Exploring the God Question 3. Mind and Consciousness, Part 1 (The Brain)

God-question-brain

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Published: 28 February 2015 (GMT+10)

This is our fifth article evaluating a DVD Series entitled Exploring the God Question,1,2 in which atheists and theistic evolutionists vigorously promote the theory of evolution. For our previous articles, see:

In the opening “Setting the Scene” section, viewers are given a summary of what is to come in the DVD. Prof. Chris Frith (Neuroscience, University College, London), says: “The total number of possible connections in the human brain is greater than the number of particles in the known universe.” Dr Sam Parnia (Director, Human Consciousness Project) says: “Science today is unable to explain how the human mind or consciousness comes to be.” The Narrator mentions a “higher consciousness which includes a sense of a spiritual presence many call God”, to which atheistic physical chemist Prof. Peter Atkins responds: “God is a lie, and people should not waste their time, and waste their lives on it.” And American atheistic ‘gay gene’ proponent Dr Dean Hamer suggests: “Men certainly have the brain circuitry to invent God.”

The lens of science and reason

The Narrator then explains: “This Programme explores human consciousness of God, asks why we believe what we believe, and considers if we are hard-wired for spiritual experience, all viewed through the lens of science and reason. Is God consciousness a form of make-believe? On that, opinion is divided.”

The ‘lens of science and reason’ suggests that the Narrator is alluding to the ‘enlightenment’—that period centred on the 18th century when it was reasoned that the so-called scientific advances of that day were a justifiable excuse for opposing Christian morality and promoting atheism. Our response to such skepticism and denial of God both then and now is to say that there is nothing unscientific or unreasonable about Christianity, or Creation, or the Gospel. Indeed, the whole scientific enterprise began with a broadly biblical worldview in which a divine Lawmaker gave man dominion over the rest of creation. We do not seek the exclusion of any true scientific fact, as all truth originates from God. God Himself invites sinners to repent in the following terms: “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet,they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). See also:

The brain and the mind

Several speakers differentiate between the brain and the mind, with the brain (“the most awesome phenomenon in the universe”) regarded as the material part of the two, and the mind as “the functional part of the brain—the thoughts, the feelings, the things that you can’t really touch per se—or the entire pattern of activity distributed over the whole brain.”

Prof. Chris Frith tells viewers: “The major component of it is the neuron, which is basically a device for sending information from one place to another. It has 10 billion neurons in it.3 Each neuron is like a small computer.” Surprisingly, neither the atheists nor the theistic evolutionists in the DVD claim these facts as evidence of anything. We suggest it is evidence that humans, with their magnificent brains, mind, and intellect, were created by the omnipotent, omniscient, Almighty God, and did not evolve from pond scum through mindless chance. See:

Lots of unknowns

The Narrator tells viewers: “How billions of neurons in the human brain produce our sense of being conscious is one of the great unknowns in science”. Other unknowns mentioned by speakers include what consciousness is, what a thought is, what a memory is, and “how, from the activity of these [brain] cells, we have this amazing phenomenon of thought, awareness, feelings, emotions, everything that makes us unique as individuals” (Dr Sam Parnia).

Music is mentioned as an example of one of the things “that go beyond the level of human consciousness and seem in some way spiritual”. Composer of religious music, Dr John Rutter, asks: “Why does an idea suddenly come to you? Where does it come from? Now someone like Johann Sebastian Bach or Joseph Haydn would have said it was sent from God.” For our thoughts on this, see:

What did Darwin say about the human mind?

illustrated by Caleb Salisburyjudge

The Narrator tells viewers that when scientists try to explain the human brain, “inevitably they turn to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection for some answers … . Can this process explain the wonders of the human mind and brain?”

Our response: No, it can’t! For Darwin, the mind was a huge unresolved problem. The one thing he did say about it invalidates all his convictions about his whole theory of evolution, which was the product of his mind! In 1881, after years of pondering the matter, he wrote to a correspondent:

… with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?4

Nevertheless, atheist Prof. Stephen Pinker (Psychology, Harvard) opines: “There’s an enormous amount of evidence that our minds as well as our bodies were shaped by natural selection. We certainly know that many of our mental functions are shared with other primates.” The DVD shows a gorilla’s face, so Prof. Pinker appears to be unaware that his comment highlights Darwin’s above-stated problem. In further reply, we offer readers the following ‘tongue-in-cheek’ article: Differences between humans and animals.

Prof. Pinker continues: “Natural selection is a process that can generate complexity, local complexity, and there is no reason to think that it can’t explain the complexity of the human brain.” Not so! Natural selection does not generate new information. See:

Prof. John Lennox (Mathematics, University of Oxford) restates Darwin’s problem in the following words:

It [the theory of natural selection] tells me that the mind is the brain, and the brain is the product of an unguided mindless process. Why should I believe anything that comes to me through that kind of a filter, through a machine that has been constructed by randomness and the laws of nature? It seems to me to make far more sense that the mind is the product of a rational Creator. … People find it difficult to produce any meaning out of the mindless random evolutionary process, and that is why, I think, people are now interested more than they were in years gone by in the whole God question.

