Brain, science and Christianity. Very important

On the face of it there doesn’t seem to be any issue with saying that mental activity most especially involves the brain.

It would be interesting to see what you think of how Jonathon Haidt deals with these questions in The Righteous Mind, a book I first heard of here. Of course good and evil exist but how do we envision them? I do not imagine evil as the evil eye of Sauron floating over Mordor nor do I think it is the sole property of one fallen angel. But I recognize situations and actions I would call evil and I think you’ll find there is wide spread agreement on what counts as one or the other.

I completely agree that the postumous experiences people claim to have had are mostly rubbish. That doesn’t mean that there can be no life after death, but I don’t see how anyone alive can possibly distinguish between a fantasy, dream or hallucination of such an experience and the real deal. As for the “supernatural” category, I suspect it is a place holder for phenomena people just don’t know what to make of; I wish it was not used as an explanation. To say something is supernatural in origin is just to say one doesn’t have the first clue about it. Nothing wrong with not knowing, but assigning something to the supernatural category for some seems to count as a proper explanation.

I don’t believe religion has anything specific enough to say about the nature of the soul to permit science to rule it out or in. I am agnostic but atheist in regard to a God understood as an entity outside ourselves which creates the entire cosmos and banishes death at will. Still I would say I have or am a soul. Sometimes it seems that rationally I am in charge of everything that is not my soul - including whether to allow that I have one at all. In my capacity as a rational being I do have free will. But I am not in charge of my soul and am not free to fashion my soul in any manner I choose. Rationally I can study the literature on what brings fulfillment but then it is my soul which will agree or disagree with what I read. My soul is the faculty by which I recognize what I need and most long for. Obviously I am not free rationally -nor by any other method- to decide what will fulfill that longing. That would be like my eyes being free to decide to start processing sound waves instead of light.

3 Likes

Great topic and great answer by Daniel.
Scientific determinism is dead as evidenced by quantum physics. This indicates that observation by non-local consciousness seems to be the key to reality although many scientists try to refute this concept. Darwin went beyond the facts to theorize that we were created out of matter. The evidence does not prove this nor can it.
Yes there is the brain/mind problem and scientists cannot explain consciousness.
Now back to the concept of where morality comes from, C.S. Lewis tackles this pretty well in his book Mere Christianity. He argues quite soundly that this is not a learned trait from animals or even society, but imbedded into us by our creator God.
I myself in my search for truth did not accept that morality was imbedded, but rather learned as mankind evolved as a society. I wish I had read C.S. Lewis back then.
My key turning point to Christianity came when I realized that science without a premise for the existence of an eternal consciousness was bankrupt in its explanation of our existence. Indeed it seemed to me that quantum physics demands this. This and the fact that scientific evidence seems to put the odds at accidental creation or us by matter to mind, to be extremely long, I had to relent to the truth that it is indeed God after all and the Trinity of God really works in this premise.
In summary, two big things point to God which no one can refute:

  1. The moral code imbedded in man, as its existence seems irrational if there were no God.
  2. The wonder of the universe itself and us in it and how it is becoming more and more implausible that it could happen without a creator.

In my last comment, I just want to say that belief in God is something which has to be thought out deeply. C.S. Lewis was an atheist who turned to God by continuing to search for truth. So I actually admire those who are atheists or agnostics but claim to be this as they search for truth. What is much more troublesome is someone who has discovered the truth about God and Jesus and turned their back to it in preference for their own selfish ways, and worse if they try to turn others away also. This is satanic, and the real source of evil in the world.

I don’t know about you, but I was created out of matter. Have you been taught abou the “birds and the bees”?

1,000 years ago no one had a naturalistic explanation for lightning. That didn’t make it supernatural.

What is that sound argument?

Why does quantum physics demand that there be an eternal consciousness?

Who is saying that humans are an accidental creation? We evolved. We didn’t appear by accident.

Why would morality be irrational if there was no God?

Why is the universe implausible without a creator?

Are you evil and satanic for turning your back on the Koran?

1 Like

Ah! You would be referring to conception. Hello Mr. Zygote.

