Vatican City, Nov 18, 2017 / 05:06 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On Saturday Pope Francis praised the achievements of scientific and technological advancements, but cautioned that developments in the field have limits, and should be founded above all on the good of the human person.
“It remains always valid the principle that not everything that is technically possible or feasible is therefore ethically acceptable,” the Pope said in his prepared remarks Nov. 18.
“Science, like any other human activity, knows that there are limits to be observed for the good of humanity itself, and requires a sense of ethical responsibility,” he said, adding that in the words of Bl. Pope Paul VI, the true measure of progress “is that which is aimed at the good of every man and the whole man.”
Pope Francis spoke on the last day of the Pontifical Council for Culture’s Nov. 15-18 plenary titled “The Future of Humanity: New Challenges to Anthropology,” and which took place inside the Vatican’s old synod hall. Some 54 members and consultors of the council, including prelates and laity, participated.
Discussion touched on anthropological changes in three key areas: medicine and genetics, neuroscience, and the progress of autonomous and thinking machines.
In his speech, the Pope noted how each of these scientific and technical developments have prompted some to think humanity is on the cusp of a new age and level of being superior to what came before.
The questions these advancements raise are “great and serious,” he said, and the Church is paying close attention, but with the desire to put the human person and the issues surrounding it at the center of her own reflections.
In the bible the course of man’s anthropological progress can be seen from Genesis to Revelation, he said, developing around the “fundamental elements” of relation and freedom.”
Relation consists of three dimensions: relation to material things such as land and animals, relation to the divine and relation to other beings, where as freedom is expressed in autonomy and in moral choices.
This understanding of anthropology is still valid today, Francis said, but at the same time, today we also realize that “the great fundamental principles and concepts of anthropology are not rarely put into question on the basis of a greater knowledge of the complexity of the human condition and the need for further investigation.”
Anthropology is the source of our self-understanding, but in modern times, it has become a “fluid and changing horizon” in light of increasing socioeconomic changes, population shifts, increasing intercultural interactions, globalization and the “incredible” discoveries of science and technology.”
Francis said that in response to this situation, we must first give thanks to the scientists who work in favor of humanity and all of creation through their research and discoveries.
Science and technology have helped to deepen in our understanding of the human person, he said, but cautioned that “this alone is not enough to give a response.”
In this regard, he said it’s necessary to draw on the “treasures of wisdom” conserved in the various religions traditions, in “popular wisdom” and in literature and the arts, while at the same time rediscovering the perspectives offered by philosophy and theology.
He stressed the need to overcome the “tragic division” between the humanistic-theological culture and the scientific culture, saying there must be greater dialogue between the Church and the scientific community.
The Church, he said, offers key talking points for this dialogue, the first of which is the centrality of the human person, “which is considered an end and not a means.” Secondly, the Church reminds the world of the principle of the “universal destination of goods,” which includes knowledge and technology.
“Scientific and technical progress serve to benefit all of humanity and their benefits can’t go to the advantage of the few,” Francis said, adding that new inequalities based on knowledge that increase the divide between the rich and the poor must be avoided in the future.
Pope Francis closed his speech saying the major decisions on the direction of scientific research and investment “are assumed by the whole of society and not dictated solely by the market or by the interest of a few,” and thanked participants for the “precious service” to the Church and to humanity.