A HALF CENTURY OF TECHNOLOGY - What have we reaped?
Jeff E Zhorne
EXACTLY 50 years ago a primitive, cylindrical rocket exploded upward, seemingly defying gravity. Smoke from the rocket's liquid fuel filled the nostrils of Wernher von Braun, German engineer, as he watched one of his first rockets climb 1.5 miles into the clear sky for a flight that lasted only 16 seconds. Within 25 years, the United States, with the aid of von Braun and many others, would manufacture a rocket-powered research plane — the X-15 — that could fly at altitudes of 100 miles and at speeds almost seven times the speed of sound. Today a huge rocket propels a space shuttle's 99 tons into orbit around the earth. The shuttle handles like an aircraft but lands like a glider. An impressive record wouldn't you say? Technology has transformed the world. Today's civilization would have been beyond the comprehension of earlier generations. Our world has become the "playground of the jet set and arena of the businessman." Innovations in the fields of transportation and communications required a vital ingredient — new forms of energy. Gasoline to power automobiles did the most to spark the transition from coal to oil as a primary source of energy. As man became increasingly mobile, however, a host of problems arose. Traffic jams began to clog city centers; in downtown areas driving became nearly as slow as walking. Each year more than a hundred thousand are killed worldwide in traffic accidents. Smog hangs over the world's major cities. Inquisitive man in the last 50 years pushed on, past fast, convenient ground and jet transportation to the rocket. The commercial use of space has arrived. Whereas this century began with no powered air flight of any kind, within 70 years man had lifted himself to the moon. Now let's look at some of the consequences accompanying such rapid growth.
Technology for War
Soon after Wernher von Braun's historic rocket tests, some feared what consequences the rocket might bring. And rightly so. By 1937 von Braun, directing hundreds of scientists, engineers and technicians, was developing the long-range rocket as a weapon for the Third Reich. The V1 and V2 rockets were in a few short years targeted on Britain. After that, the U.S. and Soviet Union developed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could travel thousands of miles, land on target and, carrying a thermonuclear warhead, do unimaginable damage. Von Braun's explanation? "Rocket energy may be used for peaceful purposes of exploring space, or it may be used for war. It does not make sense to ask a scientist whether his [discovery] is good or bad for mankind." When American physicist Leo Szilard patented the formula for creating a chain reaction between uranium atoms and neutrons in 1934, he tried desperately to keep the patent secret. He wanted to prevent technology from being misused. But as World War II become more and more threatening, Dr. Szilard's efforts were futile. The formula leaked. In 1939 Albert Einstein sent a letter to U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt saying, "Nuclear energy is here. War is inevitable." Six years later, at 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, the atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. So much for "peaceful purposes." Since then, the Pandora's box of scientific technology has precipitated the ghastly fear of nuclear war that now grips government leaders the world over. In addition to bringing mankind to the brink of nuclear annihilation, scientific and technological know — how has left a trail of burdensome environmental and social ills.
A Misguided 50 Years?
Look at the path of industrialization. Urbanized populations during the past 50 years have been plagued with serious air and water pollution, the accumulation of nondisposable wastes, noise at threatening levels, shortages of power and the imminent exhaustion of numerous irreplaceable natural resources. Forming earth's air surfaces are extremely complex and delicate balances of water vapor, fresh water and ice, factored by ocean currents, salt content, evaporation, rainfall, snowfall, oxygen supply and the activities of living organisms. Man — often through ignorance — clearly has interfered with this balance in the 20th century. Fluorocarbons and pesticide sprays have deteriorated the ozone layer. Industrial wastes and domestic detergents are killing rivers. Pills and drugs for everything from supposedly making sex safe to fighting myriad bodily dysfunctions complicate health. All stand as testimonies to man's myopia in technological endeavor. Out of the promising fruits of science and technology have indeed emerged "hidden worms," as put by one newsmagazine. "Science and technology's dreamy wonders sometimes turn out to be nightmarish blunders." Besides the environment, the same is occurring in the social realm. Herein lie the big problems. The Plain Truth asked 13 years ago: "Can science provide the key that will unlock the solutions to the problems of delinquency, of unhappy marriages, of mental illness, of crime, of financial worry — of all the big world and personal problems that plague our society?" "Hand in hand, science and technology can find new and unlimited sources of energy, clean and safe, and with such energy, we can clean the world, recycle its resources, and reduce its inequities," said author Isaac Asimov. True, the discovery of