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Josh Swamidass on Artificial Intelligence at the University of Washington

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Josh Swamidass is the Washington University computational biologist and intelligent design critic who debated with biochemist Michael Behe last week at Texas A&M. Their exchange is now up on YouTube. Jonathan Witt reported on the contents here.

Dr. Swamidass then headed to Seattle where he spoke last night at the University of Washington on “Human Identity and the Meaning of Artificial Intelligence: A Conversation with a Secular Humanist and a Scientist Christian.” It was good to see Josh in the flesh. The sponsor, Veritas Forum, is a Christian group that says it “is committed to courageous conversations. We place the historic Christian faith in dialogue with other beliefs and invite participants from all backgrounds to pursue Truth together.”

A Forerunner of Intelligent Design

I have to admit the event was kind of dull compared with the Behe debate. But Josh gave a nice presentation with AI/consciousness basics about Alan Turing, John Searle’s Chinese Room, etc. The most interesting thing I heard was his passing mention of Alfred Wallace, co-founder with Charles Darwin of the theory of evolution by natural selection, and “Wallace’s Doubt” about whether human consciousness could have evolved in a Darwinian manner. Actually, this is a question on which Wallace broke with Darwin, becoming arguably a forerunner of ID.

For the discussion, Josh was then paired with a law professor who seemed to talk a lot without saying quite as much. To join in the “courageous conversation,” you could submit questions through a website. I asked, under my first name only, “Where do you think Alfred Russel Wallace’s doubt about the unguided evolution of human consciousness stands today? Sounds a bit like intelligent design.”

I didn’t stay till the end but when I left I counted 30 approved questions in the queue while a lone question languished, unapproved to be asked and still “Waiting for review.” Guess which one?

[I updated this post for clarity and because I may have been a little hard on the law professor. —DK]