2012 Baylor Symposium on
Faith and Culture
Thursday, October 25-Saturday, October 27
Baylor University, Waco, Texas
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Some claim that Soren Kierkegaard's The Present Age is the first book to explore the popular culture created by new media technologies like newspapers. But despite his focus on these technologies, Kierkegaard is rarely discussed as a philosopher of technology. This gap in the scholarship is especially surprising given that Heidegger, who borrows heavily from Kierkegaard, is famous in part for his essay "The Question Concerning Technology." Given that The Present Age predates and likely influenced Heidegger's essay and like that essay discusses the effects of technology on human flourishing, I argue that we should reconsider Kierkegaard as a philosopher of technology.
Readers of The Present Age have often subordinated his discussion of technology to other Kierkegaardian themes. Such readings explain Kierkegaard's claims about technology in terms of his view of tragedy, or of the aesthetic, ethical, and religious spheres of existence. By contrast, I propose that we view The Present Age by its on lights. On my reading, Kierkegaard thinks we can view technology in two ways:
First, Kierkegaard contends that technology contributes to the leveling that threatens human flourishing by abstracting away everything that is concrete and particular. For example, Kierkegaard thinks that the Press causes people to view themselves as essentially members of abstractions like "the Public" rather than participants in more concrete forms of association. We can see how contemporary forms of media technology have similar effects. Furthermore, focusing on abstractions rather than on 'the real moment simultaneous with real people' threatens the relationships that sustain individuals.
Nevertheless, Kierkegaard does not think that leveling is only negative. Individuals can, through leveling, realize their equality comes from being equals before God, not merely through being equally part of abstractions like "the Public." Thus, while technology can threaten human flourishing, it can also help each individual receive what Kierkegaard calls "a religious education"—something that Kierkegaard views as a pearl without price.
To defend my reading of The Present Age, I will first survey approaches to the essay which attempt to interpret it using other Kierkegaardian themes. After discussing problems with these approaches, I'll provide a reading of Kierkegaard's text which focuses on the twofold approach to technology I have proposed. My reading will focus on the ways that Kierkegaard thinks that the leveling affects of technology can help people receive a religious education. I'll close by suggesting ways that reading Kierkegaard might help us approach contemporary technologies that might help us receive the religious education—and the access it offer to real situations and real individuals—that Kierkegaard commends to us.
University of California, Los Angeles
Places in our lives are constructed out of lived experience: the way the light falls on the hills at dusk, a comfortable chair to rest a weary back after a day's work, or a final meal at a table shared with a loved one. The contents of place condition our experiences through the intellectual bounding of place out of knowledge of the broader spaces in which we are situated.
As information and storage technologies have developed our conceptions of space have broadened. These conceptions vary from cosmological reasoning situating man between earth and sky in oral traditions to modern science locating ourselves somewhere in the Milky Way itself inside of an expanding universe. With the ability to store and retrieve information growing exponentially, and with our intellectual grasp of space keeping pace, conceptions of place become harder to locate as we seek to find out where we are as humans.
Ancient peoples traded for exotic goods from distant lands. These objects contributed to the development of a spatial perspective which was nourished and maintained via orality and the fallibility of human memory. With the development of writing and printing conceptions of space also changed as spatial perspectives embedded in objects could be stored and transported independent of their spatiotemporal origin. The notion of objects to be acquired has changed in the Information Age with the acquisition of informational objects about and from distant lands. This acquisitiveness lends itself to an epistemological shift in understanding space and place as we move towards mediating and understanding these concepts out of metadata. In a sense, then, space and place are increasingly becoming hollow. Our home is no longer a home, it is part of a city zone, an architectural style, serviced by various utility companies, consuming a certain amount of energy, and leaving a specific carbon footprint. Through the dialectic of place, although the object acquired becomes part of our own story, it also form the basis for a new story located at the object's origin. We can see this concept in consumer databases, Internet advertising, and direct marketing. Together, space and place can now become mutually constitutive between both parties, reinforced by the technologies in use (orality, writing, digital technologies, etc.) as a path towards developing and understanding meaning.
We must then consider how human flourishing aided by these technologies. The geographer Yi-Fu Tuan argues that space is freedom and place is security. This implies that our technologically mediated understandings of where we are arise from the eternal tension between fear and hope. If places to flourish are constructed out of boundaries in mutually constitutive ideas of space, how do we see our homes? Our neighborhoods? The places where people go to die? In short, the way we understand where we flourish is being radically altered by rapid information transfer and nearly limitless storage. Conceptions and boundaries become increasingly ossified even as our abilities to challenge ossification intensify. The scale has shifted from the understandable and local to the incomprehensible and galactic. One must therefore ask: is it possible to flourish when we don't even understand where we are?
There is a dichotomy in what is expected of the Internet. There is a strong movement to maintain a sense of an open, collaborative community while at the same time there are concerns about popular software tools automatically collecting information about individuals. This discussion panel asks participants to examine the perspective of information sharing and trust in the age of emergent technologies (e.g., Internet) through the lens of a Christian perspective.
Succinctly, the question posed is the following: Would more openness in personal information more closely align to Christian values and bring society closer to a state of Shalom?
A search of ACM articles related to the phrase "information privacy" turns up 18,917 results, indicating this is an area of active research. More importantly, it is a reflection of the intellectual and fiscal resources directed at addressing this area. Shostack and Syverson point out that historically, the need for privacy is a desired state for most people. People are willing to pay for services that protect personal information, and government resources go toward developing and enforcing legislation. So, this begs two supporting questions:
Based on scripture, the natural inclination towards privacy appears to have started after the fall (Genesis 3:8) because of fear, but scripture is also consistent in its assertion not to base decisions and actions on fear (Proverbs 3:5, Matthew 10:26-27).
Also consider that privacy laws vary from the extremely complex rules of the European Union to protect an individual's right to privacy to China's mandate to allow "local government unlimited access to data, and encryption of data is prohibited unless local governments can decrypt it when they require."(Sitaram) Obviously, there are costs to implement these directives.
Current and future technologies continue to gather increasing amounts of information on individuals in ways that many may not be aware of. Certainly, there is the direct interaction with websites where people have a choice about the information they wish to surrender. However, we have entered the era that includes the Internet of Things (IOT), which takes into account the ubiquity of internet accessible devices, including vending machines, home televisions, home appliances and more (Grabs). Information collected from such devices creates a behavior profile of the user, and there are now commercial data mining products to provide real time analysis of this activity. Further, cell phone data and ubiquitous surveillance cameras enable law enforcement (and individuals) to monitor everyone's movements.
In essence, the model of what information is available and how quickly it is collected has changed dramatically in the past 50 years. Further, when looking at other scientific fields, it is well established that as more facts that challenge prevailing theories are gathered, scientists must revisit assumed models. For example, mankind saw the dramatic transition from the Ptolemic to the Copernican view in understanding the universe. Newtonian models of the physical world cannot be applied to the sub-atomic world. We are also seeing changes in how financial resources are managed and electronically exchanged. In the broad areas of information technology, we believe we are at a crossroads. It may be time that we significantly alter our model of privacy and acknowledge it would be better to have openness in personal information. One example of that has already taken place with The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008. Instead of legislating privacy, it is setting a standard for behavior.
Rather than continue creating barriers to information, should we, instead, encourage a nature of trust and openness to nurture future research that will benefit others? Can we ever trust others enough to make that leap of faith?
Associate Professor of Anthropology
There are an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. The majority of these individuals entered along the roughly 2000 mile U.S./Mexico border. The U.S. has strengthened enforcement of immigration laws by adding personnel and technology in areas of high activity. This "prevention through deterrence" initiative aimed to increase the possibility of apprehension for illegal entrants enough to create an environment of unacceptable risk for illegal border crossers. The initiative has been effective as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported that apprehensions for the southwest border in 2011 are down 73.5% since 2000. However, during this same time the major areas of illegal immigration have moved from urban centers to remote areas of inhospitable terrain. Therefore, despite the reduction in apprehensions, the number of border deaths has increased. There has been a 640% increase in the number of deaths per number of crossers from 1998 to 2011. The efforts of migrants to conceal their identities, the large number of migrants per year and the delayed recovery of remains make the identification process for deceased undocumented border crossers extremely challenging for forensic scientists.
The Reuniting Families Project (RFP) was established in 2003 at Baylor University with the goal of assisting local, state and international agencies in the identification process of deceased undocumented immigrants. In 2004, an online database was launched and DNA casework analysis began. Given the large number of Mexican nationals that die along the border, in 2005, the project teamed with Mexico's Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores to launch a new database, Sistema de Identificación de Restos y Localización de Individuos, or SIRLI, in an attempt to facilitate efforts of locating missing Mexican citizens abroad.
The majority of individuals buried along the US border prior to 2006 never benefited from DNA technology and most of these cases are not represented in missing and unidentified persons databases. The RFP helped identify over 70 individuals from six countries. In May 2012, the RFP began its next phase which includes the exhumation of graves of the unidentified, performing forensic examinations and including these individuals in the proper national and international databases. A team of 20 Baylor students and faculty performed the work in Del Rio, Texas. The exhumations took place at two private cemeteries, San Felipe and Oak Lawn.
This presentation will focus on the recovery efforts and the identification work of the RFP. In particular, ten of the exhumations from the 2012 field season will be discussed and the challenges that vary with each set of remains. In addition, the scientific findings from the DNA analyses will be presented along with the new endeavor to use biogeochemical analyses for determining region of geographical origin. There is a clear humanitarian crisis on the US border and with the use of emerging scientific technologies and the dedication of scientists; answers and closure can be given to the families of the missing.
Texas Woman's University
Jamie Skye Bianco gives a helpful term to those of us— and we are legion—who are spending more and more of our waking hours on the web: prosumers. A prosumer, as the name suggests, is one who simultaneously produces and consumes, a fitting description of all who cannot seem to function without an internet connection. But what are we "prosuming" via that most popular of all sites, Facebook? In a way we are prosuming those things—friends, photos, games, pokes, wall posts, videos, messages, music, ads, events, status, likes—that are all part of giving us that delicious feeling of satisfaction after a good hour or so of Facebooking. But we might boil it down a bit further and say that we seem to be prosuming something behind all of those activities; we seem to be both producing and consuming the very "self" we are positing. The Facebook phenomenon raises questions and the nature of the "self" and, in particular, its elusiveness. This paper explores the unique rhetoric of Facebook by taking Aristotle's classic canons and identifying them in the new medium of Facebook: the continuous, expansive invention; its associative, patterned organization; the self stylized via the peopling and manipulation of the Facebook page; the present and persisting memory of the self; and finally the delivery of the self, resulting in a distributed credibility. That is, Facebook is attempting to re-mediate the self. By "re-mediate" we do not mean to correct but to put into another medium. What Facebook gives us, then, is not transparency but hypermediation, that is, multiplication of media. The end product—the mediated self—cannot help but be a hypermediated one, the result of which is a feeling of fullness, of psychic completeness. That is, we as viewer feel full because we are consuming something seemingly greater than our idea itself: we too easily mistake the media for the message. Marshall MacLuhan, in his groundbreaking Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, argued that a medium can be "hot" or "cool," depending upon the amount of participation it excites from the audience. Thus, Facebook is cool, for it requires the constant preening of one's Facebook self. But it is cool in another way, too: Facebook depends upon the involvement not so much of oneself but of one's Facebook friends. Without friends, one has no Facebook identity, no dynamic self being remediated; this is the result of Facebook's utter dependence upon audience interaction. Without friends' postings, Facebook users have no wall. Without friends to look at one's photos and to "like" one's status, the FB self lies dormant. That is, to put it bluntly, the friend constructs the Facebook "self": the viewer constructs meaning as needed, and it is one's dependence upon that viewer that makes the interaction so terribly important—sometimes even obsessively so. The friend/audience becomes a vital part of the self's quest for definition. In its conclusion, this examination of Facebook's rhetoric asks how this rather recent technological phenomenon raises age-old questions about the incessant search for self-definition. Or, to ask the question more candidly, Why is Facebook so addictive? An answer may be found in Walker Percy's theory of the Delta Factor—the triadic event between word, knower, and thing. The self is the only thing with which we cannot accomplish this triadic understanding, for the triangular event collapses when knower and thing are one and the same. The self, then, becomes unspeakable to itself. The self cannot grasp itself with signifier/signified in the same way it can grasp another thing or another self. One's self mysteriously eludes the knower, as when one stares straight into a window reflection, only to find that it is the directness of the gaze that erases the image. Or as Pope Benedict XVI has said, "Of ourselves we cannot come to terms with ourselves."
Assistant Professor of English
University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare
"To abandon transient realities and seek to grasp that which is eternal"
This paper examines how technology has been considered in pre-Christian Greek mythology and in the Christian contemplative tradition, taking as its starting point one of the foundational works of western literature: Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound. That tragedy tells the myth of the man-loving Titan's gift to humanity of fire and all technical arts. Because he has disobeyed the new Olympian ruler, Zeus, Prometheus is bound to a rocky crag in the Caucasus, where he tells his would-be comforters that he has beneficently, if enigmatically, given his gifts in order to "sow blind hopes" in humans so that they would not foresee their doom. Here, in Prometheus's confession, the audience finds a problematic claim: in a word, these gifts are a distraction from reality and are intended to produce hope, but they do so only by keeping man's true fate—ostensibly, a tragic one—obscured or ignored. These arts, then, are a way for humans to remain unaware of their real condition in the world.
With Aeschylus's account of Prometheus providing a lens through which we can view the technical arts, the paper then turns to two recent considerations of technology by contemporary thinkers who speak from within the Christian intellectual tradition: political theorist Patrick Deneen and theologian Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). In recent talks, both have touched upon the role of technology, addressing its effect on human flourishing. Deneen did so in his November 2011 lecture provocatively titled "Against Great Books"; Pope Benedict XVI broached the topic in his October 2011 homily delivered to the Carthusian community at Serra San Bruno.
In spite of his lecture's title, Deneen actually argues for a great books education, but he qualifies his argument, calling for a kind of learning that recognizes the importance of human limits and that has as its "central goal" the teaching of how "to live in a world in which self-limitation is the appropriate response to a world of limits." Deneen contrasts this teaching of the virtue of self-limitation with its opposite, a kind of training that takes as its guide "the impulse to transform and escape" human limits, seeking satisfaction in unrestrained mastery of nature. This, according to Deneen, is one way to "distinguish between the Ancients and the Moderns," with the former seeking to live within limits and the latter seeking to live without them. With Aeschylus, Deneen identifies this desire to escape the fundamental human condition, with its deeply tragic hue, as a "Promethean" longing.
If a recognition and acceptance of these very limits is what traditional education has sought (and what modern education rejects), then it is certain forms of Christian spirituality that have tried to cultivate an awareness of those limits as the means by which God may be encountered. In other words, what Aeschylus describes through Prometheus as man's "doom," the Christian contemplative tradition has transformed into the deep realization of human dependence upon God. Pope Benedict commends the Carthusians at Serra San Bruno for preserving "with special care" the community as an "oasis" of "silence and solitude"; thus, the monks have turned away from the allure of "[t]echnical progress"—an allure stemming from technology's ability to free humans from their "fear of feeling" the "emptiness" that makes possible an encounter with the Divine. In describing this spiritual emptiness as the precondition for knowing God, Benedict reveals a common pattern in his own thought: the way of Christian salvation is often coincident with perceived Christian defeat. In other words, Benedict frequently rejects an either-or paradigm and offers instead one that is better described as both-and. The two events—loss and restoration, defeat and victory—are not approached as discrete, sequential, and opposed occurrences; rather, they are coterminous, collapsing into the other. Thus, Benedict argues that the Carthusians, by deliberately seeking to "'expose' themselves to reality […], to that apparent 'void'," are in the same moment seeking "to experience Fullness, the presence of God, of the most real Reality that exists and that lies beyond the tangible dimension." For Benedict, then, the willingness to turn from the distractions of technical progress to "solitude and silence" is done not as an act of self-laceration, as Prometheus seems to envision humanity living in its awareness of its "doom"; instead, this discipline is practiced "in order to live on nothing but the essential," allowing one to find "a deep communion […] with every human being."
Professor of English
Azusa Pacific University
What is the purpose of literature? "Connecting" is at the core of what many scholars and authors claim as literature's central purpose. David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest and other novels, said, "I guess a big part of serious fiction's purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull…imaginative access to other selves" (qtd. in Smith 255). Novelist and essayist Jonathan Franzen, author of The Corrections, wrote that "Readers and writers are united in their need for solitude…in their reach inward, via print, for a way out of loneliness" (88). Susan Sontag wrote that, "A great writer of fiction both creates a new, unique, individual world…and responds to a world, the world the writer shares with other people but that is unknown or mis-known by still more people, confined in their worlds." In the film Shadowlands, C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, "We read to know we are not alone." Even though some scholars question whether Lewis ever actually uttered those words, the quote is endlessly repeated anyway because readers resonate with the idea that literature connects them to other selves, other worlds, other minds.
Connecting is also the central purpose of newer social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. In introducing a new Community Pages feature, for instance, Facebook software engineer Alex Li wrote, "Facebook has always been about helping people make connections. We started with helping people connect with their friends, and over time we expanded this model to mirror more of the connections you make in your life—including organizations and interests that may not be people." Even their famous logo is about connecting, with its map of the world sprinkled with icons of people connected by dotted lines.
People use other technological media, such as online video games, to make a number of different kinds of connections: to connect with other players around the world, to connect with the created characters whose roles they take on, and to connect with the created worlds the game makers have brought to life.
With hundreds of millions of people meeting this human need for "connection" through new technologies, where does that leave literature? Does the role of literature change in this new era? Does literature still have a role? Will many people abandon literature as they find other ways to connect? If so, what will they have lost? Is there something about literary connection that makes it irreplaceable?
As a literature professor and author, I and my profession have much at stake in the answers to these questions. If the essence of the literary experience can be matched by the technology of sophisticated video games or social media, then what relevance to do literature courses have for university students?
It's easy for literature professors to dismiss the significance of popular-culture entertainment technologies such as video games. But as I have studied the work of video game scholars and commentators such as James Paul Gee (What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy), Tom Bissell (Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter), and Jane McGonigal (Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World), I have seen that the case for literature's superiority in "connecting" with the world outside oneself is not as clear-cut as I once believed.
My paper will argue that literature will not be replaced by these new forms, but that literature's place in the academy and in contemporary life will shift as people increasingly rely on varying technologies and media to meet their needs for "connection." Just as video games, films, and other media each offer particular experiences that cannot be matched by any competing technology or art form, literature also still has its place in providing a unique set of complex and absorbing qualities that no other form can match. This paper will probe literature's shifting function in this new era.
Our Lady of Good Counsel High School
In a 2009 report sponsored by the Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaborative (HASTAC), contributing scholars wrote that "the future of learning institutions demands a deep, epistemological appreciation of the profundity of what the Internet offers humanity as a model of a learning institution" (1). This claim is typical of a growing movement among educators who are confident in an imminent technological revolution in education. The prevailing narrative heralds a focus on collaborative learning, an increasing democratization of knowledge, and a decreased emphasis on the role of the teacher. Proponents argue that the use of technology is not only required to engage the contemporary student but is necessitated by a social, cultural, and economic climate engrossed in the digital age.
While the HASTAC collaborators call for an "epistemological" understanding, this is precisely what is lacking. Educational institutions fail to use the structure of the human person as a criterion for evaluating technology use. Instead, a positivist criterion—one of power and production—dominates. Even Christian institutions, which have a privileged insight into the nature of man, widely accept the technologizing of learning.
We fail to realize that all technology, as Neil Postman writes, contains its own ethic or ideology. The technological ethic tends to reduce the student and the object of study to its own limited, material horizon. Whereas an authentic Christian education takes the transcendent as a starting point, technology tends to alienate students from their deep need for truth, beauty, and goodness. Further, the technological vision for education involves a Promethean myth of human progress. The language of its proponents implies a certainty in the attainment of human happiness through a collective amassing of empirical knowledge. At its root, this is antithetical to the central Christian claim—that the key to our happiness, the key to the coherence of reality, and the ultimate object of education became incarnate in human history.
This paper will propose two critiques from Christian educational theorists that demonstrate the problems inherent in the technologizing of education. The first regards the use of technology as a method of knowledge. Both Postman and Nicholas Carr argue that the medium of computing technology dictates the way we perceive reality—it is not a neutral tool. Joseph Pieper gives the definitive insight into its impact. He describes two equally necessary forms of knowledge: intellectus—a receptive knowing associated with wonder, joy, and affection—and ratio—an active knowing associated with the construction of logical, systematic understanding. Making technology a central part of pedagogy reduces all knowledge to ratio. The end of education becomes pragmatic mastery over reality, and students are reduced to "intellectual workers" (2). The loss of intellectus produces a loss of faith in the coherence of reality. School becomes simply a training ground for entry into the economy and ceases to be a privileged place to seek the truth.
The second critique, drawn from Luigi Giussani's The Risk of Education, illustrates the danger of the technological vision. For Giussani, an educator must propose tradition as a hypothesis of meaning for all of reality. The hypothesis must be presented in the context of a life experience and verified according to a correspondence with the need for truth, beauty, and goodness. Reliance on internet technology fragments any coherent tradition, and students are more likely to uncritically adopt the dominant mentality introduced by a democratization of knowledge. Further, technology tends to remove students to an abstract world—one in which verification of a lived experience with the help of a teacher's human presence is increasingly difficult. Finally, a technological ethic that removes the transcendent makes this verification virtually impossible.
In an age where technology threatens to dehumanize culture at many levels, education stands as one of man's most vulnerable activities. In the current climate, the Christian vision can offer a much needed clarity. This privileged understanding of man generates an education that serves not to form successful "intellectual workers," but to educate the heart to an awareness of another behind all of reality.
University of New Mexico
This paper is meant to establish the grounds for a critical examination of emerging enhancement biotechnologies by interrogating and challenging the claims of influential philosophical defenses and criticisms of genetic enhancement technologies. The secular critiques of genetic enhancement (particularly on the issues of preimplantation genetic diagnosis [PGD] and germ-line engineering), by e.g. Habermas and Fukuyama, have relied on questionable presuppositions. Selecting against what one understands as undesirable traits imposes, at the embryonic stage, an exclusive idea of what the good life, or a life worth living, is, thus closing off profound possibilities. Rather than building the case against genetic enhancement on a faith in and attachment to modern liberal Western democracy or the unique (and superior) ontological status of human beings as distinct from non-human animals, one may consider the danger of genetic enhancement in terms of the threat it poses to meaningful difference. (Indeed, the tenability of this insistence on liberal democracy as the grounds for a thoroughgoing critique of genetic enhancement may also be questioned by arguing that the "de-traditionalization of life worlds" that Habermas treats as inevitable and almost completely realized is now being challenged on multiple fronts.) What is lost in the drive towards optimization of our offspring is the possibility of a meaningful life which exceeds and challenges our expectations and our understanding of eudaimonia. In the last chapter of The Case Against Perfection, Sandel speaks of the threat to our sense of "openness to the unbidden," a threat embodied in the blind drive towards genetic optimization of ourselves and our children. This paper attempts to flesh out Sandel's intuition along the lines of Heidegger's critique of technology. Incorporating the elucidations and developments of Heidegger's critique by, e.g. Iain Thomson and Julian Young, one may apply Heidegger's critique of technologization in such a way as to ground Sandel's claim that the debate over genetic enhancement ought not to be determined by a modern understanding of autonomy and rights, but ought rather to give us pause and cause us to reflect on our "habits of mind" and "way of being." Proceeding from Heidegger's account of onto-theology, I aim to show that the imperative towards the (genetic) optimization of one's children, here focusing on optimization at the embryonic stage, is the codification and extreme form of the late-modern technological worldview. Rather than seeing this, as trans-humanism advocate Nick Bostrom and others do, as a simple fact of historical progression, one from which we cannot retreat without being branded Luddites, an application of Heidegger's account brings to the fore the problem of the optimization imperative, i.e. the imposition of a pre-determined understanding of what a life worth living is. It forces our offspring to adhere to our own understanding of the good life, and robs us of the profound possibilities for the meaningful experience of raising a child who breaks the mold, who challenges our idea of the good life. Bostrom insists that choosing not to choose to enhance (or destroy) offspring at the embryonic stage is an inauthentic willful evasion of a difficult decision. While certainly one faces a difficult decision when testing reveals that one's child will likely be born with down syndrome or cystic fibrosis, choosing to eradicate or avoid any unexpected and supposedly unwanted features, and instead deciding in advance exactly what type of child it is that one wants to have, absolves one from the sort of spontaneous decision making and surprise that can define raising a unique child. In other words, what Bostrom calls the evasion of decision can instead be seen as the acceptance of a lifetime of unpredictable decision situations that arise from an openness to the unbidden. This paper ends by turning back to Habermas in light of the above development of a Heideggerian critique and asks: Ought we to, as Habermas advocates, allow publicly agreed upon ideas of the good life to dictate enhancement and termination? Do we want to leave the decision of what makes a life worth living to a real or imagined public consensus? Not only does Habermas' conclusion threaten the premises of liberalism and autonomy upon which he so heavily relies, but it closes off a sense of openness to the unbidden and with it the possibility for a differently, and perhaps more, meaningful life.
