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The Engines of Our IngenuityAn Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture$
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John H. Lienhard

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780195135831

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195135831.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 02 August 2021

God, the Master Craftsman

God, the Master Craftsman

(p.20) 2 God, the Master Craftsman
The Engines of Our Ingenuity

John H. Lienhard

Oxford University Press

Adam awoke on the eighth day of creation, measuring his newly gained creative powers. In a harsh, forbidding world, somewhere to the east of Eden, Adam flexed new muscles and smiled. “That garden was nothing,” he chuckled. “We’re well rid of it. I’ll build a garden that’ll put it to shame.” That eighth day of creation was, in fact, very late in time. Adam had hunted and gathered in the garden for four million years. Then, just the other day—only about thirty thousand years ago—he came into the dense, self-reinforcing, technical knowledge that has, ever since, driven him further and further from the garden. We are a willful, apple-driven, and mind-obsessed people. That side of our nature is not one that we can dodge for very long. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the eleventh-century Christian church was that it forged a tentative peace with human restlessness. All the great monotheistic religions of the world have honored God as Maker of the world, but the medieval Christian church went much further: It asserted that God had manifested himself in human form as a carpenter—a technologist, a creator scaled to human proportions. It seemed clear that if we are cast in God’s image, then God must rightly be honored as the Master Craftsman. The peace forged between the medieval Church and Adam’s apple was wonderfully expressed by an anonymous fourteenth-century Anglo-Saxon monk who sang: . . . Adam lay ibounden, bounden in a bond. Four thousand winter, thought he not to long. And all was for an appil, and appil that he tok, As clerkès finden, written in their book. Ne had the appil takè ben, Ne haddè never our lady, a ben hevenè quene. Blessèd be the time that appil takè was Therefore we moun singen, Deo Gracias! . . . In the mind of that monk, taking the apple of technological knowledge was the first step in spinning out the whole tapestry of the biblical drama that had left him at last with the comfort of his Virgin Mary. So he sang “Deo Gracias,” picked up his compass and square, and went to work. No wonder medieval Christianity was such a friend to the work of making things.

Keywords:   apprenticeship, clocks, diseases, heat, language, masons, objectivity, quantum theory, radioactivity, windmills

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