Sunday, March 17, 2013

Designed as Stewards

I'm not surprised that we don't have particularly good built-in senses and neural circuits to guide us. The way we travel, specialized systems might be more trouble than they're worth. (March 15, 2013)

So far, we have permanent settlements on every continent except Antarctica: and maintain year-round outposts there. (March 15, 2013)

Earth's oceans are still largely unsettled, but outfits like Freedom Ship International may change that. A few of us even walked on the Moon for a few days.

No matter where we are, humans have learned to move around without getting lost. The trick is paying attention, and using our brains.

Nature, Humans, and God

I've seen the Victorian-era assumption that science and technology will solve all our problems give way to the equally-silly notion that science and technology will kill us all.

Expecting science and technology to replace God was wrong; so is worshiping nature. Adoring anything that's not God is called idolatry, and is a bad idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2110-2114)

But that doesn't make science, technology, and the natural world bad. (November 19, 2012; January 27, 2013)

Studying this astounding creation, discovering how it works, and developing ways to work with it, are part of being human. (Catechism, 2293)

'And God Spake These Words: Saying the World is Ours, to Ravage and Squander' - Not

The 19th century notion that we own nature, and may pillage it without consequence, is wrong. Ethics apply to how we use this creation. (Catechism, 339, 2292-2296)

I think we'll be sorting out the Industrial Age's mess for generations. The physical damage may be the easiest to fix. Long after the last toxic waste dump is reclaimed, Some folks will probably still believe that Christianity destroys the environment.

Born-again atheists claiming that Christians think we own the natural world is, perhaps, understandable. Christians making the same claim: not so much. I'm running into less of the old-school attitude toward nature in recent years: for which I'm duly grateful.

I think part of the problem comes from folks getting the wrong idea from Genesis:
"4 Then God said: 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the cattle, and over all the wild animals and all the creatures that crawl on the ground.'

"God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. "
(Genesis 1:26-27)
I'm a Catholic, so I have to believe that humans are made in the image of God. But I also have to believe that we don't own the universe. Our position is more like 'shop foreman' or steward. (Catechism, 355, 337-349, 2415)

Made in the Image of God: A Scary Thought

The idea that we're images of God, put in this creation as stewards, may be scarier than assuming that God isn't involved at all.

Think about it: how would the steward of a feudal manor feel if the lord of the manor returned to find the fields untended and a party going on in the castle; or a shop foreman, if the owner showed up when the factory was a smoking ruin?

The good news is that we're equipped with everything we need to do our job, including wonderfully adaptable brains.

The disquieting news is that we can use our intelligence as we see fit. As images of God, we're both spirit and matter: animals equipped with reason and free will. Each of us is someone, not something. (Catechism, 355, 1700-1706, 1730, 1951)

We're also responsible for our decisions. (Catechism, 1020-1022)

"With Great Power ..."

"With great power there must also come -
great responsibility!
"
(Stan Lee, in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) (the first Spider-Man story))
Knowing that God gives us reason and free will, and the job of running creation, is scary.

I've never been a CEO, put in charge of a company: but I imagine that getting your own parking space and keys to the executive washroom must feel good, for a few minutes.

Sooner or later, a responsible executive realizes that every decision he or she makes affects hundreds, sometimes thousands, of stockholders, receptionists, and mail room clerks. For me, that sort of pressure isn't worth a parking space and a corner office. (December 9, 2012; August 31, 2011)

Today, Minnesota: Tomorrow, the Stars

Finally, getting back to our lack of built-in navigation aids: I don't see that as a design flaw.

Specialized senses are fine for creatures that stay in one place. We're designed as stewards, able to develop skills and technology for every locale we call home: and for those we haven't reached yet.



I think it's easy to forget how far we've come, and how much we've done since we started.

Scientists have been piecing together what happened before we developed the sort of external memory we call writing. What they're founding makes me pretty sure that my ancestors left Africa somewhere between 60,000 and 125,000 years ago.

My branch of humanity's appearance changed during our travels, but we're still optimized for an environment that's 'room temperature' all year: ranging from about 66° to 83° Fahrenheit in cold months, 73° to 92° in warm seasons. (19° to 28°, 23° to 33° C)

I live in a part of the world where water is a mineral for several months each year. Living here is easier than it is in places like Antarctica or Earth orbit, but we need technology to survive Minnesota winters: whether it's the latest WHRU, or old technologies like fire and clothing.

That doesn't mean that God never intended humans to live in central North America: only that developing the necessary technology, and getting here, took time and effort.

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