Unabomber or Unapapa?

Anyone remember the good old days when you couldn’t tell the difference between the Unabomber’s manifesto “Industrial Society and Its Future” and Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance? There was even an online quiz you could flunk. (Though to remind everyone once again, both owed more to Heidegger.)

Well, it’s time to rerun that drill with Pope Francis’s encyclical on the environment. Which is exactly what Colby Cosh does in Canada’s National Post:

Non-Catholics responded positively to the Pope’s tweetstorm because he seemed to be taking a firm position on climate change, and the letter certainly does that. But the head of the Catholic religion turns out to be no more capable of expressing himself compactly on one important issue than is the typical adherent of the Environmentalist religion.

The climate is a “common good,” says the Pope, and there is “a very solid scientific consensus” that it is changing in “disturbing” ways. Hooray for Science Pope! But before you know it he is weighing in on drinking water. “…in some places there is a growing tendency, despite its scarcity, to privatize this resource, turning it into a commodity subject to the laws of the market.” It turns out this is bad, even though almost any economist alive would instantly apply a red pencil and several question marks to that “despite.” . . .

“The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same.”

Pure Kaczynski, yeah? The next sentence could easily be “So that’s why I moved to a cabin in the woods and started mailing bombs to scientists.” Let me give you another: Unabomber or Unapapa?

“The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behaviour that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity. Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extent that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of the system that are paramount, not those of the human being.”

That one’s Ted — or have I switched them? No, despite the stylistic similarities, the parallel quotes, which could be multiplied greatly, does reveal a weakness in my insolent comparison. The Pope is an optimist, and thinks technology can be tamed if human hearts turn to Christ in time. Kaczynski thinks the problems involved in technological progress are inherent. He specifically argues that they cannot be solved by religion, real or contrived.