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Can humans give robots a soul?

ROBOTS | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 06/18/22

No matter how hard humans try to imitate God, we are unable to create a soul in an artificial robot.

As humans continue to make remarkable advancements in artificial intelligence, many questions remain about the new reality that is being created.

For example, will it ever be possible for humans to give robots a soul, creating machines into sentient beings that can think and reason on their own?

First of all, it’s important to note that all “living” beings have a soul. This includes humans, animals and plants.

However, the type of soul differs dramatically.

Dr. Richard Geraghty explains how souls are connected to organic bodies, but differ in the ability to reason and make choices.

One principle is that all living things have a soul. Here soul is defined as what makes an organic body live. Now when any living thing dies, its soul is separated from its body. In the case of plants and animals the soul goes out of existence. But in the case of man, the soul remains in existence because it is a spiritual or immaterial thing. Consequently, it differs from the souls of animals in two important respects. First, it is the seat of intelligence or reason. For this reason, a man is held responsible for his actions in a way that animals are not. Secondly, the soul is immortal.

Artificial intelligence may appear to reason, or make choices, but in reality, it is only responding to the computer program rules it was given by a human. This does not give it a life that is any different than a rock.

Furthermore, regardless of the level of sentience a robot may have, the essential truth is that only God can create a soul.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly teaches this truth, “The Church teaches that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents.”

St. Thomas Aquinas also affirms in his Summa Theologiae that, “God aloneacts by creation. Since, therefore, the rational soul cannot be produced by a change in matter, it cannot be produced, save immediately by God.”

This last point by Aquinas is important, as he notes how a soul “cannot be produced by a change in matter.” When humans are creating a robot, they are manipulating matter and are incapable of creating something new, namely, a soul.

As humans embark on a new adventure to create sentient robots, it’s important to remember that however similar they may appear to humans, they will never have a rational soul.

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