What is the characteristic that distinguishes man from a robot?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Man is not a robot

When viewed as something that consists of matter, the highest level that a human being can attain is a highly advanced robot. A robot that is a technological wonder can walk, perform certain chores very well, take orders, and see its vicinity mechanically. It can even laugh loudly with a mechanical sound but it cannot feel anything and cannot be aware of anything. Even if it is loaded with a library full of knowledge, it cannot know what it knows. For, even if it has a state-of-the-art processor, it cannot have conscience. It cannot suddenly get hit with ideas. It cannot love or get angry with other robots, and it cannot make plans to destroy the other robots. Such a robot cannot enjoy the beauty of a flower, and cannot desire to see new places. It can play the best music and even do the job of an orchestra, but it can never know the joy of listening to a beautiful sound. It cannot show compassion by embracing a smaller robot. It cannot get a taste of the energy or the fuel it is consuming. It cannot feel pity for another robot and attempt to help it. It cannot comprehend anything happening around itself; it cannot rejoice at good news and be sad at bad news. It cannot know what depression is. It cannot worry about getting old someday and being taken to a robot cemetery to be discarded. It cannot know what longing for immortality is. It cannot think about the past and be concerned about the future. It cannot daydream or dream at night. It cannot laugh at the funny acts of other robots. It can be loaded with a huge amount of information in a few minutes and can learn a foreign language in an instant, but it cannot enjoy learning new things, it cannot get amused, and it cannot make comments. It cannot generate new knowledge and it cannot take the initiative to try new things for which it is not programmed for. It can communicate with another robot, but it cannot carry a casual conversation which is an enjoyable exchange of warm feelings – even if it has the most advanced electronic processor.

That is, this wonderful robot cannot have any features that make humans what they are. This is because none of these traits originates from matter. All the differences between a human being and a robot equipped with all of the wondrous features of the human body are non-matter, that is, meaning. And the entirety of all these meanings that transcend through the body just like the penetration of light into the diamond is the spirit.

1998 Physics Nobel Winner Robert Laughlin expresses the meaning that penetrates into the body as follows:

“If a simple physical phenomenon can become effectively independent of the more fundamental laws from which it descends, so can we. I am carbon, but I need not have been. I have a meaning transcending the atoms from which I am made1

As Nursi states, the body subsists through the spirit and it is the spirit that gives the body a value. The spirit is non-matter and thus beyond space and time, and as such it is not subject to any of the restrictions that matter is subject to, like the physical laws. The starting point for the understanding of the true nature of man will be the stripping off the matter we are buried in, and turn our attention beyond matter.

1.Laughlin, R. B., A Different Universe – Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down, Basic Books, New York, 2005, p. xv.

Questions on Islam

Was this answer helpful?
In order to make a comment, please login or register