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Morality & the Mind: How the conscience and consciousness reveal God {Part I}

Updated on February 12, 2013
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I left off from my previous hub article with the determination from scientific evidence pointing towards a Theistic god as the best reasonable explanation to how we got here. This article has less tangible weights used to measure the existence of god, but can still be observed objectively. The measure of the mind, our own consciousness, and morality {& the conscience} is an obvious, yet evasive, topic which has baffled Naturalists and creates a major caveat for the expansion of secular society. What do the mind & morality have to do with god? Or better yet, how do these ‘intangibles’ show god and give us credence for god’s existence? Glad you asked (or that I asked and you read my question). Let us first approach the topic of the mind, for perhaps the development of the conscience is rooted in the thoughts of the human consciousness. Perhaps we may start to answer the second question with an answer to the first. With this in mind please take note that this is a two part series; I have written two hubs which combine to address this overall topic. {Don't worry, the second hub (focused on Morality) will be posted soon.}

Part I: The Mind:

{Much of the content and inspiration of this topic came from The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.}

When interviewed by Lee Strobel, for the book ‘The Case for a Creator’, J.P. Moreland said, “a simple definition is that consciousness is what you’re aware of when you introspect. When you pay attention to what’s going on inside of you, that’s consciousness”. He further explained, “In short, consciousness consists of sensations, thoughts, emotions, desires, beliefs, and free choices that make us alive and aware” (pg.254).

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"Cogito ergo sum"

Or in English, “I think therefore I am” (Rene Descartes). (Probably hadn’t heard that one before, right?) Why can we think? How have we come to achieve sentience? What is the cause of consciousness?

Though it is an obvious observance made by Descartes it does beg the question, or actually questions above. These questions have been answered by major players in the worldview competition. It seems just one of these players is in competition with the others though. The Materialist, or Naturalist becomes the Physicalist when it comes to the discussion of the mind. This perspective holds that only physical causes are behind consciousness, meaning no spirit or soul exists, just the physical body made of matter. So, the ‘competition’, if you will, is Physicalists vs. everyone who believes in a god, in this mind dilemma.

Bunch of random atoms
Bunch of random atoms | Source

What Dilemma?

I refer to this as a ‘dilemma’ because the existence of the mind makes no sense. Let me explain by first referring to a quote: “Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write now, be able to reflect on what I am doing and why should you, even as you read now, be able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, deciding to refute me or deciding that I am just not worth the effort? No one, certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer to this… The point is that there is no scientific answer” (Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse, Can a Darwinian Be a Christian’ (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2001), 73).

The Darwinist is really a type of physicalist, and so the philosophical sorrows expressed in the aforementioned quote explain the bleak situation from that perspective. What is the answer to the physicalists sorrows? Equate the brain with the mind and leave it at that. What if the brain is what controls our thoughts, gives us a kind of cognitive “life”, and allows us to have the 1st person perspective we relate to our mind? Perhaps Michael Ruse spoke too soon. Perhaps the material brain accounts for consciousness.

2019 $1,000 Computers... They went back to the old school look
2019 $1,000 Computers... They went back to the old school look | Source
In 2050 we will be able to read the Matrix (in advanced solid line form)
In 2050 we will be able to read the Matrix (in advanced solid line form) | Source

That is the sound of inevitability… Mr. Anderson

What if the brain and brain power, or an exceeding amount of neurological or electrical information and energy, is all you need for cognitive introspection? Perhaps enough power could be generated by machines one day if all there is to a brain is an in depth energy of thought processes. Recipient of the National Medal of Technology, Ray Kurzweil, said: “By 2019, a thousand-dollar computer will match the processing power of the human brain… By 2050, a thousand dollars of computing will equal the processing power of all human brains on Earth… Will these future machines be capable of having spiritual experiences? They will certainly claim to. They will claim to be people, and to have the full range of emotional and spiritual experiences that people claim to have” (Ray Kurzweil, “The Evolution of Mind in the Twenty-First Century,” in Jay W. Richards, editor, Are We Spiritual Machines? (Seattle: Discovery Institute, 2002), 12, 29, 44-45).

