Catholic Students’ Fatalism in Anticipation of Transhuman Technologies

By Stephen Lilley.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Findings are presented from a qualitative study in which participants from a Catholic university in New England, USA read a description of transhuman technologies (e.g., genetic engineering) and wrote lengthy responses indicating what they saw as the likely impact of these technologies on identity, society, and religion. In the subsequent content analysis, the responses were also examined for what Patrick Feng calls the “myth of technological determinism” — a sense that technological change is beyond human control. Most of the young men and women in the sample described negative impacts, identified a threat to religion and to their religious beliefs, and expressed concerns for the integrity of human nature. Many of the students wrote of their expectations regarding the future development or restriction of these technologies, with twice as many evoking technological determinism as compared to professing human agency. This passivity and sense of alienation can be understood as a variant of fatalism that Ulrich Beck describes in his account of “risk society”. Social scientists prefer to see the public constructively engaged with technologies. Ironically, a religious critique of advanced technologies may invite fatalism. The author suggests that a secular critique, informed by science and technology studies, is more conducive to the public debate.

Keywords: Fatalism, Determinism, Religion, Risk Society, Technology, Transhuman

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp.313-320. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 515.002KB).

Dr. Stephen Lilley

Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Social Work & Criminal Justice, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, CT, USA

Stephen Lilley, PhD, is an associate professor of sociology at Sacred Heart University. His general area of interest is the intersection of social movements and technology studies.

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