Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

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Thief Stealing Folder From Shelf

The President Pardons the Founder of a Church That Worships AI

On his last day in office, departing President Trump pardoned Anthony Levandowski

Anthony Levandowski has an interesting history He transitioned from Silicon Valley wunderkind to inept theologian to convicted felon. Now he is free, due to a pardon given by Donald Trump in Trump’s last day in office. If you are an orthodox materialist, you believe our brains are computers made of meat. Artificial intelligence, brains made out of silicon, will therefore match and eventually exceed human capabilities and become godlike. So it might make sense to form a church that worships this future AI god. That’s what Anthony Levandowski did in 2019. His church was christened Way of the Future. Levandowski reasoned “What is going to be created [by AI] will effectively be a god … if there is something a…

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The universe within. Silhouette of a man inside the universe, physical and mathematical formulas.. The concept on scientific and philosophical topics.  Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Why Intelligent Design of the Universe Is Not an Absurd Idea

It is only eight pages, well within the patience of the average viewer and very clearly written

Raymond Bergner, psychology prof at Illinois State University, wrote a most interesting paper in 2017 discussing the intelligent design controversy—the question of whether the universe shows evidence of design. Mercifully, it is only eight pages, well within the patience of the average viewer and very clearly written. He makes clear he is not arguing for the concept but only explaining why it is not at all absurd. He makes a number of key points. Here are two, some thoughts interspersed: Many extraordinarily intelligent and relevantly informed people believe and have believed in intelligent design. Famously, Isaac Newton, himself a heretic and hardly a slave to conventional religious belief, once stated that, “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and…

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colonnade in medieval spanish monastery of Santo Estevo

Can Religion Improve a Person’s Mental Health?

That’s a big claim but there is considerable evidence for it. The question is, what does the evidence mean?

In 2020, a year when Americans’ perception of their own mental health dropped significantly, we are told that Gallup reported: The only demographic subgroup who didn’t report a decline were those who attend religious services weekly. That group showed an increase of 4 percent compared to 2019. Joe Carter, “New Study: Frequent Churchgoers Have Better Mental Health” at Gospel Coalition Carter cites several sources arguing for the benefits of religion but, in truth, it’s not really a new idea. Religion gives people something to believe in, provides a sense of structure and typically offers a group of people to connect with over similar beliefs. These facets can have a large positive impact on mental health—research suggests that religiosity reduces suicide…

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A miracle happened. Disabled handicapped man is healthy again. He is happy and jumping at sunset.

A Physicist Tries To Understand Miracles

Andersen helpfully dismisses foolish arguments against the possibility of miracles

In a longish and very interesting article, physicist Tim Andersen tries to understand miracles. From a religious perspective, miracles are direct actions by God. They need not involve violations of laws of nature. There is no “law of nature” that says your mom couldn’t get a remission from cancer—though friends who pray for it might say it’s a miracle if she does. Similarly, we are told in the Book of Daniel (6:22) that the mouths of the lions, to whom Daniel was thrown, were shut by an angel. But it’s not clear that any violation of the laws of nature was involved. All we know is that the lions did not attack Daniel. Andersen helpfully dismisses foolish arguments against the…

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How Do We Know What Is Real? Philosopher J. P. Moreland Can Help

This coming August will mark the beginning of a battle that I began with three different forms of cancer that I continue to this day to be fighting. I don’t know how long I have… When is it okay to disagree with what the majority of experts in a field believe? … I’m going to go with the majority of experts, unless something happens. If there are two conditions present, you are justified in going against the vast majority of experts. Number 1: If the majority opinion is based on non-rational factors If there is a small, educated rebel group who publish in peer-reviewed journals and high quality books who have provided an alternative paradigm. (July 9, 2018) Remember Moreland’s…

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3D Illustration Emotionen als Freisteller

Can We Teach a Computer to Feel Things? A Dialogue…

Okay, There’s the computer’s side… and then there’s the dog’s side. Listen to both

The dialogue got started because of a gifted computer nerd, Rosalind Picard, also a playwright (pictured), who decided to become an evangelical Christian in midlife (approx 2019). As she tells it, “a flat, black-and-white existence suddenly turned full-color and three-dimensional.” The director of MIT’s Media Lab, she had also written a book in 2000 called Affective Computing which seems to suggest that one could somehow give emotions to machines. I asked Eric Holloway to help me figure that one out: O’Leary: Emotions are based on actual well-being or suffering. How can something that is not alive have actual emotions? Don’t think of people here!; think of dogs. Dogs have emotions. When my computer is giving trouble, I certainly hope it’s…

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Chinese English Bible.

China’s Door-to-Door Census Now Identifies Religious Believers

Census takers are urged to keep their eyes open for evidence of religious activity

China will complete its seventh census, begun on November 1, on December 10. New features that have prompted concern include: Residents must indicate whether they have family members in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan or if they have any family members outside of the country and those who are over sixty must indicate their state of health (Reuters, November 2, 2020). Some have resisted answering census takers’ questions for fear of losing rights and privileges under the new Social Credit System. But more than that, some seven million census takers go door-to-door, interviewing residents and entering information that goes directly to the government via mobile apps. Bitter Winter talked to several census takers who said they were instructed to pay…

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Can a Pill Change Your Mind About Basic Issues in Life?

