December 2012/January 2013
by Susan Barreto, editor
Is technology the end of all our imaginings?
In our never-ending world of tweets, texts and other forms of handy technology, there seems to be some healthy disagreement in the faith community: at what point in our reliance on technology have we gone too far? Now that even that Pope Benedict XVI is on Twitter, maybe it is time to take on our tech phobias.
This month’s Covalence first ponders what role technology does and should play in our religious lives. Second, in our news section, we review the intersection of the cognitive sciences and religion.
The fear of technology seems to be that it could somehow rob us of our humanity and individuality, but what we have seen so far is that it has done just the opposite: we have a greater sense of our humanity in seeing how we creatively use technology. And as for individuality, there has never been a greater number of ways to express ourselves than via the Internet.
The tantalizing prospect is where we are headed as a society. Are we more divided or united via technology? Can faith communities come together via technology and become stronger as a result? I would argue yes, as I see a pastor happily use his iPad to keep in touch with congregants via Facebook.
AKM Adam, whose essay we feature this month, would take a more skeptical stance on technology. He points to a long tradition of religion selectively embracing technology. His view is that ultimately believers will “bring to bear their sense of what is most important and most decisive in their faith.” Will this always play out well for technology? That is less certain depending on your faith community it seems. The Amish is one example that he uses.
This pondering of technology may be a long process. If technology though is useful, it will indeed enliven our faith in useful ways. Hopefully this is the case as you read Covalence online! After all technology is a mirror of ourselves, and if it is accurate, it will still show a people who are eager to walk humbly with their God.
Speaking of mirrors, our ‘mirror neurons’ are a very crucial component to understand our humanity and actions. Researchers have often described the brain as a complex computer, but it is clear that fully understanding our brains and behavior is a very complicated enterprise. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a useful undertaking when it comes to studying religion and religious practice. In the case of some scholars, they are even relying on computer databases and cognitive science to analyze religious texts (see News).
Lastly, looking at the human mind, the brain and religion, scholars participating in the Advanced Seminar at the Lutheran School of Theology will undoubtedly come up with some new theories related to the cognitive sciences (see Calendar).
In looking at both computers and our brains, the question of whether our creativity and faith is a matter of neurons firing in a set pattern is not a one that will lead to pat answers. This is part of the point made in our allegory this month called “The Googlers.” The realization that we are more than the sum of our parts or our technological innovation is apparent no matter how deep you dive into the scientific or religious texts. Combined science and religion can give a more complete and satisfying image of our present day realities and our future possibilities.
Covalence, December 2012/January 2013