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The Papal Encyclical's Attack on Technology, Wealth, and the 'Technocratic Paradigm'
Pope Francis' message on the environment is actually a radical call for humans to accept a more modest material lifestyle, and for a major redistribution of the world's wealth and power. That's great stuff for a sermon, but not so helpful as a practical guide for achievable change.
Most of the early attention given to the Papal Encyclical on the Environment focused on Pope Francis’ remarks about climate change; that it’s real and humans are the cause…
a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides, and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.
... and that dramatic change is necessary to combat it ...
Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.
It is of course those changes, not the science of climate change itself, that leads some to deny the overwhelming evidence Pope Francis cites, denial that prompted some conservatives to essentially tell the pope to butt out on the issue. Which explains why that part of the Papal message got much of the early attention.
The climate change issue, however, gets all of four paragraphs out of 246 in the 184-page document. (Biodiversity gets 11. Clean water gets five.) The pope’s message on the environment is about far broader themes, mostly religious (of course), with much longer expositions under headings like
THE MESSAGE OF EACH CREATURE IN THE HARMONY OF CREATION
THE MYSTERY OF THE UNIVERSE
THE LIGHT OFFERED BY FAITH
A UNIVERSAL COMMUNION
THE GAZE OF JESUS
But in THE HUMAN ROOTS OF THE ECOLOGICAL CRISIS, the pope is pretty clear where those roots lie. The BIG enemy, he says, is a world under the control of the Technocratic Paradigm. Not technology per se, but the rich few who use technology for power and profit, who don’t share fairly, and who in their selfishness ignore the harm their greed does to the rest of humanity, especially the poor and powerless, as well as to the environment.
The alliance between the economy and technology ends up sidelining anything unrelated to its immediate interests.
The technocratic paradigm ... tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy.
We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework, which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups.
In several places, the Encyclical blames the state of the natural world on
The culture of consumerism, which prioritizes short-term gain and private interest.
But that culture is not the fault of us consumers, the pope writes. Blame excessive consumption on the evil Technocratic Paradigm. We’re all dupes of the market.
Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals.
Pope Francis, a trained chemist, tries not to make science and technology the villains.
It is right to rejoice in these advances and to be excited by the immense possibilities which they continue to open up before us, for science and technology are wonderful products of a God-given human creativity.
Specifically on the issue of agricultural biotechnology — genetic modification of food — which has vast potential for improving food security and nutrition for billions of people, particularly the poor, the pope at first sounds supportive;
The Church values the benefits which result “from the study and applications of molecular biology, supplemented by other disciplines such as genetics, and its technological application in agriculture and industry.”
But even when discussing a technology he specifically supports, there is a, “Yeah, but ... it could be used a as tool for the evil Technocratic Paradigm.” He fears that agricultural biotechnology could empower ‘an expansion of oligopolies for the production of cereals and other products’ and concentrate land and power ‘in the hands of a few owners.’ Now Pope Francis sounds more like he’s writing posters for the March Against Monsanto.
And he sounds more worried about the use of technology as a tool of power than he is excited by its potential to solve human and environmental problems.
in the most radical sense of the term power is (technology’s) motive — a lordship over all. As a result (of technology), “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature.”
This is all part and parcel of the pope’s rejection of market mechanisms, because they are under the control of the wealthy Technocratic Paradigm, as tools to help create a more sustainable economy.
... the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products; people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending.
There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good.
So taken as a whole, Pope Francis’ provocative Encyclical is far more than just about the environment. It is essentially preaching of deep moral values — attacking concentrated wealth, advocating for fairness on behalf of the poor — more than a specific or realistic call for achievable change. It’s easy to agree with many of the pope's moral views, but hard to see how such a radical call for popular acceptance of significant reductions in material consumption and for redistribution of the world’s wealth and power — "The time has come to accept decreased growth in some parts of the world, in order to provide resources for other places to experience healthy growth" — has any hope of actually helping.
What does have a shot at helping is Pope Francis’s direct rejection of the increasingly popular view that nature and humans are separate and that humans and all we do are nothing more than a threat to the natural world. Such appealing, but childish environmentalist simplicity blocks progress and potential solutions. More on that aspect of the Encyclical in the next essay.
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Philosophers have been asking the question for hundreds of years. Now neuroscientists are joining the quest to find out.
- The debate over whether or not humans have free will is centuries old and ongoing. While studies have confirmed that our brains perform many tasks without conscious effort, there remains the question of how much we control and when it matters.
- According to Dr. Uri Maoz, it comes down to what your definition of free will is and to learning more about how we make decisions versus when it is ok for our brain to subconsciously control our actions and movements.
- "If we understand the interplay between conscious and unconscious," says Maoz, "it might help us realize what we can control and what we can't."
Puerto Rico's iconic telescope facilitated important scientific discoveries while inspiring young scientists and the public imagination.
- The Arecibo Observatory's main telescope collapsed on Tuesday morning.
- Although officials had been planning to demolish the telescope, the accident marked an unceremonious end to a beloved astronomical tool.
- The Arecibo radio telescope has facilitated many discoveries in astronomy, including the mapping of near-Earth asteroids and the detection of exoplanets.
Bradley Rivera via twitter.com<p>In 1963, the concave dish was built into a natural sinkhole on the northern coast of Puerto Rico. The location was <a href="https://www.space.com/20984-arecibo-observatory.html" target="_blank">picked because it was near the equator,</a> providing scientists a clear view of planets passing overhead, and also of the ionosphere, which is the uniquely reactive layer of Earth's upper atmosphere where the northern lights form.</p><p>Since its construction, scientists have used the Arecibo telescope to map near-Earth asteroids, detect gravitational waves, study pulsars, detect exoplanets and <a href="https://www.seti.org/goodbye-arecibo" target="_blank">search for alien civilizations</a>, among other projects. Here's a brief look at some of the discoveries and accomplishments made using the Arecibo telescope:</p><ul><li>1964: Astronomer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Pettengill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gordon Pettengill</a> discovers that Mercury's rotation period is 59 days, significantly shorter than the previous prediction of 88 days.</li><li>1974: Physicists Russell Alan Hulse and Joseph Hooton Taylor Jr. discovers the first binary pulsar, for which they won a Nobel Prize in Physics.</li><li>1974: Scientists use the telescope to transmit the "Arecibo message" to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Globular_Cluster_in_Hercules" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">globular star cluster M13</a>. The message, when translated into image form, contains basic information about humanity and human knowledge: the numbers one to 10, a map of our solar system, an illustration of a human being, and the atomic numbers of certain elements.</li><li>1989: Scientists use the telescope to image an asteroid for the first time.</li><li>1992: Astronomers Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail become the first to discover exoplanets.</li></ul>
The Google-owned company developed a system that can reliably predict the 3D shapes of proteins.