From: PSCF 38 (June 1986): 88-95.
High Technology is advancing at incredible speeds, It appears to be both shaped by and a shaper of our culture. The organized church has historically opposed technological advancements for a variety of reasons. Today, objections from Christians and others to technology are frequently encountered, Resistance to scientific progress may stem from psychological variables such as reactions to stress and overstimulation, technophobia, and ego-defense strategies. Christians must recognize these psychological mechanisms and overcome them in order to contribute effectively to the rational assessment of technological innovations in light of scriptural principles. Only then will their evaluations be meaningful and their voices credible in a rapidly changing world,
The twentieth century is an age of innovation. Technology progresses with such rapidity that developments are obsolete before they can be widely disseminated in the literature. Driscoll (1978) reports that during the last century the speeds of communication and data processing have increased by factors of 10' and 10' respectively. Scientists pursue gains in virtually every area imaginable, transforming yesterday's science fiction into today's reality.
We are so totally surrounded by technological developments that it is difficult to organize a list of commonplace objects or service delivery systems which were in existence before, or have remained unchanged during, the 1900's. Technology affects us broadly through our transportation and information systems, financial institutions, et cetera, and intimately through the clothes we wear, the deodorants we use, and the contact lenses which some are using to read this page. The use of the computer, technology's most heralded recent achievement, is illustrative of the widespread utilization of scientific achievements. Computers touch the lives of almost every American whether through a direct access by the individual (e.g,, automated bank tellers, microwave ovens) or through indirect avenues (e.g., bank transactions, airline ticketing). Technology has a firm grasp on our lives. Christians are not immune (nor would most wish to be) from these applications of science. Schwarz (1979) maintains:
We cannot turn the wheel of history back, aborting our technological advancements. Our civilization is much too completely and we are much too removed from "a natural way of life" to be able to do without technology . (p. 206)
Of course, not all would agree that the costs of reverting back to a less complicated lifestyle are prohibitive. Some see this as a viable option; but judging from the life choices being made, they would seem to comprise a distinct minority.
It is evident that technology continues to advance at a blistering pace and that it affects each of us personally. is this good or bad? Most would agree that improvement of the human condition is a positive outcome of technological progress. How many would trade their cars for a horse and buggy or even attempt to complete tax forms without a calculator? However few will blindly deliver all their cares to technology.We seem to be wary of its full intentions. Harvey (1984) writes:
The computer evokes an uneasy fascination in most of us. Paradoxically, we admire what it can do, but we are apprehensive about what it might be capable of. We enjoy our power over it but fear its hypnotic hold on us. We like it when the computer "acts human" but insist on its intrinsic and unalterable "rnachine-ness." (p. 11)
These difficulties will not just disappear. Sin is a powerful force in the applications of science just as it is in all human endeavors. To complicate matters, the contraindications of today's technology are not always readily apparent. This was hardly the case during the industrial revolution when the benefits of mass production and accessibility of goods were easily contrasted with the curses of labor abuses, widespread poverty, and the widened socioeconomic class gap (Schwarz, 1979). The evils bred by modern technologies are not always readily discernible nor do they immediately accompany the advancements. Frequently, the "unintended, second-order effects of a technological innovation on society are more influential, long-term, than its direct and deliberate effects" (Dede, 1981, p. 204). For instance, engineers recognized that the shortest distance between points A and B was a straight line, so they built highways that followed a direct path. Even though this procedure decreased the amount of driving time for motorists, it also increased the monotony and
The determination of whether a technological advancement is a boon or bane must be made and
Christians should be in the forefront of this decision making process. It is imperative that believers base
their choices on their values which have been derived from Scripture and their personal relationships with
God. The purpose of this paper is to explore the resistances to high technology among Christians and to
investigate the values, personality variables, and fears associated with this stance. It is recognized that many
of these objections are shared by non-Christians, but believers will be the focus of this paper.
In the past, the evangelical response to new scientific theories (and/or their ethical or theological implications) has gone through somewhat the same pattern. The new theory is announced. In that it apparently conflicts with evangelical theology, evangelicals denounce it. The evidence piles up overwhelmingly for the theory. Then the evangelicals scramble around to undo their initial interpretation and find how the new science and its implications can be absorbed into evangelical theology. (p. 52)
It is interesting to see ministers who once railed against
the evils of television now preaching on this "harmful"
medium. This resistance to technological advance is most pronounced when an innovation appears to conflict with an ecclesiastical assumption (e.g., artificial insemination may subvert God's role in procreation).
