Sept. 11 Isn´t the West´s Worst Catastrophe, Says Father Jaki

Scientist-Historian Warns of the Attraction of Technology

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ROME, NOV. 27, 2001 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Benedictine Father Stanley L. Jaki doesn´t think the Sept. 11 attacks are the West´s worst nightmare.

Father Jaki, professor of the history and philosophy of science at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, is in Rome to attend a congress of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on scientific and educational learning.

–Q: How did you see Sept. 11 from your perspective as a scientist?

–Father Jaki: The destruction of the Twin Towers was terrible, but the Western world is moving toward an even graver catastrophe, if it allows itself to be too enchanted by scientific technology, namely, by the extraordinary power to dominate the quantitative aspects of things.

If we begin to think that, thanks to «quantitative» power, it is also possible to control what is not «quantitative,» we will remove ourselves totally from the most important values of human life.

–Q: In sum, do you think that technology «betrayed» us on Sept. 11?

–Father Jaki: The terrorists who demolished the New York towers used the latest results of technology.

I have read the report of experts engineers on the structure of skyscrapers. If the terrorist had struck the towers not on the 80th floor but on the 90th or higher, the collapse would not have happened. They struck them at the weakest structural point. Whether or not this was a coincidence, it is a fact.

–Q: What can be deduced, that science also has a responsibility for this?

–Father Jaki: Technology is neither vulnerable nor invulnerable. It is precise or imprecise. It is neither good nor bad from the moral point of view.

–Q: Have you considered if terrorism and war do not divert attention and money from research that brings well-being and progress?

–Father Jaki: But science and technology cannot automatically ensure either progress or stability in the world. This is proved too often by taking recourse to war. And is there anyone who still believes that science on its own can produce stability and progress?

Science and technology can only assure the human species of the necessary means to do certain things. But [science] cannot give them the ends, nor the determination, nor the good will. All this is beyond the concern of science.

–Q: But some scientists openly refer to an inner search.

–Father Jaki: Let´s take the theory of relativity. It is an absolutely mathematical, quantitative representation, but in the name of the theory of relativity, a gospel has been preached according to which everything is relative, and this has become the only absolute truth.

–Q: What method must be introduced in education so that young people will learn to love science and to use it for, rather than against, humanity?

–Father Jaki: First of all, schools need discipline; otherwise science will never be able to seriously grow there. Then professors are necessary who are convinced that there is a difference between evil and good.

We must cure education of that universal sickness: the conviction that there are only different attitudes, and that all are, invariably, good and acceptable.

The general principles in force in the West today absolve any conduct, but this can lead to the failure of modern society. Sixty-five percent of colored children and 35% of white children are educated without a father. It is a much greater risk than a 50-kilo nuclear bomb locked in a suitcase.

–Q: Do you see a remedy for this situation?

–Father Jaki: Man only learns by suffering from his errors. I hope that the tragedy of the Twin Towers will awaken the Western world.

More than with Muslim fundamentalists, we should be concerned about the foundations of Western culture, which are collapsing. This has been reduced already more than anything else to a civilization that has put learning to one side.

The word learning is closely linked to worship, namely, religion, and the West today does not have, and does not want, religion, revelation.

–Q: Who is speaking, the scientist or the Benedictine priest?

–Father Jaki: Both are speaking. When a scientist addresses an argument, using only some scientific fact, in reality he speaks as a philosopher. Whoever cannot use a quantitative approximation, becomes ipso facto, a philosopher. When you pronounce the word «being» you are, in fact, a metaphysician.

–Q: Is science condemned to be quantitative?

–Father Jaki: It is not condemned; that is its distinctive nature, its method, and the more a branch of science is «quantitative,» the more it merits the recognition of science as such.

Chemistry, physics, astronomy are exact sciences. Biology is about to become so, thanks to microbiology. Sociology and psychology are not so at all. They can become rational discourses, not sciences.

–Q: Society often turns to science for advice of all kinds.

–Father Jaki: It is a mistake to appeal to scientists for ethical, philosophical and sociological answers. Although they are physicists, without having had even one course in epistemology or morality, they pretend to give conferences on these topics.

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