Barbour, Ian. Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Nature: Theological and Philosophical Reflections."
Ian Barbour, in Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, and Human
Nature: Theological and Philosophical Reflections, develops a three-stranded
argument, in which he sets out to show that it is consistent with neuroscience,
computer science, and a theological view of human nature to understand a person
as a multilevel psychosomatic unity who is both a biological organism and a
responsible self. He considers the themes of embodiment, emotions, the social
self, and consciousness.
Barbour surveys biblical and theological accounts of the person that
emphasize the integration of body and mind, reason and emotion, individual and
social groups. He then cites work by neuroscientists that highlights these same
features, including Arbibs action-oriented schema theory, LeDouxs work on
emotions, and Brothers work on the neural bases of social interaction. The
ways in which computers fall short of human capacities provides additional
insight into human nature: to approach the level of human functioning,
computers require analogues to embodiment, learning and socialization, and
emotion. The question of the possibility of consciousness in a computer is
particularly problematic. Barbour shows that the concepts of information, dynamic systems, hierarchical levels,
and emergence are valuable for
integrating insights from neuroscience and AI research with that of theology in
a theory of human nature.
Barbour argues that process philosophy provides a supportive
metaphysical framework for understanding the concept of human nature that he
has developed in this essay. Alfred North Whiteheads philosophy emphasizes
processes or events rather than substances. These events are all of one kind (thus,
monism) but are all dipolar - they have both an objective and a subjective phase.
Thus, in attenuated form, experience can be attributed not only to humans and
animals, but also to lower forms of life, and even to atoms. In its own way,
process philosophy emphasizes the same themes that Barbour traced through
theology, neuroscience, and AI research. So Barbour concludes that a dipolar
monism based on process philosophy is supportive of a biblical view of the
human as a multilevel unity, an embodied social self, and a responsible agent
with capacities for reason and emotion.
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