Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What is Man?

Recently, they had a supercomputer compete on the TV show Jeopardy.  The computer ended up winning the game, and there have been a lot of reports from people who are worried that computers are going to take over the world.

After all, if computers know more trivia than we do, it is definitely time to worry.

Personally, I'm confused as to why Intel spent $25 million to build a machine that can win Jeopardy.  Didn't anyone stop for a moment and wonder if this was really the best way they could have used their money?  After all, we are in a depression.  And even though the computer is really fancy, it can't exactly be used for a lot of different things, you know?

The big question behind all this is what Pope John Paul II called the most important question of the 20th century--"What is a human being?"  Scientists have decided that humans are simply machines.  The brain is basically a computer that controls the human body.  Humans are really complicated machines, to be sure, but they're still just machines.

This is why scientists think it's worthwhile to build humanoid robots and supercomputers.  If they can build a machine that looks and acts and thinks just like a human, it will prove that humans are just machines.

Opposed to these scientists are people who believe in souls.  Humans have souls, which is what makes them different from computers or animals.  The soul is a non-physical part of the body, so people claim scientists will not be able to duplicate it in their experiments.  Psychologists who believe in the subconscious usually side with the soul-supporters.  They say that humans are more than just machines.

There is a third group of people who say that humans are more than just machines, because humans can feel emotions.  I've never heard a very well-developed version of this theory, though.  Scientists tend to disregard the argument from emotion, because you can control a person's emotions by giving them drugs.

So, here's my question for you readers.  What do you think humans are?  Are they complicated machines?  Are they more than machines, because they have emotions?  Or are they more than machines, because they have souls?

16 comments:

Sammy said...

Defiantly because of souls. The soul of a person is what makes them different from everyone else. It is the only part of your body that will live forever.Without a soul, a person is not a person. Humans are the only living things with souls. Animals don't. Plants don't. Which must mean something. Animals have emotions. You can tell when they are upset, mad, or happy. Which means that if what makes us human is by our emotions, wouldn't that make animals human too? Maybe that's not what they meant when they said emotions, but that is how I think. And yes, I believe that computers are very smart, but who programed all that information into the computer, and who put all the information online? People did. Computers can't learn to do things on their own like people. They need to be programed. This is just what I think. This was a very interesting topic. Thanks for posting about it.

Anonymous said...

I noticed that you said that animals don't have souls.I've always thought that animals DO have souls, though... Am I the only one who thinks that?

Alana said...

Wow, that's a really loaded question. All this reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode that I saw... my dad and I would always watch the re-run marathons on SciFi during 4th of July and New Year's haha. The guy created this computer, Agnes, and eventually the guy went and asked Agnes questions about everything, including his love life, and then Agnes gave him terrible advice because "she" (?... it? haha) was jealous of the girl the guy was in love with, and the guy went crazy and lost his job. Kind of silly, but it still reminded me of that, haha.

But anyway, I don't really know exactly what to say about it. I definitely don't think that humans are literal machines, but I don't know WHY I don't think that... It just doesn't feel right to say. As horribly ineloquent as that sounds, hah. Like... machines were invented by humans. Humans (depending on what you believe in,) were not "invented", but created by some sort of God or an evolutionary process. Humans couldn't have "invented" themselves, so then they can't be machines because there was nothing around to "invent" them. I don't know. I'm probably just talking in circles and not making much sense. haha, I tend to do that sometimes. I also tend to lean towards the "they have emotions" argument, but I couldn't thoroughly explain why.

Interesting blog post, Michael!

P.S., Anon 12:31, I agree with you, I think animals have souls. I'm not 100% sure, but I think the idea that they don't comes from some interpretations of the Bible. At least, according to the interpretation of the Bible my mother believes in anyway. :)

Rebecca said...

My vote is on souls :)

Zlandael said...

How ironic, my literature class is currently reading 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley, and yesterday, during our discussion, we went over what human life is made up of.
Many agreed that we are souls, but nobody in the world has proven that yet, so it's still up to the researchers to find out the real evidence.

I really think humans are like machines, since we are nurtured by our parents/guardians or friends, which is just like building a machine and programming it. But, some machines do not have free will (factories, workplaces). As humans, we could do anything to meet the demands of today's society (with restrictions in mind).

Anonymous said...

I googled the textbook meaning of "man" and the meaning your refering to is: the human race.But i think it's more than that. Like you said, people have emotions and souls. Without feelings or souls, we would be a machine. This era is based on the creation of technology and it is growing rapidly. There is a gaming console that you don't even need a controller (which is cool by the way) and there is going to be an iPhone 5! Our minds are so focused on the dependence of technology that we start to forget who we are as humans. So you're right Michael, people have emotions and feelings, we're not robots.

Anonymous said...

How do you know animals dont have souls? Indocrination? Michael if your reading this, let me tell you something: animals HAVE souls. I know that because people (other Witches, mostly) have experienced their deceased pets haunting them or just visiting. and the idea that they dont have souls is just man's way to feel better about himself than other creatures of the Divine, and it's pathetic.

Kira said...

I'm Catholic, and I believe everyone has a soul. I do not believe we are just empty machines, computers. We have meaning and feeling.

dr.david-dan said...

I am Baptist a Christian and i belive in God. I don't think that we are machines or something.Charles Darwin and the other scientists that think we are machines or we provine from monkeys they really need to read the Bible. Read the Bible at Genesis chapter 1 verse 25!

dr.david-dan said...

Everybody who type on this blog is Chatolic? Huh?

dr.david-dan said...

Dont get mind but..... LOL this thing that we are machines or made from souls or monkeys its kind of funny to me LOL!

Anonymous said...

Well, I definitely believe that humans are more than just machines. The Bible says that humans were created in the image of God, meaning that we alone have a spiritual presence and moral consciousness instilled in us. Higher animals have a soul, which includes things like will and emotion, so we can form mutual relationships with them, but they lack the spiritual aspect which is our connection to God. These are Biblical principles. Man is unique and can never be duplicated in any machine form.

Thanks for the the thought-provoking blog posts, Michael; I'm pondering things I may never have otherwise, and learning along the way. :)

--J.F.

dr.david-dan said...

Good post anonzmous!

Flashman85 said...

The point about man being created in God's image isn't necessarily limited to "spiritual presence and moral consciousness," either--I think that also means that we have the creative spark of a creator God.

God created man in His image, man created machines in his image (as far as the technology would allow). We may be like God, but we are not God. Machines may be like man, but they are not man.

However, if God's divine touch can instill man with a soul, then perhaps man--made in God's image--can instill machines with the earthly equivalent of a soul, though it would not exactly be a soul as we know it.

It's when the machines start creating machines in their own image that we really need to worry about this!

Balin said...

I think the best argument against the "humans are just machines" concept is that we have consciousness. We're aware of our surroundings, and our thoughts can't be plotted on a graph. We also have reason, creativity, emotion, and problem-solving capabilities - something which computers don't have. And I'm not just talking about trivia questions; I mean real-life problems, issues, that sort of thing.

By the way, I'm a Christian (but not Catholic), and I really enjoy these thought-provoking blog posts. They really make me, well, think.

carlsarl said...

A misrable little pile of secrets!