Monday, October 29, 2007

Frankenstein's Monstrance

For anyone who doesn't get it: a monstrance is an object (typically cross-shaped) that holds the consecrated host--in Catholic terms, the Body of Christ. Anyone made in God's image can likewise carry Christ around. But what about Frankenstein's monster? What about clones? In other words, what if we could bring something to life?

When I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I sketched out a story about a kind of Frankenstein's monster. Because it was created from dead parts, it had no soul (I would now likely say "spirit") of its own, but it was intelligent and immortal, so it spent its years awaiting Doomsday, when the God it could not know or serve would finally shut it down.

Is that valid? Or would it care? For that matter, would it necessarily be at odds with God?

A proper exposition would take a book or two, but here are my conclusions:

First, God's intervention on our behalf seems to be unique to us. Thus, God forbids murder (based on our being made in God's image--Gen 10:6) at the same time he allows us to kill animals for meat (v. 3). God helps us, not angels (Hebrews 2:16). So I would suggest that our uniqueness stems from our being made in God's image--a quality nowhere associated with any creature but man.

Second, I don't think it's possible for us to create in God's image. In our own image, yes; but not in the image of God. If that's true, nothing we create will have God's image. It may not be evil, but it can't be eternal, either. (This is similar to Jesus' remark in John 3:6.)

Third, I don't think there's any danger of our creating life anyway. So far we've only modified it. Cloning might be an exception: by its very nature, it avoids the normal process of transmitting life. While the soul--the life force--of the original creature is retained, I see no way for the spirit to remain after the creature's cellular brain has been removed. This would set up three possibilities:

1. A kind of zombie, because the spirit directs higher mental function;
2. A vehicle for a demon, because it would have the creature all to itself; or
3. An intelligent being driven only by whatever instincts (such as self-preservation) may have been transmitted to it. Although as intelligent as a human, it would be effectively amoral because it wouldn't have a spiritual component.

But what about Artificial Intelligence? I don't think that matters either. There is a difference between intellect and spirit, though the spirit powers the intellect. So even a highly intelligent machine will lack a spirit, as in option three, above). That should mean that it can't appreciate its situation, because all the Big Answers are spiritual. It would also be without moral imperatives, because as Lewis noted in The Abolition of Man, logic and research can't produce moral imperatives; they can only provide data for pre-existing morality. So while clone #3 would be an intelligent animal, possibly a dangerous one, AI would have no way of engaging the universe. It would be autistic unless it had built-in moral motions--and even then it would mostly just simulate moral thought and action.

It seems to me that the best example of full AI is actually Tik-Tok from the original Oz books. This clockwork man is not good or evil but simply does what it is wound up to do. The example of Tik-Tok is important to resolving a problem that occurs in the final installment of the League of Superheroes Origin Series.

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