William Hasker speaks at Sophia Forum

The Sophia Forum, an annual event put on by the Theology and Philosophy department, exists to promote Christian philosophy and honor those who have contributed to this cause. Dr. William Hasker, a distinguished scholar, professor emeritus and author of several books regarding the relationship between Christianity and philosophy fit the bill rather nicely.

“We try to pick professors who have made a significant impact on Christian philosophy, but also who will be interesting and engaging for the students,” Associate Professor and event coordinator David Woodruff said. “[Dr. Hasker] happens to be a personal friend of mine, and he definitely meets those standards.”

Hasker spent the greater part of an hour identifying and explaining the characteristics that separate computers (and robots) from humans.

“What about characters such as R2D2 and C3PO from Star Wars?” Hasker said. “Surely it is more difficult to say that these beloved characters are not people.”

He went on to clarify that even though many robots may display human characteristics, perform human activities, or even show some semblance of unique personality traits, the central processing units are still computers. Thus, even R2D2 and C3PO from the popular film saga Star Wars are not people, unless we are mistaken about the makeup of their central processing units.

People are able to understand the messages they send, whereas computers cannot, Hasker said. People have the ability to be smart, but computers have no such distinctions in level of intelligence. The presence of consciousness, thoughts and emotions adds another degree of separation between people and computers.

“This is a major issue because it causes students to think about the value of education,” Woodruff said. “We need to be able to ask ourselves, ‘Is that a pronouncement based on information I should become familiar with, or does it go beyond [the expert’s actual research].'”

Included among the audience were students visiting from APU’s High Sierra Campus, who are assigned to read Hasker’s book The Emergent Self as part of their semester’s coursework.

“[Hasker] touched on some of the points covered in his book, as a portion of the larger issue of ’emergent dualism,'” sophomore international business major and High Sierra student Will Levegood said. “I think [the lecture] is very informative for those who haven’t read the book, but it’s also nice for us who have read to go deeper [with Hasker]. We actually are going to have lunch with him tomorrow, so that’s pretty cool.”

Also in attendance were students who were simply interested in broadening their understanding of philosophy — not to mention the extra credit that goes along with it.

“Yeah, [the extra credit] helps. But still, events like these are nice because it helps us see the broad spectrum of philosophy, and it gives us experience outside the classroom,” junior liberal studies major Blake K. said.

Ultimately, it seems that the benefits of these lectures may far exceed a few extra points toward a given class. The lecture given on Thursday night, “How Christian Can Philosophy Be?” dealt specifically with the issue that every Christian philosophy student must wrestle with regarding how faith and academic discipline can be integrated. Questions like these are not just limited to students of philosophy though, as the many students in attendance who are studying other topics can attest to.

“When you look at the mind/body issue brought up by this topic it brings up some serious questions about how God’s created us and who to be,” Levegood said. “I think every Christian should hear this stuff and be familiar with these topics.”