Associate Professor of Computer Science
Self-regulation is a critical requirement for human flourishing. The ability to commit to a course of action and then carry out that commitment is required for the notion of "being faithful", and is thus a central element in the Biblical picture of human nature. Failure to achieve or exercise this ability results in a wide variety of dysfunction and regret. Recent psychological research indicates that our willpower is like a muscle in two ways: In the short term, heavy use depletes it, while in the longer term, regular exercise may increase our capacity for self-mastery.
The nature of information technology introduces new challenges to our ability to self-regulate, and calls for insight into how we can best employ our willpower resources. For example, the ever present distractions available on the internet form a constant temptation to procrastinate when trying to perform an aversive task on the computer.
However, there is also hope that we can use this same technology as an aid to help us self-regulate, as the power and flexibility of information and communication technology make it an ideal material for building volitional scaffolding. In part, this is because we spend so much of our lives using information technology that it becomes a medium in which our willpower must be expressed. For example, because the above-mentioned procrastination often takes place in a web browser, it is possible to customize the web browser to make it less amenable to this purpose. Web browser extensions are available which the user configures to monitor and track the amount of time spent at certain websites, and to cut off access after a user-specified amount of time. This is an example of a precommitment device, in which a person takes action to shape the scope of their future choices when they foresee possible of loss of willpower. Other software can assist in accountability relationships between people, acting as a monitor, recorder, and communicator of behavior. (For example, weight loss software which integrates with social networking to allow mutually supportive "diet groups" has been shown to be more effective than dieting alone.)
Thus we see that, in the same way that technology can extend and augment our physical strength or our cognitive abilities, we can also use various kinds of technique or technology to enhance our volitional functioning. Our lives are filled with everyday examples of embedding or offloading some of our volitional functioning into our environment. Typically, these take one of three forms:
When used appropriately, such technological assistance to our volitional abilities can indeed play an important and fruitful role in human flourishing, enabling us to make thoughtful and difficult commitments to what is right, and then hold to those commitments, even when the going gets tough. However, significant care and consideration is necessary when introducing such tools into our lives, as there is much room for unintended consequence.
First, it is important to remember that we live in a society which idolizes technology, looking to technology as the solution to any problem; this pervasive cultural predisposition makes it difficult to effectively understand and critique any particular use of technology. In addition, we must exercise special thoughtfulness when we use computer technology to address problems which come about because of our use of computer technology. If computer use tempts us towards procrastination, computer-based approaches to resisting this temptation may play a helpful role, but will do so by treating the symptoms rather than the causes of the problem. A critical analysis of which technologies we have accepted into our lives must accompany any such band-aid approaches.
Secondly, we must remember that our willpower is a resource that is, at least to some extent, under our control, and able to be built up and practiced. The Biblical notion of self-control as a fruit of the spirit attests to this. We thus ought not to rely so heavily on external support for our volitional functioning that we neglect the exercise and maintenance of this crucial internal capacity.
Because these issues play out in the rich complexity of everyday life, it can be very difficult to insightfully analyze various technology use situations. This research demonstrates the use of a framework based on the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd to aid us in wrestling with these complex issues.
Assistant Professor of Practical Theology
Azusa Pacific University
Humans have less soul now than they did, say, 30 years ago. Everywhere we look, people are connected to their devices like so many little appendages, and it may not be too long before we're asking, Which one is the appendage: is it a person attached to machines, or machines attached to a person? Who, in other words, is the host?
Man and machine are merging at an alarming, exponential rate (note Ray Kurzweil), and social media serves to further disembody us. The more disembodied we become, the less ourselves we become—indeed, the less human we become—and the less human we become, the more distant God becomes.
We have become such a technology-saturated culture that most of us no longer realize how much it has become an intimate part not only of our lives, but of our individual and collective identities. We're increasingly blurring the distinction between ourselves and our technological devices.
And for what purposes and to what end? At what point do machines no longer serve our needs but instead, we begin to serve theirs? My paper will examine such questions and the implications of the various answers that have been been provided by various culture-makers. Jaron Lanier's book You are Not a Gadget, Christian Smith's What Is a Person? Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up and James Loder's The Logic of Transformation will be my primary texts. Additional questions will be examined, such as:
The irrevocable march of technology further into and around our persons, our bodies, our relationships, and our everyday lives is not a morally neutral phenomenon. The implications of such an encroachment will be taken up in this paper.
David H. Calhoun
Associate Professor, Philosophy
Human beings are not only agents who devise and employ technology, we are, in significant instances, the objects of our own technological manipulation. Therein lies a paradox and a puzzle. While application of technology to the conditions of human existence—what we might call "human technology"—holds great promise for human flourishing, it also poses compelling questions and potential dangers.
On the one hand, human technology sometimes clearly promotes human flourishing, such as in the case of vaccination and other forms of preventive medical technology. Still further, technology offers remediation of human limitations and impairments, in the form of eyeglasses and artificial limbs. Contemporary transhumanists prophesy that emerging technologies will in the future facilitate concrete enhancements of existing human capacities or even development of new ones. Benign examples such as these may lull us into regarding human technology as an unqualified good.
On the other hand, however, to apply technology to human beings is eo ipso to objectify human beings, to treat them—which is to say us—as manipulables. The agent of technology transcends that to which the technology is applied, whether the object is the natural world, other humans, or even the technological agent himself. So we find a paradox at the heart of human technology: the active human agent of technology, and the passive object of technological intervention.
One thread in contemporary thinking about technology elides the paradox and embraces a globalizing scope for technological manipulation of human circumstances. Forty years ago, for example, B. F. Skinner argued that our tendency to frame human problems in terms of "autonomous man," the occult and ultimately mythical agent at the core of human behavior, condemned human technology to ineffective prescientific status. Only by discarding the myth of autonomous man, with its correlate concepts of human freedom and dignity, could a true technology of behavior be inaugurated. As the title of his manifesto makes clear, taking this step requires moving Beyond Freedom and Dignity, beyond traditional constraints on self-regarding human action, and embracing the view that human events are, like all other natural events, the products of mechanical processes of selection. The problem with this view, as C. S. Lewis noted in The Abolition of Man, published twenty years prior to Skinner's book, is that the exercise of technology requires the notion of a transcending human agent, which a globalizing technological vision rejects. The paradox cannot be dissolved.
Taking a cue from Lewis and from Thomas Nagel's argument in The Last Word, I argue that specifying the limits of self-regarding or human technology bears similarities to questions about the inherent conditions of objective truth and of objective moral value. To know or to judge is to transcend the immediate conditions of our existence, but any such human transcendence is limited and qualified and takes as its necessary point of departure the objective conditions in which we find ourselves. As we apply technology to ourselves, then, we must recognize the framework of objective conditions that make human agency possible. Any application of human technology must therefore be constrained by acknowledgment that some technological moves can compromise, diminish, or conflict with genuine human agency. Contra Skinner, dignity is therefore a non-negotiable premise for a technology that promotes human flourishing.
I will illustrate the problem and my proposed thesis by appealing to the work of Catholic novelist Walker Percy, in particular his analyses of science and technology in the novel Love in the Ruins (1972) and the self-help parody Lost in the Cosmos (1983). In these works Percy explores an outlook that embraces science and its offspring technology without compromising the human conditions of agency.
Professor, Family Science
Oklahoma Baptist University
A brief review of newspaper articles or web sites would quickly confirm the value and efficacy of the use of technology to help people grieve. Whether using social media sites such as Facebook or MySpace as outlets of expression or simply texting and tweeting family and friends, almost everyone seems to think that these technologies are not only here to stay but are almost exclusively a benefit for processing a grief experience. The only caution seeming to be given is that people also need to have personal contact when they are grieving—so make sure to get some of it along with your social media grief bath. But is such advice comprehensive? This paper explores more completely the complicated nature of how technology and grief intertwine.
The people of our culture and in particular our technology natives (those born and raised in an age of technology) are reshaping how almost everything gets done. Social media has surpassed all other specific uses of the internet with at least one in every six minutes of time spent online being spent on social media of some type (comScore.com, 2012). It is thus no surprise that our approach to a grief situation is also changing. Not only are we more quickly alerted of tragic events as they happen, but we are exposed to more tragedy than any previous generation. Technology has given us a literal double-edged sword. We can talk/blog/tweet more freely about more things than any previous generation; we see the shocking videos of tragedies often in real time; and yet this virtual connectivity brings with it a danger of emotional overload that has previously only been experienced in the lives of those who have actually lived through epic tragedy.
If being more connected through technology can also bring with it an increased exposure to stress, one must ask if this risk is also being explored. We certainly can't put this genie back into the bottle; we will live with the connectivity that technology brings to our lives. In fact, it is fascinating and often mesmerizing. We watch television incessantly as the twin towers fall to the ground and for days after that we watch as the world searches for survivors. In war we are glued to the newsfeed as the missiles strike their intended target. This age of instant information can be truly addicting and we want more of it. We like instant information/entertainment and we want it now.
At what point do we unplug ourselves from the onslaught of information? We find out about every death of every person we might have known almost instantly if they had a presences on the social media grid. Is this information helpful? Does it enrich our lives to hear that one of our 8,329 Facebook friends was injured in a car wreck? Do we feel better because we can post a note and tell our injured friend to get well? Or do we feel guilty about not taking the time to post a note?
There is no doubt that there are some real benefits from being able to gather friends together quickly to offer social support at times of need. The benefits of social support at times of grief are well documented. There is benefit to being able to express your feelings in a written format that others share. Being able to tell your story of grief is critical to emotional healing. But the use of social media can be toxic just as easily as it can be refreshing. The community of faith has a responsibility to help those in grief put this experience in a proper perspective. Technology, and those who use it, has no such parameters. We must not allow technology to take the lead in this critical work. Perspective is imperative. Will technology help us be more compassionate toward those who are grieving or will it enable us to emotionally detach from the hard work of grieving? As human emotion continues to gain distance from embracing death as a natural conclusion to this life, will we use our technology in a way that is helpful?
Associate Prof., Philosophy
In this essay, I propose to address the question, Is Jacques Ellul's analysis of technology, what he termed la technique, of contemporary relevance to the discussion of human flourishing? This question I answer in the affirmative and in the essay I will brief a case for this answer.
Before laying out the case, however, there are preliminary questions that I will address. The first of these questions is, Why is Ellul's relevance even in question? The answer to this question involves in large part the history of the philosophy of technology. Ellul was one of the first generation of philosophers of technology that also included Martin Heidegger and Hans Jonas. A second generation has now arisen, a generation that includes Albert Borgmann, Andrew Feenberg, Don Ihde and Langdon Winner. These American philosophers of technology have taken, according to the subtitle of a recent book, "the empirical turn" away from the more abstract and birds-eye-view work of their predecessors. Although the second generation acknowledges its indebtedness to the work of the first generation, the view seems to be that the assumptions behind the first generation's philosophical work are so suspect that this work is largely of historical interest only and that it has little contemporary relevance. This raises a second question, What is meant by "contemporary relevance"? The short answer to this question is that for my purposes contemporary relevance will refer to casting light upon (promoting the understanding of) technology in relation to human flourishing.
The next section of the paper will be taken up with a summary account of some of Ellul's analysis of la technique. I will explain why he thought it important to talk about la technique rather than to talk about technology, even though in what follows I will use the English technology rather than the French la technique. With this as background, I will summarize what he had to say about the technological system, the autonomy of technology, the ambivalence of technology, and the totalizing character of technology.
On the basis of foregoing, I will brief my case for Ellul's contemporary relevance. The argument will proceed on two fronts. First, I will use Ellul's analysis of la technique to illuminate Walker Percy's last novel, The Thanatos Syndrome, which deals with both technology and human flourishing. This application to a novel is relevant because one purpose of the novel's narrative is to provoke the reader to engage in reflection on what the novel tells us about the world as it exists apart from the novel. Second, I will use both Ellul and Percy, as illuminated by Ellul's thought, to cast light on "real world" events, such as the role IBM played in making possible the Holocaust, and contemporary events, such as technological challenges to maintaining citizens' privacy. The argument in both cases will be that thinking in terms of la technique, autonomy, ambivalence and totalization, gives us insight into the particular cases that is unlikely to have arisen apart from Ellul's conceptual framework.
Gerald Bryan Cleaver
Associate Professor of Physics and Icarus Interstellar member
Director of 100YSS Project
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency/NASA 100 Year Starship Project
Richard K. Obousy
President of Icarus International and Co-Director of 100YSS Project
Project Icarus, Icarus International
In the 20th century interstellar travel was left to the realm of science fiction. But now in the 21st century its possible realization is underway. In May, 2012, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and NASA awarded a half million dollar grant to explore the possibility of launching spacecraft on interstellar missions 100 years from now. The "100 Year Starship Study" (100YSS) will be directed by former NASA astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, working with the non-profit organization Icarus Interstellar, founded by two recent Baylor Physics Ph.D. graduates and their associates. The long-term goal of the project is to fund and foster the technologies needed to build an interstellar spacecraft within a century.
Numerous issues under study by the 100YSS project concern human flouring in space. These include: Physiology in Space; Definitions of Health and Human Survival; Psychology in Space; Cybernetics; Human Life Suspension (e.g. Cryogenic), Medical Facilities and Capabilities in Space; Spawning from Genetic Material; Exobiology and Astrobiology; Human Relationships and Social Dynamics; Implications of Experimentation; Children and Development; and Education.
Also being addressed within the 100YSS project are "the necessary political, economic, social and cultural shifts that will enable our transition from a "near Earth" society into an interstellar civilization." These wide-ranging issues include: Government Policies; International Co-operation; Politics; Space Law; One-way Or Round-trip; Legacy Investments and Assets Left Behind; Who Goes and Who Stays?; Moral and Ethical Issues; Economies in Space; Communications Back to Earth; Education; Culture; Religion & Spirituality; Implications of Finding Hospitable Worlds; Extraterrestrial Intelligence; and Storytelling and Inspiration-Why We Should Go?
Several of these issues will be addressed at the Baylor Symposium in a series of lectures and a panel discussion presented by leaders of the 100YSS.
Kyle Colbert Crews
PhD student in English
Saint Louis University
Scholars that deal with the novels, stories, poetry, and essays of Wendell Berry rightly focus on his agrarianism and localism. It is not difficult to discern his poignant criticism of industrial agriculture as destructive of the land, local economies, and human freedom. Clearly, his writings and life are a protest against the irresponsible use of and infatuation with modern technology. In "A Good Scythe," for instance, Berry mocks the power mowers that purportedly save labor; he prefers the "old-fashioned, human-powered scythe that was clearly the best [he] had ever seen" (Gift of Good Land, 172). This somewhat humorous sketch, however, may lead some to denounce Berry's vision as "old-fashioned"-an attempt to preserve a bucolic past that has been far surpassed by modern technology and globalization. In this paper, I intend to argue that Berry's resistance to modern technology is more complex and Christological than simple agrarianism. I will demonstrate this by focusing particularly on his critique of modern technological warfare—a subject that has received some attention from scholars like Michael R. Stevens, Fritz Oehlschlaeger, and Bill Kauffman.
In "February 2, 1968," a poem obviously situated in the middle of the Vietnam War, Berry writes: "In the dark of the moon, in flying snow, in the dead of winter, / war spreading, families dying, the world in danger, / I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover" (New Collected Poems, 122). The peaceful practice of "sowing clover" contrasts with the spread of war that Berry elsewhere describes as driven by "scientific and technological progress" ("Failure of War" in Citizenship Papers, 24). Here, Berry demonstrates that sowing clover on a rocky hillside is more than "old-fashioned" agrarianism; rather, it is a concrete witness to the practice of peace and human flourishing when "scientific and technological progress" threatens to make wars more "terrible" and normative ("Failure of War," 24). Furthermore, Berry derives his peace witness from "the most comprehensive vision of human progress": the teachings of Jesus on non-retaliation and love of enemies ("Failure of War," 30). I will explore Berry's Christocentric vision of peace in more detail to argue for its centrality in his criticism of modern technology.
Assoc Professor of History and Honors
Abilene Christian University
In 1974 the philosopher Thomas Nagel published an influential essay entitled, "What is it Like to Be a Bat?" which dealt a major blow to reductionist accounts of the human mind. Against a growing number of philosophers who were then claiming the mind represented nothing more than a stream of data like those produced by simple computers, Nagel pointed out that the mind actually functioned by means of qualitative experience and that such experience could not be reduced to a third-person account. Nagel memorably demonstrated his point by discussing the type of knowledge possessed by a bat. No human being could possibly know the bat's cave as the bat knows it, because we cannot know what it is like to be a bat. Nagel argued the same must be true of knowledge in general—that it is an irreducibly subjective experience, not a mere set of data.
It seems to me Nagel's conclusions about the nature of the mind carries implications for the nature of liberal education, especially now that the rising tide of technology has inundated our classrooms. Many college professors who once labored to bring their students into contact with relevant facts now spend more time teaching them how to keep their heads above water, so to speak. With knowledge so readily available, many educators believe the primary challenge today is to teach students how to access, sift, and present that knowledge. Not that technology alone is responsible for the recent shift in emphasis from mere facts to gathering and processing facts. A few perceptive critics have lamented the recent change in focus from literature to lit-crit, from history to historiography, and so on. However, technology seems to encourage—if not compel—universities to adopt a more "realistic" and "goal-oriented" approach to higher education. (Even as the costs of higher education and its technology do the same.) To be sure, there has been a new emphasis on the imparting of "thinking skills"; but the priority of the practical interferes here, as well. Bolstering thinking skills is often reduced to a quick overview of logical forms of argumentation— or, worse, to conditioning students' feelings about various contemporary issues. What remains relatively unexamined in these trends is what I would call the depth of our students' learning—or more simply, the extent to which we can call them educated when they graduate.
Advocates of technological revolution in education often cite Plato's Phaedrus (274Ef) for its pejorative myth about the invention of writing in order to show how mechanical progress often seems retrograde to the learned. In fact, I used to cite the passage myself for the same reason, seeing little justification for Plato's denouncing literacy as a producer of forgetfulness and a bestower of false wisdom. However, teaching history and honors in the age of Wikipedia and Sparknotes has given me a better insight to Plato's point. Plato did not spurn writing: he embraced it so effectively as to become the first philosopher whose works have survived in bulk. But he never lost sight of the difference between wisdom, which is a seeing of truth, and its most common imposture, which is merely repeating what someone else has said. A similar distinction is often elided today. The elixir of binary data-processing can lead us to think that knowledge is knowledge, and facts facts: that the objective meaning of Homer or Hamlet can be reduced to bits and copied endlessly from other copies. But the subjective meaning of such great works—that is, one's own interaction with them—is unintelligible in terms of notes or summaries or anything else a gadget might offer, apart from the works themselves.
In my essay I intend to explore some of the ways in which a liberal arts education cannot be fostered—and is often hindered—by recent advances in technology. Most of my essay will be devoted to a consideration of the ways in which the mind processes knowledge at various levels of consciousness, with distinctly different levels of volition and creativity. I will cite a number of scholarly studies and newspaper accounts to argue for a style of education that takes deep roots in order to thrust up a strong trunk and branches. The educated person does not confuse intellectual curiosity with a fondness for distraction. He does not know—and is not particularly interested in learning—what it is like to be a gnat.
Anne Carson Daly
VPAA and Dean of the Faculty
Belmont Abbey College
The twentieth century is often thought of as a period of technological triumph. Man went to the moon, established a space station, invented the atomic bomb, developed computers and robots, revolutionized medicine, hatched test tube babies, and transformed daily life through myriad technical inventions. Today, we delight in our smart phones, live in smart houses, and drive smart cars, yet often make alarmingly unintelligent choices. Although we are supposedly in touch with others all day long-surfing, googling, blogging, tweeting, texting, skyping, "friending," and youtube-ing away—many people feel less connected with others than ever. Some complain that technological triumphs have come at the price of the human, the personal, and the intimate. If you agree, please press "1." If you disagree, please press "2." If you would like to answer a survey about this issue, please press "3." Se habla espanol, por favor oprime numero quattro. Although many of us would rather speak to a "real" person, there is a thriving industry based on the fact that many people will pay substantial amounts to live virtual lives and even spend most of their leisure time socializing with other virtual characters.
Although technology can certainly bring us together, it can also estrange us from our each other and isolate or even alienate us from our humanity. Technology can provide a bridge, but it can also create a moat. Some restaurants, for example, are now experimenting with digital waiters and entertainment at meals. Digital waiters are supposed to speed up the process of ordering and paying. And who could oppose an innovation that eliminated intrusive servers booming cheerily, "Hi, I'm Dave, and I'll be your server tonight. The sushi rolls are really awesome." Digital entertainment supposedly provides an alternative for those who don't want to talk to their dining companions—if people shunned in favor of digital games can be called companions.
How can we use technology so that it enhances our humanity rather than de-humanizes us? Or, in the terms of this conference, how can technology be made to contribute to human flourishing? Since, in this paper I argue that we can build on man's nature as a tale teller to help make technology conducive to human flourishing, let me re-cast the question: how can we discover the way out of Mordor, the de-humanizing realm that J. R. R. Tolkien depicts in The Fellowship of the Ring. A corollary question is how do we get back to the Shire, which, for Tolkien, represents normalcy, decency, and human flourishing?
If we are to make technology less alien and less alienating, I argue that we must do four things. First, christen it—"naming" various aspects and products of technology. Second, link technology to our own nature-knitting the technological into our language, jokes, poetry, songs, and stories. Third, connect the technical to literature, romance, ritual, and liturgy. Fourth, find a way of redeeming evil uses of technology. In order to accomplish these goals, we must recognize and affirm man's nature as what the twentieth-century, Anglo-Welsh poet and artist David Jones calls homo faber, man the maker, who is, according to Tolkien, also a sub- and co-creator with God. For both Jones and Tolkien—and for many major twentieth-century literary figures—man's identity as a teller of tales suggests the way out of Mordor. As a teller of tales, man, who, in our world, is redeemed through what Christian theology calls felix culpa—or the happy fall—has the great privilege of mirroring such "happy turns," through what Tolkien calls a "eucatastrophe"—a terrible, essentially hopeless situation that is miraculously, joyously reversed. However, this reversal does not mean that real suffering does not occur or that the participants in the original catastrophe escape unscathed.
Tolkien's concept of eucatastrophe—which mirrors the doctrine of felix culpa—offers the possibility of transforming and redeeming whatever is made by man—even technology that seems inhuman or which is put to evil use. Significantly, it is in the telling and reading of the tale that we discover the way out of Mordor because that telling and reading connect us with our nature as co- and sub-creators. In that role, we implicitly are driven to imitate not only God's creativity, but also the divine impulse to develop a redemptive reality that is good beyond all hoping—a eucatastrophe that mirrors the happy fall through which man was himself redeemed.
Associate Professor of Communication
Seeking used to take time. It started with an author, title or subject. It passed through the card catalogue. A familiarity with the Dewey Decimal system might offer an inkling of which section of the library to peruse. Books retrieved from the stacks would have to be read or at least skimmed to find relevant information. An hour of research might yield a single footnote that would then restart the process.
Now Google does the searching for us, combing through countless webpages to deliver the most pertinent links. While a quick search might produce twenty or thirty pages of links, how deep do we dive into the results? After a few clicks we may stop searching. How many pages do we visit before we find the answers we seek? In the Internet era, seeking is fast; finding is easy.
There is almost no (visible) work involved. And our faith in Google's answers is nearly absolute. We rarely question their algorithmic authority. In fact, we imbue it with an almost mystical power. Type a few letters into its search engine and Google will fill in the blanks, anticipating our intentions. With the rise of personalized search, Google seems to do more than half the thinking for us.
In Web 3.0, search engines will do even more of our work. Scientific research is expanding at such a maddening pace that learned doctors couldn't possibly keep pace with current breakthroughs. So with just a few instructions, tomorrow's search engines will not only look for key words, but also read through the articles, making thoughtful determinations about which findings deserve our time and attention. Do we want to surrender that kind of authority? Or will complex thinking by our computers allow us to concentrate even more on the problems we desperately need to solve? A large part of the future seems to reside in Google's formulas.
With so much authority extended to algorithms, what role does the word of God play in the 21st century? To Israelites exiled in Babylon, God promised, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." This is not a quick search. Jesus promised his disciples, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Seeking has always been an essential part of the Christian journey. So how might the surrender of our search function alter our hearts and minds? If Google seems to tell what we want, will we build in enough perspective to even consider what we need?
Google rose to the top of the technological heap by tackling the challenge of our era. The first iteration of the World Wide Web seemed messy, disorganized, and chaotic. It was easy to get lost or not even know what we might be missing. How to navigate this jumble of pages, profiles, and links? In an age of too much information, Google solved a daunting problem (and was handsomely rewarded for it). Now we conform to their standards for Search Engine Optimization. As Google changes their algorithms, different patterns and priorities emerge. They can create safe searches, burying pornography. Websites aspire to gaming the system with keywords. Yet, Google is always a step ahead, figuring out smarter ways to filter information. And without many users realizing it, Google actually became the most efficient (and valuable) advertising delivery service.
Google now personalizes our search results, factoring in our location, our history, and our interests. Some consumers are pleased by the tradeoff, willing to reveal more about themselves in exchange for targeted products and ads. But how quickly might our online patterns form Google grooves? To what degree will personalized search limit our exposure to new ideas? Jesus began so many of his revolutionary teachings with the phrase, "You have heard it said, but I say…" There are no "buts" in the Google search process; just "You have heard it said." Will Web 3.0 reinforce our assumptions and fossilize our beliefs?
