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Brain split between atheism and theism

Published: 15 June 2013 (GMT+10)

Brain split between atheism and theism

A neurologist describes a case where two parts of the brain seem to have conflicting beliefs about God’s existence, and mockingly asks which ‘entity’ will go to heaven?

Stefan N. from Denmark asked about a video on which a neurologist used a case of ‘split brain’ to mock Christian views on salvation:

CMI, I ran into a great problem, and I really would like your thoughts on this.
I’d say it’s the strongest atheist arguments I’ve come by. I’m a Christian, and no matter this argument, I still do believe, but I want to logically be able to refute this finding by VC Ramachandran: Split brain with one half atheist and one half theist. Neurologist VS Ramachandran explains the case of split-brain patients with one hemisphere without a belief in a god, and the other with a belief in a god. The video can be found on youtube.

CMI’s Carl Wieland replies:

Dear S.N.

Thank you for this very interesting question. I think the problem may be caused by accepting the premise that in this tragic severing of the corpus callosum (the connection between the brain hemispheres) two separate persons have emerged. I suggest they have not, at least not in any sense that supports the dilemma that the neurosurgeon seems to claim it poses for Christian belief.

However, we know that in this life, our decision-making, our thoughts, feelings and so on are not independent of the material substrate of the brain—the material brain is intimately involved in such things.

The aim seems to be to lead to the conclusion that because of this dilemma, there therefore can be no such thing as an individual with a transcendent, non-material soul who is also capable of being held eternally responsible for his or her decisions.1 So let’s examine all that carefully, particularly the assumption that there are two persons involved here. And what makes it difficult, and what we have to bear in mind constantly, is that we are dealing with pathology here—a tragic thing in our fallen world—not with a normal situation.2

Normally, upon thinking of a ‘person’, we would readily (and understandably) associate this with many things, not just the capability of holding individual opinions or beliefs. It involves also an individual notion of the self, as well as a separate rational, autonomous will, for instance. Though the details are scanty, and one has no chance to ask clinically relevant questions, let’s assume for the sake of the argument that the observation has demonstrated at least part of that whole package, namely that there are two separate ‘entities’ capable of separate ‘will’—at least to the extent that one of them chooses not to believe in the existence of God, whereas the other apparently does. An important question is, how far does that ‘separateness’ extend? This is important because the neurosurgeon poses a question, albeit semi-facetiously, to the Christian; would the entity that believes go to heaven while the entity that claims to have no belief in God go to hell? Let’s leave aside the dubious theology that mere ‘belief’ saves (as opposed to saving belief as per the Gospel good news, in which the object of the belief is the crucial part, not just some vague belief in a God—which the demons also share (James 2:19).

Notice that in posing the question, the neurosurgeon has permitted the argument to now be framed in Christian terms, i.e. if we Christians are challenged on our turf, we have a right to make assumptions in our reply that are based on that very framework that is being attacked, i.e. biblical Christianity. So let’s do that; from the Bible we can deduce that there is in fact an immaterial aspect to humanity, to any individual. Call it the ‘soul’ if you like (though this word in Scripture has an overlapping range of meaning, which is why I’ve defined it before I mentioned it, to clarify the sense in which I am using it here). This immaterial soul seems to be, during our earthly life, associated with the material of the brain (the matter—plus its organization, which is another way of saying its ‘information’) but is not ultimately dependent on it—such that when that material substrate dies, decays away, the ‘soul’ does not.

However, we know that in this life, our decision-making, our thoughts, feelings and so on are not independent of the material substrate of the brain—the material brain is intimately involved in such things. If it were not so, then anesthetics would not make us temporarily lose our decision-making processes, for instance, nor would mind/mood altering drugs, both legal and illegal, or intoxicants have any effect on our reasoning capacities, for example.

In short, God, as creator of the biological world, has chosen to make the brain with its amazingly complex biological machinery to somehow act as the material ‘substrate’ that connects with and interacts with the transcendent aspect of all of us. It is the vehicle through which such processes as decision-making, thinking, reasoning, etc. are carried out. And this is almost certainly true for decision-making concerning salvation issues, as well. It can therefore be deduced from the biblical existence of the soul that our non-material part is capable of interacting with the material part (brain)—and does so intimately during life. How exactly this happens is currently completely unknown, and it may in fact be unknowable. But so are large aspects of consciousness and reasoning and so forth themselves. So it’s not some copout to say that the way in which the ‘soul’ interacts with the material brain is poorly understood—this description applies to consciousness itself, which is actually regarded as one of the great mysteries of modern science, and may also turn out to be unknowable. (I say this because even some non-Christian brain scientists have suggested that the famous incompleteness theorem of the philosopher/mathematician Kurt Gödel suggests that no system is in principle capable of fully analyzing itself, hence our brain functioning may never be fully understandable by the human brain itself—in principle. See also Consciousness: a problem for naturalism.) There is also a useful section in this article Questioning God’s many attributes about one-time leading atheist philosopher Antony Flew’s refutation of the claim that the mind is nothing but a production of brain chemicals, the premise behind this video.

