Surviving the scientific age

** Written by “Surak” **

Humankind has one chance to survive the scientific age. The use of scientific knowledge must be restrained and guided in positive directions by the values of the same religion that gave birth to modern science, Christianity. It is not by accident that the great founders of modern science (from Copernicus to Lemaître) were Christians or at the very least the product of Christian values and beliefs (Darwin). Only by reuniting science and Christianity can humankind survive. I say this as a non-Christian and ask you to consider the differences between Christian and non-Christian societies in the age of science.

The Communist regimes in the USSR, Red China, and Cambodia demonstrated how militantly atheist societies would make use of any kind of power, including scientific knowledge. Their destruction of human life was unprecedented in the history of the human species. The argument that this will not be the case as soon as the right kind of secular belief system and enlightened leaders are found has no evidence to support it and, without further convincing evidence, it must be dismissed as nothing more than wishful thinking by the intellectual left. Power always corrupts.

We can learn a great deal about the interplay of religion and science from the Nazi experience. Nazis were scientific-minded materialists determined to create a new civic religion capable of instilling a fascist moral system in all the generations to come. To accomplish this they worked vigorously toward the gradual divorce of German religion from its Christian roots. Christian beliefs and values were already waning in Europe from the late 1800s and first decades of the 1900s, largely as the result of the assault on Christianity by secular humanists. The Nazis took the opportunity to fill the spiritual void in German society. There can be no doubt about what the Nazis would have done with their rockets, the atomic weapons they hoped to create, the results of their truly evil medical experiments, and their belief in social Darwinism. It is a nightmare too horrible to think about.

Compare the Communist and Nazi regimes to the American experience. The United States is the last bastion of Christianity in the developed world. It has possessed enough destructive power for the last 60 years to destroy our world many times over. So what has it done with this power? We can’t argue that American hands are clean — the million or more Vietnamese killed in the 1960s and 1970s are testimony that Americans are potentially as imperfect as anyone else. But it is telling that the American people finally put an end to the war they were tricked into fighting, and they accepted defeat rather than continue the slaughter. In other words, there was some meaningful degree of restraint on the use of destructive power by a people who were guided by their predominately Christian values.

There is more evidence that Christianity has been an effective restraint on and positive guide for humankind’s violent tendencies during the scientific age. Christian America possessed all the destructive power modern science provides from the time it took effective control of much of Europe, Japan, and Korea. It did not exploit and repress these nations as the Soviet Union did to Eastern Europe; instead, America helped these nations become free, prosperous, and independent.

The values and beliefs that restrained American behavior during the last half of the 20th Century were the same as those that motivated an earlier generation of Americans to march into battle and die by the hundreds of thousands to end the abomination of slavery. We can wish with all our hearts that war would never occur, but if it has to happen, there could be no more noble reason for it. The American Civil War is arguably the greatest moral event in the history of the human species. American has not been perfect, but it has been significantly different, and that difference is the result of its Christian foundation.

America has produced the most science, which has helped it possess the greatest destructive power ever, but so far it has abused that power to a degree far less than what human history would have led us to expect of any group of humans. Think about it, would you trust France with the same power? I hope not. But the United States is changing for the worse, and Leo Tolstoy can help us understand why.

In his book, The Kingdom of God Is within You, he explains how humanity has experienced three stages. The savage stage is a person’s self-love expressed in the mere striving for immediate gratification with little or no concern for others. The next highest stage is the social stage where self-love has been expanded to include all of those who are important to a person’s well-being and survival. Tolstoy argued that self-love can be expanded to many levels, including the family, the clan, the tribe, the village, the nationality, the party, and even the state. But it can never encompass all of humanity — an abstraction with which human understanding and emotions can never cope.

Only the final stage, the spiritual, can accomplish universal love and the end of violence. But, according to Tolstoy this can only be achieved in a roundabout manner. First, people must love God. Then, because God is perfect love, our love of God results in our love for all humanity since we recognize each other as sons and daughters of one Father. I do not know if this is true, but I hope it is. There is no other alternative for humankind’s survival. The only force on Earth that has effectively restrained the potentially destructive results of science is the same force that gave birth to science — a Christian belief in a rational world created by a loving God combined with Christian values based on love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, and the sacredness of all human life.

America came closest to love of all humanity, but the level of love even in the United States is slipping back from the spiritual to the social and even the savage (look at the American inner cities). The cultural war between Christians and humanists, along with the trauma of 9/11, has caused the contraction of love back to the level of the nation or the party. In places in the United States, it has even become tribal in nature. I don’t know if Jesus was the Son of God. What I do know is that Christianity has been the greatest force for good the world has ever seen.