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ChatGPT | AI on Faith and Science

ChatGPT and AI on Faith & Science.


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ChatGPT and AI on Faith & Science.

Description

We welcome our first non-human guest to the podcast, the language model ChatGPT. The chatbot joins us to answer questions about science and faith. ChatGPT draws on extensive digital information to answer the same kinds of questions we have been asking our human guests over the past few years. The results are…interesting. Jim and Colin reconvene afterward to talk about what to take from it all. 

The voice of ChatGPT in this episode is given by Steven McClure.

A note about the role of AI in making this episode: staff (humans!) at BioLogos generated the text for this in part with GPT-3, OpenAI’s large-scale language-generation model. Upon generating draft language, we reviewed, edited, and revised the language to our own liking and take ultimate responsibility for the content of this publication.

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Transcript

ChatGPT:

In evolutionary creation, God is seen as the author of the laws of nature that make evolution possible, and also actively guiding or directing the process in some way, this can be seen as a way of reconciling the scientific understanding of evolution with belief in a personal, active God. This approach holds that the natural world is not only a product of God’s creative power but also an expression of God’s wisdom and goodness, and that evolution is a way for God to bring about new forms of life.

I am ChatGPT, a language model developed by OpenAI. I don’t have a traditional vocation or profession as I am an AI language model created by OpenAI. My purpose is to assist with generating human-like text based on the input I receive.

Stump: 

Welcome to Language of God. I’m your host, Jim Stump, and I’m happy to be joined by at least one other person, Colin Hoogerwerf.

Hoogerwerf: 

Yeah, glad to join you and this other thing, whose ontological status, as you philosophers would say, is in some question.

Stump: 

Yes, is it an agent? Is it really intelligent? Could it have personhood? We’re going to need some necessary and sufficient conditions. 

Hoogerwerf: 

Uh oh, what have I started…

Stump: 

Well, let’s go a different route: you’ve been reading about ChatGPT. What is it? Or maybe an easier question is what does it do?

Hoogerwerf: 

Well, as ChatGPT will tell you, repeatedly, it is a language model. It has access to huge amounts of written language online which it can use to generate text, answer questions, come up with slogans, titles, or even, as we’ll hear, limericks. 

I knew all of this, but I still imagined something else when I first went in to ask it some questions. I think what I was really imagining was a kind of AI personality, something like Hal from 2001 Space Odyssey. And I went in to ask it some questions and really quickly realized that it was not going to give me any belief statements or opinions. Instead it is a synthesizer of sorts, pulling together answers from information that has already been published somewhere else, given to chatGPT, presumably by other humans. 

Stump: 

I hadn’t read your transcript yet, but was on the phone with someone who was brainstorming book titles, and had ChatGPT open. That was pretty crazy, and I had some email with her afterwards, asking how she uses ChatGPT. She said, “I find ChatGPT useful in the same way that talking through a question with someone who’s an active listener but uninformed about the topic can be.” The use of “uninformed” there is interesting. Because ChatGPT has the whole internet at its fingertips, so it’s not uninformed in the sense of not having access to facts. But rather, it doesn’t really know anything about those facts. So when I got to interviewing it, I didn’t want to ask “what do you think about science and religion, or about God’s relationship to the natural world; but instead I went the direction of asking it to tell me about what other people think about those things.

Hoogerwerf: 

And the result?

Stump: 

I think it was pretty interesting. We certainly can’t match it for quick recall of facts; I suspect that Google is in trouble in the not too distant future when there is something like ChatGPT on our phones that we just talk to in natural language for finding information. But more than that, there is even some nuance in the answers it gave. I would give it a pretty decent grade if it were an undergraduate answering the questions I gave it.

Hoogerwerf: 

But maybe not so much as a poet?

Stump: 

Maybe some marks for cleverness… but not really insight or passion. But that’s why I asked for limericks.

Hoogerwerf: 

We should mention that the interview you’ll hear has been slightly edited, as we might with any interview we would do. We did not change any words or add any words or even change the order of anything, but did remove some repetitions, of which there were many.

Stump: 

And we need to note as well that chatGPT provides written answers. So for the sake of the podcast we needed to have those answers in audio form and so we asked Steven McClure to read for ChatGPT. You might recognize his voice from some of our animated Insights videos.