So the only way in which this is a dilemma for a Christian is if we assume that there are in fact two souls, each with a rational responsible power of choice/action, each somehow separately connecting to a separate part of the one brain. But how has that been demonstrated? Quite simply, it hasn’t.

In fact, it is not likely that one would even say, if one were observing this patient in their everyday life, that there were two persons in any other than a relatively trivial sense. Split-brain cases in clinical practice are very complicated, given the brain’s plasticity, but one expert comments that in such cases, “speech, verbal intelligence, calculation, motor coordination, verbal reasoning and recall, personality and temperament are all preserved to a surprising degree in the absence of hemispheric interconnection.” See this clinical article. It also says that situations that require “extremely rapid processing of very complex information that is typically handled within lateralized regions (that is, lexical and affective [word and mood—CW] processes)” may be “particularly sensitive to corpus callosum abnormality”.

So I suspect that it is likely that all sorts of other aspects of the person’s functioning would still be exhibiting as if they were one entity. That suggestion is supported by this abstract of Tim Bayne’s 2010 book The Unity of Consciousness on Oxford Scholarship Online, at this link:

“The received view within psychology and philosophy is that the split‐brain (commissurotomy) procedure3 leads to a breakdown in the unity of consciousness. Disunity models of the split‐brain can be divided into two classes: two‐streams models, according to which patients have two streams of consciousness, and partial unity models, according to which patients have a merely partially unified consciousness. Both models are motivated by the cognitive and behavioural disunities that patients exhibit in certain laboratory conditions, but they struggle to account for the cognitive and behavioural unity that patients demonstrate in everyday life. Preferable to disunity models is a full unity ‘switch’ model, according to which consciousness in the split‐brain rapidly switches between hemispheres. It is argued that only the switch model can account for both the behavioural disunities that split‐brain patients exhibit under experimental conditions and the behavioural unities that they exhibit outside of such contexts.”

Note this section in particular: “the cognitive and behavioural unity that patients demonstrate in everyday life.” In short, I am suggesting that the patient referred to in this video, though they may exhibit some bizarre things, like the left hand sometimes doing things that the right hand wants to reverse and so on, and expressing two views of God, would not likely themselves support the idea that there are two separate persons, nor would observations support that when it comes to everyday life. And Bayne seems to have concluded that such observations as there in split-brain patients can be better accounted for via an ‘alternation’ between the two centres of consciousness.

So the very notion that there are two ‘entities’ is on shaky ground. But even if the observations all fitted the idea that there were two sets of independent decisions being made by each half of the brain, I think it can be shown that it would still not create a true dilemma for Christian theology.

To explain, take this possible scenario. (Speculative, yes, but then the neurosurgeon’s question is inviting such speculation, in a way that suggests he thinks that no scenario that would resolve the apparent dilemma.) We know, for instance, that for various functions, such as language, one or other of the two hemispheres dominates. What if, then, in a normal brain, hemisphere ‘A’ is in fact intended to be dominant in the decision-making process, or in belief, or any one of a number of functions relevant to the issue of salvation? That hemisphere (which in an intact brain would be receiving ‘input’ from the other) would then be the ‘switchboard’ with which the person’s non-material part (soul) would interact, and input from the other hemisphere would not generate any contradiction. So then interrupting that flow of input from the non-dominant hemisphere may well create in effect an illusion of autonomy, or separateness, as in multiple personality disorders. And all of this could be happening while there still continued to be in fact one part—and only one—as the actual ‘centre of responsibility’. And this is the part which would, as before, be interacting with the soul and would be the true entity that could properly bear the title of the locus of the person’s capacities, etc. Now I think it is likely much, much more complicated than that, but it is trying to make the point that there is at least one possible scenario that resolves this ‘dilemma’.

In Christian theology, what is being judged is not the material substrate of the body, but the immaterial, based on actions and beliefs in life.

Consider, in that light, the neurosurgeon’s facetious question, i.e. would each entity go to a different eternal destiny? In Christian theology, what is being judged is not the material substrate of the body, but the immaterial, based on actions and beliefs in life. So since there is no reason to think that there has been anything other than only one soul all along, it is only that soul whose eternal destiny is at stake. Yes, our souls will be united with a physical resurrection body (though likely not the same atoms of matter we are made up of now, since these in any case are continually recycling throughout our life; the bones you have now are apparently not the same substance as the ones you had ten years ago, e.g.). But this ‘reconstruction’ is not a reconstruction to a past pathological state, but rather to a fully healed individual. No-one thinks, for instance, that a Christian whose brain has degenerated drastically with Alzheimer’s would have that condition in their resurrected body. So whatever the cause of the corpus callosum damage in an individual, that damage would be healed in a resurrection (even a resurrection of the unrighteous to judgement). So that person’s resurrection brain would no longer be exhibiting as if there were two centres of decision-making, so the problem vanishes by following the argument to its full conclusion.

