Faith and Science: Prelate Defends Dual Outlook

Culture Council President Suggests Avoiding Extremes

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By Chiara Santomiero

ROME, OCT. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- The president of the Pontifical Council for Culture says there are two extremes to be avoided in a faith-science debate: excluding reason altogether or asserting there is nothing but reason.

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi affirmed this teaching from Pascal on Friday when he engaged in a debate on the faith-science dynamic with an agnostic geneticist, Axel Kahn.

The debate was held at the French embassy to the Holy See -- Kahn is the president of the Paris Descartes University -- and sponsored by the embassy as well as the delegation of the European Commission to the Holy See.

Archbishop Ravasi said those two extremes should be replaced by "two views: that of science and that of faith." And that this dual outlook gives a "complete vision of the reality being explored."

The Vatican official encouraged taking up the faith-science dynamic with dialogue, while admitting distinctions.

Science and faith cover "different realms," he said, with "different methodologies." But they "need one another to complement each other in the mind of a thinking person," he contended.

"Science asks about the 'how,' whereas metaphysics and religion are dedicated to investigating ultimate values, the 'why,'" the prelate continued.

He offered the example of falling in love, when "we constantly go beyond what science offers us and we see in the other's face beauty beyond objectivity."
 
"This is a question of true knowledge, although it is not the same as that of geometry, that of rationality," he said.
 
Archbishop Ravasi observed that "the temptation in the West is, on one hand, to ridicule, seeing theology as a product of cultural paleontology destined to be abandoned with the advent of science and, on the other, to impose on science limits based on theological affirmations."