The Italian Almanac

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Italian News - November 5

A Vatican cardinal said Thursday the faithful should listen to what secular modern science has to offer, warning that religion risks turning into "fundamentalism" if it ignores scientific reason. Cardinal Paul Poupard, who heads the Pontifical Council for Culture, made the comments at a news conference on a Vatican project to help end the "mutual prejudice" between religion and science that has long bedeviled the Roman Catholic Church and is part of the evolution debate in the United States.

But he said science, too, should listen to religion. "We know where scientific reason can end up by itself: the atomic bomb and the possibility of cloning human beings are fruit of a reason that wants to free itself from every ethical or religious link," he said. "But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism."

Poupard and others at the news conference were asked about the religion-science debate raging in the United States over evolution and "intelligent design." Intelligent design's supporters argue that natural selection, an element of evolutionary theory, cannot fully explain the origin of life or the emergence of highly complex life forms.

Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest, reaffirmed John Paul's 1996 statement that evolution was "more than just a hypothesis". "A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false," he said. "(Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof."