Laudato Si 136: Locating Ethics

Earth from Apollo 8The encyclical letter Laudato Si is available here on the Vatican website. Pope Francis criticizes those who defend the environment, but not human life:

136. On the other hand, it is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos.

The pro-life principle, in brief:

We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. In the same way, when technology disregards the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit. As we have seen in this chapter, a technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power.

A proper and holistic approach to ethics will be one suitable check on those addicted power.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Laudato Si 136: Locating Ethics

  1. Atheist Max says:

    I do not understand this red herring about technology being an inherent threat to human dignity. Thanks to technology human beings live literally twice as long as they did 100 years ago and are, globally speaking, healthier, wealthier and more educated than they have ever been.
    Literacy in the West is close to 100%. Meanwhile, the developing world begs for the same technological advancement and assistance to improve their lives. Supplying the proper technology to those countries has been hindered by bad governments and absence of any decent environmental regulation – if you want to know what hurts human dignity look at the authoritarian regimes (often religious) like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and others where freedom of speech and women’s emancipation is stifled in the name of protecting a very primitive idea of ‘dignity’ indeed.

    Eliminating carbon emissions is a technological challenge which simply must be met not only to save humanity but the entire ecosystem. Naive ideas about technology being ‘the devil’s work’ are not useful.

    • Todd says:

      Technology is not an “inherent” threat. But people misbehave and use technology for personal or corporate desires, thus locking out the needy and the poor: this is a serious problem. You seem to agree with this. The pope’s argument, and mine: technology needs ethics to work optimally. Would you agree? If not, do you have evidence science and technology are always used for good?

      • Atheist Max says:

        “personal or corporate desires, thus locking out the needy and the poor…technology needs ethics”

        First of all, Technology like any other human industry, has whatever ethics humanity inherently has – and I think humanity demands a very high bar. I differ from you in that I do not see humanity as ‘fallen’ but as astonishingly wondrous, beautifully evolved and capable. Generally speaking, we cannot help but to function in our own self interest – humanity builds very functional societies for itself. Just as it is in my own best interest to live in a safe community I thus support my community to make it safer and healthier for my children and extended loved ones. Education, regulation of food and water and environmental controls are naturally at the top of my concerns.

        I employ technology as an extension of those personal interests. For example:
        I insist my daughter’s car has seatbelts and that she use them and I insist on best practices for my aunt’s chemotherapy and my mother’s hip post-operation. Technology is a way to improve the health and well being of my loved ones. But it is also in my best interests to provide the best computers to my neighborhood schools and classrooms, for the library to provide free wifi to my neighbors and best safety practices for my local Gas company regarding distribution in my area, etc.

        The religious argument for ethics in technology is dead on arrival. I see no need for special attention in regard to technology. Human beings generally pursue what is in their own best interests which is why societies function beautifully most of the time. Climate change is historically a new problem and it will require a technological solution. But people do not need a religious reason to care about their children or extended families, loved ones or communities.

        Technology, like a car or a vaccine, can be used for good or ill but most humans do very well watching out for themselves and each other. The small percentage of humanity which is psychopathic will always be a danger – but humanity has systems which attempt to keep that problem at least to a manageable level.

        Religion has nothing to add to this as far as I can see – except to make matters worse.

      • Atheist Max says:

        Technology is lifting humanity up, relieving needless suffering of 100’s of millions and saving millions of lives.

        Let’s be very specific:

        Education –
        Mobile Technology is giving poor societies an astonishing array of free learning tools. “Eneza” is a mobile platform in Africa which helps 300,000 students in Kenya alone and the number is growing every day in poor countries. This is real education – for free.

        Health –
        Mobile technology has saved millions of poor people’s lives. One example is “Malaria No More” a technology which marries delivery of bed netting to homes in the tropics with its “Power of One” campaign – only $1 donation made easy with a smart phone – is wiping out Malaria in some communities in Sub-Saharan Africa. The technology is making amazing things possible in the war against malaria.

        Mobile technology and Resource distribution in Poor countries –
        just one example: poor villages in Uganda are using mobile surveys and pooling to be able to finally keep records of populations in need and organize health care services to where they are needed most. Such systems were impossible for these rural communities before the technology.

        Food production and distribution –
        Mobile technology is helping poor rural farmers track livestock in India, Bangladesh, Africa – everywhere – to find instant buyers for their crops, and time their deliveries quickly increasing their efficiency, reducing spoilage and saving money for themselves and their families.

        Banking for poor people –
        Most poor people around the world have no bank accounts and they cannot get loans. But mobile technology has changed all that – MPESA allows customers to transfer small funds and get small loans without ever going near a bank. This greases the wheels of providing all sorts of services to the poor. Africa’s mobile bank market is approaching $100 Billion per year in fluid banking for poor people. No charity can come close to that sort of help for the poor.

        Technology is generally good because it is an extension of the human endeavor. Most of humanity is not only good but is rather amazing.

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