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Another Non-Computable Trait: Spiritual Longing

You can't program spiritual longing into a computer, not matter how savvy the algorithm.

What makes human beings unique, compared to say, a piece of granite? What distinguishes us from advanced artificial intelligence?

Robert J. Marks has argued that several characteristics set us apart from the machines in his book Non-Computable You. This week, scientist Eric Hedin, citing from the classic thought of Anglo-Irish writer C.S. Lewis, adds another trait to the list: spiritual longing for something greater than the material.

Hedin writes,

If physical desires, such as hunger, rightly indicate that we were meant to be satisfied with food, then the longing for something that transcends even our most lavish experiences of abundance must also indicate an attainable fulfillment we have never yet tasted and without which we cannot be fully satisfied. Stated oppositely, if materialism truly describes existence, then it is not to be expected that creatures derived from purely material processes should experience longings that cannot be satisfied by the senses in response to the material environment or physical input.

-Eric Hedin, Longing Is Our “Inconsolable Secret” | Evolution News

Why do we feel the drive to make some overarching sense of our lives? You can’t program spiritual longing into a computer, not matter how savvy the algorithm. Maybe the fact that, historically, human beings have turned to some notion of the transcendent suggests that we are much more than merely material bodies.

A couple of months ago we wrote about the upcoming title from philosophers J.P. Moreland and Brandon Rickabaugh titled The Substance of Consciousness: A Comprehensive Defense of Contemporary Substance Dualism (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2023). This will perhaps be the definitive tome in defense of an immaterial soul, providing a rationally defended framework of those deeper spiritual longings. You won’t want to miss it.

Peter Biles

Writer and Editor, Center for Science & Culture
Peter Biles graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois and went on to receive a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Seattle Pacific University. He is a prolific fiction writer and has written stories and essays for a variety of publications. He was born and raised in Ada, Oklahoma and is a contributing writer and editor for Mind Matters.

Another Non-Computable Trait: Spiritual Longing