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Ethics in an Age of Technology: Gifford Lectures, Volume Two 1st Edition

2.3 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060609351
ISBN-10: 0060609354
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From the Back Cover

The Gifford Lectures have challenged our greatest thinkers to relate the worlds of religion, philosophy, and science. Now Ian Barbour has joined ranks with such Gifford lecturers as William James, Carl Jung, and Reinhold Neibuhr. In 1989 Barbour presented his first series of Gifford Lectures, published as Religion in an Age of Science, in which he explored the challenges to religion brought by the methods and theories of contemporary science. In 1990, he returned to Scotland to present this second series, dealing with ethical issues arising from technology and exploring the relationship of human and environmental values to science, philosophy, and religion and showing why these values are relevant to technological policy decisions. "Modern technology has brought increased food production, improved health, higher living standards, and better communications," writes Barbour. "But its environmental and human costs have been increasingly evident." Most of the destructive impacts, Barbour points out, come not from dramatic accidents but from the normal operation of agricultural and industrial systems, which deplete resources and pollute air, water, and land. Other technologies have unprecedented power to affect people and other forms of life distant in time and space (through global warming and genetic engineering, for example). Large-scale technologies are also expensive and centralized, accelerating the concentration of economic and political power and widening the gaps between rich and poor nations. In examining the conflicting ethics and assumptions that lead to divergent views of technology, Barbour analyzes three social values: justice, participatory freedom, and economic development, and defends such environmental principles as resource sustainability, environmental protection, and respect for all forms of life. He presents case studies of agricultural technology, energy policy, and the use of computers. Looking to the future, he describes the effects of global climate change, genetic engineering, and nuclear war and cautions that we must control our new powers over life and death more effectively. Finally, he concludes by focusing on appropriate technologies, individual life-styles, and sources of change: education, political action, response to crisis, and alternative visions of the good life.

About the Author

Ian G. Barbour has retired from Carleton College where he was professor of physics, professor of religion, and Bean Professor of Science, Technology, and Society. The "preeminent synthetic in the field" (Cross Currents,) he is the author of several influential books, including Ethics in an Age of Technology and Myths Models, and Paradigms, which was nominated for the National Book Award. He gave the world-renowned Gifford Lectures, 1989-1991.

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Product Details

  • Series: Gifford Lectures (Book 1989)
  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (December 25, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060609354
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060609351
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,139,596 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Andrew D. Oram on November 30, 2013
Format: Paperback
This book proceeds briskly through an excellent range of political, social, technical, and historical views of key challenges facing humanity. It is really quite remarkable how Barbour can lay out with subtlety and grace (I use that term with manifold meanings) so many issues in such disparate areas as agricultural degradation, the loss of community, and the threat of computerization to privacy--just to name a few. It's all the more remarkable how well the analyses written in 1991 still apply today. Certainly there have been important changes that would enter into a similar analysis today, such as fracking and mobile devices in the technical arena, and the trajectories of post-Soviet nations and the post-9/11 war against terror in the political arena. But Barbour comes across quite relevant. I must admit, however, that I have seen most of these issues elsewhere and saw the book as a summary of useful topics rather than as a new contribution. The Christian angle did not add as much as I had hoped. For instance, one need not cite the "biblical understanding of human fallibility" to worry about accidents at nuclear power plants. But Barbour's introduction to process theology was salient and interesting.
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Format: Paperback
Having studied Barbour's many books on science, philosophy, and religion, I find his exemplary work in these areas best in the field. But in this particular book, he wades briefly into the field of ethical theory [about 1/10th of the whole] where he should have written more. The theory of axiology [value judgment] and ethics is a rich tradition throwing light on complex problems of human decision making. He does his usual impressive job of marshaling amazing amounts of material from diverse sources concerning many different political and environmental arguments. [Might have been better for a philosopher and physicist to spend more time on foundations and eliminate some briefly detailed problems.] But when he says that Senator Al Gore's amateurish book of discredited environmental alarmism is "an excellent discussion of all these global environmental threats and possible responses," [p. 290] we must wonder. When he says [without exposition and argument, in his all-too skimpy section on ethical theory] that Rawls' egalitarianism is the proper middle-road balance, and Nozick's critique of that position, along with Locke and our Founding Fathers, is extreme libertarianism [p. 38-9], we must wonder. He stresses inalienable, trans-utilitarian, deontological individual rights [p. 35], but we see that his anemic concept of Liberty is merely ability to participate in group decisions [p. 51]. When he simplistically recommends we "beat our swords into plowshares" [p. 263. Has he forgotten the Fall of Man?], and that we should, like the small, primitive Christian groups of Acts 4:35 hold "all things in common" and redistribute "to each as any had need" [Communist Manifesto], we must wonder!

Several profound philosophers have plunged into politics and economics where they were not fully equipped.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Got it for my engineering ethics class at NDSU. Cheap so I bought it, but never really used it. Share with a friend if possible.
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