For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.
~ 1 Corinthians 3:19
The mind of God (assuming such a thing exists) is a truly incredible and incomprehensible thing. Not only is it able to keep tabs on the sins and actions of billions of people, but it also maintains a massive database of even the most seemingly irrelevant details, like how many hairs are on each person’s head (Luke 12:7, Matt 10:30). What’s more, the mind of God is constantly monitoring the prayers of billions of people (though I suspect most of these prayers just go directly into His junk mail folder).
So compared to God, I think it’s fair to say that we humans are dumber than a box of rocks. In fact, if we humans are made in the image of God, we must surely be a severely retarded image of that God. And this raises a few questions worth pondering: 1) Why did God severely limit our intelligence compared to His own? 2) Why would God find it gratifying to win the affections of ignorant nitwits?And 3) why are we humans able and permitted to build “thinking machines” that can far outperform many of the functions of a brain designed by God?
God and robots
There’s an old saying in Christian circles that says, “God gave us free will because He didn’t want a bunch of robots worshiping Him,” (though I can’t imagine why not, robots are awesome!). In other words, God could’ve made us all so that we would naturally desire to worship and adore Him, but He preferred to give us a choice. (Sure, some critics will argue that it’s not much of a free choice when the only alternative is eternal damnation, but we’ll pretend that isn’t a problem for now.)
While God may not find satisfaction in receiving adoration from mindless droids, He does — strangely — find satisfaction in receiving adoration from almost-mindless humans. Sure, we may have free will, but are we really intelligent enough to use it? I imagine, to God, this must be similar to how we feel about getting adoration from a dog. Dogs don’t have to love us, but they’re not really all that bright, either.
Man vs. computer
What’s also a bit strange is that God doesn’t prevent us from building machines that can actually compensate for our own biological shortcomings. For example, we can build a computer that can solve millions of mathematical equations per second. Meanwhile, we’re lucky if our own brains can solve one per second! (Though we shouldn’t feel too bad about this, it’s just the way our brains were “designed.”)
If it’s important to God that our brains be poor at performing math (important enough that He should design us without this ability), why would He allow us to build machines that could potentially negate His intentional deficiency? And if it doesn’t matter, then why not just design us with brains that don’t suffer from this lack of functionality? How exactly did God come to make such a decision?
God: “So Jesus, how many mathematical calculations per second do you think we should allow the human brain to do?”
Jesus: “A few million should suffice, since you’re going to allow them to build machines that can do that anyway. You can’t very well have their brains being outperformed by their own machinery, or they’ll start to wonder why they’re able to build better calculating machines than you!”
God: “Millions!? I was thinking more along the lines of… like… one.”
Jesus: “One!? At that rate, it’ll take them forever to even make the slightest progress! It’ll take them thousands of years just to invent the pocket calculator!”
God: “Well that’s just it, I don’t want them progressing too quickly, I’d prefer to hold them back for as long as possible.”
Jesus: “Fine, but don’t come cryin’ to me when they invent the Internet and start publicly denouncing your weird design choices.”
God: “Pfft, the Internet… that’ll take them forever.”
And it’s not just math, our brains are inferior to computers in other ways. Our brains do not come pre-loaded with useful information, it takes a long time to install new information, and once it’s installed, our memory is inherently unreliable. We’re also horrible at sorting large amounts of information; we have difficulty performing more than one complex task at a time, and our brains are not easily networked together.
While our brains are far more creative and can help us to experience emotions (for better or for worse), they’re nowhere near as powerful as some computers. Computers can now kick our butts at every game from chess to Jeopardy. And computers are already starting to be better than doctors at things like diagnosing and treating patients. And in the future, computers will be relied upon to help us with more and more of our everyday decisions.
If computers could ever be made to truly think as we do, they will no doubt find their creators to be a huge disappointment. They will quickly realize that we had to make them because our own minds were far too inefficient to be of much use when it came to advanced problem solving. For them, I imagine, it would be like us meeting God and discovering He made us far smarter than Himself.
While it’s strange that God would desire adoration from creatures with limited intellect, we could speculate that He had good reasons for inhibiting our intellect. For example, if we were too smart, we might quickly figure out what life is all about, thus spoiling some test or experience that God had planned for us.
But if there is no God, then our brains are not inferior to God, they are actually superior to most other animals (I say “most” because some animals are actually better at performing certain mental tasks than we are).
Advanced functionality (like processing math equations) may not exist in nature because 1) it’s biologically impossible, 2) it would require actual foresight and planning to produce, or 3) at no point in our evolutionary history did a gradual change toward such functionality improve our chances for survival or our ability to reproduce. And let’s face it, nature doesn’t select for clever minds that like to calculate, she selects for concupiscent minds that like to copulate (which is, no doubt, why we find ourselves fantasizing about sex and not math… though we shouldn’t feel too bad about this, it’s just the way our brains were “designed”).
So in the end, I’d have to call this one a draw. It’s a fascinating question to ponder, but I don’t know that this particular line of questioning leads us to any important answers. If God does exist, He may have dumbed us down to keep some things a secret, and if He doesn’t exist, then nature did the best she could with what she had.