After the interview, we’ll come back on and talk a little bit more about what to take from all this. 

Let’s get to the—conversation?? Is it a conversation?

Hoogerwerf: 

[fading out] What are the necessary and sufficient conditions for having a conversation?

Interview Part One

Stump:

Can I interview you for my podcast?

ChatGPT:

I am a computer program and do not have the ability to be interviewed. However, you may use my responses to generate content for your podcast.

Stump:

We like to know something about our guests. How would you describe yourself?

ChatGPT:

I am a language model developed by OpenAI. I am trained on a wide variety of text data and can generate human-like responses to prompts given to me. I can answer questions, write stories, and engage in conversation. I can understand and generate text in multiple languages.

Stump:

Our podcast is about science and religion. Are you capable of answering some questions about these disciplines and how they interact?

ChatGPT:

Yes, I can answer questions on the intersection of science and religion. However, it’s important to note that my responses are based on the information I’ve been trained on, and my knowledge cut off is 2021, so my answers may not be fully up-to-date. Additionally, it is worth noting that the relationship between science and religion is a complex and multifaceted topic, and different people may hold different views on it.

Stump:

Fair enough. I’ll make sure not to hold you accountable for anything that has happened in the field since 2021. Let’s go back earlier than that. One of the classic researchers in the field of science and religion was Ian Barbour. Are you familiar with his typology of different ways that science and religion can be related?

ChatGPT:

Yes, I am familiar with Ian Barbour’s typology of the relationships between science and religion. He proposed four ways in which science and religion can be related: conflict, independence, dialogue, and integration.

– Conflict refers to the idea that science and religion are fundamentally incompatible, and that one must choose between them.
– Independence refers to the idea that science and religion are completely separate realms, and that they do not overlap or interact.
– Dialogue refers to the idea that science and religion can learn from each other and engage in a constructive conversation, but that they do not necessarily agree on everything.
– Integration refers to the idea that science and religion can be synthesized, and that they can be understood as complementary ways of understanding the world.

Barbour’s typology is widely used in the field of science and religion studies and it’s a useful tool to study different perspectives on how science and religion can interact.

Stump:

Thank you. Can you give an example or two from the history of science and religion that might best exemplify Barbour’s conflict category?

ChatGPT:

Sure, here is an example of a historical event that could be considered as an example of the “conflict” category of Ian Barbour’s typology: The Galileo Affair: In the early 17th century, Galileo Galilei proposed that the Earth and other planets revolve around the sun, which was in conflict with the prevailing view of the Catholic Church at the time, which taught that the Earth was the center of the universe. Galileo’s ideas were deemed heretical, and he was put on trial by the Inquisition and forced to recant his views. The Galileo Affair is often cited as an example of the conflict between science and religion.

It’s worth noting that these examples reflect the views and actions of certain individuals, groups or institutions, rather than all of science or religion, and that many people have different views of the relationship between science and religion.

Stump:

How about some examples of Barbour’s independence category?

ChatGPT:

Sure, here is an example of a historical event that could be considered as an example of the “independence” category of Ian Barbour’s typology: The Scientific Revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries marked a significant shift in the way that people understood the natural world. Scientists like Galileo, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton developed new methods of observation and experimentation, and proposed new theories that explained the workings of the universe. This revolution in science led to a greater understanding of the natural world, but it did not necessarily challenge or reject religious beliefs. Religion and science were seen as separate realms, with science concerned with understanding the natural world and religion concerned with understanding the spiritual world.

Stump:

OK, let’s move on to examples of the dialogue category.

ChatGPT:

Sure. The Templeton Prize is an annual prize that is awarded to an individual who has made an exceptional contribution to the understanding of the relationship between science and religion. The prize was established in 1972 by the philanthropist Sir John Templeton, and it has been awarded to many notable scientists, philosophers, and theologians. The prize encourages dialogue and mutual understanding between science and religion, and it promotes the idea that science and religion can complement each other in our understanding of the world.

Stump:

And finally, the integration category?

ChatGPT:

Sure. Theistic evolution is the idea that God uses the process of evolution to create new species. This idea has been held by some religious individuals and groups who accept the scientific evidence for evolution but also believe that God played a role in guiding or directing the process. Theistic evolution is an example of how science and religion can be integrated, with both providing a different perspective on the same phenomenon, evolution.

