Could Shlomo Hamelech have invented cars?
This sounds bizarre but this actually came up in a conversation.
Someone told me that his son came from home school and said that his Rebbe had told him the following. We shouldn't think that we are better nowadays because we have modern technology. In fact, the Rebbe said, Shlomo Hamelech was the wisest man who ever lived and he knew everything the scientists know and he could have created cars, phones, etc., anything that we have from modern technology. Why didn't he do it? He felt that a simple non-technological lifestyle was better.
I was stunned speechless. I could not respond. After this conversation I definately better understand the reaction to R' Slifkin's books and the Charedi attitude towards science and scientists.
Rabbi Sander Goldberg in his defense of R' Slifkin (THE SLIFKIN AFFAIR – ISSUES AND PERSPECTIVES) wrote essentially the same thing:
...most certainly if Chazal wanted to invest the time into scientific research, after a generation or two, they could have invented an atomic bomb. But it didn’t happen. First, they spent their time plying the depths of Dvar Hashem, but second, they saw no net advantage to man. Just the opposite, although we communicate and travel more easily nowadays, and have better medicine and air-conditioned homes and have mechanical slaves to do back-breaking work, the very same technology has been abused and utilized to murder millions of people, caused a segment of mankind to live in misery and has freed up time for mankind to get into all kinds of mischief. Accordingly, perhaps Chazal, privately, were skeptical of some accepted scientific “facts and theories” of their times. However, perhaps they did not want to even hint that those facts and theories would eventually be discarded; they felt it was healthier for the world to remain in the dark and not to develop technology at too rapid a pace
This is basically the thesis that I quoted above. Chazal could have invented everything we have today, but they felt that the benefits of modern technology were outweighed by the bad that would be done with it.