Santa Clara University


Religion, Ethics, and Technology

Technological invention is one of the two major sources of change in the global political, economic, military, and communication systems. The invention of satellite technology, for example, greatly affected all four systems. The rapidity of technological change means that humanity must be prepared for the possibility of major changes in all four systems at any moment. Two current crucial issues concern the joining of nuclear proliferation and terrorism (see this site's entry on peace), and ecological justice, the impact of global warming on the poor (see this site's entry on the environment).

The major ethical issue concerns the personal and social benefits and dangers of specific technological advances. Just because humanity can do something does not mean it should. Some countries like the Netherlands have government bureaus that advise on such issues. The United States generally employs independent boards and institutes. Note that the Markkula links for this area contain 61 entries and that Santa Clara University sponsors an entire Center on Science, Technology, and Society.

International Technological Assessment

European Parliamentary Technology Assessment (EPTA) joins eighteen national members in an extensive database of parliamentary technology assessment. The members are Catalonia, Denmark, European Parliament, Finland, Flanders, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. The Associates are Austria, Belgium, the Council of Europe, and Sweden.

For twenty-three years to its closing on August 29, 1996, the U.S. Office of Technology Assessment assisted Congress on the complex and technical issues that affected American society. The Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University has arranged official OTA assessments, 1974-95 in alphabetical, chronological, and topical order.

See Santa Clara University Center for Science, Technology, and Society website, especially four features:

1. Annual Tech Museum Awards: “Technology Benefiting Humanity”

2. Global Social Benefits Incubator

3. April 21, 2005 Conference “Digital Divide or Digital Commons: Toward Global Knowledge Sharing”

4. STS Nexus Journal

See Markkula Links for Science and Research Ethics (25 entries) and Technology and Biotechnology (36 entries).

Other Resource Materials:

Noble, D.F.. The Religion of Technology: The Divinity of Man and the Spirit of Invention (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997). Noble traces the West’s emphasis on technology to its Judeo-Christian culture, specifically religious millenarianism. The second part applies this thesis to nuclear weapons, space exploration, artificial intelligence, and genetic engineering. However, Noble does not treat nor distinguish aspects and denominations of Christianity.

November 6, 2009.