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Reviews and Commentary for Cybergrace : The Search for God in Cyberspace
From Kirkus Reviews , 05/11/98:
A heady, provocative search for the Deity via the Internet. Cobb, a theologian and
computer consultant, has a large philosophical framework to work within and against. She
begins by ascribing human beings' preoccupation with materialism to the rise of Modernism,
which, not coincidentally, gave way to the ascent of atheism. Cyberspace, however, is less
about material objects (i.e., computers) than it is about the spaces in between. We can
transcend modern materialism, then, Cobb suggests, by finding divinity via creativity.
Here she is describing a kind of divinity not far removed from the ideas of Ralph Waldo
Emerson. Cobb goes on to investigate some very lifelike aspects of cyberspace, such as the
ability of certain programs and of artificial intelligence both to mimic life in the
traditional definition of the word and to replicate and actually evolve in a neo-Darwinian
sense. She cleverly counters the observation that under the canonical definitions these
phenomena are not ``life'' by noting that neither is a virus, which self-replicates and
can even take over a host, but does not possess the other aspects of life in the
taxonomical sense. In this framework, she observes the God-like nature that humans may
gain in cyberspace and warns that we must proceed with caution. Cobb's work then
deconstructs the Cartesian mind/body dualism that is the backbone of much theology.
Virtual reality, she reveals, is a place of neither mind nor body, but of process, and
process undermines the tidy rational linearity of the purely scientific worldview. A
world of process is a world of relationality, of circularity, a world where all is
connected to all. . . .þ It is an excellent apparatus for dissolving the subject/object
nature of human reality and promoting, instead, a more Buberian I/Thou relationship with
one's self and, by extension, with one's God. Cybergrace should get tongues wagging about
cyberspace in a new, stimulating, and more philosophical way. -- Copyright ©1998,
Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
Book Description :
Theologian and high-tech consultant Jennifer Cobb combines her expertise to create a new
theory of the Divine in the Information Age.
As computers and artificial intelligence systems become more sophisticated, the question
of whether we can find spiritual life in cyberspace is beginning to be asked. CyberGrace:
The Search for God in the Digital World is a bold, thought-provoking, affirmative answer
to one of the most intriguing inquiries of our time.
Until now, an unbridgeable schism has separated the world of the spirit and that of the
machine. According to an increasingly compelling concept known as emergence, the gulf may
be an imaginary one. Fifty years ago, Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin combined
his lifelong passions of God and science to predict the emergence of cyberspace, based on
his studies of evolution. Using Teilhard's theories as a starting point, Jennifer Cobb
asserts that as technical systems become more complex--with simple, predictable mechanisms
coalescing into hierarchies of increasing organization--something elegant, inspired, and
absolutely unpredictable simply and suddenly "emerges." Many observers today see
this "hand of God" showing itself in disparate disciplines, from evolutionary
theory to artificial intelligence--and especially in the furthest realms of cyberspace,
where brute computation seems to give way to divine inspiration.
CyberGrace offers paradoxical evidence that our machines may be conduits to a deeper
spirituality. With daily headlines announcing dizzying advances in science and information
technology, many people wonder about their--and their children's--ability to lead lives
imbued by a sense of the sacred. In the new world, where the search for spirituality may
seem scattered and unfocused, Cobb brilliantly uses the most popular and prevalent
phenomenon of our times--the computer--to find a world filled with meaning and love.
The question of whether or not spiritual life can be found in cyberspace is discussed in
this thought-provoking, affirmative book that offers paradoxical evidence that machines
may be conduits to a deeper spirituality.
About the Author :
Jennifer Cobb has a degree from Union Theological Seminary and has worked as a
communications consultant for the high-tech industry for fifteen years. Her article on
Jesuit theologian Teilhard de Chardin appeared in the June 1996 issue of Wired magazine.
She lives in Westchester with her husband and two sons.