In short, there is no reason that one cannot assume that in the sense of spiritual responsibility/decision-making, there is only one such ‘responsible’ entity at all times, interacting with the transcendent part of ourselves. And as indicated earlier, it is likely that were one to observe this person during their normal everyday functioning, it would likely match this notion. The physical resurrection body that is ‘matched’ to the soul, whether destined for hell or heaven, would in any case no longer have this split-brain problem.

Finally, it should be emphasized that it is likely from this brief video that this particular person’s belief (in at least one part of their brain) that ‘there is a God’ is nothing like saving faith, which is much more than mere assent4 to the fact of a God, and which results in a deep, spiritual transformation.

Were that to occur, the person’s soul would be safe for eternity, and would be destined to be united with a resurrected body to be with their Saviour forever.

I further believe that we can glean from Scripture that a person who is truly saved will not lose their salvation due to having some pathological brain condition (e.g. advanced Alzheimer’s) such that to external assessment they no longer profess faith. I.e. a doctor examining them would conclude that there is no evidence of any belief at all. Since pathological brain damage does not retrospectively destroy saving faith just because the person is no longer capable of expressing such belief, neither would it do so were that damage to involve the corpus collosum so that they were no longer capable of expressing their faith in a unified fashion. Thus a major issue is whether they had come to the point of regeneration, saving faith, new birth prior to the injury. I.e., if they were a real Christian beforehand. If so, then the fact that one part of their brain were to no longer be able to verify that they believed in God, there is no reason to believe that that injury would affect the person’s eternal destiny.

I hope that helps.

Sincerely,
Carl W.

Related Articles

References

  1. The extent to which that decision is due to God’s election is not at issue here, as from the human perspective, there is at least a seeming decision-making process, and certainly all sides of the election argument would agree that biblically there is also an accountability/responsibility for unbelief. Return to text.
  2. It is of course conceded that pathology can give useful insights into normal brain functioning. Return to text.
  3. This refers to situations where the corpus callosum has been surgically divided, which is sometimes the only option when it comes to controlling overwhelming and recurrent epileptic seizures. Return to text.
  4. In fact, it’s also the lack of content of such assent. Saving faith, according to the Apostle Paul (as Gordon Clark has pointed out) must have the content that Christ, fully man and fully God, died for our sins and rose again. Demons believe in God but not that Christ died for their sins. Return to text.

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Readers’ comments
James T., United States, 15 June 2013

Hi CMI i have a question regarding evolution and God.Im pretty new when it comes to creation/evolution.I was wondering that if evolution is true then my question is this.Why would evolution pretty much want one organism to think that they were created?I know atheist have tried to point out other animals getting along without a belief in God but,the thing is that i don't see an explanation for God,if evolution is true.

Carl Wieland responds

I don't claim to be an expert on evolutionary apologetics, but I can imagine any number of 'just so' stories to try to explain the huge tendency in humans to believe in the transcendent, something 'greater than us', at a minimum. For example, that our intelligence evolved to help us survive better on the savannah, and along with that goes the ability to contemplate rational explanations for things. Even the near-universal hunger for such explanations could be explained as having survival value (they generally ignore the fact that explaining something as helping us survive overlooks the need to explain how that characteristic arose in the first place, but let's leave that aside for now). Since our observations show us that complex things like even basic dwellings, stone tools, etc. have to have an intelligent maker, it stands to reason that we would think that we were made, and it gives our lives an illusion of meaning, they would say. However, of course, it highlights the fact that such cause-and-effect reasoning from observation is ultimately supposed to be basic to science itself. Also, that the idea that we and all other amazingly complex living things emerged from a mindless, ultimately directionless, unguided process does not exactly seem to qualify prima facie as a rational explanation.

Eugene Y., Malaysia, 15 June 2013

How does one know that the brain houses the 'soul' since the Bible doesn't mention about brain but only the 'heart'(inner self)?

