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Author Topic: EP193: Article of Faith  (Read 18574 times)

ChiliFan

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Reply #25 on: April 14, 2009, 12:39:53 AM
Congratulations, Mike Resnick! I was really touched by this story!! I nearly cried near the end when the robot had written on the floor.

I'm a member of a liberal religious group where lots of traditional doctrines have been rejected. Even so, I don't think anyone in my congregation believes that animals or robots have souls. I must get round to telling them about this story because I think they'll like it.

 



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Reply #26 on: April 15, 2009, 03:27:52 PM
In traditional Hugo nominee style: I now require chopsticks stabbed into my eyes so I never have to read again.  Alas, it won't help, since this was the audio version.

Soooooooo tired of preachers who've never thought about the implications of their theology even once and are oh! so! shocked! when someone else parses it for them.  Because, really?  Thinking about this stuff is their job.  Most mainstream denomination Christian preachers have graduate degrees, some of them even have doctorates, including coursework which required extensive navel-gazing and ruminating on theology, not to mention basic homiletics classes. 

This is a caricature of a preacher, not a believable character. 

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Reply #27 on: April 15, 2009, 04:08:18 PM
And the fact that the pastor who seemed willing to try to be open minded while his entire congregation seemed so hell-bent on being close minded (choice of words intentional) seemed unlikely, too. A pastor is going to—generally speaking—reflect the attitude of his congregation, simply because if they don't like what he's saying, they'll either relieve him of his position or go to another church. This pastor didn't seem like the type that a lynch-mob-prone church would keep around.

This is something I hadn't thought of when I initially heard the story but from my experience is generally on the mark. A congregation like this would have a pastor that made Jerry Falwell look like the dude from One Punk Under God.


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Reply #28 on: April 15, 2009, 05:58:21 PM
Soooooooo tired of preachers who've never thought about the implications of their theology even once and are oh! so! shocked! when someone else parses it for them.  Because, really?  Thinking about this stuff is their job.  Most mainstream denomination Christian preachers have graduate degrees, some of them even have doctorates, including coursework which required extensive navel-gazing and ruminating on theology, not to mention basic homiletics classes. 

c.f. Peter 3:15

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Reply #29 on: April 15, 2009, 06:48:14 PM
Soooooooo tired of preachers who've never thought about the implications of their theology even once and are oh! so! shocked! when someone else parses it for them.  Because, really?  Thinking about this stuff is their job.  Most mainstream denomination Christian preachers have graduate degrees, some of them even have doctorates, including coursework which required extensive navel-gazing and ruminating on theology, not to mention basic homiletics classes. 

c.f. Peter 3:15

I Peter 3:15 or II Peter 3:15? Either way, I'm not making the connection...(not saying it's not there, just saying sometimes I need it spelled out)


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Reply #30 on: April 15, 2009, 08:56:09 PM
I Peter 3:15 or II Peter 3:15? Either way, I'm not making the connection...(not saying it's not there, just saying sometimes I need it spelled out)
Sorry, forgot that there were two Books of Peter.

1 Peter 3:15
Quote
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
IOW, have an understanding of your faith that you can explain to others, rather than just saying "I believe."  (I know of this passage primarily because Matt Dillahunty, the main host of The Atheist Experience, cites it as the bible passage that ironically led him to atheism.)

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Anarkey

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Reply #31 on: April 15, 2009, 10:00:26 PM
1 Peter 3:15
Quote
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
IOW, have an understanding of your faith that you can explain to others, rather than just saying "I believe."  (I know of this passage primarily because Matt Dillahunty, the main host of The Atheist Experience, cites it as the bible passage that ironically led him to atheism.)

And that's a directive for a general believer, not for one who considers himself the leader of a flock.  The onus on those who would instruct others is, naturally, much greater than on the rest of us. 

