Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

5/18/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

There is a danger that instead of technology freeing man, man could be enslaving himself to it

Science and technology, for all their good, are not something ungoverned by moral law.  We should not fall into the moral morass of believing that just because we can do something we ought to do something. Often, dazzled by the products of his ingenuity, man views technology as the summum bonum, the greatest good.  He fails to see or properly assess the negatives that come with some technological change.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/18/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: technology, morality, cloning, in vitro, robotics, technological, freedom, culture, utilitarian, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Science and its more practical sister technology perhaps more than anything else color the modern world and affect its thinking, its concept of the possible, its activity, and its communication.  There are things today we think of--the genome, a black hole, quarks, leptons, and bosons--that man could not even have imagined three generations ago.

There are things that are possible today--in vitro fertilization, in utero surgery, cloning, the manufacture of nanochips--that were but the stuff of novels a generation ago.  Modern computers and modern communications--the Internet and its associated media--have ushered in a revolution no less significant than the advent of removable-type printing, radically affecting how man deals with other men and how man deals with his problems. 

Often, dazzled by the products of his ingenuity, man views technology as the summum bonum, the greatest good.  He fails to see or properly assess the negatives that come with some technological change.  As a result, there is a danger that instead of technology freeing man, man could be enslaving himself to it.  As the Catholic writer Georges Bernanos wrote in his Last Essays, modernity confronts a new man deeply affected by technology:

"[I]n a fabulously short time, by the single miracle of technology and of all techniques, including that which not only allows the control of worldwide opinion but also the making of it, it has created a civilization in the image of a prodigiously diminished and shrunken man, a man no longer made in the image of God, but in the image of the speculator . . . ."

It is this danger of science of technology, and technology's products (which Bernanos comprehends with the term "machine" understood broadly) which must be addressed.  It is not a question of ridding the world of science, technology, and machines, but of assuring that man's spiritual nature, his moral stature, grows in a manner commensurate with his scientific and technological acumen.

As Bernanos put it: "No, it is not a question of destroying machines but of elevating man, of restoring in him faith in the freedom of his soul and an awareness of his dignity."  Unless we are aware of the problem, we do not perceive the threat.  And it is a threat that is very real, since, ultimately, it is a question of "knowing who will win, technology or man."  Lest he destroy himself and his kind, homo faber must also be homo sapiens and also homo religiosus.

The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church briefly addresses the issue of science and technology and man.  "The results of science and technology are, in themselves, positive" it states.  Science and technology are viewed as a participation in God's creative activity.  Quoting Vatican II's Gaudium et spes, the Compendium states without reserve: "Far from thinking that works produced by man's own talent and energy are in opposition to God's power, and that the rational creature exists as a  kind of rival to the Creator, Christians are convinced that the triumphs of the human race are a sign of God's grace and the flowering of His own mysterious design." (Compendium, No. 457)

"[T]he Catholic Church is in no way opposed to progress, rather she considers 'science and technology are the wonderful product of a God-given human creativity, since they have provided us with wonderful possibilities, and we all gratefully benefit from them.'"  (Compendium, No. 457)

But science and technology, for all their good, are not something ungoverned by moral law.  We should not fall into the moral morass of believing that just because we can do something we ought to do something.  This would be to fall into a sort of Humean fallacy, jumping from an "is" to an "ought." 

For this reason, the Church--without detracting from the positive good that science and technology bring us--also observes that "the greater man's power becomes" as a result of scientific and technological progress, "the farther his individual and community responsibility extends," and the more obligation there is to assure that it "correspond, according to the design and will of God, to humanity's true good." (Compendium, No. 457) 

To assure that science and technology are at the service of man, and not at the service of only a small faction of men, the moral law must govern its use:

"It is important," the Compendium states, "to repeat the concept of 'proper application,' for 'we know that this potential is not neutral: it can be used either for man's progress or for his degradation.'  For this reason, 'it is necessary to maintain an attitude of prudence and attentively sift out the nature, end, and means of the various forms of applied technology.  Scientists, therefore, must 'truly use their research and technical sill in the service of humanity,' being able to subordinate them 'to moral principles and values, which respect and realize in its fullness the dignity of man.'" (Compendium, No. 458)

Ultimately, science and technology must see themselves as cooperating with nature, not setting up a reality that contradicts or nullifies nature.  Any applied technology--particularly those dealing with genetic or biological manipulation--"must take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection in an ordered system."

Quoting Blessed John Paul II's Centesimus annus, the Compendium's teaching is worth quoting in full:

"Man, then, must never forget that "his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work . . . is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are." He must not "make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but must not betray." When he acts in this way, "instead of carrying out his role as a co-operator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him." If man intervenes in nature without abusing it or damaging it, we can say that he "intervenes not in order to modify nature but to foster its development in its own life, that of the creation that God intended. While working in this obviously delicate area, the researcher adheres to the design of God. God willed that man be the king of creation." In the end, it is God himself who offers to men and women the honor of cooperating with the full force of their intelligence in the work of creation." (Compendium, No. 460) (quotes are from JPII, Centesimus annus, 37)

In short, we must remember that we are creatures, and that we--like all of nature--have been made by God.  We must remember that he has made us in our inward parts, that he wove us in our mother's womb, and that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that all of nature with us is wonderful.

