Giving the Unabomber New Disciples

It took me a little while to realize that a bevy of recent articles about Ted Kaczynski, better known as "The Unabomber," is because it's been 50 years since he graduated from Harvard. His name was listed in the alumni report. Oops.

Now, I'm all for befriending prisoners to help them in their journey toward redemption and restoration. Prison Fellowship volunteers are great examples of people who build relationships with prisoners in various ways, including prison visits and being pen pals, to help in the journey toward restoration.

However, I am extremely uneasy with the pen pal relationship that has sprung up between philosophy professor David F. Skrbina and Ted Kaczynski. In "The Chronicles of Education," Jeffrey R. Young has written an in-depth article on the relationship between the two.

For 23 years, Kaczynski terrorized, maimed, and killed people in order to revert to a "primitive" society, one without technology. Kaczynski sees technology as enslaving humans and killing civilization.

While Kaczynski's been out of sight and mind for many years, his ideas are getting a new hearing through Professor Skrbina. Skrbina, too, is uneasy about the growth and use of technology. In order to understand Kaczynski, Skrbina has spent a lot of time conversing with him, via mail. He wrote a book about Kaczynski's ideas, using Kaczynski's own writing. Skrbina even lectures on Kaczynski's ideas.

Skrbina decries Kaczynski's violence, but maintains that it is possible to separate Kaczynski's ideas from his actions.

My question is, why use and promote Kaczynski's ideas to discuss and promote the anti-technology worldview? It seems to me that we should take a stance similar to what the medical community did when faced with the experimentation the Nazis did on Jews and others -- not use it unless it is absolutely the only source available and could save lives.

Clearly, Kaczynski isn't the only source for anti-technology diatribes, so is Skrbina's use and distribution of Kaczynski's material ethical?

As for a good relationship with Kaczynski, it would be better if someone wrote to him about the saving grace of Jesus.


To take the position of a modern-day Luddite will most likely ensure Skrbina of being ignored. It seems a more productive path might be to raise questions about its legitimate uses and our slavish dependence on it. In my mind the same thing could be said about technology that Tacitus recorded about Caligula before he became the big Kahuna: "He makes a great servant, but a terrible master."
Let's hope Skrbina's students are level-headed and love their fellow human beings.
I wonder if Skrbina is careful when opening letters from Kaczynski. Once a unabomber, always a unabomber - even in prison?

More importantly, you're right, Kim - this seems to be more like just using Kaczynski, rather than trying to help him.

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