Advances in technology are often seen as a wholly good thing, and one can't deny that technology has helped numerous people. But while technology has improved food production and health, and raised living standards, it has also created weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological) and caused environmental disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Chernobyl meltdown. Thus it is imperative that the growth in technology always be grounded with a moral and ethical anchor. Ian Barbour takes on the task of formulating that anchor by developing an ethic that can assess and redirect technology to its proper ends in Ethics in an Age of Technology.
In the first part of the book, Barbour investigates different views about technology, ranging from technology as liberator, to technology as threat, to technology as an instrument of power. He also looks at human and environmental values and their relation to to technology (science), philosophy and religion, arguing that, in the end, the Christian ethic and worldview offers the best and most distinct answer. In the second part, Barbour focuses on three key technologies: agriculture, energy, and computers. He assesses how all three technologies can be used for the greatest good, arguing in terms of sustainability, renewability and social impact. The third part of the book focuses on the future of technology, and the incredible potential for both good and evil inherent in technological advances. He looks at environmental degradation, and how it can be slowed and reversed. He also looks at genetic engineering and nuclear weapons. His focus is on the proper control of technology, through the government, along with proper risk and cost-benefit analysis, and argues that we need to redirect technology with a view toward ethics, values and sustainability.
Barbour is a Christian and a scientist, which makes him uniquely qualified to discuss the ethics of technology. His thorough understanding of the issues, and his passion to influence those issues in an ethical manner combine to create a readable and practical book, which will shape the face of technological ethics. And his call for Christians to lead the ethical assault on technology cannot be ignored.
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