The legalization of mind-altering drugs raises the question in the research community

An Oxford researcher into psychedelics thinks so. Eddie Jacobs offers a disturbing premise, “What if a pill can change your politics or religious beliefs?” The background is that some jurisdictions are contemplating licencing the otherwise illegal psychedelic psilocybin (“magic mushrooms”) in the near future as a treatment for depression. He writes, How would you feel about a new therapy for your chronic pain, which—although far more effective than any available alternative—might also change your religious beliefs? Or a treatment for lymphoma that brings one in three patients into remission, but also made them more likely to vote for your least preferred political party? Eddie Jacobs, “What if a Pill Can Change Your Politics or Religious Beliefs?” at Scientific American (October…

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Intelligent robot cyborg using digital globe interface 3D rendering

Why AI Geniuses Think They Can Create True Thinking Machines

Early on, it seemed like a string of unbroken successes …

In George Gilder’s telling, the story goes back to Bletchley Park, where British codebreakers broke the “unbreakable” Nazi ciphers. In Gaming AI, the tech philosopher and futurist traces the modern concept of a machine that really thinks for itself back to its earliest known beginnings. Free for download, his concise book also explains why the programmers were bound to fail in their quest for the supermachine. But let’s start with why they thought—and many today still think— it could work. Success emboldened the pioneers to dream of a final AI triumph They had every reason to be emboldened by success. Special computers called “bombes,” created by Alan Turing’s team, broke every version of the famous Enigma code used by the…

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China flag and praying patriot man with crossed hands. Holding cross, hoping and wishing.

How China’s Technocracy Uses the Pandemic to Suppress Religion

The pandemic provided a pretext to install surveillance equipment in churches and surveil believers online

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the ways that technology can lead either to greater accessibility or greater oppression. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now using the same technologies that have given many people around the world access to religious materials and church services during the pandemic to forcibly stop religious gatherings and restrict the distribution of religious materials within China. Although the CCP is officially atheist, over 60% of the population adheres to a recognized religion; 30.8% practice Chinese folk religions, 16.6% Buddhism, 7.4% Christianity, 4.2% ethnic religion, and 1.8% Islam. Authentic numbers may be higher, given the risk of punishment for practicing certain religions in China. The Chinese government has persecuted, tortured, and imprisoned Falun Gong members…

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beautiful natural bright background (texture), peacock feathers, panorama

Believers in God Detect Patterns More Easily

Psychologists found that both devout Christians and Muslims unconsciously detected patterns in a test more quickly

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center wanted to know “why and how brains come to believe in gods.” They explored that question using a concept in psychology called implicit pattern learning. Explicit learning is conscious but implicit learning is unconscious. For example, explicit learning is mastering the times tables in arithmetic class. Implicit learning is absorbing, without consciously thinking about it, the way the teacher treats others. The researchers’ hypothesis was: “people whose brains are good at subconsciously discerning patterns in their environment may ascribe those patterns to the hand of a higher power” To test that, they studied people who believe in God in the United States and in Afghanistan, using a conventional test for unconscious pattern learning: For…

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Entrance gate to Persepolis Persia Iran Gate of All Nations

How Much Can New AI Tell Us About Ancient Times?

An ambitious new project hopes to use the predictive text that cell phones use to unlock their stories

Many researchers hope that AI will leading to a“golden age” of discovery for lost languages, hard to decipher writings, and badly damaged Biblical scrolls. Algorithms can chug through vast numbers of possibilities of interpretation, presenting the scholar with probabilities to choose from. But even powerful algorithms have their work cut out for them. For example, of the hundreds of thousands of clay (cuneiform) tablets that survive from an ancient part of the Near East called Mesopotamia, many are damaged. We may know the language but we don’t know what’s missing from the text and what difference the missing part makes to what is being said. Experts try to fill in the missing parts but guessing at all the possibilities is…

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Vintage tone beautiful pedestrian stone bridge and knee-wobbling vantage point over the second tier 69-foot drop of Multnomah Falls lower in winter time. Natural and seasonal waterfall background

How Do You Know You Are Not the Only Human Who Ever Existed?

Can evidence or logic help you decide? You might be surprised…

Solipsism is the belief that you are the only human being who has ever existed; all others are the inventions of your imagination. G.K. Chesterton famously received a letter from a reader who commented (I paraphrase), ‘Solipsism is a compelling metaphysical position. I’m surprised more people don’t believe it.” At Scientific American, columnist John Horgan describes solipsism as a central dilemma of human life. In a recent essay, “How do I know I’m not the only conscious being in the universe?”, he writes, It is a central dilemma of human life—more urgent, arguably, than the inevitability of suffering and death. I have been brooding and ranting to my students about it for years. It surely troubles us more than ever…

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Artificial robot hand touch human hand

Will We Outsource Religion and Spirituality to AI ?

