I used to be (and probably still am) the last to find out about anything and everything. After so long, I guess I’ve never caught up with technology as well. It’s the last thing that I thought would happen. I’ve much more opportunity than those around me to fiddle about with technology in my humble years of childhood. But now I don’t even bother to update my iPhone to the latest iOS. I just don’t see the need; my iPhone is working perfectly and I’ve no use for further enhancements (yet). My last app was the Amazon Kindle and that was probably installed 5 months ago.
In technology we see the trend of reductivism. Simplistic, minimalist designs often score the most market. Whatever makes our lives easier, more efficient, more stable, more connected, more informed, more in-synched, less expensive, appeals. But ironically, technology is also making us further apart, more distracted, more uneasy, more deluded, more impatient, more tempted, more lazy. This whole thing is more or less a technological conundrum.
I believe what I’m alluding to is the concept of Technique coined by Jacques Ellul in his work The Technological Society. Technique is the “totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity.” I’m definitely not the first to say that technology in this sense is a double-edged sword, but don’t you see this reductive trend in other aspects of society, as Ellul suggested?
Education and the intellectual arena are good examples. I don’t like the empirical nature of social sciences (I can’t speak for sciences or humanities). This whole idea of going about making hypotheses, collecting data, proving theories, seems like a wild goose chase to me. I’m not against intellectualism or against trying to make the world a better place. Let me elaborate.
Some of you may know, I’m in Peace and Conflict Studies. Thus far, we’ve simply been learning the history of the discourse and literature written about conflicts, why they happen and how. So in one of the readings for today’s class, we discussed how most of the scholarly writings have been too reductive - trying to simplify the causes of conflicts and neglecting the role of many other factors involved. But isn’t that essentially what social sciences is all about? To reduce the world to a bunch of textbooks for lay readers and political leaders to put those theories into practice. If the solution is too simple, it might not work. If it’s too complicated, who would even bother? This whole thing is an epistemological conundrum.
Now if I am to act all biblical and stuff and say the fundamental problem with this world is sin, I wonder if I’m also committing an epistemological and methodological blunder. It’s one thing to say “the problem is sin and the answer is Jesus”; its another thing to actually see it work. With so many Christians getting discouraged I wonder how they are different from social scientists and other eager world changers, even though the things they worry about (whether people come to bible study, whether the worship experience is good, whether the church grows) seem far smaller than those having to deal with the famine in Somalia or the human rights crisis in Syria. Here we face a soteriological conundrum. Jesus saves, but in our hearts we don’t really believe that.
But the starting point of the biblical answer to the biblical problem of the world (which is about morals but the secular world denies it anyway) is that it will surely work. It will surely work. Because you see, it’s not our work. We can’t save ourselves. Only God can. And this is the beginning of the gospel story. The gospel is not at all reductive. When Jesus summarized the Law into the Great Commandments, he did not remove the obligation to honour our parents or respect our elders. The Law is there, but it is fulfilled in His name. He came to perfect the Law.
I don’t know if all these make sense. If they don’t, please help me make better sense of them too.
- diasporado posted this