In Daniel Goleman’s excellent book Emotional Intelligence he writes about the last moments of Gary and Mary Jean Chauncey battling the swirling waters of the river into which the Amtrak train they were on had plummeted. With every bit of energy they had, both fought desperately to save the life of their young daughter Andrea, who had cerebral palsy and was bound to a wheelchair. Somehow they managed to push her out into the arms of rescuers, but sadly, they themselves drowned.
Some would like to explain such heroism as evolution’s imprint, that we humans behave this way by virtue of evolutionary design for the survival of our progeny. One is hard-pressed not to ask, “Why did the healthier preserve the weaker and not themselves?” But even the author was unable to explain it all in mere Darwinistic terms. He added that “only love” could explain such an act.
In another story, you may recall the chess victory of the computer “Deep Blue” over the world champion Gary Kasparov, which caused many to compare the similarities of machines and humans. Yale professor David Gelertner disagreed. He explained:
“The idea that Deep Blue has a mind is absurd. How can an object that wants nothing, fears nothing, enjoys nothing, needs nothing, and cares about nothing have a mind? It can win at chess, but not because it wants to. It isn’t happy when it wins or sad when it loses. What are its [post]-match plans if it beats Kasparov? Is it hoping to take Deep Pink out for a night on the town?”
Gelertner continues: “The gap between the human and the surrogate is permanent and will never be closed. Machines will continue to make life easier, healthier, richer, and more puzzling. And humans will continue to care, ultimately, about the same things they always have: about themselves, about one another, and many of them, about God.”(1)
Is this not a unique capacity God has put within us? The capacity to feel? From the selfless sacrifice of loving parents to our own personal thought lives, we recognize that this ability is one aspect of the insurmountable differences between humans and machines. In the words of the biblical writer, it is we—and not our computers I might add—who have been made “a little lower than the angels.” Life, feeling, and thought are God’s gifts to us. And where we follow God’s thoughts, we feel and act in highest measure.
Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.
(1) David Gelertner, “How Hard Is Chess?” Time Magazine, 19 May 1997.