For Benedict XVI, this is why in an era of “prodigious” scientific advances, it is important not to ignore research in fields like anthropology, philosophy and theology that seek to understand human nature and answer questions about who we are, where we are from and where we are going.
The Holy Father made these remarks in an address he made this morning to an inter-academic conference promoted by the Académie des Sciences de Paris and the Pontifical Academy of Science on ‘The changeable identity of the individual.’
“In our time,” said the Pope, “in which scientific development attracts and seduces for the possibilities it offers, it is important more than ever to educate our contemporaries to ensure that science does not become the criterion of what is good, to make sure that man continues to be respected as the centre of creation, and that he does not become the object of ideological manipulations, arbitrary decisions, or abuses by the strongest of the weakest, which are dangers we have all seen throughout human history, especially in the 20th century.”
For the Pope we must resist the temptation “to circumscribe human identity, enclosing it within the limits of what is known through ‘the prodigious advances’ of science.”
In order to avoid going down this path we must not “ignore anthropological, philosophical and theological research, which highlight and preserve the mystery of what human beings are given the fact that no science can say who they are, where they are from and where they are going.”
“Man is not an accident, a set of converging factors or pre-determined parts, the by-product of interacting physical and chemical elements; he is a creature that enjoys a kind of freedom that transcends his nature, a sign of the mystery of the otherness that is in him. With this in mind the great thinker Pascal said that ‘man surpasses man infinitely.’ This freedom, which is inherent in human beings, allows them to seek an end which through their deeds can lead to the happiness which is theirs for eternity.”
Hence every scientific effort must include “an effort of love in the service of one’s fellow man and of humanity” that contributes “to building of one’s identity” because “love allows us to come out of our shelves to discover and acknowledge others.”
In fact, “in opening ourselves to others, we assert our own identity because the other can also tell” us who we are.
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