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Gary A. Stilwell

Gary Stilwell earned a BS degree in Mathematics from Auburn University (with minors in Physics and Philosophy), a Certificate in Computer Science from the IBM Systems Research Institute, and an MA in Humanities and a PhD in Humanities/Religion from Florida State University. He worked for the IBM Corporation for thirty years, primarily with academic supercomputers and in other government entities. Combining his professional experience in the sciences with an academic interest in religion, he has worked since retirement as a Scientific Computing Consultant and as a visiting professor for the FSU Graduate School. He is the author of several books: Christianity: 5000 Years of History and Development, iUniverse, Inc., 2004; Afterlife: Post-Mortem Judgments in Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, iUniverse, Inc., 2005; and Where Was God: Evil, Theodicy, and Modern Science, Outskirts Press, 2009.

Published on the Secular Web

Kiosk Article

Is Consciousness Emergent? A Test to Prove It

The question is, how does consciousness arise in biological systems? There are at least two theories that account for consciousness. One is the idea that something is added to the body—an élan vital, a soul, or an independent mind (mind/body dualism). The other idea is that complexity (i.e., consciousness) emerges from the interactions of simple parts. Is there a way to choose one of these as being correct? Yes, by hypothesizing an emergent consciousness in a system that is not yet conscious—the computer. If we hypothesize that consciousness will emerge in a computer, given enough component parts, we can determine by rigorous testing if the hypothesis is proved. If the test proves that consciousness emerges in a computer, we will have proved that a soul is not necessary for consciousness—neither in computers nor in humans.