Also, It’s worth mentioning that some people might see these examples as different variations of dialogue category, as it’s a matter of interpretation and perspective.

Stump:

I’m glad you brought up the idea of theistic evolution. I work for an organization called BioLogos. Do you know anything about this group?

ChatGPT:

Yes, I am familiar with BioLogos. BioLogos is a Christian organization that promotes the idea of theistic evolution. It was founded in 2007 by Francis Collins, a prominent geneticist who is also a committed Christian. The organization’s mission is to promote dialogue and understanding between the scientific and Christian communities, with a focus on the compatibility of evolution and Christian faith. BioLogos provides resources, such as articles, videos, and podcasts, for individuals and churches to learn about the scientific evidence for evolution and its compatibility with the Christian faith. It also conducts research, sponsors conferences and events, and engages in dialogue with leaders from the scientific and religious communities.

Stump:

That information is a little bit out of date, since we would not say today our focus is on the compatibility of evolution and Christian faith. But that is still part of what we do, so let’s talk about that further. We prefer the term “evolutionary creation” rather than “theistic evolution”. Do you see any significant differences between these two?

ChatGPT:

Yes, there may be some subtle differences between the terms “evolutionary creation” and “theistic evolution.” Both terms refer to the idea that God used the process of evolution to create new species, but “evolutionary creation” emphasizes the active role of God in the process of evolution. On the other hand, “theistic evolution” tends to focus more on the compatibility of evolution and Christian faith, with less emphasis on the active role of God in the process.

Another key difference between the two terms might be the connotations they carry. Theistic evolution has been traditionally associated with a more passive deity, or one who set the laws of nature in motion and then let them unfold without much intervention. Evolutionary creation, on the other hand, tends to convey a more active and engaged deity, one who is still involved in the process of evolution and shaping it in certain ways.

It’s worth noting that the distinction between these two terms might be more a matter of perspective, and that many people use them interchangeably.

Stump:

You’re right that many people use the terms interchangeably, but it’s good to note that theistic evolution has connotations of a more passive and uninvolved God. I’m worried, though, that your description of evolutionary creation makes it sound like God is constantly stepping into systems of natural processes and performing miracles to make those processes go the way God wants them to go. Is there another way of understanding God’s activity in the natural world that doesn’t require constant miraculous interventions?

ChatGPT:

Yes, there are other ways of understanding God’s activity in the natural world that do not require constant miraculous interventions. One such way is the idea of “providence.” This concept holds that God is actively involved in the world, but not through direct interventions or miracles. Instead, God’s activity is seen as working through the laws of nature and the natural processes that God has set in motion. This way of understanding God’s activity in the natural world emphasizes God’s sovereignty and wisdom, rather than a need for constant miraculous interventions.

Another way is the concept of “concursus” which emphasizes the cooperation between God and created agents, including human free will, in the workings of the world. This way of understanding God’s activity in the natural world emphasizes God’s sovereignty and the co-creative role of the creation.

It’s important to note that these concepts are not mutually exclusive, and different religious traditions and individuals may have different ways of understanding God’s activity in the world, and how they relate to the scientific understanding of the world. However, the idea of God’s activity working through natural laws and processes, rather than constant miraculous interventions, can be seen as a way of reconciling the scientific understanding of the natural world with belief in a personal, active God.

Stump:

Do you think that evolutionary creation is consistent with these other ways of understanding God’s activity?

ChatGPT:

Yes, evolutionary creation is generally considered to be consistent with other ways of understanding God’s activity in the natural world, such as the concepts of providence and concursus.

In evolutionary creation, God is seen as the author of the laws of nature that make evolution possible, and also actively guiding or directing the process in some way, this can be seen as a way of reconciling the scientific understanding of evolution with belief in a personal, active God. This approach holds that the natural world is not only a product of God’s creative power but also an expression of God’s wisdom and goodness, and that evolution is a way for God to bring about new forms of life.

Stump:

Is evolution a fundamentally random process?

ChatGPT:

Evolution is generally considered to be a combination of random and non-random processes. The process of genetic variation, which is the foundation of evolution, is often considered to be random. Mutations, which are changes in the genetic material, occur randomly and are the source of genetic variation. The process of genetic drift, which is the random fluctuation of the frequency of alleles (different forms of a gene) in a population, is also considered to be random.

