The Brains We Are Building

It’s the most important job of each generation, and we get to do it twice.

We are building the brains that will replace us – those of our children but also those vast new mechanical brains that read and remember more than we can imagine.

The brains we build will believe us, at least for a while.

And that might be a problem. Take the recent experience of law professor Jonathan Turley. A recent article composed by the artificial intelligence (AI) tool, ChatGPT “reported on a claim of sexual harassment that was never made against me on a trip that never occurred while I was on a faculty where I never taught. ChapGPT relied on a cited Post article that was never written and quotes a statement that was never made.”

This is a helpful example because the facts can be easily verified. The AI brain lied.

Our Washington representatives have been discussing “the weaponization of Government,” which is indeed a disastrous thing. But, here, we meet something dramatically more disastrous – the weaponization of speech.

Speech is at the heart of human relationships. We speak to transmit. We listen to learn. The invisibly obvious assumption behind every conversation is that the words will be true.

A lie murders speech. It makes a weapon of the hearer’s good faith and uses it against her. It betrays trust and attacks the very possibility of human connection.

And our culture is full of lies.

The brains we build will believe us, at least for a while. The vast mechanical brains of AI will be as truthful as their programmers, and the lies they create will be bigger, faster, and more alluring. The brains of our children will be as discerning as our educational system, which distorts our history and can no longer tell a girl from a boy.

It’s the most important job of each generation, and we’re failing at it twice, in heartbreaking ways that may cripple future generations.

Let’s hope their precious brains don’t believe us for long.


“He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
-Jesus, describing Satan in John 8.

More about Professor Turley and AI:

The Lonely Voice

There is a collective chuckle from the crowd as he stands to speak, and, as they expect, he spouts the same old tripe. They exchange knowing glances and shake their heads, amused by his absurdity. For twenty years, this routine is repeated: His crazy insistence and their incredulous murmurs. But on February 23, 1807, there is another vote, and tears rush down his tired face. The slave trade has been abolished, and he has won.

Along the way, he has been mocked as a dwarf and a fraud. The King of England branded him a hypocrite. All for saying what, at some level, they all knew to be true.

I thought of this during the local Board of Education meeting the other night. There was, as the saying goes, an elephant in the room. Every seat was filled, more people stood along the walls, and still more watched from outside.

There was a buzz when the time came for public comment. Everyone knew the topic at hand. A few people rose to speak, and they all agreed. A loud clatter of applause followed every speech.

And then another name was called, and the room grew quiet. I heard a chuckle as she stood, and I noticed the grim look on her face as she began the long walk to the podium. She has taken this walk before, and it is always the same. Incredulous murmurs from the audience. Knowing looks and shaking heads. They all know what she will say, and she is quite alone.

Well, she said her piece, and it was a sad piece. The practice that grieves her, that has set her on that lonely walk through an angry room, over and over again, seemed to her audience a small thing, much as slavery once seemed a small thing.

So, how do we know a small thing from a big thing? How do we recognize the crazy insistence that might be telling an unwelcome truth?

We might begin by noticing the personal cost of that lonely walk, the remarkable courage required to stand alone and say what a roomful of people don’t want to hear.

We might also consider the question being asked – in this case, whether school libraries should provide sexually-explicit materials – and decide if the question deserves a hearing.

It is a strange fact that the audience is often louder than the speaker; we tend to hear as a group and respond as a group, with a clear sense of what the group will find acceptable. It takes courage to listen – to really listen – to hear the lonely voice above the offended audience and take a moment to consider what is being said.

I don’t know if Stefanie‘s question will get a hearing, but I hope our community will recognize the courage and sacrifice she demonstrates in continuing to ask it.

William Wilberforce led a long and determined campaign to eliminate slavery in England. For more information, see


“Vertigo,” said the well-dressed man at the podium, “is a myth.” He faced the camera and paused, raising his finger for emphasis. “For too long, we have clung to outdated ideas about air transport, marginalizing pilot experiences that fall outside the norm.”

I somehow remembered the President had picked a new FAA administrator.

“As this administration has broadened protections and rejected narrow prejudices in other sectors, we intend to do the same for aviation. We have received numerous complaints from pilots alleging criticism and even sanctions against those who, for deeply held personal reasons, cannot fly straight and level.”

“But, sir!” a reporter interrupted. “Isn’t that a requirement to be a good pilot?”

“Good?” the man almost sneered. “What could be good about exclusionary standards? Transhorizontalism is real, and we will not discriminate against members of this valuable community.”

“Well, uh, sure,” the reporter agreed, not wanting to appear intolerant. “But what about the passengers? Is inclusiveness more important than passengers?”

“Passengers must adjust their expectations of pilots to support the greater good.”

“But!…” the reporter sputtered, amazed. “But what about safety? Gravity doesn’t care about our feelings.”

“We will be introducing legislation next week to address that.”

“You think legislation will change gravity?”

“Well, it changed biology, didn’t it? For centuries, people thought there were only two genders. But look how far we’ve come! No, there are many different ideas about gravity, and who’s to say what’s right for everyone? It’s just one more social construct with suspicious ties to Western civilization.”

The reporter, eyes wide, opened his mouth to speak but was suddenly yanked back into the crowd by two burly men at his elbows, and the blare of a warning bell filled the room. Dazed, I considered for a moment the speaker’s soothing words, but the bell was my alarm clock, and I woke.


Image credit:…/flying-inverted/

Some Facts Do Care About Our Feelings

If there’s anything less interesting than a post defending morality, I can’t imagine what it might be.  Nonetheless, here goes… 

We’ve heard the statement, “facts don’t care about your feelings,” but I’d like to point out that morality is the one set of facts that really does care about your feelings. 

Some people question whether morals are facts at all and not just personal preferences.  Our frequent disagreements encourage that doubt, but let’s look a little deeper.   Two firemen may disagree about the best way to enter a burning building, but they both want to save the child trapped inside.  Our ethical arguments are often like that.  Most of us want to reduce suffering.  We agree about something very important, but disagree about how to get there.

Adding to the confusion, we tend to argue about buildings already on fire, and in that urgent, terrifying moment, who wants to talk about how to prevent fires?

So, our conversations about ethics often miss the point because we argue about the wrong things at the wrong time, and this is where morality can help.  Far from a set of dry rules, morality cares about our feelings.  It exists to increase our peace and reduce our pain.  It pleads for a society in which people do not prey upon one another or injure themselves.

Even so, we don’t hear much good about morality in our day.  It’s treated like a minority view, but throughout human history, in almost every place and time, morality has said the same thing*.  Don’t cheat or steal.  Tell the truth.  Respect your ancestors.  Protect the weak.  Treat others as you want to be treated.

Of course, we don’t really need to be told these things.  Something inside us confirms they are true, and we’re unhappy when this code is violated at our expense.  We know the code.  We respect the code.  Yet we have turned away from the code as a guide to our culture, and the consequences have made our nation less united, less kind, less happy, and less safe.

Perhaps it is too late to go back.  The fractures in America are hard and deep, and, to be frank, some people like it that way.  Anger is becoming the new religion, and it’s certainly easier than love.

But there are good reasons to go back.  The dazzling elegance of this world, our startling abilities to think and love and choose – these still shout that life is no accident.  Our shared belief that kindness is good and cruelty is evil only proves our knowledge that people are important.

Add to this the shocking fact that even morality’s detractors claim to be moral.  If, as Mr. Darwin proposed and conventional wisdom now assumes, our lives are a biological accident and not a divine creation, we should admire domination, not kindness.  We should aspire to deceit and not courage.  And yet, surprisingly, cannibalism is discouraged in polite society, though it perfectly reflects polite society’s view of human life.

It seems that humanity is doomed to recognize the difference between right and wrong.  This is a terrible inconvenience to jerks (like me) who would misuse their fellow man, but it simultaneously provides protections that make friendship, family, business, and a free society possible.

Morality may not be an exciting topic, but it is the one set of facts that really does care about our feelings, preventing excruciating fires that destroy lives and relationships. 

* See C. S. Lewis’ survey of the Tao in “The Abolition of Man.”  (

“Treat others just as you want to be treated.”  -Jesus (Luke 6:31)

“Do not murder.  Be faithful in marriage.  Do not steal.  Do not tell lies about others. Respect your father and mother.  And love others as much as you love yourself.”  -Jesus (Matthew 19:18)

The Quiet Light of Christmas

The Christmas tree stands quietly in the corner, its little lights pushing back the darkness, a silent memorial to a not-quite-silent night. The father was afraid, the mother in great pain, and the baby probably howled as babies do. They made sounds of distress and confusion, though we sing of comfort and joy.

This is the shock of Christmas, which remains a comfort and a scandal 2,000 years later.

It is shocking because, according to the story, this baby had a choice – to lay himself in Joseph’s hard hands, to plant himself the smallest seed in Mary’s womb, to burst frail and naked into a cold dark world.

Might God come gently? Allow himself to be overlooked and rejected because he so loves the world? Many hope not, for a loving God is still God, and no God is wanted here. They are done with Jesus as almighty Rome was done with Jesus. But Rome is long gone, and Jesus remains.

The light of Christmas is still pushing back the darkness, even here in America, where darkness grows. Even to us, a child is born, and to us, a son is given, calling across the ages that God is with us in our distress and confusion, that he came gently to offer us comfort and joy.

Perhaps we will welcome the Christ-child this year, amazed by the love and humility of God. Perhaps we will turn away. But this much is certain. When America has returned to dust as Rome returned to dust, Jesus will remain.