Thursday, May 17, 2018

Peering Into the Horizon of Faith-Science-Technology: Some Questions

This is part two on where we’re headed in the interaction of Christian faith with science and technology. 

There's a particular reason for these reflections. I’m working on a talk for next week that’s giving me a bit of grief. At my own urging (i.e., I have no one else to blame), I’m going to address the recipients of the science-faith grant (STEAM) with the question, 
“Where is this conversation about Christian faith and science—as well as the closely related issue of technology—headed?” 
As I mentioned this question is giving me grief, and I'd like to think it shouldn't. I’ve often thought that I’m the kind of futurist, always seeking to discern what’s on the horizon, what storm is on the way, or what sun is just beginning to peer into my world. But these topics seem honestly opaque to me. So continuing from last week's format, instead of answers, let’s begin with questions. Last post, I addressed scientific topics, but I found in 
one study I directed, SEYA, that 18-30 year olds see technology and science as inextricably linked, even coterminous. I would even say then that this is an emerging trend. 

Technology in general and "the technique": The topic is, to use legal jargon, “overly broad,” and my two chapters in Mere Science and Christian Faith just begin an exploration. Nonetheless, techie toys, like smart phones, social media, laptops, video conferencing, define our world. How is this world something that is still (to quote the hymn) “My Father’s World”? Or is it, in fact the world of another power? The key to all this—certainly in its harmful effects—is what the famed 20th century French sociologist Jacques Ellul named technique
Jacques Ellul
“Technique is the totality of methods, rationally arrived at and having absolute  efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.” Jacques Ellul
Is there room for our humanity even in a world that's been over-run not just with technology, but with an obsession with "technique." 

AI and Transhumanism: I have separated this from technology because the promise of technology to create minds like we have (Artificial Intelligence) or at least something works better than Siri. It also brings out the question, if we do create intelligence robots, will they be persons and thus, will they have to pay taxes? (There may even be a few more serious questions than that, but I'll start there."
Do you ever feel, in light of these questions, like these guys?

Growth of the nones: As I’ve mentioned in other places, I grew up in a happy secular Silicon Valley and had minimal religious input before adulthood. So in short I vibe with the nones, with those who mark “none” on surveys that ask, “What is your religious affiliation?” With the increase in scientific and technological thinking, unaffiliation or disaffiliation in churches and other religious communities will increase. It’s already running almost 40% for 18-30 year olds. Is there any way, for those of us who would like the church to exist, to forestall this trend?

There you have. A number of tough questions and pretty much no answers. At least from me at this moment...

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