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1. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Daniel Topf “Useless Class” or Uniquely Human?: The Challenge of Artificial Intelligence
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This essay explores recent developments surrounding the Fourth Industrial Revolution, particularly as they relate to the challenge of technological unemployment. In an age of advanced robotics and artificial intelligence (Al), so warns the philosopher-historian Yuval Noah Harari, ordinary people may become unemployable, unable to contribute to society, and therefore be declared a “useless class.” In contrast to such a dystopian view, futurists like Ray Kurzweil and Nick Bostrom envision a digital utopia, while more realistic optimists emphasize that Al will ultimately create more jobs than it destroys. As an alternative to these perspectives, this essay proposes a Judeo- Christian approach that, independently of traditional frameworks of paid work, affirms the unique value and dignity of all human beings by highlighting the theological significance of human creativity, the balance between work and play, love as an overarching framework for life, and the role of human beings as ethical decision-makers.
2. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Oskar Gruenwald Taming the Digital Behemoth: Rethinking the Digital-Human Divide (Editorial)
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This essay explores the digital challenge, how to humanize technology, and the need to rethink the digital-human divide. This is imperative in view of superintelligent Al, which may escape human control. The information age poses quandaries regarding the uses and abuses of technology. A major critique concerns the commercial design of digital technologies that engenders compulsive behavior. All technologies affect humans in a reciprocal way. The new digital technologies-from smartphones to the Internet—where humans are tethered to machines, can impair our autonomy, hijack attention, rewire the brain, and diminish concentration, empathy, knowledge, and wisdom. The remedy is to restore deep reading, human interactions, personal conversations, real friendships, and respect for autonomy and privacy, building a nurturing culture of tolerance, coupled with transcendent norms and ideals worthy of a creature created in the image and likeness of God. This aspiration should be at the center of a new interdisciplinary field of inquiry—a phenomenology of communications.
3. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Corine S. Sutherland Isaac Asimov’s Rules for Humans: Ethics and Online-Learning
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With the varied learning formats found in education, one constant that has remained is keeping the students on an honest path regarding how they obtain their degrees. This essay probes how students have developed creative cheating styles to coincide with the advancement in technology. The core of the issue is student integrity, and one way to address it is on the very ground of the problem. Along with the creativity of technology and the ability to cheat, Isaac Asimov’s “Rules for Robots” may be rewritten as rules for humans. How machines are programmed is the equivalent of how students are educated, that instead of pursuing a grade unfairly through technology, students may be taught the positive points of the rules that Asimov developed, the outcome being not to use technology for selfish ends. Rather, the desired outcome is to educate students to value technology as the aid that it is for a properly earned grade.
4. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Bruce N. Lundberg The Virtues of Leonhard Euler: Ethics, Mathematics and Thriving in a Digital Era
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This essay explores ethical foundations for meeting the digital challenge via a case study of the work, life, and virtues of the greatest mathematician and natural scientist of the eighteenth century, Leonhard Euler. By biography and history one can learn of the gifts of human strength, practices, good will, dependence on others, and friendships which made possible Euler’s own astonishing corpus of work and that of many other scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technologists. Digital technology results from a combination of science (demonstrable knowledge and method), technology, engineering, and art (forms and artifacts of making and expressing), and mathematics (abstract numerical, algebraic, geometrical, formal, and digital concepts, rules, representations, and logics). Joint reflection on the biographical, historical, and natural sources of mathematics and the digital is essential for any humanization or ascesis in response to the perils and promises of digital technology for human thriving. As ethics enable and embody an ethos, so technologies are means and manifestations of a telos. Thus, thought and action for thriving through the digital needs to contemplate and conciliate the ends of humans and of the digital.
5. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Martin N. Yina The Challenges of Digital Technologies for Nigeria
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The world is saturated with information and communication technologies that have changed the way people work and connect to one another. These technologies play a great role in people’s interactions, their pursuit of education, and certain careers in life. For some scholars in the developed world, the era of the digital revolution is over; it is now the post-digital era. However, fora developing country like Nigeria, though digitalization is seen as a necessity, there are still many challenges hindering its progress. Digital technologies are perceived as a double-edged sword with positive and negative impacts. Apart from the digital divide, some of these technologies have been abused or misused. Hence, part of the humanization process for Nigeria with its complex historical-cultural context would entail addressing the challenges surrounding these technologies, aspiring to reduce their capacity to dehumanize. More people need to have access to and be educated on how to better understand and wisely use such technologies. The process of dealing with these challenges must involve the partnership and collaboration of government agencies, academia, and civil societies.
6. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Miloš Dokulil Kurt Gödel’s Religious Worldview: An Immanent Personal Conception
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Kurt Gödel is well-known as a first-class logician-mathematician, but less well for his proof of God. Godel's Incompleteness Theorems proved that all formal axiomatic systems have inherent limitations. He created also “Gödel numbering,” a special code for writing mathematical formulae. His proof of God was presented logically on the basis of modal axioms. Gödel was sure of God’s personal influence and believed in eternal life of the human soul. He was more than only a “Baptized Lutheran” whose belief was “theistic.” Yet Gödel’s individual assurance of God’s “personal existence“ cannot be viably presented on an interpersonal basis being a “first-person“ type of knowledge and, thus, outside interpersonal conditions for an objective construction beyond a “verbal proof.“ There are categories of reality not easily translatable without a shift in their meaning or a simplifying reduction. The metaphor of an analogy between the brain and its mind as against a computer’s hard- and software does not adequately consider the polarity between the message and its meaning. Gödel’s God was not a modally conceived formal-logical abbreviation of something unattainable for the believer, but a personal Security which does not require any proof.
7. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Michael E. Meagher The Challenge of Distance Learning: An Educator’s Journey
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This essay explores the sudden shift from residential higher education to remote learning in the United States, a consequence of the novel coronavirus. It is a personal account of experiences as a professor at a Midwestern university. Many instructors had no training in online teaching. For university faculty, Covid-19 meant having to transform courses from in-person instruction to a remote platform practically overnight. Among the student comments I received were that I managed the online transition well. Over the next academic year, 2020-21, universities face challenges in resuming on-campus teaching, and the possibility that a new outbreak of the virus might bring a repeat of the Spring 2020 semester. Although that possibility sounds dire, there is hope that the shift to remote learning may offer a silver lining in the form of expanding course offerings beyond geographic areas and reaching a wider audience. For liberal arts institutions that are struggling financially, a rise in the use of remote learning and online education may offer a new beginning, and for public universities, potential new revenue given declining state support, a silver lining.
8. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Daniel W. Hollis III The Paradox of Kurt Gödel: A Response
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Miloš Dokulil’s dissection of Kurt Godel’s religious worldview generates questions among his conclusions. In part, the reader’s understanding is challenged by the turgid translation from the Czech language. Yet, the meaning still can be extricated. Because Gödel’s ontological argument for God’s existence was not published in his lifetime, there is doubt that he was satisfied by its method. Truly, since virtually all of Gödel’s writings on philosophy were unpublished, his rational Platonism leaves considerable room for speculation concerning his metaphysical system. Hence, Dokulil seeks alternative explanations for what seems to have been Gödel’s real faith in God. Framed by semantic-philosophical musings, Dokulil concludes that it was the influence of Gödel’s childhood exposure to the Bible mainly through his mother. Indeed, it seems at times that Dokulil is examining his own belief in God as well as Godel’s. In the event, there are several aspects of Göddel’s life and work which elucidate his religious belief through his pursuit of mathematical reasoning in a more intellectually engaging way than simply the maternal influence that is often most profound and Godly. These include his philosophy of Platonism, great contributions to metamathematics, and the relation of intellect and will.
9. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
George A. Seaver Merit, Academic Freedom, Scholarship and Culture: Harvard University, 1969-2019 (Special Section)
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Affirmative action and the decline of merit-based admissions was the beginning of the decline at Harvard University, as it was at most universities. This essay seeks to determine what has happened to the rest of academic first principles as a result, to academic freedom, scholarship, and student/faculty culture. To determine this progression requires decades of observation. The results of this investigation between 1969 and 2019 is that all of these university functions, in succession, were severely compromised, and that the token Asian student lawsuit that was heard against Harvard in 2018 has had no effect on this progressive decline. Recovery may have to come from outside the university. A beginning solution would come from a definitive ruling from the U. S. Supreme Court on the appeal of the Asian student lawsuit. Other areas that the present Harvard system of “social justice” are vulnerable to are the growing financial dependence on global executive education, the increasingly contradictory professorial and departmental policies regarding academic freedom, and, ultimately, the selection of other educational forms produced by “diversity."
10. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 32 > Issue: 1/2
Pontifical Council for Social Communication Ethics in Internet (Document)
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Today, the earth is an interconnected globe humming with electronic transmissions-a chattering planet nestled in the provident silence of space. The ethical question is whether this is contributing to authentic human development and helping individuals and peoples to be true to their transcendent destiny. The new media are powerful tools for education, cultural enrichment, commercial activity, political participation, intercultural dialogue and understanding. They also can serve the cause of religion. Yet the new information technology needs to be informed and guided by solidarity in the service of the common good bridging the digital divide within and among nations. The value-laden message of Western secular culture to people and traditional societies in many cases ill-prepared to evaluate it leads to widespread crisis, for example, in regard to marriage and family life. This technology can be a means for solving human problems, promoting the integral development of persons, creating a world governed by justice, peace, and love. It also can help men and women in their age-old search for self-understanding. Like today's world itself, the world of media, including the Internet, has been brought by Christ, inchoately yet truly, within the boundaries of the kingdom of God and placed in service to the word of salvation.
11. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Oskar Gruenwald The American Promise: Liberty and Justice for All (Editorial)
12. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
William R. Clough The First Freedom: Religion in the American Republic
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The Founders of the United States had waged a war in the name of liberty. Yet shortly after independence they discovered, with the Articles of Confederation, that liberty did not make for a durable Republic. So they crafted the United States Constitution to form a more perfect union. Well aware of how flawed human nature is, they created a strong republican government with three co-equal branches overseeing a union of states, each ruled by laws passed, executed, and judged by their democratically elected representatives. Religious freedom was a particularly thorny issue; institutions of religion are where people exercise freedom of conscience. Religions form powerful interest groups, motivated by high ideals, but are corruptible, sometimes unrealistic, and often inflexible as to how their ideals are to be lived out in society. America’s Founders followed the hard road of refraining from either endorsing or restricting any establishment of religion, but submitting religious individuals to the rule of law. The courts have had to sort out how those ideals are to be applied in actual cases ever since.
13. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Daniel W. Hollis III The American Media Experience: Freedom, Bias, Mergers
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This essay surveys the history of American media from the colonial era to the present. It focuses on the First Amendment protections of press freedom, the nature and consequences of media bias, and the modern tendency at media consolidation via corporate mergers reducing the number and variety of media voices. Actually, these three elements are intertwined rather than independent. The government tried, without lasting effect, to regulate media through Sedition Acts, libel suits, prior restraint, the Fairness Doctrine, and net neutrality. For most of America’s history, media bias was presented up front by publishers so readers knew exactly what to expect. However, over the past quarter century, mainline national media have become increasingly ideological so that objectivity or the pursuit of truth may be seriously questioned. Media mergers have been about profits yet they effectively concentrate control of news outlets in fewer and fewer hands.
14. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Michael E. Meagher Democracy on Trial: John F. Kennedy’s Political Thought
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A remarkable political figure, John F. Kennedy contributed also to political theory focusing on community, sacrifice, and effective national leadership. Coming of age in the build-up to World War II, Kennedy’s early views were framed by the inability of Western democracies to meet totalitarian challenges. As his political career developed, JFK maintained a stance favorable to strong national leadership as a way of overcoming the individualism and self-centered aspects of modern life. A keen believer in service, community, and sacrifice, his famous “Ask not” moment of his 1961 Inaugural Address was informed by a concern with renewing American democracy. With a weakening of the social contract and increased political dysfunctionality in the twenty-first century, the political thought of the thirty-fifth president still speaks to us with its emphasis on courage, leadership, civil society, and the quest for national unity.
15. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
William R. Marty A New Political Pacifism: Churches in the Wake of the Great War
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In the aftermath of the carnage of World War I, a politically engaged pacifism spread rapidly among a number of traditionally non-peace churches, and among the populations of England and America. This pacifism meant to be effective in the world, and it was: it swayed the democracies of England and America to adopt many of its policies. It meant to achieve peace and end war. Represented as what Christian love requires in political life, it failed utterly and completely in its aims both as political prescription and understanding of Christianity. The relevance of this essay is that many of the erroneous assumptions and failed policies of the church peace movement of the 1930s appear to be still the assumptions and policies of secular statesmen of the present. The errors of the political pacifists live on, and if they are not corrected, the consequences are likely to be the same, or worse, for next time, unless we are wiser than the last, the evil ones may prevail.
16. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
D. Eric Schansberg Family, Religion and the American Republic
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Indications are that the success of the American experiment is fading. Perceived declines in family and religion are of particular concern as key aspects of civil society. But family and religion are difficult to measure, and it is challenging to have clarity about our own times and the past. The 1950s are commonly seen as the end of a long run of success for religion and family in America. Yet marriage and family have consistently gone through cycles of growth and decline. Thus, post-World War II religion was more “civil religion” than Christianity. To gain perspective on the past and envision the future, this essay revisits two classic books: Carle Zimmerman’s 1947 study of the family and Will Herberg’s 1955 study of religion. Zimmerman describes a decline in family structure that seems to fit the last 50 years. But other literature indicates that we may be at the trough of a cycle in family structure. How much does family structure matter to society, and what is the future of the family in America? Herberg describes religion as largely a way of “belonging”--more cultural than religious. How do cultural and “religious” dimensions contribute to the health of a society? Without vibrant religious faith and strong families, can we keep the republic?
17. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
George A. Seaver Civil Rights in an Extended Republic: Multiplicity and Competition, Not Government Preference
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It is now apparent even to traditional civil rights advocates that the well-meaning effort to be inclusive has degenerated into identity politics and its violent offspring in universities, the judicial system, and public education. Reviewing these institutions, it is necessary to return to what civil rights were intended to be, to their inherent part of the original “extended republic” concept used by James Madison. Prior to the U.S. Constitution, republican forms of government were considered appropriate only for limited, homogeneous populations, or city-states. The extension to a large republic in terms of population and land area, to multitudinous factions, was Madison’s greatest contribution to the Constitution and the long-term “exceptionalism” of the U.S. republic. The widely-held belief that attention to minorities began in the 1960s with the “Civil Rights Revolution” is wrong as demonstrated by the extended republic’s dependence on them and its success. The multiplicity and competition of factions, sects, and interests, the greater the multiplicity the greater the security, was the reason for this success, and government interference was considered harmful to this end. To help us return to that concept is the purpose of this essay.
18. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Charles A. McDaniel Political Polarization and the Churches: Tocqueville on Religion, Democracy and the Future of Christianity
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Critics decry what they see as an odd association in the 2016 election of Donald Trump and evangelical Christians who emerged as his most reliable base of support. Yet President Trump’s popularity among evangelicals is not as remarkable as it may seem given the often-paradoxical relationship between religion and politics in the United States. Alexis de Tocqueville’s warnings about the vulnerability of American Protestantism’s prophetic voice to individualism and materialism may help to explain Trump’s status as a “religious” president. Polls suggest that security concerns have eclipsed moral issues in importance for many American Christian voters. Such a transformation, Tocqueville believed, would undermine the nation’s moral foundations. This concern led Tocqueville to admire the American principle of church-state separation and voice support for something akin to the “Protestant Principle,” which promotes maintenance of prophetic distance between religion and politics to morally ground democracy.
19. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Gerald De Maio The Republican Schoolmaster and the Problem of Religion in America
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There is a view that the U.S. Supreme Court has acted as a “republican schoolmaster,” defining and educating the public on the permissible interaction between government and religion. The Court gave government, especially state governments, considerable latitude until incorporation of the religion clauses in the 1940s. In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Court articulated a rigid conception of church and state which set precedents for decades. Those precedents restricted accommodation to religion by government, based on an incomplete reading of the Founding debates on religion. It has been gradually corrected since Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985). The implications of the separationist interpretation have had consequences that remain. The most obvious being forestalling experimentation with school choice for non-public school students and precluding the use of public facilities for religious groups until a series of corrective rulings beginning, for the most part, in the 1990s. The republican schoolmaster is now accountable for the intellectual lineage it uses.
20. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
James D. Moseley The Constitution of 1787, Based on Reason and Revelation
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The framers of the U.S. Constitution of 1787 understood that its principles are those of the Declaration of Independence, based upon reason and revelation, “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” Yet, following so-called progressivism at the turn of the twentieth century, the principles of the American founding were questioned by historicism and moral relativism in the social sciences and humanities, with the most egregious effects today in constitutional law. This has been called “the crisis of the West.” Some perceive that the United States lacks a strong moral foundation, and call for redrawing the Constitution. However, before doing so, we may want to better understand its founding principles. We need to turn to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, as found in reason and revelation, which support the moral order of the Constitution. John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln referred to passages from the Bible to illustrate the preeminent position of the Declaration to the Constitution. And they, like the founders, believed the Constitution’s principles must be adhered to for the nation to survive.