Machines Don’t Have Souls

Computers operate with algorithms. Humans don’t.

George the humanoid robot from the 1930s was constructed by motor engineer Alan Herbert Reffell and Captain W. H. Richards. Captain and journalist William H. Richards was secretary of the Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers. The picture shows W. H. Richards and the Robot.
George the humanoid robot from the 1930s was constructed by motor engineer Alan Herbert Reffell and Captain W. H. Richards. Captain and journalist William H. Richards was secretary of the Exhibition of the Society of Model Engineers. The picture shows W. H. Richards and the Robot. (photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-13018, via Wikimedia Commons)

The history of science is full of failed theories designed to reduce our humanity to our biological and mechanical functions.

In the third century before Christ, Greek engineers created automata powered by hydraulics. This led to the idea that human intelligence, moods, emotions and thoughts were the product of different fluids or humors ― blood, yellow bile, black bile and phlegm ― in the body. One would make you happy. Another would make you pensive. It was sort of a chemical determinism.

In the 1500s, René Descartes ― using the example of newly designed automata which used wires, counterweights, pulleys, gears and springs to simulate human motion ― suggested that people were merely complex, organic machines. In other words, “meat robots.” Drawing upon this concept, Thomas Hobbes in the 1600s, suggested that human thoughts arose from small mechanical motions in the brain. Italian scientists, Luigi Galvani and Alessandro Volta ― both highly devout Catholics ― explored the nature of electricity and chemistry in the 1700s. With their discoveries, came the idea that the brain was a chemical structure in which memories intelligence, reason and consciousness were stored and supported.

When the telegraph was invented in the 1800s, materialists insisted that we are no more than electrical systems, reacting to stimuli around us just like a mindless telegraphic device. However, the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz ― the theory’s principle proponent ― could never explain what motivated him to come up with such a simplistic theory in the first place.

The development of computers or “thinking machines” in the 1940s have pretty much given the imprimatur for atheist materialists to believe we’re nothing more soulless matter.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The advantage to these simplistic determinisms is that atheists relieve themselves of needing to explain such “messy monkey wrenches” as human consciousness, free will, morality, compassion, inspiration, language, logic, rational thought and other “non-mechanical” things of which define us as humans. Relying on a deterministic reductionism also relieves them, in their own minds, of the bother of explaining the existence of this glorious anthropic universe which fits us so perfectly.

Computers operate with algorithms ― a process or set of rules meant to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations ― but humans don’t. If our brains were guided by such rules, no scientist has been able to demonstrate them. Further, no one seriously wonders where a computer got its algorithms ― its intelligent designer obviously gave it to them. If we, in fact, operate with algorithms also, they could only have come from our Intelligent Designer. Blind, unguided evolution is simply not lucky enough to have come up with it.

Infants, arguably, the simplest human minds in terms of the amount of information available to us, offer clues as to how complex we really are. When a child is born, he already has the ability to interact purposefully with the world around him. He can distinguish between humans and other objects or creatures. Even though he can’t see clearly at birth, he recognizes human faces. He can recognize his mother’s voice. He turns toward speaking people rather than the sources of other kinds of sounds. Computers don’t come out of the box with the ability to do these things.

Babies also come with incredible ability to learn. Even those children who might develop learning difficulties still are little learning machines. Our brains are not only able to understand language ― like many other animals ― but we are also able to contemplate the nature of language which no other creature can do.

We are born with the ability to understand mathematics ― the basic underlying structure of the universe. Mathematics, after all, was discovered, not invented. Our minds have the natural, innate ability to understand Nature ― something that not even Nature can do. Why would blind Nature want us to do that?

The logical rules of thinking are naturally built into the structures of our minds. What ― or who ― put them there?

As to materialist “Computer Analogy,” consider all of the terms computer technicians use: algorithms, apps, programs/programming, data, encoders, images, decoders, subroutines, processors, software, firmware. None of these terms are applicable to the human mind. If they were, materialists would be glad to point out their cognates in our brains. But, they can’t because humans don’t store ideas, images, sounds or symbols. We think. We reason. We use logic.

Computers can do nothing more than process information be it numbers, letters, words, formulas, images, videos or sounds. Nothing else. They don’t understand the data streaming through them. We can. If we couldn’t, materialist atheists are wasting their time explaining why it is that they are no better than computers. Just as a toaster doesn’t understand the concept of “bread-ness,” a computer doesn’t understand itself.

Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines consciousness as an awareness or intuitively perceived inward psychological or spiritual fact and an inward awareness of an external object, state or fact. Computers can’t do that nor will they ever. Why? Because human consciousness is distinct from all that is physical and scientists and engineers are stuck with only the computer’s nuts and bolts. No matter what dark magical theory they can come up with to explain the inexplicable, they won’t be able to imbue a computer ― or android shell, for that matter ― with sensation, emotion, volition, thought, perceptions, ideas, attitudes, feelings, morality or logic. In other words, a computer will never have a stream of consciousness. And getting a computer to produce the words, “I’m experiencing a stream of consciousness” doesn’t quite count. Any tape recorder can do that.

One often hears about “singularity” ― a goal, some would say, of being able to upload a conscious human mind into an android shell. This makes for a great Star Trek episode or a mediocre Star Wars movie but it’s definitely science fiction either way.

The brain has about 1011 (100,000,000,000) neurons and 3.2 x 1014 (3,200,000,000,000,000) synapses. Each of our brains has enough memory capacity to store the entire internet twice. That means, there aren’t enough computers in the world to store a single human brain. (Only enough for a half-wit.) That’s a bit of overkill in terms of blind evolution. Evolution is a costly and unforgiving process. It’s impossible for Nature to have given us that much unused real estate just for fun.

We don’t have the technology or expertise or even theoretical construct to map an earthworm’s brain. The chance of us mapping all of the human brain’s neurons and synapses and simulating the state of those neurons in a supercomputer is a pipe dream. There’s more faith than reason to it.