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'BRAINS, MACHINES AND PERSONS' Paperback – Import, January 1, 1980


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 120 pages
  • Publisher: COLLINS, LONDON (1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002155257
  • ISBN-13: 978-0002155250
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,521,650 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gord Wilson VINE VOICE on April 19, 2006
Format: Paperback
Draw a circle symbolizing popular science readers, a somewhat limited audience. Draw another circle of readers interested in theology, perhaps an even smaller audience. The intersection of those two sets is decidedly limited. But it was not always so; in the optimistic, seemingly unbounded horizons of the '50s and '60s, when the brave new world held both menace and promise, the reading public voraciously devoured any speculation about the role and impact of science and technology on society, confident that the world of The Jetsons was just around the corner.

No one was more qualified to hold forth on this topic than Donald McKay, the British cyberneticist who wrote and spoke widely to audiences who found it endlessly fascinating. MIT Press collected his BBC wartime radio talks under the title, Information, Mechanism and Meaning. But the best distillation of his thought is in this simply, clearly written book based on his own research, and which missed its tiny target audience upon publication, and soon went out of print.

While this sort of book often presents theology to science readers, this one goes the other way 'round, drawing ideas from brain research, cybernetics, robotics and bionics and analyzing their impact on our view of Man. In MacKay's view, calling Man "just a machine" or "nothing but" a "naked ape" in no way negates the spiritual view; it's simply a matter of language (which he calls "nothing buttery" and at which level one looks at a given time. Our uniqueness, he concludes, consists not in our being made of some special material or possessing some physical organ, as Descartes maintained, called a "soul" (Descartes located it in the pineal gland), but in our capacity for relationships with other humans, the rest of creation and our Creator.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H. Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on May 15, 2013
Format: Paperback
Donald MacCrimmon MacKay (1922-1987) was a physicist and professor of communications at the University of Keele in England; he also wrote The Clockwork Image: A Christian Perspective on Science.

He wrote in the Prologue to this 1980 book, "Constantly... I find myself asked to hazard guesses as to where all this brain science is taking us, or how far computers may eventually go toward apeing the functions of the human mind... In particular... do you think that the credibility of any well-founded Christian doctrine is at stake? I must say that I do not think so. The view I shall be advocating in this book is that all that the fullest imaginable advance in brain research can do is to amplify, deepen, and add new dimensions to our wonder, our hope... and our responsibility." (Pg. 11-12)

He states, "Take for example the question ... as to whether the bulk of our brain capacity is 'never used.' ... we may well discover that no area of the brain can be damaged without measurable loss; but even if this were not the case, the example of a human community shows that we could not validly infer that the damaged part must previously have been idle. The brain's tolerance of local damage probably indicates only that information in most parts is processed on a 'distributive' basis." (Pg. 34)

About whether or not computers can think, he suggests, "I find it useful to go back to simple situations like those we have considered, and to ask whether it would make sense to describe my jar as 'thinking' when I pour in the liquid. It is obviously I who do the thinking, by reading the arithmetical significance of the physical outcome.
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