Pope Benedict XVI has told a gathering of academics that science should serve rather than enslave humanity, warning that the reduction of human beings and nature to mere 'objects' is not good for the spirit of reasoned enquiry.
The comments came on Monday 28 January 2008 at a meeting of professors from different disciplines sponsored jointly by the Paris Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
The Pope spoke of the "seductive" powers of a certain ideology of science that can relegate the moral and spiritual quest. "It's more important than ever to educate our contemporaries' consciences so that science does not become the criteria for goodness," he told the audience.
Scientific investigation should be accompanied by "research into anthropology, philosophy and theology" to give insight into "[humanity]'s own mystery, because no science can say who [we are]s, where [we] come from or where [we are] going", Benedict declared.
A human being is not "a bundle of convergences, determinisms or physical and chemical reactions," the Pope added, and should not be treated as such.
He repeated his plea, made in a number of speeches since he was elected in 2005, for humankind to be "respected as the centre of creation" and not relegated by more short-term interests.
The speech was described as "thoughtful" by a number of the participants in the conference, non-religious as well as religious. It echoed the concerns of humanists as well as faith leaders for a consonance between scientific rationality and personalist philosophy.
However the newsbrief of the National Secular Society in the UK immediately dismissed the speech as "anti-science stupidity".
The German-born Pope's conservative public stance on issues such as abortion and embryonic stem-cell research has also lead critics to accuse him of holding views driven by a narrow rather than a broad religious ideology.
Benedict was recently involved in a row with some students and teachers at a well-established Rome university, when the question as to whether he had sufficiently acknowledged the past wrong-doing of the Church in condemning Galileo came into the spotlight.