Message of the Medium
By: Jim Virkler
Marshall McCluhan (1911-1980) coined a amusing play on the title of his famous best seller, “The Medium Is the Message.” In humor, McCluhan once substituted “massage” for message. The Medium is the Massage recognized that visual or print media could “massage” human awareness and leave a profound impact on an individual’s perception of reality. The letter substitution was originally a printing error. Since McCluhan’s death in 1980, his work has received increased attention owing to the expanded impact of audio, visual, and printed media. In particular, we consider how modern media have been impacted by the overwhelming effects of the Digital Revolution. McCluhan’s thesis was prophetic long before the widespread results of the Digital Revolution became an overwhelming phenomenon of our modern life.
McCluhan stated, “New technologies have a gravitational effect on cognition.” He railed against print technology and media such as television almost a half-century ago. Wikipedia reports, Media…“plays a role not by the content delivered over the medium, but by the character of the medium itself.” We wonder how Marshall McCluhan would characterize today’s ubiquitous social interaction via e-mail, cell phones, texting, and instant on-demand entertainment available to contemporary young people and adults if he were yet alive.
As wonderful as the science of digital technology is, we must strive to balance its positives with its sometimes frightful negatives. Digital media supplies wonders such as our ability to be in instant audio and visual communication with our loved ones virtually anywhere in the world, to activate our GPS unit safely guiding us to our destination, to access stores of vital information, and to take advantage of distance learning, to name only a few. The negative consequences are at least worth contemplating with equal diligence. We wonder about influences on personal time allotment, cognition, comprehension, and thinking ability. What are the subtle effects of having the media embed itself in the message as McCluhan cautioned?
The DuPont Corporation established a new slogan in 1999—“The Miracles of Science.” Surely we must acknowledge that the modern Digital Revolution qualifies as a “miracle of science.” It accomplishes the so-called miracle by utilizing digital wonders similar to the body’s neural systems and information codes in DNA in body cells.
Other applications of the expression “The Medium Is the Message” exist in our past blog discussions of life origins and existence. For example, we may consider cell material containing DNA composed merely of ordinary atoms of elements and compounds the physical medium of all life. To the metaphysical naturalist, the medium of physical matter, atoms and molecules, comprises the ultimate message, since he sees physical matter as “all there is.” He believes spiritual entities such as God do not exist. Some scientists may acknowledge the existence of God, but as a practical matter, God may as well not exist. The philosophy of methodological naturalism (MN) is an epistemological protocol of the science profession in all of their investigations. In light of scientists’ metaphysical beliefs or philosophical epistemological protocols, therefore, the medium of self-created, self-existent, and self-sustaining matter is their ultimate message.
Creationists, in contrast, see the God of Judeo-Christian scripture as the ultimate executor of a dual message: God is (1) the creator of physical matter and (2) the author of DNA’s incredible ability to produce life embodied in physical matter. In short, God is the Creator of all things—the divine “Message of the Medium.”
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Jim Virkler, a retired New Jersey public school science educator, now devotes his time investigating the harmony of scientific discoveries and Christian faith. He and his wife, Eleanor, now reside in the mid-west near their children and grandchildren.