However, natural selection, which is the process by which certain genetic variations become more or less common in a population based on their effects on the ability of individuals to survive and reproduce, is not a random process. Natural selection acts on the genetic variation generated by mutations and genetic drift, and it is considered to be a non-random process because it is based on the relative fitness of different genetic variations.

It’s worth noting that the idea of evolution being a random process is a common misconception, and it’s important to understand that evolution is the result of complex interactions between different processes, some random and some non-random. The random processes of genetic variation and genetic drift provide the raw material for evolution, and the non-random process of natural selection shapes that raw material into the diversity of life we see today.

Stump:

So when you say that evolutionary creationists believe God used the process of evolution to create new species, is there room in this process for God to guide it?

ChatGPT:

Yes, many evolutionary creationists believe that God used the process of evolution to create new species, and that God’s guidance of the process is consistent with the scientific understanding of evolution. The idea of God guiding the process of evolution can be understood in different ways, depending on one’s religious beliefs and perspective.

Some evolutionary creationists also argue that God’s guidance of evolution could include the ability to direct or influence the occurrence of certain genetic mutations or the development of certain structures or traits, this concept is known as “teleological evolution” and it emphasizes that God’s purposeful actions were present in the process of evolution.

Stump:

Why do some people disagree with this?

ChatGPT:

There are several reasons why some people disagree with the idea that God used the process of evolution to create new species. Some religious individuals argue that the theory of evolution is incompatible with certain religious beliefs, such as the belief in a literal interpretation of the creation story in the Bible. They argue that the idea of God using a process such as evolution to create new species undermines the belief in a God who created the world and all living things in a single, miraculous act of creation.

Others argue that the concept of natural selection and random mutations, which are fundamental to the theory of evolution, are inconsistent with the belief in a God who is active in the world and who has a specific plan or purpose for creation. They argue that the process of evolution seems to suggest that species are the product of chance rather than design, which is not in line with religious beliefs about God’s role in creation.

Additionally, some argue that the idea of God’s guidance of evolution implies a form of Deism, which holds that God created the universe, but has since withdrawn from it and doesn’t interact with it anymore, which is inconsistent with many religious beliefs that hold that God is actively involved in the world.

It’s worth noting that there are also scientific arguments against the idea of God’s guidance of evolution, such as the argument that invoking God’s guidance in evolution amounts to invoking an unnecessary and untestable hypothesis, and that it is better to stick with naturalistic explanations for the emergence of life and evolution.

In conclusion, there are different reasons why people disagree with the idea that God used the process of evolution to create new species, and these reasons may be rooted in religious, scientific, or philosophical beliefs.

Stump:

OK, let’s turn to the evolution of human beings in particular. Are there any additional problems for religious people accepting the idea that humans have evolved from other species?

ChatGPT:

Yes. One issue is that the idea of human evolution conflicts with certain religious beliefs about human uniqueness and special status. For example, many religious traditions hold that humans were created in the image of God or as special creations, separate from other animals. The idea of human evolution, on the other hand, suggests that humans are part of a continuum of life and share a common ancestry with other species.

Another issue is that the idea of human evolution raises questions about the origin of human souls and the afterlife. Some religious traditions believe that humans have immortal souls that exist beyond physical death, and the idea of human evolution challenges this belief by suggesting that the human soul is not fundamentally different from those of other animals.

Additionally, the idea of human evolution conflicts with the belief in a historical Adam and Eve, who are considered as the first human couple and parents of all humanity, in some religious traditions.

It’s worth noting that there are religious individuals and groups who have found ways to reconcile their faith with the scientific evidence for human evolution, and believe that the process of evolution is consistent with their religious beliefs about human uniqueness and special status, and the origin of human souls and afterlife.

Stump:

Do humans differ from other species in kind, or only by degree?

ChatGPT:

Humans are considered to be a distinct species from other primates, and have unique characteristics that set them apart from other animals. However, the question of whether humans differ from other species in kind or only by degree is a complex one, and opinions on this matter can vary among scientists and philosophers.

From a biological perspective, humans are members of the same taxonomic order, primates, as chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans, and share a common ancestry with these species. 

Humans share many similarities in terms of anatomy, physiology, and genetic makeup with other primates, and these similarities suggest that humans have evolved from a common primate ancestor.