I still do not understand your explanation on clearing the dilemma on ' if the observations all fitted the idea that there were two sets of independent decisions being made by each half of the brain'

P.S. I am still trying my best to understand the article ('Life according to the Bible')

Philip S., United Kingdom, 15 June 2013

I think we need to define our theological terms clearer: Our 'Soul' is not a separate 'entity' or whatever - that's our SPIRIT! 'The Spirit goes back to the God that gave it' etc...and only God's 'Spirit can divide between our Spirit & Soul' - Man 'became a living Soul' [at Creation when God's Spirit breathed into it, as Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit into His followers.] Therefore can we best assume that the Soul is the essential half-way house, or interface between Spirit & Body? For Body/Flesh cannot inherit the Kingdom of God, Corruption cannot cannot put on incorruption, etc....I think it is likely that the 'Soul' is our conciousness etc - that mysterious thing that Evoloony theory can never describe let alone account for! For it is obviously far more than brain gloop, and it is our Eternal Spirit that will survive everything, to be judged at the Resurrection - for Eternal Good [Heaven] - or Eternal Ill [Gehenna]. As for Ramachandran's musings, they are just that, but lots of research has shown that the 2 sides of the brain have different functions, roughly speaking more intuitive & 'Holistic' on the right, more mathematical /calculating on the left [see 'Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain' for very good, practical art demonstrations of that] - but there is also research, I think, that shows that each side can take over the 'whole' function, as it were, if the cc is severed. And Ramachadran has done the most amazing practical demonstrations with amputee/ stroke victims to 'restore' their painful 'phantom limbs' or twisted limbs, at least.....God bless, Philip

M. W., Australia, 15 June 2013

Good response. This reminds me of what Jesus said: "He who has an ear, let him hear". In this life there needs to be a certain level of physical completeness to receive and understand the Gospel. That's why I have never worried about Christians who are saved and then develop dementia etc - God knows who chose to trust him when they were able to make an informed decision. I also have no doubt the soul interfaces with the brain, although it is clearly at a very subtle level as much of the mind is shown to be a result of the physical brain. Brains are somewhat like computers, and interrogating a split-brain patient seems to me like looking at a second hard drive, but only one is likely to have the full operating system running. In addition, a split-brain patient still has the base brain in one piece, otherwise they'd be dead, and there is evidence to suggest that in some such people the left side of the brain has found a way to rewire and talk to the other side through the base. Some people have even been born without one hemisphere and seem fine - so I wonder if the brain can really be 'split' at it's deepest level of operation, or if we are just talking about dividing the inputs? In other words, I think the use of this research to attack theism is unscientific at this point. It seems neuroscience is fast joining evolution to become the new weapon to assault Christian faith. The glee in having a go at religion as expressed by some of these researchers is both disturbing and lacking in good scientific discipline.

Bob S., United States, 15 June 2013

The atheist's speculation allowed Dr. Wieland to clear up some issues regarding the mind, the brain, and what faith is. 1 Thess 5:23 says, "... May your whole spirit, soul (psuche) and body be kept blameless ..." The word translated as soul, is also translated as mind, life, and heart, and it would indicate that god created us as three-parts but one being. Another example is found in Mark 8:35-37 where life and soul are both psuche.

Perhaps taking the materialistic speculation that "the brain is the mind" is an example of how easily we can be influenced by ungodly counsel. The mind/soul are indeed complex with a will and in innermost part. ... thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. ..." Mark 12:30

The last verse mentions the split nature of our mind. We are to love God with our WHOLE heart and mind. It is also obvious, from Scripture, that the battle is now over the control of the mind/soul. Any Christian will attest to the fact that their thoughts are not always exactly what they should be: "but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed." James 1:14 These evil desires reside in the mind. Paul tells us: "be transformed (literally, transfigured) by the renewing of your mind." Romans 12:2 Many other scriptures indicate that there is a battle over the mind of a born-again person.

"Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word (literally, utterance) of God." Romans 10:17 Hebrews 5:14 speaks of "those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern." God speaks to us, but we hear Him in our spirits and in our minds. As Dr. Wieland pointed out, faith is independent of the material part of us.

Lester V., United States, 15 June 2013

The Apostle Paul seems to address this issue in Romans 7, where he describes the struggle within himself. His members (the fallen flesh in which he dwells - his physical body or "earth suit" designed to function in this physical universe) suffers from the effects of sin (atheism - denial of God), while His inner man (the real, eternal essence of who Paul was, who will receive a new "eternity suit" at his resurrection) is not subject to the effects of sin, since it is a new creation in Christ Jesus (theistic - based on the divine DNA imparted to it when he was born again). The negative effects of sin will be with us continually until we are resurrected with our new bodies. So, rather than challenging the Christian world view, the neurologist's report in fact confirms it. The doubt and confusion which appears in the damaged brain reflect the effects of sin, which will be done away with when we are resurrected. The real person will survive the replacing of the old "earth suit" with the new "eternity suit," to exist forever in heaven or hell (depending on the decision that person has made to the Gospel while resident in their "earth suit."

Gordon S., United Kingdom, 15 June 2013

There is quite a well known painting by an artist of the resurrection showing bodies coming out of graves in pretty much the same condition in which they went into them. One cannot but have some sympathy with Winston Churchill's comment when he saw the painting: "If that's what the resurrection is like give me eternal sleep!" However, Paul in effect tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:35-50 that God gives in the resurrection to each a body as it pleases Him.

