influence of scientists in shaping public opinion on the basis of their knowledge is too important to be undermined by undue haste or the pursuit of superficial publicity."
"Our world continues to look to you and your colleagues" the Pope told his audience, "for a clear understanding of the possible consequences of many important natural phenomena. I think, for example, of the continuing threats to the environment which are affecting whole peoples, and the urgent need to discover safe, alternative energy sources available to all.”
"Scientists," he added, "will find support from the Church in their efforts to confront these issues, since the Church has received from her divine founder the task of guiding people's consciences towards goodness, solidarity, and peace.”
“Precisely for this reason,” the Pope continued, the Church is duty-bound, “to insist that science's ability to predict and control must never be employed against human life and its dignity, but always placed at its service, at the service of this and future generations."
The Holy Father then noted the necessity for science to work along side with philosophy and theology to answer the deeper questions of mankind. "The scientific method itself," the Pope warned, "has inherent limitations that necessarily restrict scientific predictability to specific contexts and approaches. Science cannot, therefore, presume to provide a complete, deterministic representation of our future and of the development of every phenomenon that it studies.”
"Philosophy and theology might make an important contribution to this fundamentally epistemological question by, for example, helping the empirical sciences to recognize a difference between the mathematical inability to predict certain events and the validity of the principle of causality, or, ... more radically, between evolution as the origin of a succession in space and time, and creation as the ultimate origin of participated being in essential Being."
The Holy Father concluded: "At the same time, there is a higher level that necessarily transcends all scientific predictions, namely, the human world of freedom and history. Whereas the physical cosmos can have its own spatial-temporal development, only humanity, strictly speaking, has a history, the history of its freedom. Freedom, like reason, is a precious part of God's image within us, and it can never be reduced to a deterministic analysis"