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Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles Robert Barron recently gave a pair of quite interesting talks at Google and Facebook. Now approaching 30 million views Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire is the most influential Catholic evangelization ministry online. Bishop Barron is the ideal teacher, and this for two reasons: mastery of his subject and a genuine love (in the Augustinian sense) of his listeners. These qualities allow him to communicate complex ideas in comprehensible ways and, like his hero Aquinas, to dispassionately consider objections on their own merit without demonizing anyone. In a mass media world awash with anti-intellectual polemics, Bishop Barron is manifestly reasonable and pastoral.
All of this being said, I was surprised by Bishop Barron’s unqualified affirmation of the Internet as a great good for us all. I understand it would not do for an honored guest to note the pernicious features of his host’s profession. But while allowing for noble endeavors such as Word on Fire and Crisis and other good things, the Internet also makes possible virtually unrestricted mass communication of the basest inclinations of our sinful nature. It is debatable that the Internet is an unqualified good. It is more often the case that the Internet promulgates the worst that has been thought and said, not the best.
Risks - Risks - Tweeting - Environment - Speak
Besides obvious moral risks, are there cognitive risks to those growing up in a personalized, voice-activated, high-speed, ever-changing, always “tweeting,” incessantly “following,” electronic environment? Neuroscientists speak of the neuroplasticity of the human brain, meaning the brain can undergo physiological changes as it adapts to circumstances in the environment, such as the development of a new tool. When a technology performs tasks previously performed by the brain, our brains gradually change accordingly as the need for certain neural functions becomes obsolete. We might consider the impact of calculators on American...
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