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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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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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This book is certainly interesting, and the portions on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and the detailed history of Freemasonry, are especially strong, and his connection of the efforts of AI researchers to the ancient ideal of parthenogenesis is a lovely observation. But the final chapter and the conclusion are disappointing: they both collapse into the standard party line among postmodern critics that all but demonizes scientific inquiry and bemoans the ideology of dominance over nature while never proving why nature's subordination to man is in fact a bad thing. The conclusion is as such vague in the manner typical of such critiques--technoscience is of course the big bad wolf in the forest, but the contributions that technoscience has made to the lives of not only Westerners but many throughout the world are conspicuously ignored. His thesis suggests that if scientific motives were divorced from religious ideals then science would take a more practical, and less lofty, direction, but this seems to unfairly assume a level of uniformity among members of the scientific community that very well may not exist.
I enjoyed this book and would read it again; however, it becomes frustrating to read treatise after treatise on technoscience that does little more in the end than rehash the typical postmodernist critique of scientific inquiry as little more than another one of the hegemonic patriarchal West's grand narratives.
I would have liked a much deeper engagement with the causes and nature of this shift in thinking, but according to the author, "the reasons remain obscure". It is a bit frustrating throughout the book that the author is apparently completely ignorant of the existence of Christianity outside of western Europe, and the significant and enlightening differences between the two. For example, Eastern Christianity never identified the "image of God" with both body and soul, but emphatically only the soul. Likewise, chiliasm (millennialism) never took hold in Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy), where the quest for perfection was always a quest for internal perfection, a paradise of the heart, not paradise on earth. A discussion of this difference would have been enlightening, or at least a deeper look at this shift in the West that the author identifies - it seemed like a crucial point to me.
Overall, his engagement with his subject is a bit superficial. Granted, this is a work of pop history not an academic text, but his heavy reliance on secondary sources left me wondering if his analysis was just the rehashed conclusions of works that support his thesis rather than a critical engagement with the subject matter. For example, is his emphasis on the influence of Joachim of Fiore accurate? Is he fairly presenting the theological position of Scotus Erigena, or distorting it to fit his thesis? Am I being misled for the sake of his ultimate motives?
By the time I reached the end of the book, I felt justified in this feeling as the author's ultimate position is finally revealed. He opens the book saying "It is the aim of this book to demonstrate that the present enchantment with things technological - the very measure of modern enlightenment - is rooted in religious myths and ancient imaginings." In the final chapter, tellingly titled "The Politics of Perfection", he explicitly states his true thesis - to demonstrate that the "religion of technology" is ultimately driven not by a desire to improve this world, but by the basically religious desire to transcend and escape this world.
The problem with this thesis is that it is easily contradicted by a fair reading of today's technological futurists like Ray Kurzweil, who, in "The Singularity is Now" certainly expresses desire to transcend this world through technology, but also constantly justifies advances in genetic engineering, nanotech, and advanced AI robotics by discussing the tremendous benefits to humanity and the promise of greatly alleviating human suffering. To oppose these technologies is to perpetuate massive human suffering for the sake of Luddite ideology, according to Kurzweil. This only confirms my suspicions that the author is more concerned with grinding his axe than with really getting to the bottom of these issues.
Despite my reservations, I still give the book four stars because, for me, it has provided a fascinating introductory study of connections between certain tendencies in Christian thought and the technological impulse. The author has done a good enough job that I had a thrilling read, and a lot of resources to keep me busy in my own research for years to come.
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