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The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention Paperback – April 1, 1999


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Religion of Technology is equal parts history and polemics. Noble explores the religious roots of Western technology by linking today's secular technophilia with the ancient Christian dream of humanity's redemption. Noble argues that, historically, the most powerful technological advances (Newtonian physics, the engineering profession, space exploration) have been driven by explicitly spiritual and humane ambitions, but that the last several decades have brought a new kind of technology that is impatient with life and unconcerned with basic human needs. The Religion of Technology is an authoritative, erudite, and often persuasive book. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For social historian Noble (history, York Univ., Toronto), Western culture's persistent enchantment with technology finds its roots in religious imagination. Despite their varied guises and pursuits, science and technology suggest nothing more than our "enduring, other-worldly quest for transcendence and salvation." The pearl of great value is Noble's contention that science and technology aren't guilty of amorality: that was never the intent. Rather, he claims, new technologies aren't about meeting human need; they transcend it. Salvation through technology "has become the unspoken orthodoxy." Such is the new Gnosticism. This is a dense, fascinating study of technology and Christianity. Not satisfied with easy equivalencies, Noble challenges the idea of post-Enlightenment science as a secular brave new world and quietly offers that what we're really hoping for is our reentry into Eden. Recommended for science and religion collections.?Sandra Collins, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Lib.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (April 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140279164
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140279160
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #852,892 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Chris J Farrell on February 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I suppose most people like me have wondered why technology has advanced so rapidly in western societies but so little in, say, India or in Africa. I first noticed this through the work of Joseph Needham. I went to an excellent lecture of his with the unforgettable title "The Pre-Natal History of the Steam Engine". The Chinese had many of the precursors to the steam engine but didn't put them together. I've seen this rise of western technology attributed to Christianity in western cultures but never in a very convincing way. David Noble has convinced me. In the first part of the book he shows the explicit influence of two passages in the Bible, one from Genesis and one from Daniel. It is an academic style of writing. You've got to want to read it but its worth it. I wanted to know much more in depth about the role of the monasteries in developing technology. I found myself looking up the origin of Benedictine liqueur (from an apothecary in a monastery). When it comes to the present day the book is weak. He dwells on the religious views of current or recent scientists. Since most of the American population is theist and attends church its not surprising that scientists also espouse religious values. To make a great point out of this is redundant. After reading this book I wanted to go further but was disappointed to have my appetite so whetted but not yet satisfied. Chris.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael Showalter on December 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a good book and a bit of a fun read though in its nature-- in what it tries to be-- it alienates itself from whatever group is intended to be its core audience. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile and well-written; though I gather than some, from its reviews, have had some problems with its difficulty and subject matter.
This is meant, I think, to be a popular book rather than an academic text. The author has his story-line and sticks too it fairly well: as with any 'popular' book, if you dig from one discipline into its minutia, you're going to find flaws and biases. Books can be great still. Because it is a popular book dealing with more or less of an arcane area, it does have a tendency to ramble between lots of stuff that most people generally haven't heard of: if you sit back and let the whole picture come into focus, I have found, in the end, you're still left with a worthwhile read.
To the reviewer who said that this book only focused on the development of technology and its interplay with religion in the West: it could be argued that only in the West could the author's thesis be proved: religious devotion was a cause of technolgical development and not vice-versa (i.e. religion/religious groups reacted to technology in the form of change in doctrine, practice, etc.: like the development of the different 'modern' branches of Judaism in the nineteenth century OR changes in Islam toward fundamentalist, anti-Western belief caused partially by technology... I can't think of any better non-Western examples...)
This is a worthwhile read; I'm pretty sure that its worth the fifteen dollars or whatever it costs. Buy it if you're in the mood for a challenging, good read on this sort of subject matter....
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 27, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This book would more accurately be titled "Christianity and Technology," as Noble treats his subject exclusively from a Western perspective. He provides a good overview of religious motivations for scientific and technological progress from medieval times to the American space program and Human Genome Project. Especially inspiring to these researchers and inventors have been apocalyptic expectations and the impulse to recreate the original relationship between God and humans in Eden. However, the book suffers in the last chapters as Noble examines modern research in genetics, artificial intelligence, space flight, and nuclear weaponry, and the author's thesis that religion is inciting dangerous developments in these fields is a weak one.
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30 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book was recommended to me by a friend, who is a clinical psychologist. As soon as I began reading it, I felt very strongly that I would not be able to accurately evaluate it without input from people knowlegeable in science and technology and, perhaps more ominously, I did not want to continue reading it without access to this perspective.
I asked my book group to read and discuss this work. The group consists of three research chemists, one chemical/technological lawyer, two teachers, and one artist. The resulting discussion revealed flaws in Noble's narrative which I believe non-scientifically oriented readers should be aware of.
All readers in my group agreed that the book was hard to follow unless one came to it bringing some background information to the chapter topics. One of our group had worked in the Human Genome Project and knew some of the people discussed by the author, while another had some knowledge of the evolution of early Christianity. Both readers felt the author's bias in these areas.
On the whole, my group of readers felt that Noble wrote this book with a thesis to prove and was willing to extract, delete, and filter information out of context to support it. A propos of that, the scientifically-oriented members of the group were critical of Noble's lack of "scientific method" in approaching the topic he had chosen. They felt he ignored achievements of science motivated by humanitarian concerns and which achieved the desired results in favor of inflammatory scare tactics tending to overwhem and thus convince the non-scientific reader of the invidious presence of ignorance, compromise, and corruption.
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