Pope Notes Limits of Looking Through a Telescope

Cautions Against Being Blinded by Scientific Success

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 1, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Scientific success should not blind humanity to God, Benedict XVI said in a message marking an event for the Year of Astronomy.



The Pope reflected on the successes and limits of science in a message to Monsignor Rino Fisichella, rector of the Pontifical Lateran University. The university is hosting a three-day conference titled "1609-2009: From Galilei's Telescope to Evolutionary Cosmology. Science, Philosophy and Theology in Dialogue." The event concludes Wednesday.

The Holy Father suggested that this year's celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's use of the telescope marks what was an "awareness in culture of being before a crucial point in the history of humanity."
 
"Science was becoming something different from what the ancients had always thought of it," he observed. "The deductive method was giving way to the inductive, opening the way to experimentation. The concept of science that had lasted for centuries was now modified."

And this, the Pontiff said, pointed "to a new conception of the world and man."

More questions

Benedict XVI suggested that today as well, "the universe continues to raise questions to which simple observation, however, is unable to give a satisfactory answer."

Natural and physical sciences, paying recourse only to their own resources, run the risk of presenting the cosmos as "an unresolved enigma."
 
But Galileo's lesson, the Pope said, is that matter "has an intelligibility capable of speaking to man's intelligence and of indicating a path that goes beyond a simple phenomenon."

Using the example of mathematics, he explained: "Mathematics is an invention of the human spirit to understand creation. However, if nature is really structured with a mathematical language and mathematics, invented by man, can succeed in understanding it, this means that something extraordinary is verified: The objective structure of the universe and the intellectual structure of the human individual coincide, objective reason and objectified reason in nature are identical."

God's face

Galileo's lesson is also a call to go beyond what can be observed, Benedict XVI contended.
 
The questions about the immensity of the universe, its origin and its end, "do not admit only one answer of a scientific character," he said. "Whoever looks at the cosmos following Galileo's lesson will not be able to stop only with that which he observes with a telescope; he will have to further proceed to ask himself about the meaning and end to which the whole of creation is oriented."
 
In this context, the Pope observed, philosophy and theology have an important role "to prepare the way for further knowledge."
 
Philosophy, "given the phenomena and beauty of creation, seeks with its reasoning to understand nature and the ultimate end of the cosmos," he explained. Theology, on the other hand,  "founded on the revealed Word, scrutinizes the beauty and wisdom of the love of God, who has left his imprint in created nature."
 
In this movement, he affirmed, both reason and faith are involved; "both offer their light."
 
Hence, Benedict XVI stated, "there is no conflict on the horizon between scientific, philosophical and theological knowledge; on the contrary, only in the measure that they succeed in entering into dialogue and exchanging their respective competencies, will they be able to present to men of today truly effective results."
 
Galileo's discovery "was a decisive phase for the history of humanity," the Pope said, which has been followed by "other great conquests."

And with all of them, he cautioned, a risk always exists: that man "relies only on science and forgets to raise his eyes beyond himself."

Instead, Benedict XVI invited mankind to direct his gaze "to that transcendent Being, Creator of everything, who in Jesus Christ has revealed his face of Love."