CYBERGRACE by Jennifer Cobb


The Search for God in the Digital World
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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. . . .— 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.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-517-70679-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Crown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1998