Church history is filled with examples of organized Christianity's anti-technology stance. The opposition of
the early church to innovative activity was a factor in their persecution along with their disdain for Caesar
The organized Church continued this resistant stance toward scientific advancements. The Church barred the dissection of cadavers until
Pope Leo XII proclaimed vaccinations sinful. Even Galileo was forced by the Inquisition to withdraw his
evidence supporting Copernicus' theory that the sun
David W. Aycock is an Associate Professor and Director of Counseling Services at Taylor University, Upland, Indiana. He is a licensed psychologist with major research interests in stress management. He received his Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Georgia State University and his undergraduate degree from Tennessee Temple College.
was the center of our solar system because it contradicted ecclesiastical thought.
The charge that science has eroded Christian values is made frequently, supported by evidence ranging from the contradiction of scripture by Darwinian theory to the menace of video games to adolescents.
In retrospect it is easy to see that Christianity over the centuries has not always been kindly disposed to the idea of technology, and in fact at times held back its growth. Whether mechanical objects and technical systems faced arbitrary moral judgment from clergy and state, or whether the ecclesiastical hierarchy conspired to keep the masses illiterate, the Church was involved to a great degree in restraining technological advancement. (P. 18)
To be certain, there have been instances of Christian
support of technology. Before widespread distribution
of information, monks meticulously recorded technological innovations along with their other writings.
Mendel was a pioneer in genetic research. Carhart
(1981) reports that the study of physics was initiated by
Christians who held a strong belief in the regularity of
nature. The Christian dogma of humans' transcendence of nature has spurred scientific advancements as
well. In the Protestant Reformation Christianity greatly
aided advancement in the sciences as old barriers of
resistive thought were broken down. American Protestants courted science regularly even into the 19th
century. However, Darwinism and reductionism
frightened many Christians in the mid-1800's, and that
distrust persists in segments of the Christian community today.
Present Day Fears
Today, Christians level many complaints against technology-induced change. Many see high technology as a Frankenstein monster which will assuredly turn on its human creators and wreak havoc on God's creation at large. Others see it as an irreverent attempt to subvert and/or replace the Creator Himself-a twentieth century tower of Babel. The charge that science has eroded Christian values is made frequently, supported by evidence ranging from the contradiction of scripture by Darwinian theory to the menace of video games to adolescents. The social aspects of technology, especially in regards to the church, are often viewed as a threat. Whether by microcomputers or television sets, some fear that the local church and its body-life are imperiled. Many are deeply concerned about the destructive forces of technology and its potential effects, on humankind and the environment. Some Christians resist innovations (even demonstrably positive ones) simply because "it's never been done that way before. "
One segment of the resistant Christian population which this author finds intriguing is constituted by those who vehemently oppose advances in computer technology for fear that it is, or will be, utilized by Satan. These believers draw their support for such fears from the apocalyptic scriptures and are avid readers of premillennial eschatological literature. They have derived mathematical formulas (such as the one developed by Rev. Jerry R. Church) which once fingered Henry Kissinger as the antichrist and now astoundingly tell us that "New York," "Mark of Beast," and " computer" all sum to the dreaded numerical value of 666.
A prominent doomsayer is the television and radio evangelist, Jack Van Impe. He asserts that Revelation 13 identifies the antichrist who will fulfill eschatological prophecies of destruction and satanic advancement with the aid of a "beast-an image which may well be the computer of computers-the masterpiece of the knowledge explosion!" (1982, p. 9). He describes the shocking" existence of speaking computers and the most chilling report" of the biological computer which can be implanted in humans and has already reached the drawing board. Van Impe (1982) devotes a significant amount of space to the discussion of a macrocomputer now located in Luxembourg which as the capacity to store twenty pages of information on every person in the world. He asserts that this mother computer can be connected to any computer system in the world and that its present international computer code of "6" is anticipated to expand to "666." He warns, "A new 'Hitler' with a monstrous computer to enslave millions may soon take over the earth. All these events signal the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ" (p. 17).
Christians who subscribe to the prophecies of Van Impe and other doomsayers are noticeably concern about technological advancement and computer proliferation because these developments signal the nearing of the Great Tribulation period and the ending of their earthly lives. Personal participation in computer technology is typically shunned for fear of compromising their faith by unwittingly benefiting Satan's methods or accepting the frightening mark of the beast.
There exists a wide range of opinions among Christians regarding high technology. Although many believers base their assessments on rational evaluation of facts, the Church's historical opposition to innovation and fear of compromising scripture predispose others to approach technology with a great deal of apprehension, Extremist groups boldly proclaim the evils of scientific gains while others quietly distrust them.
