Friday, October 30, 2009

On endless 'progress' and unfettered freedom

I'm reading The Best American Spiritual Writing (2007), edited by Philip Zaleski, a collection of essays on many subjects from wide ranging periodicals.

The current essay is called "The Ends of Science" by Eric Cohen (originally appearing in First Things), and points out the empty darkness of the sciences which currently fight so hard to deny the existence of something More.

A few quotes for your consideration:

"On the isle of progress, the priest is replaced by the scientist, who conducts secret expriments to help his fellow citizens. This is the new charity."

"...the original sin of the scientific Enlightenment--still haunts modern science: Perpetual progress is not the same thing as perfection. Infinite progress also means infinite discontent, as man is left in a state of eternal becoming with no end. 'Indefinite perfectibility,' Condorcet's dream, is an irreconcilable contradiction."

"Like everyone else, the scientist must decide which ends to pursue, which gods to serve, which demon will 'hold the very fibers of his life.' And these are exactly the questions that the scientific method cannot answer. Divine salvation may be an illusion but so is believing that science can tell us how to live in the world it dissects and describes, and how to live well in a world where scientific power is so readily, so seductively, so dangerously at our disposal."

"Science is power without wisdom about the uses of power."

" can conduct the most ghastly experiments on animals (with godlike power) while also worrying as a guild about the effect of modern civiliation on the animals of the earth, seeing man as more beastly than the beasts he destroys, or at least worth no more than the animals he uses. It is why science can devote so much energy to curing disease while believing that death is nature's way of improving itself."

"Our faith in science eventually gives way to our need for faith. We choose the hope of perfection over endless progress and unfettered freedom but only after trying for as long as possible to have everything without contradiction."

Still reading... perhaps more to come on this topic.


Ike said...

Paradoxically, our world goes forward and backward simultaneously. No wonder many cling to the one thing that seems to "work" -- modern technology. Technological information jams the information superhighway. Despite evidence to the contrary, many assume that technology will provide answers if answers exist.

One dictionary definition for technology is "applied science." The word science means "knowledge." Technology involves taking knowledge about the created universe and using techniques to put it to work. A technique involves an art or craft, the learned abilities that can be taught and developed to accomplish various tasks. Obviously, for people to accomplish the true potential of their knowledge and abilities, they need to work together and be able to share information. By confusing the languages of the Babylonian tower builders God stopped their enterprise (Genesis 11:6-8). The builders of the tower of Babel were sure that they could touch the heavens and unlock the secrets of the "gods" if they were able to work together with a common purpose. Even though God thwarted their plans, the rebellious human race has never given up this hope.

Suzanne Marie DeWitt said...

Interesting comparison of the tower of Babel...

Perhaps the communication of today's tower builders will be disrupted in some way... by removal of internet infrastructure or some other cataclysm of similar impact.

Ike said...

If the world succeeds in effectively having one usable language and manages to agree on a single purpose, will it become true that ". . . now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them" (Genesis 11:6b)? That is the hope of those who tout "unlimited human potential." This hope is a false hope in that humans are finite, created beings and are by nature "limited." God can stop any human enterprise at any time as He did at Babel. This will not stop the world from trying. The "Harlot Babylon" of the book of Revelation shows the future situation when the next and final attempt at one, unified world in rebellion to God is brought forth. It is easy to see that forces now at work are pushing things in that direction!