The Limits of Science
01 December 1998

Our growing understanding of the forces of nature, and how to harness them, seems to have placed within our grasp almost anything that the human mind can conceive. Near instantaneous visual communication across the globe; computers operated by 'thought power'; watching wildlife in the dark; a mechanical dairy that milks cows when they choose-yesterday's science fiction is today's reality.

Some commentators are already forecasting the end of the nation state as the unregulatable cyber-economy grows by leaps and bounds. This phenomenon is not confined to the wealthiest countries. Ten million Indians are projected to have a personal computer by the year 2000.

Alongside the electronic revolution comes the biological revolution. This brings within reach disease-resistant crops, designer vegetables (would you like your carrots chocolate- or strawberry-flavoured, Sir?) or even, God help us, clones of ourselves.

But as we become ever more sophisticated technologically, are we gaining in our understanding of what it means to be human beings? As we click on the hypertext links to ever more web sites are we becoming better parents, husbands, friends? As we enjoy the thrills of virtual reality are we discovering the inner tranquillity and sense of purpose that not only make us glad to be alive, but make others glad that we are alive?

In the run-up to the Christmas season, it is humbling for me as a Christian to recall that answers to such human questions can be sought in a low-tech cowshed where a young mother gave birth to a baby, with not a pulse monitor or anaesthetic in sight.

Whether we recognize him as Christ, or 'Someone up there', most of us are aware of loving intervention in our lives at some point. The Creator that ordained the 'Big Bang' which set the universe in motion; that determined the rules of evolution; that put the electrons in their energy-discreet orbits lies helpless in a manger-for our benefit. It is a picture that gives pause for thought. Power and love combined can be trusted for answers.

This issue's lead story gives examples of how different people have sought those answers for themselves.
Kenneth Noble