We live in a wonderful post-industrial society. We live in the age of technology and information.The computer and Internet have changed everything. Everything, except perhaps the nature of mankind. Even here, the computer, Internet, and information can help, but we must not be too hasty in our positive evaluation.
There is much more ahead. We barely understand the human brain and its energy; and the endless horizons of space and the mysteries found in the great depths of our seas are still virtually unknown to us. Our science is indeed a drop, our ignorance remains an ocean.(1)
Another example: you would be amazed at the amount of archaeological information which has accumulated from digs in Israel largely since the 1967 Six Day War (not to mention archaeological research around the world). Reports of the finds are published in several dozen or more professional journals as well as in monographs and multi-volume studies. There is so much information generated from this work that it is impossible for one person to find it and read it. Even archaeologist are specializing in specific areas of the field because the accumulated information is so vast.
While you are thinking about the transfer of signals to the brain, stop for a moment and reflect on the ear, and about the remarkable transfer which sound waves make in the transition to physical vibration on the ear drum, which transfers it through the inner ear, then back to physical vibration of a small bone in the inner ear, then to the cochlea where the following happens: "The cochlea is filled with a watery liquid, the perilymph, which moves in response to the vibrations coming from the middle ear via the oval window. As the fluid moves, the cochlear partition (basilar membrane and organ of Corti) moves; thousands of hair cells sense the motion via their stereocilia, and convert that motion to electrical signals that are communicated via neurotransmitters to many thousands of nerve cells. These primary auditory neurons transform the signals into electrochemical impulses known as action potentials, which travel along the auditory nerve to structures in the brainstem for further processing." Yet, we hear and interpret the sound almost instantaneously!
Or ponder cancer. For fifty years and more thousands of scientists around the world have been looking for a cure. Progress has been made on many fronts, but no cure yet. Many types of cancer have been cataloged, sometimes multiple variations of one strain. It seems like none of them act the same or respond the same to various therapies. There are now specialties in certain kinds of cancer; few would consider it possible to be an expert on cancer generally. All this effort has not been in vain, however, because it has produced extensive knowledge, not only about cancer, but about genetics, chemistry in the cells, cell reproduction and mutation, and a score of other things I know nothing about and probably couldn’t pronounce. I venture a guess that the available knowledge about the various cancers and their treatments is so extensive that one individual could not read all the books and articles or master all the studies which have been produced during this half century. Need I say it? We are talking about one disease, or perhaps more accurately, one category of disease!
Astronomy and space science are subjects that provide yet other good examples. The Hubble Space Telescope has been in operation for twenty-five years. It cruises around the earth at the altitude of 340 miles and at a speed of 17,000 miles per hour. It is used by scientists all over the world, who have to schedule time for their work. Here is the amazing thing, it downloads over 140 gigabites of raw scientific data every week! Even with computers to analyze the data, there is so much that one wonders if it is possible for a team, or many teams of scientists to process it, understand it, and make it intelligible and meaningful to humankind. Add to this the many other satellites which monitor a wide variety of activities from weather to algae production at the Amazon’s estuary, to lightning strikes and wild fires around the world; all which stream the data back to earth twenty-four hours a day. We have at least three mechanical robotic machines now on Mars sending back photos and other scientific data. Two of them have been operating since 2004, much longer than anyone anticipated. The analysis of the data received from these three machines alone will take an unknown amount of time to process. Add to this a number of space probes that have been sent through the solar system, some of which are still on duty, and the amount of knowledge being generated is difficult to imagine and impossible for one person to assimilate. These kinds of statistics, these patterns exist in most avenues of study and learning.
Our knowledge of science has already outstripped our capacity to control it. We have too many men of science and too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. --Omar N. Bradley
1. Max Kampelman, “Democracy and Human Dignity: Political and Religious Values,” speech at the 300th Anniversary of Christ of Church Philadelphia, 14 November 1995, in Vital Speeches of the Day 62, no. 16 (1 June 1996): 483, emphasis added.