Sunday, February 10, 2013

"...The Man With the X-Ray Eyes," the Tuskegee Experiment, and Seeking God

It seems easy to get odd ideas about humans, and humanity in general.

'Now That We are In Control....'

At one extreme, we're seen as nothing but a remarkably destructive animal that may or may not become extinct before utterly destroying Earth's 'fragile' ecosystem.

At another, we're imagined to have absolute control and mastery over the universe. My father and I both grew up in an era when that notion was more popular than it is today.

An author whose work I still enjoy once wrote 'now that we are in control of the forces of nature....'

A few years later Mount St. Helens exploded.

I remember watching video of a tiny yellow chip being swept along in what appeared to be a mass of muddy water and matchsticks. Turbulence rolled the chip on its side, revealing it as one of those oversize trucks used for hauling logs: which is what the 'matchsticks' were. I hope the driver had been smart, and left before the eruption.

We live in a universe that will kill us if we don't use our brains.

I can't stop the winter storm that's making travel interesting here in Minnesota. What I can do is keep windows and doors of my house closed, and have the furnace checked out - before the start of heating season. Avoiding unnecessary travel is prudent, too.

We have the "dominion" mentioned in Genesis 1:26. But sometimes we need to do what a foreman does when encountering something massive, mechanical, and moving: get out of the way. The foreman's decision to step aside doesn't mean that the machine is boss. It's just a matter of not being stupid.

Powerful, Yes; All-Powerful, No

I like this story:

God was walking along a riverbank with some man. They were talking about how much humanity had learned recently. The man was particularly impressed with developments in molecular biology. "I can make life, just like you did in Genesis," he said.

God asked, "could you make a man?" The man thought a minute, then said, "yes."

"Okay," said the Almighty. "Let's see you do that." They had come to a spot on the riverbank where a small landslide had exposed fresh clay. The man bent down and scooped up a lump of clay.

"Wait," God said. "If you're going to do this on your own, you have to create your own clay."

My father told that short tale when we were discussing humanity's capacities and limitations: and I've used it before. (January 25, 2012)

Technology and Responsibility

Humanity is made "in the image of God." (Genesis 1:26)

But we're not God. We need some sort of technology to get most jobs done. We're also able to think for ourselves: and responsible for our decisions. Just being able to do something doesn't make it right.

Using a bulldozer to scrape topsoil off a hillside might not be a good idea: but it's not the bulldozer's fault. As I've said before, "technology's okay: irresponsibility isn't." (January 14, 2013)

Mad Scientists, Real and Imagined

Between movies like "X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes" and real events like the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, it's small wonder that some folks see science as evil: and I've been over that before. (November 18, 2011)

I think deliberately ignoring the wonders of this universe would be a strange way of showing respect for the Creator.

As a Catholic, I'm not allowed to think that I'm "beyond good and evil:" no matter how smart I am, or how important the research is. I've been over that before, too. (March 9, 2012) Nietzsche had a talent for writing memorable one-liners, and that's another topic.

What seems to annoy some folks about religion in general, and the Catholic Church in particular, is that the Church says ethics matter.

We're not even allowed to do something unethical to help someone. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1753) For example, the Church says that organ transplants can be a good thing; but killing someone to get organs for another person is wrong. (Catechism, 2296)

Seeking God

The Catholic Church doesn't insist that we learn more about the wonders of this universe, but says it is an option.

Seeking God, however, is a 'must-do.' Happily, at least for folks like me, studying this astonishing creation is one way to learn about God:
  • God
    • Created/is creating everything
      (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 268, 279, 301, 302-305)
  • We
    • Are supposed to seek God
      (Catechism, 1)
    • Can learn about God
      • By studying what He created
        (Catechism, 31-36, 282-289)
        • This knowledge
          • Gives converging and convincing arguments
          • Is not proof in the scientific sense
          (Catechism, 31)
      • Through divine revelation (37-38)
  • The universe is
    • Good and ordered
      (Catechism, 299)
    • Being completed
      • It is "in a state of journeying"
        (Catechism, 302)
    • Beautiful
      • And may be studied
      (Catechism, 341)
  • Honest research can't contradict faith
    • Because God made the universe
    (Catechism, 159)
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