The Limits of Perfection: Proceedings of the Ninth Annual Goshen Conference on Religion and Science, by Noreen Hertzfeld
2010. 123 pp. ISBN: 9781926599175
What is perfection? Perfection demands an ideal, a model of how things should be. Plato embraces this concept with his realm of ideas, in which true being resides. Everything else – every person, chair, cat, book – is in the process of becoming, approaching or modeling the ideal in some way, and in otherways falling short. Aristotle, in the third book of Metaphysics, follows his master’s pattern, defining perfection as that which is so good that nothing of its kind could be better. This implies that we can imagine the best, and that we have some basis by which we know that there is no better.
True religion should, in some sense, be perfect, or at least we seem to expect that. But we are dealing with humans and their limited understanding. Even if we accept that God is perfect, we must confront theodicy and realize that our concept of perfection is defined by what we encounter on the earth. The capacity for self-transcendence confronts human beings with a
paradox. We have a vision of “what ought to be” that is limitless, while we ourselves are finite beings. We can imagine perfection, but can we attain it?
Noreen Herzfeld is the Nicholas and Bernice Reuter Professor of Science and Religion at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict. Professor Herzfeld is also a research associate at ZRS Koper and the Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa. She holds degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley.
Professor Herzfeld teaches in both the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Theology at St. John’s University and the College of St. Benedict, reflecting her two primary research interests—the intersection of religion and technology, and religion and conflict. Topics include computer theory, computer ethics, theology in the light of science, the spirituality and politics of Islam, and ministry in a technological age.
She is the author of In Our Image: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Spirit (Fortress, 2002), Technology and Religion: Remaining Human in a Co-Created World (Templeton, 2009), The Limits of Perfection in Technology, Religion, and Science (Pandora, 2010), and editor of Religion and the New Technologies (MDPI, 2017). In addition, Professor Herzfeld has published numerous articles and book chapters and is a frequent speaker on the prospects for AI, ethical issues in technology, and Islam