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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
Scripture Corner…

LAUDATO SI’ AND THE SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS

THE EFFECTS OF global warming today are enormous and very alarming. There is substantial scientific explanation which cannot be taken for granted. Pope Francis in his Encyclical namely, Laudato Si’ accepts the scientific explanation, though he argues that not every problem can be solved by science. Laudato Si’, particularly no. 23, underlines authoritatively Pope’s acceptance of the key scientific consensus. He emphatically states that, “The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all. At the global level, it is a complex system linked to many of the essential conditions for human life. A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming climate” (LS, no. 23).

Pope Francis accepts the reality of climate change, environmental degradation, changes in biospheric integrity, ocean acidification, atmospheric aerosol loading and a host of other interruptions in the environment. He acknowledges that most of these come from the deep places in the heart where greed and entitlement reside and that science not only explains how these negative forces have brought about the degradation which we face but how we also need to listen to science. In other words, if we are to find appropriate, reliable answers to our humanly constructed problems, we also have to engage science in its positivity.

Moreover, the Pope, in his wisdom, accepts science for all its secularity as an indispensable partner, a challenging but important interlocutor for the faith community, a partner whom we need to learn from for the sake of a way forward to saving our Mother Earth. This is an encouragement to the faith community not to be frightened or threatened by the new intellectual disciplines which emerge with their new language and logic. Why? Einstein gives us a precise answer for this: “Science without religion is blind, religion without science is lame” (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/may/12/peopleinscience.religion). In other words, “Science can purify religion from error and superstition and religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world where both can flourish” (Pope John Paul II, Letter to the Director of the Vatican Observatory, 1998). Pope Francis, therefore, sees that there is absolutely no need for suspicion that each is better without the other. We are to take on board that science is about the business of probing the structures of reality while religion contemplates on the meaning of reality. The encyclical, therefore, challenges people of faith to hold onto both traditions and in the light of both to explore the wider world. Not to do so is to withdraw into a parochialism, into insularity and ultimately into a culture of fear, negative assertiveness and rigidity or self-defence mechanism; hence, absorb intolerance and intransigent fundamentalism which too easily becomes a threshold for all kinds of tragedies. This actualises the words of Voltaire that, “When we begin believing in absurdities we end up committing atrocities.”

However, Pope Francis takes his position against naysayers, against those who claim that global warming is purely part of a natural evolution, and that human culpability is simply marginal. In fact, for him, one of the determining factor is, “… an increase in changed uses of the soil, principally deforestation for agricultural purposes” (LS. no. 23), which is typically human factor. Therefore, humanity has to provide a long term resolution to the problem at hand. “Humanity is called to recognise the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it (Ibid.).

In all this, our major consolation is that the Church through her shepherds, particularly Pope Francis, has remained courageously prophetic especially in times of stormy-wind of destruction. The Church maintains her mission of being God’s co-creator and not destroyer!

 


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