The Vatican today warned Catholics that if they do not listen to the contentions of modern science – regarding the origin of life and other issues – they risk falling prey to “fundamentalism.”

Cardinal Paul Poupard made the comments at a press conference pushing a Vatican project to try to create more mutual respect between science and religion, the Associated Press reported. Poupard heads the Pontifical Council for Culture.

“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,” Poupard told reporters. “But we also know the dangers of a religion that severs its links with reason and becomes prey to fundamentalism.

“The faithful have the obligation to listen to that which secular modern science has to offer, just as we ask that knowledge of the faith be taken in consideration as an expert voice in humanity.”

The Vatican project was inspired by Pope John Paul II’s 1992 declaration that the church’s 17th-century denunciation of Galileo was an error resulting from “tragic mutual incomprehension.” Galileo was condemned for supporting Nicolaus Copernicus’ discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun; church teaching at the time placed Earth at the center of the universe.

“The permanent lesson that the Galileo case represents pushes us to keep alive the dialogue between the various disciplines, and in particular between theology and the natural sciences, if we want to prevent similar episodes from repeating themselves in the future,” Poupard said.

When asked about the debate raging between evolution and intelligent design in the United States, a papal representative reaffirmed John Paul II’s 1996 assertion that evolution was “more than just a hypothesis.”

Said Monsignor Gianfranco Basti, director of the Vatican project STOQ, or Science, Theology and Ontological Quest: “A hypothesis asks whether something is true or false. (Evolution) is more than a hypothesis because there is proof.”

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