Letters: Towards the first Catholic robot?

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Sir: It is good to see the Pope publicly accepting Darwin's theory of evolution (report, 25 October). However, the scientific question of the age is the nature of consciousness, and leading experts such as Daniel Dennett have argued that both consciousness and morality have emerged by genetic and cultural evolution. Dennett and several other workers in artificial intelligence and philosophy believe that there will come a time when our understanding of consciousness is such that we can build a sapient robot equivalent in powers to humans. Dennett, however, is an atheist.

I have argued in the Catholic weekly, The Tablet, and elsewhere, that in the future these intelligent robots will make moral judgements and have religious experiences. In short, some robots will be Christians, some Buddhists, some atheists etc. It will certainly be possible, at some time, for some robots to pray to God. These views are controversial, but I believe that in time they will come to be commonplace.

If the Vatican is to take a public stand against a reductionist account of the nature of consciousness it runs the risk of a new Galileo controversy, but this time the Vatican will be opposed by much of the scientific community, and the educated world at large.

Dr EDMUND FURSE

Department of Computer Studies

University of Glamorgan, Pontypridd

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