Evangelical Leaders Release ‘Statement of Principles on Artificial Intelligence’

Image: Anne Kim / ERLC
Jason Thacker is creative director and associate research fellow at ERLC.

As artificial intelligence (AI) makes its way into social media and smart devices, markets and health care systems, military and public policy, evangelicals are raising big questions about its revolutionary potential.

With a landmark statement on AI—the most prominent consideration of the issue among American evangelicals—these leaders are putting moral and ethical concerns at the forefront as the emergent technology grows behind the scenes.

“We recognize that AI will allow us to achieve unprecedented possibilities, while acknowledging the potential risks posed by AI if used without wisdom and care,” state the authors of the new Evangelical Statement of Principles on Artificial Intelligence, unveiled today in Washington, DC. “We desire to equip the church to proactively engage the field of AI, rather than responding to these issues after they have already affected our communities.”

The statement was initially signed by about 65 leading evangelical voices, including Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) president J. D. Greear; pastors Matt Chandler and Ray Ortland; professors Wayne Grudem, Michael Horton, and Richard Mouw; as well as leaders of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), which released the document.

Experts in faith and AI have applauded their proactive efforts to address this area, calling it “a pioneering move” for the church, as secular and government spheres have recently struggled to confront technology’s ethical issues.

An AI ‘Turning Point’

“We need a common starting point on which to evaluate the weighty ethical decisions before us about how this technology will be develop and used,” said Jason Thacker, ERLC’s creative director and the author of a forthcoming book on AI and human dignity.

The statement, composed by experts in business, public policy, tech, ethics, and biblical theology, consists of 12 articles, each offering biblical affirmations and denials about human nature and various implications for the future of artificial intelligence.

The document emphasizes God’s power as the author of life and humans’ special role as image-bearers. It mostly focuses on conceptual and theoretical frameworks for using AI but also explicitly decries the use of AI for sexual pleasure as well as “manipulative and coercive” data collection.

Rooting its discussion in the worth, dignity, moral agency, and creativity of all persons, it goes on to “deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.”

The statement testifies to the possibilities of innovation for human flourishing and the lessening of suffering but denies that the use of AI is “morally neutral.”

Article 3 relates to the relationship between humanity and artificial intelligence. It affirms “the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making,” and denies “that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.”

Other articles speak to AI’s implications in areas like medicine, sexuality, work, and war.

In the shadow of ongoing debates over privacy on social media, Article 8 on data and privacy is particularly prescient, affirming that privacy and personal property are rights not to be violated by states or corporations.

The article goes on to deny the “manipulative and coercive” use of data. “We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate.”

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Source: Christianity Today