The Catholic News Service had an article on the recently concluded conference on “The Emergence of the Human Being” hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Other than the CNS article, I have found very little information on this conference. I anticipate that the Pontifical Academy of Sciences will publish a summary of the speeches and discussion in the near future. In the interim, I include links to a summary and a complete report from the 2008 conference on the topic of “Scientific Insights into the Evolution of the Universe and of Life”.
Although Teilhard de Chardin’s works may not have played in a major role in either conference, his intellectual influence was huge as both conferences explored Teilhard’s core quest of how contemporary evolutionary sciences provide new sciences into the nature of God and how God relates to humanity. I hope to have a more thorough discussion on both conferences later, but I thought this excerpt from Pope Benedict’s speech at the 2008 conference illuminating:
“To “evolve” literally means “to unroll a scroll”, that is, to read a book. The imagery of nature as a book has its roots in Christianity and has been held dear by many scientists. Galileo saw nature as a book whose author is God in the same way that Scripture has God as its author. It is a book whose history, whose evolution, whose “writing” and meaning, we “read” according to the different approaches of the sciences, while all the time presupposing the foundational presence of the author who has wished to reveal himself therein. This image also helps us to understand that the world, far from originating out of chaos, resembles an ordered book; it is a cosmos. Notwithstanding elements of the irrational, chaotic and the destructive in the long processes of change in the cosmos, matter as such is “legible”. It has an inbuilt “mathematics”. The human mind therefore can engage not only in a “cosmography” studying measurable phenomena but also in a “cosmology” discerning the visible inner logic of the cosmos. We may not at first be able to see the harmony both of the whole and of the relations of the individual parts, or their relationship to the whole. Yet, there always remains a broad range of intelligible events, and the process is rational in that it reveals an order of evident correspondences and undeniable finalities: in the inorganic world, between microstructure and macrostructure; in the organic and animal world, between structure and function; and in the spiritual world, between knowledge of the truth and the aspiration to freedom. Experimental and philosophical inquiry gradually discovers these orders; it perceives them working to maintain themselves in being, defending themselves against imbalances, and overcoming obstacles. And thanks to the natural sciences we have greatly increased our understanding of the uniqueness of humanity’s place in the cosmos.”