Kurzweil is simply using the physicalists natural evolutional perspective of how brain power= consciousness. Why not then add machines to the equation? If we were ‘put together’ by matter, evolved from mere muck to our grand brain powered selves then it stands to reason that mere intellectual (or even mechanical) power will bring consciousness. However, Kurzweil is not without critics. John Searle, a professor of mind at the University of California at Berkley said: “You can expand the power all you want, hooking up as many computers as you think you need, and they still won’t be conscious, because all they’ll ever do is shuffle symbols” (“Do Brains Make Minds?” on Closer to Truth).

Having a cpu brain pretty much automatically means you will have at least one red eye
Having a cpu brain pretty much automatically means you will have at least one red eye | Source

Nobel-winner John Eccles said he is: “appalled by the naiveté” of those who foresee computer sentience. He said there is: “no evidence whatsoever for the statement made that, ‘at an adequate level of complexity, computers also would achieve self-consciousness’” (Quoted in Robert W. Augros & George N. Stanciu, The New Story of Science, 170). Perhaps these critics are right, perhaps computers, since they are made by man and are mere machines, cannot achieve a state of consciousness no matter the advances made in mechanical science. However, our main goal here is more to determine if people have consciousness, have a mind, because of the matter which formed them… well, formed us. Perhaps this living tissue in my brain is different ‘stuff’ than just a “neural-net processor” (from Terminator II); it may have the capacity to drive a mind if it is different than just information in ‘a box’.

Penfold is the hamster with glasses. "Cor, Chief, I'm pretty sure the mind goes beyond just the brain" (Penfold, made up, no page).
Penfold is the hamster with glasses. "Cor, Chief, I'm pretty sure the mind goes beyond just the brain" (Penfold, made up, no page). | Source

Mind on the Brain

Wilder Penfield (not the Penfold from Danger Mouse, I got confused at first too) is the renowned ‘father’ of modern neurosurgery. He believed that the brain did account for the activities in the mind when he first began his career. He said, “Through my own scientific career, I, like other scientists, have struggled to prove that the brain accounts for the mind” (Wilder Penfield, The Mystery of the Mind (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975), xiii). Penfield had done surgery on more than a thousand epileptic patients and had electrically stimulated the brains of his patients. He determined, “There is no place… where electrical stimulation will cause a patient to believe or to decide” (Wilder Penfield, The Mystery of the Mind, pgs. 77-78).

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Do you think the brain and the mind are the same?

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“When Roger Sperry and his team studied the differences between the brain’s right and left hemispheres and they discovered the mind has a causal power independent of the brain’s activities” (Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, pg. 258). This led Sperry to conclude Materialism was false (Roger W. Sperry, “Changed Concepts of Brain and Consciousness: Some Value Implications,” Zygon (March 1985)).

If these scientists have determined than mere brain functions do not give power to the mind, then what is our next step in searching out this possibility? As I mentioned previously, perhaps the brain tissue is something more than cpu processing chips and an information holder. Perhaps there is something ‘alive’ in the very tissues of our body, and brain, which gives an energy of life to us.

Panpsychism

When we delve into the next level of this discussion, indicating that perhaps ‘potentials’ were activated and brought about consciousness through an energy, or made ‘alive’ the particles which make up our matter we invoke something outside of mere physicalism. Now we are moving outside of a naturalistic perspective and using panpsychism, which is to say we are presenting the view, “that matter is not just inert and physical at stuff, but that it also contains proto-mental states in it” (Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, pg.265). If we say that matter has both mental and physical properties at the same time we evoke the possibility of dualism (that we humans are more than just physical ‘stuff’), and the existence of god, because if the amazing pan-psych proto-mental ‘spirit’ matter made us… couldn’t it make something or someone much greater than our limited selves? If we bring forth this soulish matter how can we put a limit on it and say that we are the greatest ‘stuff’ that was made by it? So, this does not really route around the idea of a god, but it really is a type of admission that just matter in and of itself is not sufficient to bring about consciousness. “Physicalist and atheist Steven Weinberg said scientists may have to, “bypass the problem of human consciousness” altogether, because “it may just be too hard for us”” (Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, pg. 269 (Ibid., 192)).

