When the Heidelberg Appeal, delivered to the leaders of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, assails an "irrational ideology" that questions technology and idealizes a so-called natural state, it is attacking, among others, those who embrace these notions, namely those who have come to be known as "neo-Luddites."

The label "Luddite" originates from an early 19th-century English labor movement, inspired by Ned Ludd, who, upon seeing the industrial revolution replace skilled workers with machines, led his fellow workers in violent, machine-smashing revolt.

"There is definitely an anti-Luddite message in this document," says Howard Ris, executive director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Mass.

Often branded as "anti-technologists," today's Luddites mostly advocate a critical look at new scientific advances; they promote the attitude that technology, because it is at the root of today's environmental catastrophes, should be considered guilty of causing harm until...

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