Ecclesiastes — Lesson 12

The Search for Meaning in Science & Technology

I. The Religion of Science & Technology

A. Are the Bible and Science in conflict?

1. Religion and science are in conflict in so far as one or the other makes unjustified claims.

2. Science is unjustified when it argues:

a) The scientific method is the only reliable path to knowledge.

b) Matter is the fundamental reality in the universe.

3. That science is limited to studying what can be observed in unquestioned. The problem arises when the limitations on science are taken to be limitations on reality.

a) To be “scientific” we are told that one must study the world as if God does not exist.

4. Science is not opposed to God, but many scientists are. Consider the words of P. W. Atkins in “The Limitless Power of Science”:

a) “Scientists, with their implicit trust in reductionism, are privileged to be at the summit of knowledge, and to see further into truth than any of their contemporaries. They are busy in the public domain, where truth can be tested by shared experience, where truth supervenes international boundaries and cultures. Scientists liberate truth from prejudice, and through their work lend wings to society's aspirations. While poetry titillates and theology obfuscates, science liberates.”

5. According to Atkins, science can or will in time be able to solve all problems:

a) “Science has never encountered a barrier that it has not surmounted or that we can at least reasonably suppose it has power to surmount and will in due course be equipped to do so.”

6. Atkins has nothing good to say about religion:

a) “Theologians, incidentally, have contributed nothing. They have invented a world and language of their own, like some mathematicians, but unlike many mathematicians have sought to impose their percepts and precepts on this world. In doing so, they have contaminated truth, and wasted the time of those who wish to understand this world. Scientists have had and are continuing to have to scrape away the [debris] of religious obfuscation before they can begin their own education.”

B. Technology and Religion

1. Charles Babbage, whose Calculating Engine is generally considered to be the predecessor of the modern computer, used his device to demonstrate the truth of miracles and the probability of the resurrection.

2. It was not until Gutenberg invented his printing press that the Bible could become widespread and accessible to the general public.

3. Today, the Internet is a very powerful tool for evangelism. People all over the world will be able to read this lesson (or any other lesson that we might post) within hours of its completion.

C. Are Science and Technology Separate from Religion?

1. First, how is technology different from science?

a) “Technology is the application of scientific findings and other principles of how things work in the natural world with the purpose of controlling things to achieve a purpose.”

2. Neil Postman wrote a book entitled Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology, in which he stated:

a) “Technopoly is a state of culture. It is also a state of mind. It consists in the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks its authorization in technology, finds its satisfactions in technology, and takes its orders from technology.”

3. Postman argues that technology is both a friend and an enemy:

a) “First, technology is a friend. It makes life easier, cleaner, and longer. Can anyone ask more of a friend? Second, because of its lengthy, intimate, and inevitable relationship with culture, technology does not invite a close examination of its own consequences. It is the kind of friend that asks for trust and obedience, which most people are inclined to give because its gifts are truly bountiful. But, of course, there is a dark side to this friend. Its gifts are not without a heavy cost. … It creates a culture without a moral foundation. It undermines certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living. Technology, in sum, is both friend and enemy.”

4. Stephen Monsma, in his book Responsible Technology, defines “Technicism,” which he argues is a religion:

a) “The powerful line of secularization present in modern Western culture has as its reigning characteristic the belief in human autonomy and power. Humankind has put itself at the center of all things and declares that it will find progress and life-its own salvation-by taking its destiny into its hands and bending history to its will. … According to the secular view, God is dead, and his normative principles are a forgotten vestige of the past. We now must make our own way in this world, guided by reason and empowered by science and technology. This drive for human autonomy and mastery apart from God and his will manifests itself in technology in what we will call technicism. Technicism reduces all things to the technological; it sees technology as the solution to all human problems and needs. … Technicism says that humankind can use its hands and minds – its technology – to build a kingdom of plenty, ease, and peace.

5. Postman also speaks of a religious aspect to technology:

a) “In Technopoly, all experts are invested with the charisma of priestliness. Some of our priest-experts are called psychiatrists, some psychologists, some sociologists, some statisticians. The god they serve does not speak of righteousness or goodness or mercy or grace. Their god speaks of efficiency, precision, objectivity. And that is why such concepts of sin and evil disappear in Technopoly. They come from a moral universe that is irrelevant to the theology of expertise. And so the priests of Technopoly call sin ‘social deviance,’ which is a statistical concept, and they call evil ‘psychopathology,’ which is a medical concept. Sin and evil disappear because they cannot be measured and objectified, and therefore cannot be dealt with by experts.”

