I have never dreamed of flying through space. I have never yearned to travel faster than the speed of light. I am not impressed by UFO sightings or the prospect of meeting aliens. I am not interested in altering the genomes of any of my descendants. I am not interested in refusing to grow old or refusing to die. I’m writing this on an excellent computer, but I’m not sure I enjoy my computer any more than I used to enjoy the effect of a freshly sharpened pencil on a crisp white sheet of paper, or the feeling of breaking through. through the smooth pages of a gigantic encyclopedia, or the fun of recording favorite songs from the radio on a staccato cassette tape or watching a classic movie on a flickering, buzzing VHS purchased at a boot sale. The fact is that progress is ambivalent, it is not always 100% good and while it creates the new it destroys the old. We may one day enjoy the thrill of a shiny new self-driving car, but we’ll certainly look back longingly on the thrill of driving ourselves. Even when we get excited about technological change, we miss out on many of the things that technological change erases.
Progress is a two-way street. What science promises with one hand, it takes away with the other. A cure for something could induce a condition for something else. All medications have side effects. All medical treatment is a balancing act between evils, as the current pandemic has clearly shown. Which is fine as long as the patient’s interests remain paramount. However, when medical treatment is based on money, it raises ethical dilemmas. And since science and private money now always seem to go hand in hand, it’s a good time to ask: Will the interests of patients take a backseat to corporate priorities? New Tech’s recent rise in wealth does not bode well for the masses. When Bezos says that his clients always come first, this is only until he has conquered them and eliminated the competition, then profits return to the first position. Profit and a growing GDP are the modern foundations of expect: hope of wealth, hope of new goods, hope that one day science will save us.
There is some evidence that technological change is being used for the general good, but much more that it is being used as a springboard for very rich. Just when the prospect of free mobile communication and free internet access was within our grasp, would-be billionaires stepped in and turned these things into models for exorbitant profits. When an epidemic occurs, the first thing we ask might be “Who can we save?” but this is quickly followed by “How much money can we make?” The year of Covid showed that we are less interested in saving lives than saving large companies. As we unlock the mysteries of the known universe, entrepreneurs listen to the sound of cash registers. This would be fine if the profits were used to reduce national debts, or to improve public services, or to save endangered species, but there is little or no evidence of this.
How does this affect our spirit, our human essence, our life experience in general? I think the impact is net negative. We are back at that point in civilization when men thought that by building a tower high enough in the clouds, they would be able to glimpse the sky. The Tower of Babel was the result of vain ambition rather than a desire to house the masses, and its ultimate failure set science back for centuries. This raises the specter of an inverse link between money and morality.
Our modern Babel is a rocket ship for billionaires obsessively in search of new thrills, and don’t get me wrong, crossing new frontiers is a laudable goal. We’re all curious about weightlessness and the curvature of the earth, and Branson is about to satisfy that curiosity, at least for some. While some of us search the back of the sofa for the rare £175,000 to pay for a ticket, millions more are curious not about weightlessness and the curvature of the earth, but about feeding and clothing themselves and getting their children a good education. which is still beyond the ability of even the most savvy politicians to deliver. While climate change wreaks havoc on Earth’s urbanization, Musk’s plans to build settlements on Mars have been met with enthusiasm; however, what good is a mansion on Mars when affordable housing on Earth is still in short supply? Is science becoming an elitist exercise, designing products for the few while frustrating the hope of the many? To take this to the extreme, consider a group of scientists, funded by billionaires, who discover a formula for eternal life: who would benefit? Would the formula be extended to the whole world? Or, slightly more likely, if we were to one day rely on space rockets to escape our poisoned planet (poisoned by bad business decisions), how many of us would be allowed on board? There are thousands of other scenarios: self-driving cars, domestic robots, genetic modification – who will be able to afford these technologies?
A real heaven must include everyone or no one at all, because otherwise it is a kind of lonely heaven. Only God’s salvation is for everyone. The only getaway rocket we need is piloted by Jesus. The Bible tells us that “hope in the Lord will renew our strength” (Isaiah 4:31) and “The God of hope will fill us with joy and peace” (Romans 15:13). There is nothing to say that we can’t use science and money to help us along the way because science comes from God (Psalms 111:2) as well as wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18), but science comes from hands of God. and hijacked by selfish financial interests is not only wrong but dangerous.
Here is the problem in a nutshell existential: as far as science is concerned everything matters but nothing makes sense.
Science cares about everything because science cares about everything that is observable, but nothing makes sense because beyond matter there is nothing. Matter and money have become inextricably linked and between them they have built a new article of faith: that nothing matters outside of money. Thus our hopes for peace and joy rest on the acquisition of goods in which we find short-lived gratification, while the real question of the general happiness of our species (and its final salvation in eternity) is left to the fore. side as unreal, unattainable, even mythical.
In godly faith, the opposite is true. Nothing matters but everything makes sense.
Nothing solid matters to the religious mind, whether it be the curvature of the earth or the arrival of ET, because to the religious mind matter is like nothing; it is dust. But it all makes sense to the religious mind because we know that beyond our mortal life there is an eternity of peace in the presence of the Divine, which gives hope to all. Believing in God, therefore, restores hope and is, in fact, the only real basis for hope. Those who put their trust only in anything else will ultimately be disappointed.
So how does belief in God inspire hope? If I am a parent who cannot buy shoes for my children but I know that God is there for me, the absence of shoes does not matter anymore. I explain to my children that running barefoot through the streets can connect them more viscerally with the world, enjoy creation more fully, and find greater meaning in their lives. The sun, the stars, the moon, remain unattainable, but that’s okay because unattainable things thrive in art, romance, and dreams, all of which make life wonderful. Meanwhile, the combination of science and money leads to an insatiable desire to make capital and manufacture luxury goods for endlessly flourishing bank balances. But empty dreams of owning a superyacht, a race car, or even a rocket ship will only satisfy the bodily senses for a brief period before being discarded along with all the other worn-out toys of the past. Meanwhile, kids who run barefoot feel cheated if their shoes don’t bear a designer’s mark.