“The Game” refers to a peculiar activity of some Hard Science Fiction enthusiasts. These enthusiasts take great pains in finding fault with the Science presented in such “Hard Science Fiction”. For them it is a game, “The Game”. Hard Science Fiction is Fiction closely bound to reality, and in particular to scientific laws.
In a way the scrutiny of these enthusiasts, is similar to what used to happen in the Catholic Church. The scrutinising of theological works, of doctrinal orthodoxy in preaching, and in particular, in the process of Canonisation. This scrutinisation was carried out by the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition, otherwise known as the Holy Office.
Since the “Inquisition” brought up negative connotations, and wasn’t in line with ecumenical dialogue, the name was changed and a vast amount of it’s jurisdiction and practice was reduce, after the Second Vatican Council. It is now known as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or CDF.
So in the absence of sanctioned Inquisitors, I’m going to play “The Game” with Hard Science Fiction in general from a Catholic theological point of view. Why? All fiction requires some extent of the suspension of disbelief. Hard Science Fiction attempts to minimise that as much as possible. But the problem is that Hard Science Fiction, just as Science in general, denies the existence of God, and in particular the Truths of the Catholic Church. This makes the suspension of disbelief more difficult for the Catholic.
It’s at this point that I need to remind the reader, that I write from the perspective that the Dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church are the fullness of the Truth, that all other religions are false and that there is no other means of Salvation than by the means that the Catholic Church teaches as Dogma (meaning; to be believed).
Science, in denying the ontological Truths of the Catholic Faith, such as the existence of the Soul, wastes it’s time and effort on areas, that a Catholic would logically say “that’s most likely a dead end”. Hence in Fiction the suspension of disbelief more difficult for the Catholic, I am going to play “The Game” in order to help people understand that concept.
Please note that I will use terms like “Impossible”, what I mean is “according to the current understanding of Catholic Dogma, this is Impossible”.
Why do I make this important note? Galileo. As a scientist, he was able to prove that the Earth rotated around the Sun (heliocentric), not the other way round (geocentric). The Church authorities, who were not scientific at the time, threatened to condemn him as a heretic, unless he recanted. The reason for this was the inappropriate application of the Dogma of the Inerrancy of Sacred Scripture. I say inappropriate, because as Augustine said
For I confess to your Charity that I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it.
Notice how Augustine doesn’t jump down the neck of the Scientist…
It is also important to note, that consciously or unconsciously Modern Science desperately seeks to rid itself (and the rest of humanity) of the “yoke” of the Catholic Church. Oh Great and Magnanimous Modern Science! If only everyone stopped kidding themselves with fantasy such as the Catholic Faith, and only bow down and worship Science!
Well, I feel a great deal of pity for those scientists and proponents of the “church” of Modern Science. They are gambling in the worst possible game, and with the worst possible odds. They are going to find when their lives are over, eternally isolated from the One Truth, Love and Goodness, known as God. They will also be isolated from every other creature that has rejected it’s creator, and be the depredation of daemons for all eternity… (and of course, despite Satan’s attempt to make hell look like “fun” or some kind of kinky lust party, remember that daemons are the natural predators of human souls. Outwitted, outmanoeuvred, powerless, trapped, pitch dark, intolerable suffering, think every word that could sum up humanity’s worst nightmare, without a single possible hint of relief, hope, ecstasy, happiness or anything that would make it seem better. Eternal separation from God is worse than that…) – This is, after all, the Catholic Truth of the matter.
So let “The Inquisition” begin!
Uploading is the “process of copying mental content (including long-term memory and “self”) from a particular brain substrate and copying it to another computational device, such as a digital, analog, quantum-based or software based artificial neural network. The computational device could then run a simulation model of the brain information processing, such that it responds in essentially the same way as the original brain (i.e., indistinguishable from the brain for all relevant purposes) and experiences having a conscious mind.”.
Response: Impossible as described
Catholic Dogma permits us to believe that the neuron pathways of the brain could be copied to a created device, but that would be it. The copy would be no different to a brain stored in formaldehyde, it would not be concious, for it lacks the thing in order to be “self” or “conscious”; the Immortal Soul. As for the associated concept of “downloading”, there is nothing in Catholic Dogma that contradicts the possibility of downloading data to the brain.
Transfer of Consciousness
Transfer of consciousness is similar to Uploading, it is the transfer our consciousness to a created device, leaving our bodies and therefore become living machines (immortality).
The soul is immaterial, and is united by God to matter at the moment of conception. What makes a human different from an animal, is the Immortal Soul. Since the Intellect and the Will (which are the expression of consciousness), are the two supreme faculties of the immaterial Immortal Soul, it is impossible to copy or transfer.
