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Rome Reports

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Werner Arber: A Protestant and Nobel Prize winner who advises the pope on science

He leads a group of experts hired by the Vatican. Their office building is actually in Vatican City-and even though no lab work is done there, their studies deal with the very latest in science. Werner ArberPresident, Pontifical Academy of Sciences“Physics, chemistry, but we also discuss the living world, how evolution works. What are the medical implications. We talk on particular aspects on application of scientific knowledge for medical treatments.”Every two years, the group meets with the pope to explain its scientific studies. Everything frommedicine to enhanced food crops. If the recommendations are found to be ethical by the Church, then it supports them out on the field. Werner ArberPresident, Pontifical Academy of Sciences“When we want for example to bring an application of scientific knowledge for the benefit of developing countries in Africa for example. I think the Church helps us to bring that knowledge to the people.”The Academy has about 80 members. All of them are considered some of the best in their field. About one third of them are Nobel Prize winners, including Mr. Arber. Members come from all over the world and have different religious beliefs-and that includes Arber, who is Protestant. Werner ArberPresident, Pontifical Academy of Sciences“You don?t need to be a member of the Catholic Church, neither necessarily Christian. We have Indians who have other belief systems. We have Japanese, Chinese members.”On a personal level, Arber?s passion is biological evolution. He says even though he can?t prove the existence of God in scientific terms, he often finds himself marveling on nature itself. Werner ArberPresident, Pontifical Academy of Sciences“For me as a human being, I just say for example the process of biological evolution, which I understand more and more, I say, it?s kind of a divine system. So if I say divine, there must be a God behind it. But I cannot identify it.”Arber says the Vatican does support scientific knowledge and its application out in the real world-as long as its done with responsibility and respect for the best scientist of them all-mother nature. KLH FFJMPR