A Capital-Driven Science?

Religion and Science in For-Profit Tech Companies

Focusing on the application of the sciences in for-profit settings, my research, entitled “A Capital-Driven Science? Religion and Science in For-Profit Tech Companies,” will examine how high-tech professionals perceive religion and ethics in their workplaces. For this, I propose to interview high-tech professionals in Silicon Valley companies in the Bay Area of California and in Shenzhen – a region connecting mainland China with Hong Kong and China’s own “Silicon Valley”. Both regions boast many high-tech firms yet are situated in societies with differing economic structures, religious landscapes, and manifestations of techno-religions. I plan to conduct interviews with 80 scientific professionals with differing seniority and diverse religious backgrounds: some affiliated with faith traditions, others adhering to an alternative spirituality, and still others atheists or agnostic.

The following research questions will guide this study:

1) How does religion influence high-tech professionals’ understandings of science, ethics, scientific applications, and other factors playing a role in their work?

2) Whether and how do high-tech professionals navigate the tensions between science and religion under the pressure and ambition to make a profit through the application of science?

3) To what extent and how do these workers integrate religion and spirituality in the workplace?

Answers to these research questions will advance the sociology of religion and sciences in three ways. First, it makes an empirical contribution by analyzing science and religion in for-profit high-tech companies, a discussion that has rarely been engaged in by previous scholars in the sociology of religion and sciences. Second, it makes a theoretical contribution by addressing how scientists in technology, while being constrained by the pressure to make a profit, may also reframe the dialogues of science, religion, ethnics, and technology. Third, this study will disclose how such a trend is localized in two different contexts: Silicon Valley and Shenzhen.