Kevin R P., United States, 16 June 2013

Interesting, thanks.

I played around with several combinations of the "whose in control" idea; interesting. Romans 6:13, I believe, asserts that our bodies (brain included) are instruments used by our soul/spirit.

Ultimately everyone must deal with objective reality: did Jesus really rise from the dead? Scientific game playing does not offer an escape from that. I believe that he did. God who is the maker of both sides of the brain will in no way be confused as to what to do with this patient. And he will do something: Heaven or Hell.

Douglas J. B., United States, 16 June 2013

One other possible explanation for these results, perhaps, is that the person with the "split-brain" who in one case identifies as a "believer" and in another as an "unbeliever" is actually a "pseudo-believer", or one who is not really certain or strong in his belief. Then, the "doubting" part of the individual expresses itself in the one case, while the part which apparently prefers to believe is expressed in the other. Same person, but the "split-brain" reveals his inner "double-mindedness".

BJ M., United States, 16 June 2013

Which happens to many of us from time to time - eg. we may doubt our assurance, have our faith shaken - without having our corpus callosums sheared in two...

Robert ., Australia, 17 June 2013

Ramachandran was surprised that his split brain anecdotes sent a ripple through theological community when he expected a tsunami. However there is no surprise for me.

His experiments are simplistic and naïve, and his assertion that he has created, by split brain surgery, two separate human beings, is extreme.

Thanks Carl, for pointing out that we are dealing with a pathological and tragic surgery here.

In fact I find the morality of Ramachandran pathological: at no point did I see any concern for the patients forced to have this drastic surgery. Instead there is lots of laughter among the audience in the video.

Ramachandran says that his “science tells us that we are beasts” but my science doesn’t tell me that at all. The Bible tells me we are created in the image of God, and a wonderful and loving God, and this is borne out by the evidence of His Creation, even in its fallen state.

Larry P., United States, 18 June 2013

In today's world, I understand the reasoning behind complex questions . Namely, simple, down to earth answers are not allowed. They are rejected , out of hand.

The simple answer is this : there is but one soul in a human . Split all the body ( physical ) parts into however many parts your sadistic mind can conceive, there is but one soul.

Think of it this way : if a starfish has a soul , it has but one. Cut the starfish into five pieces , you will end with five starfish. Those five still have one soul. Every piece is part of the same original starfish.

If said starfish had a soul , before your gristly experiment , and had accepted God , then the soul of those five pieces of starfish , upon death , would still be saved.

More Germaine to me , is the interaction between the physical " brain " , and the soul .

My guess is God knows the soul. The soul knows the brain, heart , whatever.

You cannot lie to your soul. It knows. Therfore, Confusion among various body parts , after a tragic situation, will not alter the soul. It still Is, and what it Is , God Knows.

My soul Knows where it belongs. While I Pray everyday for help with my physical and mental shortcomings , and strive for betterment , I will always fail perfection.

Quote " Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven ".

I do not believe I am on the same intellectual footing as some neurosurgeon, nor do I have to worry about his " conclusions ". Or questions. I , if by chance we met, and the topic raised , would strive to put his fears to rest.

If he found my answers insufficient , well, I tried. That is all I can do.

I am as curious as any other, which led me here.

My prayer is that I will always be able to stand fast, in the face of physical or mental tests of my faith.

God did not make me a genius ,

Jeanne T., Australia, 21 June 2013

The question of where the "soul" resides in a body came up in another group of articles I read a while back (don't remember where now), where people who had received transplants of major organs such as hearts and lungs began to exhibit some traits of the donors after their surgeries, even though they didn't know to begin with where their new organs had come from. This suggests that much more than just the brain is involved, and that other organs are tied to the soul, as well. Scripture says that out of a man's HEART, the tongue speaks. Also, "thy word have I hid in my HEART, that I might not sin against thee." The traits of donors showed up strongest in people who had received hearts, but were also present to a lesser degree in some recipients of other organs, such as lungs, livers and kidneys. It would be interesting to hear your take on such phenomena.

Carl Wieland responds

Yes, there were such things floating around for a time. I saw nothing at the time to dissuade my deep skepticism about the notion. There was another idea doing the rounds of a congregation not far from here that when you get transfusions of blood from another, you get part of that person's personality as well. In that case, with all the transfusions I had following my major road trauma, I must have about 150 personalities. The Bible has the right to use the word 'heart' in a metaphoric sense, just as we do today without implying that this marvellous biological pump that God made for that purpose is actually the seat of the emotions or will or similar, as opposed to the brain. When we get anxious, our heart rate speeds up, for instance, but the organ controlling this is the brain. Look up 'reins' in the KJV, it means 'kidneys'. This used to be a common English metaphor for someone being brainy, they had 'kidneys'. But the kidneys filter urine. Sorry to put a dampener, but the Bible uses other metaphors such as we do in everyday speech today and it is quite reasonable to take these things at the common, every day level. People in love talk about giving another their heart, and we know they don't mean the actual organ, for instance.

