For those wishing to read to the end of Mortimer Adler's book (previously discussed here), his main theme is that the power of conceptual human thought is unduplicated anywhere else in the Universe. "It is the immaterial component in his constitution that makes him a person, requires his special creation, gives him the hope of immortality, and endows him with freedom of choice" (p. 287). Neither computers, "intelligent" animals such as chimpanzees or dolphins, or "instinctual" ways of communicating like the honeybee dances possess these characteristics. If, in the future, an intelligent computer is created that possesses full human intelligence, according to Adler, these four dogmas of Catholicism would be hard to maintain:
1. The dogma of man's personality; that man and man alone is made in the image of God, and has this special character among all terrestrial creatures by virtue of his having a spiritual aspect, or a non-material component in his nature.
2. The dogma of man's special creation: that the origin of the human race as a whole, and the coming to be of each human individual, cannot be adequately accounted for by the operation of purely natural causes that are operative in biological processes of reproduction or procreation, but requires the intervention of divine causality.
3. The dogma of individual immortality or of a life hereafter for the individual human person: that the human soul, unlike the souls of other living things, is capable of subsisting apart from the body, even though for the perfection of human life, it needs to be re-united with the body that God resurrects from the ashes of this earthly life.
4. The dogma of free will and moral responsibility: that man is morally responsible for his compliance with or transgression of God's will by virtue of his having the power of free choice between good and evil, between loving God or turning away from him.
I originally read Adler's book many years ago. It even prompted me to become interested in computer intelligence and to write a thesis, "Transformational Grammar and Computer Models of Intelligence" when I was at DePaul. When the Catechism was published in the early 1990s, I was not surprised to see that the ideas in Adler's summary above were central to the architecture of the catechism itself. That's why I thought it important to bring this book to the attention of America's readers; it represents an achievement in connecting Catholic thought with over 2,000 years of philosophy and science, and suggests to us a possible challenge in the future.
William Van Ornum