This paper will consider key questions of authority: who decides what matters? Will God still serve as a norming norm when our questions are answered by "Googling it?" How should Christians respond to this seeming shift in authority? Will the most gifted pastors of the tomorrow be able to sort through the most information? Will we develop the sage's ability to cut through the clutter with enduring wisdom?
Adjunct Faculty / Head of Upper Schools
Taylor University / Covenant Classical School
The purpose of this paper is to philosophically evaluate the nature of technology and the purpose of education. After outlining a perspective on each, I argue that given these understandings there are fundamental incongruities that exist between the use of the internet as a medium for education and the purpose of the liberal arts university.
The Nature of Technology
Technology is not an inert tool that we use but an active force that changes who we are and the way we think about and interact with the external world. It follows that any technological medium of communication is not a sterile channel along which information is neutrally conveyed. Rather by its very nature it changes our understanding of what it is that is being conveyed and of its purpose and value.
The Purpose of Education
The purpose of education is not merely to transfer to students a body of knowledge or equip them with a set of skills but rather to cultivate them into a certain type of human beings. Given this understanding of education, education's purpose cannot be viewed primarily in vocational terms. While the practical value of things learned is generally quite limited and changeable, the effects of learning on students themselves are less restricted and more lasting. Liberal education therefore concentrates on developing students as human beings instead of merely preparing them for a role they may later play.
Given that the purpose of a liberal education is to assist people in becoming more fully human, one's understanding of education is inextricably connected to one's understanding of what it means to be a human being. The anthropology assumed by a liberal education is a view of humans as holistic beings who not only think but also feel and desire. Thus the formation of a human being involves not only developing his thoughts but also his emotions and his loves. Over time, the practices and rituals in which we engage play a formative role in shaping our desires and dispositions toward the world. It follows that education must concern itself not only with the thoughts but with also with the practices, desires, and dispositions of its students.
Online Education and the Liberal Arts University
Having outlined a perspective on technology and the purpose of education, I argue that the technology involved in online education, as a communication medium, is incongruous with the purpose of the liberal arts university. I do this first by examining a theoretical incongruity between the conception of information inherent in the internet and in a liberal understanding of education, and then by analyzing a practical result of online education that undermines the realization of the liberal arts university's purpose.
The internet, because it translates everything it communicates into binary data, implicitly teaches that anything engaged by its medium is reducible to information. Given liberal education's robust anthropology, however, it follows that the human experience cannot be reduced to data and that the problems we face often cannot be solved by the mere acquisition of information.
A practical consequence of online education is that it eliminates the need for a geographically centered university community. Such a community, however, is indispensable for the fulfilling of the liberal arts university's purpose. A geographically centered university community provides robust contexts for holistic educational formation both inside and outside the classroom that cannot be replicated by an online portal. These extracurricular contexts are essential for the formation of the type of human being the university seeks to cultivate, and it is because of them that each university has its own unique culture that forms students into graduates of that institution. Connected to students only through the disembodied internet, the university is incapable of providing contexts for the embodied practices that are indispensable for students to be formed into the kind of human beings the university desires them to be.
The incongruities between online education and the purpose of the liberal arts university are therefore systemic and cannot be eradicated simply by further development of online platforms. Whether or not one agrees with this conclusion, it is at the very least imperative that we critically examine the ways in various technologies enhance or limit the realization of our educational goals. The internet certainly allows classes to be offered more quickly and efficiently. Moving quickly and efficiently in a given direction, however, is of little or no use unless one is moving in a direction that one wants to go.
Oklahoma Christian University
In a posthuman future, some contend that uncontrolled emotion, especially negative emotion, is maladaptive and should be eliminated, even struck from human memory. This proleptic desire for emotional control and memory suppression is perhaps not surprising following the close of the blood-drenched twentieth century. What if we advanced to the point where negative emotional control and even the act of remembering itself was really just a choice? The enzymatic and neurochemical pathways for negative emotion and memory suppression are being actively mapped. One might argue that foundationally the theoretical potential of such a future is already established given new understandings of the maintenance and inhibition of PKMζ, an important molecule known to facilitate long-term memory. Though on the surface this outcome might seem desirable—think of the incredible incidence rate of military veterans and PTSD and how their suffering might be addressed were incidences of trauma not 'allowed' to establish long-term—there are important reasons (justice issues, suppression of the 'Other,') to be wary of a posthuman future without a recollection of suffering, especially if it is achieved in pharmacologically suppressive ways.
Problematically though, Christian anamnesis would seem to necessitate two seemingly antithetical commitments: first, a commitment to the alleviation of suffering and to forgiveness, and second, the vocation of lament and mourning (not to mention Barth's call to the vocation of affliction), which are really calls to become an archive of memory where experience, meaning, and significance can be maintained. While the first commitment might prove to be superficially consistent with Transhumanist goals, it is the second commitment that proves to be irreconcilable with depictions of a posthuman future without negative emotion, memory, or suffering. Theologically, the rejection of such a future can be rooted in the meta-events of salvation-history: the God who suffers with us, Exodus, and Incarnation. But upon what foundation can the justification of human communities as archives be sustained? Helpfully, R. Clifton Spago's project on the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and his conception of Vigilant Memory—memory "that sets apart from the continuity of survival and history to serve as an ethical resistance inscribed within our knowledge in all its utilitarian or commemorative forms" can serve as such a foundation. I propose to explore the application of the concept of Vigilant Memory to the dialogue between Christian and Transhumanist understandings of a 'perfect' future, the benefit being that theologians will not neglect the call of and for justice.
Executive Director of Communications and Educational Technology
Dallas Theological Seminary
According to both the theologian philosopher St. Augustine and the sociologist theologian Jaques Ellul, the city is humankind's greatest creative triumph and most profound theological statement. The city, as the aggregate of human technology, culture, and government, can be viewed as both a reflection of the imago dei and a rebellion against our Creator.
In The City of God, St. Augustine sees "the city" as a metaphor through which we can understand the orderliness of our loves. "[The] two cities have been formed out of two loves: the earthly [city] by the love of the self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly [city] by the love of God, even to the contempt of self" (Book XIV). In books I-X, he offers a strong critique against the pagan City of Man with its reliance on human technology rather than our Creator, but in books XIX-XXII, Augustine lays out his vision of how the City of God in its heavenly wisdom and the City of Man in its incarnate earthiness can coexist and flourish.
Centuries later in The Meaning of the City, Ellul offers a theological account of cities that echoes Augustine's line of thought while taking it in a new direction. Calvin Troup and Clifford Christians highlight the significance of this connection by demonstrating Augustine was, "one of Ellul's few Christian intellectual guides."
Ellul portrays the city as both a "counter creation" (102) to what God has made and, paradoxically, the locus of his redemptive work. The Scriptures consistently cast cities— beginning with Cain's disobedience—as places of disobedience and sin, but Ellul points out that rather than destroy those cities or begin anew with an alternate city, God begins his redemptive program within the Pagan city of Jerusalem. Christ's redemptive work, too, was performed on the outskirts of a city on a terrible work of human technology for the benefit of the city and its citizens. Ellul also points out that the John's eschatological vision portrays an ultimate harmony between a descending heavenly city and an ascending earthly world.
Both Augustine and Ellul see "the city" as a set of overlapping spheres of physical creation and spiritual meaning which must be brought into harmony with one another. This paper will trace their basic arguments and point out areas of overlap, connection, and possible disagreement in hopes that a biblically oriented vision of the city might help us navigate the technological world of today.
Amber Hobbs Dyer
Literature & Philosophy Instructor
Dallas Baptist University and LeTourneau University
Although Dostoevsky alludes to Descartes at least four times in his fiction, with the exception of a short passage in James Scanlan's Dostoevsky the Thinker and Liza Knapp's longer article, "Annihilation of Inertia: Dostoevsky and Metaphysics," scholarship assessing Dostoevsky's contemplation of Cartesian ideology is limited. While it is tenuous how much Dostoevsky read Descartes as a primary source, it is certain that he was well-acquainted with his ideas through his intellectual friend, Nikolai Strakhov. In May of 1881, Strakhov wrote that he missed his friend, Dostoevsky, who as "his most ardent reader" had "understood every one of his articles." The most notable of these was his work, Basic Concepts of Psychology, wherein Strakhov synthesizes and champions Descartes' dualism, deriding spiritualists and demarcating spiritual and physical spheres with separate laws (Orwin 128). Knowing Dostoevsky to be in control of his art, we must take his allusions to Descartes seriously, including his most overt indictment of the French philosopher, when Ivan Karamozov's Devil, Dostoevsky's epitome of abstraction, quotes him directly-"Je pense, donc je suis" (609). He further jibes the French mathematician-philosopher when Raskolnikov contemplates the mathematics of murder-killing "one for the sake of a thousand" and when the Underground Man repeats the phrase: "two plus two equals four is the death of everything."
My paper will focus on Dostoevsky's critique of Descartes in a lesser known short-story, "The Dream of the Ridiculous Man"; in this work, Dostoevsky's protagonist is liberated from a Cartesian epistemology that has led him to suicidal ideation. Akin to agape in the Greek New Testament, the Ridiculous Man chooses to practice active love, compelling him to suffer for the beloved and to accept fully the limitations of human embodiment. St. Thomas Aquinas suggests that this kind of love was demonstrated most perfectly in the Incarnation through Christ's kenosis. As the Ridiculous Man moves from the contemplation of suicide to beatitude, he comes to deeply understand that though this world is not perfect, it can be loved. The key to his transformation is his ultimate rejection of Descartes' anthropocentric optimism.
What has this to do with technology and human flourishing? If we consider what Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain proposes to be the greatest threat to Western culture in his sixty volumes synthesizing the course of Western thought from the Ancients to the modern age, we must take into account the phenomenon that Maritain has neologized angelism. Maritain defines angelism as the Cartesian doctrine of attributing to the human ways of knowing that might only be attributed to angels, who exist without sensory experience and are autonomous from material things (Three Reformers 81). He observes that in the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas ascertains that angels lack bodies and are without sensory perception (1.1. 50-64, 107-14); Maritain deduces that in assigning the Medieval doctrine concerning angels to man, Descartes fallaciously attributes to human consciousness the ability to apprehend innate ideas without being engaged in time and motion. Dostoevsky's abstractionists might also be called angelists— figures who are dangerously optimistic in the potentials of the human mind without need for the earth beneath them. While Descartes asserts that the human may perfect nature through reason for the purposes of "the invention of an infinity of devices that would enable one to enjoy trouble-free the fruits of the earth" (Discourse on Method 28), Maritain quickly dismantles Descartes' overly ambitious program, writing "All is well for thought, and all will be better and better… but this optimism is, if I may say so, committed to suicide for it presupposes a rupture with being" (Dream of Descartes 171).
Whether Dostoevsky intended congruence between the Ridiculous Man's contemplations and the mental workings of Descartes is uncertain, but what is important is how the germ of the idea plays out; both skeptics have a vision in response to their existential doubt, but the outcome of each is disparate. Descartes' vision is for the perfection of nature through science. The Ridiculous Man's vision is for the perfection of love through suffering. I shall explore this distinction in my paper.
Associate Professor of Practical Theology
Azusa Pacific University
The new digital media accessible to contemporary adolescents and adults was in all likelihood unimaginable to most people living during the last decade of the twentieth century. While rudimentary devices existed in the form of cell phones and laptop computers, they were not ubiquitous because of their prohibitive cost and their perceived lack of usefulness for everyday life. In contrast, an increasing number of people today regularly connect with their peers and access an unfathomable quantity of information via the Internet anytime anywhere through their smart phones, laptops, and/or tablets. Contemporary Christians must address the relatively recent proliferation of this technology and our increasing incorporation of it into our lives in light of John Culkin's proclamation that the tools we create often unexpectedly recreate us. With this in mind, we must concede that new digital media is shaping all those who employ it in ways never before imagined. This paper specifically addresses how our incessant connection to peers and information through our mobile technologies contributes to a phenomenon that Linda Stone identifies as "continuous partial attention," which undoubtedly has profound implications for how contemporary Christians understand and experience faith development in light of the historical emphasis placed on spiritual practices such as prayer, meditation, silence, and solitude.
According to Stone and others, continuous partial attention results from our desire "…to connect and be connected. We want to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment." This desire results in people feeling compelled to be constantly tethered to their mobile devices in order to capitalize on any new possibilities that might present themselves. As a result, experts like Sherry Turkle from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and S. Craig Watkins from the University of Texas argue that it is becoming increasingly difficult for people to be fully present in any particular moment, conversation, or relationship because of the lure of potentially pressing communication that might divulge new opportunities received via one's new digital media device.
Beyond just exploring the reality of the difficulties people experience in being fully present in a particular circumstance, this paper will bring the findings of Stone, Turkle, Watkins, Bauerlein, Borgmann, and others from various disciplines into dialogue with theological reflection and Christian practice throughout the centuries in order to address specific challenges related to contemporary faith development and how it might be effectively facilitated in the context of the proliferation of new digital media. The fundamental challenge this paper will focus concerns how continuous partial attention might influence one's capacity to develop intimacy with God as well as the means by which this might occur. Christians have historically emphasized practices such as prayer, solitude, silence, and meditation as a means to develop one's attentiveness to God's voice and intimacy with him. However, people's disciplined participation in these traditional activities will in all likelihood become increasingly sporadic in a cultural context in which they are tethered slavishly to their technological devices. Since smart phones, laptops, and tablets are now an integral part of most peoples' lives; we must reflect critically on the manner in which these tools are now ultimately shaping our experience of God and creatively respond in a way that enhances that relationship.
Fuller Theological Seminary
This paper sets out to understand the cultural movement known as Transhumanism by viewing it through the lens of Christianity. In so doing, the paper also reveals ways in which technicism affects Christianity. While Transhumanism denies that it is a religion, my thesis is that Christian doctrines yield categories for both understanding and evaluating the views of the Transhumanist movement as they have set it forth, particularly in the Transhumanist FAQ. My goal is to call attention to ways in which various Transhuman beliefs and practices correspond to key Christian doctrines. This correspondence is unintentional and not necessarily the result of conscious ordering on the part of Transhumanists.
Due to innovations in nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science (NBIC) over the last three decades, the twenty-first century is poised to be the "Biotech Century." While the prospect of a biotech century has met with mixed reaction, groups such as Transhumanists have welcomed it enthusiastically. They see biotechnologies as the source of tools for solving many, if not most, of the problems intrinsic to human existence. These solutions, however, will not result from minor tweaks to humanity. Transhumanists hope to modify themselves so radically that they become posthuman. We are on the cusp of something big—nothing short of the ability to modify ourselves radically, the ability to alter human nature fundamentally.
Transhumanism is well on its way to becoming a serious academic discipline. Not only is there a peer-reviewed, transhumanist journal, the Journal of Evolution and Technology, but there in now a Singularity University. The transhumanist quest for immortality is going mainstream. In A Matrix of Meanings, Detweiler and Taylor assert that the posthuman "potential to play God, to pursue immortality, pushes these issues beyond the ethical into the theological." It is therefore to the theological we will turn.
The paper will examine the cultural situation in which Transhumanism has emerged, Transhumanism itself, and will offer thoughts on responding to the Transhumanist movement. In addition, the paper will trace connections between Christianity, gnosticism, and transhumanism; and will conclude with an evaluation of transhumanism through a Christian theological lens. This will reveal intersections and parallels between Christianity and Transhumanism that present opportunities for dialogue and engagement.
Director of the Verax Institute
Cardiology is a strong adopter of implants, some dumb like stents, some "intelligent" like implanable defibrillators, some powerful like artificial hearts. However, cardiologists have used implants exclusively for repair of failing organs. The successes of cardiovascular device implantation and the fast advances of nanotechnology have given rise to a new class of potential device users: the transhumanist philosopher. Transhumanist philosophy promotes the idea of human enhancement by technological means. In its extremes, futuristic concepts like intelligence enhancement (up to 'superintelligence') using techniques like genetic engineering, psychopharmacology, antiaging therapies, neural interfaces, wearable/implantable computers, long-lasting internal organ replacement, mental uploading and so forth are propagated from prominent positions like the US Nanotechnology Initiative and the Oxford University philosophy department, while those labeled "bioconservatives" by the transhumanists fear dehumanization by such devices. If such devices, several of which already exist in some prototype form, are ever to be implanted, the profession of physicians will play a prominent role (if we miss the discussion, at least for the final delivery of the devices).
In view of rapid technologic pace in computer science and in nanotechnology, and the already heated debate in the comparatively minor field of gene technology, we offer a step back to have a very different look at the debate from an interdisciplinary standpoint: We find roots of the transhumanist endeavors in the history of philosophy already at the time of the pre-socratic atomists, then in the example of enthusiastic eras in religion, the 18th century materialistic worldview, the 19th century concepts of ongoing human evolution, the 20th century belief in almighty science and the 21th century nanotechnology development. This line of thought sheds light on the central question that seems as important for transhumanistic futurism as it is for gene technology and for daily patient care: what is the nature of man?
Executive in Residence
Seattle Pacific University
The breakneck pace of change coming from the digital revolution is incompatible with the slower pace of change for our institutions and for us as people.
One implication of this for our institutions is the dramatic fracture in the foundation of many sectors, with more to come. Business models have been destroyed by technology. Businesses that have failed to change their strategies to respond to the new technology have fallen behind or vanished, sometimes very quickly. Borders, Blockbuster, and Kodak represent a small sample. Other businesses have too quickly adopted new technology, not fully understanding how it best applies. Many of the "dot com" failures fall in this category.
Institutions other than business, such as health care, education, law, government, and the church are subject to these same forces. Those with responsibility for leading any of these institutions in the 21st century must face the challenge of effectively understanding the connection between the technology and their institutions.
A second implication for our institutions is that the rapid pace of change from technology has taken us to new situations where we have little shared understanding of right and wrong. Some have wandered into deep ethical problems through ignorance of the new world. Some have seen this new world as an opportunity to exploit a new situation that had not yet been well understood, and where the law was silent. Generally, ethical failure has come from a combination of ignorance and exploitation. Enron, Washington Mutual Bank, and British Petroleum represent a small sample of businesses that fell dramatically this way.
The impact of these changes on individuals was clearly illustrated at a technology conference on the Microsoft campus which I attended last year. One of the speakers, Geoffrey Moore, painted a picture for the audience of the promise of technology over the coming years. It was an amazing picture of seamless worldwide connectivity with mobility and communications support.
In response to his presentation, a Google executive said,
"You have described my world. Last week I was in a meeting with my iPad open to a window in China and a window in Europe. All of my staff was sitting there with their mobile devices open. Some were instant messaging with those in other parts of the world. Our pace was frantic and difficult. We get a lot done. But when I get home, I can't even talk with my wife or watch television. I am constantly wired."
Efficiency is not the only measure of the use of technology in an institution. Considering the environment for people in the digital age is no less important than the safety environment for mine workers in the past century.
There is yet another area to consider. Looking forward, we can expect the change from digital technology to continue at its same pace for the next decade at least. This means that it is not enough to develop strategies for dealing with technology as it exists today, or as it is applied today in our institutions. Continued technology development at the foundational level will lead to new products coming from this technology, which will lead to new challenges for both institutions and individuals. Thus we will not be able to come to a final conclusion to any of these questions based on today's snapshot of technology. New situations, new challenges, new opportunities, and new spaces for exploitation and ignorance will continue to develop, and we will be called on to deal with them appropriately.
Some put digital technology in a broader technology category, along with the development of complex nuclear or chemical weapons, and call for a halt to technological development. Some call for an individual retreat in response to the changes. Some regard the development as inevitable that will ultimately crush us all, taking a fatalistic view of the future. I argue that none of these responses is adequate or finally appropriate. We need to engage in the understanding of the development of this technology, and in the understanding of how these developments link to our institutions and to us as people. We need to provide leadership to our institutions in how to go forward in this rapidly changing world. As people of faith, we need to see this challenge as completely integrated with our response to God's call on our lives, and not separate from other aspects of worship and faith.
Founder and President
Each child has a story. Sadly, for millions of children around the world that story includes a severe lack of loving care and protection. Reasons vary and existing data is scarce and unreliable, but these children may be orphaned (~153 million), living in institutions (~8 million), trafficked (~2 million), unaccompanied minor refugees (~1 million), lack birth registration (~246 million), abused/exploited (no real estimate) or living on the streets (no real estimate). The key to ensuring that each of these vulnerable children is safe and cared for is the secure recording of their story, the critical identity and family history information required to find an appropriate solution for each of them. Children separated from their family, can be invisible. There currently is no easy way to collect and guard basic information about each one's identity, history or status and a lack of such data is the primary hindrance to finding timely solutions in the best interest of each child.
Each Inc., a new social enterprise, is addressing this global challenge by introducing web and mobile based technology that facilitates secure recording and sharing of vital information by individuals and organizations who care for vulnerable children, across and within national borders. We are drawing from technology innovations in other sectors such as healthcare, micro-enterprise and crisis mapping to address these critical child protection challenges. We also are looking beyond traditional charitable approaches and applying new business and social enterprise models to provide technology and build capacity in this sector.
Stories have value for the children themselves and the people seeking to assist them. The data those stories contain also has value. We believe that over the long-term, practitioners who use our system to securely record and protect each child's identity and history also will be creating valuable aggregate data that can be de-linked from individual children and used to improve policies and programs to help all children. Traffickers and exploiters of children are using technology to stay connected globally and manage their criminal activity. Each Inc. is seeking to use technology to connect all those working to protect children in order to form a similarly linked international network and create a global safety net for children.
Visiting Associate Professor
In this paper, I will deal with a problem we encounter in the area of science and technology. The key question can be established as: What, then, is the relation between faith and science in a technological culture? More adequately stated, what is the role of a Christian faith, as a faith operative also in science, in the light of motives or forces that stimulate the development of culture?
In order to address the question of integration in a "technicistic society", we need to establish a broader viewpoint from which to work. The engineer and philosopher, Hendrik Van Riessen, in his great work entitled The Society of the Future, established that: "Modern science, technique, modern methods of organization, and spiritual attitudes contain tendencies of decisive significance for the future". Recently, the Dutch engineer and philosopher Egbert Schuurman concurred: "given the many problems and threats inherent in our technological culture, there is a need for cultural reorientation which will affect our view of science and technology". A cultural reorientation is needed then, because our technological culture has been secularized, and Dr. Schuurman identifies that the prevalent spirit in our culture is "technicist"; in other words, it is the "spirit of technology" that pervades the whole of culture as "the pretension of humans, as self-declared lords and masters using the scientific-technical method of control, to bend all of reality to their will in order to solve all problems … and to guarantee increasing material prosperity and progress". However, the prevalent scientific technical picture must give way, in our own thinking—as stewards of God's creation—to a biblical picture of the earth as a garden to be developed or cultivated; that it may bloom to God's greater glory. The image of a garden and its cultural development in the direction of a garden-city, where the human flourishing really takes place, give us a particular perspective for the future. That garden-city is the place where technology and nature encounter themselves in harmony, where there is no such thing as environmental pollution, and where a balanced cultural development is performed. This is the culture perspective according to the coming kingdom of God.
At the same time, how can we as Christian scholars and educational institutions better prepare students for kingdom service —to make the changes our culture needs to be reoriented, while avoiding the present alienation of technology and science?
We need first to notice that the students are so involved today in the highly compulsive world of information technology that they do not have time to reflect on the two (for them, seemingly contradictory) experiences of faith and science. This superficiality is the consequence of the fact that most universities, and especially those founded and controlled by the state, leave students with little awareness of the struggles associated with the sinful human nature. Thus, a first step is to stimulate our universities, both public and private, to analyze their philosophical roots and, according to Professor Schuurman's book entitled Faith and Hope in Technology, to press home a call to a philosophical approach that clearly points the way to openness in true freedom of thinking, based on an openly expressed faith. At the same time, Professor Schuurman encourages students to investigate and challenge the "technicist viewpoint" as they search for meaning and purpose in their studies and careers.
Here we must insist that once the students have acquired an integral view of created reality, through the integral word of God in their hearts, they are, for the first time, liberated to consider their studies in an entirely new light. If they are brought to this point, they will be compelled to reflect from a Christian perspective, and integrate, to the degree their perspective may comprehensively capture God's word, the place of faith within their life-career. In order to succeed in these endeavors, it is obvious then, that a broad philosophical framework is needed.
Paul C. Grabow
Professor of Computer Science
Technology can be difficult to understand. The word itself creates confusion because it encompasses many concepts: simple tools to complex systems; physical machines to organizational methods; and vast networks to the way we organize time. So, people often disagree due to their very different viewpoints. Also, since almost everyone is familiar with "technology", it is difficult to be objective—especially when we "know it so well."
The most common view of technology, arguably, is instrumentalism (i.e., a neutral tool that is humanly controllable). In this view, any moral evaluation does not hold the technology itself accountable, the worth of technology is purely utilitarian, and it ignores a wide swath of technology that is non-neutral and/or not controllable.
Martin Heidegger, Jacques Ellul, and George Grant were not instrumentalists. Rather, they viewed technology as a collective social reality. So, that is the view taken here because flourishing has both individual and societal elements that go well beyond the notion of instrumental worth.
Heidegger saw technology as ontological, e.g., "that calculative thinking may someday come to be accepted and practiced as the only way of thinking". Ellul claimed that "… an autonomous technology is in the process of taking over the traditional values of every society without exception". And Grant wrote that "… technical reason has become so universal that it has closed down on openness and awe, questioning and listening". We assume their analysis methods but not necessarily their conclusions.
