ANAT has always explored the interdisciplinary nature of art, science and technology within political, cultural and social frameworks. In 2000, ANAT’s focus was experimentally theological – examining the crossroads of science, technology, ethics and religion within contemporary cultural practices and social structures.
To generate ideas for future related projects in this direction, ANAT invited several key theorists, scientists, artists and representatives of diverse religious and spiritual communities, to participate in a focus meeting where discussion revolved around the following topics.
Theology is a particularly human technology that has evolved in order to reconcile the biological drives of the brain with the sociological needs of the human mind, resulting in the experience of transcendence.
As Edward O. Wilson postulates in a chapter entitled Ethics and Religion (from Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge, 1998): “The human mind evolved to believe in gods. It did not evolve to believe in biology. Acceptance of the supernatural conveyed a great advantage throughout prehistory, when the brain was evolving. Thus, it is in sharp contrast to biology, which was developed as a product of the modern age and is not underwritten by genetic algorithms.
The uncomfortable truth is that the two beliefs are not factually compatible. As a result, those who acquire hunger for both intellectual and religious truth will never acquire both in full measure. Meanwhile theology tries to resolve the dilemma by evolving science like toward abstraction.”The quest for abstraction and transcendence share a common goal – the unification of beliefs and empirical knowledge.
The human desire for transcendence is an arguably hard-wired behaviour. This impeccable state of being, separate from the physical laws of the natural world, has been sought in the supernatural or the divine in vast majority across a great many cultural traditions. Art, religion, science and technology are the progeny of our inquiry into supra-human or trans-human experiences.
As societies evolved, the mechanisms of religion and technology became systems for the government of physical life, and less about transcendental spirituality. In the twentieth century, the threads of transcendentalism have filtered through creative approaches to modern physics, mathematics, communication and bio-technology.
Genetic engineering, cloning, Artificial Intelligence research and the religious dreaming of cyberspace have snared the popular imagination and raised new ethical concerns about human evolution. The application of these technologies has started; however, their contributions to human spirituality remain suspended between physical and virtual realities.
The discussions and ideas that emerge from this meeting will be facilitated and documented by Samara Mitchell, ANAT’s Project Officer for the Art, Technology and Theology Focus Group Project.