Here’s one example among many of the wise moderation of the new encyclical :

In his Apostolic Letter Octogesima Adveniens of 1971, Paul VI reflected on the meaning of politics, and the danger constituted by utopian and ideological visions that place its ethical and human dimensions in jeopardy. These are matters closely connected with development. Unfortunately the negative ideologies continue to flourish. Paul VI had already warned against the technocratic ideology so prevalent today, fully aware of the great danger of entrusting the entire process of development to technology alone, because in that way it would lack direction. Technology, viewed in itself, is ambivalent. If on the one hand, some today would be inclined to entrust the entire process of development to technology, on the other hand we are witnessing an upsurge of ideologies that deny in toto the very value of development, viewing it as radically anti-human and merely a source of degradation. This leads to a rejection, not only of the distorted and unjust way in which progress is sometimes directed, but also of scientific discoveries themselves, which, if well used, could serve as an opportunity of growth for all. The idea of a world without development indicates a lack of trust in man and in God. It is therefore a serious mistake to undervalue human capacity to exercise control over the deviations of development or to overlook the fact that man is constitutionally oriented towards “being more”. Idealizing technical progress, or contemplating the utopia of a return to humanity’s original natural state, are two contrasting ways of detaching progress from its moral evaluation and hence from our responsibility.

Postmodern conservatism, as we’ve said so often, rejects both technocratic idealism and utopian regression, because they both are ways of “detaching progress from its moral evaluation and hence our responsibility.” And we agree, of course, that it’s “a serious mistake to undervalue human capacity to exercise control over the direction of development” or to be too lacking in trust that we can act well with the responsibilities we’ve been given these days. We’re stuck with virtue, thank God, because we can’t help but be oriented toward “being more.” Technical and scientific progress, of course, are only human progress if subordinated to properly human purposes, but that means that they are, if used well, human goods. “Technology, viewed in itself, is ambivalent,” which means it’s not be to be idolized or demonized but to be regarded as a challenge to our free will. (Thanks to Ivan the K for highlighting this passage for me.)

Articles by Peter Lawler


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