Simple Sand

"A new energy crisis?" asks Nation's Business. Is cheap oil "lulling the public into a false sense of security?" asks National Journal. Yes, the energy crisis of the 1970s still echoes today. Not long ago Scientific American warned that in 30-40 years most of the earth's cheap oil and gas will be depleted. What the doomsayers ignore is that there are really two sides to every resource: the physical material itself and the human ability to make use of it. The natural resource and the human resource. Take the example of oil. In the 1970s, we were told that the world was running out of oil. But today we have plenty. What happened? Human creativity was applied to the problem, new sources were uncovered, and new techniques were developed for extracting it. It turned out the world wasn't running out of oil, after all. Of course, it's true that there's only so much oil buried in the earth. But our ability to find it, extract it, and use it are constantly changing as human technology advances. In fact, human technology defines what qualifies as a resource to begin with. Oil is a good example of that. Before we had the technology to use it, oil wasn't even considered a resource. If you discovered oil on your land, you threw up your hands in despair. Perfectly good farm land--ruined. Then we developed technologies that use oil. And suddenly it became a valuable resource. Black gold, they call it. Discover it on your land, and you throw up your hands in joy. You've struck it rich. Of course, the day may come when we do run out of oil. But as that day approaches we'll develop alternatives. Our stoves used to burn wood; they now run on gas or electricity. We used to make things from wood or metal that today we make from plastic. What all this illustrates is the seminal role of human creativity. Modern technology isn't limited by the starting materials, it's limited only by what human creativity can make of them. That's what we should expect. After all, we were made in the image of a creative God. And how did God create the world? By speaking. Each stage of creation in Genesis begins with "Then God said." In the psalms we read, "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made." The word. In Greek: logos. It means knowledge; planning; design. That's how God created the world, and it's also how human beings create. It's illustrated best, perhaps, in computers. The silicon in a computer chip comes from ordinary sand. Yes, sand. What makes the chip so fantastically complex is the amount of human engineering and design that goes into it. A fraction of an ounce of sand in a computer chip holds as much information as a library of books using tons of paper and ink. It performs the work once done by thousands of calculating machines made of tons of metal, using hundreds of reams of paper. No, the doomsayers notwithstanding, we are not running out of resources. We're just beginning to tap the greatest resource of all: the human mind, made in the image of God.


Chuck Colson



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