SCIENTISM AND TECHNOLOGY AS RELIGIONS
Jacques Ellul, by far the most significant author in the serious discussions on the interface between religion and technology, is apparently not known to the science-and-religion field. The reason is the imprecise use of the terminology. In scientific formulation the relationship can be summarized as technology /religion:: science/theology. The first pair are robust three-dimensional templates of most human experience; the second pair are linear, abstract concerns of a minority of citizens. In the parallel community—now well developed throughout academia—of science, technology, and society, where the technology/religion matters have been discussed more than the science/religion pair, John Caiazza's point that “techno-secularism is the real problem” has been front and center for some decades. Among the theologians most aware of this, Raimundo Panikkar, Langdon Gilkey, and Huston Smith, Smith is the one who has taken the case much further than Caiazza, recognizing the danger of the real theological challenge from the religion of scientism and actively working against it. I write from a unique background among those involved in this debate—that of being deeply embedded simultaneously both in the modern science and technology establishment and in the reform of the religious enterprise for fifty years. I make the case that matters are worse than even Smith posits. He shows that scientism as a fundamentalist modern secularism serves the exact function of the theology behind the practiced religion of America and the West, that is, technology. An unexpected ray of hope has appeared in the sudden emergence of whole-person healing (also known as complementary and alternative medicine), which is used regularly by well over half the population. This reintroduction of the spiritual dimension into this key technology of health will certainly be a major turning point.
Keywords: Huston Smith; Jacques Ellul; incommensurability of science and religion; science, the theology of secularism; scientism, the fundamentalist wing of science; technology as America's religion; whole-person healing
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: December 1, 2005