Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Pope Sends Another Mash Note to Ignorance

Pope Benedict XVI, the former Cardinal Ratzinger, has denounced book-learnin' again:

"In an age when scientific developments attract and seduce with the possibilities they offer, it's more important than ever to educate our contemporaries' consciences so that science does not become the criterion for goodness," he told scientists. [emphasis mine]
It's impossible to miss the provocative rhetoric embedded in the word "seduce," which is traditionally linked to the serpent of Eden fame, the same serpent who talked Eve into -- well, come to think of it -- into the attractive possibilities of knowledge and their potential to upset received notions of good and evil, precisely the risk the Pope attaches to science this week. For Mr. Ratzinger, nothing of consequence has changed since Eden, not even the diction: we're sequencing genomes instead of biting into apples, but it's all the same contemptible defiance. Lest we miss the allusions to Genesis, the Pope declares that
Man is not the fruit of chance or a bundle of convergences, determinisms or physical and chemical reactions ... [emphasis mine]
Well, "man" is subject to no determinisms except those outlined in the book of Genesis, which provides that women are bound to suffer in childbirth, men are bound to toil ceaslessly, and serpents, for their part, must slither on their bellies forevermore; above all, that we're all damned without the church's intercession. But apart from all that, the Pope wants everyone to know the slate is utterly clear.

The equation of science with serpentine, satanic temptation is, I suppose, boilerplate for the Pope given what the Pope claims to be, but that doesn't make it right. Whatever his claims, the Pope will merit actual authority -- indeed the rapt attention of the world -- the moment his pathways to knowledge, faith and revelation, outperform science on something of observable consequence to people's lives: the cure for a disease, a new source of energy, a way to handle nuclear waste, or the like. Yet once again, the Pope has taken the time to speak on god's behalf without saying anything of any practical use, indeed without saying anything beyond don't be seduced by the promise of greater knowledge, which might be the worst possible thing to say given the many challenges facing humankind.


1 comment:

Zennalathas said...

God, science is sexy...

Mmm Mmm good!