Scientific Progress and Moral Capacity

I am reading a book called "L'Europa di Benedetto nella Crisi delle Culture" (The Europe of Benedict - The Crisis of Cultures). I don't know if it is in English or not yet, but it has been fascinating so far. One thing that really hit me is a theme that Pope Benedict discusses almost verbatim in his new Encyclical, "Spe Salvi". The quote from the book is this, "Truly, the most grave danger of this moment stands exactly in this imbalance among scientific possibility and moral energy... when it is missing or it is not sufficient, the power that man has will always transform itself more into the power of destruction."

What exactly is the Holy Father trying to say here? In a nutshell he is saying that if we fail to advance in the art of being human, of acting well, at an equal pace with the art of technology, positive science, than destruction is a necessary outcome. We have only to cast our eyes back upon the past century to see what he means. The 20th century, coming off the industrial revolution and great technological hope, experienced two of the most brutal regimes in history; Communism and Nazism. Not only did these two regimes do untold harm and destroy millions of lives, but Europe was nearly leveled with two of the most devastating wars in history. People rightfully ask how all of this is possible when man is supposedly so much more enlightened in the age of technology, instant communication and conveniences that surpass anything the world has ever known.

How is it in a world where science has supposedly given us everything, that we have dropped atomic bombs and slaughtered millions of people in unspeakable ways? Our situation certainly is not improved at the present moment when at least nine countries in the world posses nuclear weapons that could effectively eliminate the human race.

I believe the Pope's analysis of our greatest threat is spot on. The question to be asked is, how do we increase the moral capacity of the technological man of the 21st century? How do we convince people that being is better than having? These are great questions and I think that the Holy Father has given another good start in the first Encyclical of his Pontificate, "God is Love". The title of one of Hans Urs Van Balthasar's most notable books is also telling: "Love Alone is Credible."

What are your thoughts on this and how do we justify hope in such a dreary world situation?

I think the Pope again comes to the rescue in "Spe Salvi" on two points. The first is a young Sundanese slave girl from Darfur in the 19th century. The second is the story of the early Christians who, after being plundered and robbed of all their property and possessions, had great joy. (Heb 10:34) I will write my next post on trying to figure out how we can have hope in a world that is often so depressing.

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    # by Anonymous - December 13, 2007 at 9:11 AM

    When you ask "How do we justify hope in such a dreary world situation?", it seems totally hopeless to me. But, when I look at it on an inter-personal level, like the Holy Father suggests in his last encyclical, I can justify unbounded hope.
    As you know, in the last section of Spe Salvi, he says: "Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope."
    By God's grace,I've always had so many people in my life who are stars who indicate the route to me. But, even if we're in the sad situation where we don't know anyone like that, we still have all the saints in heaven & our wonderful Mother, like the Pope says. They're not distant, they're right here too.
    So, I guess, the "justification" for hope to me is on a personal level: looking to the 'stars' I know & trying hard to be a star for others.