Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pope Francis on Science and Religion

On his flight back from Korea, Pope Francis gave one of his airplane interviews which have such a tendency to make headlines. If you hear about this one, you'll probably hear the buzz resulting from a typically ignorant American reporting putting up a click-bait post claiming that the pope was calling for a tenth crusade against the ISIS in Iraq. (Don't gratify Vox by clicking that link, go read the sensible Thomas McDonald about it instead.)

However, there's a section of the full interview which is far more intellectually interesting, though you'll probably never hear it on the news. A reporter asked the pope about his rumored up-coming encyclical dealing with environmental issues, and Francis's reply ends up being about the relationship between religious teaching and scientific inquiry:
Q. There’s been talk for a long time about an encyclical on ecology. Could you tell us when it will be published, and what are the key points?

A. I have talked a lot about this encyclical with Cardinal Turkson, and also with other people. And I asked Cardinal Turkson to gather all the input that have arrived, and four days before the trip, Cardinal Turkson brought me the first draft. It’s as thick as this. I’d say it’s about a third longer than "Evangelii Gaudium." It’s the first draft. It’s not an easy question because on the custody of creation, and ecology, also human ecology, one can talk with a certain security up to a certain point, but then the scientific hypotheses come, some sufficiently secure, others not. And in an encyclical like this, which has to be magisterial, one can only go forward on the things that are sure, the things that are secure. If the pope says the center of the universe is the earth and not the sun, he’s wrong because he says a thing that is scientifically not right. That’s what happens now. So we have to do the study now, number by number, and I believe it will become smaller. But going to the essentials, to that which one can affirm with security. One can say, in footnotes, that on this there is this and that hypothesis, to say it as information but not in the body of an encyclical that is doctrinal. It has to be secure.
I'm sure that there are plenty of people who would encourage the pope to endorse as gospel whatever the current scientific theory is on a given topic, while others would encourage him to pronounce "scientific" findings based on scriptural interpretation while ignoring whatever the current scientific opinion is. The pope's response here, however, suggests that he has a healthy respect for the nature (and thus necessary uncertainty) or scientific inquiry, and at the same time the senses in which it is able to provide insights into the physical workings of the world which theologians should respect rather than ignore.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An encyclical on ecology? No matter what this says, conservatives will find reason to get mad or dismiss it.