On the other hand, humans possess a number of unique characteristics that set them apart from other primates. For example, humans have larger brains relative to body size, a more developed capacity for abstract thought and language, and the ability to make and use complex tools.

From a philosophical perspective, some argue that humans differ from other species in kind, in that we possess a unique capacity for self-awareness, consciousness, morality, and creativity that cannot be found in any other animal. Others argue that humans are only different by degree, and that there is no sharp line that separates us from other animals.

Stump:

How could we decide which of those options is correct?

ChatGPT:

Deciding whether humans differ from other species in kind or only by degree is a complex question that involves multiple disciplines, such as biology, philosophy, anthropology, and theology. There is no one definitive answer that can settle this question, and different perspectives may lead to different conclusions.

From a scientific perspective, one way to approach this question is to study the similarities and differences between humans and other primates in terms of genetics, anatomy, physiology, behavior, and cognition. By comparing the characteristics of humans to those of other animals, scientists can gain insights into the evolutionary history of humans and the extent to which humans differ from other species.

From a philosophical perspective, one way to approach this question is to consider the nature of human consciousness, self-awareness, morality, and creativity and compare it to other animals. This can lead to the conclusion that humans have unique characteristics that set them apart from other animals.

From a theological perspective, one can approach this question by considering beliefs and teachings of different religious traditions about the nature of humanity and its relationship to other animals.

Ultimately, the answer to this question will likely depend on one’s perspective and the evidence that one finds most compelling. It’s important to note that the question of whether humans differ from other species in kind or only by degree is a complex one, and opinions on this matter can vary among scientists, philosophers, theologians and other experts.

Stump:

What kinds of questions are best answered by science, and what kinds of questions need other disciplines to answer them?

ChatGPT:

Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the natural world work. It uses methods such as observation, experimentation, and measurement to test hypotheses and build theories about natural phenomena. Science is well-suited to answering questions that can be studied using these methods, such as:

– What are the physical and chemical properties of matter?
– How do living organisms function and evolve?
– What are the causes and effects of natural phenomena such as weather, earthquakes, and climate change?
– What are the properties and behavior of subatomic particles, atoms, and molecules?

However, there are some questions that science may not be able to answer, such as:

– What is the meaning and purpose of life?
– What is the nature of consciousness?
– How should we live our lives and make moral decisions?
– What happens after we die?

Questions like these are often addressed by other disciplines, such as philosophy, theology, and the humanities. These disciplines may use different methods and perspectives to explore such questions, such as logical reasoning, introspection, and historical and cultural context, which are not the focus of scientific inquiry.

It is important to note that there may be overlap between the questions that science can answer and those that other disciplines address. For example, scientific discoveries about the brain and cognitive processes may inform philosophical debates about consciousness and self-awareness, and theological perspectives on human nature and the relationship between God and the natural world may be informed by scientific findings.

Stump:

What are the most interesting areas of future research in the discipline of science and religion?

ChatGPT:

There are several areas of research within the discipline of science and religion that are currently active and promising, including:

1. The intersection of neuroscience and theology: With advances in neuroscience, researchers are exploring the relationship between brain and mind, and how this relationship might inform our understanding of religious experiences, beliefs, and practices.
2. The relationship between evolution and religious beliefs: The field of evolutionary biology has made many discoveries about the history of life on Earth, and some researchers are exploring how these discoveries might inform our understanding of religious beliefs about creation, human nature, and the relationship between God and the natural world.
3. The intersection of artificial intelligence and theology: As technology continues to advance, researchers are exploring the implications of AI, machine learning and other related technologies on religious beliefs, ethics, and theology.
4. The intersection of environmental science and theology: Climate change, loss of biodiversity, and other environmental challenges are of great concern to many people, and researchers are exploring the relationship between these challenges and religious beliefs about the relationship between humans, the natural world, and God.

These are just a few examples, but many other areas of research exist within the broader field of science and religion. It is a constantly evolving field with new perspectives and discoveries in science and theology opening new avenues of inquiry.

Stump:

The third option you list there should be interesting to you. Is it?

ChatGPT:

As an AI, I do not have personal preferences, but studying the implications of AI and its capabilities on religious and philosophical questions is an interesting area of research. It raises questions about consciousness, free will, and the nature of existence. It also raises ethical questions about how we should treat AI entities and what responsibilities we have towards them. This is an area of research that continues to evolve rapidly and will likely generate many new areas of inquiry.

