You’d think there would only be a finite number of arguments about why science and faith are compatible, but Noah Efron, a city councilman in Tel Aviv, Israel, has come up with a new one. It’s not worth spending much time on, but we have to keep up with the enemy. In an article at (where else?) HuffPo called “The meaning of science and religion in real life,” Efron finds the loving concordat of science and faith in the internet. Why? Because it’s a product of science but can be used for social purposes. So why are “social purposes” religious? Because the Pope talked about the internet!
A few days ago, Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement about social networks like Facebook, called “Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age.” The Pope’s tone is one of reflection and careful measure, and he finds online things to admire and things to avoid. He sees in the Internet “a new appreciation of communication itself, which is seen first of all as dialogue, exchange, solidarity and the creation of positive relations.” At the same time, he finds in posting and Tweeting and poking a “tendency to communicate only some parts of one’s interior world” and a “risk of constructing a false image of oneself, which can become a form of self-indulgence.” Life online shakes up life as we knew it, raising important questions:
Who is my “neighbour” in this new world? Does the danger exist that we may be less present to those whom we encounter in our everyday life? Is there a risk of being more distracted because our attention is fragmented and absorbed in a world “other” than the one in which we live? Do we have time to reflect critically on our choices and to foster human relationships which are truly deep and lasting?
What makes this document moving is the fact that in it Pope Benedict tries to make sense of how the vast changes quickly wrought by scientific technologies affect the lives of our kids and our own lives, how they might bring people together or keep them apart, how they add to our loneliness or subtract from it, how they allow us to find meaning and love, or prevent us for this. What makes it moving is the Pope’s certainty that “the truth of Christ” and “the task of witnessing to the Gospel” are affected by the Internet . . .
Here’s the best part:
Even more than tired polemics about Darwin, this is where science and religion meet in ways that matter, behind the locked bedroom door of a teen at a screen, waiting, forlorn, to be friended. Meetings of this sort reflect no “great war of ideas.” They are something more delicate than that, far from headlines, taking place at a scale more human than seminar room polemics, with stakes that are, in the end, higher.
Umm. . . I don’t think that most teens who are on the internet behind locked bedroom doors are “waiting to be friended.”
Efron promises a “series of essays” on this stuff. LOL!