David S., Australia, 21 June 2013

If you are interested in the mind and other spiritual read Dr Neil Nedley's book "Proof Positive" and the chapter The Frontal Lobe: The Crown Of The Brain this is fascinating stuff. Added to that Jesus gave up his spirit (character to be examined by God that it may be presented in our place) to God as Steven did when he was being stoned. so we have the opportunity to surrender our character to God when we die. Our character is the only thing we can take to heaven. So surrender your self heart soul and spirit to Him. That your soul will not die as recorded in Ezekiel 18: 4 because there is no second chance as Ps 146 : 4 tells us.

Ian B., United Kingdom, 21 June 2013

Hello there. Your reasoning about what makes a person seems absolutely fine and we can naturally and understandably accept it, that it expresseses individuality . YET using this argument we cannot apply it to God who you would say is 1 God but 3 persons , however He does not have 3 separate views. It is not 3 separate individuals..and as some say we are spirit and soul (+ body as well) doesnt this rather weaken your argument in that if God can have 3 persons in one (all agreeing) we who are not God could easily have 2 persons in one but this time disagreeing ?

Carl Wieland responds

I can't really see that, I'm afraid. I think it conflates the question of whether we are bipartite with whether we are biune in the same sense as God is triune. Remember, we are dealing with a damaged brain. Clearly, in our undamaged state, we are not. And in the resurrected state, we put on a physical body, not two of them.

Christine E., United States, 21 June 2013

another possibility is that this individual was internally divided on the matter of belief in God, this division becoming obvious when the brain was divided. One who fights against unbelief must obviously still be having some unbelief in oneself to fight against, but the fact that the unbelief is being rejected means one is adhering to the truth and fighting for it. This is a struggle that goes on in a lot of people, sometimes often sometimes momentary. Like fighting against any other sin. Sounds like this person, if his belief in God is not merely verbal acquiescence to be accepted by his social group, but something he was fighting for and still retains is not headed for hell. Someone facetiously penned "the atheist's prayer" which is "O God if there is a God, save my soul if I have a soul." But remember the man who said to Jesus, "Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief." And he was not rejected.

Daniel B., United States, 21 June 2013

They are also forgetting that "belief" is not a function of the brain, but the heart - info passes through the brain; but, ultimately, the heart decides which piece of advice to follow and does so on the basis of whether the person is tired of sin or not.

Carl Wieland responds

See my other response re 'heart' in the Bible being an obvious metaphor we still use today in everyday speech. The heart pumps blood, it does not get involved with decisions. Unless of course, you are yourself using 'heart' metaphorically to refer to some other centre of volition/decision-making, in which case as far as physical location is concerned, the brain is the only candidate, it seems. One can remove/replace other organs without removing volition, but not the brain.

Mark G., Canada, 21 June 2013

We do not base our belief in the resurrection based on our minds alone. Christianity is not based on the emotional or intellectual reaction to brain activity but on the fact of the resurrection of Jesus.

If part of a man's brain is severed from the other part, then "all that helps" form belief is not together in one place.

Someone must re-introduce the evidence for the resurrection to the brain half that has lost what it once knew from the other side.

Dr. Marcus M., United States, 21 June 2013

I greatly appreciate both the question and Carl W's thoughtful reply. The only other thing I would add is that the English word "person" comes from the Latinized "persona" which is itself taken from the Greek, "prosopon," this meaning in English as sort of "mask," as in way of being, depicted by the comedy and tragedy masks we've all seen in one place or another. What I am inferring here is that the English "person" unavoidably conveys the notion of a single personal individual person (redundancies and all) and the mental gymnastics produce a confusion picture (pun intended). So in the Three Persons of the Trinity much confusion ensues. My comments here are not to be taken in support of the heretical claim of "modalism," and certainly not as an "explanation" of the mystery of the Holy Trinity. We are left in awe of our awesome Lord, in much the same way as we marvel at His perfect love and justice, and, of course, His everlasting Grace. Amen.

Peter E B., Canada, 22 June 2013

I believe there is an answer in the Gospel of John

Lets first assume this man was not a Born Again Christian. We would know that the Adamic Spirit would line up with this man's soul (his mind will and emotions), and his flesh. There really is no internal battle for the soul apart from God. pursuing him. Now lets assume the person is a Born Again Christian. We now have an ongoing battle between the new birthed Spirit by the Holy Spirit; and the man's will (his mind will and emotions, his decision maker) and the lust of the flesh. I would conclude the second man is truly born again. The battle for controlling a Christian is for the soul. So while the man's new Spirit is sealed for eternity, you cannot say the same for the soul. That is why God even talks about the WORD being able to split assunder (apart) the Soul and Spirit It took me a long time to learn how through the soul I ws putting myself back under the law through unbelief.

