There are questions that science cannot answer because it cannot even raise them. It is limited to the material universe. Key questions such as the existence of God or immortal souls, the meaning of human life, the meaning of moral good and evil, etc.
What the contemporary world, rich in technological feats, lacks is wisdom.
Our society offers a depressing discrepancy between our scientific conquests and our steady devaluation of human life, which is less and less appreciated as a gift.
The danger that characterizes our society is the tacit assumption that change by its very nature guarantees betterment. New means better. Lack of respect for old age and adulation of youth, so typical of our society, are obvious expressions of this.
Traditionally white hair was respectable – today, people seem to be ashamed of their closeness to eternal youth. We try to hide it much as we try to hide physical defects and blemishes. By contrast, in ancient Rome one had to be a senex to be member of the Senate. According to Indian customs, the chief was always a man whose age inspired respect: he was the one whose wisdom, based on experience, was respected and heeded. He was the one consulted in times of crisis. In Greek tragedies, white hair is treated with respect. The same sentiment is expressed in the Old Testament.
Our present philosophy of life, which glorifies youth and novelty, creates a state of instability that is one of the diseases afflicting our society – we have no roots.
One can no longer enter a sports stadium, read a magazine, look at the side of a bus, read the billboards or watch TV without having the advantages of Viagra or some other ‘keep fit’ or ‘stay young’ concoction for reinvigorating sexual desire urged upon him. Our laboratories have produced an array of creams designed to erase wrinkles, methods for the implantation of hair, pills to reduce belly fat, etc., etc. But what is this mad attempt to simulate youth but a desire to circumvent mortality? To elude the punishments of original sin and inhabit an Eden of our own making, a place where our faces are always beautiful and our bodies supple? The progression of a materialism that can only regard the old as used-up matter to be discarded is unmistakable.
From the theological perspective, old age is the prelude to death and death is the reward of sin, so our wrinkles and paunches and weak eyes are visited upon all of us as a punishment for the fall of our first parents – in this respect it is quite correct of St. Paul to refer to our Adamic nature as “the old man”. And were our lapsed condition not remediable, the old man would deserve to be regarded as either tragic or ludicrous. But we have been provided a remedy: baptismal grace. Certain effects of original sin remain after baptism, and these include physical mortality, but our wounded spirit can be healed in time by grace.
Age can claim dignity only to the extent that the old man has given way to the new man, regenerated by Christ. It is the possibility of this growth in grace that invests time with value.