We all live under the benefits of the development of scientific research – from putting on the electric jug, driving to work, using our computers and medical care. These benefits are indisputable. Yet, there is a downside to all of this; the technology to industrialise death and to provide the instruments of terror to be used by fanatics and governments. Someone sitting in front of computer in the USA can bomb someone on the other side of the world by a drone. Even Hezbollah has tried this out on. So the real danger of scientific knowledge is when it is divorced from the moral order of human life and becomes a threat to life.
The difficulty for our way of thinking is that we trust science to be the ultimate source of knowledge. In a way we have created a prison for our reason and common sense – we need to enlarge again the range and capacity of our reason. We need to bring back a desire for truth that embraces the whole of our being. For the Christian truth is not a concept but a Person who declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. So however, we develop our rational and analytical capacity it is not the total picture.
A couple of years ago, I prepared talks for a retreat for clergy. It was based on the unknown author of a book called, The Cloud of Unknowing. This anonymous writer was a 14th Century monk, writing as a spiritual director for a novice in his order. He writes about knowledge, “All rational creatures, angelic or human have in them, each one individually, one chief working power, which is called a knowing power, and another chief working power, which is called a loving power; and of these two powers, God, who is the maker of them is always incomprehensible to the first, the knowing power.
But to the second, which is the loving power, He is entirely comprehensible in each person individually”. I don’t think that in the 600 years that divides us from this unknown monk we can improve on this statement – and he is from the pre-scientific age! Yet, from a spiritual standpoint, he is our contemporary. Part of our enlarging of our reason is in understanding of the different ways we comprehend and understand. When we lose the spiritual and the moral dimension then certain parts of scientific knowledge become pathological and dangerous, for it can play to our desire to dominate and control – then no one benefits.