VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict warned on Monday of the “seductive” powers of science that relegate man’s spirituality, reviving the science-versus-religion debate which recently forced him to cancel a speech after student protests.
“In an age when scientific developments attract and seduce with the possibilities they offer, it’s more important than ever to educate our contemporaries’ consciences so that science does not become the criteria for goodness,” he told scientists.
Scientific investigation should be accompanied by “research into anthropology, philosophy and theology” to give insight into “man’s own mystery, because no science can say who man is, where he comes from or where he is going”, the Pope said.
“Man is not the fruit of chance or a bundle of convergences, determinisms or physical and chemical reactions,” Benedict told a meeting of academics of different disciplines sponsored by the Paris Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
The Pope reiterated a plea, made in many speeches since he was elected in 2005, for mankind to be “respected as the centre of creation” and not relegated by more short-term interests.
But the conservative German-born Pope’s public stand on issues such as abortion and embryonic stem-cell research lead critics to accuse him of holding antiquated views on science.
Students and teachers at Rome’s La Sapienza university — which was founded by a pope more than 700 years ago — cited such views when they protested a papal speech scheduled for January 17 that it had to be cancelled.
In particular they criticised his views on science, saying a speech he gave in 1990 showed he would have favoured the Church’s 17th century heresy trial against Galileo.
The Vatican said the protesters misunderstood that speech, made some 17 years ago when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Reporting by Stephen Brown