Stray Reflections: Artificial Intelligence, Religion, and Philosophy

Mechanistic beliefs about the physical world significantly contributed to the development of physical machines to mimic, and replicate human behavior. The advent of general-purpose electronic computers made Artificial Intelligence (AI) a possibility of our age.

AI, in the beginning, claimed to provide an ‘existence proof’ that intelligence could be implemented on a physical machine following a specific predefined set of rules (or algorithms). A good way of understanding AI’s revolutionary idea about intelligence is to put it in association with Darwin’s theory of evolution in order to grasp natural and artificial intelligence. This combination leads to claim that “in order to make a perfect and beautiful machine, it is not requisite to know how to make it” (Robert Beverly Mackenzie, 19th century critic of Darwin). Building on this claim, it is easy to argue in the favor of growing atheism re-questioning the classical cosmological and teleological arguments about the existence of God in a new fashion i.e. ‘Is God a programmer?’, ‘Is God a mathematician?’, and ‘Is this universe a big digital machine?’

Meanwhile, religion and philosophy both have tried to answer the questions in their classical forms. Although AI theorists have been inspired by eastern philosophies like Hinduism and Buddhist, yet nobody has ever tried to analyze the Islamic worldview of Islamic thought over AI per se. However, there is a strong need to frame the Islamic worldview (or perspective) in the context of a re-defined relationship between religion, philosophy, and science to answer the problems of modern man. A rationale behind such a relationship is that no question can be asked without a proper philosophical framework and if we have to answer our questions about religion in the modern settings, then reconstruction of the framework is necessary. Moreover, unless we put our questions in an acceptable manner, religious beliefs will not be satisfying. The same is the case with religious answers to the modern man.

Therefore, a relational viewpoint, based on the idea of reconstruction, computational understanding of man as imago dei and philosophy of computer science (or AI) into a pragmatic relation, should be taken as test-bed for 21st century evaluation of the relationship between religion, philosophy, and science focusing the principle of “redeem-reform-embrace” instead of “critique-condemn-replace?” Finally, regarding the significance of such a relational viewpoint employing reconstruction, one must keep in mind the words of Frederick Sontag that,

“we must ask whether the same argument that leads men away from God might be reversed to lead us to a new conception of God, one radical enough to withstand the source of atheism”.

How Philosophy Shapes Theology: Problems in the Philosophy of Religion, 1971
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