6. Postman argues that technology is a god:

a) “in the sense that people believe technology works, that they rely on it, that it makes promises, that they are bereft when denied access to it, that they are delighted when they are in its presence, that for most people it works in mysterious ways, that they condemn people who speak against it, that they stand in awe of it, and that … they will alter their lifestyles, their schedules, their habits, and their relationships to accommodate it.”

7. As for God, Postman argues that the computer has become our new source of authority. He writes:

a) “I am constantly amazed at how obediently people accept explanations that begin with the words ‘The computer shows…’ or ‘The computer has determined…’. It is the equivalent of the sentence ‘It is God’s will’ and the effect is roughly the same.”

II. The Internet: Man’s Quest for Meaning

A. God & the Internet Appear to Have Much in Common

1. When we refer to God we use a capital “G.” We refer to the Internet in the same way.

2. God is everywhere. So apparently is the Internet.

3. God is all knowing. So apparently is the Internet.

4. God is a spirit. So apparently is the Internet.

5. We turn to God when things go wrong. We turn to the Internet when things go wrong.

6. God is the final authority. So apparently is the Internet.

B. Modern Man Has Confused Information with Wisdom

1. “We live in a world where there is more and more information and less and less meaning.”

a) What is lacking is wisdom, which is what we use to “rank the significance and meaning of what we know, discern what we need to know, and decide how to put what we know into action responsibly.”

b) Proverbs 1:7 – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

2. Postman argues that Technopoly flourishes wherever people:

a) “believe that information is an unmixed blessing, which through its continued and uncontrolled production and dissemination offers increased freedom, creativity, and peace of mind… Technopoly flourishes when the defenses against information break down.”

3. Another author writes:

a) “For the literate mind prior to the advent of computers, the central problem of human knowledge had to do, not with finding one's way through a forest of information, but with achieving genuine insight, usually expressed in terms of vertical movement.”

4. Our society has a very bad case of truth decay!

C. Can Man Create Life?

1. Will “artificial intelligence” lead to a new “life form”?

2. Rudy Rucker: “The manifest destiny of mankind is to pass the torch of life and intelligence on to the computer.”

III. Evolution: Man’s Quest for Meaninglessness

A. The High Priesthood and Dogma of Evolution

1. Darwin’s impact on the world is hard to understate. One leading evolutionist described it as follows:

a) “By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous. Together with Marx’s materialistic theory of history and society and Freud’s attribution of human behavior to influences over which we have little control, Darwin’s theory of evolution was a crucial plank in the platform of mechanism and materialism … that has since been the stage of most Western thought.” [Douglas Futuyma]

b) Julian Huxley said that evolution was “the most powerful and most comprehensive idea that has ever arisen on earth.”

c) Richard Dawkins wrote that evolution “made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.”

d) Ray Kurzweil in The Age of Spiritual Machines writes “Let us praise evolution.”

2. Evolution is not just a scientific theory.

a) It is a grand, unifying materialistic philosophy that functions as a religion.

b) One author has written:

(1) “Evolution is a general postulate to which all theories, all hypotheses, all systems must henceforth bow and which they must satisfy in order to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light which illuminates all facts, a trajectory which all lines of thought must follow.” [Catholic priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin]

c) Philip Johnson argues that evolution is the “key philosophical concept that has allowed the atheists and agnostics to dominate the whole intellectual world and government world” leading to the complete marginalization of theism in these realms.

3. Evolution is far from value free.

a) Evolution is based on naturalism, which says that nature is all that there is.

b) Any morality based on a naturalistic worldview will be based on one of two paths:

(1) Socialist morality, which starts with the needs of society.

(2) Individual morality, which starts with the needs of the individual.

c) Edward Wilson wrote:

(1) “If religion … can be systematically explained and analyzed as a product of the brain’s evolution, its power as an external source of morality will be gone forever.”

d) Evolution is a search for meaningless!

(1) It is a search for freedom from God.

B. The Beginning of Wisdom is the Denial of God

1. The Bible tells us that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God.

2. The modern world tells us that the beginning of wisdom is the denial of God.

a) Modern man accepts evolution because they cannot accept the alternative – divine creation.

b) The reason that evolution is taught as a fact is not because of the evidence for it, but because of the need for it. There is no acceptable alternative.

c) Yet the chances of spontaneous generation and the resulting mutations that could produce man are so remote, the evolutionist could teach Christians a few things about faith!

