2 August 2004
Inspired by the stories of Isaac Asimov (well-known atheist, evolutionist, and science fiction pioneer), I, Robot is yet another entertaining summer film enhanced with brilliant visual effects. According to 20th Century Fox, it features one of the ‘most realistic, emotionally complete, three-dimensional computer-generated imagery characters ever created on film.’
The year is 2035 and robots have become a part of everyday life. But with the possibility of computers and robots evolving a ‘consciousness’ of their own, is the convenience and luxury of this technology worth the risk to humanity? Looking beyond this engaging story and imagery, however, one finds interesting philosophical / theological themes.
Evolutionary materialism has indoctrinated our culture into thinking that consciousness is simply an illusion. Our brain, and consciousness along with it, is ultimately nothing more than a higher form of organized matter. In other words, man is really nothing more than a biological machine—complex, to be sure, but nonetheless pond scum shaped by blind natural forces.
Even the most hardened atheist like Asimov, however, would likely be compelled to admit—even if deep down—that there seems to be something more to what makes us ourselves. I.e., there must be a ‘ghost in the machine’, as it is often called. This theme, exploring what it means to be human, comes across often as techno-phobic Detective Spooner, played by Will Smith, confronts the robot Sonny—a machine, and yet seeming to be something more than a machine.
Speaking to Sonny, Spooner says, “You are a clever imitation of life … can a robot write a symphony … can a robot take a blank canvas and turn it into a masterpiece?” Sonny counters with a deft question, “Can you?” The point is that it’s not the degree of ability or functionality that determines humanness (some humans are unable to do things that maybe some robots can) but that indefinable ‘something’. We seem to be meant to ponder: does Sonny have it, or not?
The movie also highlights a general yearning in people for there to be something more, something beyond their physical existence, despite the implications of their evolutionary thinking. Just as the hideously deformed ‘Elephant Man’ in the movie of the same name cried out, ‘I am not an animal—I am a human being!’ Spooner seems to be screaming out at Sonny, ‘I am not just matter, not just biological circuitry, I am a real human being, you’re NOT!’ Sonny’s uncanny ‘humanness’ is meant to challenge Spooner’s assertions at every turn. At the same time, it serves to reinforce the evolutionary notion that if only we have enough complexity in the circuits, consciousness would emerge, along with feelings and everything else we see as human. If a machine can be so uncannily human, then people are just machines, and our ‘spark of humanity’ is an illusion. In reality, of course, Spooner’s instincts, in common with most of us, are ‘spot on’. We are more than just machines, even if evolutionary science is telling us otherwise.
In spite of the evolutionary overtones, the film also explores the relationship between a creature and its creator. In the movie, Sonny claims that he has been ‘created for a purpose’. Perhaps it is no coincidence that one of the lead characters is ‘Dr Calvin’—a ‘robo-psychologist’ working at US Robotics. Asimov, a passionate atheist, was known for incorporating Christian themes into his work. Toward the end of the movie we even see a messianic role for Sonny, who emerges as liberator of the ‘lesser’ robots.
I, Robot is rated PG-13, probably mostly for its intense stylized action and language, though there is brief partial nudity. There’s no doubt that this film is built on the basic assumption that there is no God and evolution is true. Even though it’s entertaining and the content rather tame, there is a clear agenda to ‘preach’ a message about the evolution of life—and that there is no personal God in the Christian sense. When generations of people watch such movies without a truly biblical worldview (that is founded in the Bible beginning in Genesis), slowly but surely their thinking is being secularized.
Not just this film, but the philosophy behind all of Asimov’s science fiction is based on a set of anti-God religious beliefs. In Gary Bates’ forthcoming new book, The Alien Invasion: UFOs and the Evolution Connection, he states, ‘Although he did not believe in creation, Asimov was a religious man and had the “faith to prove it,” as he proudly proclaimed:
‘I have faith and belief myself. I believe that the universe is comprehensible within the bounds of natural law and that the human brain can discover those natural laws and comprehend the universe. I believe that nothing beyond those natural laws is needed. I have no evidence for this. It is simply what I have faith in and what I believe.’1
1. Isaac Asimov, Counting the Eons, Grafton Books, London, p. 10, quoted in An Atheist Believes, February 12, 2003.