THE POPE AND THE SCIENTIST ------------------------ John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc firstname.lastname@example.org 2006 June 21
Dr Stephen Hawking recalled that the late Pope John Paul II warned against studying the origin of the universe because that event was the work of God. Hawking stated that this warning was given at an unspecified conference on cosmology at the Vatican. Hawking mentioned this Pope incident during his public lecture on cosmology at Hong Kong University, in Hong Kong, on 15 June 2006. This remark by Hawking was absorbed into the general contention about science versus religion, at least in the United States. If the Pope did issue such a caution, it would be a modern example of religion 'interfering' with science, this time at a meeting hosted by that very religion! Being the careful wisely writer, I inquired. The Pope did address the Vatican Conference on Cosmology on 6 July 1985 with the following text. it has no explicit 'warning' against trying to learn how the universe began. This conference occurred 21 years ago! Memory can be perturbed by a long intervening time. = = = = = = ADDRESS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II TO THE PARTICIPANTS IN THE VATICAN CONFERENCE ON COSMOLOGY
Saturday, 6 July 1985
1. Offer very cordial greetings to the participants in the Vatican Conference on Cosmology. In this year which marks the Fiftieth Anniversary of scientific research at the Specola Vaticana, I would like to take this occasion to extend my heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to Father Coyne and the entire staff of the Observatory. Please know that your diligent work, especially in the field of astrophysics, together with your ecclesial dedication, bears splendid witness to the Church's profound interest in the world of science and particularly in the men and women engaged in scientific research.
I warmly greet the observational astronomers and the theorists in gravitational physics and cosmology who have accepted the invitation to take part in this important meeting. It is a joy to welcome you today, together with the members of your families.
2. Through the natural sciences, and cosmology in particular, we have become much more aware of our true physical position within the universe, within physical reality - in space and in time. We are struck very forcibly by our smallness and apparent insignificance, and even more by our vulnerability in such a vast and seemingly hostile environment. Yet this universe of ours, this galaxy in which our sun is situated and this planet on which we live, is our home. And all of it in some way or other serves to support us, nourish us, fascinate us, inspire us, taking us out of ourselves and forcing us to look far beyond the limits of our unaided vision. What we discover through our study of nature and of the universe in all its immensity and rich variety serves on the one hand to emphasize our fragile condition and our littleness, and on the other hand to manifest clearly our greatness and superiority in the midst of all creation - the profoundly exalted position we enjoy in being able to search, to imagine and to discover so much. We are made in the image and likeness of God. Thus, we are capable of knowing and understanding more and more about the universe and all that it contains. We can reach out and grasp its inner workings and designs, plumbing its depths with questioning reverence and with awestruck imagination.
3. This Conference, I have been told, has as one of its principal focuses the determination of the inherent limitations of cosmology's competency and its observational verifiability - the limits in principle and in practice of the scientific verification of its theoretical products. With a gradual and constant growth in humble self-knowledge, we are able to avoid the extremes of an inflated evaluation of our own abilities and capacities or a disparagingly narrow and superficial one. And that is true of any disciple or field of study. A sound appreciation of both our limitations and strong points enables us to plan our projects carefully, to maintain proper relationships with the material, personal and divine realities, and to become ever more sensitive to all the valuable information which is available to us through modern science.
4. The more we know about physical reality, about the history and structure of the universe, about the fundamental make-up of matter and the processes and patterns which at the roots of the material world, the more we can appreciate the immensity of the mystery of God, the more we are in a position to grasp the mystery of ourselves - our origin and our destiny. For creation, as we have come to know it, speaks to us in fragmentary yet very true reflections of the God who created it and maintains it in existence. Of course, that picture must always remain tantalizingly incomplete. For certain aspects of our lives rise above and move beyond the material dimension and, while having deep roots in the material, surpass the understanding which the natural sciences are capable of providing. They draw our attention to the realm of the Spirit. The human creations of art and poetry, our longing for justice and peace and for wholeness, indeed all genuine human experience, lead us to recognize that there is an interiority in the universe and particularly in human life, an interiority which cannot simply be reduced to the features of reality which the physical and natural sciences are concerned with. There are certainly important and essential contributions to be made by the sciences, directly and indirectly, to these more interior or spiritual characteristics of reality. Indeed such contributions must be made, but their investigation and study demands other complementary methods and disciplines such as those provided by the arts, the humanities, philosophy and theology. These in turn must become aware of their own essential competencies and limitations.