IV. Genetics: Man’s Desire for Permanence

A. Oh Death! Where is Thy Sting?

1. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that the last enemy that Christ will destroy is death.

2. Science makes the same claim and it has death in its sights.

a) The sting of death has so far been one sting that science has been unable to alleviate – but they are working on it!

3. Cloning is the process of creating an embryo from the DNA of a single animal. If carried to term, the embryo develops into an exact genetic double of that animal.

a) PRESIDENT CLINTON: “Each human life is unique, born of a miracle that reaches beyond laboratory science. I believe we must respect this profound gift and resist the temptation to replicate ourselves.”

4. At we read that human cloning will permit man:

a) To take a step towards immortality - Human cloning essentially means taking a human being's DNA and reversing its age back to zero. Dr. Richard Seed, one of cloning’s leading proponents, hopes that cloning will help us understand how to reverse DNA back to age 20 or whatever age we want to be. Cloning would be a step towards a fountain of youth.

b) To be a better parent - Human cloning can improve the parent-child relationship. Raising a clone would be like having a child with an instruction manual. You would have a head start on the needs and talents of your child. We are not saying that a clone would be a carbon copy with no individuality. Our talents and desires are genetic, developmental, and environmental. We would have a head start on understanding the genetic component of a cloned child.

c) To Live on through a later-born twin - Some childless people feel that by being cloned by their later-born twin would help them or their DNA to live on in the same sense that people who have children live on.

5. Richard Seed, who has announced his intentions to clone humans within the next few years, believes that human cloning is a moral imperative – something that will bring humankind closer to God.

a) “God made man in his own image. God intended for man to become one with God. Cloning and the reprogramming of DNA is the first serious step in becoming one with God.”

B. Are There Any Limits?

1. Are there any limits to what man will do with the power of genetic engineering?

a) Where would such limits come from?

b) If history has taught us anything, it is that man will do what man can do.

(1) Designer children? That will happen.

(2) Human cloning? That will happen.

(3) Creation of new species? That will happen.

(4) Whatever you can think of and more will happen.

2. Man has thrown open the toy box after having pushed God out of the playroom.

a) As one commentator noted: “Human cloning will occur even if the government is against it, even if scientists are against it, even if ethicists are against it, if there are people willing to pay money.”

3. ASIDE: Genesis 6:1-4 is a strange passage, but it tells us what caused God to destroy the world with a flood.

a) “Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. 3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” 4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”

b) What was happening there in verses 2 and 4?

(1) Who knows, but perhaps this strange passage tells us God’s solution when genetic experimentation gets out of hand.

V. Space Travel: Man’s Desire for Transcendence

A. Man Has a Desire to Leave This World

1. God has put eternity into the heart of man, and that (apart from all other creatures) makes man restless.

2. Part of that restlessness is a restlessness with the world itself.

a) As Christians, we know that this world is not our home – but modern man at times seems to have the same view!

b) Most futuristic stories about man picture him as leaving the confines of this world to venture out into space – to boldly go where no man has gone before!

3. The first planned project to put a man in space was called “Project Adam.”

B. What is Man That Thou Are Mindful of Him?

1. Another driving force behind man’s drive into space is the view of modern man that humanity is without significance in the universe.

a) We are an accident and just a tiny speck in the immense universe.

b) It is arrogance we are told to believe that we are alone in the universe. Thus, we venture out to find other life.

2. The message of Scripture is that man is far from insignificant. We are made in the image of God, and the Universe was made for us to inhabit. The purpose of the vast Universe is to declare the glory of God – to us!

VI. Is There Anything New Under the Sun?

A. God Remains the Only Source of Meaning

1. Why has the Western Judeo-Christian culture developed such an extraordinary obsession with technology?

a) David F. Noble in his book The Religion of Technology argues “because, at its core, technology embodies a religious tenet promising the transcendence of mortal life.”

b) He argues that the great technological thrusts of our day – space travel, computers, and genetic engineering – are reflections of age-old yearnings – for salvation and transcendence of the gloomy life foretold in Genesis.

2. This technological pursuit of salvation has indeed become an obsession to modern man.

a) Psalm 127:1 – “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.”

b) Those who build their house on sand or on silicon will one day be left with no foundation.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)