Defense of human life requires dialogue with technology, pope says

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — While human ingenuity creates new products and technology that can help people live better, those same human creations can make people’s lives and relationships less human and even threaten their existence, Pope Francis said.

“The distinctions between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial,’ and ‘biological’ and ‘technological'” become increasingly difficult to identify, especially when it comes to how human beings relate to one another, the pope said Feb. 20 during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

Pope Francis speaks to members of the Pontifical Academy for Life Feb. 20, 2023, in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

“In the network of relationships, both subjective and communal, technology cannot supplant human contact, the virtual cannot replace the real, and neither can social media replace the social,” the pope said. But “we are in the midst of the temptation to let the virtual prevail over the real and that is an ugly temptation.”

Pope Francis, in 2019, had told members of the academy that he saw “a pressing need” to understand new technologies — including biotechnologies, nanotechnologies, robotics and artificial intelligence — “in order to determine how to place them at the service of the human person, while respecting and promoting the intrinsic dignity of all.”

In response, the academy’s plenary session in late February included a two-day workshop titled, “Converging on The Person: Emerging Technologies for the Common Good.”

The Catholic Church encourages “the progress of science and technology at the service of the dignity of the person and for an integral and integrating human development,” the pope told participants. But it also encourages a certain methodical slowness and caution to ensure that the impact of new developments is carefully considered.

“A serious reflection on the value of the human person is needed,” he said, which is something theologians, philosophers and ethicists should be discussing with the scientists and engineers developing the new technologies.

Author: Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service is the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ news and information service.

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