A Catholic perspective on Technological advancements

Technological Advancements and the “I am God” Complex

From the earliest basic tools to the invention of the wheel in recent history, technological advancements have undoubtedly empowered humans with greater control over their environment and capabilities to survive and to thrive.

Humans have manipulated ore into bronze, iron and steel. We, the collective we, have charted the stars, invented the compass to navigate both land and sea. We have developed gunpowder first for medicinal purposes then for war. We have created the lightbulb, steam and combustion engines, the telegraph the telephone, and now the mobile phone. We invented the TV, then the Internet to communicate around the world in seconds. We’ve taken flight first on the beach at Kittyhawk, then to the moon and now beyond – with thousands of satellites orbiting around the world and spacecraft still continuing their path to the outer reaches of the solar system. We’ve split atoms, can reconfigure DNA and most recently artificial intelligence is making its first baby steps.

Is there nothing we can’t do? All this can make one think we’ve made a “ding in the universe” by making products that impact the world. Yes, these advancements have surely changed the world but to say that we put a ding in the universe, I’m pretty sure made God roll His eyes. “Here we go again.”

Is there nothing we huamns can’t do?

This is a case of mistaken identity and it’s not new.

Case in point, back in the 5th century BC a story was being told of Icarus. It’s a Greek myth, a story of hubris, disobedience, and the consequences of overreaching. As the story goes, Icarus’ father Daedalus created wings of wax and feathers to escape the prison he and his son were in. He cautioned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun as the wax that was holding the wings together would melt. Icarus, however, thrilled with the new experience of flight, ignored his father’s advice and soared higher and higher which eventually melted the wax. Icarus plummeted into the sea and drowned.

Perhaps a Catholic interpretation of the story is a warning against our natural tendencies toward arrogance, pride, and yes, disobedience. It emphasizes the importance of heeding rather ignoring wise counsel from God and understanding our human limitations. Icarus’ tragedy is our tragedy. It’s a result of his disregard of his father’s guidance and his own failure to recognize the boundaries set by nature. Our tragedy is our disregard for our Father’s guidance because we think we have no Father, creator of heaven and earth, because we are in charge of doing all the creating now.

I believe that there’s nothing we humans cannot achieve when we put our mind to it when tackling a human problem. The things for us to remember is that while science attempts to explain and make advances in the natural world, God created the entire “container”, that the universe and time sits in. This container includes all the matter we humans manipulate to make advances. God, the first mover, made the toys we play with to make increasing more complex and amazing advancements. In our arrogance, we have rejected this notion.

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