Christian Engineering Education Conference

Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23-25, 2004

Bias in Technology: From Creation or Fall?

Steven H. VanderLeest
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, MI

Technology is not ethically neutral. It is biased towards certain uses, persuades the user towards particular actions, and has built-in values in its structure. This bias has been recognized by a number of philosophers and historians of technology, though called by many names, such as “valence” or “value-laden”. Christians can find an underlying foundation for this bias in the story of creation and the fall. Rather than a complete acceptance of technology as is, or complete opposition, this paper presents an argument for a middle ground – a wary acceptance of technology as part of God’s good creation but corrupted by the pervasive influence of the fall. But all bias is not necessarily due to sin. Some trade-offs are simply part of the created order. This discussion leads to a critical evaluation of technological products, seeing bias as a multifaceted effect with sociological, cultural, scientific, economic, and theological strands. After establishing a case for the non-neutrality of technology, the practical implications for engineering design methodology and engineering education are explored.

Back to CEEC Program