A young girl was recently interviewed on TV about her encounter with Pope Francis on his visit to the United States. She cried with joy as she described how he touched her on the forehead and offered a blessing. Now, she said, she might get the miracle she’s prayed for. Maybe someday she’ll be able to walk.
Who could not be moved by a crippled child who wants to be cured? But what is really wrenching is the fact that this child and so many others look to faith rather than science and reason.
On the same day the Pope was touching the little girl, a news story was circulating about a breakthrough in prosthetics. A brain implant has restored to a man with a robotic hand his sense of touch.
Another story in recent months documented technology that allows individuals to control their artificial limbs with their thoughts.
Some even express fears that bionic legs in the future could be so good that they will be preferred to the natural ones we’re born with.
The sightless have sought divine intersession to cure blindness since before the time of Jesus. A few days before the Pope toured D.C., a breakthrough was announced that involves applying a light-sensitive protein found in algae to the back of the retinas of eyes to, in effect, replace the rods and cones destroyed by certain diseases. The technique has been successful in mice and human tests are now coming.
This restorative treatment has welcome competition. Last month saw a man receive the first bionic eye implant.
And let’s not forget that deafness is in the process of being vanquished thanks to cochlear implants.
Free markets, of course, if allowed to operate, will make what are now pricey, experimental medical technologies affordable for most, just as markets have allowed entrepreneurs to create and bring down the prices of computers, smartphones, tablets, Wifi, and all the hardware and software of the information revolution.
Handicapped individuals, like the girl who was so happy the Pope touched her, might have bright futures indeed. But they need to recognize that it is not faith that will make them whole. It is reason.
It is the power of the human mind, especially in science and engineering, that has brought about the benefits of our modern world. Yet where are the parades, the speeches before Congress, and the celebrations that recognize the sources of such benefits and encourage reason and achievement as foundational values in our culture? Why do so many seek hope in faith and otherworldly miracles when real achievements—“miracles” of the human mind—are all around us? Why do so few understand that training minds and encouraging entrepreneurship is the best way to ensure a healthy, prosperous future? With all the enthusiasm we see for the Pope, where is the enthusiasm for the actual creators and achievers in our world?
Ironically, the Pope, in his economic ignorance, denounces the free market system that could cure that little girl. And he promotes draconian economic restrictions to fight hypothesized global warming, restrictions that would ensure that the poor he says he cares so much about will be with us always. The Pope—and all of us—indeed should empathize with that little girl. But he should be touting reason as the cure. This Jesuit Pope needs to read his Thomas Aquinas!
Those who are enthusiastic about the Pope’s visit because he inspires hope for a better world had better look to the real source of all our blessings: the human mind.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.