Staff Writer

The College’s department of religious studies hosted a conference that focused on exploring the relationship between religion and technology on Saturday. The conference brought a number of dignitaries to the College who spoke on themes related to the intersection of science and faith.

The “Conference on Religion and Technology” was held in the Richard and Ann Barshinger Life Sciences and Philosophy Building’s Bonchek Lecture Hall. A number of themes were discussed, such as technology’s utopian or dystopian potential, the occasionally fine line between humans and machines, and certain ethical issues that arise from scientific progress.

“These are allusions to a profound transformation of what we take to be the human being, what the human being is, and this notion of immortality; all of that has to do with religious issues,” said Annette Aronowicz, department chair and professor of religious studies and the Robert F. and Patricia G. Ross Weis professor of Judaic studies.

Several professors at distinguished universities across the country came to F&M to participate in the conference, including Robert Geraci, associate professor at Manhattan College; Thomas Carlson, professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Katherine Hayles, professor of English literature at Duke University.

Lectures given by the visiting speakers were responded to by a number of F&M faculty including Misty Bastian, professor of anthropology; Stephen Cooper, professor of religious studies; and Peter Jaros, assistant professor of English. The day concluded with an open discussion facilitated by John Modern, associate professor of religious studies.

Aronowicz was inspired to organize the conference out of an interest in how religion responds to changing times and how religious imagery figures in conjunction with modern technology.

“What inspired the conference is becoming aware of religious motifs that are attached to current technology, which is the Internet, and computers in general,” Aronowicz said. “There’s a lot of other stuff relating to how we use technology…that has potential sacred dimensions.”

Aronowicz hopes visitors will be intrigued by the discussion and will continue to explore the dynamic relationship between religion and technology even after the conference is over. Furthermore, she hopes this conference will promote interest in the humanities and reflecting on what the advancement of technology means for society.

“We need people who think about implications for human life, and those people are people who study the Humanities,” Aronowicz said.

The conference presents an opportunity to explore a number of interesting themes. Aronowicz, however, hopes the discussion will move beyond the conference.

“I’m actually looking forward, both to the whole day, but also to conversations that might come out of this,” she said. “We’re really hoping to generate conversation amongst ourselves.”

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