Thursday, September 10, 2009

Modern Science a Language of Babel

Read the Tower of Babel story (Genesis 11:1-9):
And the earth was of one tongue, and of the same speech. And when they removed from the east, they found a plain in the land of Sennaar, and dwelt in it. And each one said to his neighbour: Come let us make brick, and bake them with fire. And they had brick instead of stones, and slime instead of mortar: And they said: Come, let us make a city and a tower, the top whereof may reach to heaven; and let us make our name famous before we be scattered abroad into all lands. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of Adam were building. And he said: Behold, it is one people, and all have one tongue: and they have begun to do this, neither will they leave off from their designs, till they accomplish them in deed. Come ye, therefore, let us go down, and there confound their tongue, that they may not understand one another's speech. And so the Lord scattered them from that place into all lands, and they ceased to build the city. And therefore the name thereof was called Babel, because there the language of the whole earth was confounded: and from thence the Lord scattered them abroad upon the face of all countries.
Modern science could be considered a language of Babel and needless technology (not that all technology is needless) the tower it produces.

God will scatter the nations that globalization, brought about by advances in technology due to modern science, seemingly binds together. Why? We have become too prideful in our modern science, which is becoming less a pursuit of truth for the love of God and our fellow men and more a pursuit of controlling matter. We must be very wary of scientism, the philosophy that modern science is itself a philosophy.

Pope John Paul II wrote about scientism:
Another threat to be reckoned with is scientism. This is the philosophical notion which refuses to admit the validity of forms of knowledge other than those of the positive sciences; and it relegates religious, theological, ethical and aesthetic knowledge to the realm of mere fantasy. In the past, the same idea emerged in positivism and neo-positivism, which considered metaphysical statements to be meaningless. Critical epistemology has discredited such a claim, but now we see it revived in the new guise of scientism, which dismisses values as mere products of the emotions and rejects the notion of being in order to clear the way for pure and simple facticity. Science would thus be poised to dominate all aspects of human life through technological progress. The undeniable triumphs of scientific research and contemporary technology have helped to propagate a scientistic outlook, which now seems boundless, given its inroads into different cultures and the radical changes it has brought.
Regrettably, it must be noted, scientism consigns all that has to do with the question of the meaning of life to the realm of the irrational or imaginary. No less disappointing is the way in which it approaches the other great problems of philosophy which, if they are not ignored, are subjected to analyses based on superficial analogies, lacking all rational foundation. This leads to the impoverishment of human thought, which no longer addresses the ultimate problems which the human being, as the animal rationale, has pondered constantly from the beginning of time. And since it leaves no space for the critique offered by ethical judgement, the scientistic mentality has succeeded in leading many to think that if something is technically possible it is therefore morally admissible.
—Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio §88
Also, interestingly, Pope John XXIII would not have considered Latin a language of Babel:
It is a matter of regret that so many people, unaccountably dazzled by the marvelous progress of science, are taking it upon themselves to oust or restrict the study of Latin and other kindred subjects. … Yet, in spite of the urgent need for science, Our own view is that the very contrary policy should be followed. The greatest impression is made on the mind by those things which correspond more closely to man's nature and dignity. And therefore the greatest zeal should be shown in the acquisition of whatever educates and ennobles the mind. Otherwise poor mortal creatures may well become like the machines they build—cold, hard, and devoid of love.

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