Heidegger, Ellul, and Grant argue that the use of technology significantly shapes society. Technological goals, structure, values, and deficiencies become those of society. What technology can/cannot know becomes what society can/cannot know. And what technology considers moral becomes society's definition.
Based on this perspective we claim that technology:
When considering technology and flourishing we must understand our limitations with respect to both concepts. We are not objective bystanders with respect to technology; our inherent sinfulness makes it difficult to even define flourishing, much less have the will to pursue it; and technology affects our definition of flourishing (because technology affects our being and flourishing is part of being).
Human flourishing involves both personal and societal
Also, from a Christian perspective the paper assumes that:
Technology can provide a form of flourishing, but one that is limited to the physical. Some physical elements are necessary, such as space to work and the necessary tools; but technology cannot provide the human motivation or the inspiration. Technology can reflect truth, beauty, and goodness, but cannot create the reality. Also, technology too easily allows situations that run counter to flourishing because technology's goals are not the goals of flourishing and technology has, to some extent, co-opted the notion of flourishing. Finally, technology allows us to transcend limitations but it, by itself, does not provide redemption or transcendent reality.
Mark A. Gring
Texas Tech University
All technology tends to be introduced to culture as the utopian ideal that will bring about increased knowledge, wealth, efficiency, entertainment, or pleasure. People of faith, like most nonbelievers, tend to either respond negatively to the technology or to embrace it with fervor and, often, without critique. Christian groups who adhere to H. Richard Niebuhr's (1951) "Christ against culture" perspective on Christianity tend to reinforce a negative, separatist attitude about technology, culture, and faith. On the other hand, a non-critical embrace of technology sees culture, technology, and Christianity in a syncretistic union that promotes equivalence between the practice of faith, the understanding of faith, and engagement with culture. Neither of these extremes is good for individuals and their "consumptions" or for the true engagement of faith with the culture. What model or approach can be used to critique the interaction between faith, culture, and technology? Various authors (Ellul, Neibuhr, Postman, Schaeffer, et al) have presented perspectives that can be examined and implemented based on their significant specific strengths. I propose a redemptive-covenantal model, drawing from some of these previous authors, that offers a critical framework to evaluate technology and culture more than it offers a set of specific contentions about what is to be evaluated as good or as evil.
My argument is that people of faith non-critically consume culture and technology at a greater rate today than we have in the past because we have incomplete models for evaluating what we consume. As such, we are not, by training or by temperament, able to distinguish ourselves apart from our culture/technology or able to critique ourselves in relationship to the culture and technology. Niebuhr's "Christ against culture" framework ultimately eschews the opportunity to be agents of transformation and his "Christ as transformer of culture" presents an incomplete view of how this transformation is to be understood or how it will take place. This paper presents an overview of H. Richard Neibuhr's Christ and Culture compares and contrasts it with D. A. Carson's Christ and Culture Revisited and then presents a model for a transformative view of culture and technology. The transformative model is based on the framework of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration and encourages a broad set of questions to be used as a basis to critique the culture and technology we consume each day.
Mark Regan Hagerott
CAPT USN PhD
U.S. Naval Academy
The world is on the cusp of a profound event in history: the creation of the lethal, autonomous robot.
Such time as this requires clear thinking, for the emergence of the technical possibility of Lethal Autonomous Robots (LAR) creates a paradox that free and democratic nations cannot escape. On the one hand, potentially repressive governments will most likely develop the lethal autonomous robot, that if free and democratic nations have not done likewise, the resulting capability gap put us at a military disadvantage and security at risk. On the other hand, if advanced democratic nations develop and then allow the export of certain types of lethal autonomous robots to repressive regimes, some of these recipient countries can use LAR against their civilian population, the result being human rights violations on an historic scale, an abuse made possible by advanced nations. Policy makers and military officers must confront this paradox and seek a way forward.
As policy makers and military officers approach the paradox of LAR, historical context and a new framework for thinking are essential. It will be argued that the emergence of LAR is part the larger historical evolution of technology. Over the past several thousand years the development of technology has created three realms of warfare: the Social-Human, the Integrated Realm of man-machine, and the Machine Realm .
As government, military, and the wider polity come to understand that historical processes have created three realms of conflict, and that all military development and employment decisions can be situated in one or more of the three realms, than greater resolution of the paradox of LAR becomes possible. Placed in the framework of the three Realms, it is possible to navigate the paradox, to see how it can be urgent that democratic nations develop LAR designed for machine to machine combat in the Machine Realm (e.g., in space, beneath the sea), but at the same time, proceed with great caution (if not the total prohibition of) the development of LAR designed to operate against human populations in the Social-Human Realm of conflict.
J. Craig Hanks
Texas State University, Philosophy
Texas State University, Political Science
Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) the French sociologist, theologian, and philosopher, once wrote, "I am by no means free to watch my television set or not to watch it… in reality, I am not independent of my television set." As we move into the 2nd decade of the 21st century, we have an ever-increasing range of communications technologies (Smart Phones, Twitter, Facebook, iPads, Tivo, and so on), and we might now ask whether this situation is one in which we are more free than Ellul found himself with respect to television. Those we can call technological optimists, often engineers and others who work with (or profit from) new technologies, argue that technological advance is liberating. Ellul's challenge is for us to consider whether increased access or ease is necessarily an advance.
Ellul's work is one of the most important examples of a humanist philosophy of technology, and offers us one of the most forceful and compelling accounts of the possible autonomy of technology, the possibility that technology and technological development operate according to technological values, and not according to some other set of human values. Ellul argues that to understand the nature of technology and technological society, one must not be sidetracked by empirical investigations of the surface of the phenomena, but must develop an account of technology itself, as a whole. This position is an example of the transcendental approach to philosophy of technology. He then proceeds to argue that technology, what he calls "technique," has become autonomous of other social forces and values, and further that technology has become the determining force, or prime mover, of contemporary society. Ellul defines "technique" as the "totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency." Thus, for Ellul, technology is not only, or even most importantly, artifacts, but a totalizing system of methods that envelops all of human existence. He argues that, "Modern technology has become a total phenomenon for civilization, the defining force of a new social order in which efficiency is no longer an option but a necessity imposed on all human activity." As such, technique increasingly erases mystery as a dimension of human experience, and shapes everything—politics, economics, personal relationships, education, love, sex, religion—as processes aimed at the efficient realization of clearly identifiable, and ideally quantifiable, goals. This erasure of mystery and humanness is, for Ellul, the problem posed by modern technology.
Ellul argues that all too often attention is paid to what he calls "False Problems" of technology, such as pollution or changing values or challenges to existing forms of artistic production. For each of these, technology both presents a problem and a solution, in an on-going dialectic. Thus, photography presents a challenge to painting, and not only opens new forms of creativity in its own right, but plays a role in transforming painting. Or, technologies of smoke-stack-scrubbing and emissions trading stand as a response to acid rain caused by power plant emissions. He argues that we cannot even object to a technological order because it threatens values. This is so because any system will contain, operate according to, some values or other, and those of a technological system may well be different from earlier eras. The pursuit of technology is, then, for Ellul a great gamble that human life will be better, more flourishing, under a technological order. We will explore this gamble in light of the new communications technologies.
Susan Elizabeth Hanssen
Associate Professor of History
University of Dallas
Henry Adams has frequently been portrayed as a proponent of "scientific history." Relying on his two lectures to American historians as one of the first presidents of the American Historical Association and one of the first professors of graduate history seminars, he is portrayed as one of the founders of an American Civilization narrative in which the rise of science and technology is the core of American identity. In his most famous essay "The Dynamo and the Virgin," a chapter from his classic The Education of Henry Adams, he contrasts Old World, medieval religious liberal arts and the culture it supported with the New World, modern technocratic society with its cult of progress. While of course attention has been paid to Adams's implicit critique of America's faith in technology as a means of ensuring human flourishing, fundamentally Adams has been portrayed as a metaphysical skeptic (the American Nietzsche) or a modern agnostic, equally critical of the truth claims of technological and philosophical sciences. This paper aims to show that Adams's critique of the progressive American Civilization narrative organized around faith in technological ordering of human society has more solid metaphysical roots. He himself did not say "Chaos was the law of nature, order was the dream of man." It was precisely the allegiance to this modern epistemological skepticism that he challenged with his most important work: the chapter on Thomas Aquinas in Mont-St-Michel and Chartres.
SUNY Stony Brook
Theological critics of technology often rely upon an implicit technological essentialism. This essentialism is in turn typically aligned with some form of technological determinism. If technology has an essence, then that essence demands a determinate manner of usage. By contrast, technological instrumentalists argue that the use of technology is wholly determined by its users. For the essentialist, technology may well have an inherent moral character while for the instrumentalist technology is morally neutral. Thus, it is often this latent essentialism, more so than the distinctly theological resources brought to bear, that accounts for negative assessments of technology within theological critiques.
Essentialism, however, overlooks the nuances and particularity of any given technology. New approaches to the philosophy of technology such as the Post-Phenomenology of Don Ihde make it clear that neither essentialism nor instrumentalism is adequate for a complete account of individual technologies—and by extension, of technology in general. Insofar as theological critics rely upon technological essentialism, the shortcomings identified by Post-Phenomenology pose serious problems for theological critiques. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of nuclear technology. Nuclear weapons are often held by theological critics to be a paradigm case of technology's alignment with worldly power. Nuclear weapons make brutally clear the way in which worldly power seizes upon nature and usurps the mysteries of creation for human ends. Yet nuclear weapons are as much a flexible, multivariant tool suited to many uses as they are an intractable force which holds sway over global politics. Neither essentialism nor instrumentalism is flexible enough to account for the simultaneous variability and pervasiveness of nuclear technology. A (post-) phenomenology of technology capable of finer-grained distinctions is required.
Nevertheless, I argue in this paper that even within the confines of a post-phenomenological approach, there lies the possibility of a "soft" technological determinism grounded not in a technological essence but in the distinctive forms of intentionality that certain technologies exhibit. Drawing upon the work of Peter-Paul Verbeek and Bruno Latour, I identify an "absent" intentionality that technologically encodes the intentionality of a non-present user and a "machinic" intentionality that arises from the particular configuration of a technology, distinct from the intentionality of its designers. The two can combine to perpetuate technological configurations contrary to the intentions of designers and users.
I take a case-study approach to show that absent and machinic intentionality are readily apparent in nuclear weapons technology. I focus on the phenomenon most commonly attributed to the "essence" of nuclear weapons by technological essentialists: the doctrine of mutually-assured destruction (MAD). I find that this phenomenon is not grounded in the essence of nuclear weapons themselves. However, nuclear weapons do enjoin us to the logic of MAD in a softly deterministic manner. The command, control, and communications (C3) systems designed to link nuclear weapons to political authorities display absent and machinic intentionality to an extraordinary degree. The logic of MAD arises from a historically-specific configuration of nuclear weapons. This logic then lends itself to perpetuation through the co-configuration of other technologies-namely the C3 systems that govern their use. This perpetuation culminates in the development during the Cold War of automated "second-strike" systems intended to ensure massive retaliation in the event of nuclear attack. I show that these second-strike systems, designed specifically to bear the intentionality of absent users, display in turn a machinic intentionality that runs contrary to the will of their users. Designed to alleviate the logic of MAD, these systems ironically serve to further entrench it.
I draw three conclusions from this case-study. 1) In the strongest cases such as those of second-strike C3 systems, soft determinism arises from the interaction of absent and machinic intentionality. 2) Despite renewed attempts at nuclear disarmament, the soft determinism exhibited by nuclear technology promises to frustrate these efforts for the foreseeable future. 3) Soft determinism offers a means for theological critics of technology to avoid the shortcomings of essentialism.
Timothy Scott Heckenlively
Senior Lecturer in Classics
In this paper, I will examine the Greek poetic trope of a "beautiful evil" as a means of exploring the problematic contradictions that technological discovery evokes. This attitude has important reflexes in early Patristic anthropology and these suggest an ancient alternative to modern proposals of a dichotomy between faith and technology.
In Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, the title character boasts that he gave mind to men and that every form of human art (techne) is his divine gift (443-4, 506). Moreover, he does so within a narrative of progressive evolution. Similar sentiments appear a few decades later in the second choral ode of Sophocles' Antigone: "Wonders are many, but there is no wonder greater than man" (334). An anthropocentric catalog of technological achievement follows. Such sentiments are catnip to our modern ears, conditioned as they are by themes of social evolution and rapid technological progress. E.R. Dodds has shown, however, that such themes are far from normative in ancient Greek though. They appear in selected philosophers and medical writers and only find broad acceptance at Athens in the heady days between her the defeats of Persia in 490 and 480 BC and the collapse of her own imperial ambitions in the Peloponnesian War.
In general, the ancient view of technology and progress is one of deep suspicion, or at least an awareness that such invention risks violation of sacred boundaries. Catullus 64 treats the voyage of the first ship, the Argo, as an act of primal arrogance. Felling trees to build ships implies destruction of haunts sacred to Artemis and other nature goddesses; moreover, tree nymphs are also deities. Horace (1.3) reminds Virgil that men have no place at sea by nature. Similarly, Aeschylus portrayed the Persian defeat as divine retribution for Xerxes daring to bridge the Hellespont and walk on water. In Eclogue 4 (31-36), Virgil includes walling of cities and agriculture as equally difficult. Here we must remember that nature is divine and alive with divinities. Agriculture feeds multitudes and enables civilization, but it is also, viewed darkly, a systematic and annualized rape of the Great Mother goddess herself. Walls protect, but only using our cleverness to place barriers where the gods never intended them, to circumvent fate or divine will.
The roots of such thought are evident at the very foundations of Greek poetics. In Hesiod, Prometheus' "gift" of technology incites Zeus to punish men by sending women, and thereby affliction, into their lives. Misogyny aside, his description of her is noteworthy. She is a kalon kakon (a beautiful and good evil). In two words, the poet encapsulates the ancient concept of progress.
This complex vision of human progress remained fundamental to early Patristic anthropology. The most patent expressions are in St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nyssa. The former treats the tree of knowledge as a gift from God whereby we might manifest voluntary self-restraint (Hom. 9.9). The latter emphasizes the blended knowledge present in the tree's fruit (De hominis opificio 20), with potential for good or ill depending on how and when it is partaken. This line of thought reaches its fullest expression in St. Gregory Nazianzus (Orat. 38.12 cf. 2.25). The fruit per se is not evil (for God did not create evil), but Adam takes it contrary to command and before he is sufficiently mature for the fruit, which Gregory associates with contemplation. He drew on an old tradition. St. Athanasius (De Incarnatione, 3-4) associates the image of God with our capacity for logos (speech, reason, creative thought). For him, Adam's failure to keep his nous (mind, heart) in contemplation of God lies at the heart of the fall. A similar anthropology appears in Irenaeus, Theopholis of Antioch, and the early Alexandrians.
To borrow an oft quoted phrase of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, man, anthropos, is called to be a "eucharistic, doxological being". It is a vision of patristic contemplation rooted in an ancient and pre-Christian recognition that most goods are potential evils. If we are to respond to scientific discovery and the technical arts that follow in its wake, Christians must reject the extremes of both the progressive and the luddite, and accept that the good or ill will arise from our ability to address each opportunity in spiritual maturity and choose that which will draw ourselves, each other, and all our lives unto Christ our God.
Program Chair and Professor, M. A. in Higher Education & Student Development
Bethel University (MN)
Last year, the authors of this proposal presented a paper critiquing the rise of "mediated" educational delivery models in all sectors of higher education and questioning the capacity of such models to promote wisdom development. Since last October, mediated delivery models have lost little ground. If anything, they have gained momentum and a certain measure of "street credibility" through the increasing implementation and popular appeal of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), the renowned institutions (Stanford, the University of Virginia) embracing them with greater vigor, and for-profit firms like Coursera. Because the issue is as salient as it was one year ago, this paper will expand on that initial research by honing in on one central component of traditional education: modeling. The paper will argue that modeling lies at the core of true, transformative education but cannot be replicated in any meaningful manner via mediated models.
Scott Seider and Howard Gardner (2009) have characterized this generation of young people as "fragmented." By this they mean that their sources of knowledge are diverse, disconnected, and fluid. They suggest that "contemporary young adults 'read' the world around them through a…fragmented lens." Continuing, they assert that these conditions "make it harder for contemporary young adults to form a coherent framework or worldview" (p. 2).
If these observations are correct, the presence of learned, wise adult mentors is particularly critical to guide healthy social, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual development and especially to the integration of all these components. A variety of scholars have demonstrated how the presence of mentors and models in the lives of traditional college-age students impacts their growth, well-being, faith-development, and the ultimate resilience of that faith (Daloz Parks, 2003; Garber, 1996; Fowler, 1981). Conclusions such as these beg the question: can the mentoring and modeling that these times demand exist in any meaningful way in online education?
As a guiding framework, this paper will build upon the insights of Bishop Will Willimon. In an essay concerning moral education, Willimon (1997) argued that four components are necessary for real education to take place: time, place, observation, and conversation. This paper will contend that irrespective of the quality of their content or the ingenuity of their construction, mediated delivery models inherently lack those four components. The paper will explore each of the four components in detail.
The brief description above makes clear how this paper intends to address the symposium topic of "technology and the aims of education." In a peripheral sense, the paper also will examine issues of "the church and faith in the information age" and "critics of the technological age." Education and pedagogy will be the primary topics of the paper and the implications should come to bear on all educators, whether secular or faith-based. At the same time, the writers' Christian identity and theological convictions play key roles in informing their opinions on the topic, so the paper will pay specific attention to the manner in which mediated models seem incongruent with certain Christian convictions. Similarly, critics of the technological age will not be a direct focus of the paper, but the writers will apply the insights and cautions of such critics to the issue at hand.
Some other thinkers and researchers referenced will include Berry (2001), Bonhoeffer (1939), Crouch (2008), Haggans (2012), Hauerwas (2007), House (2011), Hunter (2010), Lang (2012), MacIntyre (1988), McEntyre (2009), Noll (2011), Seider & Gardner (2009),C. Smith (2009), and J. K. A. Smith (2009).
Assistant Professor of Computing Science
The King's University College
Software systems are rapidly becoming ubiquitous parts of our personal lives (e.g., smart phones, cars, appliances) as well as essential components to critical infrastructure (e.g., power grids, air traffic control, national security). The demand for software systems is increasing in number, complexity, and size as the culture becomes more accustomed to their pervasiveness and benefits. This increase in demand requires additional computer scientists, information technologists, and software developers.
Often the perception of software systems is that only the end product has value and is of concern. The process to develop the software is ultimately unimportant and the implementation artifacts (e.g., software code) only hold value inasmuch as they contribute to the end product. Producing software is disassociated from aesthetics. This cultural perception which is influenced by the modernist mindset is present at academic institutions as well as in industry.
Christian thinking presents a different perspective on work in general and on the work of software development in particular. When God created human beings He included work as a part of His good creation. Humans were to tend the Garden of Eden. Only after the cosmic event of mankind's Fall did work become perverted and a struggle. Work is not inherently a curse but rather a good gift from God affected by the Fall. As Dorothy Sayers states, "… work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God." The academic discipline of computer science is not generally informed by this Christian perspective of work.
Computer science can be broadly split into theoretical and applied categories. Theoretical computer science investigates the limitations of computation (e.g., discovering uncomputable problems, analyzing general theoretical timeliness of software). Applied computer science investigates how to create computational artifacts (e.g., software, hardware) to solve a wide range of challenges in various domains (e.g., biology, music, information management). Humans are creative creatures reflecting God's creativity. Applied computer science in general and software engineering in particular inherently reflect this creativity.
The challenge arises of integrating the work of developing software systems with human flourishing and the redemption of work. Several questions arise when addressing human flourishing and the technology of software engineering. Some important areas to consider are how humans can flourish in the development of software and how other disciplines can inform software development regarding human flourishing.
In 1994, Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software was published to disseminate good software design practices. The book describes several design patterns that can be used to resolve requirements within a particular context. The book describes tradecraft for software development and documents the wisdom of experts to be leveraged by the broader software development community. The software design pattern concept was inspired by the writings of Christopher Alexander and his book A Timeless Way of Building where he describes patterns used in architecture. When used with discernment, design patterns can create elegant software designs and implementations that inherently have a quality of beauty. As one of the authors of the /Design Patterns/ book stated, "Erich Gamma shared his joy in the order and beauty of software design as coauthor of the classic Design Patterns."
An important area to consider regarding beauty and software development is the interaction of discipline and creativity. Some naïve software developers believe discipline and consistency in software development stifles creativity. However, the arts (e.g., dancing, painting) show that consistency and discipline actually stimulate and provide channels for creativity. A script for an actor does not limit the actor's creativity but provides a framework within which the actor can exercise creativity. This same argument is true for consistent formatting and documentation of software systems. Creativity is needed in addressing requirements and solving problems. Consistent formatting and discipline in software development provide the creative framework for solving problems.
Beauty in software development is evident in many ways (e.g., complex functionality encapsulated behind a simple and elegant interface). Beauty is found in software systems that are comprehensible at the appropriate level of scope and context. The order and symmetry of a well-designed software system is beautiful. Computer science students need to be trained to recognize and create this beauty. Training in beauty argues for an interdisciplinary liberal arts education that includes instruction in the fine arts and humanities.
David Frank Horkott
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Palm Beach Atlantic University
Liberal democracy is based on a fundamental notion of human nature. That is to say that citizens living in a democracy share reciprocal political rights because they understand themselves to be equally human. However, the shared sense of humanity that is so vital for the long term survival of liberal democracy is severely weakened by certain advances in the biological sciences. For example, should genetic engineering be applied to our own species it would inevitably challenge our understanding of what it means to be human. Indeed, the belief that members of our species are equal by nature would weaken. The political dangers associated with biotechnology were treated by Francis Fukuyama ten years ago in Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. He argued for government regulation of human genetic manipulation in order to avoid such a serious political problem. This presentation will respond to Fukuyama's account by exploring the scenario he wished to avoid. Given a posthuman future in which genetically altered humans live, what can be done, if anything, to effectively preserve liberal democracy?
Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering & Alcator Project Coprincipal of the Plasma Science and Fusion Center
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Are science and technology value-neutral custodians of all 'real' or useful' knowledge? This presumption suffered withering criticism in the closing decades of the twentieth century. An uneasy truce has arisen in those culture wars. Yet there is no shortage of intellectuals who speak as if the expansion of scientific knowledge has rendered other epistemological approaches irrelevant. Even people whose religious commitments or humanist world-views lead them to reject this scientism often find the fascination and virtuosity of technology almost irresistible. This talk will examine the intellectual relationship between scientism and technopoly. It will seek to articulate a viewpoint in which both scientific and non-scientific knowledge take a rightful place, and both technological innovation and cultural faithfulness are valued as resources for human flourishing.
Professor of Computer Science
Rather than present a critique of technology, I instead want to critique humans themselves. Certainly, what humans have done technologically has often been negative. But it is always the human doing that should be the focus of critique. Many have claimed that technologies carry embedded values. Backing away from but without repudiating this claim, others have argued that technologies cannot rightly be considered without including the social systems in which they exist. Although this approach has much to offer, I will argue that we should completely reject the view of technology as having embedded values. Instead, we should focus our critical attention on the humans who make and use technologies. That is, I claim technologies are indeed value-neutral and I conclude that we are the only value-holding agents in a system where technologies either advance or undermine human values. It is in this respect that technology impacts human flourishing. Reminiscent of Paul's comments on law and liberty, technology is neither inherently bad nor good, yet not all technology is beneficial. Furthermore, it is the human's responsibility to resist enslavement to technology.
Humans have been called, among others: communicators, image bearers, meaning makers, etc. Here, I will assert that, in addition to these, humans are also tool makers and users. That is, to be human is to make and/or use tools and techniques. Even more so, I assert that humans are value makers. Whatever humans are (all these and more), manifesting these multiple facets seems to play an important role in human flourishing.
We can benefit from an improved understanding of technology prior to engaging in full-scale critique. I intend to treat technology as both tool and technique and my conclusions should apply to both. We have good reason to resist ascribing values to technology. On the one hand, this amounts to a form of anthropomorphizing. This mistake is widely acknowledged (although not consistently avoided) by critics of technology such as Postman, Ellul, and Borgmann. The flip side of anthropomorphizing amounts to an abdication of human responsibility and is perhaps the most insidious and dangerous mistake we can make when critiquing technology.
The core of the paper presents a model of humans and technology that might serve as a better framework for understanding humans and their technology. Following Philip Kenneson, we can think of humans as comprised of: convictions, values, character, stories, practices, and institutions. The first three facets pertain to the individual while the latter three reflect social constructs. Michael Bratman's belief-desire-intention (BDI) model of human reasoning bears similarities with Kenneson's features of the individual where desires, together with beliefs, inform an individual's actions and a society's practices.
Technologies allow humans to accomplish goals in new ways. As such, we may think of technology as allowing previously unavailable actions. A state-space represents all possible states of affairs, together with the possible transitions between those states. The introduction of a technology adds a new transition between states, possibly bypassing other intermediate states. Consider going from point A to point B. Suppose the preferred route from A to B runs from A to C and from C to B. If we add a direct route from A to B, then people may start using the new road as the preferred route. Using this example and the BDI model, we can gain clarity on the separation of values and technologies.
