Far From Being an Obstacle, Faith Seen as an Aid to Science

Cardinal Martino Addresses Festival in Bergamo

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BERGAMO, Italy, OCT. 18, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Modern science «is a genuine product of a Judeo-Christian view of the world,» and not the product of the Enlightenment, contends Cardinal Renato Martino.

When addressing the recent Festival of Science in Bergamo, the cardinal cast doubt on the «now habitual consideration» that science is «the result of the Enlightenment.»

«For the great scientists and theologians of the Middle Ages, such as St. Albert the Great, Roberto Grossatesta and St. Hildegard of Bingen, the relationship between faith and science was almost co-natural,» the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said.

This is how these «eminent scientists and believers in God the creator» perceived the «universe, … the harmony between these two forms of knowledge,» he said. However, «this harmony between science and faith breaks in an age that corresponds more or less to the beginning of the Enlightenment.»

In fact, the «aude sapere» — «dare to think,» the programmatic synthesis of the Enlightenment — presents itself «as the attempt of autonomous reason to deny any authority other than itself,» the cardinal explained during his Oct. 10 address, entitled «Science and Faith at the Service of Man.»

Precisely to this Age of Reason is dated the «manipulation» of the Galileo Galilei case, «which arose as symbol of an alleged opposition between science and faith, which has led many to uphold» the «incompatibility between both,» Cardinal Martino said.

«Instead, modern science is the genuine product of a Judeo-Christian view of the world which has its source of inspiration in the Bible and in the doctrine of the Logos,» he noted.

For example, «the characteristic of pagan cosmogony is to present an inevitable cycle of birth-death-rebirth, without beginning or end, and substantially bereft of meaning.» This is «a cyclical and non-ending view of time in the cosmos» in which «science was unable to make progress,» he explained.

However, science needs «the capacity to investigate the beginning of processes in the universe» and an «adequate notion of time is fundamental for the development of differential and integral calculation.»

«It was precisely the lineal and progressive view of the cosmos derived from Christian doctrine which triggers the growth of science, as well as other aspects of human enterprise,» Cardinal Martino continued.

However, according to the president of the pontifical council, the idea that the Church and science are foreign to each other «has been exaggerated by the enemies» both of one as well as of the other, he added.

«To make science within theology is frequently the cause of misunderstandings between theologians and scientists,» he said. «Among the ideological excesses there have been attempts to weaken an objective reality through a mistaken theory of relativity; attempts to reject the principle of causality through an illegitimate recourse to quantum theories and further approaches that transform the theory of evolution into an ideology, reinforcing the idea of causality and denying purpose to the universe.»

«What all these attempts have in common is the desire to create an ideology of science; they seek to give science a task that is outside its objective,» the Vatican official warned.

Cardinal Martino recalled that Pope Paul VI «stressed that science does not exhaust the whole of reality, but is a segment of it, of truth that can be proved with scientific procedures,» and that «science is sovereign in its field,» but «slave in respect to man.»

«In other words, scientism must be avoided, still widespread today, which tends to reduce everything to knowledge of the scientific» and «refuses to admit as valid ways of knowledge different from those proper to positive sciences, relegating to the confined of mere imagination both religious and theological knowledge as well as ethical and aesthetic learning.»

Since the start of his pontificate, John Paul II «has laid the basis so that science and faith are really at the service of man» and the Holy Father has explained «the positive complementarity of science in relation to other sectors in the perspective of love,» Cardinal Martino said.

In this connection, the Pope notes that «the understanding of ourselves and of the universe will attain a moment of genuine wisdom only if we are open to the numerous ways in which the human mind arrives at knowledge: through science, art, philosophy and theology.»

«Scientific research will be more creative and beneficial for society when it contributes to unify learning derived from these different sources and leads to a fruitful dialogue with all those who work in other fields of learning,» Cardinal Martino said, quoting the Pope.

In any case, and following John Paul II, science — research and application — are «a significant expression of man’s lordship over creation,» and given that «science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they originate and develop, … the latter find in the person and in his moral values the indication of their end and knowledge of their limits,» the cardinal added.

«Science and technology are precious resources when they are at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all; they cannot, however, indicate the meaning of existence and of human progress,» the cardinal emphasized.

This is why «the false notion of a science free of moral values» must be rejected, and why it is «illusory to claim the moral neutrality of scientific research and its applications,» he added.

In addition, Cardinal Martino clarified, «science and technology require, because of their own intrinsic meaning, unconditional respect of the fundamental criteria of morality; they must be at the service of the human person, of his inalienable rights, of his real and integral good, in keeping with the plan and will of God.»

In this connection, «Christian revelation is the real polar star for man» and «the possibility offered by God to be able to find the fullness of his plan of love initiated with creation.»

This «is the path to guarantee that the scientific discoveries will be at the service of humanity,» the cardinal said. «Man, desirous of knowing the truth, if he is able to look beyond himself and to raise his sight beyond his own plans, is given the possibility to recover the genuine relationship with life, following the path of truth.»

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