Although I feel like I should clarify that this peeve of mine is not limited to common depictions of incompetent preachers.  I'm tired of fiction that glorifies the newbie, the 'fresh eyes' of the inexpert.  It's anti-intellectual and disingenuous.  People who have genuine areas of expertise know more than you do.  Every person on this forum knows more than I do about something, probably several somethings, which they have spent time and energy learning.

You're not going to find the supernova that the astrophysicist missed the first time you look, or prove the Riemann hypothesis without years of math training, or discover a virus that the entire medical community was too over-educated to notice.    Likewise, unless the robot had consumed volumes of commentary by Barclay and read Bonhoeffer and Niebuhr and Spinoza along with the (presumably English, presumably King James) Bible, he knows and understands less about theology and the nature of God than the preacher. 

Training and practice and study have value.  There are no instant experts.

Now I'll need to decontaminate with some Nancy Kress, who always plays this subtext fairly.  Her experts are real experts, not characters sketched out in order to be brought low by the man on the street.  Or robot on the street.

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Reply #32 on: April 15, 2009, 10:08:31 PM
This is a caricature of a preacher, not a believable character. 

I just wanted to say "well-said." As well as your follow-up post directly preceding mine here.



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Reply #33 on: April 16, 2009, 06:05:04 PM
You know, what gets me outside of this story (other than a few people carping that of course the Bible makes no sense and of course any robot would realize this, you guys are as high-and-mighty as any fundamentalist preacher I've heard), is that Mr. Resnick seemed to overlook the fairly obvious point about robots being able to have free will. I think he touched on it a little bit with the robot showing up in church dressed as a human, but I thought the big thing was that throughout this story a strong case could be made for the robot simply following orders. It finds a new concept, deduces that this new concept is integral to the people in this establishment, and tries to learn all about it before going too far. The robot can't choose to be good or evil, it could pretty much do what it was programmed to. Like I said, I'll give points for the robot showing up in church unannounced, but that was simply a logical solution to a problem without thought of the social ramifications, which was in itself kind of unusual, seeing as how much thought it had given to the preacher's schedule and concern with doing a good job overall.



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Reply #34 on: April 17, 2009, 08:55:10 AM
The part I found most interesting about the story was that it reminded me yet again of the notion of the "uncanny valley", a term I had first heard of just a few months ago.

The robot didn't upset people much until it tried to pursue interests that the humans believe are exclusively the domain of humans. It wasn't so much its appearance, which failed to fool anybody.

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Reply #35 on: April 17, 2009, 12:12:00 PM
The part I found most interesting about the story was that it reminded me yet again of the notion of the "uncanny valley", a term I had first heard of just a few months ago.
Interesting article,thanks for the link.  Not to make light because the article is really quite intriguing, but I on the graph it has a mark for zombie - that make me guffaw - I wouldn't think the fact that zombie looks humanish is why people find them revolting, it's because they won't stop trying to eat my brains ;-)



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Reply #36 on: April 17, 2009, 03:35:41 PM
The part I found most interesting about the story was that it reminded me yet again of the notion of the "uncanny valley", a term I had first heard of just a few months ago.

The robot didn't upset people much until it tried to pursue interests that the humans believe are exclusively the domain of humans. It wasn't so much its appearance, which failed to fool anybody.

Plainish, speakling of Uncanny Valleys. Well worth the three minute listen!


Planish

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Reply #37 on: April 20, 2009, 03:14:32 AM
Plainish, speakling of Uncanny Valleys. Well worth the three minute listen!

Woah! I totally forgot that I had already heard that one. I must be having a senior year.

I wouldn't think the fact that zombie looks humanish is why people find them revolting, it's because they won't stop trying to eat my brains ;-)

Neither will a hungry tiger or a hyena, but still they maintain their charisma.

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Reply #38 on: May 16, 2009, 11:06:07 AM
This story had some ups and downs for me. A little too precious to be a favourite, but it was certainly notable. And although its theological complexity is toned down for a television audience (no offense intended to anyone, that's just reality of the format; we can all read Spinoza, but we can't expect more than Christianity for Dummies in a short story).