If we cannot conclude the brain= the mind, nor that we are just physical matter, then what does that mean in the grand scheme of things… what does this conclusion suggest? It suggests that we are dualistic, that we are more than just a body but also a spirit/soul. Something runs this ‘machine’, as it were, besides just the electronic pulses running through our brain. There is an ‘ego’ or an ‘I’, a self that is outside of the body, but kept encapsulated within it (for now). “At the end of the day, as Philip Johnson put it, you either have ‘In the beginning were particles,’ or ‘In the beginning was the Logos,’ which means ‘divine mind.’ If you start with particles, and the history of the universe is just a story about the rearrangement of particles, you may end up with a more complicated arrangement of particles, but you’re still going to have particles. You’re not going to have minds or consciousness” (Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, pg.264).

How can we get the mind, and the functions thereof, by mindless matter? It makes more sense, and seems to be more supported by what we can observe, to understand that our limited minds may have come from a greater (perhaps limitless) mind. “Self-hood… is not explicable in material or physical terms,” said philosopher Stuart C. Hackett. “The essential spiritual selfhood of man has its only adequate ground in the transcendent spiritual Selfhood of God as Absolute Mind” (Stuart C. Hackett, The Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1984),111).

Lots of smoke, and some fire... like some (just a few) people out there: lots of "brain activity", but little "mind activity"
Lots of smoke, and some fire... like some (just a few) people out there: lots of "brain activity", but little "mind activity" | Source

Is the Smoke on Fire?

Well, what if we take a last ditch effort by the physicalist and inquire about the relation of the brain to the mind. We know that people have done research to see that the brain has particular activities (it is ‘running’) when people are concentrating on various tasks. So, we can see a correlation between the brain and the mind, right? Where there is smoke, there is fire… but smoke is not fire… it only tells us that a fire is a brewin’ and probably spreading to areas where you can only see the smoke (get down on the floor and crawl to an exit if smoke is all around you, and if on fire ‘stop, drop, & roll’). A correlation does not mean ‘equal to’. Sure, the brain contains ‘brain states’ where we know it is being used as the tool to push the mind’s thoughts around, to some degree, but scientific research suggests that ‘mind states’ & ‘brain states’ are not the same. They can happen at the same time, and it would make sense that our spirit/soul uses the brain to store information and sort it, but this correlation is merely that… brain activity may show mind activity, but nobody can see what someone is thinking by seeing what is happening in the brain. The brain is an amazing ‘thing’, but the mind is truly remarkable. How can we think about what we are thinking about… how can we reflect upon our beliefs? It seems the simple, but often times debated, answer is that we were made conscious and there is more to us humans than meets the eye (like a transformer).

Cogito, ergo Deus est

This mind situation really puts a damper on materialism/naturalism/Darwinism/physicalism and even the robot evolutionists belief that information complexity/brain power= sentience. With this in mind we come to our new saying to describe how our being, our mind, our consciousness relates to reality. As Hackett said, “With modest apology to Descartes: Cogito, ergo Deus est! I think, therefore God is” (Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator, pg.271 (Ibid)).


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The next part of this process deals with morality and is really the next stepping stone in the ‘Intangibles’; we can see a clearer picture of this god and determine that without such a Being a true morality simply would not be.

Thank you for reading! Will post Part Two soon.
John Marshall

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    • Sojourner1234 profile image
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      John Marshall 22 months ago from Ohio

      Hi Renee,

      I appreciate your comment and I hope you were able to read Part II.

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      Renee Curtis 4 years ago

      Very well written and very interesting. Thank you for sharing and I look forward to part II