A Christian Field Guide to Technology for Engineers and Designers
This book is a collaborative project between three engineering professors – Ethan J. Brue, Derek C. Schuurman, and Steven H. Vanderleest, all PhDs. All three authors have previously worked in the industry and currently hold teaching professorships at their respective universities. This Field Guide introduces readers to some of the bedrock of the “why” and “how” of engineering – not from a particularly technical standpoint but from a philosophical one. While the authors show themselves to be well-versed in their respective fields, the subjects discussed in the book do not dwell on the technical knowledge but rather weave through the structures and ideals necessary to practice technical know-how well.
Although the three authors specialize in mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering (respectively), the Field Guide attempts to be relevant to all fields of engineering with examples relating to computer science, electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering.
The chapters are divided between the three authors, covering a variety of topics in distinct sections. These include the authors’ views on biblical design principles, ethics, engineering philosophy, design biases and impacts, case studies, and practical professional dilemmas.
The first few chapters work to address the biblical foundations for technology and human design work as a mirror of the Creator and the creation. Their arguments are generally based on passages of scripture from Genesis that they then use to draw parallels with the work of engineering design work. These chapters reflect the authors’ interpretation of these passages as a means to establish a common platform that engineering design is a “good” part of the human creation story and should be carried out faithfully.
The chapters vary from highly theoretical to practical case studies that illustrate various concepts. While the case studies are each rooted in a very particular type of engineering, they are still broadly useful to help make the concepts discussed more tangible. I found this to be a welcome addition after reading through some of the more nebulous philosophical considerations.
The section I found most valuable to new and experienced engineers alike discusses how no design is ever really “neutral” – the engineer always leaves an imprint of their values, both positive and negative. Acknowledging an engineer’s imprint on their work is instrumental in beginning to notice and address blind areas, internal biases, and the implicit priorities of the design. This is illustrated well by the discussion of several bridge designs in New York City that effectively divided neighborhoods along racial lines.
The book concludes with a mock set of correspondence between a recent engineering graduate and his engineering mentor. This is intended to illustrate several possible ethical dilemmas encountered in the workplace and what could be wise steps to address in a biblical manner. While this chapter doesn’t necessarily add new content, it is instructive in illustrating some of the possible nuances in situations that are encountered in the workplace and is the first step towards helping readers apply the concepts discussed earlier in the book.
The concepts discussed here are critical to the practice of engineering, or perhaps more accurately, to the practice of well-balanced engineering rooted in the gospel. This content would place well in an engineering entry level course or as guidance to graduating students entering the engineering field in a professional capacity.