Can science explain the secrets of life?
Church and science - united in conflict?
Many popes tried during their term of office to clarify the difficult relationship between church and science and took a position. Pope Pius IX With the Syllabus, a list of 80 errors regarded as heretical, 1864 for a foreclosure against modernism.
In 1893 Pope Leo XIII proclaimed. in an encyclical: "Certainly there will be no real conflict between the theologian and the natural scientist if only both confine themselves to their border area."
In 1910 Pope Pius X introduced the so-called anti-modernist oath, which all clerics of the Catholic Church had to swear until 1967. As already Pius IX. he turned against all modernist currents.
It was only Pope John Paul II who made serious efforts to finally resolve the conflict between church and science. According to the words of Pope Benedict XVI, the eternal quarrel seems to have come to an end. On several occasions, the former pontiff stressed that faith and science are by no means opposites, but are compatible with one another.
The Pope lets research
Just three years after Giordano Bruno's cremation and before Galileo Galilei was brought to trial, the first papal academy of scholars was established in the Vatican, devoted to its own research. In 1936 the Academy received new statutes and its current name: "Pontificia Accademia dei nuovi Lincei - Pontifical Academy of New Sciences".
Today the Academy has around 80 high-ranking scientists from all over the world, many of whom are Nobel Prize winners. They are appointed directly by the Pope, they do not have to belong to any particular denomination and women are also accepted. One of the most prominent members for a long time was the British physicist Stephen Hawking - an avowed atheist, by the way.
Scientists meet every two years to talk about topics that can come from any field of knowledge. In recent years, for example, it has been about environmental issues, genetic research and genetically modified food, brain research or the origin of life. Although the Vatican emphasizes that the Pope has no influence on the choice of topics, one thing is always tacitly left out: contraception.
According to official information from the Vatican, the academy was created to secure scientific freedom and promote research. All the results of the meetings are communicated to the Pope, who is informed about the latest scientific findings and in turn allows them to flow into his decisions and messages.
Benedict XVI. was also familiar with the work of the academy from another side: he was previously a member of this international body himself.
Notwithstanding all arguments with astronomers and other scientists, the Vatican has one of the oldest observatories in the world. In 1578 the "wind tower" was built and Jesuit astronomers and mathematicians used it to work on the Gregorian calendar reform.
Several new buildings have been added to the original tower over the centuries. With the observatory on the Vatican Hill behind St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Leo XIII. according to the Vatican even "to counter the persistent accusations against the Church of opposing scientific progress".
Today the Vatican Observatory cooperates with other observatories and has its own Vatican High-Tech Telescope (VATT) in Arizona. The research program includes cosmological models, the formation of new stars, spectral classification of special stars and the history of science.
Results are published in international journals, among others; Every two years invited scientists meet on the topics of the observatory.
Church and Science Today
Science is advancing further and further into all areas - into the world of atoms and nanoparticles as well as into the vastness of space. Scientists are changing the genome of plants, cloning animals, and medical technology is making rapid advances.
Nowadays the church has no influence on research, nor on its findings or publications. And the more areas science penetrates, the less room is left for explanations by the Church. A new location is needed.
The Church of today acts more as a moral authority in evaluating scientific work. The pictorial explanations that theologians used to take directly from the Bible are no longer tenable today.
The church representatives, however, consoled themselves with the fact that only a small part of what can be researched has been researched. Often times the missing parts are filled with explanations of religion.
The Vatican has declared science and the Church to be compatible with one another. But it still applies: With the two sources of knowledge, reason and revelation, revelation, i.e. faith, still has priority.
However, there are still enough areas in which the Church and science can define their positions and delimit them from one another. These include, for example, the discussion about euthanasia, the big bang or speculation about whether there is further life in the universe and how this could be compatible with the Bible in case of doubt.
The Vatican is adamant today, especially when it comes to issues such as reproduction. Contraception and artificial insemination are just as categorically rejected as stem cell research.
And the Vatican does not tolerate an overly disrespectful approach to church issues. Dan Brown had to experience this in 2008, whose bestseller "Illuminati" is about the compatibility of church and science. For the filming of the story of the conspiracy, built backdrops had to be used - the Vatican and the gates of the churches remained closed to the team.
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