5. Much of what modern astronomy and cosmology investigate does not find direct application via technology. Yet it makes a vitally important contribution. For it helps us, at the very least, to put ourselves and everything else into a larger perspective, encouraging us to move beyond our own narrow and selfish concerns. Our view of ourselves, of God and of the universe is radically different from that of people in the Middle Ages. We see ourselves situated in a much larger context - in a much more vast and much more intricately, even delicately, complex world and universe.
For the first time we have seen ourselves from outside - from the Moon, and from other vantage points in our solar system. And with that startling perspective, we realize that we must be more responsible for ourselves, our neighbours, our institutions, and our planet, whatever may be our nation, religion or political stance. We realize ever more deeply our smallness and our frailty, but at the same time our grandeur. We feel more inclined to say together with the Psalmist of the Old Testament: "The heavens proclaim the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of his hands" (Ps. 19 (18), 1. = = = = = = = = = = Quick assist from NYSkies readers on 21 June 2006 turned up the specific reference of Dr Hawking. The Pope's comments were cited in Hawking's 'A brief history of time' and Hawking recounted them in his Hong Kong lecture. The book refers to a Vatican cosmology conference in 1981, which indeed has the following address by Pope John Paul II. Again, there is no real admonition against inquiring too far into the beginning of the uiverse.
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Cosmology and Fundamental Physics =================================
Pope John Paul II
Discourse of His Holiness Pope John Paul II given on 3rd October 1981 at the Solemn Audience granted to the Plenary Session and participants in the Study Week dedicated to "Cosmology and Fundamental Physics" with members of two Work Groups who had discussed "Perspectives of Immunization against Parasitic Diseases" and "Effects Resulting from an Atomic Bombing".
Mr. President, Members of the Academy, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. The programme of work which your President has presented, and with which I was already acquainted before this meeting, demonstrates the great vitality of your Academy, its interest in the most acute problems of modern science and its interest in the service of humanity. On the occasion of a previous solemn session I have already had the opportunity to tell you how highly the Church esteems pure science: it is "a good, worthy of being loved, for it is knowledge and therefore perfection of man in his intelligence ... It must be honoured for its own sake, as an integral part of culture" (Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 10 November 1979).
Before speaking of the questions which you have already discussed during these days and those which you now propose to study, permit me to express my warm thanks to your illustrious President, Professor Carlos Chagas, for the congratulations which he kindly expressed in the name of your whole Assembly for my having regained my physical strength, thanks to the merciful Providence of God and the skill of the doctors who have cared for me. And I am pleased to avail myself of the occasion to express my particular gratitude to the Members of the Academy who from all parts of the world have sent me their good wishes and assured me of their prayers.
2. During this Study Week, you are dealing with the subject of "Cosmology and Fundamental Physics", with the participation of scholars from the whole world, from as far away as North and South America and Europe and China. This subject is linked to themes already dealt with by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the course of its prestigious history. Here I wish to speak of the session on microseisms, stellar clusters, cosmic radiation and galactic nuclei, sessions' which have taken place under the presidency of Father Gemelli, Monsignor Lemaitre and also Father O'Connell, to whom I address my most fervent good wishes and whom I pray the Lord to assist in his infirmity.
Cosmogony and cosmology have always aroused great interest among peoples and religions. The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven.
Any scientific hypothesis on the origin of the world, such as the hypothesis of a primitive atom from which derived the whole of the physical universe, leaves open the problem concerning the universe's beginning. Science cannot of itself solve this question: there is needed that human knowledge that rises above physics and astrophysics and which is called metaphysics; there is needed above all the knowledge that comes from God's revelation. Thirty years ago, on 22 November 1951, my predecessor Pope Pius XII, speaking about the problem of the origin of the universe at the Study Week on the subject of microseisms organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, expressed himself as follows: "In vain would one expect a reply from the sciences of nature, which on the contrary frankly declare that they find themselves faced by an insoluble enigma. It is equally certain that the human mind versed in philosophical meditation penetrates the problem more deeply. One cannot deny that a mind which is enlightened and enriched by modern scientific knowledge and which calmly considers this problem is led to break the circle of matter which is totally independent and autonomous-as being either uncreated or having created itself-and to rise to a creating Mind. With the same clear and critical gaze with which it examines and judges the facts, it discerns and recognizes there the work of creative Omnipotence, whose strength raised up by the powerful fiat uttered billions of years ago by the creating Mind, has spread through the universe, calling into existence, in a gesture of generous love, matter teeming with energy".
