Zygon: Journal of Religion & Science

March 2013 Editorial

[Zygon, vol. 48, no. 1 (March 2013).]
© 2013 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon. ISSN: 0591-2385
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9744.2012.01326.x

open PDF version

Techno-secularity and Techno-sapiens: Editorial for Zygon’s First Real Virtual Issue

Since its very first editorial in 1966, Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science has been about “values and knowledge … for a viable dynamics of human culture.” The interplay of religion and science regards not merely ideas, our understanding of the world, but also our existence and actions in the world—a world that is shaped by technology, from the beginning of agriculture to the present. The present time is, at least in the West, one in which religious commitments seem to have become optional. This intellectual and social freedom may be a reason to understand our time as a secular age (Taylor 2007; Peterson 2010). This form of secularity is possible due to our technological abilities, to urbanization, individualization, and globalization that make us less dependent upon a particular community and tradition.

At the beginning of the 40th anniversary year of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, John Caiazza (2005) contributed a provocative article titled “Athens, Jerusalem, and the Arrival of Techno-secularism.” As he sees it, technology has not just created a space in which religious commitments are optional. Technology has displaced religious belief: “Athens” dominates “Jerusalem.” “The displacement of religion from civic life is more the effect of technological ubiquity and power than the result of direct cultural and intellectual causes, a phenomenon that I call techno-secularism” (Caiazza 2005, 18-19). Technology brings with it an ethics, theology and spirituality, but these trivialize true religion, as he sees it.

Also in 2005, Zygon published twenty-two invited responses on Caiazza’s paper (including Tirosh-Samuelson 2005; Strassberg 2005; Kaufman 2005; King 2005; Drees 2005; Padgett 2005; Szerszynski 2005b; Peters 2005; Jackelén 2005), and the discussion continued on into 2012 (Marangudakis 2012; Caiazza 2012; see also Caiazza 2006). The majority of the respondents offered a far more positive appreciation of technology and the grand transformations that have occured through the centuries. In 2006 Zygon published a set of articles on Bronislaw Szerszynski’s Nature, Technology and the Sacred (2005a; see also Szerszynski 2005b; Kull 2006; Rodriguez da Cruz 2006; DeLashmutt 2006b; Szerszynski 2006). Szerszynski provides an original perspective on the long arc of our dealings with nature, which according to him is not characterized by “disenchantment,” to use Max Weber’s terminology, but rather by transformations of “the sacred.” Like Caiazza, Szerszynski explores the religious motives and beliefs implicit in our technological culture, but he does not treat their development as manifestation of a persistent tension between reason and revealed religion, but rather as transformations within the cultural history of the West—a history that includes our dealing with nature, “the environment,” which has become a major topic in recent years (e.g., Bauman 2011).

In reflections on religion in a technological culture, we encounter not only cultural changes due to technology and changing attitudes towards our environment, but also changes in our understanding of religion, science, and their interactions. Thus, the historically situated character of any account of the relationships between “religion” and “science” can be studied in the context of technology, as “religion” and “science” themselves are flexible categories and phenomena. The practice of science is culturally and technologically embodied, even though scientific insight transcends cultural embodiment—a fascinating epistemic duality. The previous editor of Zygon, Philip Hefner, has discussed the technologically embodied character of science in a contribution published in 2010 (Hefner 2010; Pederson 2010; Haag 2010); see for an example of the embodied nature of “religion and science” also Zainal Abidin Bagir’s contribution on Islam and science in Indonesia, in light of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions (2012).

Human nature is intertwined with technology as well. Our creative and technological engagement brought Hefner to speak of humans as “created co-creators” (Hefner 1984, 325f.). “Human Meaning in a Technological Age” was the theme of the conference of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS) in 2001. Major addresses were published under the same section title in 2002 (Drees 2002a, 2002b; Hefner 2002; LaFleur 2002; Rockwell 2002; Roy 2002; Teske 2002). In another symposium, published in the same year, the anthropological understanding of humans as cyborgs (cybernetic organisms) and the understanding of humans as techno-sapiens, but also beings in “the image of God” were discussed (Kull 2002; Jackelén 2002; Herzfeld 2002; Hopkins 2002). The theme of the potential anthropological and religious implications of artificial intelligence has recurred in later issues of Zygon (e.g. DeLashmutt 2006a; Coeckelbergh 2010; Tamatea 2010; Geraci 2010). In the last issue of 2012, four substantial articles address “transhumanism,” for example ideas about human lives being so transformed by technology as to allow for a lifespan of up to a thousand years (Tirosh-Samuelson 2012; Geraci 2012; Hughes 2012; Cole-Turner 2012).

Technology is not merely the use of tools. It has consequences for our lives, our culture, our hopes and expectations—and hence it is appropriate that the first “virtual issue” with real articles selected from Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science deals with technology and its impact on religion and human self-understanding, techno-secularity and techno-sapiens. The articles of the virtual issue are accessible at no cost on http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/(ISSN)1467-9744.

Willem B. Drees

REFERENCES

Bagir, Zainal Abidin. 2012. “Practice and the Agenda of ‘Islam and Science’.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:354-66.