Given the BDI model, values come into play as humans act so as to move from one state to another. Human actors select actions that they believe will transform the world into a state that is desired or more highly valued. Given this view of human action, technology then alters (augments) the connectivity of the state space in which humans exist. The introduction and use of such transitions reflect the values held by humans themselves. The transition has no value in itself; only as humans use it does it reveal the user's values.
In the closing sections, I will address a number of problems with and implications of my position. For example, technological change is unquestionably accelerating at unprecedented rates. We need to consider at what point, if any, this quantitative change gives rise to a phase shift that invalidates my conclusions. This seems to be an implicit assumption of some critics of technology, but needs to be addressed explicitly. In addition, I will use the BDI model to explore the connection between contentment and both technology and human flourishing.
Fred L Johnson III
Associate Professor of History
Human history, especially since the industrial revolution, has consistently demonstrated that advances in technology have contributed toward the development of more destructive weapons. During the Cold War (1945 - 1990), nuclear missiles, along with chemical and biologic agents, finally gave humanity the ability to destroy itself. In a speech before the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission on June 14, 1946, businessman and statesman Bernard Baruch stated that "Science has taught us how to put the atom to work. But to make it work for good instead of for evil lies in the domain dealing with the principles of human duty. We are now facing a problem more of ethics than of physics." Baruch's observation is especially relevant in the early twenty-first century.
Along with nuclear, biologic, and chemical arsenals, many nations around the world now possess the kind of technology that significantly boosts the destructive potential of their conventional weapons. The "Shock and Awe" campaign that launched America's 2003 invasion of Iraq displayed the catastrophic capabilities of conventional weapons when used in conjunction with the latest technology. Sophisticated delivery systems, cyber-warfare, virtual war gaming simulations, reliance upon aerial drones, and research that seeks to achieve the literal integration of human beings with combat machinery (or systems) makes it imperative that the ethics regarding these developments be examined with unflinching scrutiny. Christians have a special and urgent role to play in that analysis.
As stewards charged with the care and maintenance (and flourishing) of God's created order, Christians must do more than inhabit sidelines (or pulpits), rendering criticisms about the general evils of war. Christian commentary needs to focus upon the tools of war-fighting and the technology that makes those tools so dangerous and, quite possibly, lengthens rather than shortens conflict. Also in dire need of examination is the assumption that possession of advanced weaponry like "smart" bombs will make war more "clean," manageable, and of shorter duration.
Since the Union victory in the Civil War (April 12, 1861 - April 9, 1865) the American way of war has relied upon technology and mass produce advanced weapons. In the contemporary world, questions persist regarding whether or not the operational capabilities and harmful potential of such weapons have actually increased security or merely provided its illusion. Technology has certainly helped strengthen national security but, as seen on September 11, 2001, being strong does not equate with being secure.
This paper, first, examines the contemporary intersection of technology, the "smart" weapons of war, and their effects upon contemporary conflict. Second, the paper assesses the role Christians should assume not only in matters of conflict prevention and resolution, but in addressing how Christians can frame for policymakers the parameters regarding the uses of technology in war. Lastly, the paper examines how Christians can reconcile the necessity and possible benefits of technology in conflict against the backdrop that it might increase the likelihood, duration, and trauma of war.
William M Jordan
Professor and Chair of Mechanical Engineering
The use of technology in the developing world has had very mixed results. In some cases the technology is not what the people really wanted or needed and once it breaks down, it is never repaired or replaced. In other situations, technology has been embraced by many in the country as a way to help people (and the country) escape extreme poverty. This paper will draw on the authors experience in the developing world to help understand what is occurring.
Many times westerners of good will install technology that they think will benefit the people, but which the people it intended to help do not embrace or do not understand. In 2008 the author and a student team put in a small hydro-electric facility in a remote mountainous location within Honduras. However, the people did not see that it really benefited them and did not continue to maintain it. In 2009 the author and a student team installed a water purification system for a school in northern Rwanda. However, it depended upon trained workers, and when they left the school it could not be maintained. It also depended upon a source of chlorine that could not be obtained in the country. It is clear that if the technology is to be embraced and used to benefit the poor society the people must understand why it is important and have a commitment to help maintain it.
Part of the issue is the complexity of the technology, but that is not all of the issue. For example, cell phones are a complex technology, yet they have been embraced in the developing world. The author has traveled to very remote regions of Rwanda, Kenya, and Honduras, yet he has never been to a location where cell phones would not work. Even though this technology may be complex in its very nature, its advantages are so great, poor people are willing to learn how to use it. Many people in the developing world have cell phones, but do not have electricity in their homes. This has helped to create a whole new industry, cell phone charging stations.
As a westerner and an engineer, the author wants to help use technology to improve the quality of life in developing countries. There are several important things he has learned in this process. The local people must see that the technology will actually benefit them. The westerner thinking it will benefit poor people is not sufficient. Once that hurdle has been obtained, then many people will seek to use it, even if it is complex. The westerner who seeks to help must first learn what the people themselves really see as important problems that need to be solved. Otherwise the results may be worse that was they were when the project was started. This issue is dealt with very well in Corbett and Fikkert's excellent book, When Helping Hurts. This requires spending time with the poor community before attempting to create a project to help them. Part of this time may be spent in education, to help the people understand why what the new technology might bring (like clean water) should be really important to them as well.
The technology must be as sustainable as possible, and not always dependent upon resources from outside. This may require using simpler technology rather than more complex technology. The extraordinary success of the treadle pump shows how a simple tool can help millions of people obtain clean water from wells. However, designing a robust tool like the treadle pump is not simple. It requires a new perspective by the engineer. Most engineers are educated to provide things for the richest 10% of the people on earth. They are not trained in how think cheaply and to think of small solutions to problems, rather than big solutions to big problems.
Creating sustainable technology that poor people really want is critical if the western engineer is to help the people he really wants to help.
Brad J. Kallenberg
Professor of Theology and Ethics
University of Dayton
A century ago the vast majority of adult males in the West could understand, if not repair, every artifact they owned. But today we inhabit an era in which a diminishing number of engineers understand how even their own cell phone works (which is not the same as understanding how to work a cell phone). Consequently, if an assessment of a given technology's benefits or harms runs up against the limits of our abilities to predict future outcomes, our theological assessment of the manner by which a technology delivers its "goods" rapidly slams into the wall of our ignorance. In this paper I propose a different strategy for technological analysis than that of predicting outcomes.
There is a deep connection between Wittgenstein's views on the (im)possibility of private language and his views on technology. His views on technology merit special attention since, unlike other philosophers, Wittgenstein had advanced training and education in engineering prior to his philosophical work. Unfortunately, his views on private language are far from obvious and frequently debated. Nevertheless, one reading of Wittgenstein has been taken by some (most notably, Stanley Hauerwas) as determinative for understanding important aspects of Christian ethics. In my paper I endeavor to do three things. First, I will elucidate some ways in which Christian ethics resonates with the so-called "private language argument." Second, I will sketch the way Wittgenstein's views on technology are internally related to his writings on private language. Third, I will extend the analogy between Christian ethics and the private language argument to suggest how the nature of Christian ethics entails views on technology analogous to Wittgenstein's own.
The path of this argument is not straightforward. The private language passages of the Philosophical Investigations (paras. 243-215) are ambiguous. Yet Catholic philosopher Stephen Mulhall has shown these passages to constitute a self-involving conversation that pulls one into ever deepening levels of comprehension. I will follow Mulhall down this mineshaft. On the surface, it is easy to assume that the sensation of a bad tooth or an arthritic joint is entirely hidden until the sufferer brings it to light by self-disclosure in the vocabulary of pain. Resisting the notion that pain language operates privately prior to being made public results in a view of language as thoroughly communal. (The view of Christian ethics correlative with this level might be called ethics-as-communitarianism.) Digging a little deeper unearths Wittgenstein's notion of a vast array of interconnected "primitive reactions," the (surprising) agreement among which forms the precondition for communication, which is to say, co-munus: the sharing of a world. This level of depth is better than the surface reading (and suggests something like ethics-as-grammar) but may threaten to leave in place a view of language and human community that is entirely public and thoroughly instrumental. (Clearly, an instrumental understanding of language will give little purchase on an assessment of technological instrumentalism.) Wittgenstein, himself a technologist by training (aeronautical engineering), worried that the technological images he employed (e.g., "language as a tool") would be distorted by our penchant to imagine that the boundary between the inner and the outer is precisely our epidermis. Aspects of his therapeutic response to what has been called "Cartesianism" are sometimes overlooked. What Mulhall calls the "resolute" reading constitutes a third level of depth (and veritable gold) concerning the "private language argument."
Wittgenstein's view of technology was famously bleak. This is not to say he considered every technology as inherently evil. Wittgenstein himself patented an aeroplane propeller, fixed machinery at a local mill, invented a manometer for measuring blood pressure, and so on. Nevertheless, he considered the modern era to have been captivated by a distorting technological picture. This same picture appears to have captivated Christians. I close the paper by revisiting the three levels of the private language argument in order to expose some of the ways in which Christians may be bewitched by technology. The images I use to expose our bewitchment include "technological scripting," "social cyborg," and technology as a second "skin."
Kandace D Kellett-Riddle
Southern Illinois University
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing them, end them. To die - to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The Heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.
Hamlet Act 3, scene 1, 55-63
Aldous Huxley's Brave New World presents a dystopian future where humans are genetically engineered on a production line, producing a range of people whose intelligence, abilities and place in society is predestined. Subliminal suggestions are given to the embryos and fetuses from technological conception to "birth". To ease the pain of occasional human emotions and experiences that rear their ugly heads unbidden, the citizens take the drug "soma" enabling them to enter a dreamlike state where the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" can be forgotten.
This dystopian future sounds unthinkable, however, the March 2012 issue of Wired magazine featured an article entitled, "The Forgetting Pill: How a New Drug Can Target Your Worst Memories—and Erase Them Forever" in which some of the advances in memory research by neuroscientists is highlighted. One such advance is a drug that has proven to lessen the biological response to traumatic memories. The article seems to intimate that a modified march to oblivion may be close at hand.
While this is undoubtedly wonderful news for those who suffer the ravages of Post-Traumatic Stress, what might it mean for the "ordinary citizen" who has a desire to rid their memory of a bad marriage, a car accident, or any other of a myriad of experiences or instances of bad judgment that they would prefer to forget? This paper looks at this issue and what it might mean to our humanity and individuality to partake of a "pill of forgetfulness".
Matthew H. McCloskey Dean of Engineering
University of Notre Dame
In Sacred Scripture, we hear the admonition from the Creator God to "till and keep the garden" and to "exercise dominion over the world." Pope Benedict sees in technology a response to these commandments from God (Caritas in veritate, no. 69). He also sees technology as a profoundly human reality, closely linked to man's autonomy and freedom. The 20th century was an extraordinary century of technological accomplishment in which many diseases were largely eradicated, in which grain production per person hour of labor increased by several orders of magnitude, and in which a greater percentage of the human population was lifted out of poverty. These extraordinary accomplishments are to be celebrated but they bring with them unique challenges to humankind. When men and women respond to the fascination of technology by investing it with redemptive and salvific powers, we run the great risk of making of technology an idol and severing our own human creative powers from the source of all power. As the Holy Father puts it, our human freedom is only authentic and true when we respond to technology with decisions that are the fruit of moral responsibility. What are those common grounds of moral responsibility upon which we must build our technological world of the 21st century? How do we ensure that our society remains anchored in the truth about the human person? In this talk, we will explore the roots of scientism and some suggestions for possible antidotes.
College of the Holy Cross
University of Oklahoma, Institute for the American Constitutional Heritage
Thomas Jefferson's only-published book, Notes on the State of Virginia, is often read as a celebration of the American natural world; we argue that it is also an examination of the capacity of Enlightenment science and technology to remake the world in the "New World" by purging its people of "Old World" corruption. Embedded in the often-mundane minutiae of the work is a thoughtful consideration of the ways in which Americans harness technology to assist political and economic development. Signaling the scope of his ambitions, Jefferson conveys a number of these claims in terms of biblical analogies and parallels; in these instances, Jefferson makes a deliberately bold claim for technology and science as a form of co-creation with God, indeed as a form of fulfilling God's earthly work. This paper considers three such instances: the use of cutting edge surveying methods as an enlightened method of resolving contentious political disputes; the development of rivers and waterways to reshape conceptions of national commerce; and the elaboration of an experience-based approach to natural history that he explicitly claims redeems the Curse of Adam. We suggest that in doing so Jefferson has formulated a moderate course by which science and technology can be effectively harnessed by republican politics, rather than subordinating traditional political concerns to scientific and technological reasoning. The viability of this approach has important implications for contemporary debates about the displacement political wisdom by technological and scientific methods in the modern polity.
Joshua James Knabb
Assistant Professor of Psychology
California Baptist University
Assistant Professor of Psychology
California Baptist University
Since the early 1990s, Western society has increasingly utilized the Internet to meet a broad range of needs, including information seeking, socializing, and entertainment. As the use of computers and the Internet has grown exponentially in the last two decades, researchers have begun to identify an extreme form of Internet use, referred to as problematic Internet use or Internet addiction (Weinstein & Lejoyeux, 2010). In the United States, the prevalence rate of problematic Internet use ranges between 2 and 8%, although an exact, agreed upon definition of what constitutes Internet addiction is currently absent from the literature (Weinstein & Lejoyeux, 2010).
In either case, this form of extreme behavior tends to parallel other forms of addiction (e.g., substance dependence), with at least four central tenets-(a) excessive use of the Internet, accompanied by an unawareness of time and basic needs; (b) withdrawal symptoms, such that the individual may feel tense, angry, or depressed if he or she cannot use the Internet; (c) tolerance, or increasingly seeking out time online and higher quality computer software and equipment; and (d) negative consequences, such as deceitful behavior, constant arguing, diminished work or school performance, exhaustion, and social isolation (Weinstein & Lejoyeux, 2010).
Although currently not a psychiatric diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), a growing number of researchers have argued for the inclusion of Internet addiction in the forthcoming DSM-V, set to be released sometime in 2013 (Weinstein & Lejoyeux, 2010). What is more, an increasing number of studies have identified several psychological correlates of excessive Internet use, including anxiety, depression, and loneliness (Dowling & Brown, 2010; Jenaro et al., 2007). Among adolescents and young adults, Internet addiction is correlated with self-reported depression and anxiety, as well as stressful life events and dissatisfaction with family life (Lam et al., 2009; Ni et al., 2009). To be sure, Liu and Kuo (2007) recently found that a decreased quality in both parent-child and interpersonal relationships predicted Internet addiction among Taiwanese students. Overall, an emerging pattern in the literature appears to be forming, which elucidates an amalgam of both psychological (e.g., depression, anxiety, loneliness) and interpersonal (e.g., parent-child relations, peer relations) variables that contribute to problematic Internet use.
In a separate line of research, a growing number of authors have begun to investigate the relationship between attachment to God and depression, anxiety, and stress (see, e.g., Miner, 2009; Reiner et al., 2010). This body of research commonly draws from attachment theory (see Bowlby, 1969) to better understand the ways in which a relationship with God can buffer against psychological distress. Several recent studies have revealed that a secure, healthy attachment to God results in significantly higher levels of well-being and self-esteem, as well as less anxiety, stress, and guilt feelings (Braam et al., 2008; Miner, 2009; Reiner et al., 2010; Sim & Yow, 2011).
In that recent research has revealed that an insecure attachment to God tends to predict increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress (see Miner, 2009; Reiner et al., 2010), and depression, anxiety, stress, and troubled interpersonal relationships predict excessive Internet use (see Lam et al., 2009; Liu & Kuo, 2007; Xiaoli et al., 2009), the authors will investigate the impact that attachment to God has on excessive Internet use, mediated by psychological distress (i.e., anxiety, depression, stress). The overall hypothesis is that insecure attachment to God will predict increased levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, and increased depression, anxiety, and stress will predict problematic Internet use. In addition, the authors hypothesize that an insecure attachment to God will directly predict excessive or problematic Internet use.
The authors intend to recruit a sample of roughly 200 undergraduate psychology students from California Baptist University. Inclusion criteria will be as follows: (a) 18 to 22 years old; and (b) self-reported Christian denominational affiliation. The measures utilized in the study will include the Attachment to God Inventory (AGI), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI), Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), and Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire (PIUQ).
By conducting this study, the authors seek to better understand how a compromised attachment to God impacts psychological distress, which, in turn, impacts problematic Internet use. In addition, for the first time in the literature, the authors wish to explore a possible direct line between God attachment and Internet use, such that a secure attachment to God will decrease the likelihood of problematic Internet use in that God will be used as a secure base and source of support, ameliorating both psychological distress and the need for excessive Internet activity.
James A Marcum
Cloning technologies are revolutionizing and reshaping the understanding of human nature: just as Darwinian evolution challenged the centuries old belief in humans as a special creation of God, so reproductive cloning technology is challenging the belief in the uniqueness of human identity and individuality; and, just as human dignity was defended from the perceived attacks of Darwinianism, so today human dignity is defended from the perceived threat of cloning technology. The possibility that a person's genome can be cloned repetitively strikes apprehension and, at times, even fear into our collective consciousness and causes us to question one's individual uniqueness and identity. Who or what exactly am I? Am I reducible simply to genes? Is genetic material alone responsible for my individual uniqueness and identity? Or are there dimensions of my existence not reducible to the genome? These types of questions are certainly at the center of the debate over human reproductive cloning.
Although the ethical issues of human cloning have been discussed extensively, there has been little discussion of the metaphysical foundation of cloning. What is meant by metaphysical foundation is what R.G. Collingwood calls the presuppositions that underlay the questions asked about the world. For Collingwood, the logical efficacy of presuppositions, i.e. their ability to engender questions about the world, is independent of their truth-value; rather, that efficacy depends upon their being supposed. My contention is that we need to examine the presuppositions that underlay human reproductive cloning, in order to address the debate concerning it.
In this paper, I examine the presuppositions upon which human reproductive cloning technology relies, in order to address the issue of our individual uniqueness and identity, as well as dignity and flourishing. To that end, I first explore the presupposition of reductionism that animates the modern biomedical sciences. My thesis is that reductionism is important for conducting scientific research (methodological reductionism) but is often inadequate for interpreting the cultural or social meaning of scientific data (ontological reductionism). The distinction between methodological and ontological reductionism is necessary to address adequately the issues surrounding reproductive cloning technology and what it means to be a flourishing human being. I contend that scientists and others who depend upon scientific research would be better served by shifting from ontological reductionism to holism, when interpreting scientific data on human cloning in terms of their social meaning and impact on policy. In a concluding section, I discuss the advantages of such a shift in addressing the controversy over human reproductive cloning technology and human nature.
As humankind gains greater ability to influence our "natural" abilities, we must face hard questions about the morality of doing so. It is commonly believed that a person's judgment as to whether or not an act is natural can affect her judgment as to whether the act is morally permissible. In this paper, I will present the findings of a recent study that, arguably, suggests that a person's judgment as to whether or not an act is wrong can affect her judgment as to whether or not it is natural.
The argument I consider is as follows:
I use a recent experimental philosophy survey to support (3). I then consider an objection to (1); the supposed unreasonable distinction is actually reasonable because taking performance enhancing drugs for sports use is a species of enhancement, while taking them to battle cancer is a species of rehabilitation or treatment, and enhancement is unnatural, while treatment is natural.
If this objection to (1) is to work, there must be some plausible account of the distinction between treatment and enhancement. Some philosophers (Kamm) seem suspicious that any boundary exists between enhancement and treatment while others (Morgan, Schwartz, and Sandel) offer arguments in support of specific distinctions. I argue that, while none of the current articulations of the differences between treatment and enhancement work, there must nonetheless exist some such boundary. After all, we have moral duties in regards to medical treatment that we lack in regard to enhancement.
Charles Arthur McDaniel
Financialization is commonly described as the process by which financial markets, actors, and instruments have achieved greater influence vis-à-vis commodity production, trade, and other functions of the "real economy." Technology has been a significant factor facilitating the rise of financial hegemony through the use of supercomputers and high-speed networks. The logic by which vast sums of wealth today are created and transferred often is the product of quants—mathematicians, physicists, computer scientists, and other quantitative specialists hired by banks and investment firms—who generate sophisticated models for the construction of financial instruments. These "representations of value" are encoded in billions of instructions assembled by software developers in a vast global network of pecuniary institutions. Technology has thus become a significant enabler of wealth distribution on an international scale. Viewed from another perspective, however, financialization is simply the next logical stage in the development of capitalism; its influence has arrived independent of particular technical innovations. The increasing importance of financial institutions is more reflective of changing economic relations and "new" moral perspectives on wealth creation than it is of humankind's technical inventiveness. This paper explores the financialization phenomenon to assess its technological dependencies and the social and ethical questions that arise from them.
Technical components of the financialized economy have multiple effects—good and bad. They enable instantaneous access to information by investors/consumers, facilitate capital transfer on a scale previously unimagined, and, theoretically, permit the distribution of investment risk so as to enable greater potential returns on capital. Yet they can also be used to obscure asset value and exaggerate concentrations of wealth among those interests that are best able to harness their power. This dual influence of technology was seen vividly in the tech bubble and subsequent recession of the 1990s. In that case technology was both the industry product and the conduit for radical escalation in the stock valuations of companies that, in some extreme cases, offered no commodifiable product. Many entrepreneurs and investors profited handsomely while others suffered significant losses despite the fact that the information with which to make investment choices was more readily available than ever before. The potential "smoothing" effects of information dissemination brought about by electronic access appear to have been negated by other forces, still present today, that will be explored in this paper.
The technical infrastructure supporting the financialized economy has the demonstrated potential to enhance capital and information flows, distribute risk, and amplify gains and losses in the market. These functions have significant social and ethical implications that are likely to impact not only allocative efficiency but also the perceived justice of market outcomes. The principal questions explored here with regard to the relationship of finance and technology in the "new economy" are: what are the technological determinants of value in the age of financialization; is value expression by participants, the primary function of capitalist markets, enhanced or diminished by advanced technologies; and, how have technical developments impacted moral hazard in financial markets given the rising importance of their institutions?
Bowling Green State University
Aristotle's account of friendship, which is inextricably bound to his theory of flourishing, has withstood the test of time. Yet there are overlooked elements of his account that, when challenged by threats of current and emerging communication technologies, reveal his account to be remarkably prescient. I evaluate the danger that technological advances in communication pose to the future of friendship by examining and defending Aristotle's claim that character-friends must live together (or be in close proximity).
I concede that technologically mediated communication can aid existing character-friendships, but I argue that character-friendships cannot be created and sustained entirely through technological meditation. I examine text-based technologies, such as Facebook and email, and engage a non-text based technology that poses the greatest threat to my thesis: Skype. I then address philosophical literature on friendship and technology to elucidate and defend my account. My account discusses a certain kind of friendship, character-friendship, and a certain kind of technology, Skype, that these accounts do not. Examination of these essays helps to demonstrate that character-friendship cannot be sustained entirely by technologically aided communication and that character-friends must live together.
The realities of modern economic and family life have precluded us from meeting Aristotle's requirement of shared activities. So, why should we care if email or Facebook further impedes our realization of this ideal? Modernity may tempt us greatly, but it forces us to do little. The same holds for technology. Technology can consume us and enable relationships to grow apart physically, but it can also bring us together—even enable us to spend greater unfiltered time with friends. I suggest that our close relationship bonds are not close enough and that if we tightened these bonds more we would be less bound by less close relationship bonds and the fast pace of modern life. I also suggest that we often deceive ourselves into believing we can sustain close friendships via an occasional text-message, whereas such deception was not as possible in modernity sans a pervasive text-based environment.
Filtered text-based communicative acts can enable us to share ourselves deeply with others. Yet I fear that this communication can replace unfiltered opportunities. Many find communicating in filtered contexts easier because it encourages greater honesty, increases confidence, makes us feel less vulnerable, and allows us to communicate things that we would or could not face to face. Aristotle would consider these deficiencies of character that need to be overcome through habituation instead of enabled artificially. We should hone our filtered communication skills but not at the expense of not honing their unfiltered counterpart. My concern is that we may increasingly lose our ability to engage skillfully in unfiltered communication when partaking of it due to atrophy.
It may be objected that we should not waste time with character-friendships because utility and pleasure friendships work just fine. I concede that non-character-friendships are not necessarily trivial or base. They can be filled with shared activity, reciprocity, pleasure, and goodwill. Furthermore, the moral life is but a part of a meaningful life. I focus upon character-friendship because it is the only form of friendship in which virtue plays an essential part. And virtue is a necessary, if not central, part of a positive meaningful life. Likewise, I focus upon whether character-friendship can be developed and entirely sustained by technological mediation to test the bounds of what humans are capable. Existing character-friendships can be partially sustained by technological mediation, though to what degree is contingent upon a multitude of factors. Claiming that non-character friendships are good enough is tantamount to saying that we simply prefer not to flourish more deeply. Cocking and Kennett may object that to embrace character-friendship is "to adopt a highly moralized notion of friendship which is at odds with ordinary experience." These friendships are descriptively rare. This is because they are difficult to obtain, as are many of the best things in life.
We may choose friendships as we please, but we should at least be aware of the highest form, lest we unknowingly mistake what we have for the highest. Likewise, we should be aware of whether we primarily engage in filtered or unfiltered communication, especially as the former is easier for many. We should at least know what we are giving up if we forgo the latter. And friendships developed and entirely sustained through technological mediation are filtered. There are fanciful scenarios in which unfiltered access can be had through technological mediation, but in those cases other barriers to a successful character-friendship arise.