3. Members of the Academy, I am very pleased with the theme that you have chosen for your Plenary Session beginning on this very day: "The Impact of Molecular Biology on Society". I realize the advantages that result-and can still result-from the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics and its technological application in agriculture and industry, and also, as is envisaged, for the treatment of various illnesses, some of a hereditary character.
I have firm confidence in the world scientific community, and in a very special way in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and I am certain that thanks to them biological progress and research, as also all other forms of scientific research and its technological application, will be carried out in full respect for the norms of morality, safeguarding human dignity, freedom and equality It is necessary that science should always be accompanied and controlled by the wisdom that belongs to the permanent spiritual heritage of humanity and that takes its inspiration from the design of God implanted in creation before being subsequently proclaimed by his Word.
Reflection that is inspired by science and by the wisdom of the world scientific community must enlighten humanity regarding the consequences-good and bad-of scientific research, and especially of that research which concerns man, so that, on the one hand, there will be no fixation on anticultural positions that retard the progress of humanity, and that on the other hand there will be no attack on man's most precious possession: the dignity of his person, destined to true progress in the unity of his physical, intellectual and spiritual well-being.
4. There is another subject which, during these days, has occupied the thoughts of some of you, eminent scholars from different parts of the world who have been brought together by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: the question of parasitic diseases, diseases which strike the poorest countries of the world and are a serious obstacle to the development of man in the harmonious framework of his physical, economic and spiritual well-being. The efforts to eliminate, as far as possible, the serious harm caused by parasitic diseases to a considerable part of humanity are inseparable from the efforts which should be made for the socioeconomic development of those same peoples. Human beings normally need a basic minimum of health and material goods in order to be able to live in a manner worthy of their human and divine vocation. It is for this reason that Jesus turned with infinite love to the sick and infirm, and that he miraculously cured some of the diseases about which you have been concerned in these past days. May the Lord inspire and assist the work of the scientists and doctors who dedicate their research and profession to the study and treatment of human infirmities, especially those which are the most grave and humiliating
5. In addition to the question of parasitic diseases, the Academy has been studying the question of a scourge of catastrophic dimensions and gravity that could attack the health of humanity if a nuclear conflict were to break out. Over and above the death of a considerable part of the world's population, a nuclear conflict could have incalculable effects on the health of the present and future generations.
The multi-disciplinary study which you are preparing to undertake cannot fail to be for the Heads of State a reminder of their tremendous responsibilities, and arouse in all humanity an ever more intense desire which comes from the most profound depths of the human heart, and also from the message of Christ who came to bring peace to people of good will.
By virtue of my universal mission, I wish to make myself once more the spokesman of the human right to justice and peace, and of the will of God who wishes all people to be saved. And I renew the appeal that I made at Hiroshima on February 25 of this year: "Let us pledge ourselves to peace through justice; let us now take a solemn decision, that war will never be tolerated or sought as a means of resolving differences; let us promise our fellow human beings that we will work untiringly for disarmament and the banishing of all nuclear weapons; let us replace violence and hate with confidence and caring".
6. Among the efforts to be made in order to secure the peace of humanity, there is the effort to ensure for all peoples the energy needed for their peaceful development. The Academy concerned itself with this problem during its Study Week last year. I am happy to be able to award today the Pius XI Gold Medal to a scientist who has contributed in an outstanding way, by his research in the field of photo-chemistry, to the utilization of solar energy: Professor Jean- Marie Lehn of the College de France and the University of Strasbourg, and I express to him my most cordial congratulations.
To all of you, I offer my sincere compliments on the work which you are doing in scientific research. I pray that Almighty God will bless you, your families, your loved ones, your collaborators, and the whole of humanity, for whom in diverse yet converging ways you and I are carrying out the mission which has been entrusted to us by God. ----------------------------------------------------------------------