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Wednesday, 23 February, 2000, 17:31 GMT
Archbishop warns of internet 'dangers'

liverpool skyline
Liverpool, where Dr Carey issued his warning on the perils of the internet


By News Online's Alex Kirby

The archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has used a high-profile public lecture to give a warning about what he sees as the perils of internet use.

Dr Carey, who is visiting Liverpool, was speaking in a lecture series arranged by the city's John Moores University.

Previous speakers in the series, the Roscoe Century 21 lectures, have included the President of Ireland, Mrs Mary McAleese, and the Home Secretary, Jack Straw.

Responsibility

Dr Carey, speaking on the theme of Christianity and citizenship, told his audience we were all citizens of the world. And membership of the global community brought with it a very real set of obligations and responsibilities.

"But globalisation is not only a physical reality; it is also a virtual one. I mean of course the exponential growth of information technology, especially as manifested by the internet."

"Increasingly, we are not only citizens of the world but also citizens of the worldwide web."

Caution

Dr Carey said the access to information and the ability to tap resources not otherwise available, which were offered by the web, could be a potent tool of empowerment. But there was a downside too.

"It can also be exclusive and isolating. Of course, you may argue, e-mail can be a way of making important connections.

"That's true. But it can also be a distorting and unsatisfactory one, in which self-deception and evasion are prominent. The Christian emphasis is on relationships, not just connections.

george carey The archbishop is "a keen net browser"
"We must be sure that the virtual community is at the service of real communities, not a substitute for them. It must be a tool for inclusion, not a weapon of exclusion."

In his Christmas sermon last December the archbishop criticised the view that there was a scientific explanation for the entire natural world.

While few people were totally indifferent to its advances, contemporary science could strip life of some of its sense of wonder, leaving us to expect that whatever was revealed could be explained.

Technologically curious

But his staff insist that he is not opposed in principle to the achievements of science and technology, but concerned only to see that they are properly used.

A spokeswoman for Dr Carey told BBC News Online: "He is himself a keen browser of the net, and one of the first here at Lambeth Palace to use new technology."

"But he is always aware of its potential to curtail conversation."

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See also:
25 Dec 99 |  UK
Archbishop takes aim at science
03 Nov 99 |  UK
The internet according to the Church of England

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