Ethics in an Age of TechnologyEthics in an Age of Technology
Ian Barbour

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Advances in technology are often seen as a wholly good thing, and one can't deny that technology has helped numerous people. But while technology has improved food production and health, and raised living standards, it has also created weapons of mass destruction (nuclear, chemical, biological) and caused environmental disasters like the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Chernobyl meltdown. Thus it is imperative that the growth in technology always be grounded with a moral and ethical anchor. Ian Barbour takes on the task of formulating that anchor by developing an ethic that can assess and redirect technology to its proper ends in Ethics in an Age of Technology.

In the first part of the book, Barbour investigates different views about technology, ranging from technology as liberator, to technology as threat, to technology as an instrument of power. He also looks at human and environmental values and their relation to to technology (science), philosophy and religion, arguing that, in the end, the Christian ethic and worldview offers the best and most distinct answer. In the second part, Barbour focuses on three key technologies: agriculture, energy, and computers. He assesses how all three technologies can be used for the greatest good, arguing in terms of sustainability, renewability and social impact. The third part of the book focuses on the future of technology, and the incredible potential for both good and evil inherent in technological advances. He looks at environmental degradation, and how it can be slowed and reversed. He also looks at genetic engineering and nuclear weapons. His focus is on the proper control of technology, through the government, along with proper risk and cost-benefit analysis, and argues that we need to redirect technology with a view toward ethics, values and sustainability.

Barbour is a Christian and a scientist, which makes him uniquely qualified to discuss the ethics of technology. His thorough understanding of the issues, and his passion to influence those issues in an ethical manner combine to create a readable and practical book, which will shape the face of technological ethics. And his call for Christians to lead the ethical assault on technology cannot be ignored.
     

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Acknowledgmentsxi
Abbreviationsxiii
Prefacexv
PART ONE
CONFLICTING VALUES
1.VIEWS OF TECHNOLOGY3
I.TECHNOLOGY AS LIBERATOR4
1. The Benefits of Technology4
2. Optimistic Views of Technology5
3. A Reply to the Optimists8
II.TECHNOLOGY AS THREAT10
1. The Human Costs of Technology10
2. Recent Critics of Technology12
3. A Reply to the Pessimists14
III.TECHNOLOGY AS INSTRUMENT OF POWER15
1. Technology and Political Power15
2. The Redirection of Technology16
3. The Social Construction of Technology20
IV.CONCLUSIONS23
2.HUMAN VALUES26
I.SCIENCE AND HUMAN VALUES27
1. Values Intrinsic to Science28
2. Evolutionary Ethics29
3. The Contribution of Science to Ethics32
II.PHILOSOPHY AND HUMAN VALUES33
1. Utilitarianism and its Critics33
2. The Concept of Justice36
3. Freedom as Participation38
III.RELIGION AND HUMAN VALUES41
1. Christian Ethics42
2. Individual Values45
3. Social Values49
4. Human Nature53
IV.CONCLUSIONS55
3.ENVIRONMENTAL VALUES57
I.SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENTAL VALUES57
1. New Views of Nature57
2. Biocentric Ethics61
II.PHILOSOPHY AND ENVIRONMENTAL VALUES63
1. Human Benefits from the Environment64
2. Duties to Future Generations66
3. Respect for all Forms of Life69
III.RELIGION AND ENVIRONMENTAL VALUES72
1. Eastern Religions72
2. Historical Christianity74
3. Contemporary Theology77
IV.CONCLUSIONS80
PART TWO
CRITICAL TECHNOLOGIES
4.AGRICULTURE85
I.FOOD AND HUNGER85
1. Causes of Hunger86
2. Environmental Constraints88
II.WESTERN AGRICULTURE91
1. Family Farms and Rural Life93
2. Agribusiness and Research Priorities96
3. Sustainable Agriculture99
III.AGRICULTURE IN THE THIRD WORLD103
1. The Green Revolution and Malnutrition103
2. Sustainable Development106
IV.FOOD AND GLOBAL JUSTICE109
1. Ethical Principles110
2. National Policies112
V.CONCLUSIONS114
5.ENERGY116
I.FOSSIL FUELS116
1. Oil and Global Justice117
2. Coal and the Environment118
II.NUCLEAR POWER122
1. Reactor Safety and Risk Acceptability122
2. Radioactive Wastes and Future Generations125
3. The Future of Nuclear Power128
III.RENEWABLE SOURCES131
1. Solar Energy and Sustainability131
2. Decentralization and Participation135
IV.CONSERVATION137
1. Energy and Economic Development137
2. Life-styles and Personal Fulfillment140
3. Energy in the Third World142
V.CONCLUSIONS143
6.COMPUTERS146
I.COMPUTERS AND WORK147
1. Automation and Human Skills147
2. The Electronic Office151
3. Centralization and Decentralization153
II.COMPUTERS AND CITIZENS155
1. Access to Information156
2. Computer Programmers and Users158
3. Data Banks and Privacy160
III.COMPUTERS FOR WAR AND PEACE162
1. Military Computers163
2. Computers in the Third World165
IV.ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE168
1. Progress in Artificial Intelligence168
2. Artificial Intelligence and Human Nature171
3. Prospects for the Future173
V.CONCLUSIONS175
PART THREE
TECHNOLOGY AND THE FUTURE
7.UNPRECEDENTED POWERS179
I.ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION179
1. Air and Water Pollution179
2. Global Threats: An Endangered Planet183
3. The "Limits to Growth" Debate187
II.GENETIC ENGINEERING190
1. Modifying Microbes, Plants, and Animals190
2. Human Genetic Engineering194
3. The Social Context of Research198
III.NUCLEAR WEAPONS200
1. The Arms Race201
2. Ethical and Theological Issues205
3. Arms Control Treaties207
4. Global Security209
IV.CONCLUSIONS211
8.CONTROLLING TECHNOLOGY213
I.GOVERNING TECHNOLOGY213
1. The Diverse Roles of Government213
2. Technical Experts and Policy Decision217
3. Citizens and Political Participation220
II.ASSESSING TECHNOLOGY223
1. Cost-Benefit Analysis223
2. Risk Assessment226
3. Technology Assessment Methods229
III.REDIRECTING TECHNOLOGY231
1. Regulatory Strategies232
2. Justice, Employment, and the Environment235
3. The Social Responsibility of Scientists and Engineers237
IV.CONCLUSIONS240
9.NEW DIRECTIONS242
I.TECHNOLOGY AND HUMAN VALUES243
1. Policy Priorities243
2. Appropriate Technology244
3. Scale, Efficiency, and Participation248
II.SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION251
1. A Conserver Society251
2. Individual Life-styles255
III.CHANGING VALUES258
1. A New Social Paradigm258
2. A Biblical Perspective261
3. Sources of Change264
Notes269
Index of Names303