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Mind-Body Dualism and Possibility of Artificial Intelligence, Even “Born Again” Machines!

C. S. LEWIS’S “Argument From Reason,” vs. Christians Who Reject Mind-Body Dualism and Accept the Possibility of Artificial Intelligence, Even “Born Again” Machines!
By Edward T. Babinski

Compiled By Edward T. Babinski

C. S. Lewis and the Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism

The "Brain and Mind Question" and Christian Theistic Philosophers

Also see, Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Religion, Ed., Michael L. Peterson (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2004), produced by members of the Society of Christian Philosophers, featuring the question “Should a Christian Be A Mind-Body Dualist?” in which Dr. Lynne Rudder Baker (Univ. of Mass.) argues that Christians should reject mind-body dualism. Her contributions and arguments in that Christian debate also appear online: Should a Christian Be a Mind-Body Dualist?—NO Reply to Zimmerman’s ‘Should a Christian Be a Mind/Body Dualist?—YES.’


Malcolm Jeeves is another Christian professor with an online article (published in Science & Christian Belief) in which he rejects dualism. See How Free is Free? Reflections on the Neuropsychology of Thought and Action

Rev. Dr John Polkinghorne, considered by some to be “one of the greatest living writers and thinkers on science and religion” is another Christian who believes mind is an emergent property. He employs the nothing buttery phrase coined by D. M. MacKay, a brain physiologist and yet another Christian who argues in favor of mind-body emergence rather than dualism, and whose works are listed here.

Many Christians who accept evolution like Polkinghorne, also reject “mind-body” dualism. See this list of online resources produced by Christians who are pro-evolution. There have also been discussions of the topic of Christian dualism versus Christian monism on the listserv of the American Scientific Affiliation, an Evangelical Christian group that consists mainly of scientists (but which features a wide range of opinions).

Not just speaking of scientists, but there are also Christian theologians who view "mind-body" dualism as unbiblical and theologically unacceptable. See the book, Whatever Happened to the Soul?: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998). The book’s editors include: Warren S. Brown, Professor of Psychology at Fuller Graduate School of Psychology and Adjunct Professor at UCLA's School of Medicine; Nancey Murphy, Professor of Christian Philosophy at Fuller; and, H. Newton Malony, Senior Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Fuller.

That reminds me, a Christian student told me in the college library a few years ago that he was transferring to a Presbyterian university in Great Britain, somewhere in Scotland I believe, where the Christian professors were apparently all anti-dualists. That student was enthusiastic about D. M. MacKay's writings. I do wish I'd remembered the name of the institution he mentioned.


Advances in Consciousness Research, part of an annual series that features articles by the world’s leading researchers.


A robot has been developed that appears to be able to distinguish between ‘itself’ and another robot, or even between ‘itself’ and a mirror image of ‘itself.’

Not that it's conscious, but would that matter if it functioned in a conscious-seeming fashion and had recognition abilities similar to our own? A Christian purchasing such robots could probably have a Christian-conversation chip installed in them so that the robots could speaking edifyingly about Christian matters to their owner--if that was the owner’s choice. Then again, such robots might also get it into their unconscious heads that making converts of human friends of their master as well as making converts of other robots was the thing to do to increase their master’s happiness, and there lies the future rub. *smile*


Can Robots Be Part of the Covenant? was a question debated at the 2004 Society of Christian Philosophers conference. In the view of Anne Foerst (visiting professor for theology and computer science and the director of NEXUS: The Religion & Science Dialogue Project at St. Bonaventure University), “Christianity is, at least potentially, the most inclusive of all religions.” If robots are able to participate in significant social relationships, then there is no reason why Christians should reject the participation of robots in the covenant God established first with Israel and later with Christ, she said. The inclusion of robots, if they are sufficiently capable of interacting with other in significant ways, is simply an extension of the inclusivity established in the Bible, she stated. The concept of “personhood” should be understood theologically and culturally, continued Foerst, who is also the “theological advisor” for the robots Cog and Kismet at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Throughout both Testaments, she pointed out, there is a constant theme of decreasing exclusivity and breaking down barriers between groups.


Keeping up with A.I. and robotics:

The author of Digital Biology

Search these popular science sites under Artificial Intelligence, A-Life, Robots, here, and here.

International Society of Artificial Life



It is truly extravagant to define God, angels, and minds...when we do not know why we move our arms at will. Doubt is not a very agreeable state, but certainty is a ridiculous one.

I have a problem with the "C" word (i.e. consciousness), because no-one ever defines what it means. Those who do define it do so using other pieces of undefined terminology, and when you ask for definitions you find that they are circular. We all have a personal experience of something that we have agreed to call "consciousness", but this gives us only the illusion that we know what we are talking about.

Anyway, my own (unoriginal) view is that "consciousness" is an emergent property of a large network of interacting neurons. The network observes itself, because each part of the network interacts with other parts of the network, so the various parts of the network create a "virtual reality" for each other. It is not a big leap to then see how the experience that we call "consciousness" is one and the same as this "virtual reality". Also, the network is coupled to its external sensors (e.g. eyes, ears, etc), so the network's "virtual reality" is steered around by external inputs.

A corollary is that lots of different types of network can have "consciousness."

It may be the case that it is more fun to live with consciousness rather than to analyze it rationally.
--Luboš Motl

Kind of like the difference between analyzing a joke and the joy of "getting it?"

Hmmm, I wonder how will people react if it should be proven beyond a doubt that the brain-mind is a sort of "machine?" Some will be crestfallen, exclaiming "We're only machines! Woe is us!" But others may react differently, exclaiming, "Fascinating! I never knew machines could do all that! Being conscious! Now we'll just have to explain our love of learning and search for knowledge as ‘auto- programming based on maximizing recursivity’ since now we know for sure we are machines.”
—E.T.B. (paraphrasing Raymond Smullyan)


"Theism's Pyrrhic Victory" in The Southern Journal of Philosophy 40 : 4 (2002) by Paul Jude Naquin, Louisiana State Univ.--Naquin's paper addresses Plantinga's evolutionary argument against naturalism in Warrant and Proper Function. "The goal of this essay is to show that traditional theism suffers from a malady similar to the one that Plantinga claims to find in metaphysical naturalism."

See also: The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner

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