Worldview from Silicon Valley by Fr. Blaise Berg, STD

January 27, 2023 Article by  

Last July, my bishop asked me to take on a new assignment as a full-time theology professor and formator at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park. Eleven Catholic dioceses and two religious congregations send 73 seminarians to St. Patrick’s for discernment and priestly formation. While I have learned much in my few months here about seminary life and how it differs from parish ministry, it has also been interesting to live in this part of the world that is dubbed “Silicon Valley”. I have found Menlo Park to be beautiful in many ways: the climate, the scenery and the many options for hiking, walking, cycling and other types of recreation. Menlo Park is close to San Francisco where one can attend concerts, the opera and ballgames. The seminary grounds are especially tranquil and conducive to peaceful walks in between classes or hours of course preparation.

But Menlo Park, in particular, and Silicon Valley, in general, have a dark side. As one of my colleagues noted the other day, we happen to live in the most “transhumanistic” part of the world. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what transhumanism was, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, transhumanism is:

….a philosophical and intellectual movement which advocates the enhancement of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies that can greatly enhance longevity and cognition. Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations as well as the ethics of using such technologies. Some transhumanists believe that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with abilities so greatly expanded from the current condition as to merit the label of posthuman beings.

This sounds like rather scary stuff.

Living in a location that is home to many tech companies, whose employees are well-compensated for their skills, also means that Menlo Park is a rather expensive place to live. For the most part, the lay teachers at the seminary cannot afford to live here and must commute from other more affordable locations. Indeed, it is revealing to hear from folks who grew up in this part of California and learn how it has changed. Fifty years ago, you could walk down the street to the local store and find the church within a couple blocks from your home. Now, you find housing and restaurants instead. Who needs stores when you can buy something on-line? Who needs God when you have technology to improve your life?

Those who are practitioners, users and promoters of Natural Family Planning understand that striving for transhumanism is a dead-end and relying completely on technology leads to a whole plethora of problems. We know that we can’t eliminate God from our lives and that rather than being transhuman, we need to be human. And that means we need to listen to our emotions, bodies and souls and to Our Creator and Redeemer. In our journey through this life, God and we humans are all intertwined in one big beautiful, sometimes awful mess and other times wonderful unity. In marriage, it is a journey that spouses make with other, communicating with each other and with God all along the way, to make the tough calls that need to be made and to grow together in love. By way of example, parents who, on account of their jobs must live in an expensive part of the world, may struggle to discern if it is God’s will to have another baby. That’s hard work. And that’s what CANFP and all of you—our members, practitioners, users, clergy, NFP promoters and benefactors—are here to help with.