Wednesday, May 13, 2020

I, Robot

A few observations about the Arminian trope that Calvinism reduces human beings to robots.

1. To begin with, a metaphor is not an argument. While metaphors can be useful ways to illustrate an argument, they are no a substitute for having an argument. 

2. In addition, the problem with the comparison is that if we're supposed to take it seriously, then the analogy has to posit artificially intelligent robots, but once robots are endowed with consciousness, the invidious comparison between robotic minds and human minds breaks down.

Where's the point of contrast? That robotic minds are programed while human minds are free? But presumably the claim isn't that it's possible to program robotic minds but impossible to program robotic minds? If that's the claim, why should we grant it? If they're both minds, what makes robotic minds programmable while human minds are unprogrammable? The difference isn't at the level of minds. So what makes the difference, if any? 

Moreover, the usual objection to Calvinism isn't that God can't program human minds, but that doing so would have unacceptable consequences. 

If the Arminian is comparing human beings to artificially intelligent robots, how is that comparison presumptively problematic for Calvinism? The objection can't be to robots, per se (see above), but to predestination. But in that event, the comparison is a distraction. Present a direct argument against predestination,  if you have one. 

1 comment:

  1. My bet would be that, at a folk level, the artificial intelligence sci-fi stories tend to buttress people's belief in some kind of libertarianism. This is because the notion (usually left vague or implicit) is that the robot becomes self-aware once it reaches a level self-determining complexity. I think that's why the idea always involves some leveling of the playing field between the newly self-aware robots and their makers. Or a transcendence over the makers (Ex Machina).