On the plus side, if you took robot and replaced it with any number of historically disadvantaged group, you would find the narrative would fit. From the preacher finding out that "hey, this [insert group name] can have a conversation with me" to "[insert group name] takes jobs away from people" and the dismemberment. Add to that the Robot name versus the name humans use.

On the down side, the robot scratching Luke 23:34 was a little over the top. But then again, maybe only because the passage is so familiar and goes straight to the big scene. On the other hand, as was said above, the robot acted a lot like a precocious child, rather than a scholar - and went straight for the big passages, rather than wading through Matthew or egads the Old Testament something.

Maybe I'm reading too much into the author's intention, but I rather think that it works for the robot not to raise specific questions about all of the internal inconsistencies of the Bible. (Plus, been there, done that; boring). We are to accept that this was, after all, a faithful robot. I do not think it was an oversight, but an intentional choice to indicate to the reader that this robot was different.

I did not find the preacher's reaction to refuse to let the robot sit in the congregation odd - only jarring. It revealed to the reader, and it seems also to the preacher, that there was a deep-rooted prejudice that he thought was obvious and beyond question. It was clear to me that he was angriest at himself, and the guilt flowed from that. I did not think that the preacher was surprised to find the robot engendered a crisis in his faith - as stated earlier religious leaders usually go through some extended training/introspection. But that doesn't make them immune to being shaken, or having doubts. Given the statement that before the robot came along, his sermons were difficult to write, it seems it was brewing for some time.

For me, being raised in a non-congregationalist tradition, the preacher having a debate with the congregation without any explicit signal that this was such a religion was a little disorientating. Was this unusual to have a debate? Plus I found it odd that the preacher marched down during the service, rather than finish up. Perhaps I would have had the robot pass during the service and be found-out by the preacher later.

Was it not very surprising to have the robot defy the preacher on so many occasions? Another signal?

How interesting that the hypothesis that the robot was damaged by a virus causing it to believe what it was told raised above. What does that make the congregation?

We certainly don't like uppity robots these days on EP: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2498.0



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Reply #39 on: May 17, 2009, 09:00:45 PM
We certainly don't like uppity robots these days on EP: http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?topic=2498.0

Interesting that both stories were written by Mike Resnick.



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Reply #40 on: May 18, 2009, 06:05:43 PM
I liked it. Yeah, it had big flaws in it (The new robot arrived and since the Preacher is the only human there, who signed for it? The old one? Could robots sign for their replacements? Why was he surprised about a new one? Wouldn't they be expensive and wouldn't he have to have a rather big hand in getting a new one? Why didn't the robot have any idea who he was working for? How did he know who is boss was if he didn't even have a name for his boss? Just go in and start taking orders from just anyone who comes on in?), which is the main reason I myself can never really write stories. Anyway, yeah, it was heavy-handed. It didn't go the exact way I assumed at first, but it did alright.



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Reply #41 on: May 31, 2009, 04:41:10 PM
I was caught off guard by this one. It got me thinking about where we draw the line for what has souls and what doesn't.
Whether the robot was sentient and free-willed, or was a convincing facsimile, I don't see the harm in giving it the benefit of the doubt. Who are we to judge what does and does not have a soul?

I see where previous posters are coming from when they say it's 'just another heavy-handed robot story', but lets face it, not all the fans of SF are as astute as we are.

1A. Okay, this is a third thing that I just thought of. Most churches could afford a human custodian much more than a robot.
I think that depends on how you look at 'afford'. Robots, and machines in general, have a high purchase price but much lower operating costs.
What throws me is that a parish so devastated by robotic labor would allow one in their church in the first place.

Quote
2. I expected the robot, when it realized that Stanley Kalinowski created it and God created Stanley Kalinowski, to follow the logic chain straight up and ask, just like most intelligent Sunday School students, "Then who created God?"
A great point.
Perhaps it was covered by the Reverend's answer that god created all things?

