Neuroscientists have opened an ethical Pandora’s box by growing lumps of human brain in the lab, and in some cases transplanting the tissue into animals. The blobs of tissue are made from stem cells and, while they are only the size of a pea, some have developed spontaneous brain waves, similar to those seen in premature babies. But the work is controversial because it is unclear where it may cross the line into human experimentation.
Some would like funding agencies to freeze all research that aims to put human brain organoids into animals, along with other work where there is a reasonable chance of organoids becoming sentient. Some Frankiestien ideas come to mind. Could we build organic computers (on a biological circuit board) or have little brains that could become our slaves? After all, we have used beasts of burdens for millennia, so why all the uproar? – unless you believe these organoids are human, or an animal rights advocate.
Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Most would argue that both animals and humans are sentient – so would lab-grown brains. Genetically it has been said that monkeys and humans are only 96% different. But is there really something distinguishing the brains of humans from animals? Some believe the human brain is simply an enlarged monkey brain – having the same characteristics as humans, it is just a matter of degree.
This leaves News Forecasters to ask, would lab-grown brains have a soul? Furthermore, what is the soul or consciousness of a human, anyway? Defining consciousness is an elusive concept. Concerning the evolution of man, according to Richard Dawkins wrote, “The evolution of the capacity to simulate seems to have culminated in subjective consciousness. Why this should have happened is, to me, the most profound mystery facing modern biology.” In other words, we still don’t know for sure what is consciousness – i.e., a soul.
The bottom line is, scientists have no idea how consciousness emerges from the physical activity of the brain and we do not know whether consciousness can emerge from biological (lab-grown brains) or non-biological systems (computers). This issue is similar to arguments made on whether AI (artificial intelligence) or even evolution is real. Can these systems create? Create in the sense of bringing into existence via imaginative ability, and not from a set of pre-programmed functions that give the appearance of creative imagination.
For example, one could program a biological or electronic system that has a set of (even a large set) of predefined functions that could be called up via a random number generator to appear life-like. These functions can also be self-learning algorithms (with environmental input) and have many problem-solving capabilities. But this is a closed system and can not create beyond the window of possibilities of these predefined functions. This is also why News Forecasters questions whether actual AI exits – or even macroevolution evolution exists. Both may require the ability to create imaginatively – as suggested in metaphysics that may not come from the natural world.
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality. Many have gone before News Forecasters to ask these questions. We can’t say either way whether imagination comes from the natural world, but what News Forecasters can say is – neither can you. We simply don’t know. We could do the standard escape mechanism on this subject and assume if we don’t know – it must be a god.
News Forecasters takes the position that these lab-grown brains will not have this metaphysical capability and will be no more than a preprogrammed animal or a computer program. If we are wrong, it will go along way to disproving god and be a significant human discovery.
One danger we see on this issue is that science will try to jump the gun and try to make inadequately proven claims that they have built systems that are human. Just think of all the civil rights issues this would present. Science has a bias to disprove god. A god may imply the responsibility of purpose – something people will want to evade in order to do as they please for a social agenda – turning science into political science.
A video presentation of this subject: