Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Getting a Grip About: Technology and Magic

What I said earlier about idolizing science applies to technology, too. Treating anything that's not God as if it's divine is a really bad idea. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2112-2114)


Humanity is made "in the image of God." We have awesome responsibilities, including stewardship of this creation. (Genesis 1:26-31) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 355-361)

We're "in the image of God," but we're not God, so we need tools to get most work done. Developing tools and using them to maintain or improve what we can, comes with being human. It's the sort of creature we are.

We've had some technology, like cooking fires, for so long that they seem quite 'natural.' Newer tech, like steam locomotives and the Internet, has made some folks uneasy. (January 27, 2013; Apathetic Lemming of the North (April 9, 2012))

Like science, technology is a "precious resource."1 By itself, technology isn't bad: or good. It's how we decide to use technology that makes a difference. (Catechism, 2293-2295)

Harmless Entertainment

As I said in the first post, I've got three sorts of 'magic' in mind today:
  • Harmless entertainment
  • Unfamiliar technology
  • A really bad idea
The first sort is 'stage magic,' prestidigitation, "manual dexterity in the execution of tricks." (Princeton's WordNet) It's the sort of 'watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat' thing that I've enjoyed.

I suppose stage magic could be harmful, if used to distract folks while a pickpocket exercises another sort of manual dexterity: but so could many other activities.

Unfamiliar Technology

There isn't anything 'magical' about telephones, television, computers, or the Internet. But these new technologies might seem 'magical' to someone who had grown up without them. I think that may explain the dislike or fear of new tech that I've seen.

A few generations ago, watching events on the other side of the world as they're happening, and talking with folks who are miles away, might have seemed like 'magic.'

I remember when my family got our first television set, and the first public transatlantic television feed. Today, we've gotten used to seeing crystal-clear live television from almost anywhere on the planet.

By the way, I might take dire warnings about the malefic influence of the Internet on the nation's youth: if I hadn't heard the same sort of thing about television; and telephones. Sure, we've got social ills today: but I don't think technology is to blame, any more than letting teens use telephones caused social upheavals in the '60s.

I've quoted Job 5:7 before, and that's almost another topic.

A Really Bad Idea

The third sort of 'magic' involves making a deal with a fallen angel. It's a very bad idea. Satan isn't nice, and can't be trusted. The same goes for the other angels who followed Satan's lead. (Genesis 3:5; Luke 10:18; Peter 2:4) (Catechism, 391-395)

For folks who learned about exorcism and the Catholic Church from dramatic offerings such as "The Last Exorcism Part II" and "Catholic Ghoulgirls," the real thing might seem rather dull.

Hollywood histrionics notwithstanding, Satan is quite real. I agree with the chief exorcist of Rome:
"The world must know that Satan exists...."
The Catholic Church has quite a few words to say about unauthorized efforts to control or communicate with "occult powers," but they boil down to "don't." (Catechism, 2116-2117)

Divination isn't a good idea, either. (Catechism, 2115-2116)

I suppose someone had a fit back in the day when meteorology was a new science, and weather forecasts became possible.

That's not divination: we get weather forecasts by studying physical conditions. Data from weather satellites helps, a lot: and that's yet another topic.

(from Reto Stöckli, via NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, used w/o permission)


"When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism...."
(Catechism, 1673)
Unlike divination or magic, exorcism is authorized contact with the Evil One. A simple sort of exorcism is performed during Baptism. (Catechism, 1673)

A major exorcism is a very serious matter, and may only be performed by a priest with specific approval of the bishop. It is emphatically not a 'do-it-yourself' proposition. Preparations for a major exorcism include making sure that it's the Evil One, not some illness, causing the problem. (Catechism, 1673)

Somewhat-related posts:

1 Science and technology are "precious resources:" provided that we use them ethically:
"Basic scientific research, as well as applied research, is a significant expression of man's dominion over creation. Science and technology are precious resources when placed at the service of man and promote his integral development for the benefit of all. By themselves however they cannot disclose the meaning of existence and of human progress. Science and technology are ordered to man, from whom they take their origin and development; hence they find in the person and in his moral values both evidence of their purpose and awareness of their limits."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2293)

1 comment:

Brigid said...

Wrong word: "I think that may explain the dislike"

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