As we write, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has just been formally installed as Pope Benedictus XVI. If his past pronouncements on science are any indicator, he is unlikely to liberalize the position of the Catholic Church on the subject. For example, Ratzinger has criticized genetic manipulation and embryonic cloning, although the latter is not a particular surprise. Even when it has "good goals," he has said, such research cannot be justified.

Pronouncements on science by political, religious and other leaders help provide a moral framework for science and are crucial for broad acceptance of research and its applications.

It's fair to say that many Catholics feel that Pope Benedictus XVI's predecessor modernized aspects of the Church's stance towards science. The last papacy endorsed agricultural biotechnology as one potential solution for the world's hunger problems, and accepted the theory of evolution as accurate (and, somehow, not in conflict with the Bible).


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