The Promise of Science and Technology
For most of human history, the experience and quality of life generally remained static over generations. Rulers and empires would come and go; humans might come upon an innovation or two; nevertheless, people would generally find life recognizable despite a gap of hundreds of years. Yet such a static understanding of life no longer exists; modern life would seem fantastic to a person who lived two hundred years ago, let alone four hundred years ago. Almost every aspect and domain of our lives has been changed significantly, and much of it has come from scientific and technological developments.
Scientific and technological explorations can therefore manifest great promise. We have come to rely greatly on the ideas, resources, and tools which have been discovered or developed over the past two hundred years. We travel in cars and airplanes; we use various gadgets in our houses in order to maintain comfort and simplify the mundane chores of life; we communicate with people around the world instantly on the Internet; we enjoy abundant food; we have recourse to many effective medicinal treatments of various illnesses and injuries. We have come to explore and investigate the creation around us: we have glimpsed matter smaller than atoms and unfathomably large galaxies; we have explored texts and ancient sites and probably have the best understanding of human history yet known by mankind; we have plumbed many of the mysteries of the working of the creation, from the formation of weather patterns to the effects of solar storms and radiation to the behavioral patterns manifest in the animal kingdom.
As people of faith we have no intrinsic need to fear science and technology. Science has no need to be contrary to faith or belief in God. Many scientists and technological evangelists have thought too highly of themselves and have conceived of a generally barren, cold, and sterile universe; their poverty of imagination is unfortunate, and they have become puffed up in their knowledge but not according to love (cf. 1 Corinthians 8:1).
All that humanity has discovered through science and technology testifies to the power of God our Creator. As scientists have explored the cosmos they have not discovered utter chaos but patterns, forces, and energies which have a beginning and an end. Even the theory of macroevolution, which has caused many believers great consternation, would posit patterns and tendencies in adaptations and changes over time. The universe is therefore comprehensible and the patterns which govern it can be discerned, all of which give glory, honor, and praise to their Creator (cf. Psalm 148:1-14).
David participated in a similar meditative experience in Psalm 19:1-14. He observed the movements of the sun and the stars: they displayed God’s handiwork. They could be seen, charted, and predicted; they maintained consistent patterns; thus something of the work of their Creator could be seen in how they moved (Psalm 19:1-6). David then considered the instruction of God in a similar vein: it could be read, understood, and applied; the work of their Creator was seen in their wisdom (Psalm 19:7-11). David did not want to get caught up in presumptuous sins, going beyond what he could understand; instead he wanted God to be glorified and honored through his meditation (Psalm 19:12-14).
We do well to remember that God made us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27): as He is the Creator of all things, humans made in His image have a strong impulse to create as well. We can pursue scientific and technological exploration in ways which glorify God in Christ if we explore with a view to better understanding the greatness of the creation God has made so that we can more fully glorify and honor Him.
We can learn much about God in His creation (cf. Romans 1:18-20). Humanity has suffered greatly from many of the maladies present in this corrupted and decaying world, and yet God has also provided within it tools and resources to mitigate or overcome many of these difficulties. Every great scientific or technological development has come through observation and development of the materials God has made. Many of our modern medicines derive from animal and plant resources; as we come to a better understanding of animals, bacteria, plants, and viruses at the genetic level we will no doubt develop even more effective therapies. Our modern civilization remains powered by fossil fuels, a legacy left in the ground for us; as we shift to renewable sources of energy we still remain dependent on the forces God has made and the energy He has provided in them.
The Bible does not frown upon scientific and technological advancements: people in the Bible sailed on boats, rode on chariots, and utilized bronze and iron implements. A life eschewing scientific and technological knowledge and improvements is not considered glorified or noble; Christians are not to place their ultimate confidence in such things, nor should they use them to the detriment of their relational unity with God and with His people (cf. Colossians 2:1-23). Scientific and technological advancements and ideas will pose challenges and difficulties, yet such is our lot in life in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Our goal must always be to glorify God in all things: in science we can seek to understand better this creation which God has made, and with technology we can leverage the materials and resources God has provided in ways which can make our quality of life better. We may learn of great dangers and difficulties in which we may find ourselves: we ought not to discount such warnings merely because they come from scientists or from those who have discovered various technologies.
The perils of science remain legion; Lord willing, we will consider many of them at another time. Yet the perils of science do not necessarily override its promise. Science and technology provide great promise when explored with appropriate humility and with the view to glorify and honor God by remaining good stewards of His creation and seeking to improve and preserve life. All such scientific and technological exploration and advancement remains possible because of how God has made the creation. May we as Christians find ways to glorify and honor God our Creator through the things which He has made, appreciate and value science and technology as testimonies to what can be done with what God has made, and use them to His glory and honor in all things!
Ethan R. Longhenry