Associate Professor of Theology
Transhumanists frequently claim that relieving suffering constitutes their primary motivation for pursuing biotechnology. They are alarmed at quietism in the face of suffering displayed by religious believers. In one of many pointed attacks against the religious approach to suffering, Simon Young declares, "theists may join hands and pray for starving children, but it is scientists who will feed them."
Without flinching from the stance that suffering is not an unmitigated evil, I seek to develop the inner logic of the Christian theological position on the alleviation of suffering with an eye toward fruitful discussion with those who do not share Christian assumptions. In a sense, I aim to strengthen the moral theological framework in order to bolster moral philosophy in bioethical debates.
The principal point of discussion will be the inner relationships among the categories of the Christian doctrine of sin—acts of sin, original sin, consequences of sin—and their bearing on bioethical debates. I will argue on biblical, theological, and social scientific grounds that, as one of the consequences of sin, suffering, like technology and human nature itself, is ambivalent. It is not always an unmitigated evil, but can serve good purposes. Throughout I will use examples from literature and film to illustrate the theological ideas.
Biblically, miracles and healing are not viewed as simply positive, but depend upon the response of the person receiving the healing (e.g. the ten lepers). Certain individuals use instrumental means or rudimentary technology to gain access to the source of healing (e.g., Zacchaeus, the man lowered through the roof).
Theologically, suffering is secondary to sin in logical order and in the order of salvation. Suffering is a problem, but sin is the problem. Both sin and suffering are relativized to God's purposes for his glory. Persons are designed in such a way so as to be able to fulfill the purpose of God's glory. The image of God is human design. A primary component of human design (and of the image) is relationship: (in descending order) with God, with others, and with the created order. Sin and its consequences sever these relationships. Sin is overcome through reestablishing relationship with God through justification. Broadly speaking, suffering is remedied through sanctification and glorification. Flourishing is roughly the same discourse as that of sanctification. Technology may interrupt the overarching purpose of God toward relationship. This is illustrated in Aubrey de Grey's pursuit of vastly expanded longevity, which has, by his own admission, some drastic consequences for human relationships; arguably one cost of his vision for humanity will be a greatly impoverished human community.
As a fallen image bearer, the human person is ambivalent, a mixture of both good and evil. This is the primary theological reason why technology is ambivalent; it bears the ambivalence of those who employ it. Technology is part of the creation mandate; therefore, technology is an aspect of human flourishing. Technology can relieve suffering, but can't save from sin. Therefore, technology is necessary, but not sufficient for flourishing.
Suffering is an evil, but not an unqualified one. Both theologians and social scientists contend that suffering can have positive outcomes such as worldview modification, character development, and marking sin. Social science uses concepts such as adversarial growth and posttraumatic growth to describe the beneficial results of suffering. The film Gattaca illustrates how adversity can strengthen a person, even beyond those who are given every advantage. Just as suffering can be a good, prosperity or contentment can be an evil. The film WALL-E illustrates this point vividly in its portrayal of the inhabitants of the interstellar cruise ship, the Axiom. Even though they are in complete comfort and lack for nothing on their endless vacation, they are missing relationships, good health, and even basic awareness of their surroundings. The first chapter of the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? shows how the eradication of negative emotions through technology would disconnect us from our relationship to the world. Technological amelioration of suffering does not necessarily result in unqualified good.
The ambivalence of technology as salvation from suffering can be illustrated using two images. First, I explore an image of ambivalence discussed by Freud in Civilization and its Discontents: the prosthesis. Second, I suggest the complementary image of amputation. One of these procedures amplifies and the other subtracts, but they both bring goods and evils. The Christian analysis insists that we must have the vision to see both sides in every human action.
Professor of History
Over the past fifty years the writer Wendell Berry has narrated into existence the world of "Port William," a fictional town in northern Kentucky rooted in the experience of Berry's own family in this region for more than six generations. In this paper I will explore the relationship between the created order, technology, and human renewal in Berry's fiction, with a primary focus on his novel A Place on Earth (both the 1967 edition and the 1983 revision).
It doesn't take much exposure to Berry's writing—whether his poetry, essays, or fiction—to sense that Berry is intent on probing the relationship between human consciousness and the natural, terrestrial setting in which we, human beings, find ourselves. The political theorist Patrick Deneen notes that Berry's vision is profoundly Aristotelian in many senses, one of which is his belief that human satisfactions depend on proper alignment with and participation in the created order. This decidedly a-liberationist vision of pleasure, so at odds with many contemporary American conceptions of human flourishing, has in our time provided a sharp and timely restatement of ancient wisdom about the human prospect, as well as a highly suggestive reading of our current historical circumstance.
Berry has carefully aimed his essays at both of these ends, the philosophic and the critical. The sphere of fiction, though, has given him space for a fuller, more capacious elaboration of his broader vision of human flourishing and, in particular, the ways in which modern American history has and has not comported with humanity's truest hopes and longings. In this paper I will through a study of Berry's fiction first develop a coherent rendering of Berry's understanding of the proper, participatory place for human beings on this earth. I will argue that Berry believes the human experience of spiritual renewal to require direct experience of what might be called primal creaturely realities. He urges above all the experience of close connection—or koinonia—with that which sustains our moment-by-moment existence as persons and communities. Further, I will claim that for Berry human beings do not achieve this apprehension and devotion to our highest good as a matter of course, through proper environmental conditioning: the nurturing care of a good family, for instance, or serious schooling. Rather, Berry understands even the most virtuous of human beings to require moments and experiences of consecration, in which they resolve to dedicate themselves, most basically, to life, forsaking the pathway of death and so experiencing what he often refers to as renewal.
How in Berry's thinking technology aids or deters this elevated end-renewal—is a crucial question for us, an answer to which I will seek to develop in the last part of the paper. Berry, I will suggest, honors those forms of technology that foster the koinonia, the participatory consciousness, that he above all seeks to safeguard and foster. Fishing rods, cattle harnesses, and fireplaces fare far better in his mind than do radios, automobiles, and airplanes. Just why this is so is what I will flesh out through a discussion of the very incarnate, fleshy stories Berry tells. I will conclude the paper with an estimation of the current usefulness of Berry's vision and project for we who seek wisdom in the midst of our unprecedented and unrelenting technology-driven world.
Renita M Murimi
Assistant Professor of Computer Science
Oklahoma Baptist University
The large amounts of information generated by our online presence offers unprecedented ability to learn about each other. The Internet has created avenues for networks of different kinds, and one of the underlying relationships that are fostered in these networks is that of "friendship". In this context, developers behind the massive social networks are on a quest to find us more "friends". What exactly does this "friendship" mean for us? This paper reflects on the significance of "digital friendship" and the role of data in creation of these friendships. In this paper, we use diffusion theory to provide an overview of the various factors that influence digital friendships and outline the implications of various models of digital friendships.
Professor of Christian Philosophy
Fuller Theological Seminary
In this paper I first explore the implications of recent work in neuroimaging for understanding the metaphysical nature of human beings. Are we complex organisms with mental and spiritual capacities (nonreductive physicalism), or are we composite entities (body-soul or body-mind dualism)? Next I consider some of the theological implications of nonreductive physicalism, particularly the question of how we, among the other animals, fulfill our charge to be God's image on earth.
University Librarian and Associate Professor
Seattle Pacific University
In the Qur'an, Christians are labeled as a people of the book. This is appropriate, to an extent, but it would be more accurate to say that Christians are a people of the library. The Bible consists of a collection of texts that have been bound and kept together, materially as well as theologically, for centuries in codices. As the presence and symbolic value of the physical codex or book declines, Christians should reconsider the adequacy of the concept and technology of the book as a metaphor and means for the unity of their canonical texts. Throughout the history of the church, Christians have used and developed a broader set of technologies—the technology of the library—for the creation, dissemination, and preservation of their sacred texts. Today, perhaps more than ever before, Christians ought to conceive of themselves as a people of the library.
This paper will provide a historical overview of the technologies of the word that Christians have used to transmit the written Word, with a particular focus on the roles that libraries have had in supporting these technologies. From the library at Qumran of the Dead Sea Scrolls through Jorge Luis Borges's dystopian "Library of Babel," past, present, and emerging library technologies will be explored to make a case for the ongoing and increasing importance of the library as both a theological sign of and a material means for the transmission of the Word in and for a world dominated by digital networked technologies.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
The University of Texas-Pan American
The problems surrounding the efforts to define adequately and to explore fully the relationship between modern advances in technology on the one side, and moral and religious commitments on the other, are well known; and those problems are deeply congested. Just what does Austin, Seattle or Silicon Valley have to do with either Athens or Jerusalem? The issues implicated in questions about technology and the human good are sharply accentuated, however, with the advent of nanotechnology manufacturing. Novel uncertainties involving both nature and society are provoked by the current and future proposed applications of nanoscience.
The accelerated growth of nanotechnology presents Christian faith communities with three specific contemporary challenges that will be assessed in this essay. Two of these challenges are fundamentally metaphysical, and one is broadly ethical. The first of the metaphysical difficulties arises from the prospect that nanotechnology may push us closer to a materialist ontology. It is not simply that nanotechnology, like all technologies, changes social and economic relations among people. Nanotechnology focuses on the manipulation of matter at the atomic and molecular strata, refashioning and even improving the qualities of matter at its most basic level. Nanoscience provokes the reflection that if we can trim the fat off atoms and molecules and make them do what we want, perhaps enhancing the physical world in this way is all that we need in order to promote long-term human flourishing.
The second metaphysical issue emerges in the tendency of nanoscience to blur the distinction between the natural and the artificial, between divine creation and human art. Are technologically reconfigured molecules "natural"? For example, research is currently progressing in efforts to craft human embryos from scratch, atom by atom and molecule by molecule, in order to make stem cell lines more available and scientifically manageable, and to deflect ethical objections to the use of "real" human embryos in stem cell research. But are such manufactured embryos "natural"? Do the same ethical objections apply to these nano-created embryos? Just what is the metaphysical status of nano-constructed embryos?
The final issue resides at the level of metaethics. Advances in technology always raise questions about benefits for the common good. But in an increasingly diverse and democratic, secular and consumer-driven western world, how are we adequately to define the "common good"? What is the relationship between human flourishing and the "common good"? These questions signify the current befuddlement on the social and ethical impact of nanotechnology, a befuddlement exhibited by a flurry of scholarly activity centered on the integration of a sub-discipline known as ELSI (Ethical, Social and Legal Issues)with nanoscience research and manufacturing. Congressional legislation authorizing nanotechnology development adopted in 2003 included a mandate that public input on the "common good" of nanotechnology would be sought as one aspect of the project (The Societal and Ethical Implications of Nanotechnology provision [SEIN]). But to date, SEIN has provided little opportunity for sustained public discussion; we are as far removed from discerning what counts as the "common good" with respect to emerging technologies in the early twenty-first century as we were thirty years ago when nanotechnology first became a serious venue for research.
This essay intends to articulate these questions that circle around the growing prominence of nanotechnology, and to suggest, in a preliminary way, proposals for addressing them successfully.
Director, Affective Computing Research Group, Co-director, Things That Think Consortium, and Leader, Autism & Communication Technology Initiative
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Affective computing was originally envisioned to make computers emotionally intelligent, e.g., recognizing if they've annoyed you, and responding in a way that doesn't escalate your frustration. Over the years our goals have shifted to inventing emotion technologies that help people—especially people who face challenges processing emotional information, perhaps because of having autism, having limited vision, or having a chat online with limited bandwidth. New emotion technology can help improve lives in many ways, some of which I'll show in this talk. At the same time, the changing capabilities raise questions such as "How might emotion technology change how we understand ourselves and each other?", "What emotional abilities do we want to give to machines?" and "If we build emotion in machines, have we essentially built people?"
Irving Kyle Queal
Head of School
The Covenant School of Dallas
Utilizing insights from various thinkers—from Aristotle to the 19th century farmer/philosopher Ernst Kapp, acknowledged by many as father of the philosophy of technology, to the late cultural critic Neil Postman—one aim in this paper will be to explore technology as a means to extend the self. Beyond simply exploring ways (e.g., cars, smartphones, computers) in which technology provides the instrumentality through which individual human beings seek to extend their human faculties—if not altogether redefine their very ontology—I am mostly interested, however, in considering the ways in which collective associations such as business and governments, in particular, are increasingly extending their corporate selves by expanding their virtual presence into the world—and our lives—through technology. In essence, my objective in this project is to cast and apply a "philosophy of technology" framework to the expansive state as a lens through which to identify, interpret and critique emerging "technocracies" as driven by the conviction that the technological expansion of the body politic—both left and right—ultimately impedes personal liberty and the opportunity for individual human flourishing.
Khalid Jamil Rawat
Technology is the expression of human will to power over the obstacles of physical nature. Technology promises an absolute fulfillment of human desires. Being an expression and tool of human will that strives against the forces and laws of nature and removes obstacles, technology has given some valuable strength to human existence in this world. However, the successful use of technology is also affecting the human consciousness in a certain manner.
For instance, before the development of communication tools, space remained a great obstacle and theme of investigation for individuals. In order to find a person, one had to think in terms of space, the possible places to find that person and means to communicate with the person. These days, however, there are no such obstacles and one can almost always locate a person through mobile phone calls.
This suggests that people do not need to think more about space and they do not have to traverse distances to find a person. This change is very significant, for it has reduced the thinking about space, travelling, and possibilities where one can find a person to a minimum. Is this change causing a change in the consciousness about space? Is this facility changing the nature of human relationship with the surroundings?
Before the advent of mobile phones, to access a person on the other side of the hill required a travelling, a calculation, an understanding of the way to be traversed. The hill appeared as an obstacle to be covered, presenting an immediate challenge to both physical and mental abilities of a person. However such challenges have now completely disappeared and the surroundings have significantly changed meaning. The horizon of their meaning has certainly lost one possibility: the possibility of presenting themselves as obstacles to be covered.
This situation has altered the way humans are aware of their surroundings; at least one such way is completely disappeared. Present study is aimed at understanding in what way mobile phones have altered the way people are aware of their surroundings and the way their consciousness of space has changed.
The study will use a phenomenological approach to discover the experience of space as it was given to human consciousness without mobile phones and compare it with present day's experience. The aim is to identify the change in human experiences.
Steven Lee Reagles
Professor of Communication & Religious Studies
Bethany Lutheran College
Cultural attitudes toward technology, it seems, have become hardened into a cliched bipolarity. We are either technophiles or technophobes, apparently—lovers or those who fear/hate? technological invention. The ubiquitous presence of these attitudes is evident in recent book titles. Technophiles like Paul Levinson in New New Media [Boston: Pearson, 2012), laude the capabilities of new technology, while down-playing their ill effects; the "technophobic" side is evidenced in Gregory L. Jantz's #hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology and Social Networking (Lake Mary, Florida: Siloam, 2012); and in Larry Rosen's provocative iDisorder: Understanding Our Obsession with Technology and Overcoming Its Hold on Us (Macmillan: Palgrave, 2012).
The July 16, 2012 cover of Newsweek: "iCrazy: PANIC. DEPRESSION. PSYCHOSIS. HOW CONNECTION ADDITION IS REWIRING OUR BRAINS" is meant to draw attention to the feature article within "Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy?", which reports on studies by psychologists, psychiatrists and neuroscientists about the adverse effects of such technology.
While many people had, it seems, forgotten Marshall McLuhan's views on "technology and human flourishing," manifest in the 1960s, in 2011, the centennial celebration of his birthday, a number of conferences in the U.S., Canada, Italy, Belgium and Spain retrieved insights from his 30 year old writings, which, in this paper are perpetually modern and valuable in considering this symposium's theme. Most people who think of the name Marshall McLuhan recall an image of the "media guru" who was "with it" in his pronouncements about the world of media, a lover of media who forecast amazing potential for its future use. Many remember his phrases like "the global village" and "the medium is the message" and think of McLUhan as a technophile, but just the opposite was the case. In fact, McLuhan was fascinated by media and new technology but he was neither a lover nor a hater of technology but a techno-critical-artist whose fundamental project was to teach the critical ability to detect the hidden environmental effects, understand them and, then, to function as a critical artist by creating anti-environmental art as a form of "balance" or "control" for new technology.
In McLuhan's view, the adverse effects of media and technology were lost to most people, who were trapped by "Narcissus narcosis." In this paper I will describe McLuhan's Anti-Environmental art as a techno-critical method for studying the effects of media. As a basis to launch this paper I will use a recently published book by the late Marshall McLuhan and his son, Eric McLuhan, titled Media and Formal Cause (NeoPoesis Press, 2011), focusing chiefly on one of the essays within: "The Relation of Environment to Anti-Environment" as McLuhan's centrifugal approach for thinking about and countermanding the possible ill effects of media in our hyper fast/flash technological world. Norman Doidge, a psychiatrist at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research argues in The Brain that Changes Itself (New York: Penguin, 2007) that "McLuhan was the first to intuit that the media change our brains irrespective of content" (p. 308), 40 years before current neuro-science caught up to his insights McLuhan's famed but pilloried phrase "The Medium is the Message" is, thus, the prophetic bearer of a perspective that is worthy of our further study as a ground for the wise consideration and use of media.
This paper retrieves McLuhan's notion of "anti-environmental" art as a basis for dealing with contemporary media. This paper will show that McLuhan was deeply concerned with the ill effects of media and as an educator promoted a method for revealing the ill effects of media as a formal cause. While the "possible topics" listed for this conference includes one titled "Critics of technological culture" and suggests the names of Wendell Berry, Jaques Ellul and Romano Guardini as subjects for a paper, this paper adds the name of Marshall McLuhan, not as technophobe nor technophile, but as the author of what I will suggest ought to be a third more appropriate category for humans as they interface with technology: the techno-critical-artist.
In this paper I expect to first explain the genesis and nature of the term "anti-environmental art" as McLuhan developed the term in his own interaction with new media. I will, secondly, seek explore the principles behind McLuhan's techno-critical art, which sought to reveal and "wake up" perceptual ability so as to detect the hidden effects of media. Last, I will consider the implications of applying McLuhan's anti-environmental art as a strategy for maintaining human flourishing in our fast-flash electronic world.
R. R. Reno
Editor, First Things
Communication technology has greatly expanded our ability to connect. This opens up new opportunities for sharing information, building networlds of common interest, and expanding the scope of education. But there are crucial limits. John Henry Newman chose as Cardinal a motto that encapsulates his insights into the central dynamic of human communication: "Heart speaks to heart." As our interactions become more electronic, personal encounter becomes more powerful and important. The power of personal influence, argues Newman, transforms lives, not well-formed arguments and accurate information. It's a truth we do well to recognize as we think about how to use new technologies in evangelization, education, and other forms of deeply consequential communication.
Amy Gilbert Richards
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy
Ought we to be concerned about the push in higher education—and especially in undergraduate liberal arts education—to make more and more courses available online? We are all likely familiar with the arguments for the online education revolution. Online courses make education more equitable and less costly. More people can take courses if they do not have to travel to a particular site to do so. Colleges save on facilities costs, and teachers, too, can work from home for the cost of a high speed internet line. And all that is lost is face to face interaction, which can be replicated by Wimba classrooms and discussion boards. So, if the same content can be delivered to more people at less cost, what could possibly be the problem?
Those who claim that virtual classrooms can effectively replicate physical ones presuppose false conceptions of the nature of persons, and thus of truth and of education and its role in human lives. This becomes clear when we take up the perspective of a second-personal philosophical anthropology. Thinkers such as Martin Buber, Franz Rosensweig, John Macmurray, and Stephen Darwall argue that human beings are defined in and through their relationships to others. Persons, in other words, are primarily second-persons. And further, while this philosophical perspective alone can sufficiently motivate my argument, the Christian doctrines of the Trinity, the imago Dei, and the Incarnation reinforce and enrich such a second-personal anthropology by adding an important theological dimension to my concerns. If God himself—as Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is relational, and we are made in his image, then our relationality is perhaps the crucial element of our human nature. And the doctrine of the Incarnation, which is a "stumbling block to Jews and folly to Greeks," suggests that part of God's mission in Christ was to show us our true human nature, thus revealing the importance of our own embodiment and its connection to our relationality. Viewed through the lens of such a philosophically and theologically grounded anthropology, the push towards virtual education is problematic because it fails to take seriously our nature as relational, embodied, and, I would argue, essentially moral creatures. Online classrooms at least partially sacrifice our ability to encounter other human beings in educational settings, as they lack the shared space and exclusively dedicated time that typify physical classrooms. They thereby fail to treat students (and teachers) as true persons.
When we consider the question of truth, such concerns gain added force. Christians, along with Christ himself, make the remarkable claim that it is a person, the word made flesh—not a proposition—which is ultimate truth. If Christ is the truth, then we must interact with truth dialogically rather than monologically—i.e., knowing truth will require engaging with persons rather than coming into right relationships with propositions. And as education's task is to lead us towards truth, then we must take truth's nature into account when designing educational programs. Especially in undergraduate liberal arts education, whose goal traditionally has been to form us into mature human beings capable of thinking for ourselves and responsible for the shaping of society, it is essential to note the power of personal encounter in shaping the concepts through which we (communally) interpret and thereby inhabit the world around us.
So, if human beings are essentially embodied, relational creatures and truth cannot be reduced to propositional content, then we have to consider the mode of communication, not just its content, as a crucial element of education. I argue that the necessary reliance on video-conferencing and chat functions in online classrooms severely compromises our ability to engage with other persons and their ideas. Virtual media cannot replicate the power of face to face contact both of a professor with her students and of the students with one another. It is difficult enough in a physical classroom to impress on students the ability to fully attend to others, and this becomes nigh-on impossible when all contact is mediated by computer. Considering the impossibility in a virtual classroom of making eye contact, of monitoring potential distractions, of observing levels of engagement and of interpreting silences, I argue that the online revolution in higher education will undermine students' ability to encounter and to learn from professors and fellow students alike and will truncate the moral dimensions of education.
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Oklahoma Baptist University
Although the actress Yvette Vickers is thought to have died from natural causes in her home sometime in 2010, her body was not found until April 2011, after a neighbor noticed cobwebs and yellowed letters in her mailbox. In the last months of her life, her only apparent contact with other people were with fans around the world via technology.
Advances in information technology have greatly increased our access to wide varieties of news sources, yet many people hold beliefs that have been shown to be patently false, or having little basis in fact. The explosion of social media outlets make it far easier for us to connect with each other, yet more Americans report being lonely than ever before. These puzzles naturally lead one to reflect on the relationship between community, the self, and technology.
Josiah Royce's central philosophical concern was to explore the interdependence of the self and community. According to Royce, the development of the self is a result of a process of social interaction, and known only through a process of interpretation in the context of a community.
In The Problem of Christianity, Royce explored the conditions for the existence of community. An important condition is that there be communication and interpretation among the selves that constitute the community. On the surface, at least, it appears that technology use should greatly enhance the possibility of satisfying this condition. Why then, does technology seem to impede the formation of community?
For Royce, the communication required for creating community is attentive listening to the ideas and hopes of others. This in turn requires respect for others as selves, refusal to limit ourselves to our own views, and a commitment to reciprocal communication by which the other can engage in attentive listening. The result of this process of communication, listening, and interpretation is both self-knowledge and community. We come to discover and better understand our own goals and ideals by contrasting them with the goals and ideals of others. We also come to participate in the goals of others, becoming individuals with common pasts and common futures, or, in Royce's terms, communities of memory and hope.
There is no doubt that wise, creative use of technology can do much to enhance already existing communities, but technology use often results in the creation of a pseudo-community, that is, a social environment that appears to be a genuine community, but fails to satisfy the conditions necessary for community. Use of mail, text-messaging, video-conferencing, and cellular phones make communication easier and more frequent, but communication that is more frequent is very often less substantive, something that I witnessed during my deployments as a military chaplain. Technology also makes self-deception easier. We share only what we want others to know, who in turn respond to the caricature of the self that we have portrayed, which then reinforces our belief that the caricature is the real self. Thus, we create pseudo-communities comprised of pseudo-selves. It is not surprising that a recent study found a high correlation between levels of Facebook use and degrees of narcissism.
Pseudo-community is not an inevitable result of technology use, however. Using technology to build community is like using a sledgehammer to build a house. Careless use is likely to destroy, anything constructive must be both careful and intentional. Technology that is used carefully and intentionally in ways compatible with Royce's conditions for community can certainly enhance pre-existing communities. Reflection on the conditions for community thus suggests certain practical changes to the structure of social media tools, our use of such tools, and our use of technology in general in our highly connected, yet greatly disconnected, world.
Pennsylvania State University
Alan Turing's idea of a computational "machine" was a thought experiment, meant to illuminate the operation and limitations of mathematical logic. It's not inappropriate to see the physical computing devices that came along years later as embodiments" ("incarnations"?) of Turing's mathematical idea. I am interested in the "embodiment" of mathematics in technology more generally. To what extent does "embodied mathematics" advance our abilities and understanding, and to what extent does it suppress the unformalized tacit dimensions of bodily existence? For instance we could think about what is involved in the movement to replace hands-on experiments in science education with mathematically simulated (and much cheaper!) "virtual laboratories".
Evan Christopher Rosa
Biola University's Center for Christian Thought
What is the role and value of technological control in the human obligation to care for the natural world? And how does control contribute to an individual's or community's moral life? I understand the concept of care from within a eudaimonistic framework, where 'care' is closely intertwined with phronesis, or practical moral intelligence. Phronesis grounds care; and care is the fullest expression of the moral ordering inherent to phronesis.
