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Is Technology Becoming the New Religion of Silicon Valley?


Tim Cook unveiled the long-anticipated Apple Watch yesterday.  The CEO called the device "a comprehensive health and fitness companion."  It will also display boarding passes in airports, show a live feed of a person's home and garage door, and run most of the iPhone apps.  One hotel company plans to use it as a room key.  According to Cook, battery life will be 18 hours with regular use; costs range from $349 to $10,000, which includes an 18-karat gold body.


There's everything from GoPro cameras for your head to SmartSoles for your feet (their GPS sensors monitor location and physical performance).  I'm not sure what constituted the first wearable technology (a small sundial or hourglass hanging around one's neck?), but there's no question such science is here to stay.  Will it change our lives as significantly as many predict? 


In a recent New York Times article, Ross Douthat discusses the popular belief that scientific progress holds the answers to humanity's greatest problems.  As an example, he cites Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari's claim that technology, not religion, offers us the most hope.  According to Harari, "In terms of ideas, in terms of religions, the most interesting place today in the world is Silicon Valley, not the Middle East." There people are "creating new religions" built on technological advances, and these religions "will take over the world."


Douthat isn't convinced.  He points to the Industrial Age, a historical antecedent to the current Information Age, and agrees that "new ideas, rooted in scientific understanding, did help bring societies through the turbulence of industrialization."  But then he observes, correctly, that "the reformers who made the biggest differences—the ones who worked in the slums and with the displaced, attacked cruelties and pushed for social reforms, rebuilt community after it melted into air—often blended innovations with very old moral and religious commitments."


He adds: "When technological progress helped entrench slavery, the religious radicalism of abolitionists helped destroy it.  When industrial development rent the fabric of everyday life, religious awakenings helped reknit it.  When history's arc bent toward eugenics, religious humanists helped keep the idea of equality alive."  In fact, the 19th century "scientific" alternatives to traditional morality and religion were fascism and Marxism.  We know how those experiments turned out.


The Apple Watch can give me the time, but it can't give me more of it. (Tweet this) Unfortunately, I have more problems with the latter than the former.  Science will continue to advance, but human nature remains the same.  The world's greatest challenges today require transformation no technology can produce.  The gospel is still the answer to every eternal question. (Tweet this)


Brennan Manning: "My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it."  Can you say the same?


Note: Join me for a Facebook chat at 10:00 AM CDT today, where we'll discuss your questions in biblical perspective. Post your question now, or join me live by clicking here. I look forward to the conversation.



Publication date: March 10, 2015


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