Technology in Gaudium et spes

I appreciate the blog posted yesterday by Professor Clarage and the comments by Mitchell Thomas. I should point out that I have made it very easy now to comment on any post and I encourage people to do so. You no longer need to log in or to read special characters.

A few comments on his blog.

I am not sure why we would say that nuclear energy or even deep sea drilling has gone too far. The technology is not per se evil or dehumanizing — but its use can be evil. The case nuclear weapons used to incinerate an entire city is the evil use of technology. Some preliminary indications are that the gulf oil spill resulted from poor technical decisions and poor managerial decisions (the people on the rig and close to the work were ignored by the upper management or corporate bosses; we shall learn more soon.)

I like the quote from JP2 statement on Galileo in the June 11 blog — that there are two modes of development, a horizontal and a vertical development. We lag in the vertical development. But in principle, the development of technology could increase our time for awareness or God. A longer passage from Gaudium et spes (§57) explains the various aspects:

“Christians, on pilgrimage toward the heavenly city, should seek and think of these things which are above. This duty in no way decreases, rather it increases, the importance of their obligation to work with all men in the building of a more human world. Indeed, the mystery of the Christian faith furnishes them with an excellent stimulant and aid to fulfill this duty more courageously and especially to uncover the full meaning of this activity, one which gives to human culture its eminent place in the integral vocation of man.

When man develops the earth by the work of his hands or with the aid of technology, in order that it might bear fruit and become a dwelling worthy of the whole human family and when he consciously takes part in the life of social groups, he carries out the design of God manifested at the beginning of time, that he should subdue the earth, perfect creation and develop himself. At the same time he obeys the commandment of Christ that he place himself at the service of his brethren.

Furthermore, when man gives himself to the various disciplines of philosophy, history and of mathematical and natural science, and when he cultivates the arts, he can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value. Thus mankind may be more clearly enlightened by that marvelous Wisdom which was with God from all eternity, composing all things with him, rejoicing in the earth, delighting in the sons of men.

In this way, the human spirit, being less subjected to material things, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator. Moreover, by the impulse of grace, he is disposed to acknowledge the Word of God, Who before He became flesh in order to save all and to sum up all in Himself was already ‘in the world’ as ‘the true light which enlightens every man’ (John 1:9-10).

Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and an agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that man, confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher things.

These unfortunate results, however, do not necessarily follow from the culture of today, nor should they lead us into the temptation of not acknowledging its positive values. Among these values are included: scientific study and fidelity toward truth in scientific inquiries, the necessity of working together with others in technical groups, a sense of international solidarity, a clearer awareness of the responsibility of experts to aid and even to protect men, the desire to make the conditions of life more favorable for all, especially for those who are poor in culture or who are deprived of the opportunity to exercise responsibility. All of these provide some preparation for the acceptance of the message of the Gospel– a preparation which can be animated by divine charity through Him Who has come to save the world.”

In the statement on Galileo, JP2 mentions having the proper balance, harmony, priorities. Obviously, the modern world is out of whack as long as God is denied.

1 Comment
  1. I can't really add anything to that. I hadn't read that from Gaudium et Spes, so thanks for quoting. I esp liked,

    "In this way, the human spirit, being less subjected to material things, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator."

    funny how it rings Platonic, in the promise of power to raise or draw up… In Republic Book VII when Socrates is trying to convince poor Glaucon why he must study so much geometry and astronomy (math and science in our modern course structures), Socrates reply is that such studies,

    “will draw the soul towards truth, and create the spirit of philosophy, and raise up that which is now unhappily allowed to fall down."

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