Re: [asa] Sense and nonsense

From: Jack <>
Date: Fri Jun 22 2007 - 07:08:52 EDT

If you look at the uses of ruwach (breath) and nephesh (soul, spirit), it is hard to come away convinced that either one of these terms is used exclusively for humans.

But I am not arguing that humans are not unique, I think they are. I am also not arguing that animals have souls, I do not believe that they do. But I think that the terms ruwach and nephesh are referring to living beings, all living beings. Similarly consciousness, is not a spiritual quality, but a quality that comes from being a living being. Not all living things are conscious of course, but consciousness comes about with increasing neural complexity. It may be the case that of all living things only humans are "conscious" in the sense that we are talking about here, but I am not sure of that. I certainly don't think that anything in the bible requires that only humans have consciousness.

I seriously doubt however, that a machine, however complex, will ever be able to be conscious. A machine, not being a living thing created by God, cannot ever have "the breath of life". I think that "the breath of life" is necessary but not sufficient for consciousness.
  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Iain Strachan
  To: Alexanian, Moorad
  Cc: Christine Smith ;
  Sent: Friday, June 22, 2007 3:40 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Sense and nonsense

  Yes, but I don't see how your point connects to my response to Christine's question. I wasn't arguing about personhood or being created in the image of God. I was responding to the point about conciousness/sentience. That had nothing to do with being superior.

  Also the whole knotty issue arises as to whether consciousness implies having a soul. Do animals have souls? I guess not (in Genesis, God "breathes" life into the human - perhaps this means the imparting of the soul). But animals can be conscious.


  On 6/22/07, Alexanian, Moorad <> wrote:
    The term "superior" was used in lieu of the Christian notion of being created in the image of God. Humans have personhood, are creative, know and experience love, etc. Purely physical objects do not. Surely, a skyscraper is taller than a human is. :-)



    From: Iain Strachan []
    Sent: Thu 6/21/2007 4:21 PM
    To: Alexanian, Moorad
    Cc: Christine Smith;
    Subject: Re: [asa] Sense and nonsense

    On 6/21/07, Alexanian, Moorad < > wrote:

            Perhaps I am na´ve but it seems to me than any living entity, say, a human being, cannot create anything superior to itself.

    In what sense do you mean "superior"?

    A fork lift truck is vastly superior in lifting ability than humans. The computer I'm typing the post on is far superior to me when it comes to doing arithmetic. Think how many arithmetic operations go into the placement of every pixel. Chess computers nowadays are superior players to all but the top players in the world, and even they have a tough time with them (Kasparov lost a match to "Deep Blue" several years ago).

    You'll have to define what you mean by "superior" in order to make such an assertion. This is a different order to "conscious" which was the point discussed. Within a few years, we'll have chips with vastly superior information storage capacity than the human brain. Who knows if the "strong AI" postulate is true and that such a large memory, configured as a neural network, will not become conscious? I wouldn't like to guess what the answer is.

    In "Star Trek", Data was never considered as a replacement for his crew. He was vastly superior in knowledge, and physical strength, and in the ability to absorb information quickly. But (in the program) he lacked the ability to experience emotion - to understand the nature of humour, and so forth. [ Though late on they experimented with giving him an "emotion chip"].

    But the whole point of my post is that some scientists believe (e.g. Roger Penrose) that an algorithm can never be conscious, because consciousness involves more fundamental physics.


            The most intelligence, consciousness or rationality that humans can create is to give birth in the old-fashioned way.

            Therefore, a super computer like "Data," BTW I have never watched Star Trek, will never equal or replace its creator, man. Let us not forget that sentient, conscious beings or entities presuppose life and how to explain life from the nonliving is no mean feat. Therefore, it is doubtful that the physical plus mere physical interactions can create life.

            As Christine may have suggested, Christians have an answer in John 1:3, "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being," which is not easily amenable to scientific proof or scrutiny. Herein is where ID serves as metaphysics of science.



            From: on behalf of Iain Strachan
            Sent: Thu 6/21/2007 1:26 PM
            To: Christine Smith
            Subject: Re: [asa] Sense and nonsense

            On 6/21/07, Christine Smith < > wrote:

                    To this I will repost an earlier question of mine
                    which no one ventured an answer--it is evident, as Pim
                    pointed out, that brain and thought, emotions, etc.
                    are *correlated*, but *correlation does not prove
                    causation*--can someone please point me towards
                    specific research studies that *mechanistically* show
                    how non-sentient electrical impulses and atoms can
                    give rise to sentience? Do you propose that this is
                    another fundamental property of substances, as I
                    believe it was Don(?) argued earlier? Or do you
                    propose another *mechanism* which directly causes
                    these properties to emerge?

            This is probably the 64 billion dollar question, and is a topic of much controversy among AI researchers.

            The "strong AI" adherents would argue that consciousness is an "emergent property" of a sufficiently large and sufficiently interconnected neurons. The human brain has 10^10 neurons, with 10^14 interconnections (synapses). If you are of the strong AI persuasion, then you will believe that when we can build a computer with sufficient memory to simulate such a large neural network (and that time can only be a couple of decades away at most), then you will have a sentient, conscious machine like Data in Star Trek. In other words you would have a conscious algorithm. A futurologist from British Telecom gave a talk which I attended when he suggested that a "Data" would be a possibility by 2015 - a timeline much shorter than that envisaged by Gene Roddenberry!

            Such theories reach their ultimate philosophical embodiment in so-called "Alorithmic Theories of Everything", which suggest that the universe is just a simulation on a gigantic computer. See for an introduction to this idea. It also led to a kind of religious idea, dubbed "The Great Programmer Religion" - the Great Programmer running all possible universes up to a similar complexity as ours, in parallel on a gigantic computer.

            However, not everyone believes this will happen. Notably Roger Penrose, a maths professor at Oxford Univerity, and long-time associate of Stephen Hawking, does NOT accept that a mere algorithm will be able to be conscious. Penrose holds that some bit of physics is yet to be done to understand consciousness - he holds that it is in Quantum mechanics, and in particularly Quantum Gravity, that the answer to the riddle will be found (this would be the other mechanism you referred to that directly causes these phenomena). These ideas are explained in Penrose's popular science book "The Emperor's New Mind".

            There are also quasi-religious ideas embodied in here. It has been suggested that at the scale of the Planck length and Planck time, that the interconnectivity of the universe itself mimics that of a brain, and that possibly consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, rather than an emergent one and that the properties of matter etc "emerge" from the fundamental underlying consciousness. I think a Google on "Quantum Consciousness" should dredge up some interesting info on all this. I think this latter seems to lie closer to eastern mysticism than to Christianity, however.

            I don't know which side I'd take in the debate - I think we simply don't know enough to be able to say.


    After the game, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.

    - Italian Proverb

  After the game, the King and the pawn go back in the same box.

  - Italian Proverb

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Received on Fri Jun 22 07:09:30 2007

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