John Paul II Says Scientists Are Called to "Serve More"

Addresses Members of Pontifical Academy

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VATICAN CITY, NOV. 11, 2002 ( The progress of science increases the responsibility of scientists, John Paul II told participants at a meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Addressing the 60 experts and scientists today, the Pope focused on the same issues that have brought them together in Rome to discuss «The Cultural Values of Science.» Werner Arber, 1978 Nobel Prize recipient and professor of microbiology at the Biozentrum of the University of Basle, Switzerland, had suggested the topic.

In his English-language address, the Holy Father said «that science itself represents a value for human knowledge and the human community.»

«It is thanks to science that we are able to appreciate ever more what one member of this academy has called ‘the wonder of being human’: This is the title that John Eccles, recipient of the 1963 Nobel Prize for neurophysiology and member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, gave to his book on the human brain and mind,» he said.

«If philosophy and theology today grasp better than in the past what it means to be a human being in the world, they owe this in no small part to science,» the Pope said, «because it is science that has shown us how numerous and complex the works of creation are and how seemingly limitless the created cosmos is.

«The utter marvel that inspired the first philosophical reflections on nature does not diminish as new scientific discoveries are made. Rather, it increases with each fresh insight that is gained. The species capable of creaturely amazement is transformed as our grasp of truth and reality becomes more comprehensive, as we are led to search ever more deeply within the realm of human experience and existence.»

However, «scientists, therefore, precisely because they know more, are called to serve more,» the Pope stressed.

«Since the freedom they enjoy in research gives them access to specialized knowledge, they have the responsibility of using it wisely for the benefit of the entire human family,» he said.

«I am thinking here not only of the dangers involved in a science devoid of an ethic firmly grounded in the nature of the human person and in respect of the environment, themes which I have dwelt on many times in the past,» the Pope explained.

«I am also thinking of the enormous benefits that science can bring to the peoples of the world through basic research and technological applications,» he added.

«By protecting its legitimate autonomy from economic and political pressures, by not giving in to the forces of consensus or to the quest for profit, by committing itself to selfless research aimed at truth and the common good, the scientific community can help the world’s peoples and serve them in ways no other structures can,» the Holy Father emphasized.

«At the beginning of this new century, scientists need to ask themselves if there is not more that they can do in this regard,» he said.

The Pope then posed questions. «In an ever more globalized world, can they not do more to increase levels of instruction and improve health conditions, to study strategies for a more equitable distribution of resources, to facilitate the free circulation of information and the access of all to that knowledge that improves the quality of life and raises standards of living? Can they not make their voices heard more clearly and with greater authority in the cause of world peace?»

The Holy Father’s questions were an appeal to the scientists to prepare for the 500th anniversary of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Academy members include Gary Becker, economics professor at the University of Chicago and a Nobel laureate; Ahmed Hassan Sewail, professor of chemistry and physics at California Institute of Technology; and Antonio Zichichi, president of the World Federation of Scientists.

The pontifical academicians participate in study groups and meetings organized by the academy, which in turn publishes their deliberations and scientific papers.

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