I don’t see Neal talking about naturalistic and supernatural explanations, so you seem to be forcing this into your own personal canned framework of theist-atheist dialog. Don’t get me wrong. It is not that I agree with his non-local consciousness idea. A prop for dualism is putting a more heavy load on quantum physics than it should have to bear. And yet there is some truth being pointed out here outside the framework you are forcing it into (not completely without justification), for it is true that quantum physics is pointing to a lack of causal closure in the scientific worldview. This is not just a matter of science hasn’t explained it yet but that science has CONCLUDED that there are no hidden variables. The most you can say is that it is quite possible that there is no explanation and that some things are just completely random.

It is a slightly better version of the moral argument. To say that it is objectively sound would be greatly overstating things. To sum it up, Lewis is basically making the subjective argument that its hard for him to see a justification for morality in natural laws governing matter. But objectively this can be answered by an argument for emergent properties and the evolution of community with cooperation being one of the more successful survival strategies. I would suggest that you point out the difference made by the modern atheist approach of naturalism which doesn’t confine its explanations to the limitations of materialism trying to get everything from the reductionist approach.

It doesn’t do any such thing, of course!

Yes, the emergent phenomenon of self-organization is a more promising explanation than mechanistic materialism.

Now here Neal has certainly gone too far and used Lewis’ argument as an excuse to go back to the old morality argument relying on authoritarian morality – the moral poverty of which is atrocious.

The proper counter is that a healthy morality attributes the distinction between right and wrong to reasons rather than arbitrary dictation. On the theist side that means God commands things because they are good and not that things are good because God commands them. But if the reasons exist then that is sufficient for morality all by themselves with no deity required.

Would it be the same way that the audience of a magic show finds what is happening to be implausible without knowing all the things the magician is doing “behind the curtain?” That is at least a reasonable challenge. In the end all that left to Neal is a subjective judgement on his part.

You forgot selfish.

Are you being selfish T? LOL

You have to admit that Neal is making a distinction between the rejection of religion for sake of truth and the rejection of religion-morality-goodness for the sake of self-interest alone. We can very much support the distinction with the added observation that many have chosen atheism for the reason of morality, though I know a lot of the things Neal has said makes it very much sound like he is saying that theism is the only moral choice.

Wouldn’t this apply to all matter and energy, including things we don’t think are conscious?

The biggest difference would be a subjective morality versus the objective morality touted by the Moral argument and many theists. Our morality is based on the subjective emotions and needs of humans. That is the only morality that really works. If a deity commands us to go against this subjective morality then we deem the commands of that deity to be immoral. We are the ones who judge the morality of commands made in scriptures and religious tenets.

I think we agree on that point. Obedience is not morality.

I would put it in the “God of the Gaps” category.

That has the additional problem of judging a person’s character without even knowing them. It is usually better to assume people are being honest and doing the best they can.

1 Like

As are we all. The fact that there is a who-we-are question doesn’t nullify the what-we-are question. Sure we are molecules but also cells but also persons. So we aren’t just the determined playing out of atoms or even the undetermined playing out of sub-atomic particles. If we try to examine ourselves solely with objective lenses that will miss the quality of our subjective experience, and when we think about what is most distinctive about us that would be a big loss. At every objective level all we can find out is more about the manner in which our subjective experience is supported in the world. That’s fascinating in its own right, but isn’t the whole picture.

1 Like

As are we all. The fact that there is a who-we-are question doesn’t nullify the what-we-are question. Sure we are molecules but also cells but also persons. So we aren’t just the determined playing out of atoms or even the undetermined playing out of sub-atomic particles. When we answer the what are we question many of us look to what we think is most distinctive about us.

Edited to add: Getting back to the original post, here is a video I just came across on a Facebook site. @Altair, I wonder if there is anything said here which gives you hope or does it all seem corrosive to faith? @T_aquaticus, had you watched this video before? Interesting distinction he makes about how evolution has evolved the perceptual world we have because it was advantageous for survival and recreation, but it doesn’t mean what we see is what there is. He also says we are obliged to take the interface we are presented seriously, but we aren’t entitled to take it literally.