Rapid technological advancements have taken a toll
on the populace and our social structures. In
Alvin Toffler prophesied the deleterious effects of this
progress, coining the term "future shock-the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a
Many researchers have responded by
investigating the mechanisms of change and their social
consequences. As a result, the literature contains various explanations for resistances to technological
Resistance as a Response to Stress
Hans Selye, the pioneer of stress research, defines stress as 11 the nonspecific response of the body to any demand placed upon it" (1956, p. 63). The organism responds to any change by adaptation-attempting to return itself to a state of equilibrium. Novel stimulation can be a significant stressor because it forces one to adapt without the benefit of a tested plan of action. Almost any new situation will arouse the stress response and its attendant physiological and emotional discomforts. After the stimulus has been presented several times, adaptive skills and self-statements are learned which lessen the event's stressfulness.
Evidence supporting the assertion that change
breeds personal stress abounds in the literature (Dohrenwend & Dohrenwend,
Johnson & Sarason,
The pivotal role of
personal perceptions of environmental stimuli has been
studied as well. The negative effects of life changes
appear to be moderated by numerous factors such as
cognitive appraisal (Lazarus,
(Matheny & Cupp,
and social support (Brown, Bhrolchain, & Harris,1975).
The individual who possesses adequate coping
resources tends to view change as a challenge instead of
a threat, and thus the event's stress potential is reduced.
Persons who either lack stress management strategies or
themselves to be deficient in coping skills tend
to escalate the personal significance of a life change and
experience a comparable increase in its associated
stress. These people are often resistant to novelty or
Many adverse reactions to technology can be more adequately explained as defenses against perceived threats to personality components rather than realistic fear responses.
The introduction of technology into our lives brings change. Those who believe they possess the resources necessary for adaptation to this change have the ability rationally to evaluate the innovations with respect to issues such as ethics, cost-benefits, values, et cetera. Accordingly, they can calmly accept or reject the change and offer a rationale for their decisions. Individuals who lack stress-coping resources sufficient for adaptation will respond instinctively with another management strategy-resistance to any technological advancement. As Leavitt (1970) concludes, "Human acceptance of ideas is the real carrier of change; and that emotional human resistance is the real roadblock" (p. 369).
Toffler (1970) maintains that "change is the process by which the future invades our lives" (p. 1). The technological changes that so regularly confront many are unwelcomed trespassers. These people resist because the change forces adaptation to accommodate the innovation, making them feel fearful of losing power or control as well as incompetent because they lack requisite skills (Rose, 1982). However, the most salient reason for resistance is the perceived disruption in social relations which accompanies the change (Malinconico, 1983). People will find ways to defeat any changes which threaten their social roles or interpersonal relationships.
The manifestations of resistance may take many forms. Some are suspicious of any novelty. They express disapproval and predict a reduction in work quality or the ultimate failure of the innovation. Others passively avoid the new technology (Malinconico, 1983). In all cases, the use of resistance to change as a coping resource is an attempt to prevent a stressful incident.Overstimulation
To function adequately, the central nervous system requires an inflow of impulses from the external environment. Both lack and excess of stimulation threaten the homeostatic mechanisms by which the organism maintains an adequate degree of arousal. (p. 36)
Many search for the one solution to all their problems and rely on technology for deliverance from all of life's ills. Needless to say, they never discover the elusive equation.
The (optimal stimulation) range offers stimulation to provide challenges and interest but not enough to cause significant discomfort or performance breakdown. Stimulation intensity can be judged only by the experiencing person. It varies from person to person, so one person's optimal stimulation range is not necessarily that of another. (p. 12)
Arousal is curvilinearly related to behavior efficiency and well-being (McGrath, 1970). Low arousal results in inattentiveness and boredom which can further impede performance as cortical processes slow down. Conversely, high arousal results in excessive tension, intense emotionality, and a decline in performance as cortical control is weakened and the ability to respond selectively is impaired (Frankenhaeuser & Gardell, 1976).
Over-shooting one's optimal stimulation range is generally regarded as being more stressful than underload (Matheny, 1983). Stimulus overload inhibits adequate information processing and decreases both performance and quality of life. Graphic evidence supporting the debilitating effects of prolonged overstimulation was collected during World War 11 in the studies of breakdown among soldiers in battle (Janis, 1971). These men, who were beleaguered by constant threats to their survival requiring hyper vigilance, eventually were rendered incapable of functionally attending to their environment at all. They became totally confused, lost their decision-making abilities, and were prone to mindless behaviors.
