Sometimes, it occurs when a person suffers a nearly fatal accident or life-threatening situation. In others, they are born with a developmental disorder, such as autism. But a slim margin of each group develop remarkable capabilities, such as being able to picture advanced mathematical figures in one’s head, have perfect recall, or to draw whole cityscapes from memory alone. This is known as savant syndrome. Of course, it’s exceedingly rare. But how does it work? And do we all hide spectacular capabilities deep within our brain? In 2002, 31-year-old Jason Padgett, a community college dropout and self-described “goof,” was mugged outside of a karaoke bar. Two men knocked him down and kicked him in the back of the head repeatedly, leaving him unconscious. Padgett was checked out and sent home from the hospital that same night. (READ MORE)
“What if the afterlife was proved?” The log line for director Charlie McDowell’s new movie, The Discovery, is that simple and that complex. It’s a question McDowell’s writing partner, Justin Lader, pitched to him immediately after production wrapped on their first film, 2014’s mind-bending relationship two-hander, The One I Love. Lader and McDowell have a thing for high-concept, nose-to-the-ground science fiction, and a keen grasp of twisty, satisfying endings. But it’s the beginning, the opening scene of The Discovery, that really grabs. In the movie, Dr. Thomas Harbor, played by Robert Redford, has made the titular scientific discovery, and it has unleashed a wave of societal tumult. (READ MORE)
Do transhumanists believe in the soul, or in materialistic reductionism? Or could it be both at the same time?
The Cartesian idea of the spirit or soul as a disembodied presence merely using or occupying a body, rather than the two being integrally connected, is a cardinal principle in transhumanism, the ultimate goal of which is to transcend the limitations of corporeal existence through technology.
So I wrote in my recent review of the transhumanist fantasy Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson. In the combox a longtime reader who goes by Pachyderminator challenged this:
Modern transhumanists tend to hold a scientific materialist worldview, which is often concerned specifically to refute Cartesian dualism and replace it with physical reductionism, which holds that any system can in principle be modeled without loss solely with reference to its lowest-level parts.
This is quite true of many (not all) transhumanists — a point I would have noted myself in a piece on transhumanism. Since I didn’t, I thank Pachyderminator for highlighting this point.
This is precisely what makes it so odd that, juxtaposed with this penchant for reductionistic materialism, transhumanist imagination also embraces, at least in its more quasi-religious or existential forms, a Cartesian notion of the self as not bound or defined by the material reality supporting the self — a “ghost” in a “shell,” as the Japanese franchise, unambiguously an expression of transhumanist imagination, proposes… (READ MORE)
Christians believe that people—unlike robots—are made in the image of God. But shows like Westworld makes us wonder: In whose image are robots made? The answer seems to be “ourselves.” As research into artificial intelligence continues, we will continue on the path of making artificial intelligence (AI) in our image. But can Christian thought provide an alternative approach to how robots are made? The original Westworld, which starred Yul Brynner as the Gunslinger, was a product of the 1970s—a time when an intelligent robot was still a far-off possibility. At the time, filmmakers and audiences treated these robots instrumentally; there was little sympathy for the robot dead. Times, however, have changed. Christopher Orr, writing in The Atlantic, notes that there is a major philosophical shift in the newest version of Westworld: A shift from concern for the creators, made of flesh and blood, to concern for the created, made of steel and silicon. (READ MORE)
Years have passed since the accident, but Landon still clearly remembers his amazing experiences in heaven. He says, “I remember being able to see my dad and his friend, Olan Palmer, who had passed away less than a month before he did, also in a car accident, and Olan’s son, Neil Palmer, who had died on a four-wheeler years before. And it was funny because I remember us all like standing in a square. Never one of us said a word to each other, but we were just all standing there.” Julie says, “He looked over to me and he says, ‘Oh, Mom, by the way, I forgot to tell you. I saw your other two kids.’ And I just looked at him because I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. But I had two miscarriages before Landon was born. And he saw them in heaven. We had never shared that with Landon. He did not know that we had lost two children before him.” (READ MORE)
In the blogosphere, a curious notion is spreading and gaining momentum: namely, the idea that information is the new soul—a kind of Soul 2.0. Something over and above the nitty gritty of the brute matter. Something better. Information is taken to be something different from matter and yet real. This view is becoming the metaphysical undertone of many state-of-the-art technological breakthroughs and commonly-accepted opinions. The view has been propelled by flamboyant declarations of savants and entrepreneurs–the ubiquitous Elon Musk, the futurist Ray Kurzweil, bold entrepreneurs like Martine Rothblatt–let alone the impact of movies–from the classic Wachowski’s Matrix trilogy to the upcoming Rupert Sanders’ adaptation of Ghost in the Shell (2017)–and countless sci-fi novels. (READ MORE)