Southern Evangelical Seminary Helps Students See Intersection Between Faith and Science
SES President Dr. Richard Land Teaching Ethics Class in January; Society Says Only Way to Keep Up With Artificial Intelligence Is to Alter Our Own
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Many may think it odd for a seminary to help students navigate the intersection of faith and science, to stand alongside them as they delve into the relationship between morality and technology. But for much of its 25-year existence, Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, www.ses.edu) has done just that.
And now, as many headlines herald such technologies as artificial intelligence, robotics and even the transplantation of human brain cells into rats, it is imperative that the moral and ethical questions generated by such technologies be examined.
“Technological advances can be wonderful and can indeed improve our lives,” said SES President Dr. Richard Land. “In fact, God gave us the intelligence to be able to accomplish such advancements. But as science and technology become more and more intertwined with our daily activities, moral and ethical questions will undoubtedly arise. For example, will we be tempted to think that in order to keep up with AI we will have to enhance our own intelligence artificially? Will we allow robots to care for the elderly and infirmed rather than fellow human beings? These are some of the questions students are able to ask and seek to answer at SES, where our expert faculty members help students delve into such ethical queries and tie them to innovations in science and technology. These technological advancements WILL impact nearly every area of our lives; therefore, they must impact our moral and ethical considerations as well. If we venture into the technological future without asking these questions, we do so at our peril.”
Land will teach SES’s Ethics course in early January, which will touch upon many of the moral and ethical issues that arise in today’s science and technology headlines, such as the following:
TO KEEP UP WITH AI, WE’LL NEED HIGH-TECH BRAINS | An artificial intelligence company in London recently announced that an algorithm taught itself to play the board game Go through trial and error and, after four million games against itself, eventually achieved superhuman performance—in less than a month, according to the Wall Street Journal. Is this worrisome for humans? Some think so. After all, a game isn’t a useful, real-world skill and nowhere near the sort of general intelligence of which human beings are capable, but some still say AI will do great harm to society by putting people out of work, adding to inequality and removing warfare from human control. Regardless of one’s views or fears, there’s no question that AI will profoundly influence the future of humanity.
COULD SOPHIA THE ROBOT JOIN THE FAITH? The New Yorker asked this somewhat odd but valid question in a recent article. Sophia, the lifelike artificial intelligence android robot, has been making rounds in technology news. Modeled after Audrey Hepburn, Sophia has been granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia, which “effectively gave her more rights than most Saudi women.” But, could Sophia, in theory, be considered Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or Jain? Could she, or a “somebot” like her, be raised within or convert into and practice a faith? And, if so, could a robot serve as a imam, pastor, priest, rabbi, or shaman?
MUCH MORE THAN ‘FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON’ | The UK publication The Sun recently reported that scientists have connected tiny human brains with that of a rat by creating clumps of cells that behave similarly to human brains. Three or four of these “organoids” were inserted into rat brains, connected to blood vessels and successfully linked. Some science ethicists claim the experiments might reach a point where the test lab rats will be “entitled to some kind of respect” as they become more humanlike. And what if many more than three or four organoids are inserts—perhaps 1,000?
To interview an SES faculty member on the ethical implications of these headlines, contact Beth Harrison, 610-584-1096, ext. 104, Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, or Deborah Hamilton, 610-584-1096, ext. 102.
Southern Evangelical Seminary will host its Winter Open House from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, Dec. 2. For more information, click here.