By Dr. Jim Bradford
The cover article of an issue of Time [Magazine], February 2011, featured a concept known as ‘Singularity.’ It is not a mathematical singularity or a black hole, but a moment in human history when futurists predict that machines will have exceeded human intelligence by such a margin that human existence as we know it will change forever.
“Imagine,” the article suggests, “a computer scientist that was itself a super-intelligent computer. It would work incredibly quickly. It could draw on huge amounts of data effortlessly. It wouldn’t even take breaks.” Machines creating machines . . . technological capacity growing exponentially . . . human life being extended by decades, even centuries . . . artificial superhuman intelligence that can “write books, make ethical decisions and appreciate fancy paintings.”
The time line? Just over 30 years from now! Futurists are predicting that by the year 2045 ‘Singularity’ could be upon us. Quoting again from the article, “In that year… given the vast increases in computing power and the vast reductions in the cost of the same, the quantity of artificial intelligence created will be about a billion times the sum of all the human intelligence that exists today.” Sound far- fetched? Even NASA hosts what is now a five-year-old Singularity University for graduate students and high level executives.
The offspring of science, in the form of advanced technology, is one reason why understanding the integration of faith and science is so important. How will faith relate to a ‘singularity’ world and what kinds of ethical frameworks will be needed to guide that kind of technological explosion? The importance of this discussion is further underscored by the implications of the new atheism’s assertion that science is at war with religion.
Some of us with conservative Christian upbringings may have been exposed to the church’s own version of that ‘war,’ being taught that science was contrary to Biblical teaching. Sometimes more highly educated people have wondered if they can remain in the church given a somewhat anti-intellectual bias that has been advanced. Still others have walked away from faith completely, believing that science is irreconcilable with Scripture and, in fact, disproves Scripture.
As a follower of Christ, a Pentecostal and a student of the sciences (Aerospace Engineering, Ph.D.), my starting assumptions over the years have been the following:
- Understanding how and why things work in the natural world does not preclude the existence of a personal God. He is more than ‘God of the gaps.’
- All truth is God’s truth, because he is Creator of all.
- The capacity of the human intellect to be curious, to investigate and to learn is a God-given attribute, not a threat to my faith.
- The very nature of God himself, imprinted in what he has made, makes scientific study possible.
There has always been a direct link in Scripture between God’s creation and God’s character:
“The heavens declare the glory of God,
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
“God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made.”
Because of this I would often leave science classes feeling like I had been in a ‘worship service.’ If our starting assumption is that discovering how the natural world works will eliminate the need for a God to explain that world, then our faith will be threatened. But does discovering the beauty of a painting mean that there must not be a painter? Quite the opposite – both the Old and New Testaments teach us that the created order reveals the glory and character of a creator God.
Furthermore, Proverbs 8 declares:
“I [wisdom] was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep. . . Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” Prov. 8:27, 30-31
Most every scientist has tasted that enthralling ‘delight’ of discovering the handiwork of God as revealed in astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, physics, geology and the breadth of scientific endeavor.
Loving God with ‘all of our minds’ (Matthew 22:37), in fact, calls us to that delight – exploring and being in wonder of all God’s handiwork. Not only does he ‘know’ it all but he ‘designed’ it all. Here is an invitation to curiosity and intellectual pursuit in a way that does not threaten our faith, but glorifies and honors our Creator.
Dr. Jim Bradford serves as the General Secretary for the Assemblies of God. In addition, he holds a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Minnesota. To learn more about the Assemblies of God, visit www.ag.org.