One of the most striking assertions to emerge from Cognitive Science is the ``Mind as a Computer'' metaphor. Researchers in Artifical Intelligence (AI), a central component of the Cognitive Science establishment, postulate that the human mind functions as a natural calculating machine, in receiving, sorting and storing data. Many Theists who are interested in assessing scientific claims, and integrating those claims within appropriate theological models, have routinely embraced a computational theory of the mind. But what are the likely implications of this account of the mind for Theism? Does this functionalist version of human cognition mean the loss of human distinctiveness, personal identity, reliable transcendent beliefs -- and any sort of a soul?
I propose to examine this question by taking up the work of two recent authors: a scientist (Roger Penrose), and a philosopher (Mark Johnson). Penrose's work has raised critical objections to the functionalist/AI model of the mind by pointing to the role of the imagination in cognition and understanding. Johnson has explored the dynamics of human imagination by investigating metaphoric language and image schemas. In tandem, their work suggests that the mind cannot be reduced to a natural object explicable by a functionalist account. A better description of the human mind points to its irreducibly creative and playful character, a character that is essential for human understanding to take place. It also indicates a possible explanation of the mind as a natural entity capable for engaging in specific non-computational, transcendent activities, an explanation Theists would find promising.
Copyright © Thomas D. Pearson