Technological advances are capable of producing overstimulation. They may serve to deluge users with inordinate amounts of information, organize data in unfamiliar ways, introduce novel procedures, or demand new skills which the user does not yet possess. Extended exposure to these stimuli which exceed their optimal stimulation ranges can be met with adaptive strategies which lessen the demands or with stress frustration, disorientation, apathy and illness. Each of these negative effects can produce an antitechnology mind-set.Technophobia
The accelerated growth and development of technology in our culture has engendered the rapid rise of abnormal or unrealistic anxiety. This has been called 11 technophobia." Technophobia is most commonly associated with the fear, distrust, or hatred of computers-"computerphobia" or "cyberphobia." Although these terms are often used to describe adversive reactions which fall short of a clinical phobic reaction, an amazing number of people are quite frightened by a computer terminal. In a study of several hundred computer users who were tested for galvanic skin resistance while actually at the terminal, Rice (1983) reports that 33% were computerpbobic and 5% evidenced symptoms of classic phobia (nausea, cold sweat, etc.).
Jay (1981) reports that computerpbobia is indicated by resistance to talking or even thinking about computer technology, excessive fear and anxiety surrounding technological equipment, and hostile and aggressive thoughts and behaviors. Some cyberphobics are afraid to touch the computer for fear that it might be damaged. It is not unusual for these individuals to believe that the depression of one key will irreparably damage the machine or, worse yet, cause it to explode. Another misconception of the computerphobic is that once one uses a computer, one will become a slave to the technological device. There is an irrational fear of a
Even though computerphobia is a widespread phenomenon in the 1980's, the label is sometimes misapplied to those who are simply unexcited by this technology. Indeed, many are not frightened by computers, but rather they have a well considered disinterest (Rubin, 1983). Undoubtedly, some do not see any personal value in a computer or else they determine that the resource expenditure required to obtain and learn to operate the machine outweighs its potential benefits. These individuals are not cyberpbobic.
Analyses of objections, resistances, and other negative responses to technology often reveal the profound influence of personality features which predispose persons to unfriendly assessments of new ideas and inventions. One pathological strategy is steadfastly to refuse to acknowledge the presence of the feared stimulus. This denial, or attempt to block out unwelcomed reality, is characterized by a belief that innovations are merely tricks or repackaged old ideas and by failure to accept new information. Another dysfunctional attitude is the inability to confess that one lacks knowledge of a technological advancement or that one has skill deficits. Persons with these attitudes are prone to believe in a personal omniscience or else abnormally to fear appearing inept in front of others. Since they are embarrassed to let others know of their deficiencies, they voice disapproval of the change or they attempt to operate computers without adequate training. This quickly results in frustration and negative pronouncements on the technologies. Others view the unknown as necessarily threatening and catastrophize that computers will replace them, that they could never learn to operate the new equipment, or that the use of any technology will necessarily dehumanize them, force dependence, and publicize all of their secrets.
The interaction of technology with unreceptive personalities breeds various responses. Some adapt by choosing a narrow field in which to specialize and ignore peripheral changes. This is a form of denial and is dysfunctional because it blinds one to the entire spectrum of life and can thrust one into a crisis if the chosen speciality becomes obsolete. Others respond by obsessively reverting to outmoded, but previously successful, coping techniques (Toffler, 1970). They pine for yesterday and miss out on today. Many search for the one solution to all their problems and rely on technology for deliverance from all of life's ills. Needless to say, they never discover the elusive equation.
Christians applaud the use of technology to spread the Gospel and, at the same time, blame it for fostering materialism and human self-glorification.
In some cases the negative reaction to a perceived technological threat is overt aggression or hostility bending, folding, and mutilating the cards. Rubin (1983) described an office manager whose computer seemed always to be malfunctioning. It was discovered that she was taking out her frustrations on the machine itself by actions such as removing discs while the computer was in drive. Likewise, Rice (1983) reported equipment abuse which included dumping coffee and cigarette ashes into the computer console.
Technologists cannot afford to ignore these unintended effects of their advancements. After all, innovations are made, ostensibly, to serve people. Perhaps as much effort should be placed into strategies for the introduction of changes as into their development. On the other hand, individuals must recognize their characteristic modes of dealing with novelty and refrain from quickly identifying any change as a destructive or menacing force.
Taking action to shield oneself from excessive stress, overstimulation and perceived threats to the ego are expected human responses. When high technology is classified as a disruptive force, many employ resistance as a protective mechanism. This resistance can take many forms, but its purpose is to reduce stress and preserve homeostasis. This strategy is available to Christians just as it is to others. Encounters with numerous technology-resistive Christians in his clinical practice and stress management seminars has led this author to believe that the majority of objections to technology can be traced to these factors.
