Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryReligion

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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 experience 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…

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Cat looks strange look in the night

Some Mysteries About Cats … Solved!

Pet dogs outnumber cats but they’ll never excel at creating the aura of mystery at which the cat effortlessly succeeds

Following up on the ways cats are intelligent, it might be fun to look at how humans got involved with them. It turns out that there are reasons why we have always found cats mysterious, compared to dogs. Why are people so fond of cats? There are lots of reasons but here’s an interesting find: Domestic cats’ meows for attention are said to be unique to their relationship with humans. Oxford neuroscientist Morten Kringelbach has found a way to map human responses via magnetoencephalograph (MEG) studies that measure electrical activity in our brains in real time. He found that the cry of a baby triggered a response in the orbitofrontal cortex before study subjects had identified the sound consciously. Adult…

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Technology addicted family: parents and child use laptop and mobile phones. Modern family values - Mom, dad with daughter obsessed with devices overuse social media, internet addiction concept.

If New Tech Enhances Our Lives, Why Does It Make Us Crazy?

It doesn’t have to. Let’s think this through

It has never been easier to connect but somehow we don’t. Andrew McDiarmid, author of the blog Thinking and thriving in the digital age, asks us to consider why loneliness (and suicide) have accompanied the rise of new communications technology. And he offers a challenge: Here are just a few questions to ask yourself about each tech tool you have. Is using this tool a wise use of my time? Does it encourage me to think for myself? Does it enable me to use my God-given abilities and spiritual gifts? Does it help me accomplish what God wants me to do? Does using this tech compromise my witness to others by causing me to stumble or get distracted? Does it…

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underground

Why Reasonable People Think Near-Death Experiences Are Real

Distinguished engineers Walter Bradley and Robert J.Marks sift through the evidence

In a recent podcast, “Walter Bradley on Near-Death Experiences,” Center director Robert J. Marks discusses these experiences with Walter Bradley, after whom the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence is named. Dr. Bradley is an emeritus distinguished professor at Baylor University, formerly professor and mechanical engineering head at Texas A&M University. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-093-Walter-Bradley.mp3 Here are some selections from the transcript: (You can download the entire transcript here.) Marks and Bradley started with first principles: Is it reasonable to believe that there is anything out beyond the material world? Many people assume that science exists to defend materialism. But Walter Bradley has defended the idea that there is also an immaterial world, of which we are a part, in a…

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3D rendering of a futuristic mech soldier with dog.

Do Some Passages in the Book of Revelation Seem to Talk About AI?

Revelation is notoriously obscure but a passage about a future “total control” state gives pause for thought

John Lennox, author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020), is not only an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University but also pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford. In a podcast, “Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?” with Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Institute, he addresses the title question, “Do some passages in the Book of Revelation seem to talk about AI?”: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-091-John-Lennox.mp3 Selections from the transcript are provided below: (The complete downloadable transcript may be found following the Show Notes and Resources. “Can AI Replace the Need for Belief in God?” provides an account of the earlier portion of this lively discussion.) Robert J. Marks (right): Last question I want…

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Artificial robot hand touch human hand

Can AI Replace the Need for Belief in God?

Oxford mathematician contends that science should increase our respect for what God has created and allowed us to do

John Lennox. author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020), is not only an Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University but also pastoral advisor to Green Templeton College at Oxford. In a podcast, “Does Revelation Talk About Artificial Intelligence?”, he discusses with Robert J. Marks, director of the Walter Bradley Institute, the title question: “Can AI replace the need for belief in God?” https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-091-John-Lennox.mp3 Selections from the transcript are provided below: (The complete downloadable transcript may be found following the Show Notes and Resources) Robert J. Marks (right): Let’s talk about the theological implications of AI. You have a reputation, not only as a mathematician, but a Christian apologist. And I wanted to go into some…

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3D rendering abstract round light background

Oxford Mathematician: Atheism Detracts from Science

The problem, as John Lennox sees it, is that atheism does not provide grounds for believing in rationality

Today, Evolution News and Science Today published an excerpt from Oxford mathematician John Lennox’s 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (Zondervan 2020): in which Lennox discusses some of the ways in which atheism detracts from science: Science proceeds on the basis of the assumption that the universe is, at least to a certain extent, accessible to the human mind. No science can be done without the scientist believing this, so it is important to ask for grounds for this belief. Atheism gives us none, since it posits a mindless, unguided origin of the universe’s life and consciousness. John Lennox, “Why Science and Atheism Don’t Mix” at Evolution News and Science Today: He offers physicist John Polkinghorne’s explanation of…

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Warning Sign about Stumbling

In Dan Brown’s AI Hype Novel, the Hero Stumbles Onto God

Not clear that was supposed to happen but stories do get away on their authors at times…

In a recent podcast, “John Lennox: False Assumptions in the hype over AI,” Oxford mathematician John Lennox, author of 2084: Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Humanity (2020) discussed common mistaken assumptions with Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks. One of them seems to be that AI might prove there is no God, replace God, or become God. Things get interesting when these science fictions meet the world of fact. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-090-John-Lennox.mp3 From the transcript: Robert J. Marks: In your book, you discussed Dan Brown’s novel entitled Origin. Now Dan Brown is famous for writing many, I don’t know, kind of strange books. One was the Da Vinci Code, but his recent one deals with artificial intelligence and you discuss…