Christian predictions on the future of science (part 2)

In the previous post of this series, I promised two more predictions on the future of science based on Christianity. I said that they'd be different from the science of the past, or the current expectations of the future. Here they are:

In the future, science will have much to say about morality, in contrast to the past when science was mostly silent on such issues. We have inklings of the beginning now, as social sciences such as psychology, sociology, or economics mature and become more firmly grounded in the natural sciences. We're starting to scientifically address questions like "what effect does divorce have on children?" or "what are the measurable benefits of belonging to a church?" Moral actions like divorce or church attendance are found to really matter, yet these are only the beginning; scientific discoveries with moral content will occur frequently enough to form a new large-scale trend in science, similar to the ones I've mentioned before. This new trend will show that God created the universe in such a way that our choices for good or evil has significant, real consequences.

But wait; have I not argued in a previous post that science cannot explain morality? Indeed I have. How could it be that science will make morally relevant discoveries, when it cannot explain morality? What this means is that the prediction I'm making is really quite specific. As I said before, science could never explain why we ought to be good, for it only deals in physical reality as it actually is. Yet in our deeper understanding of that reality, we will find that there is a real difference between good and evil, real consequences to our choices, and real mechanics built in to nature itself to enable us to meaningfully act as moral agents. Pretend that you're holding a gun to someone's head; pulling the trigger may mean that you and your genetic line will continue to survive, while putting down the gun may mean that someone else will prosper and thrive in your stead. Science will not and cannot tell you what you ought to do; it can only tell you that this is in fact the choice and the consequences before you. I predict that as our scientific knowledge of morality increases, at every step we will be confronted with a choice between right and wrong, between saving our life, or losing it for God and his righteousness - even as the correct choices made by the past generations become common sense.

In particular, I predict that love will forever remain at the heart of all the moral truths discovered by future sciences. Science will not discover that love is just a human societal convention, nor will a future advancement eliminate our need for it. Instead, when the relevant individual scientific discoveries eventually form that long-term, large-scale trend that I predicted, it will point to love as the principle upon which the whole moral structure of the universe is built and the thing that we encounter at the core of every moral issue.

I predict these things because I believe that God, who is love, created the universe to reflect his moral character, so that we can look upon it and come to know him and become like him. He then gave us science as a tool for studying that universe. Our sciences are currently insufficent for revealing God's goodness embedded in nature, but as our power and knowledge grows, especially as our social sciences advance, we will be able to scientifically explore the moral aspect of the universe that God created. That is what we expect from a universe created by the Christian God.

My second prediction on the future of science is about human nature: In the future, a full scientific understanding of human beings will continue to elude us, in contrast to the expectations of many today who expect humans to soon become obsolete through scientific progress. The current vogue is to believe that artificial intelligence will advance and supplant humans. Or, perhaps it will be genetics which will allow us to clone and mass-produce designer babies. Or maybe it will be neurology, cognitive science, psychology, and sociology which will allow us to "figure out" a human being. Is it not inevitable that one or a combination of the above methods will soon allow us to reduce a human being to just another object, completely understood and uninteresting and boring?

I predict that this will not be the case. I make this prediction based on my belief that God created humans to be the pinnacles of his creation, made in his image to subdue and rule over nature. Moreover, Christ himself - God incarnate - became flesh and dwelt among us, taking on the form of man and containing the fullness of the deity. Therefore I predict that Christ cannot ever be trivialized to completely fit inside our understanding - nor can other humans, who are capable of becoming like Christ. Indeed the universe itself was created for God to become incarnate into it as a human, and therefore to fully understand humanity would be nearly tantamount to fully understanding all of creation. We have a very, very long way to go before we can fully understand ourselves.

I do not mean to suggest that there will be no scientific progress on this front. I've already predicted that science will continue to progress in new and unexpected ways on many fronts. As in my first prediction, this seeming paradox - of continually advancing sciences being unable to fully comprehend humanity - actually serves to focus the prediction. I expect our future science to do wondrous things in understanding and simulating humans. For example, I think that it's inevitable that a computer will pass the Turing test. As another example, I even think that some form of AI might make very good jurors or judges in the judicial system. They could even be better than humans in some ways. Similarly, I think that we will eventually gain at least limited mind-reading and mind-control capabilities, due to scientific advances in understanding the brain. If, in the next few centuries, we're capable of using hard numbers to calculate the effects of a genetic treatment on the future history of some society, that would not surprise me.

But in this process of progress, as we achieve each new feat, we will find ourselves with an expanded conception of humanity. After all, we understand that the essence of humanity is not in our capacity for math calculations or chess or Jeopardy, now that we have tools like Wolfram Alpha and Deep Blue and Watson. Humanity is bigger than that. We're bigger than we think. As our achievements get bigger, we get bigger.

A full scientific understanding of ourselves will continue to elude us for a very long time, not because science will stagnate in the future (it will thrive), but due to the greatness of humanity. For we are made in the image of God, as rulers over the rest of creation, and joined with God through his incarnation as one of us.

These, then, are my predictions. And we already have overwhelming evidence for Christianity from our previous considerations. At this point, Christianity has done everything that can be asked of it on the question of science. For it has explained its axioms, its progress, its limits, and made predictions of its future.

The next post of this series will be the last one: a summary and conclusion for everything.


You may next want to read:
Science as evidence for Christianity (Summary and Conclusion) (Next post of this series)
The Gospel: the central message of Christianity (part 1)
How is God related to all other fields of study?
Another post, from the table of contents

3 comments :

  1. Computers passing Turing tests? Absolutely. That happens all the time. CAPTCHAs are, at their heart, Turing tests; you have one of them here guarding comments. In fact, I go further: Any Turing test administered by a computer can be passed by a computer. The old expression "It takes one to know one" applies to humans; there is fundamentally nothing that a computer can detect that another computer can't feign.

    But humans can always tell. As long as the other human isn't deliberately trying to fail the test, the test is guaranteed to be solved. Want proof? Just hang out on any high-traffic mailing list (join me on python-list@python.org!) and watch for a while. There are spammers that get past the automated filters, and there are humans that get trapped by those same filters, but only the most sophisticated bots (like 88888 Dihedral) can last even two posts without detection. (And I'm pretty sure Dihedral has human help.)

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    1. Well, I guess we need a more detailed definition of a Turing test, but I do think that things like Cleverbot will get much better, so that they'll be indistinguishable from a human under many circumstances (such as making small talk). But I really haven't looked too deeply in to this.

      My point, though, is that even if computers could pass all conceivable Turing tests, that will only set humans as being still more unique, defined by more than our ability to make conversations.

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  2. Pingback: I've referenced this article on my own blog, http://rosuav.blogspot.com/2014/05/christianity-and-physics.html - nothing like as solid an analysis as this, but may be of interest!

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