antibiotics, vitamins and hormones, not to mention modern surgical techniques and the use of X rays, electrocardiograms and biochemical diagnosis and treatment, has caused the life expectancy of the average person living in the industrial world to jump from about 40 in 1900 to about 74 today. In less developed areas also, for example Puerto Rico, from 1941 to 1955 the life expectancy of the average baby shot up 22 years. But we are beginning to realize that along with longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality and better nutrition, have also come massive populations and worldwide starvation. Many insist that science and • technology can provide the answers to all these problems. "If they can't, nothing can!" is the promoted philosophy. Philosopher Bertrand Russell once said: "All knowledge is attainable solely by means of the scientific method." It should be evident, however, from assessing world troubles today that science in human hands is failing to combat successfully earth's staggering problems. Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower asked if civilization were nearing the light — a day of freedom and peace for all mankind. He thought not. "Science seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to erase human life from this planet," he said. Simply put: Science cannot, by its very nature, provide the most important answers in life. No doubt we benefit from living in a scientifically and technologically advanced environment. But the benefits derived from science and technology are now being far outweighed by their negative by-products-war, violence, poverty, crime, broken homes, suffering, immorality, discontent and unhappiness. These byproducts cannot be resolved by science because they are spiritual in nature and result from broken spiritual laws of which science knows nothing.
Only True Solution
Are scientists to be blamed? Partly. The most fundamental law of science is to challenge any concrete truth. No sacred truths must exist in science. Well, it's time we realized that man's number-one problem right now is survival! And the only way to assure human survival is through the discovery of sacred truths. Where should scientists — or for that matter politicians, church leaders, CIVIC leaders, teachers, bankers and businessmen — look to discover the answers? Humans, beginning with the first man Adam, have opted to explore experimental knowledge rather than accept God's revealed knowledge. If Adam had taken of the "tree of life" (Gen. 1-3), he would have received revealed spiritual as well as physical knowledge from the Creator God, telling him how to solve his problems. But man succumbed to Satan's deception — that humanity, not God, should determine for itself what is right and what is wrong. And the fallen archangel has been deceiving humanity ever since into believing that science — human knowledge through experimentation or speculation — can and will solve our problems, which are spiritual in nature. How many people want to hear about God? Most think the things of God are foolish. They want to know even less about his inspired, revealed written word — today known as the Holy Bible. The plain truth is that humanity's disobedience to God and his laws has cut the human race off from the very source of solving our problems — that same God and those same laws! These spiritual laws man cannot discern for himself. They are revealed only in the Bible. Without them man cannot possibly solve, on his own, problems that are not basically scientific but spiritual in nature. Since people have rejected knowledge from God, God will also reject them — "because you have forgotten the law of your God" (Hos. 4:6, RAV throughout). Without spiritual knowledge mankind has, as one author put it, "slowed to groping its way into a fog-bound future, taking soundings as it goes." This world, lost without God, has been for nearly 6,000 years reaping the wearying results of human confusion. Fortunately, Jesus Christ will step in soon — and sooner than some would like. Jesus Christ foresaw our world. He announced more than 1,900 years ago the technological advancements and scientific discoveries we have today. When he walked this earth, he warned, "And unless those days [now today] were shortened, no flesh would be saved [alive]" (Matt. 24:22). He could only have been talking about society today, because only now does mankind have the capacity to kill all life on this planet with nuclear weaponry and chemical and biological warfare. Jesus Christ also predicted the brushfire wars, the famines, diseases, natural disasters and immorality plaguing different areas of the world today. People don't want to face the causes of these problems — broken spiritual laws. They say — like they did in the prophet Isaiah's time — "Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits" (Isa. 30:10). This magazine cries aloud that punishment will unquestionably come to nations if they do not repent and seek the true God. But we also proclaim the good news of the soon-coming government of God to bring us peace at last — the wonderful world of tomorrow. Six thousand years of human rule, under the sway of Satan, are almost up. Soon a utopia of God's making will be here with a time of unprecedented peace and happiness — for all. Then the earth shall indeed be full of the knowledge of the Eternal God as the waters cover the sea (Isa. 11:9). God hasten that day!