Mirabilia opera tua et anima mea novit nimis.  "Wonderful all your works, and my soul knows it very well."  (Ps. 139 [138]: 14) 

This is the prayer that ought to be on the lips and in mind of the scientist and the purveyor of technology.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2014
Christmas, hope for humanity:
That the birth of the Redeemer may bring peace and hope to all people of good will.
Parents: That parents may be true evangelizers, passing on to their children the precious gift of faith.



Comments


More Living Faith

No one should be hungry during the Christmas season

Image of

By Tony Magliano

In early December, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) stopped feeding 1.7 million Syrian refugees. For two weeks these poor, battered fellow human beings who had fled the misery of civil war, and the barbarism of the "Islamic State," were told there is no ... continue reading


HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPE FRANCIS! Beloved Pontiff turns 78 today Watch

Image of Happy Birthday, Pope Francis!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPE FRANCIS! Today is Pope Francis' 78th birthday and well-wishers celebrated the day singing and dancing for the Holy Father in St. Peter's Square. VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) - Born on December 17, 1936, the man who would become Pope Francis has ... continue reading


Turned into the wild, Pope Francis offers hope to displaced faithful in Middle East Watch

Image of Patriarch Younan said a major focus of their synod was on priestly formation since their communities have faced so much upheaval.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Times are hard and arduous for those who practice their Catholic faith in the Middle East. In a special audience with Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan, along with about 350 of his faithful from the Syriac Catholic Church, Pope Francis offered words ... continue reading


Mary hailed as 'great missionary' who brought Gospel to Americas by Pope Francis Watch

Image of Pope Francis and the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis along with thousands of Catholics from across the Atlantic celebrated the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Vatican. The Pope celebrated Mass to the sounds and rhythms of many of South America's indigenous peoples. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Your Friday Feel Good Story: Watch what happens when the mic goes out during the American National Anthem at a hockey game in Canada! Watch

Image of Ina  heartwarming gesture of respect, Canadians sing the Star Spangled Banner when the microphone game out before a game featuring a team from the USA.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Here's your Friday Feel Good story! Enjoy your Friday and don't forget to share! During a hockey game in Canada between American and Canadian players, the microphone failed, silencing the singer. Without audio, the Americans would be without their national anthem, but ... continue reading


Irenaeus of Lyon on Eve and Mary

Image of An Icon of Ireneaus of Lyon

By Ireneaus of Lyon

The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to ... continue reading


Taking the Kingdom by Force: Learning from John the Baptizer Watch

Image of The choice is ours. Just as it was with John the Baptizer. He shows us the way to give away our freedom in love - and then find it anew in the One who truly sets us free. (John 8:36). The kingdom of heaven is still being taken by force. The force of love. The Lord is seeking men and women in this hour who will take the kingdom by force like John the Baptizer.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

John the Baptizer was a man of Joy because he was a man of true humility! Humility is a powerful weapon when wielded by a soldier of love like John. He was a man who understood that life wasn't all about him. He emptied himself willingly and was thus able to ... continue reading


Faith restored in humanity! A random act of kindness changes a woman's life forever during the Christmas season Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While protests are wreaking havoc all around the world, wars are being fought, and people are being brutally killed, the warm sensation and fuzzy feeling of Christmas gets overshadowed. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Although good deeds and random acts of kindness ... continue reading


Do We Really Believe in the Resurrection of the Body and the Life of the World to Come? Watch

Image of Seated at the right hand of the Father, he works unceasingly in the world, to draw men into the Church and through it to join them more closely to himself.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord. His salvation is offered extended to all men and women. That salvation is not only about our souls, but about the whole human person. It will only be complete when we are raised from the dead and dwell in the kingdom to come. He ... continue reading


A Christmas gift for suffering South Sudan

Image of The people of South Sudan have the same feeling and love for one another we do. Now is the time for us to extend our arms in compassion.

By Tony Magliano

The world's newest nation is in big trouble. After more than 20 years of civil war between the southern and northern areas of Sudan, the southern part of that country on July 9, 2011, became the independent nation of the Republic of South Sudan.But the situation on the ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Second Samuel 7:1-5, 8-11, 16
1 Once the king had settled into his palace and ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
2 for you have said: love is built to last for ever, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 1:26-38
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by ... Read More

Reading 2, Romans 16:25-27
25 And now to him who can make you strong in ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for December 21st, 2014 Image

St. Peter Canisius
December 21: In 1565, the Vatican was looking for a secret agent. It was ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter