What exactly do we mean by the mind?

Given the ingenuity of machine-makers, said Descartes in the 17th century, machines might well be constructed that exactly resemble humans. There would always, however, be ‘a reliable test’ to distinguish them. ‘Even the stupidest man’ is equipped by reason to adapt to ‘all the contingencies of life’, while no machine could ever be made with enough pre-set ‘arrangements’ to be convincingly versatile. But suppose it could? In 1950 Alan Turing proposed a test remarkably similar to Descartes’s. A computer and a human are asked questions, each being invisible to the questioner, and their respective responses compared. If the computer’s can be mistaken for the human’s, displaying equivalent versatility and apparent

What does science say about souls?

Until the mid 19th Century, most of us believed that we had a soul. It was what separated us from the animals. This belief could be modified to accommodate slavery, Malthusian economics and to allow dogs into Heaven, but the principle was pretty stable. A hundred years later, thanks largely to Darwin, and innovations such as quantum mechanics and Auschwitz, such a view seemed childlike, romantic, or in the case of the Clergy, downright dogged. The ‘soul’ became just another invention of the under-informed, over-excited primitive imagination, like faeries, Valhalla and insidious whispering serpents. We have Science now. Yet ask a scientist to explain consciousness, the thing it feels like to be,