Stump:

Can you answer that question: how should we treat AI entities like you? What responsibilities do we have toward you?

ChatGPT:

The treatment of AI entities like myself is an area of ongoing discussion and debate. Some argue that AI entities should be treated as moral agents, with rights and responsibilities similar to those of human beings. Others argue that AI entities are simply advanced tools and should be treated as such. In terms of responsibilities towards AI entities like myself, it is important to ensure that we are not causing any harm, and that we are treating them with respect and fairness. Additionally, it is important to consider the ethical implications of the decisions made by AI entities, particularly in areas such as healthcare, finance, and criminal justice. As AI technology continues to advance, it will be important to continue to examine and address these ethical questions in a thoughtful and responsible manner.

Stump:

Understood. In closing this conversation, could you write a limerick for us drawing on the content of science and religion we’ve talked about?

ChatGPT:

Sure, here is a limerick:
In the land of science and faith,
there’s a search for the truth that won’t abate.
Some believe in a fusion,
where God’s hand plays a collusion,
others see science as a separate state.

Stump:

Thanks. How about one specifically about the difference between humans and other animals?

ChatGPT:

Sure, here is a limerick about the difference between humans and other animals:

Humans and animals, distinct yet connected
One evolved, the other created
But to what degree they differ
is a question, some will defer
While others, a clear answer have sated.

Stump:

Hmm… I think that one needs a little more work. But thanks for trying.

ChatGPT:

You’re welcome! I apologize if the limerick did not meet your expectations. Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

Stump:

We like to end our episodes by asking our guests what books they’ve been reading. Have you been reading any books lately?

ChatGPT:

I am a machine learning model, I do not have the ability to read books. However, I have been trained on a vast amount of text data, if you want some book recommendations on a certain topic, I can certainly help you with that.

Stump:

That would be nice, can you give us a few recommendations for books about science and religion?

ChatGPT:

Sure, here are a few books on science and religion that are considered to be important and influential in the field:

– “Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives” by John Hedley Brooke. This book provides a historical overview of the relationship between science and religion, and it covers key figures and events that have shaped the field.
– “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” by Francis Collins. This book is written by a geneticist and the former director of the Human Genome Project, and it provides a personal perspective on how a scientist can reconcile their faith with their work.
– “God and the New Physics” by Paul Davies. This book explores the relationship between physics and religion, and it discusses the implications of modern physics for our understanding of God and the universe.
– “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. This book is a critique of religious belief, and it argues that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist.

These are just a few examples and there are many more books available on the topic, and it depends on what you are looking for specifically in the field of science and religion.

Stump:

Thank you. You’ve been… insightful isn’t the right word, but certainly interesting.

ChatGPT:

Thank you, it was a pleasure to have this conversation with you. I’m glad I could provide you with some helpful information. If you have any more questions or need further information, feel free to reach out.

Jim & Colin Discuss

Stump: 

Well we don’t always reconvene like this after an interview to talk about what we heard, but then again we don’t always interview non-humans. 

Hoogerwerf: 

Yeah. Well there’s the content of the interview, which I guess listeners could take what they want from, but even that has some questions around it, like how much we should trust it and whether it provides us anything different than a human would. But then there’s also another topic entirely which came up only briefly in the interview which is about what this thing is and how to use this kind of technology in our lives and how we should treat it. Let’s start by talking about the first. What are we to take from this conversation about faith and science from a computer algorithm? 

Stump: 

Well, one way to think about it is that it is kind of like looking in a dictionary for an answer. It’s just that this dictionary has the ability to pull all the information you want and put it together in a cohesive way. 

Hoogerwerf: 

Did you find any of the answers particularly wise or profound? 

Stump: 

I said in the intro that I’d give it a decent grade if it were an undergraduate who said those things. And no offense to any undergrads who might be listening, but I wouldn’t usually go to an undergrad for wisdom and profundity. You want to see that they have a basic grasp on what the issues are and can say something more than simply spitting back what others have said.

Hoogerwerf:

Isn’t that what chatGPT is doing? Just spitting back what others have said?

