Initial reflections on Pope Benedict’s Encylical
July 7th, 2009Posted by: Theo Nicolakis
I took a quick read through Pope Benedict’s encyclical. A major theme of the encyclical is an authentic love of one’s neighbor in truth and not out of mere sentimentality.
In the encyclical His Holiness Benedict XVI talks about what the Church has always held about technology: that it is not an immoral nor moral agent but, in his words “ambivilent”. I very much appreciated how he extolled the developmental process. It is not just the product but rather the process and intent that is just as valuable. The process, product, and progress are part of the human being’s natural desire to be more–to go, in a sense, from being to becoming. Now, technology cannot do this. Let’s be clear: Technology is not a utopian agent. Technology does not save.
One can look at the conflict even in the Sci-Fi genre on this topic. You have the Star Trek angle on the one hand and the Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi channel version) on the other (yes I am over simplifying but that’s ok for this illustration).
On the one hand you have this grand intergalactic society enabled by technology. Once the human race reaches a certain technological level (warp drive) it can then be included in the larger federation of planets. The Vulcans are the agents who then make contact with humanity.
On the other hand, with Battlestar, Terminator and others, you have the human race almost wiped out by it’s technology and needs to be liberated from it–to start over–at the end of the Battlestar series.
So, as technologists, what are we creating? What is our intent? What is our process? Why are we engaging in this creative act? The answers to these questions my seem simple at the surface; but the encyclical challenges us to look deeper and ask ourselves if we ate contributing to social injustice, poverty, and othery types of social and ethical injustices.
From my work with the Religious Alliance Against Pornography and as a technologist and theologian I have seen so many examples of these intended and unintended consequences.
So where does that leave us? Well in the sci-fi genre you continually have the theme of what it means to be authentically human. The way I read it, the Pope is saying that we cannot be authentically human apart from the love of God (who is himself love cf. 1John) and that the love we have must be based in truth–THE Truth.
Technology is not a substitute for truth nor is it the truth in and of itself. Rather love in Truth is a transforming agent and power that makes us truly human.