FACT CHECK: Do Terminators Even Have Souls?

Donald Trump raised eyebrows this morning when he went on a tangent about needing to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger, because his poor Apprentice ratings are falling and what have you. Naturally, many people shook their heads at the scene, and it’s become something of a sense of shame among people on the Right who still feel it.

However, it begs a much deeper philosophical and theological question: Do Terminators have souls you can even pray for?

I’ve done a bit of research on this, and draw from my own memory on the subject, and the research isn’t good for ol’ Ah-nold.

First, let’s look at the definition of “soul.” Since I was born and raised Catholic, let’s start with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The spiritual principle of human beings. The soul is the subject of human consciousness and freedom; soul and body together form one unique human nature. Each human soul is individual and immortal, immediately created by God. The soul does not die with the body, from which it is separated by death, and with which it will be reunited in the final resurrection…

The bolding above is mine for the purpose of pointing out the key details. First, according to the Church, having a soul is a uniquely human trait. However, a similar question on souls and non-humans was posed by the classic documentary All Dogs Go To Heaven, which appears to be at odds with the Church.

A dog did go was on its way to Heaven in that movie, but seemingly had to go through its own particular Purgatory before he could get there. While the Terminator movies do not go into such detail, there is a philosophical aspect to the idea of a soul that they do address.

In the first bolded phrase above, we see that consciousness and freedom are mentioned. It can be determined that, at the very least, T-800 models can develop both, as evidenced by those who defect to the side of the humans for self-preservation and moral reasons.

Via the fan wiki on T-800s:

Skynet sees these units as threats and has ordered that all other models to terminate them on sight. However, these units have developed a large database of in-field improvisation, improving upon their combat ability and self-repair function. It is not uncommon for a rogue T-800 to improve its physical design by replacing or improving components of itself from other disabled units as seen by a captured T-800 unit which showed multiple non-standard modifications, including crude armor plating, additional CPU’s, multiple limbs, serrated talons and internal multiphasic weaponry powered by its internal fuel cell. [citation needed]

Skynet has used such in-field modifications in its latest designs.[citation needed]

The “Rogue” T-800s have achieved this level of autonomy by having their CPU set to “read-and-write” shortly after factory production. The CPU can be manually switched (this ensures that the switch is not activated by a virus or programming glitch) from “read-only” to “read-and-write,” enabling it to learn from its contact with humans, and therefore allowing it to conceal itself more effectively. However, some units have reached a level of understanding where they could choose to accept commands from Skynet or even choose to fight against Skynet.

While this may not indicate a soul, per se, it does seem to suggest the formation of both consciousness and a sense of freedom.

The second bolded phrases deals with the idea that the soul does not die with the body. Modern technology is proof enough that transferring data from one computer to another keeps it from being lost. It is difficult to imagine that the same wouldn’t be possible for some Terminator models. Therefore, the consciousness wouldn’t “die” as we know it. Therefore, if we argued that the bolded phrases from the Catechism are requirements for having a soul, the Termintors meet two of the three:

  1. They are not human.
  2. They can know consciousness and freedom.
  3. They can carry on past their physical bodies.

Moreover, if All Dogs Go To Heaven is anything to go by, then the human requirement isn’t necessary. Because of the theological nature of prayers and the National Prayer Breakfast, however, I simply cannot determine whether or not there is a soul to pray for.

Overall, I give the claim that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a soul to pray for an Unverifiable, unless the Creator Himself reveals such to me.


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