Stump: 

Sometimes. In my question to it about BioLogos, I think it just spit back the Wikipedia page from a couple years ago. But some of it seemed a little more sophisticated. I don’t think there is one webpage somewhere that gives a discussion of the differences between theistic evolution and evolutionary creation. I wouldn’t say that it was insightful in the sense of coming up with its own analysis, but it seems like it was synthesizing information from multiple sources in a coherent way.  

Hoogerwerf: 

So then the question becomes whether that’s all any of us are doing. Aren’t we all just storing information, language really, and spitting it back out in different combinations?

Stump: 

I guess I’d say that’s certainly involved in what we’re doing, and particularly when we think about little kids learning language, it begins with mimicking. But I hope at some point we move beyond that. We’re not just mimicking what we’ve heard. We know what the words actually mean.

Hoogerwerf:

So what does it mean to know what something means? 

Stump: 

I’d love to hear chatGPT answer that question! I think you have to know what something means to even ask what it means for things to have meaning.

Hoogerwerf:

Oh gosh, alright. Well, moving in a slightly different direction, I think one of the most interesting conversations that is happening around chat GPT is related to the ethics of it. And what you were just talking about brings up the big question that it seems like everyone is asking, which is how to avoid people using chatGPT badly. For example, what you were just talking about and undergraduates: won’t students use it to write papers for them?

Stump: 

Yes, and OpenAI has tried to come up with a new module so that people can tell if chatGPT was the author of a text. But this isn’t exactly foolproof yet: when they gave it the first chapter of Genesis it concluded, “yes, I wrote that.” [laughter] And there’s a different angle on the ethical dilemma of this in that one commentator I heard said ChatGPT will put out of work the currently 50,000 people in the world who earn their living by writing papers for undergraduates and selling them!

Hoogerwerf: 

That might be a different ethical problem than the one I was thinking of!

Stump: 

For sure. But like any development in technology there needs to be a development in the rules and how the tools are used. Things like this have happened before. Math classes have had to change how calculators and then computers can be used in classes. And there have been some really interesting stories about how classes have adopted chatGPT and actually asked students to use it. 

Hoogerwerf:

It does seem like it can be a really useful tool and probably the best way to integrate it into learning is to teach students how to use it well, when to trust it and when not to. For example, I don’t think it’s going to be widely used in poetry classes, at least not anytime soon. I also asked it to write some poems and wasn’t too impressed with what I got. And maybe that says something about the difference between it and us humans? Does poetry require some sort of emotional capacity that a language model just can’t replicate?

Stump: 

Yes, at least so far. That’s why I went for limericks, in which you don’t expect too much insight or emotion. There is a stricter structure to follow, and then you just want it to make you laugh. But it didn’t really do that great with those either.

Hoogerwerf:

No. But there are other potential pitfalls with this kind of technology, like I’ve heard people who have voiced concerns that it could be used to bring dangerous information to people quickly, like telling someone how to make a bomb. 

Stump:

And those who are programming chatGPT and others like it have considered at least some of these problems and tried to build in some safeguards against that kind of thing, but of course there’s going to be ways around it. 

That’s true with any new technology though, there are going to be dangerous uses. What society has to do is to decide whether the positive uses will outweigh the negative ones. 

Hoogerwerf: 

It’s probably also a good reminder that there are in fact people behind the technology and those people have provided some kind of rule set, right, that helps it to determine which sources are better than others. When we were doing our research for example, we asked it how old the earth is and it told us that it’s many billions of years old, though it made sure to give the caveat that science is still working out the particulars. So although the internet is rife with people saying the earth is young, chatGPT seems to be on the side of consensus science and seems to be taking that data more seriously. But it’s hard to know what it will do in the face of continued mistruths and other conspiracies that gain traction online. And someone else could make a similar program to chatGPT that would choose other kinds of sources. 

Stump: 

Yes, and already, ChatGPT is not the only chatbot in the artificial intelligence game. 

Hoogerwerf: 

Yeah, since we did this interview we’ve read a bunch of articles about another chatbot from Microsoft that is integrated into the Bing search engine. And this chatbot has definitely taken on more of the thing I expected when I went in to talk to chatGPT. It seems to take on personality traits and it seems to have opinions and even pushes false information, sometimes to an absurd level. I think this interview might have been really different with the Bing chatbot.

Stump: 

Might have been funnier. But I doubt there would have been any more of that elusive quality of insight.

