Are we merely machines?

This upcoming talk, “Äre We Merely Machines?”, by MIT Professor Rosalind Picard, Sc.D, as part of the Veritas Forum  will feature her work on affective computing, how her work and her faith mutually inform each other, and how they inspire her to use her technical expertise to help those with autism.

To give some background on Dr. Picard’s perspective on faith and work, here are some clippings from an essay* she wrote discussing her hardest trial – her faith.  She writes…

The hardest tests are those that I put faith through before being willing to accept that Christian faith was reasonable.Rosalind Picard, Sc.D.

I used to be a staunch atheist, in part because of living fourteen years in the South, in the so-called “Bible belt.” I assumed that those who believed in a God had thrown reason to the wind. I could look around and see all kinds of uneducated people who were believers, and I thought the two went hand in hand. I believed religion was a creation of man, contrived by people who weren’t strong enough to handle death. I assumed that faith was not intellectual or based on evidence, that religious people were not real thinkers, and that if they only thought hard enough, then they would see that their religion was unnecessary, invented to help themselves cope better.

The crux of my “hardest test”, in deciding to believe in a God, was (and remains) pride. I never liked “religious people,” still abhor religiosity, and did not want to be associated with such people or their beliefs, with any religious beliefs. …

I remember being annoyed when I learned that my atheism was also a “religion,” and that there is really no such thing as not being religious, unless perhaps you’re inanimate or turn off your brain totally when it comes to the great questions in life. Take the question of the existence of God. How could I confidently deny it, declare God couldn’t exist, unless I was omniscient? But only God, if God exists, is omniscient. … So, if I claim God does not exist, then I am claiming to be omniscient, and then I am making myself into God. This is a problem. Denying God’s existence is not rational.

The non-existence of God cannot be proven. If God is indeed Author of the whole universe, including time and space, science, reason, and experience, then all of our abilities fall short when trying to comprehend God. …

My change from an Atheist to a Christian is not to deny that there is also a lot of crap associated with religion, including with many ways fallible humans practice Christianity. …

In brief, the hardest trials have been those of confronting my own pride, and my unwillingness to examine anything other than the materialist assumptions made (unthinkingly) by so many of us.”

Dr. Picard will be the featured speaker at the Veritas Forum to be held at Vanderbilt University on Tuesday, January 28, 2014, at 8:00 p.m.  For more information, click here.


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