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I use "artificial consciousness" as a broad term to describe the possibility that a computer may have the same experience of reality and of itself that we have.

I guess that a religious view, more precisely a view that requires humans to have a "soul", is fairly incompatible with the concept of "artificial consciousness".

What I am asking instead is why does such rejection sometimes come from a non-religious view?

Shouldn't a non-religious view lead almost immediately to the acceptance that humans are nothing more than machines themselves, so that every difference between humans and computers is merely architectural (biological neurons vs transistors)?

I hear sometimes people messing with the fact that the human brain has a particular structure that, mysteriously, cannot be reproduced through computation (violating the Church–Turing–Deutsch principle). This argument would require some super-natural properties related to the human brain, going back to a religious view that humans are "magical".

  • I made an edit which you may roll back or continue editing. Welcome! – Frank Hubeny Apr 22 at 19:49
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    You are conflating consciousness with computability. A grave but certainly popular error. – user4894 Apr 22 at 20:08
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    Why too simplistic? Our computers (von Neumann architecture) are implementation of Turing machines (excluding memory limitation), so they can calculate any computable function. That's really enough to compute any physical object. Indeed, in order to prove that something is not computable, you would need an infinite amount of data to back such thesis. The point is, why making such strange claims about humans (i.e. they cannot be computed) from people who already accepted the absence of souls – Juggernaut Apr 22 at 20:24
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    If one accepts that organic life forms are equivalent to machines, that does not mean that consciousess can be captured by self-contained programming code alone assuming you are talking about what is colloquially known as AI. – Cell Apr 22 at 20:34
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    Personally I think a lot of it is ignorance, coupled with a fair amount of crypto-religious thinking. Certainly people in the industry have no doubts. Governments neither. The race to machine sentience is in full.swing. To the winner the spoils. – Richard Apr 22 at 23:15
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John R. Searle is a non-theist who believes in biological naturalism. Wikipedia describes Searle's position as:

Searle denies Cartesian dualism, the idea that the mind is a separate kind of substance to the body, as this contradicts our entire understanding of physics, and unlike Descartes, he does not bring God into the problem. Indeed, Searle denies any kind of dualism, the traditional alternative to monism, claiming the distinction is a mistake. He rejects the idea that because the mind is not objectively viewable, it does not fall under the rubric of physics.

If one has consciousness coming from a program running on a Turing machine, which is what I assume is meant by "artificial consciousness", one has dualism.

Searle expressed his concern against the dualism of strong AI in his paper, Minds, Brains and Programs, where he described the Chinese Room Argument:

This form of dualism is not the traditional Cartesian variety that claims there are two sorts of substances, but it is Cartesian in the sense that it insists that what is specifically mental about the mind has no intrinsic connection with the actual properties of the brain. This underlying dualism is masked from us by the fact that AI literature contains frequent fulminations against "dualism'-; what the authors seem to be unaware of is that their position presupposes a strong version of dualism.

So, one reason for non-theists to reject artificial consciousness is because it implies a strong form of dualism. When one moves the program from machine to machine, if that program is indeed our minds, then we have gone through an out-of-body process to be reincarnated in another body.


Searle, J. R. (1980). Minds, brains, and programs. Behavioral and brain sciences, 3(3), 417-424.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, February 5). Biological naturalism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:20, April 22, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Biological_naturalism&oldid=881932833

  • Software on hardware has nothing to do with dualism. Software, like all the information we know of, is made of matter arranged in a specific manner, and nothing is spiritual about it. – armand Apr 23 at 5:50
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    @armand The question asks for reasons why some non-theists reject artificial consciousness. I am not saying you have to agree with Searle, but dualism is one reason why his non-theistic position does not accept strong AI. – Frank Hubeny Apr 23 at 9:28

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