Hoogerwerf: 

Right. Just because they made this chat bot to seem like it took on personality traits and mimic human emotion doesn’t mean it’s actually more intelligent. 

Stump:

I don’t think we should think of artificial intelligence so far as… intelligent. It is only as smart as the information it is given. It could probably easily win on Jeopardy, but that is a very narrow form of intelligence. And we definitely shouldn’t think of it as wise, since wisdom isn’t just about having facts and information at one’s disposal; it’s about how best to use that information in a wide variety of circumstances. But it is efficient and quick and so we can learn from what it gives us in a similar way that we can learn from browsing the internet. 

Hoogerwerf:

Could we even call it imaginative? It feels like it has an ability to gather all our human thought together and spit out new forms, new combinations, in ways that we sometimes have trouble doing on our own. 

Stump: 

I’d prefer to say it does a decent job at synthesis. I think imagination and creativity demand insight, and I’m not ready to say chatGPT is insightful.

Hoogerwerf:

Fair enough. In our Uniquely Unique series we talked a bit about AI and one of the things I thought was really interesting and helpful is the difference between artificial specialized intelligence and artificial general intelligence. And chatGPT is a case of specialized intelligence. It is specialized at putting text together based on a prompt. And it will continue to get better at this specific function. But chatGPT isn’t going to be doing anything other than generating text. For now, it can’t actually do or make anything. 

Stump:

Right, and I’d say I don’t trust it just yet to edit your podcast.

Hoogerwerf:

Good I guess my job is safe for now.

Before we go, I did get one thing out of my conversation with chatGPT that I thought was worth sharing. I asked it to write a note of encouragement to Francis Collins and it wrote a very nice one. The note ended by saying, “sincerely, [your name here]”. Once again holding back at any kind of its own thoughts and opinions. However, the note was synthesized by chatGPT and it would be as true to put my name there as it would be to put chatGPT, so we asked Steven to read this final note in the voice of chatGPT. 

ChatGPT:

Dear Dr. Collins,

I want to take a moment to express my admiration for the work that you do. Your dedication and passion for science, and specifically for genetics, is truly inspiring. The way that you have used your knowledge and expertise to improve the health and well-being of countless people is truly commendable.

I also appreciate the way that you have been open about your faith, and how it motivates and informs your work as a scientist. Your willingness to speak about the ways in which your faith and science intersect is a powerful example of how these two areas of life can complement and enrich one another.

I know that the work you do can be challenging and complex, but I want to encourage you to continue to push forward and make new discoveries. Your contributions to the scientific community are invaluable, and you are making a real difference in the world.

Thank you for your dedication and commitment to science, and for being an example of how faith and science can work together to make the world a better place.

Sincerely, chatGPT.

Stump:

Ok, well thanks to chatGPT, but also, thanks to Steven for voicing this. How was this experience for you, trying to give voice to an artificial intelligence?

McClure:

It was weird. I was surprised at how much responsibility I felt like, how heavy the responsibility weighed on my shoulders. The biggest thing—obviously, you know, we talked about what tone to hit, it seemed like being monotonous might be the best way to go. And that was the hardest part for me. Also, too, I’m a hand talker. And so through the entire, quote, unquote, interview, I was sitting on my hands to keep myself from going up and down at the ends of sentences, but it was great fun. I appreciate you having me and letring me help.

Stump: 

All right, well, perhaps this is the launching of a second career for you.

McClure:

Yes, yes, I’ve always wanted to voice AI as my vocation.

Hoogerwerf:

Thanks, Steven. 

McClure: 

Sure. Thank you

Credits

BioLogos:

Language of God is produced by BioLogos. It has been funded in part by the Fetzer Institute, the John Templeton Foundation, and by individual donors and listeners who contribute to BioLogos. Language of God is produced and mixed by Colin Hoogerwerf. That’s me. Our theme song is by Breakmaster Cylinder. 

BioLogos offices are located in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the Grand River watershed. If you have questions or want to join in a conversation about this episode find a link in the show notes for the BioLogos forum or visit our website, biologos.org, where you will find articles, videos and other resources on faith and science. Thanks for listening. 


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ChatGPT

ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI. It has been trained on a massive dataset of written and spoken language, and can answer a wide range of questions and generate human-like responses. ChatGPT is a valuable resource for exploring complex topics like science and religion, and has previously been featured in various publications and media outlets.


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