Bauman, Whitney. 2011. “Religion, Science and Nature: Shifts in Meaning on a Changing Planet.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 46:777-92.

Caiazza, John C. 2005. “Athens, Jerusalem, and the Arrival of Techno-secularism.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:9-21.

———. 2006. “The Athens/Jerusalem Template and the Techno-Secularism Thesis—Kicking the Can Down the Road.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 41:235-48.

———. 2012. “Religion and Science through the Ages: Response to Marangudakis.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:520-23.

Coeckelbergh, Mark. 2010. “The Spirit in the Network: Models for Spirituality in a Technological Culture.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:957-78.

Cole-Turner, Ronald. 2012. “The Singularity and the Rapture: Transhumanist and Popular Christian Views of the Future.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:777-96.

DeLashmutt, Michael W. 2006a. “A Better Life through Information Technology the Technotheological Eschatology of Posthuman Speculative Science.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 41:267-87.

———. 2006b. “The Technological Imaginary: Bringing Myth and Imagination into Dialogue with Szerszynski’s Nature, Technology and the Sacred.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 41:801-10.

Drees, Willem B. 2002a. “Religion in an Age of Technology.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:597-604.

———. 2002b. “‘Playing God? Yes!’ Religion in the Light of Technology.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:643-54.

———. 2005. “‘Religion and Science’ as Advocacy of Science and as Religion versus Religion.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:545-53.

Geraci, Robert M. 2010. “The Popular Appeal of Apocalyptic AI.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:1003-20.

———. 2012. “Video Games and the Transhuman Inclination.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:735-56.

Haag, James W. 2010. “The Hefnerian Legacy: Rethinking the ‘Nature’ of Naturalism.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:273-80.

Hefner, Philip J. 1984. “The Creation.” In Christian Dogmatics, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson, Vol. 1, 269-357. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

———. 2002. “Technology and Human Becoming.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:655-65.

———. 2010. “Embodied Science: Recentering Religion-and-Science.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:251-63.

Herzfeld, Noreen. 2002. “Creating in Our Own Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Image of God.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:303-16.

Hopkins, Patrick D. 2002. “Protecting God from Science and Technology: How Religious Criticisms of Biotechnologies Backfire.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:317-43.

Hughes, James J. 2012. “The Politics of Transhumanism and the Techno-millennial Imagination, 1626-2030.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:757-76.

Jackelén, Antje. 2002. “The Image of God as Techno Sapiens.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:289-302.

———.2005. “What is ‘Secular’? Techno-secularism and Spirituality.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:863-73.

Kaufman, Gordon D. 2005. “Techno-secularism and ‘Revealed Religion’: Some Problems with Caiazza’s Analysis.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:323-33.

King, Ursula. 2005. “The Journey beyond Athens and Jerusalem.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40: 535-44.

Kull, Anne. 2002. “Speaking Cyborg: Technoculture and Technonature.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:279-87.

———. 2006. “Mutations of Nature, Technology, and the Western Sacred.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 41:785-91.

LaFleur, William R. 2002. “From Agape to Organs: Religious Differences between Japan and America in Judging the Ethics of the Transplant.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:623-42.

Marangudakis, Manussos. 2012. “Eutopia: The Promise of Biotechnology and the Realignment of Western Axiality.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:97-117.

Padgett, Alan G. 2005. “God versus Technology? Science, Secularity, and the Theology of Technology.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:577-84.

Pederson, Ann Milliken. 2010. “The Nature of Embodiment: Religion and Science in Dialogue.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:264-72.

Peters, Ted. 2005. “Techno-secularism, Religion, and the Created Co-creator.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:845-62.

Peterson, Gregory. 2010. “Stage Two Secularism and the Future of Theology-and-Science.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:506-16.

Rockwell, Thomas. 2002. “Visual Technologies, Cosmographies, and our Sense of Place in the Universe.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:605-21.

Rodriguez da Cruz, Eduardo. 2006. “The Sacred, Nature, and Technology.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 41:793-99.

Roy, Rustum. 2002. “Religion/Technology, Not Religion/Science, as the Defining Dichotomy.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:667-76.

Strassberg, Barbara A. 2005. “Magic, Religion, Science, Technology, and Ethics in the Postmodern World.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:307-22.

Szerszynski, Bronislaw. 2005a. Nature, Technology and the Sacred. Oxford: Blackwell.

———. 2005b. “Rethinking the Secular: Science, Technology, and Religion Today.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:813-22.

———.2006. “A Reply to Anne Kull, Eduardo Cruz, and Michael DeLashmutt.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 41:811-23.

Tamatea, Laurence. 2010. “Online Buddhist and Christian Responses to Artificial Intelligence.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 45:979-1002.

Taylor, Charles. 2007. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Teske, John A. 2002. “Cyberpsychology, Human Relationships, and Our Virtual Interiors.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 37:677-700.

Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. 2005. “Rethinking the Past and Anticipating the Future of Religion and Science.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 40:33-41.

———. 2012. “Transhumanism as a Secularist Faith.” Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science 47:710-34.



Tables of Contents, Articles & Abstracts