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Reply #42 on: June 01, 2009, 02:30:41 AM
This story reminded my of my people's (indian's) souls. At first we had no christian souls, and then when they wanted to convert us we did. I can see this going to the point that enough robots are intelligent they people attempt to convert them.

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Reply #43 on: June 01, 2009, 09:59:23 AM
This story reminded my of my people's (indian's) souls. At first we had no christian souls, and then when they wanted to convert us we did. I can see this going to the point that enough robots are intelligent they people attempt to convert them.

We'll know that's coming when we see advanced artificial intelligence on the curriculum at Oral Roberts University.



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Reply #44 on: June 13, 2009, 01:03:36 PM
-The story is set in a world where robots have been around long enough to be taken for granted, and yet this minister and this robot are the first ones to ever grapple with the question of whether or not robots have souls.  This seems to the the very first thing people would grapple with --especially professional theologians -- at the dawn of artificial intelligence.

-he is a Christian minister and never mentions Christ.  I found the theological discussions very simplistic, and he biblical references to be the ones that everyone already knows.  It feels like a poorly researched story.

-IMHO, the story is not trying to make me think.  It is trying to make me feel and telling me what I should be thinking.  Battlestar Galactica makes me think about robots and faith.  It raises questions without answering them.  This story raises the question "Do robots have souls?" and answers it with "Yeah, they do, end of discussion."  "Why?" "Because people are bigots.  Buh-bye." 

-Reagarding the outtro.  This is a pet peeve of mine, maybe Steve can clear it up.  If God exists then He is a thing that possesses some attributes and not others.  But we don't get to decide what those attributes are because it's what we want to believe.  To continue the Grand Canyon metaphor, if I've never seen the Grand Canyon and someone tells me that it is the biggest, most beautiful thing he's ever seen, I do not get to decide that it must be gold with black stripes because that's my idea of beauty.  And I do not get to decide that it's not dangerous because how could it be so beautiful if it can hurt people.  I can only wonder what it is until I see it.  Likewise we do not get to decide that God is a nice guy who accepts all people.  He may not be. 



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Reply #45 on: June 15, 2009, 06:58:19 AM
We haven't split a topic in quite a while, so I did it here.  Maybe it was a little early, but I want to see what comes of it.

The discussion on the nature of God's attitude has been moved here.



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Reply #46 on: February 16, 2010, 01:04:59 AM
Reminds me of Connie Willis' "Samaritan." Only with a robot instead of an orangutan.



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Reply #47 on: April 16, 2010, 04:54:34 PM
Most everything that I'd like to say has already been said. 

By Wakela in particular, pointing out that the minister never talks about Christ and the theological discussions are so simplistic that even a non-churchgoer like me knows them, and about the oddity of robots being a commonplace item yet the question of soul is a new one.  I don't think I agree with wakela's pet peeve, but since the theological discussion has been branched away I'll leave it at that for now.

For me the minister didn't come off as a real person.  At first he's excited at this robot's interest in scripture, and he teaches him what he knows, gives him a Bible and tells him it's the absolute truth.  Then he gets upset when the robot believes it's the absolute truth.  His stated reason for not allowing the robot in is that the parishioners are upset about robots stealing their jobs.  Why does he have a robot in the first place then?  His salary, and the funding to buy the robot, are funded by the parishioners generosity.  Did he ask them before buying it?  If I gave donations to a church, and the pastor knew that I was firmly against robot labor, then I would be very upset at the church if he bought a robot with that money.  I'd consider withholding my offerings for a while to make up for the money that he blew on his personal toy.  I'd also consider finding a new church.  If he was so sensitive to this, he could have just hired a member of the congregation to clean.  It sounded like a small church anyway, it shouldn't require a round the clock robot caretaker.

And the congregation's lynch mob was just over the top.  Where the hell did that come from?  Sure, people were upset, but that moved them to commit a crime which was at best vandalism of very valuable property, and at worst was assault and murder?  If they were people that were so prone to acts of organized violence would they have the patience to follow a preacher who condoned robot servants?