Controlling the natural world is necessary but not sufficient for caring for it. Even so, the type of control necessary for care must be clarified and distinguished from a parallel type of control which is not merely unnecessary for, but antithetical to, the care required for satisfying the creation mandate. 'Technical-control' seeks only brute efficiency or mastery of the environment as a final telos; it is thereby antithetical to the creation mandate. 'Phronetic-control', on the other hand, is teleologically subordinate to a conception of the good, cashed out in a morally well ordered individual and society. Phronetic-control is thereby necessary for and conducive to care.
This analysis, I suggest, implicates contemporary over-enthusiasm for technology and challenges a common assumption that technology (construed as mere technical-control) is by itself a necessary and sufficient component of caring for the natural world of which we are a part. On the contrary, human participation in the natural world requires a deep-seated moral intelligence (phronesis) bound up in the concept of care operative in the moral theology of the creation mandate. Perhaps the best model of truly 'phronetic' creation care is the Incarnation: an embodied, ensouled, well-ordered dwelling of love within the natural world.
Glenn Edward Sanders
Professor of History
Oklahoma Baptist University
Although in ways dated, Jacques Ellul's famous The Technological Society (French, 1954; English 1964) still has important things to say about a world made by "technique," the type of systematic, methodological ordering that molds our modern lives. Ellul's comprehensive analysis parses this influence of "technique" on the modern economy, modern politics, and modern ideas on human identity.
Despite its claims of objectivity, Ellul's assessment comes off as distinctly gloomy. For example, in his final paragraphs he poses a vision of Total Recall -style neural manipulation and concludes, "But what good is it to pose questions of motives? of Why? All that must be the work of some miserable intellectual who balks at technical progress. The attitude of the scientists, at any rate, is clear. Technique exists because it is technique. The golden age will be because it will be. Any other answer is superfluous" (436).
Both critics and critiques of such conditions have only increased since Ellul's day and the advent of the "Flat Earth," the internet, and the iPad. Many of the responses have emphasized external conditions and sociological or cultural responses.
The individual personal response is also important to explore. One useful tool for doing so within the Christian spiritual tradition is St. Bernard of Clairvaux's notion of consideration.
St. Bernard wrote his De consideratione ad Eugenium papam tertiam libri quique for his fellow Cistercian then pope Eugenius III. The books addressed a distinctly modern problem: Eugenius's busy-ness and its effects upon his spiritual life. St. Bernard recommends regular consideration as a way of dealing with the problem. "Consideration … can be defined as thought searching for truth, or the searching of a mind to discover truth." Consideration is not the same as contemplation, "because the latter concerns more what is known about something while [the former] pertains to the investigation of what is unknown" (52). Integrally tied to the functioning of the four cardinal virtues (justice, prudence, fortitude, temperance), "consideration purifies its source, that is, the mind. … [I]t controls the emotions, guides actions, corrects excesses, improves behavior, confers dignity and order on life, and even imparts knowledge of divine and human affairs," in short, provides a useful and practical way to respond to a modern technological society (38).
St. Bernard counsels, "Now in order to achieve the fruit of consideration, I think you [Eugenius] should consider four things in this order: yourself, what is below you, around you and above you" (52). St. Bernard is concerned mostly here with the pope's legal responsibilities as an obstacle to the spiritual life. The four categories of consideration mostly deal with the reduction of attachments to worldly responsibilities.
The saint's recommendations may initially seem distant from Ellul's depiction. But consideration is itself a technique designed to allow the practitioner to exercise critical understanding from within an existing framework—from within the papal office for Eugenius, but arguably from within the closed technological world that Ellul describes. That critical understanding has as its goal a rich spiritual life that can respond to lived conditions with the notion of God's kingdom foremost.
I propose in this paper to identify critical aspects of Ellul's "technological society" and suggest how consideration might help its practitioner cope fruitfully with the modern world. St. Bernard's four categories of consideration provide a significant tool for reflecting on personal, practical responses to technology within the Christian spiritual tradition.
Glenn Edward Sanders
Professor of History
Oklahoma Baptist University
Last year's Baylor Symposium on Faith and Culture promoted a rich conversation about educating for wisdom.
In the current cultural environment, it is important to ask, "What relationships hold between technology and the learning of wisdom? In what ways does technology use potentially help students grow in wisdom? In what ways does it hinder such growth?"
One good way to address these and related questions is to ask the students who use technology to address its role in an undergraduate education that takes the teaching and learning of wisdom seriously.
It is perhaps easy to assume that undergraduates are passive toward both the use of technologies and the character of their education, that technology so permeates their lives that they accept it uncritically, as they do the goals and purposes of their learning after the initial selection of a college. A presentation by OBU honors students last fall demonstrated, however, that the latter assumption is wrong; undergraduate students understand the benefits of including wisdom as a goal of their educations, and they have fruitful ideas about how such an education might occur. The former assumption about technology use is also likely incorrect.
After last fall's conference, the student panelists presented their ideas on wisdom and education at OBU. In addition, a small group of faculty and students met to start discussion about how an emphasis on wisdom might influence an education at OBU.
In late August 2012 I hope to assemble this faculty and student group again and start regular meetings. In addition, I plan to work with a select group of students to assess the character of student technology use and its relationships—for good or ill—to an education for wisdom. This group would do some common readings and meet with local scholars interested in the problem of technology and education. If both groups prove successful, they should be able to complement one another's efforts through common meetings and projects. The goal of the student group will be attendance at the Baylor conference in late October. Should the program committee think it appropriate, I would like the students to make a panel presentation of their conclusions.
In addition to giving the students the opportunity of making a presentation at the conference, my goal for the student project is to create a critical dialogue, deeply informed from the student perspective, about technology use and education for wisdom. Although I cannot yet tell what ideas or approaches the students would emphasize in a conference presentation, I feel confident that their observations will contribute to a better understanding of the place of technology—or its absence—in this significant type of education.
My students last year found the symposium highly stimulating and benefited greatly from the opportunity to hear important topics discussed from a rich and deeply Christian perspective. I would anticipate a similar effect from the conference in October. The opportunity to present their findings would help focus the students' efforts and provide them an irreplaceable experience.
Read Mercer Schuchardt
Associate Professor of Communication
What we can do with technology is known, appreciated, and valued. What technology can, and has, been doing to us, is a new field of study that has only begun to be studied seriously as its own field in the last century. In this multimedia presentation from the perspective of the discipline of media ecology, seven unintended consequences, or "vices" of the new digital age will be explored for how they affect cultures and individuals, and what, why, when, and how Christianity might have something to offer in response to the changes caused by technology in the physical and symbolic environments. A critique of digital media based on form instead of content, this lecture is accompanied by images, film clips, and audio clips from the recent mass media culture to illustrate its key themes. The work is heavily based on the theories of Marshall McLuhan, Jacques Ellul, Neil Postman, and Walter Ong. The presentation is a distillation of a book manuscript in preparation at InterVarsity Press to be published in 2013.
Joel Aric Schwartz
Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy
In this paper, I will explore a personalistic approach to understanding the connections between creation, technology, and human flourishing. After a brief explanation of the personalistic ideas of Karol Wojtyla, I will approach the topic using a general understanding of technology from Wojtyla, based on these ideas. He bases this understanding on the idea of using creation by humans for their pleasure or good. In this way, technology includes everything from hammers and wheels, to letters and books, up through computers and space travel. Given that humans are given the command to care for and exercise dominion over creation, I will argue that using creation in a way that does not respect its value to create a technology is contrary to human flourishing, regardless the "positive effects" of the technology. I will argue that technology can only produce human flourishing when the value of human persons and creation are perceived by the one using the technology, resulting in that one acting in a way fitting of the value of human persons and creation. Usually, it is not that the technology itself is good or bad, but that the way we use the technology can either promote human flourishing or human degradation of the one using the technology.
Education as Technology: Is That All There Is?
One of the most contended issues—especially in the United States—has been education. For the Puritans, people needed to learn to read so they could study the Bible; college education, as at Harvard, was aimed at preparing ministers. Americans like Benjamin Franklin encouraged broad education for job preparation, and Thomas Jefferson advocated education to prepare good citizens. Today, unfortunately, it seems that issues of aims, questions of what knowledge is of most worth, are not even being asked. Instead, we live in a time in which education, from Pre-K to college, has been reduced to what Ellul (1964) calls technique, technology as worldview or cultural system. As Ellul says, "the ideal for which technique strives is the mechanization of everything it encounters" (p. 12). The apotheosis of technology leaves education, at the public school level and even among Christian educators and teacher educators, as something Peggy Lee could well have sung about-is that all there is?
Ellul's notion of technique in education is demonstrated in several Pk-12 trends that have become especially dominant since the No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2003. One trend is the preoccupation with curriculum standards and standardized testing. Lists of specifications and multiple choice tests have become the technology that is supposed to "save" the school. However, as Dawn (2003) comments, standardized testing "leads to the loss of the arts in the curriculum, because such instruction is not a useful device for producing the commodity of passing grades on the exams. Teachers find themselves having to teach to the test, with the result that the classroom becomes merely the device for a certain commodity of proficiency rather than a place where students engage in the discipline of learning in relationship with each other and their teachers" (p. 48).
A second trend is the reduction of teaching to technique. This trend at its worse has lead to "scripted" curriculum, detailed lesson plans for teachers to follow word by word. That teaching can be evaluated by a checklist as it is in Texas and most states, reinforces the notion of teaching as mere technique. Regnier (1994) observes, even before current school reforms, "the greatest mischief to which the illusion of technique has led is the denigration of intellectual life among those involved in K-12 education-including professors of education, teachers, and administrators" (p. 82). Students suffer, too, of course.
Finally, education itself is seen as technique preparing people to continue serving technology. Ellul says, "Instruction must be useful in life. Today's life is technique. It follows, then, that instruction must above all else be technical" (p. 349). Technology has grown as subject matter and as teaching method with little thought given to disadvantages or negative effects. More significantly, school today is not discussed in public policy as a place of discovery or invention, a place where the young learn to be thoughtful citizens, or where adults guide and mentor young people as human beings. Rather, the education machine is efficiency-driven, means-controlled, and instrumental, its ends statistical. Education's aim is to contribute to the nation's financial success. Even curriculum is perceived as a technology to be used to achieve this economic end, an automatic, efficient, un-problematic process. If the powers that be can identify the right objectives, textbooks, tests, teaching methods, and computer grading systems, education will somehow take care of itself. As Johnson (1997) says, however, "The notion that 'education' means nothing more than augmenting the quantity of information, and consequently can be mechanized without regard for the other effects that may follow, must … be seriously examined" (p. 90).
Surely, as Christians as well as citizens, parents, and students, we want more from education. Technique and technologies have a place in schooling as elsewhere, but education itself should be more, and resistance is called for. For Christians, education is not merely technique; it is an intellectual, moral, and spiritual activity which ultimately aims to serve God. How then should Christian education resist the worship of technology/technique?
Handong Global University
According to Martin Heidegger, questioning technology is questioning the essence of technology. However, his answer to the question, namely modern technology being Gestell, has been criticized for not providing guideline for the future. This indicates that the ultimate goal of questioning technology is more than its essence, but our future. This paper will address the direction of future technological development that can enhance human flourishing, especially from Christian perspective. After surveying Christian positions, a humble suggestion will be submitted: In order to take a concrete step toward a desirable future of technology, we need to tackle the problem of technological divide first. This strategy will be elaborated and justified both in practical and Christian viewpoints.
First, I will survey and evaluate various Christian approaches to modern technology. Compared with issues such as abortion, homosexuality, racism, poverty, and environment, technology has not drawn much attention in Christian world. Given the lack of interest, it is not surprising that Christian scholars have joined wider academia which failed to deal with the future direction of technological development.
Amish community represents the anti-technological attitude. Although there are many misconceptions about the rationale of their lifestyle, their basic position of extreme reluctance in adopting new technology does not provide a convincing future agenda for technological development.
Jacques Ellul, one of the most important Christian critics of modern technology, argued that modern technology became autonomous blindly pursuing the principle of efficiency. While his analysis was appreciated, his personalist effort to seek freedom is difficult to generalize as a Christian position.
Christian worldview originated from the reformed tradition does not offer a satisfactory answer in terms of technological future, either. The schema of creation, fall, and redemption provides a useful guide to explain the current situation of technological society, but it is not always easy to define criteria for judging good and bad (fallen) technology.
Appropriate technology did not stem from Christian motivation, but it is widely adopted by Christian engineers. The pioneers of appropriate technology draw our attention to "the other 90%" that are excluded from benefits of modern technology. Since they focus on the issue of "here and now," they are rather silence concerning the direction that the current main stream engineering should take in the future.
Where shall we go in terms of technology? The theme of the second section is this pressing and challenging question for everybody, but more so for Christians. Shall we continue to develop sophisticated medical machines while fellow men are starved to death by millions? What is the point for Christians to increase computing power, to make faster cars or bullet trains and to create cyberspace? The social, political, cultural influence of technology revealed by recent studies in philosophy of technology makes these questions even more complicated.
It would be almost impossible to provide a clear roadmap for the future of technology. However, one can try to find a preliminary guideline that can help us to begin the attempt to confront this challenge. I suggest "reduction of technological divide" as such a criterion with which we can judge whether a technology or a system is desirable or not.
According to this idea, technological innovation is justified when it promises accessibility of those who are behind technologically and, accordingly, narrowing the gap between forerunners and followers in technology. This criterion could be applied not only to investment, research, design and production of technology, but also to consumption and usage of technology. By borrowing several ideas from aforementioned Christian approaches and other philosophers of technology such as Herbert Marcuse and Andrew Feenberg, I will elaborate the suggestion further.
In the final section, I will claim that this criterion can be a good starting point for addressing the future of technological development. I will argue that this is a defendable Christian alternative as well as a meaningful suggestion in philosophy of technology. Since this criterion concerns the form of technology instead of directly referring to the content of technology, this allows practical room for concrete application and flexible compatibility with other issues raised both in Christian community and in philosophy of technology.
Professor of English
Professor of Philosophy
Professor of Communications
We are proposing a panel through which we will glimpse three different angles that hyper-technology brings to the fundamental roles of friendship and kinship. By hyper-technology, we mean the constantly present mediating technology, including social media and various instantly accessible versions of entertainment. It's obvious to us as educators that in the last five or ten years, the very fabric of student relationships has radically changed. The whole idea of acquiring friends has become an end in itself, rather than a means to fuller community.
We have in mind a specific sequence of presentations, moving from explorations of negative consequences, at both the individual and communal levels, towards a more positive vision of hyper-technology helping to maintain bonds of kinship that have already been forged and embodied. Our ultimate thesis is that the contemporary understanding of friendship, as formed in shadow of hyper-technology, needs thorough scrutiny regarding its effects on interpersonal, neighborly and familial relationships. But, with meaningful concern for boundaries and limits on technology's shaping power, friendships can and must still flourish.
Our first presentation, by Michael Stevens, will center on an anecdotal educational experiment, centered on a social media fast for introductory philosophy students during the Lenten season. The particular element, among the many intriguing revelations in student journals, of dissociation and alienation from perceived 'friends' by the students involved in the fast will be the hub for a set of reflections on the nature of cyber-constructed friendships among college students. The possibilities for deception and disappointment when one is still present bodily, but no longer in one's cyber-projection of self, seem to point to a startling reversal of usual modes of friendship formation and sustenance. Because friendship is now an activity of leisure, this has created a tension with work (which Wendell Berry's fiction posits as the place of friendship's development). In an Aristotelian vision (and Lewis's Four Loves and in Berry), friendship exists not as an end in itself, but for the sake of the community. So, friendships have purpose and a certain closure. The cyber-friendship world is far more open-ended and tenuous.
Our second presentation, by Matt Bonzo, will address the tension and boundary between technology and community, especially regarding household and neighbor. Here, the establishing of human relationships, and the requirement of time and space, is the paramount concern. Every household in America, even Matt's home of rural Ensley Center, Michigan, has multiple technologies in place, some of which can be shared with neighbors and the community at large, but most of which merely entertain and create the 'nuclear' (in the troubling sense of impenetrable, forbidding, and given to melting down) household. Though the crafting of love is the end of friendship, it requires precisely the uncrafted exchange. The problem is that hyper-technology never allows a relationship to 'get out of control' in this constructive sense, and thus, in Jim Olthuis's phrase, 'to dance in the wild spaces of love'. In discussing possible ways to exchange control mechanisms for relational vulnerability within neighborly relations, Matt's concern will be to show some of the contours suggested in Wendell Berry's simple formulation: "I'm not so much against technology as for community."
Our third presentation, by Desiree Duff, will approach the constructive possibilities of hyper-technology in perpetuating and sustaining bonds of kinship across boundaries of space and generational mobility. The key here will be the caveat that these modes of communication can only play this full and satisfying role if the face-to-face and embodied practices of kinship have already been deeply and thoroughly formed. Desiree will draw from her research interest in interpersonal communication to chart some of the theoretical terrain of social media usage and quality of discourse, but she will also draw from her experiences with her five children, ranging from their late twenties to late teens, and the meaningful (and difficult) applications of hyper-technology to 'keep the clan together'.
David A Tait
Associate Professor of History
Rogers State University
Recently an Oklahoma hospital promoted its services with a billboard slogan, "The Technology to Treat, the Compassion to Heal." The billboard message captured two essential features of contemporary medicine: on the one hand, the desire for sophisticated and expensive technologies that can cure or alleviate illness, on the other hand, a sense that healing also requires love, a requirement that may not be met in technologically intensive treatment. But technology and compassion are not necessarily two different things. And not all technology is new, complex or expensive. Christian healing employs a simple technology of anointing, prayer, and the laying on of hands. This technology has the great advantage of combining the use of inexpensive elements with the practice of Christian compassion for suffering people. In anointing, prayer, and the laying on of hands, Christian communities have the technology to treat and the compassion to heal.
This paper begins with the Eastern Orthodox service of Holy Unction, which includes the passage on healing in James 5, where anointing and prayer are mandated, as well as the account of the Good Samaritan, who employs wine and oil to treat the wounded man on the Jericho road. Also considered are Roman Catholic and Protestant healing traditions. The paper contends that the technologies of anointing, prayer and laying on of hands are never outdated, but remain vital to the healing of humanity. Elaborate technologies may come and go, or cost so much that many cannot afford them. For the deep wounds of human beings, the technology of anointing and prayer will always be available in a treatment that embodies the compassion to heal.
The traditional technology of oil, hands and prayer is important also as a reminder of the place of all technologies in Christian life. They must be not only effective but also humane; their use must not simply repair one part of the human body, but also strengthen the person for the worship and service of God. In Christian understanding, human flourishing is not synonymous with physical or mental health. Christian healing focuses on relationships with God and with other people. The technologies of prayer, anointing and laying on of hands address all dimensions of a sick person's existence.
Sr. Lecturer and Assistant Chair of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Assistant Dean of the School of Engineering and Computer Science
Baylor University now offers two separate minors that students from any major can choose to add to their course of study. The first is "Poverty and Social Justice" housed in the Baylor School of Social Work, and the second is "Social Entrepreneurship" housed in the Baylor Business School. Both of these programs focus on the cultivation of human flourishing. The School of Engineering and Computer Science has created a new course that may be taken as an elective in either of these programs: EGR 3305, "Technology for Developing Countries." The content of this course is broken down into four parts:
A charcoal-making project and a rainwater catchment project will take place at a local farm and will expose the students to practical skills such as planning, using hand tools, and welding. An overnight poverty simulation will help the students understand living conditions in parts of the developing world.
This course is unusual in that it is a technology-based class for a general audience. It is intended to enable our students to promote human flourishing in developing countries in various capacities such as policy regarding technical projects, technology-based economic development projects, and the humanitarian outreach aspects of Christian missions.
Assistant Professors of Computer Science
Northwestern College, Orange City. Iowa
The greatest impediment to human flourishing is defective thinking. Humans are notorious for their tendency to employ wishful thinking, self-delusion, superficiality, inconsistency, and rationalization to justify pathological actions or positions. Cognitive scientists claim that humans avoid thinking if possible, minimize their effort if they must think and only then think, but do it poorly. Critical thinking, or meta thinking (thinking about thinking), is offered as a process to improve thinking; its use of analysis, reflection and evaluation is appealing. But critical thinking has proven too feeble to jettison the ideas of either Nietzsche or Marx, in spite of their roles in the destruction of human flourishing. Critical thinking seems to be necessary to thinking well, but is clearly insufficient.
Here we explore the use of computational philosophy as a tool to improve human thinking. Computational philosophy reverses the usual relationship between computation and philosophy. Philosophy, as a second-order discipline, typically studies computational science as a first-order discipline; instead, we propose that computation be used to analyze, evaluate and criticize the assumptions underlying philosophy. While we must be mindful of the limitations imposed by Gödel's incompleteness theorems and Turing's halting problem, computational philosophy can use the formalism provided by computational logic to investigate the implications of philosophical ideas. Not only can computational technology expand the scope of what can be assessed, but the benefits of formalization parallel those of mathematizing any problem. The discipline of constructing, executing and appraising a computational model requires goal clarification, data analysis, information synthesis and outcome evaluation; which is the process prescribed by critical thinking. However, the results will not merely occupy locations in the idea space of philosophy, but will have passed the implementation test. For example, the Resource Description Framework (RDF) can be used to create subject-predicate-object expressions, and the Web Ontology Language can use RDF triples, along with formal semantics, for knowledge representation and inferential reasoning. The discipline imposed by implementation will eliminate unworkable models, focus attention on conceptual consequences and increase the likelihood of human flourishing through improvements in reasoning.
S. Kay Toombs
Associate Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
My reflections on technology and human flourishing grow out of my experience living for the past fourteen years in an agrarian-based intentional Christian community committed to the effort to develop a sustainable culture. Talk about "sustainable culture" necessarily implies that "sustainability" is a broader issue than is often recognized—an issue that embraces all areas of life. What is at stake is not just our ability to provide for our material needs in a way that sustains the natural environment, but also our ability to sustain meaningful relationships within families, generations, communities, and society at large. I will consider a few of the ways in which technology has radically altered our relationship with nature and discuss how our cultural perspective on the value and place of technology both shapes our immediate experience of the natural world and determines the way we think about, and approach, our direct involvement with the surrounding environment.
Lawrence V Tucker, MD
The Mind Matters Clinic
MichaelD DeVine, MS, LPC
Owner & Counselor
Michael DeVine, CCA
The influence that technology has had on modern human society can be seen every day all around us. Whether it's going to the doctor, seeing a movie, watching television, even going to the bathroom; technology has profoundly affected every aspect of our lives. What is not as readily apparent is how technology has affected human brain and personality development. How exactly does technology affect our brains and how does it affect our personality?
One of the oldest debates in psychology is determining whether nature or nurture plays a more significant role in human development. The easy answer is that technically it is both. Every human brain has a certain set of predefined genetic predeterminations but the brain has a built in adaptive mechanism called plasticity. To ensure the continued survival and evolution of the human species, the brain is designed to continually adapt to its environment. The experiences that occur during peak plasticity have a greater affect on brain development.
A central tenet of neuroscience, for example, is that the brain continues to develop its "wiring diagram" at least well into a person's mid 20s. The frontal lobes, regions critical to high-level cognitive skills such as judgment, executive control, and emotional regulation, are the last to fully develop. It is also well accepted that during this extended developmental period, the brain is highly adaptable to and influenced by external environmental circumstances. Might the perpetual bath of technology-driven information and sensory overload impact the still-developing brain in some way?
In general, it is our belief that technology can be good for children's cognitive development, if it is used judiciously. But if it is used in a nonjudicious fashion, it will shape the brain in a negative way. The problem is that judicious thinking is among the frontal-lobe skills that are still developing way past the teenage years. In the meantime, the pull of technology is capturing kids at an ever earlier age, when they are not generally able to step back and decide what's appropriate or necessary, or how much is too much. The outcome will be a generation marked by "laziness of thinking." A lot of what is appealing about all these types of instant communications is that they are fast. Fast is not equated with deliberation.
One area where the research is particularly strong is what is popularly known as multitasking. Plugged-in kids have gained a reputation for being masters at toggling between, say, a homework assignment and instant-messaging classmates, surfing the Internet while updating Facebook pages, and so on. A 2006 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that middle and high school students spend an average of 6.5 hours a day hooked up to computers or otherwise using electronic devices, and more than a quarter of them are routinely using several types of media at once. Study after study has found that multitasking degrades the quality of learning. The bottom line is that if you try to do more than one thing at the same time, you're going to have a decrement in performance. It also found that when teens are "studying" at the computer, two-thirds of the time they are also doing something else. While the common perception is that multitasking saves time, enabling one to get things done faster and better, the evidence suggests quite the opposite. It is clear from a large body of solid scientific research conducted over the past two decades that dividing the brain's attention between two or more tasks simultaneously has costs, both in performance and time. Several independent research groups have reported evidence that, at the level of neural systems, multitasking actually entails rapid switching from one task to another. Each switch exacts a toll, at least doubling the time it takes to complete a task and decreasing both the level of performance and the ability to recall what you were doing later on.
Utilizing the latest psychological research including neuro-imaging, we will explore the effects of technology at the neurological level and discuss how those changes affect human behavior. We will discuss possible positive changes such as increased intelligence, multi-tasking abilities, processing speed, etc. We will also discuss the potential pitfalls such as ADHD, mental illness, addiction, etc.