I am all for the subjective human experience. This is partly why I think morality is subjective. Where I think we can get tripped up is when we think our subjective view of the world is objective, or when we think that there isn’t truth (in a philosophical sense) in our subjectivity. I believe my mom is the most wonderful mother in the world. I believe baseball is a great way to spend 3 hours of your life. I believe deserts can be just as beautiful as any other natural landscape. Are any of these objectively true? No. Does it matter? No.

I often get the sense that making peace with subjectivity is a hurdle for some people. I will have to check out the video you linked to when I get a chance.

4 Likes

It doesn’t actually apply to everything. It has to be complex enough for the nonlinear equations to selectively amplify quantum fluctuations to a visible level in a butterfly effect. But yes, despite what Neal would probably claim, consciousness has nothing whatsoever to do with quantum physics.

Since he made the statement that scientists cannot explain consciousness, your label fits in that case. But when it comes to his claim that the universe is implausible without a creator, I have to wonder if this isn’t more about his own lack of scientific understanding than what science hasn’t discovered yet. All in all, the word “implausible” is simply too subjective to treat his statement objectively.

YES! People do seem to have a hard time accepting that some things are subjective and/or understanding the difference from what is objective.

I take issue with their claim that divine command makes anything objective or absolute. We are the ones who judge whether something is a divine command and this obviously varies from one religion to another. Thus it is still the product of subjective judgement and relative to the religion. The only thing that can give an absolute character are reasons why something is better and the only thing to make this objective is a demonstration by procedures which give the same result no matter what you want or believe.

Bringing this back full circle, I also don’t see a conflict between subjective morality and Christian theology. It is entirely possible that God could meet his creation on its level and devise a morality that fits the subjective emotions and needs of that creation. The Moral Argument may have hardened some attitudes towards these ideas because an objective morality has suddenly become this great piece of evidence for God when it doesn’t need to be. Our moral sense could be evolved, and it could be compatible with Christianity, as far as I can see. It seems that some are willing to die on a hill they don’t need to die on.

1 Like

Regarding being created out of matter, I used improper English. Should have said being created from matter, or upward causation from matter to mind. Darwin cannot prove this.

Regarding consciousness being supernatural, really I don’t claim this. What seems supernatural to us is merely natural to a God consciousness that can create the universe. I don’t like the term supernatural for that reason.

The moral law argument for God is supported by several observations. All civilizations throughout the ages have it. All people seem to know when someone is doing the right thing or not, but unfortunately we don’t see it as well in ourselves. Some suggest this is herd instinct like animals have but a desire to help others when you get nothing out of it goes beyond this instinct. The first 3 chapters of Mere Christianity explains it a lot more elaborately than I can in this short note.

Regarding Quantum Physics and an eternal consciousness - if observation of a conscious mind is required to observe particles, who observed the universe during creation? Again this I admit is a debatable point, but I skimmed a recent paper that suggested that some scientists now theorize that the presence of consciousness now caused this observance going back to the big bang! I believe the Christian view as more plausible.

If there was no God, there is no imbedded moral code of truth. Darwin would be right, survival of the fittest, kill or be killed.

Finally I don’t believe the Koran, and by the way if you blaspheme Mohamed you will be subject to death. Jesus, real Christians and myself included do not propose to judge anyone who believes in God but does not follow him. That is left up to God not me, as I do not know what is in a person’s heart. A Christian knows Satan exists and he does not want you to follow Jesus way to eternal life in heaven. This is what it is all about, and is our total purpose. Evil tries to keep us from going there.

The above was meant to be a reply to T_aquaticus. I am going to have to learn how to divide up my responses by paragraph. Sorry.

To some extent, a scientist examining the brain and concluding the things you observe is a bit like a scientist examining a copy of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and concluding that it is “nothing more” than various collection of organic molecules, composing various conglomeration if paper and ink… that it is “really” all material.

Or a scientist might examine da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” with all manner of x-rays, chemical analysis, spectroscopy, and similarly determine that the Mona Lisa is “really” all just matter and material.