Exposure of the psychological mechanisms which precipitate resistances does not intimate that all objections to high technology are self-serving, invalid, or unwarranted. Christians should understand personality variables which impinge on their choices, but they must rationally evaluate the techniques and effects of scientific advancements and boldly voice their opinions. Reflexive pessimism and doomsaying may be the road to self-fulfilling prophecies while non-critical acceptance of societal and institutional change resigns us to the designs of others. As in every area of the Christian life, balance is required.
Christians must cease to ascribe omnipotence to technological machines and recognize that these mechanisms are dependent upon humans. A computer's conversational ability is limited to the lexicon that has been programmed into its memory. It cannot contemplate the meaning of life nor can it display emotion. There are sometimes glaring flaws in the device's abilities to complete assignments for which it was (supposedly) programmed. Hassett (1984) provides an example of how the computer can be too literal. When a computer used a bilingual dictionary to translate the biblical warning "The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" from Russian into English, the verse was rendered, "The wine is agreeable but the meat is spoiled." Although cybernetic theory is now at the point where machines are less dependent on humans than ever before, their ability to deal with novelty and to improvise falls drastically short of human creativity. Therefore, people are still essential for computers to function instead of the converse.
Another misconception about technology is that the ethical dilemmas surrounding its use are amenable to technical solutions and that once developments are refined, the problems will disappear (Babos, 1981). This presents the unhappy occurrence of "the tail wagging the dog"-if we can accomplish something. then we must. The proper perspective is quite opposite. just because geneticists are learning much about engineering gene pools, we are not obliged abandon natural reproductive methods. Discovering new method of splitting the atom does not dictate implementation.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let him rule over ... all the earth."
is frequently cited (Babos, 1981; Endicott, 1981; Schwarz, 1979) as a rationale for Christian support of technological advancements-human transcendence of nature and continuance of God's creative activitySome see human lordship over the world as a religious duty. Endicott (1981) warns, "It would be a sheer act of disobedience if we were not to do what we could to have dominion over the world. That, indeed, is literally an article of faith" (p. 18). However, one must be mindful of other biblical directives which restrain the use of any technique for the mere pursuit of dominion (Schwarz, 1979), The fruit of the Spirit should govern technical strivings.
Christians applaud the use of technology to spread the Gospel and, at the same time, blame it for fostermill materialism and human self -glorification. God thwarted the construction of the tower of Babel and forbade transporting His ark with wheels, yet He utilized the first century Roman highway and commuDication systems to spread Christianity throughout the world. How are we to understand His designs?
Believers are required to look beyond the surface of
innovations in discerning their appropriateness. The
key to a proper assessment is to ask how an advancement conforms to God's expressed will. As such,
Judeo-Christian tradition has no reason to reject modern technology as a result of human pride and sinfulness. Modern technology does not exhibit a greater degree of human sinfulness than did the mallet which Cain lifted to slay his brother Abel ... A more sophisticated technology does not imply a better (or worse) technology in a moral sense. (Schwarz, 1979, p. 208)
Its indications and contraindications must be subjected to God's ruler.
Several models for Christian involvement with technology are available. Some develop an anti-science
attitude and spurn any advancement, condemning, it
for all of society' ills.
Others adopt a laissez-faire
attitude and do Dot concern themselves with science at
all. For example, Guthrie (1968) reassures
If science opens up and controls the secrets of the world around us, masters the space above us, and learns to understand and deal with the psychological depths within us, then it is only doing the will of the Creator, whether it knows it or not. (p, 163)
Carhart (1981) asks us to place more faith in the scientists:
I don't think the untrained Christian really can evaluate technical issues.... The problem is, to have a real appreciation for a proposed experiment or a proposed technological development, one really must be an active participant.... I also think Christians who are scientific lay people need to trust the professionals who are involved in the actual issues. Christian lay people need to put away their suspicions that the professions are selling out to scientism. They need to believe that many are following the Lord. (p. 13)
These views are deficient in fundamental ways.
Extremists distance themselves from the facts and,
therefore, others rarely take them seriously. The unconcerned forfeit their
abilities to "add salt" to the scientific community. Those who exercise blind faith in
professionals license scientists to dictate morality-a
discipline in which they possess no special qualifications. The proper response of Christianity to science is
essentially the same as its response to any other discipline-interest in the fundamental issues, evaluation in
light of God's Word, and communication of findings.
In this way believers can appropriately season the dish
in preparation for its widespread consumption.
Believers cannot afford to remove themselves from the technical arena, Christians who have the ability to
transcend reflexive resistances to technology and the courage to investigate the ethical implications of technical developments will discover the existence of many difficult ethical dilemmas. These must be addressed in a credible fashion if Christians are to make a significant impact on policy makers.
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