Southern Evangelical Seminary Explores How Advances in Artificial Intelligence Affect Conversations about Faith
Christians Are Facing Issues of AI No Human Beings Have Had to Address
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Nearly every week it seems as though a new headline is telling the world about the latest advances in artificial intelligence (AI)—how it will better our lives and make the impossible seem possible.
But few are talking about how these AI advances affect faith, ethics and more. Through its Center for the “Ethics of Emerging Technologies,” Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) considers issues of morality and technology and how ethics intersects with both.
For example, Fox News recently reported on two stories that have some disturbing implications.
First, readers may have been shocked to learn that thousands of Amazon workers listening to the virtual assistants “Alexa” are also hearing some personal conversations inside homes. According to Fox, “Teams stationed around the world listen to and transcribe recordings, then send them back into the Echo’s software to erase the gaps in Alexa’s ability to understand speech.” Sometimes, employees hear background chatter but are not authorized to speak about their work.
Then, Fox also reported on another “disturbing benefit of artificial intelligence”—a computer predicting when a person might die. Researchers are training algorithms to look at 10 years of health data from about a half million people in the U.K. and “assess their chances for dying prematurely.”
SES President Dr. Richard Land says these technological headlines are not without ethical conundrums that all Christians should explore.
“As Christians, we are facing issues concerning AI that no human beings have ever had to address before,” Land said. “The hard and fast dividing line between what is human and what is machine has been breached by the advances in artificial intelligence. Just how much can human beings’ intelligence be enhanced by AI without being made either more than human or less than human? These are questions that are very real in our culture, and we must decide how to discuss them from the biblical worldview lens of our faith in Christ and the knowledge that God is our Supreme Creator.”
Just last week, Land signed onto and endorsed a “Statement of Principles” regarding artificial intelligence from the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, where he is President Emeritus.
“This important statement,” Land said, “provides an excellent starting point for laying the ground rules for how we can approach these issues with maximum probability of retaining the unique dignity and inviolability of human nature, and at the same time, benefit from artificial intelligence, which, after all, is the product of human ingenuity with which God gifted us uniquely as human beings. The ERLC’s ‘Statement of Principles’ is a roadmap to begin the journey, which will encompass a significant part of our future as human beings.”
For 27 years, SES has existed to equip students and ministry leaders to share the Gospel from an intelligent, informed and rational biblical worldview. Courses, conferences, seminars, guest speakers and more seek to accomplish this longstanding mission. Central to this purpose is the provision of a biblical basis and an academic understanding of believers’ commitment to Christ. Therefore, SES seeks to provide an educational opportunity where the Christian worldview is both a framework for thinking and a dynamic for living.