Saturday, July 08, 2006

Blamires, New Urbanism, and Thinking Christianly about Technology

I found Blamires book (see earlier post on his book) very stimulating, a withering critique with strength, freshness and perceptiveness, so I plan to blog some of his thoughts here. In chapter 5, "Its Concern For the Person" of The Christian Mind Blamires deals with the challenge to the Christian mind to think Christianly about the technology in the modern world. I found it refreshing that he presented such cogent thoughts paralleling the current movements such as New Urbanism back in 1963.

He identifies servitude to the machine as a mark of contemporary worldliness and a challenge to the Christian mind. He identifies two aspects of this servility, the practical and the theoretical.

"The theoretical aspect is the fact that modern man is increasingly living his day-to-day life in servitude to mechanical contrivances. The theoretical aspect is the fact that the machine has now produced a way of thinking as well as a way of living."

Blamires notes that this way of thinking extends beyond spheres of life to which mechanical things are relevant. It is interesting note here a parallel understanding, or view if you prefer, expressed by Blamires' tutor C.S. Lewis (who encouraged Blamires to write) in "Is History Bunk?", a look at what appears to me to to be same servility of mind applied to the subject of history, but then touching upon technology as well with the mention of Henry Ford:

"There will always be those who, on discovering that history cannot really be turned to much practical account, will pronounce history to be Bunk. Aristotle would have called this servile or banausic; we, more civilly, may christen it Fordism."

Is servile a good term to characterize much of our thought about modern technology? Is the posthumanism movement in a sense a total surrender to the view humanity as technology and therefore properly adjustable in terms of the technology supplementing the technology that is humanity? The late Neil Postman in such books as Technopoly and Amusing Ourselves to Death stressed the danger of the complacency of the modern mind in dealing with its technology and the need to critically think about the place we as a society should designate for technology. Another contemporary thinker of choice value on in stimulating thought and consideration on this matter is the maveric siomething of a prophet Wendell Berry in his many essays on our relation to technology and the environment. (He detests the word environment for the kind of relationship to the nature implicit in the word). But to return to Blamires (shortly, in the next posts).

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