Tough Questions Answered

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Is There More to Life than Technology?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

I own an iPhone 5. My family owns an iPad, two iPhone 4s, and multiple iPods. Oh, and we bought a Google Nexus 7 tablet for Christmas. We also have DirecTV with whole home DVR capability. This list could go on for a while – believe me.

I love technology, and, in fact, I work in the semiconductor industry. Semiconductor technology, in particular, has revolutionized our modern lifestyle, enabling all that is electronic in the world.

But what is the purpose of it all? Sometimes we forget that all of these gadgets are means to an end. The gadgets are not ends in themselves. The technology that produces these gadgets is also not ultimately an end in itself. The science that produces the technology that produces the gadgets is also not an end in itself.

With all of the gadgets surrounding us today, we sometimes forget what the purpose of all of it is. Our ancient ancestors, however, saw things a lot more clearly than we do today. They weren’t nearly as distracted as we are.

Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the thirteenth century, considered the answers that people of his day gave to the question: “What brings ultimate happiness to a person’s life?” Here are the answers:

  1. wealth
  2. honor
  3. fame
  4. power
  5. bodily health
  6. pleasure
  7. wisdom and virtue (goods of the soul)
  8. God

Notice the order. After studying each of these 8 answers, Aquinas listed them in order of least important to most important. Where are you spending your time?

Are you obsessed with building wealth? Aquinas would say that you are way off the mark – not even close to what brings ultimate happiness.

What about bodily health? We are clearly a culture obsessed with health. We want to postpone death as long as possible. But bodily health is not the ultimate good.

Of the earthly goods, wisdom and virtue are the highest, and the world would certainly be a profoundly better place if everyone used their technology to pursue them, but Aquinas argued that even wisdom and virtue miss the mark.

The only thing that our soul yearns for more than anything else is to know and experience the Perfect Good. According to Aquinas, the Perfect Good of man, the thing that will give him ultimate happiness, cannot be something which was created:

It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object . . . of man’s appetite is the universal good. . . . Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone.

Consider what Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)

Speaking to God, St. Augustine said “Thou has made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”

C. S. Lewis advised, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

Put your technology in its place. You can certainly use it to gain a modicum of wealth, honor and perhaps fame. Use it to gain power over your life. Use it to keep yourself healthy and provide recreation. Use it to gain wisdom and virtue.

But ultimately, all of that is less than nothing, a positive impediment, if you aren’t pursuing God.


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Comments

  • Kevin McGeary

    Bill,
    No one can deny that tools have been helpful for humans to get closer to the truth. I feel very lucky to be alive at a time when some experts say we will have a quantum leap in knowledge in a few decades. The controversial breakthrough in computer technology would take place after we have a better model of consciousness that could be replicated on a virtual platform. If that occurs in our lifetime, the over 3,000 Gods that have been imagined over the course of human history for various purposes and comforts may be replaced with one technological source of truth. If a virtual “self awareness” existed, quantum computation would be exponential in growth. Events like cruel painful deaths caused by cancer, may then have a cure as a result of the new knowledge. You may say that will not happen and you may be right. I say there is far more evidence pointing toward that possibility than expecting a God to intervene with prayer.

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Kevin,

    Thanks for the comment. Let me point out some inconsistencies in your comments (as I’m sure that’s why you came here – to learn):

    You said, “I do not claim to fly higher than others by a special connection to metaphysical.”

    Yet you do claim to fly higher because you claim that there is more evidence pointing away from God than to God. Since God is about as metaphysical as you can get, I would say that you are claiming to fly higher than me and everyone else who believes in God.

    You said, “I enjoy my life as a ‘frog in the mud’ (quoting the wonderful Freeman Dyson) looking and feeling my way around. I don’t want to be a bird or live eternally, whatever that means.”

    Yet in your very next comments you yearn for a day when the “frogs” can escape the “mud” of 3,000 imagined gods and finally arrive at “one technological source of truth.”

    You claim metaphysical humility, but then assert that you have the metaphysical truth (God does not exist). You claim to be satisfied with your current “frog-like” state, but then claim that you desire to know the single source of truth.

    From your comments, it seems that your hope lies in technology because you believe it will give us health and truth (numbers 5 and 7 in Aquinas’s list).

    If you really believe technology is the answer, go read Brave New World. Maybe Huxley will change your mind.

    If you really want to know the truth, then you should want to know God, because He is the Truth. All truth is contained in Him. He is the one source of truth you are looking for.

  • Kevin McGeary

    Yes, I did come here as a frog that croaks, then listens. I did not however assert to have any metaphysical truth. I only suggested that it appears to be more likely that technology may help the pain and suffering more than prayer. If your god is infinitely good, as you sing proudly from your tree, why does he stand by idle when people (many that pray) suffer from Cancer, Volcanoes or Tsunamis. I cannot claim that your God does not exist, only that if he does, then he created bad things down here in the mud as well as good, and he frankly gives me no comfort, thank you.

    Another correction: I never said “frogs yearn for a day to escape the mud of 3000 imagined gods” but that is a pretty good one;-)

    One good point: I have read Huxley and would agree that that new world could be a scary place but technological progress can be steered and changed for improvement. It appears science can change their path as new facts arise. I assume you read Revelations 20:20 I will take my chances with technology, thank you. The gold paved streets scare me; I like the color of mud. My understanding is that your Bible, cannot be changed even if there are new facts. Thank you for you kind response.
    Peace on Earth

  • Bill F

    Great article Bill, and how true this used to be for me. At one time the only thing that made me happy was having the latest, greatest piece of technological wizardry available. Like most atheists I lived such a materialistic life and it seemed like a race to see who could finish it (die) with the most junk.

    Eventually all that “stuff” and the atheistic philosophy failed me. They can all say how happy they are and how great it is to experience all the great things that man has to offer, but for me, and I suspect many others not willing to admit it, there was something missing. Something that no technology or the atheist speech du jour could satisfy.

    After much soul searching and many conversations I realized that missing element was God. Once I accepted Jesus I quickly found out He was all I needed. Materialistic things no longer mattered to me, and I realized every beat of my heart was no longer a countdown timer to death and nothingness.

    Yes I still enjoy technology and appreciate how it can make our short time in this physical body a little better, but it is far from being the real reason my life is so good now. I owe that to God.

    My favorite part about technology is that it gives me access to people such as yourself that have helped me immensely in my journey.

    God bless,

    Bill

  • http://toughquestionsanswered.com Bill Pratt

    Thanks so much for telling your story Bill. God bless you as well!

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