But we know that there is indeed much that is very real about Hamlet and Mina Lisa that is indeed “immaterial.”

So yes, of course… protons, electrons, DNA, ribosomes, cells, neurons, dendrites, and the like are indeed the “canvas” by which God has composed the work of art that are our very souls. Our ability to communicate, to know and be known, to be a person and know and love other persons, to truly and deeply love, to laugh, to know justice, to experience mercy and forgiveness, to delight in children, to strive for honor… all these things, while immaterial, are nonetheless just as “real” as the true and real drama we find in a copy of Hamlet or the real and true beauty we see in Mona Lisa. these things are indeed quite real, even if immaterial… and thus not measurable by scientific methods, which by definition can only measure that which is material.

1 Like

You seem to be confusing Darwin with someone else. Darwin’s thesis was only about the origin of the species. And science is not about proof. It is about what is reasonable to believe given the evidence. The evidence is certainly sufficient to make it only reasonable to believe that the diversity of species came about by evolution. Darwin’s work has never been about either the nature or origin of the human mind.

Psychologists study the mind but their methods provide no means to investigate its origins. Neurobiologists study the brain and look for an explanation of consciousness. Evolutionary psychologists can investigate many things with profound impacts on the human mind which have an evolutionary origin. I am not so sure that scientists have quite defined the connection between the brain and mind, but all of the evidence refutes dualism and the idea that the mind has any existence apart from what is going on in the brain.

Have what? A singular notion of what is right and wrong. That is incorrect! Numerous groups around the world had no notion of private property and a few saw nothing wrong with cannibalism and the abuse of women and children. So what is it you are imagining is universal?

And if there are similarities in the majority of groups, how does is point to anything other than the reasons why some things simply work better for successful communities that can compete more effectively with neighboring communities?

And yet all this really proves is that C. S. Lewis was not a biologist. Herd animals are fairly primitive examples of social animals.

When physicists talk of observation they are talking about measuring devices not conscious beings and it is demonstrable that the presence of conscious beings have no impact on the behavior of the particles in quantum physics. And there is nothing debatable about this. It is demonstrable scientific fact.

There is no evidence of any imbedded moral code. Quite the contrary. There is certainly no evidence of anything other than living organisms learning what works best when employing the survival strategy of cooperation in communal organization.

The phrase “survival of the fittest” came from Herbert Spencer and Alfred Russel Wallace not Charles Darwin. Darwin was right about the origin of the species. Spencer and Wallace was not right about survival of the fittest because cooperation and community has proven to be the most successful survival strategy. Regardless Darwin simply began the work on the scientific theory evolution and this treatment of Him as some kind of philosopher or founder of a religion is just despicable rhetoric.

Exactly! I guess that just means you are indulging in the selfish evil rebellion against Allah!

A Christian knows you are right about everything… eh?

There is no mention of Satan in the Nicean Creed so that is not a part of the definition of Christianity. There is no requirement that a Christian believe in the devil as well as Jesus.

Personally, I credit existence of such a being described by the Bible, but I see no need to believe in any power of the devil – quite the contrary.

Too late! Already wrote my response. Did think you should be responding to T_aquaticus and wondered why you were addressing me. oh well…

This is an all-too common misunderstanding of the moral law argument as popularized by Lewis… it requires nothing of identical or universal particular moral tenets. Rather that the very concept itself of morality and many general principles therein was itself universal. Lewis was rather clear in this point…

I know that some people say the idea of a Law of Nature or decent behaviour known to all men is unsound, because different civilisations and different ages have had quite different moralities. But this is not true. There have been differences between their moralities, but these have never amounted to anything like a total difference… Men have differed as regards what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or every one. But they have always agreed that you ought not to put yourself first. Selfishness has never been admired. Men have differed as to whether you should have one wife or four. But they have always agreed that you must not simply have any woman you liked.

On Darwin, I was trying to suggest that the beginning of life cannot be proven by Darwinism. I agree with you that diversity of species is caused by evolution, the origin of species and of life is another question that Darwinism cannot prove but merely theorizes - as Christians theorize this came from a creator God who (me speaking now) perhaps used principles of quantum physics to assemble and organize particles to form species like man.

