Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence, and Human Nature: Theological and Philosophical Reflections


  • Ian G. Barbour


I develop a multilevel, holistic view of persons, emphasizing embodiment, emotions, consciousness, and the social self. In successive sections I draw from six sources: 1. Theology. The biblical understanding of the unitary, embodied, social self gave way in classical Christianity to a body-soul dualism, but it has been recovered by many recent theologians. 2. Neuroscience. Research has shown the localization of mental functions in regions of the brain, the interaction of cognition and emotion, and the importance of social interaction in evolutionary history and child development. 3. Artificial intelligence. Some forms of robotics use embodied systems that learn by interacting with their environment, but the possibilities for emotion, socialization, and consciousness in robots remain problematic. 4. Relations between levels. Concepts that can help us relate studies of neurons and persons include the hierarchy of levels, the communication of information, thebehavior of dynamic systems, and epistemological and ontological emergence. 5. Philosophy of mind. Two-aspect theories of the mind-brain relation offer an alternative between the extremes of eliminative materialism and the thesis that consciousness is irreducible. 6. Process philosophy. I suggest that process thought provides a coherent philosophical framework in which these themes can be brought together. It combines dipolar monism with organizational pluralism, and it emphasizes embodiment, emotions, a hierarchy oflevels, and the social character of selfhood.