Pontiff: Knowledge of the Person Beyond Science

Tells Researchers Progress Should Be Progress of Love

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 28, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Science cannot determine who man is, where he comes from or where he goes, Benedict XVI says. Thus, the most important knowledge is the knowledge of the human person.

The Pope affirmed this today when he received in audience participants in an interacademic conference titled “The Changeable Identity of the Individual,” promoted by the Academy of Sciences of Paris and the Pontifical Academy of Science.

In his address to them, the Holy Father first expressed his joy at their interacademic collaboration which, he said, “opens the way to vast and ever more profound multidisciplinary research.”

In our time, he said, “the exact sciences, both natural and human, have made prodigious advances in their understanding of man and his universe.” However, he continued, “there is a strong temptation to circumscribe human identity and enclose it with the limits of what is known.”

The Pope continued: “In order to avoid going down this path, it is important not to ignore anthropological, philosophical and theological research, which highlight and maintain the mystery of human beings, because no science can say who they are, where they come from and where they go. The knowledge of human beings is then, the most important of all forms of knowledge.”

“Human beings always stand beyond what can be scientifically seen or perceived,” the Pontiff affirmed. “To overlook the question of man’s ‘being’ inevitably leads to refusing the possibility of research into the objective truth of being […] and, effectively, to an incapacity to recognize the foundation upon which human dignity rests, from the embryo until natural death.”


Benedict XVI said the participants in the conference, “starting from the question of the new being, who is produced by a fusion of cells and who bears a new and specific genetic heritage,” had highlighted certain “essential elements in the mystery of man.”

Man, the Pope explained, is “characterised by his otherness. He is a being created by God, a being in the image of God, a being who is loved and is made to love. As a human he is never closed within himself. He is always a bearer of otherness and, from his origins, is in interaction with other human beings.

“Man is not the result of mere chance, of converging circumstances, of determinism, of chemical inter-reactions. Man is a being who enjoys a freedom which […] transcends his nature and is a sign of the mystery of otherness that dwells within him.”

“This freedom, which is characteristic of human beings, means they can guide their lives to a goal,” the Holy Father said. And it “highlights how man’s existence has a meaning. In the exercise of his authentic freedom, the individual realises his vocation, he is fulfilled and gives form to his deepest identity.”

“Human beings have the specific ability of discerning what is good,” the Pope concluded. “In our own time, when the progress of the sciences attracts and seduces for the possibilities it offers, it is more necessary than ever to educate the consciences of our contemporaries to ensure that science does not become the criterion of good, that man is still respected as the centre of creation, and that he does not become the object of ideological manipulation, arbitrary decisions, or abuses.”

“All scientific progress,” he affirmed, “should be also a progress of love, called to put itself at the service of man and humanity, and to offer its contribution to the building up of the identity of persons.”

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