I am currently at the Thinking Digital conference in Gateshead. I have to say that it’s one of the best I’ve been to for a long time. The variety of speakers is great and the breadth of their thinking is too. Just to give you an example yesterday we had Tara Hunt from CERN talking about what exactly it is that particle physicists are thinking about right now; the head of Virgin online and the perfume critic from the New York Times.
Quite a spread.
But one thing bothers me about the conference and that is the implied thread that digital people can’t be Christian.
The first speaker was asked by the conference faciliator what he thought fundamentalist Christians from the South would think of those who believe we will inevitably end up as cyborgs, or human machine hybrids.
Why? Why not ask what ethicists or phillosophers or Katie Price might think? Or the “ordinary man on the street”? The implication of course being that Southern fundamentalist Christians are luddites. Maybe they are. But couldn’t the same question have been asked about fundamentalist Muslims? Or about Sikhs? No?
Later in the day we heard Dr Michael Shirmer talk about his magazine Skeptic. I’m all for skepticism. There is obviously going to be a point where we part company, namely that he doesn’t believe and I do, but if I had used a speaker platform at a conference about digital thinking to talk about nothing digital at all and to try and explain my beliefs I think I would have proved to be incredibly controversial, not to say inappropriate. So why is it not inappropriate for him to do that with his own position on Christianity?
I know that there is a lot of bad science in Christian thinking (creationism and intelligent design) but why is this the time or place to raise these issues?
I am well used by now to being the only Christian in a group of scientists and in the majority of scientists believing that I am misguided and wrong. I don’t expect to get it when I am in my own environment. A world I have worked in for 15 years, which puts me in a minority of people.
I know that the digital world is already a battle ground for belief, but I am disappointed that there is one rule for them and one rule for us. I genuinel never thought I would encounter that at an otherwise great and fantastically interesting conference.