One more excerpt from Mere Science and Christian Faith, now available.
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MIT professor Sherry Turkle defends the messiness of community. (“Messiness,” bythe way, is my word, not hers.) Part of her reasoning is that conversations in real time with real people can’t be manipulated like virtual interactions can be. Turkle describes a manager at HeartTech, a large Silicon Valley software firm, who left engineering for management.
“I left my previous job because it was too predictable. I wanted to work with unpredictable systems [i.e., people]” (Silicon Valley software manager).
Turkle offers this advice:
“Challenge a view of the world as apps” (Sherry Turkle)
—the idea that some app on our smartphone will lead us to the solution to all problems. “The app way of thinking starts with the idea that actions in the world will work like algorithms: Certain actions will lead to predictable results” (Reclaiming Conversation, 322-2). But human relationships are unpredictable, chaotic, and complex—that’s what makes them both frustrating and exultant.
This “app thinking” can affect us relationally and spiritually. We think that we can manage people neatly, and if things go awry, we simply shut down that person’s “app” or “doc.” But when we do this, we treat other human beings impersonally—like they’re simply an extension of our smart phone—and this may also alter the way we approach another personal relationship—namely, with God. To take it up a metaphysical notch, our relationship with God is also messy and unpredictable. The eternal, sovereign God of the Bible cannot be managed. To cite Mrs. Beaver as she describes Aslan the Christ figure in the Chronicles of Narnia,
“He’s wild, you know. Not like a tame lion” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, 182).
God is free, untamable, and not manageable by our phone apps. And maybe we are too.