Mind and the Machine
by Matthew Dickerson

As the subtitle of this book suggests, The Mind and the Machine explores the question of what it means to be human by contrasting the implications of two different philosophies of the human mind. One popular philosophy is that the human mind is completely reducible to a biological brain, and thus humans are simply complex biochemical machines: robots controlled by computers. This secular materialist worldview has been presented and defended by well-known figures including biologist Richard Dawkins, philosophers Daniel Dennett and Bertrand Russell, psychologist B.F.Skinner, and engineer and futurist Raymond Kurzweil. The other philosophy, consistent with Judeo-Christian theism, is that humans are spiritual as well as physical beings, and that the spiritual and physical are both important to who we are, and are intimately related.


Dickerson argues persuasively, but also respectfully and artistically, against the materialist’s reduction of humans to mere machines. Though our bodies are certainly important, we are more than mere biological computers; we are moral and spiritual beings as well. On the other side, however, Dickerson simultaneously warns against Gnosticism and certain reductionist forms of dualism that affirm the spiritual reality but deny the significance of the physical body, viewing the spiritual-physical relationship in terms of a ghost in a machine. He provides instead a rich alternative, sometimes known as “integrative dualism” that affirms both body and spirit.


Though the book explores profound questions thoughtfully and with appropriate philosophical rigor, it does so in an accessible and engaging way, avoiding where possible the technical jargon of philosophy. Dickerson draws heavily on metaphor, art, and literature in his approach.  One particularly important part of the book is his exploration of how the materialist reduction of the human to a machine devalues art and creativity on the one hand, and reason and ecology on the other. The book then presents a strong case that a theistic worldview of humans as spiritual as well as bodily beings provides a strong foundation for a very high view of creative art, as well as a high view of the validity of reason, and the importance of creation care.


Philosopher J.P.Moreland, author of The Recalcitrant Imago Dei (and many other books) has written, “Dickerson deftly evaluates cutting-edge cultural implications of physicalist treatments of human persons. Refreshingly, he presents a specific dualist alternative and underscores the important entailments of that alternative. A wonderful book.” Peter Kreeft adds, “This book is clearer, fairer, more helpful, and more reliable than 99 out of 100 others on the subject. Its author knows both halves of his book’s title very well.”