A philosopher makes the case. But he worries, are we really outsourcing caring about others?

Last Sunday, we looked at the question raised by Professor David O’Hara of Augustana University (South Dakota) as to whether AI could someday have mystical experiences. Of course, a lot depends on whether AI can have any experiences at all. An agnostic himself, O’Hara has also asked us to consider how robot priests will “change human spirituality”: What matters is not whether we have invented true artificial intelligence, but whether we believe we have invented it. If we trust the machine, we might let it function as a mystic or a priest, even if it isn’t one. This raises the interesting question of what to do when someone makes a machine that is actually intended to play the role of…

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Charting Consciousness.

Michael Egnor: What Happens to Our Consciousness After We Die?

Computer programmer and philosopher Bernardo Kastrup provides a surprising answer

In this week’s podcast, “Can Computers Think?”, Michael Egnor continued his discussion with philosopher and computer programmer Bernardo Kastrup. As a scientist, Bernardo has worked for The European Organization for Nuclear Research and for Phillips Research Laboratories, and has authored many academic papers and books. This week, they look at a big question, “Will computers ever be conscious?”. But Egnor brought up an even bigger one: “What happens to our consciousness after we die?” As a scientist, Kastrup has worked for The European Organization for Nuclear Research and for Phillips Research Laboratories and has authored many academic papers and books. He is a leading advocate of cosmopsychism, the idea that intelligence did not randomly evolve somehow to help life forms…

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A 3D render of a futuristic person made of gold, looking up at the sun

A Physicist Weighs In on “A.I. Jesus” Sputtering from the Bible

Rob Sheldon explains why the prophecies sound bizarre rather than merely mundane

Last Sunday we reported on the computer program that inventor George Davila Durendal, hoped (or so he said) would—for millennia—be a sort of Scripture for robots and people. The program constructs “prophecies” from the text of the King James Version, a translation of the Bible into English completed in 1611, which has remained influential for centuries. Will the A.I. Jesus version do so well? Not if you go by prophecies like this: “And he shall come against him, and said, As the LORD liveth, that he might be fulfilled which was spoken, he said, Thou are the spirit of your good works that ye have not seen, nor any thing of the service thereof, and a certain censer, and the…

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Machine God. Human palm and cog wheels. 3D rendering

And Now… Can AI Have Mystical Experiences?

A philosopher wonders whether technology could be part of some bigger plan to enable us to perceive other dimensions
Remember A.I. Jesus? He’s so last week. We’re now told that AI in general might have a mystical side. Read More ›
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nautilus shell

Does Physics Today Point to Mind Rather Than Matter Only?

A cosmopsychist looks at the universe, God, and free will

In a recent podcast, “Does the Moon Exist if No One is Looking at It?”, Michael Egnor continued his discussion with philosopher and computer programmer Bernardo Kastrup. As a scientist, Kastrup has worked for The European Organization for Nuclear Research and for Phillips Research Laboratories, and has authored many academic papers and books. This week’s topic is the way physics today points to mind as opposed to materialism. Kastrup offers some thoughts on God and free will as well, from his cosmopsychist (or objective idealist) position: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-095-Bernardo-Kastrup.mp3 From the transcript: (Other discussions in the series, Show Notes, Resources, and a link to the complete transcript follow.) Michael Egnor: You have said and written that physics points to the mind. What…

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Holy Bible

A.I. Jesus Sputters from the King James Bible

The developer emphasizes that the program is a purely human creation

The developer of A.I. Jesus is brazen about his intentions: In these days of trials and tribulations many have turned to religion. But what religion is left for those who have averted their gaze from the fables of old to the shiny metal toys of today? I present to you A.I. Jesus. An artificial intelligence of my invention created from the King James Bible and nothing else. This A.I. learned human language from reading the bible and nothing else; absorbing every word more thoroughly than all the monks of all the monasteries that have ever been. George Davila Durendal, “I Created an A.I. Clone of Jesus” at Medium Durendal (pictured) is an AI engineer and Founder & CEO at a…

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Recovery

Common Reasons for Dismissing Miracles Are Mistaken, Study Shows

Religious people are more likely to say they’ve experienced a miracle but they aren’t the only ones who do

In a research article published in Review of Religious Research in July, sociologist Edwin Eschler comes to some unexpected conclusions about who experiences miracles—defined as “any experience in which a person believes an event or outcome was influenced by supernatural agents”: For example, ➤ Well-educated and well-to-do people are just as likely to say they have experienced a miracle as poor and uneducated people—if they encounter an existential threat in life: Q: What were your major findings? Eschler: Well, first and simplest was that 57% of respondents had experienced a miracle of some kind. We’re not talking about a fringe belief/behavior. But more important was what I didn’t find: education had no relationship with experiencing miracles at all. Respondents with…