Humans are complex biochemical computers.

On Thursday, Matthew Dickerson, professor of computer science and environmental studies at Middlebury College, addressed this claim in a lecture titled “Can Computers Reason (and Enjoy Sex)?” He argued against atheist and physicalist Raymond Kurzweil, who believes there is no distinction between humans and computers, and science will one day be able to enable humans to download their brains and consciousness into computer software.

Dickerson focused on reason and logic as proof against Kurzweil’s theory. Computers have no way of telling whether commands are good or bad; they simply follow preprogrammed instructions. If computers can’t reason and humans are computers, then humans can’t reason. If true, humans are defined by social and doctrinal programming. But reason takes freedom and spirit; reason itself proves humans are more than

Dr. Dickerson speaks at an honors lecture on the topic of human reason.

Dickerson speaks at an honors lecture on the topic of human reason.

machines, Dickerson said.

“Dr. Dickerson skillfully articulated not only the defining elements of creative free-thinking, but also the ways in which these abilities are specifically human,” Scot Bruce, associate professor of history, said.

Bruce appreciated Dickerson’s emphasis on a holistic Christian understanding of the mind, body, and soul as the uniquely human components of each person.

“Counter to the notion of physicalism, we are, in fact, much more than material machines, defined by chemical compounds and brain impulses,” said Bruce. “Nor can we be reduced to the realm of mere consciousness. Rather, we exist holistically as physical and spiritual beings, as God’s special ‘imago Dei’ creations.”

“Dr. Dickerson’s lecture on human reason was incredibly on-point and thought provoking,” honors student Charlotte VanWerven said. “At the end, my mind was left wandering around the topics he addressed, trying to make sense of all his theories. It was a great lecture — interesting and enlightening!”

Honors student Rachel Tokuda shared her reaction: “Overall, I think the lecture was necessary for the modern Christian. Believers need to be prepared for the day when their moral standards will be challenged; Dr. Dickerson’s lecture has pointed us in the right direction.”

 

Food for thought: how does human life reflect the Christian holistic view?