I’m asked on occasion to speak to groups about the relationship between faith and science. The No. 1 message they ask me to convey is that faith and science are not inherently opposed to each other — that the church isn’t anti-science.
It’s helpful that the pope, likewise on occasion, takes the time to make that very point.
Most recently, Pope Benedict XVI spoke Oct. 28 to 80 scientists gathered at the Vatican for the launching of the Pontifical Academy of Science’s plenary assembly on “The Scientific Legacy of the Twentieth Century.”
He reiterated that science can’t answer all the questions we have about human existence; it cannot answer why we are here or how we should conduct our lives, for example. Our faith guides us on those matters.
But science isn’t something we should fear either because it teaches us more about the universe God created and, in the process, more about God himself.
That’s why there’s a need for an ongoing dialogue. As the pope said:
“Our meeting here today, dear friends, is a proof of the church’s esteem for ongoing scientific research and of her gratitude for scientific endeavor, which she both encourages and benefits from. In our own day, scientists themselves appreciate more and more the need to be open to philosophy if they are to discover the logical and epistemological foundation for their methodology and their conclusions. For her part, the church is convinced that scientific activity ultimately benefits from the recognition of man’s spiritual dimension and his quest for ultimate answers.”
Scientists need to search for truth, the pope added. But they also need to apply their discoveries in ways that are just and good for humanity. In this way, science and philosophical reflection go hand in hand.
That’s a dialogue I hope we all can agree with.