Vatican City, May 8, 2021 / 10:30 am
Pope Francis and Jane Goodall both offered perspectives on “what it means to be human” on the final day of an online Vatican health conference on Saturday.
In a video message to the virtual conference on May 8, the pope said that Saint Augustine’s words in "The Confessions" are timeless: “Man is himself a great deep."
“The Scriptures, and philosophical and theological reflection in particular, have employed the concept of ‘soul’ to define our uniqueness as human beings and the specificity of the person, which is irreducible to any other living being and includes our openness to a supernatural dimension and thus to God,” the pope said.
Pope Francis said that “this openness to the transcendent” is fundamental and “bears witness to the infinite value of every human person.”
Anthropologist Jane Goodall, famed for her work with chimpanzees, also spoke at the Vatican conference on “mind, body, and soul,” giving a talk entitled “What does it Mean to be Human?”
“I think where we fit in into the picture of primates is we are the fifth great ape, and our closest relative among the other great apes... Well, there's two of them, actually, the chimpanzee and the bonobo. We differ from each other genetically by only just over 1%,” Goodall said.
She offered examples of how chimpanzees can be taught sign language, use the computer, and make drawings. During evolution, she said, humans learned to communicate with words, language, and writing that enables people to be distinguished by their ability to make plans for the future and invent rockets.
“But then when you realize how like us chimpanzees are, and yet how we differ with this explosive development of the intellect, this development of the intellect has not given us a reason to label ourselves as Homo sapiens, the wise ape. We're not wise. We've seen what Mars looks like. We don't want to live there. We've only got this one planet, at least in our lifetimes, and we're destroying it,” Goodall said.