Teleportation is the “soft” SF concept of transporting a human being from A to B, by means of some sort of data communication.
Response: Impossible as desired
Science could theoretically copy the existent object, communicate that elsewhere, and rebuild a copy of that object at a remote location. However it is important to state, that it would be a copy. Were the existent body de-constructed in the process, regardless of the fact that an exact copy were reconstituted elsewhere, the Immortal Soul would not transfer, death would occur in the original immediately. Dogma would also seem to suggest that the copy would most likely remain lifeless. Whether God would create a new soul for such a construct would remain open.
Sapient Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Strong AI
Human created devices with the ability to perform “general intelligent action”. Displaying traits such as consciousness, sentience, sapience, and self-awareness observed in living beings.
Response: Impossible as desired
It is theoretically possible for humans to engineer a software program that could attempt at emulating a human being. But it would not possess Intellect and Will, which are the two supreme faculties of the Immortal Soul.
It is also theoretically possible for humans to engineer a self-learning program, but again the program would not become self-aware, sapient or conscious like us, for it lacks an Immortal Soul. It is important to state however, that such a self-learning program may become a threat to it’s creators.
It is important to point out that great informational processing power does not constitute consciousness, or sapience. There is nothing in Dogma that contradicts the possibility of technology, that were we presented with it today would seem like magic. It just wouldn’t be Strong AI.
As you should be able to see, I have worked here on the issues that Science is currently bashing it’s head against. The efforts to create Strong AI, and it’s associated cousins of Uploading, Consciousness Transfer and Teleportation, is real and substantial. But it’s not going to work as desired, because the developers have missed out the importance of Catholic Dogma concerning the Immortal Soul. They think that in copying the mind or developing software versions of the mind, they will create a mind. They have missed the point. It’s the Soul that they need to emulate, which they can’t and can never, because it is an immaterial mystery created by God alone. Not even Satan can do it.
An area that touches on the Soul, but is generally ignored is the whole area of transplants and human cloning. Most people are focussed on the horrendous ethical issues, but I think it’s also interesting to think about the ontological issues too. For instance, Bob is involved in a serious car accident and most of his body is destroyed, he will only survive on life support. NoEthics Inc. come along, and clones Bob (Bob2).
Surely in order to become animated Bob2 will need spirit and an Immortal Soul. Will God supply theses? We know that He does for IVF children. Supposing that God does supply Bob2 with an Immortal Soul, were NoEthics Inc. to use his body parts to reconstruct Bob, or host Bob’s brain in Bob2’s body with a brain transplant, then NoEthics Inc. would be guilty of murder.
Indeed it would beg a further question; Bob has a soul, Bob2 has a soul, if Bob2’s brain is removed and Bob’s brain put in, what happens to the souls? Dogma tells us that Souls are immaterial, not contingent on specific body parts.
Which then expands further on to the whole issue of transplants… bleugh.
In the process of writing this article, I was going to refute the issue of Cryonics (of freezing human beings for space travel or later treatment etc), my principle argument was going to be that Cryogenic Freezing kills the body and the soul will depart. However, I was reminded that Cryogenic Freezing of human beings and their defrosting and reanimation already occurs.
The Catholic Faith teaches that the soul is united with matter at the moment of conception. For this reason life is Sacred from conception to natural death, and any frustration of that process is homicide. The destruction of a child in utero, regardless of it’s developmental stage is always murder, and the worst kind for the child has no ability to defend itself. So, for instance, chemicals that reduce the lining of the uterus, preventing the child from implanting and thus causing the child’s death as it is passed out of the woman’s body, is always a weapon of murder.
Having explained that, one of the most heinous crimes of the modern world is Invitro Fertilisation, IVF. God in His immense wisdom and mercy, permits the conception of a child in this process. The soul is instilled at the first moment of conception, and if the child is granted the environs needed, it will grow to be as God designed, like you and I. Why He permits this is beyond me, but that aside. The fact is that on top of the first horrendous crime of IVF, these children have then been cryogenically frozen (read: murdered, since most die) and when defrosted a few live.
Aside from the absolute depravity of what is involved in this process, there is something fascinating; a human being is frozen and then unfrozen and still lives. Which means that the Immortal Soul is either not contingent on living signs in the body (unlikely), or that the Immortal Soul is retracted (perhaps into limbo?) and then returned when the child is defrosted by the grace of God.
This fact, seems to suggest that adult cryonics may be a possibility. That being said, the rate of deaths (read: murders) of the children conceived by IVF caused by the freezing process, would point towards a very high rate of fatalities in adults.