Moreover, we will also discuss the ways in which technology has shaped modern human behavior and personality; including the way it has changed how we experience one another, how we communicate, how we construct our reality, and even our relationships.
Steven H VanderLeest
Professor of Engineering
Computing technology may soon enable machines to become human and enable humans to become machines. Ray Kurzweil, in his 1999 book The Age of Spiritual Machines, predicted we would reach this "singularity" around the year 2020. Machines with human-like qualities are not surprising to science fiction buffs. Movies such as Blade Runner or AI: Artificial Intelligence depicted machines that act and look human. We are no longer far from this future. For example, in 1997 IBM Deep Blue beat a grandmaster chess champion and in 2011 IBM Watson beat two human champions of the TV game show Jeopardy! Although information-processing powerhouses get more press, computers are better intuiting our emotional state as well (e.g., "Predicting user mental states in spoken dialogue systems," EURASIP Journal on Advances in Signal Processing, 2011:6). No less astounding has been the dramatic progression of human technological augmentation. Genetic engineering and nanotech implants that were once science fiction, from Huxley's Brave New World to Stephenson's Diamond Age, are no longer so far-fetched. Consider that the human genome was already mapped over a decade ago or consider how technological replacements for amputated limbs are becoming quite sophisticated (Josh Fischman, "Bionics," National Geographic, Jan, 2010).
What should we make of all this? What is the status (legal, ethical, creational) of machines that think? Alternatively, do I myself still qualify as human if I modify my genes or if I replace much of my body with machines? What ethical boundaries prohibit us from pursuing certain technological advances? One way to approach these questions is to examine the classic Turing test for artificial intelligence and consider Searle's renowned objection to it. Further, this paper will consider the standing of a thinking machine (should it be achieved). Do such machines have any rights? Ought we treat them like inanimate objects such as rocks, or more like animals, or perhaps even equivalent to humans? Considering machine-like humans is no less vexing. As we replace parts of the body with more and more technology, at what point do we lose our humanity? A person with a knee-replacement is surely still human, but what if we replace parts of their brain? What if we download consciousness into a computer and it declares itself to be human? Thorny questions forced upon us by these burgeoning technological fields focus our attention not only on the limits or promise of technology, but also on our fundamental understanding of what it means to be human. Many of the characteristics we might identify as definitively human are shared with animals or potential AI machine (consciousness, emotion, self-awareness). Attributes that are most unique to humans may be the most difficult to measure objectively, such as the presence of a soul.
Christians define our humanity in Biblical terms. Humans are created by God with particular rights, but more importantly, with specific responsibilities. Perhaps it is by relationship that we are best defined: in relation to God and to the rest of creation. We reflect the Creator as the imago dei; we steward the creation on behalf of the Creator. As humans created in the image of God, now is the time to consider the application of Biblical principles to the man-machine issues we may soon face. This paper will examine what value we might find in intelligent machines and explore its relationships: to humans, to the rest of creation, and to God. Two scriptural guidelines that should help form our stance are justice and humility. The virtue of justice calls for fair and equitable treatment of our neighbor. We normally think of our neighbors as those humans around us, though some Christian philosophers have also included animals or even non-living creation as deserving of respectful treatment. How do we apply the norm of justice when we are not certain if a machine counts as human? May we treat human-like machines as second-class citizens or slaves? If a corporation pays for the genetic enhancement of a human, what return on their investment can they ethically expect? The virtue of humility may prompt us to proceed down this technological path more slowly, using a precautionary principle to avoid unintended consequences. It also calls us to take care that we are not attempting to play God in development of our new creations.
Hannah Lyn Venable
University of Dallas
Technology has become the most tangible proof for the validity of scientific knowledge owing to the prodigious complexity of its products and to our daily reliance on their efficiency and functionality. Whether or not we understand how a product works, we take for granted the credibility of the knowledge used to engineer it and expect it to function according to our needs. Technology's products have been more than successful demanding that there must be something valid in the knowledge and method behind their creation. In other words, the method for producing technology works, because we can see its concrete results all around us. With the success of this method staring us in the face, our curiosity cannot help but be piqued. What kind of method is capable of producing such results? What catalyst is responsible for our great advancement in technology? In this paper, I will explore the answers to these questions by drawing upon Bernard Lonergan's work on method in Insight. We will begin by looking at the steps of the scientific method, which fuel the production of technology. Though the steps seem simple enough: asking a question, making a hypothesis, gathering and testing data and then reaching some kind of solution, they reveal something deeper about our humanity. Taking the first step, for example, we see that the method has to start with a human being asking a question; why do humans ask these questions? Certainly, some ask questions motivated by greed hoping that the results will turn out a product for their own financial gain. Others ask questions motivated by selfishness hoping that their findings will bring about their own glory. But, in order for the scientific method to be successful, these questions must come from a pure, unrestricted desire to know; a desire for knowledge for the sake of knowledge itself. The seeker must be open to the answer being different from what he or she expects and be willing to discover something that he or she has never even considered. Just as Archimedes discovered the principle of buoyancy while taking a bath and pondering whether the king's crown was made of gold, we stumble across knowledge unexpectedly and often find answers when we are willing to think outside the box. Though our biases will obstruct us, every human does have this desire to know: we desire knowledge simply because we are curious and simply because we wonder. Lonergan calls this uniquely human trait: a detached, disinterested desire to know. Any method, but especially the scientific method, can reveal this desire to know and thus, Lonergan's formidable goal is to create a method, which will foster this desire to know and lead us to true knowledge. In our investigation, we will, first, see how our desire to know is the root of method, specifically the scientific method as demonstrated by technology; secondly, we will consider this human desire in depth by looking at its biases; and thirdly, we will learn how to cultivate this desire in order to find true knowledge in other aspects of our lives.
Associate Professor of Christian Ministries
Ouachita Baptist University
In Greek mythology, the siren's song proved so irresistible that sailors would abandon their ships, plunging into the sea, placing their fate at the hands of the sirens.
Internet pornography has truly become "everyman's battle" with well known individuals such as Chuck Swindoll stating that 50 percent of the men in an average congregation struggle with it.
It's not a question of whether the minister will act, but rather how the minister will choose to act. As if the challenge for the minister isn't already daunting, newly released data shows a growing acceptance of internet pornography; as well as its appeal to women.
The lure of internet pornography to virtually every segment of the congregation begs to be addressed, but how can the minister meet the challenge head on without becoming part of the very problem that the pastor is trying to resolve?
What about the minister's own sense of sexuality, and how would this influence ministry?
It is possible for the pastor to minister to individuals affected by internet pornography, or should this be left to professionals; or could the minister and the professional therapist work as a team?
What are the warning signs that the minister is becoming too involved in such ministry? What are some of the most common mistakes ministers must be aware of in confronting the problem? Are there legal implications the minister may not be aware of? How can the minister best be protected in dealing with the problem?
Statistics also reveal that individuals are being exposed to internet pornography at increasingly younger ages. How can the church best meet this challenge and at what age should this issue be addressed? How might various age groups, i.e. elementary school age children, younger and older adolescents, college, young adults, men and women confront these problems in a meaningful manner, and how could this look in the local church?
Increasingly churches are encountering staff members and children and/or adolescent workers who have problems with internet pornography. Every denomination has faced the tragic results of dealing with the emotional devastation that occurs, not to mention the legal liability. What churches can and are doing to protect themselves will be examined, including the use of background checks.
The use of computers in the church is an ever growing concern with some church computers being used to access pornography. What churches are doing to address this issue will be discussed.
This presentation will include a multi-page handout and will incorporate case studies, as well as actual programs being utilized by churches of various denominations. Multiple resources will be provided for those interested in developing and implementing a ministry to those affected by internet pornography.
Legal documents utilized by churches will also be a part of the handout.
In addition to the above, a display of resources will be available for examination by those attending the session.
Professor of Political Science
While the Internet and information technology are recognized as powerful and pervasive influences on contemporary culture, few analysts and social critics discuss the role of automotive technology. Yet the car still pervasively shapes, and is pervasively shaped by, everyday life in modern societies. A quick glance at the daily lives of most North Americans would demonstrate our reliance on globally produced cars for transportation, but we should also notice an entire cultural system surrounding cars: roadtrip novels, car-related products, auto races, and even children's films in which cars take on human characteristics. For much of the twentieth century, the automotive industry was a leading sector of economic and technological innovation, while its products enabled the imaginations of millions who wanted to hit the open road.
It is hard to overstate how personal ownership of motor vehicles has contributed to personal autonomy, privacy, speed, efficiency, and other highly desired goods associated with modernity. One recent study (by Shimelse Ali and Uri Dadush) even contended that automobile ownership is the best indicator of whether a person has joined the middle class worldwide. Aspirations to a vision of the (American, middle class) "good life" surely help to explain why millions of vehicles are being added to the roads in China and India each year. As a result of this rush to emulate the industrialized countries, transportation scholars now envision two billion cars being on the roads worldwide during this century.
But do cars—this ubiquitous instrument of modernity—promote the good life? According to the World Health Organization, as many as 1.2 million people a year die in automobile accidents worldwide. That amounts to an average of 3,287 human persons, the equivalent of ten jumbo jets full of passengers, killed each day. Accounts of distracted driving and "road rage" appear frequently in media and popular culture. By accelerating suburban sprawl, the car helped contribute to the demise of center cities. Automobiles also contribute significantly to pollution, oil dependence, and carbon emissions. The tensions between a thriving car culture and human flourishing are evident.
Puzzlingly, despite—or perhaps because of—the ubiquity of automobile technology in the everyday lives of industrialized societies, few scholars have attended to its role in shaping modernity and globalization. As British sociologist John Urry writes, "strangely the car is rarely discussed in the 'globalization literature', although its specific character of domination is more systemic and awesome in its consequences than what are normally viewed as constitutive technologies of the global, such as the cinema, television and especially the computer ("The 'System' of Automobility," 2004).
In light of the relative paucity of social scientific or cultural analysis of the "car system" (to use Urry's term), Christian scholars have reflected even less on how that system has shaped the imaginative desires, habits, and practices of Christian individuals and Christian communities in ways that advance or restrict human flourishing. Nor have many Christian scholars reflected on alternative narratives that might nourish alternative desires, alternative technologies and alternative practices aimed at human flourishing and the flourishing of the Kingdom of God. How might Christians live appropriately in relationship to this technological system?
I hope to address this question as a social scientific and Christian scholar of globalization. The proposed paper seeks to advance a Christian academic conversation about the car system in three major sections. First, drawing on Aristotle, John Howard Yoder, and James K.A. Smith, it will outline a Christian vision of human flourishing. Second, it will describe how the car system works against this vision in several ways. Third, drawing on the work of pastor and theologian Eric Jacobsen, it will describe how Christians seeking "the welfare of the city" (Jer 29:7) and seeking "first the Kingdom" (Matt 6:33) are beginning to live out compelling alternatives to the car system in urban settings.
Robert Alan Wauzzinski
President, professor, parish associate
Interfacing, Ivy Tech, First Presbyterian church
This seminar will analyze the place and importance given to modern technology. It will do so by reviewing four major evaluations of technology and thus attempt to show that these reviews themselves form worldviews. These positions are: Optimism; Pessimism; Realism; and the Structuralists. Further, these positions also give answer to at least five important worldviewing questions:
Thus, we begin with Optimism. Optimism says that humans are essentially technological beings: "Homo Faber". Ignorance and a lack of sufficient technology represent the essential problems. Progress, or the equation of total human betterment with improvements in science, economics, and technology, is the way towards improvement. More technology always makes life better. And human freedom is enhanced with technology. Engineer Samuel Florman's "In Praise of Technology" is an example of such a view.
Pessimists say that technology leads to a form of enslavement that destroys human freedom. Human betterment can be enhanced only by the eradication of our modern technological society. Jacques Ellul tells us that freedom can only be given by God. Unfortunately, he is pessimistic that essential freedom exists today.
The Realists believe that modern technology has both positive and negative effects. To overcome the negative effects we must make rational and pragmatic tradeoffs. The nature of what is wrong is that too often we blindly follow ideologies. Rational people can make decisions that shift the import of the place and importance of technology to the positive with enough rationality and good will. The work of Edward Wenk in his book Tradeoffs represents perhaps the best of the Realist position.
Finally, there are the Structuralists, the most Christian among the positions stated. They believe that humans, along with the the rest of creation, are multifaceted in nature. That is, we are composed of many layers and a core to our being. What is wrong with the world is technicism, or the idolatry of technology. Concretely this means that technology occupies more and more of our lives because of the "technological imperative". Cultural and personal repentance could lead us to "salvation" or a complementarity whereby technology assumes its normative place blended with other spheres. Philosopher-engineer Egbert Schuurman is the noted structuralist.
We will argue that a Christian position forcefully can be stated. It beings with understanding the very good creation and technology's legitimate place within God's world. Second, it will show the idolatrous effects of technology upon modern culture. Redemption can occur when repentance leads us to concrete complementarity.
This presentation is based on my book Discerning Technology which was honored by Epsilon Pi Tau, an international honorary for science and technology, as book of the year, 2003.
Sue B. Whatley
Stephen F. Austin State University
Ten years ago, I taught an essay in my science and technology literature unit which referenced Hans Moravec (MIT) and his claim that in the first twenty years of the 21st century, man will be able to download his essential self (his soul, Moravec calls it), thus enabling multiple versions and multiple existences. What will happen to the "original," self, the interviewer asked. There will be no need to keep it, inferior as it will be, Moravec claimed. "It can be shut down."
As horrified as I was in sharing this technological prediction with my students, I quickly became more horrified at their ennui. So convinced were they of the wackiness of the notion and the insanity at the source, they could not entertain the possibility of the very real moral dilemma facing them just beyond graduation. Even a viewing of Spielberg-Kubrick's AI proved no possible reality for them. " If robots are going to replace us in twenty years, tell me why they can't get those vacuum cleaners to work," one student said. " It just runs into the wall and sits there." Another chimed in that the local Wal-mart had "put in the self-check machines" and "took them out, in two years."
Fast forwarding a few more years, my students and I have confronted the philosophies of Ray Kurzweil whose books The Spiritual Age of Machines and The Singularity is Near advance the notion of the transhuman—"people and computers intermix[ing] with nanobots, blood cell-sized robots, that will be integrated into everything from our clothing to our bodies and brains." Kurzweil claims that, if we live long enough (20 or 30 years), we can "live forever"(Guadin). We can think of ourselves as the "human body version 1.0 with nanotechnology that will repair or replace ailing or aging tissue. Parts will become easily replaceable."
Kurzweil's term for this point in the future where human and machine/technology become one is "the Singularity" and while it may seem ludicrous to some of us born of a less technologically infused world, many of our world's most scientific minds endorse Kurzweil's vision. Kurzweil's technological accomplishments (Optical Character Recognition and Voice Recognition) put him in a position of knowledgeable authority, and his Singularity book, a best seller in 2005, and one of the most blogged about books of 2005, is now touted by Amazon as the single most important book published in their Science/Philosophy/Technology/Evolution category.
Imagine Flannery O'Connor sitting in the audience of a Kurzweil lecture, O'Connor—whose stories might seem to be a treatise for 20th Century Luddites—Hazel Motes gets his due after announcing his theology: "No Man with a good Car needs to be redeemed"; Mrs. McIntyre's speedy demise after allowing her tractor to "correct" the excesses of her "displaced person," or Mr. Fortune's homicide and simultaneous death at the hands of his granddaughter, while the bulldozing "yellow monster" whines its hymn of progress in the land just off the woods. O'Connor's letters reveal a distrust of the technological progress of the age. Friends sent a phonograph as a gift, and Flannery commented in her letters that her mother prefers the kind of music which moves "up and down" and she, the music which goes "back and forth." In fact, it seems that O'Connor, one of our greatest writers, and certainly the most important writer of Christian fiction in American studies, goes to pains to express her fear and perhaps rejection of technology and machines as vehicles of progress. To many of us, O'Connor would seem to be the very picture of the technophobe.
Yet, O'Connor has a great deal in common with Kurzweil's notions of a singular future, one in which human and machine merge to create a super-intelligence. Her correspondence and appropriation of Teilhard de Chardin's philosophies of convergence and emergence, her narration of and fictionalization of the "Omega Point" and her embracement of spiritual destiny lead us to the question of whether technology actually does threaten spirituality. I will examine passages from several of the stories—"Everything That Rises Must Converge" and "Revelation" in particular—in order to show how O'Conner's theology, like Chardin's, may parallel or even subsume the most current and radical trends in the contemporary philosophy of transhumanism.
Viewing the stories in light of current thinking may also help my students take more seriously a technological future and its moral conundrums.
Catherine of Siena Fellow
In the fifteen years since its release Andrew Niccol's film Gattaca has become second only to Huxley's Brave New World as a widely recognized reference point in discussions of the possibilities and dangers implicit of the revolution in genetic knowledge and technology that is currently underway. While allusions to Niccol's film are common in discussions of the ethics of genetic screening and genetic manipulation, detailed discussions of the film by philosophers are rare and those philosophers who have written about the film have generally argued that it is a well-crafted film, but a source of confusion and unwarranted fears in its treatment of eugenics.
Responding to criticisms made by Neven Sesardic, Colin Gavaghan, and Sandra Shapshay, I argue that Gattaca is indeed a substantial and insightful reflection on its subject. I do this in part to give the film its due, in part to commend it as a focus for ethical reflection, and also because in so far as the philosophers who failed to recognize the force of the film's moral criticism this reveals an (interesting) blindspot in their criteria of assessment.
Gattaca depicts a society in "the not-too-distant future" in which it has become common practice for parents to artificially fertilize large numbers of eggs and then select for implantation the one embryo which, in consultation with their doctor, is determined to have the best potential. While it is forbidden by law for employers to discriminate on the basis of genetic testing, in practice this prohibition is regularly flouted with impunity; a DNA test has become a common substitute for a job interview. Those who are the product of old fashioned reproduction are second-class citizens, while the top jobs and the affluent life that accompanies them are reserved for a newly established genetic aristocracy. Indeed it is an aristocracy assured of the legitimacy of its privileges since they are based on scientifically calibrated merit.
Gattaca is especially astute concerning the way in which the emergence of the practice of genetic selection changes the relationship between parents and their children, whether or not those children were produced using this method. Those who are not the result of genetic screening can resent the fact that they have been consigned to second-class status while those "valids" who are blessed with the best genetic material come to regard their successes as no more than their birthright. One of the film's central characters, Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), is an accomplished swimmer who has never got over his shame at winning a silver medal in a major competition; for someone blessed with his genetic material, anything less than gold feels like failure. The eugenic regime of Gattaca thus imposes twin burdens on "valids" and "invalids" alike; the invalids suffer from discrimination and the burden of low expectations, while the valids suffer from "the burden of perfection."
Oddly, several of Gattaca's philosophical critics have argued that this concern is misplaced since it is already the case that children suffer from the burden of parental and societal expectations. This is certainly true, but it hardly follows that concerns about the psychological burden placed on the citizens of the eugenic regime of Gattaca is nothing to worry about. One might as well argue that we need not be worried about carcinogenic pollution because people sometimes develop cancer even when they are not exposed to a carcinogenic agent.
A number of other criticisms leveled against Gattaca amount to pointing out that the consequences of the eugenic practices that Niccol depicts are really just extensions of trends that already exist in contemporary society. I argue that this is precisely what makes Gattaca so disturbing and important a contribution to contemporary thinking about the ethics of eugenics. While it exaggerates the prospects of eugenics in some respects, its treatment of those prospects is far more realistic and plausible that those found in Huxley's Brave New World, and it is a reductio of the arguments of Gattaca's philosophical critics that the grounds on which they dismiss Niccol's film would apply a fortiori to Huxley's classic work.
This paper is informed by a Kierkegaardian perspective on technology and its relation to ethical human living. Kierkegaard reflected frequently on the subject of how technology influenced human relations because of the emerging public press in the 19th century, and it is not difficult to draw parallels to the contemporary West, surrounded as it is by various forms of media, internet access, and myriad technological devices for easing the difficulties of life. I will be drawing on Concluding Unscientific Postscript (1846), For Self-Examination (1851), and suitable selections from Kierkegaard's journals and papers.
Technology tempts us away from the ethical tasks of living as human beings created in the image of God in two ways: 1) The use of the objects of technology persuade us to relate to ourselves and others objectively, rather than subjectively, and 2) The use of the objects of technology serve as a convenient distraction from our requirement to examine ourselves diligently and to reflect upon our task of living.
First, Kierkegaard feared that the press of his day permitted people to speak anonymously (and thus unaccountably) to a faceless public. In other words, the technology served temptingly to intervene into the relation between subjectivity and subjectivity and enable its transformation into a relation between an anonymous (and therefore semi-objective) speaker and an aggregated (and therefore semi-objective, since the individual could escape personal responsibility and identity in the crowd) audience. The technology did not force this transformation, of course, but Kierkegaard believed that it became a ready temptation for ethically tired or unstable people. Consider our similar technological experience: anonymous Twitter feeds, MMO characters in an online fantasy realm, anonymous trolling in order to provoke anger, deceptive online dating, etc. There is a delight in having increasing communicative access to an ever-unknown "public." One says and does things online that one would never dare face-to-face even with a stranger. Informed by a Kierkegaardian perspective, one sees that part of the enjoyment is precisely that the technology facilitates our flight from rigorous ethical living to unaccountable online playfulness. It is precisely the (sometimes) burden and task of being a subjectivity and relating to a subjectivity that is minimized. The objectivity of our electronic devices even becomes subtly conflated with our interactions and our self-conceptions, and even the slight human responsibilities of, say, manners or maintaining privacy may be indolently relaxed for a time. We may relate to everything objectively for a while—but this is precisely when the likelihood for cruelty and lack of empathy is maximized.
Second, and related, our technological objects are not accidental distractions from human ethical tasks but become sought out precisely as a means of escaping from such tasks. For a brief while (say, in the escapism of a movie or in the mindlessness of video game playing), this may be excused as a small indulgence. With the multiplication of means of technological access, however, especially when coupled with our society's lack of discipline regarding such devices, ethical responsibilities get placed by the wayside. The objectivity of technology is precisely an aid to its use in ethical escapism. As Kierkegaard puts it, transparency under God and before our fellow human beings is our rigorous task, "but we men would rather deal with something objective, for an objectivity is opaque, and all kinds of commerce and lunacy can go on behind its back" (X-4 A 346). Technology is an objective hiding place from our subjective selves and important relations.
What can be done about this, then? Kierkegaard says the following: "You must not look at the mirror, the frame, for example…but look at yourself in the mirror" (X-4 A 283; cf. FSA 25ff.). In other words, it is not the objective mirror itself that is important about it but how we see ourselves in and through it. To put it another way, it is not the objective "what" that should be the focus of our attention but the subjective relation of "how" (CUP). With this perspective, technology is now seen not as inevitable ethical trouble but as the occasion for us to reflect on how we use it in better or worse ways. Do I escape to my twitter feed to avoid talking with my wife, for example? Do I retreat to the TV when I ought to be disciplining or loving my children? Viewed in this light, technology is, of course, not inherently good or evil but is an occasion for ethical reflection and for returning us to subjective existence.
Assistant Professor of Education
Redeemer University College
The writings of George Parkin Grant (1918-1988), a Canadian political philosopher, were examined regarding his view of the relationship between technology and education. Specifically, his definition of technology—the co-penetration of knowing and making—was conceptually analyzed within a reading of his work. Grant's implicit vision of education, grounded in Christian and Platonic epistemological assumptions, was explicated and unified around the idea of the interdependence of knowing and loving. Placed within the context of John Dewey's theories of technology and education, Grant and Dewey were found to be in substantial agreement concerning the nature of modern technology, but in profound disagreement over the meaning of an educative experience.
This paper distinguishes between the artifacts of technology and the animating spirit from which these artifacts pour forth. Although much has been written about the effect of these artifacts (such as digital technology) on the nature of schooling and human flourishing, few have considered how the spirit of technology has affected and is affecting the way we understand what it means to be educated. Grant and Dewey have much to contribute to this discussion.
Ralph C. Wood
University Professor of Theology and Literature
The most famous 19th century convert to Rome, John Henry Newman, was regarded as such a theological radical that a fellow Catholic described him as "the most dangerous man in England." Now that he has been raised to the altars as the Blessed John Henry, he remains no less radical and no less "dangerous," especially when we consider his critique of anti-religious approaches to technology. Newman trumpets, at once keenly and wittily, the need for Christian guidance and restraint vis-à-vis the burgeoning technics of the Victorian era. In the Tamworth Reading Room Letters among other texts, he questions the modern devotion to "indefinite inquiry." Newman warns that, without an ultimate finis and telos, scientific experiment will produce a brutal utilitarianism, a nightmare "progress" based on greed and pleasure. Not that Newman advocates any nostalgic return to a Christendom wherein such matters would be put under the control of the Church. On the contrary, he welcomes the open and lively controversy that theological questions always arouse. At the same time, Newman is increasingly dissatisfied with the notion that ultimate matters —whether moral or religious, whether aesthetic or technical —can be decided by private judgment and popular opinion. Hence the enormous relevance of Newman's work for our time, when we are increasingly convinced that all seeing is lensed, that all truth is historically conditioned. Newman remains dangerously blessed, I will argue, because he makes a brilliant case for Christian inclusion in the tournament of competing metanarratives about human flourishing in a technological age.
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