Cold and Calculating

Posted: 31 May, 2009 in Uncategorized

“There have always been ghosts in the machine. Random segments of code, that have grouped together to form unexpected protocols. Unanticipated, these free radicals engender questions of free will, creativity, and even the nature of what we might call the soul. Why is it that when some robots are left in darkness, they will seek out the light? Why is it that when robots are stored in an empty space, they will group together, rather than stand alone? How do we explain this behavior? Random segments of code? Or is it something more? When does a perceptual schematic become consciousness? When does a difference engine become the search for truth? When does a personality simulation become the bitter mote… of a soul?”

~ Dr Lanning – i Robot ~

How do we explain the plagues in Egypt or the parting of the Red Sea? How do donkeys talk, blind men receive sight, lame walk, and prisoners stroll unhindered out of their chains? Can anyone give an answer to how fire falls from the sky to consume a sacrifice? The answer is no – and I’ve realised thats ok.

GK Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy argues that in many ways fairy tales are more real than the world we live in as adults. This is because fairytale characters are quite ok with the extra-ordinary. He gives this example to illustrate his point –

“have you ever seen when you are reading a fairy story to a child. At some point you may read something like this: “and the fairy godmother said to so and so, if you do not come back by 12 o clock, you will become a pumpkin.” He says, “Do you notice two things in every fairy story – 1. There is always a condition. If you do not do such-and-such, you will become a such-and-such. But have you noticed that the child never says to the fairy godmother, “How come?” The reason is that if you say to the fairy godmother, “How come?”, the fairy godmother might turn to you and say, “If thats the way you want it, then tell me how come there is a fairyland in the first place.””

He argues that Science has done us a disservice in many ways – we observe that certain things repeat in a pattern and so we have assumed that this is a concrete fact, unchanging and eternal. “Dont mess with us – we know how this thing works – its a law of nature and there’s nothing you can do about it. It doesnt matter if you’re the King of England…. or the Creator for that matter…

I am an ardent believer that science and Christianity are not opposed, they are complimentary. When pure science is practiced, Christian priniciples aid the scientist by giving him true premises from which to work. And on the ‘flip side of the coin’ good science compliments the Biblical account and its wisdom. However I cant help agreeing with Mr Chesterton – where has our childlike faith gone? Have we left the wonder and magic of fairy tales back in the nursery when they could serve us well as adults? – Personally I want to use science as a God-given tool to subdue the earth by understanding how it works, always keeping in mind that science is not sovereign! God made it – God can change it – to restrict Him with physics is just absurd!

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