On the moral code, within civilizations there is a universal consent to a natural law of kindness to others, (ancient Egypt, Hindu, Babylonian, ancient Chinese, Roman, Norse, Greek, ancient Indian). Christianity is not the origin of this moral code. The mere fact that you deem cannibalism and abuse of children as evil means you too have this same moral sense of what is right and wrong. Daniel_Fisher has done a better job of explaining this than I am doing here.

Regarding observation and whether an instrument counts as such, an instrument requires a conscious mind to see the result or the observation remains in the quantum state of uncertainty. Furthermore, if you consider this further, what if I read the instrument, but then before telling anyone else about it I died, while I deleted the result. Then what happens and so forth. What this is leading to is that the mysteriousness of quantum physics actually suggests the need for a non-local consciousness to be the so-called observer of the universe. This also suggest that this observer is active in the universe. Right in line with the principles of Christianity and a very personal God.

On Satan, Jesus was very clear that Satan is real in numerous passages in the bible. If you are a Christian you have to believe in Satan even if it is not specifically mentioned in the Nicene Creed.

Being that Darwin has been dead for 130 years this isn’t surprising. I don’t think Darwin ever tried to prove Monism over Dualism.

So why can’t our consciousness be a direct product of our physical brains?

Why would this require an objective morality that exists outside of humans? If genetics controls the development of our brain, and morals are a product of those brains, then it only makes sense that morality is similar across cultures given the genetic similarity between humans.

You would first need to show that quantum events require a consciousness to observe them.

That would be the Naturalistic fallacy. Just because something is natural does not mean it is morally good. We decide what is moral based on our emotions and needs.

How would you feel if others said you refuse to believe in the Koran because you want to sin, not be held accountable, and want to be an immoral person? Just some food for thought.

1 Like

If genetics controls the development of our brain, and morals are a product of those brains, then it follows that there is nothing inherently real about any morality. There is nothing inherently better about kindness than torture, of freedom to slavery, just that we happened to evolve with an apparent preference for one over the other since certain preferences happened to benefit our ancestors’ survival. Morality is simply a useful delusion, but there would be nothing inherently right or wrong about any action or behavior, any more than a person’s preference for vanilla ice cream to chocolate.

And I think Jesus is clear about eternal torment. Doesn’t mean all Christians believe or have to believe in such a thing. Christians disagree about many things, and this is one of them. Even in America, 40% do not believe the devil actually exists.

Just because I believe such a being exists doesn’t mean that all Christians HAVE to! I suggest you accept this basic fact as well. This belief does not define Christianity!

No they do not. EVERY predicted effect of observation in quantum physics can be demonstrated to occur without the presence of a conscious observer. This is because we can set up complicated experiments where observation has an effect on different stages of the experiment. They ALL show quite clearly that this is an effect of measuring devices and the conscious observers have no effect whatsoever.

There is no evidence of ANY moral code whatsoever. There is only what any two children can learn for themselves what is required for them to cooperate and live amicably together. AND we can observe them learning these things and thus see for ourselves that it is not some built in code but in fact LEARNED!

Darwin and the theory of evolution NEVER had anything whatsoever to do with the beginning of life. But I have followed the biologists that have worked on this. ABIOGENESIS! The development of life from non-life is the consensus. This is something scientists other than Darwin have been working on, with considerable progress in recent times. You can find it under the names “pre-biotic evolution” and “metabolism first theories.” For them and for myself the only proof we will ever need is to show how it CAN happen in conditions we have determined once existed on the Earth. We don’t need proof that every chemical reaction happens by chemistry. Supernatural beings will never come into it. It is enough to see that it does happen that way and that is more than sufficient for the knowledge that this is exactly what happens every time under the same conditions.

I would agree. Morality is not objective. Morality is subjective. Morality is based on what humans want and need. Morality is based on how humans want the world to be.

Why is a subjective morality a problem? Our emotions, needs, and wants are the most important things in our lives. Why is it such a terrible thing that we base morality on them?

1 Like

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.