I would suggest reading the 1st capter of Craig HIll"s book "Deceived, Who Me?" for abetter understanding of my comments

In conclusion we have shown some science in describing the on going battle for the mind or soul if you wish which ultimately controls the flesh and may have come upon a way to identify if or not a person is a Born Again Christian. I would sooner use the book of James to make that determination. Peter

Tim S., Canada, 22 June 2013

Your essay on the relationship between the soul/spirit and the mind reminds me of an experience I had 45 years ago as a student working for the summer as an orderly on a neurological ward. On my first week of work I witnessed a grievous tragedy: a young man with two lovely little children had been admitted with an inoperable, rapidly growing brain tumour, and was failing fast.

The tragedy was the transformation of his personality from a loving husband and father to a gibbering tyrant who did nothing but curse and shout.

I saw his wife bend over to kiss him and tell him she loved him, and he punched her face with all his strength, leaving her crushed and weeping beside her two children.

From that day on I have always understood that our 'personhood' is a terrifyingly frail construct, apt to being destroyed by illness or injury.

This truth should compel us to encourage others to respond to the Gospel while they are intellectually able.

Anne H., Australia, 22 June 2013

Hi,

I have found that being created means that I have the 'image' of a 'god' in me, namely, the romantic one. The difference between believing in the One true God and not believing in Him is encapsulated in this principle. It demonstrates how I may completely and normally function both morally and spiritually. The failure to do so is why it was necessary for Jesus to face the cross. I fully give my personal loyalty to the lovely and fully human image of Adam and Eve in a sweet garden paradise, walking innocently with the loving and protective presence of their wonderful God, Jesus, for this is how I was created to be. He is the only way to know you are forgiven of the dark things of the past, the release from the condemning thoughts that come from sinning, and the true eternal hope of living in a beautiful place called heaven. All of life should be lived in the light of this. For it is the only way to be cleansed of the darkness within. I believe the reason men are condemned as atheists is because of 'perceived' behavioural issues. They just don't 'seem to get it'....but this is actually incorrect. They do. And us ladies need to listen to good sense. Most men are actually quite brilliant and know more than you think, and they feel more than us women are often aware of.

A. M., Australia, 22 June 2013

I heard a useful analogy when considering the eternal soul's relationship to the brain/body:

The brain/physical body is like a horse being ridden by the soul/mind. The horse rider commands the horse in a certain direction or at a certain speed but he's constrained by the physical limitations of the horse.

For example, when one's blood-sugar is low, the brain has an increased tendency to display short-tempered characteristics. That doesn't mean all self-control is lost, but it does affect it.

Now going back to Ramachandran's example, the split-brained patient's soul is "riding" a horse that appears to think it's two separate horses. I'm confident that God is wise and omniscient enough to decide if the patient has the faculty to accept Christ or not. (As mentioned in the article, accepting Christ as saviour and simply believing God exists are very different things.)

BTW, the materialist's version of this analogy would have the mind being the shadow of the horse. The shadow has no control over the horse and can do nothing but follow the horse wherever it chooses to go. This goes against what most humans experience - namely that we have free will.

eryk G., United States, 22 June 2013

is it so important to explain things we know nothing about it, medicine is a G-D gift ,not an idea to exploited unto the ways of his divine wisdom,

one does not have the knowledge to filter anyone thoughts while living ,imagine doing it just by mere ideas of dividing the brain . if this can be accomplish ,we can eliminate ,criminals, thievery, and a multitude of sin will wash away, and with all due respect ,this procedure will take place of the messiah. so them why believe that there's supreme power, you just abolish and negate the holy scriptures,but what do we know,the average G-D fearing individual.

Jean P., Australia, 23 June 2013

Instead of using atheist/theist, substitute 'murder wrong, murder OK' and work the response if a person with a spilt brain committed a murder. The defence would surely argue that because of brain damage, the person,s moral judgement was impaired and he could not be held responsible for the action. In the same way, I believe a person with a split brain would be so regarded by The Lord. Their spiritual status would be reckoned from before the brain injury. The person is still a single entity but unable to make fully reasoned judgements,

Carl Wieland responds

I hear you, though it's hard to see how one could use impaired reasoning as an explanation unless there were any evidence of that in the person. AFAIK, there is no suggestion here or in the literature that people with such a split brain syndrome suffer from any difficulties reasoning in other respects. Nor would that be likely, considering the nature of the operation. So it would seem like special pleading to say that the only reasoning capacity that is impaired is the capacity to reason about God.

