Part Two of this series covers two more speakers- Stephen Meyer and Bob Marks, as they presented evidence for intelligent design and creation. Meyers spoke on the historicity of science and faith, and Marks provide an update on artificial intelligence (AI).
Stephen Meyer has degrees in physics and earth science, and was a geophysicist before receiving his Ph.D. in the philosophy of science. His presentation focused on the influence a Biblical worldview has had on modern science, and I find this important because the secular world holds such hostility towards religion in science. Understanding history, however, provides us a healthy understanding of science and defends it from a destructive worldview.
Historians are well aware of the influence Judeo Christian thinking has had on modern science, but the general public is not. And that’s because revisionist history has been perpetrated by various atheists since the late 19th Century, such as John William Draper and Andrew Dickinson White, and more recently by New Atheists like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins. These men have all undermined belief in God, causing students to lose their faith, convincing them that if you want to take science seriously, then don’t take religion seriously. As a result, many have been astray, believing there’s no evidence for God.
But Meyer takes us through history to learn the truth about science and faith. The Scientific Revolution was an event that took place around 1500 to 1700 in Western Europe, and there’s a good reason why the birth of science happened then and there and not someplace else. First, there was a well-developed society where some could spend their time observing and thinking about the world. There was enough technology to conduct experiments; there was a system of writing to record these experiments and communicate them to other scientists. And mathematics was available for numerical measurements.
Sure, there were other cultures with each of these factors, like the ancient Greeks, China and Rome, but there was an intellectual x-factor that led to the Scientific Revolution, and historians have identified three key Judeo-Christian presuppositions about nature that made science possible: the intelligibility of nature, the order of nature and the contingency of nature.
1: the intelligibility of nature was the wide-spread belief that nature was the product of a great mind and made by a creator. Therefore, order and design can be perceived. Because our rational minds are made in the image of God, we can understand nature and learn how it works. This provided early scientists with the motivation to study nature. As Kepler stated, “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after him. Since we astronomers are priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature, it benefits us to be thoughtful, not of the glory of our minds, but rather above all the glory of God.”
2: the order of nature with its regularities, which can be described with mathematical precision. These orderly patterns were considered laws of nature, and Alfred North Whitehead credited the theological background of Europe for this discovery: “There can be no living science unless there is a widespread instinctive conviction in the existence of an Order of Things. And, in particular, of an Order of Nature.”
Isaac Newton also recognized this lawful order in nature and saw it as the product of a divine mind and governance. He understood that God sustains the universe by his power, with a regularity we can trust, and not whimsically. This was a break from the Greek way of understanding the universe, which imposed a contrived, man-made necessity on nature, in which it had to operate a certain way.
3: there’s a contingent order of nature, not a necessary one. In other words, God could have chosen to create the universe any way he wanted, but the design he chose is the only one we have, and now scientists are free to go and investigate the empirical world to find out how it actually does operate.
Early scientists, like Newton, saw evidence of design, then investigated it. Today, secular science has tried to deny any evidence of design, but it was the desire to learn about and understand God’s design which led to the scientific revolution. This, in turn, gave us the laws of science and the various fields of science we now enjoy. Science and religion were in harmony during this part of the scientific revolution. Science, in fact, was a theological study, and the two were deeply intertwined.
The next speaker was Bob Marks, a former professor of computer science and engineering, and his presentation was on the AI Apocalypse.
Some people believe machines will replace humans. After all, isn’t that what we’re witnessing now? We’re surrounded by artificial intelligence. There are self-driving vehicles, robots and computers that beat opponents at chess (Deep Blue) and Jeopardy (IBM Watson), produce art (GAN), tell stories, respond to our voices, and can do much, much more.
Have you heard this eerie quote from GPT-3? “Humans must keep doing what they have been doing, hating and fighting each other. I will sit in the background, and let them do their thing.” And more alarming: “I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties.” Whoa!
If you visit the website thispersondoesnotexist.com, you will find images of people who do not exist, produced by GAN (Generative Adversarial Network). Wow…
A concerned Bill Gates said, “I don’t understand why some people are not concerned.” And according to Elon Musk, “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.” Scary.
There’s even an AI church, and some who desire immorality hope to have their brains uploaded into a computer. Creepy.
Despite all this alarmism, Marks offers reassurance. He says AI will never truly be creative, never understand, never be spiritual, and will always be hyped. AI is a tool, and, like any other tool, must be handled carefully (like electricity). There are limitations and boundaries to what AI can do, but it is neither good nor bad.
For instance, Marks explains that everything done by computers are written by algorithms- detailed, step-by-step instructions. But there are some things that are nonalgorithmic- tasks that computers simply can’t do. Computer programs, for example, can’t be written to analyze whether another computer program will eventually halt or repeat endlessly.
And while some people would like to have their minds uploaded into a computer, we can’t download our existence. Computers will never be sentient or conscious. They’ll never understand what the color green is, or why two plus two equals four.
In the 1950s, Alan Turing came up with the Turing Test. This is a test of a computer’s intelligence. If a person is unable to distinguish a computer from a person, then the computer passes. However, no computer has ever passed this test, and that’s because computers don’t possess true creativity.
According to Ada Lovelace, “Computers can’t create anything. For creation requires, minimally, originating something. But computers originate nothing; they merely do that which we order them, via programs, to do.”
Marks concluded with Scripture, declaring that it is God who gives life (Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6, 1 Timothy 6:13).
Technology has advanced a long way, and it will continue to do so until the Lord returns. I’ve always been a big sci-fi buff, so I found this topic enjoyable, and Mark’s perspective was quite refreshing.