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An Interdisciplinary Approach to Computer Science and Theology
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2009-05-19 10:01:26
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There is little doubt that interdisciplinary studies are much in vogue in today’s academia. To my mind, the most fascinating of those studies is that of the nexus and the ongoing dialogue between religion and science. Today in fact, as strange as that may still sound to European “enlightened” ears, we can safely assert that those who have remained at the level of the caricaturing of religion via cartoons or dissertations that are biased and ideologically-driven are, far from being at the cutting edge of post-modern explorations, in a rather retrograde intellectual position. Even a philosopher such as Habermas has become fully conscious of this sad phenomenon and has attempted to warn his fellow-Europeans to its inherent dangers.

But even within such a nexus it is still rare to find associated with one another theology and technology. Here lies the uniqueness of this book just out by Noreen L. Herzfeld and titled Technology and Religion: Remaining Human in a Co-created World. Dr. Herzfeld is a professor of both theology and computer science at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict. She began her academic career with mathematics and computer science obtaining a master’s degree in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University. Subsequently she felt the need to expand her horizon and obtained a doctorate at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley.

Professor Herzfeld broke ground in the field of computer science and theology with a previous book (2002) titled In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit. There one can already discern her overall approach to this important nexus: she approaches the field from three different angles: technologies of the human body—such as genetic engineering, stem cells, cloning, pharmaceutical technologies, mechanical enhancement and cyborgs; technologies of the human mind—like human and artificial intelligence, virtual reality and cyberspace; and technologies of the external environment—such as nanotechnology, genetically modified crops and new agricultural technologies, and energy technology. She takes a similarly broad approach to the field of religion, focusing on how these issues interface with the three Abrahamic traditions of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Throughout, readers will find nuanced examinations of the moral and ethical issues surrounding new technologies from the perspectives of these faith traditions.

Already in that book Herzfeld demonstrated a deep knowledge and understanding of both computer science and theology and how the two interface with each other within the question  of what it means to be created in the image of God. She does so, not only by analyzing the human desire for artificial intelligence, but also by analyzing some theological approaches to the image of God (notably those by Reinhold Niebuhr, Von Rad and Karl Barth). This book already forces any curious reader to reflect on her/his own ideas about the interaction of nature, theology, and technology.

But now Professor Herzfeld has surpassed herself with an even more extraordinary book as above mentioned. In the light of further advances in artificial intelligence since 2002, posing more and more questions to our self-understanding, Herzfeld reflects here on some of the theological implications of artificial intelligence. The book brilliantly accomplishes three things, it 1) Includes perspectives on technology from Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, 2) Provides a well-rounded overview of new and controversial technologies, 3) Examines ethical and social justice implications of those technologies.

It is quite apparent to most educated people that technology is changing all the time, but the crucial question remains this: does it also have the ability to change us and the way we approach religion and spirituality? In Technology and Religion: Remaining Human in a Co-created World, Noreen Herzfeld examines this and other provocative questions as she provides an accessible and fascinating overview of the relationship between religion and the ever-broadening world of technology. The result is a multifaceted look at the ongoing dialogue between these two subjects that are not commonly associated with one another.

This volume is the third title published in the new Templeton Science and Religion Series, in which scientists from a wide range of fields distill their knowledge and wisdom and show that, contrary to what we in the West have misguidedly believed since Voltaire and his misguided views on the nexus between reason and faith, religion and science far from being antagonists and mutually exclusive are in reality complementary to each other; not only they can coexist but they can reinforce and inspire each other.

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Arunodhayan Sam Solomon D2016-11-21 07:18:53
I have similar research interest and have published papers proving the existence of God through computer science. I'm praying for my PhD program in computational theology. Please do guide me as I don't know how to proceed and find guide

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