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Black Mirror 'immortal digital soul' could become reality, leading atheist tells Premier

by Justin Brierley

Daniel C Dennett, a professor of philosophy at Tufts University, USA and leading naturalist voice in the philosophy of mind, has suggested that in the future humans could gain an immortal soul and be able to upload information from our minds to a digital format, similar to the storylines of popular Netflix series, Black Mirror which envisaged human minds being uploaded to computer systems where they can live forever in 'digital heaven'.

The debate, released today, focuses on whether atheistic naturalism or Christian theism better explains the unique mysteries and questions that human consciousness will pose.

It has been released as part of The Big Conversation series and hosted by Premier Christian Radio presenter, Justin Brierley.

The debate pitched Dennett, who has authored books such as 'Breaking the Spell: Religion As A Natural Phenomenon' against Keith Ward, British philosopher and former Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford University who is also an ordained priest in the Church of England.

Dennett argues: "One of the things we know about robots that makes them profoundly unlike moral agents, is that they are potentially immortal because you can download all the software, back them up and reboot them.

"If the information in my brain were perfectly encoded, and this brain [I have currently] died, it could be uploaded in digital format and I could go on living - although it would have to exist in some physical medium."

The professor, who has been counted among the four so-called 'horsemen of the new atheism', continues: "You should never sign a contract with a robot where it is acting on its own, not as a surrogate for somebody - because robots aren't people, they aren't fragile like us.

"You can't threaten to punish a robot; it can just be rebooted the next day."

In response, Ward who has authored books such as 'Why There Almost Certainly Is A God' and 'More Than Matter' contends: "You could think of Beethoven's symphonies on digital format with extensive coding of zeros and ones, but without the ability to hear the music, it is futile.

"I believe there is something other than just the brain makes human choices and defines human meaning.

"I believe that both of our philosophies are highly defensible views, which is why I don't think philosophy answers our ultimate questions."

The Big Conversation is a unique video series from Premier Christian Radio's popular faith debate show Unbelievable?

Hosted by Justin Brierley, The Big Conversation explores science, faith, philosophy and what it means to be human.

Other episodes feature high-profile thinkers across the Christian and atheist community such as Steven Pinker, Jordan B Peterson, Susan Blackmore, Peter Singer and John Lennox.

For videos, commentary and the programme schedule visit:  

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