Contributed by a regular writer Peter
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
“The LORD shall reign for ever and ever.” (Exodus 15:18)
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)
I remember watching the one-man play, Clarence Darrow, which re-enacted American lawyer Clarence Darrow’s defense of high school teacher John Scopes in the famous 1925 ‘Monkey Trial’ in Tennessee. The issue of the trial was Scopes teaching Darwinian evolution in the classroom. Like all good drama, it etched a profound feeling in my being. The central issue – a literalist interpretation of The Bible versus an all-too-human understanding of the natural universe – left me with a sense of the futility and the vanity of this ‘either-or’ approach to God and the universe.
This feeling within me has been variously augmented and challenged over the years. The most recent challenge has taken the form of a fourth-year university course that I developed and now teach entitled ‘Technology and Society’. The course has an enormously broad integrative mandate, and captures topics such as dystopian fictional portrayals of the future, the growth of surveillance of citizens by governments, the bad and good effects of technology on the global ecology, possibilities for new technology-based crowdsourced governments, the consequences of bioengineering, and so on. All of these future-oriented topics mean one thing – that the world as we know it will change, and indeed, may radically change.
In my youth I recall an old French teacher of mine who said all-too frequently: La seule chose qui ne change pas c’est le changement – “The only thing that never changes is change itself”. At the time it seemed like rather a trite saying. Now that I am older, I have more of a heartfelt appreciation for what my old teacher was trying to convey.
The sense of what is happening is what happens to us all. The world of our youth is no more. But there is a new, scientific twist. It isn’t that technology is merely progressing giving use better engineered products, but it is that technology is progressing so fast that it is increasingly giving the appearance of god-like powers. In particular, the future of human beings themselves is very likely to change as stem cells allow the growth of new body parts, or as microchip-type technologies are eventually wired into the human brain creating cyborg and cyborg-type intelligence. Already we have a burst of brain research fueled by the tool of the CT scan that is tracing human emotions to the chemical and electrical activities of the brain. Increasingly ‘science’ is giving us a mysterious incomprehensible-to-most-people sense of the human and our universe, from the Big Bang to black holes. Because of science’s progressively impenetrable mystery, human beliefs have, like with the ‘discovery’ of Darwinian evolution, again started to worship science and technology as ‘keys’ to human understanding of the universe. Only the other day a friend suggested to me that perhaps our life on earth was just a cruel experiment conducted by aliens, and I am not entirely sure if he was joking.
Such avant garde science and technology, soon to be actual everyday technology, offers a seeming alternative to a belief in God’s divine plan. However, it is in fact no different today than the issue of the Scopes Monkey Trial was in 1925. The quarrel between God and science is specious, just as it always has been. There exists no real conflict between the human worldly pursuit of science and our faith in God. History is replete with instances where human beings have falsely claimed god-like powers, but the reality always has, and always will, remain that God remains God. Human beings will never rationally comprehend eternal time or eternal space. It is only through His divine grace that we are allowed to confuse rationalistic science with faith-based reality. And it is only faith that is, in the end, ‘real’. My old French teacher was wrong; there is one other thing apart from change itself that never changes. And that is God.