Artificial Intelligence ... and God Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

The Christian Science Monitor, April 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

Artificial Intelligence ... and God Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life


Relatively small alterations of the human body are nothing new. People have gotten used to hearing of organ transplants, prosthetics, tattoos, and cosmetic surgery.

But future advances in bioengineering, robotics, and computer science have the potential to drastically alter not only the physical makeup of human beings but also how they come into the world. Recent articles in this newspaper have explored some of these possibilities.

According to at least some experts, the human body, virtually unchanged for thousands of years, may be about to undergo a bewildering variety of modifications. If these experts are right, 21st-century technology may stretch the very meaning of the word human beyond all previous limits. Perhaps we can only guess at the cultural, legal, and ethical questions this will raise. But there will have to be inspired, logical thinking about the nature of humanity if our children and grandchildren are to deal with these challenges. Defining humanity by its current physical characteristics, or by biological evolution - in any case by materiality - will not address the questions raised by human intervention in these areas. What about a concept of who we are that is not affected by any of the alterations that may come to the physical and biological realms? A spiritual concept, you could say, that's not rooted in physicality at all. Many people look to the Bible for such a spiritual view. However, the conventional interpretation of the creation story, in the second chapter of Genesis, doesn't actually give us that. It depicts God creating a material body and putting life and intelligence into it - a view that can only leave us wondering when a modified or manufactured body might start or stop being culturally, legally, and ethically human. But this material view of ourselves is hard to reconcile with that of the previous chapter. In Genesis 1, we find instead that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (verse 27). An image, or likeness, has no qualities of its own; it only reflects the qualities of its original. …

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