Thursday, April 13, 2006

Conscious Robots

Conscious Robots

This one's mostly for Matt. Not something I think about too much (wonderful paradox, free will is, cause if I've got it, then what's the point of pondering it, and if I don't, then I don't have to)

1 comment:

essie said...

This article may have been mostly for Matt, but I have a few comments on this fascinating topic.

First of all, it is certainly true, as you say, that if we don't have free will, there's no point in pondering it.

But what if we do? In that event, our own free choices are a prime factor in determining the quality and the eventual outcome of our lives. If we admit, then, that we may have free will (and it certainly can't be established that we don't), it follows that we need to ponder this question, along with all of our choices, very carefully indeed.

Secondly, I would like to comment on some of the statements made in the article.

The following quote is attributed to Stephen Hawking: "The initial configuration of the universe may have been chosen by God, or it may itself have been determined by the laws of science. In either case, it would seem that everything in the universe would then be determined by evolution according to the laws of science, so it is difficult to see how we can be masters of our fate."

There is an assumption being made here that I find improbable. If we are going to postulate God as a First Cause, why assume that he would start everything in motion and then leave creation entirely to the laws of science? (Trust a scientist to see no alternative!) Is it not more probable that he would have some purpose in mind in going to all that bother? And if so, then isn't it likely that he would continue to be involved with creation, guiding its evolution?

One of the contentions of Christian theology is that human beings consist of something more than a material body -- that at the right moment (in creation or evolution) for the emergence of human beings, God was actively involved in giving them a soul.

Postulating the existence of the soul gives us a way around the question of whether the human brain can be "the only structure in the known universe that has the ability to gain control of the chemical reactions that make it up," since the brain wouldn't be the source of our freedom to choose; free will would presumably arise from the soul rather than the physical brain.

This soul, being immaterial, could not be studied in the way that science studies the material world; and its existence could not be proven or disproven by science. This fact gives us an answer to the observation that "we've never measured this freedom scientifically, never proven it." If the soul, which we cannot study directly, is the source of our free will, then it follows logically that we would have great difficulty measuring free will or proving its existence with the tools available to science.

Finally, an important consideration in this whole debate is the strong temptation many might feel to believe that we have no control over our choices. How comfortable to imagine that all of our undesirable behaviour is something we really can't help! Such thinking certainly allows us to evade responsibility for change -- and I suspect that is the primary reason why there is any debate at all.

What do the rest of you think?