Phil H., Thailand, 23 June 2013

Medical Dr Carl has made a great effort at discrediting this neurosurgeon. I believe that some clear definitions are required before we begin discussion, otherwise the argument gets 'muddy' quickly.

Soul is the sum of our mind+will+emotions.

Spirit is that which is eternal and comes from God, not our DNA. It is often referred to as our "heart" in scriptures, but is in no way related to our anatomical organ by that name.

It is our spirit, energised by the Holy Spirit that gives us belief. Obviously our human 'will' has to assent also. As Carl said we don't lose our salvation from a brain injury.

Our mind includes our brain activity but may be over-ridden by our spirit: eg a person may have a fearful mind , but his 'heart' or spirit is strong, so that he acts boldly.

Our bodies are just 'tents' as Paul said, and while useful are irrelevant to the discussion of belief in God. Our glorified resurrection bodies are different and perfect.

phil

Robert D., Australia, 24 June 2013

The atheist neurosurgeon's surmise that a split brain being half theist and half atheist somehow proves anything must raise an obvious question: presuming that the surgeon is not splitting brains for mere thrills but because of a pathological brain condition, we may be entitled to information about which side of the brain was the problem in the first place. Theism is not in itself a certain evidence of Christianity which goes far beyond a mere belief in a God somewhere. Why does he pounce with seemingly religious prejudice against the hemisphere which he claims to be "theist" with presumption that the pathology stems from that side. We need to be told a lot more about his evaluation strategy (questions to the patient) and how he justifies his conclusions in favour of an eclectic bias .

Carl Wieland responds

Reasonable questions, though one needs to remember that this procedure is normally undertaken for things like uncontrollable seizures, and there is no evidence I know of that these are associated with any loss of reasoning capacity or other similar high-level brain function.

Erin S., Australia, 26 June 2013

To add to the discussion, I would see the split in this patient's mind as simply an exaggeration of what many people experience when struggling with the creation/evolution issue. Their left brain has been convinced that God does not exist by the "science" of evolution, while the right brain, which is concerned with the more instinctual, intuitive, emotional way of sensing things, has no doubts. It just knows.

It brings to mind the book "A Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor, neurologist who suffered a severe stroke to the left side of her brain. She was left with no language, and none of her scientific knowledge, only what we would call 'right brain' abilities - the instinctive, the spiritual, the non-verbal. She describes the astonishing shift in perception she experienced, and a feeling of deep peace and connection to something enormous and bigger than herself.

Ramachandra may be making the mistake that many do, in assuming that the left brain with its "logical knowledge" is correct and the right brain with its instinctual knowledge, is incorrect.

Perhaps the patient's left brain just needs to be exposed to the science supporting Creation, and then it could trust the intuition of the right brain without reservation, and there would be no split.

Hugh W., South Africa, 26 June 2013

EB Peter of Canada uses Hebrews 4:12 to affirm the distinction between "soul" and "spirit". Actually it affirms the opposite. Because "joints" and "marrow" are obviously the same MATERIAL category, so "soul'and "spirit" must be the same IMMATERIAL category. The Web Article assumes this, that Man is Bi-partite, not Tri-partite, and this assumption is based inter alia on the Bible's 'indiscrimnate' use of Nephesh and Ruach. I tend to agree with those Comments that refer to the Video's evidence for two persona in one brain as affirming the continual struggle between the Spirit and the Flesh (Gal 5:16), a 'schizophrenia' described by Paul in Romans 7 ... until the final Resurrection into a new body. Till then we must keep in step with the Spirit and so not fulfil the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5:25)

Gail S., United States, 27 June 2013

I have read that at autopsy some people were shown literally to have a skull "full of mush"- that is little or no real brain- just fluid and yet were fully functional beings. That may indicate the brain is just one possible vehicle for the soul to manifest itself - and if damaged - and the person depended upon this vehicle to manifest his soul, then maybe his belief could be damaged. If he truly gave his sins to Christ - then, as the Bible teaches, nothing could separate him from the love of God.

Carl Wieland responds

The sort of thing you describe is remarkable, but not quite the way you seem to have recalled it. If it was just fluid, there is no way known to medical science/experience that there would have been funtioning. There have been cases where people had hydrocephalus (where an abnormal amount of fluid is produced and if it is slowly enough during development, the brain that develops (note: it is still a brain) has sometimes consisted of just a fairly thin layer of brain spread across the outer part of the skull. But--here is the point--it is still brain tissue, and it functions, with neurons firing, etc. What it does show, and how we have in fact used it, is that the amount of brain tissue volume is not correlated with intelligence. So when looking at certain human fossils, there is no guarantee that smaller average brain volume means a less functional or less intelligent human. The key is how the brain is organised, not how much of there is. But again, such persons with a greatly thinned out brain structure still have a brain, and a highly organised, complex and functional one at that. See this article for additional details on one particular such case..

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