Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pope Benedict's speech before the Bundestag

For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature;
 and they were unable from the good things that
 are seen to know him who exists,
 nor did they recognize the craftsman while
 paying heed to his works.

  – Wisdom of Solomon 13:1
Pope Benedict XVI spoke in front of Germany's Bundestag about the dangers of a "positivist" philosophy that denies the existence of God:
A positivist conception of nature as purely functional, as the natural sciences consider it to be, is incapable of producing any bridge to ethics and law, but once again yields only functional answers. The same also applies to reason, according to the positivist understanding that is widely held to be the only genuinely scientific one. Anything that is not verifiable or falsifiable, according to this understanding, does not belong to the realm of reason strictly understood. Hence ethics and religion must be assigned to the subjective field...
[...]
The positivist approach to nature and reason, the positivist world view in general, is a most important dimension of human knowledge and capacity that we may in no way dispense with. But in and of itself it is not a sufficient culture corresponding to the full breadth of the human condition. Where positivist reason considers itself the only sufficient culture and banishes all other cultural realities to the status of subcultures, it diminishes man, indeed it threatens his humanity.
I'm not a philosopher, but I think it is fair to assume that for the word "positivist" in Pope Benedict's statement we can substitute "rationalist", "materialist", "secular humanist" or even "atheist". They may not have exactly the same definitions, but there is certainly a large amount of overlap in these philosophies.

This is the same type of thinking that is used to justify "homosexual marriage" and abortion. It is an amoral way of thinking that leaves questions of ethics completely at the whim of fashionable ideas that are often imposed from above by those who control the mass media.

It is interesting that the Holy Father mentions Solomon in his speech. It is in the Book of the Wisdom of Solomon, in chapter 13 that we find a whole section that speaks about this topic. (Wisdom 13:1-9)
For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know him who exists, nor did they recognize the craftsman while paying heed to his works; but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.

If through delight in the beauty of these things men assumed them to be gods, let them know how much better than these is their Lord, for the author of beauty created them.

And if men were amazed at their power and working, let them perceive from them how much more powerful is he who formed them.

For from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator. Yet these men are little to be blamed, for perhaps they go astray while seeking God and desiring to find him.

For as they live among his works they keep searching, and they trust in what they see, because the things that are seen are beautiful.

Yet again, not even they are to be excused; for if they had the power to know so much that they could investigate the world, how did they fail to find sooner the Lord of these things?
If these words were true in the ancient times when the Bible was written, how much more true are they now? For today, with the "power to know so much" that we possess and our ability to "investigate the world" with the use of scientific tools such as telescopes, microscopes, particle accelerators, computers and DNA sequencers, how is it that we "fail to find sooner the Lord of these things"?

Instead we "go astray" and fall into idol worship. But we do not worship the sun or the idols made of clay that our ancestors worshiped. Instead we worship the idol makers; we worship ourselves.

Pope Benedict XVI points out the danger in this form of self-worship:
Yet I would like to underline a point that seems to me to be neglected, today as in the past: there is also an ecology of man. Man too has a nature that he must respect and that he cannot manipulate at will. Man is not merely self-creating freedom. Man does not create himself. He is intellect and will, but he is also nature, and his will is rightly ordered if he respects his nature, listens to it and accepts himself for who he is, as one who did not create himself. In this way, and in no other, is true human freedom fulfilled.
It seems to me that the Pope is expressing here his concern over genetic manipulation of humans. If Man denies God and usurps for himself god-like powers, then the door is open to "self-create" a new species of transhumans.

But in so doing the "ecology of man" is upset. And as we have seen when the ecology, the natural balance, is pushed beyond its ability to regulate itself we end up with widespread pollution and even environmental disasters such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

How much greater of a potential for disaster is there in Man's manipulation of his own genetic blueprint?

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