A relationship with God

The DVD shows Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, England, and the Narrator tells viewers that for many years the majesty of Ely cathedral has proclaimed belief in the existence of God to the world outside. Actually, building of the cathedral itself started after the Norman Conquest (11th century), but the site of Ely was an important worship centre since the seventh century, as recorded by the Venerable Bede (672–735).5

The Rev. Canon Dr Alan Hargrave elaborates a little more profoundly:

Somehow there is a sense of God’s grace and presence, and a sense of being loved, which is a profound and meaningful experience. … It’s about a relationship with a God who loves us and who has revealed Himself to us in Christ. It’s a place where we put ourselves in God’s presence, and learn from Him, and are there expectant that He will meet with us.

We totally agree that Christianity is all about a personal relationship with God, and we elaborate on this under the heading, “Made in the image of God”, below.

Atheist Prof. Daniel Dennett decries this, but gives no reason other than to say that when he was a teenager, “I became sceptical, and it just hit me that this was all a lot of nonsense”. Atheist Prof. Steven Pinker equates such belief with superstition. Atheist Dr Dean Hamer suggests that God is man’s invention.

illustrated by Caleb SalisburyRussians

We suggest that these and the other atheists in this DVD are all talking from a platform of ignorance. It is hugely arrogant of them to claim that, because they themselves have not experienced God, therefore the claims of other people who have are not valid, or are just superstition, and that therefore God does not exist. And they ignore the evidence of God independent of experience, such as from creation, morality, the Bible, and Christ (as explained in Christianity for Skeptics). See:

An interesting response is provided by the Narrator who says concerning the former Soviet Union: “Perhaps no culture has more aggressively tested the strength and tenacity of belief in God. The Communist leadership demanded allegiance only to the State. Despite more than 70 years trying to kill God off and eliminate religion from society, God remains, the Soviet Union does not!”

“Made in the image of God”

So far the discussion has been by various protagonists putting ‘belief in God’ under the microscope; however, unless belief in God leads to a personal relationship with Him—so what? According to James 2:19: “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” One thing the DVD has not provided for viewers is any indication of who God is, or what a personal relationship with Him involves. Consider:

The God we are talking about is the One revealed in the Bible as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.6 The Bible proclaims that this God created mankind in His own image—not only the first humans, Adam and Eve, but also all their descendants, including us (Genesis 1:27; 9:6; James 3:9). This means that all of us have in our heart a ‘God-shaped vacuum’7 that only God Himself can fill.8 Hence mankind’s universal search for God. Such universal God-searching is not a matter of culture, as atheist Peter Atkins claims, but rather, as Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) concluded: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”9

Because we are made in God’s image, and animals are not, we have a God-consciousness that animals do not have. This is the capacity for holding spiritual communion with God through prayer, praise, and worship. However, this is not a natural thing for us to do in this present age. The Fall, i.e. Adam’s rebellion against God (what the Bible calls ‘sin’), broke our relationship with God but did not destroy His image in us (Genesis 3; James 3:9). We all have rebelled against God, and so have incurred the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23), which is ultimately separation from God. Hence all of mankind has an enormous problem: how to obtain peace with God.

Because our rebellion is against the authority of God over us, there is one, and only one way to obtain peace with God (or come into a right relationship with Him), and that is through the way that God Himself has provided. This is that God (the Father) sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to obey God’s law perfectly so that his perfect human righteousness could be imputed to us (credited to our account). Then His death on the cross (followed by His Resurrection) was the perfect offering to pay the penalty for our sin (Romans 5:8)—our sins are imputed to Him (Isaiah 53:6–10). God can thus justly forgive our sins, and our guilty past can be cancelled because our debt has been paid by Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:24). Peace with God comes when we acknowledge our sin (1 John 1:9), change our mind enough to want to change direction (Acts 3:19), and believe and accept what Christ has done on our behalf (Ephesians 2:8)). This is a spiritual transaction in which Christ through the Holy Spirit comes to live within us (John 1:12–13). All this is what is involved in believing in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16), and receiving Him (John 1:12; Romans 10:13; Revelation 3:20). See:

To anyone who say this is not relevant to me, we reply that God’s holiness and our sin make the Gospel message incredibly relevant. One day we shall all stand before God as our Judge (Acts 17:30–31), and on that Day how we have responded to Jesus Christ will determine our eternal destiny (Hebrews 9:27–28; Revelation 20:11–12, 15). As the gospel hymn says:10

What will you do with Jesus?
Neutral you cannot be;
Someday your heart will be asking,
“What will He do with me?”

See:

Right and wrong

The DVD moves on to a discussion of why human beings across cultures share a sense of right and wrong independently of whether they are religious or not, and asks: “Why should this be so?” And: “If God doesn’t exist, and human beings are only the product of blind evolution, where does our sense of morality come from?”

Atheist Peter Atkins opines: “We’ve stumbled into ways of behaving which gives stability to our species.”

But this is the whole problem: natural selection will favour only those behaviours that aid survival, or to be more precise, propagation of our genes. So no matter how illogical or immoral the behaviour, if it leads to more surviving offspring, then natural selection will favour it. Thus two evolutionists wrote a book claiming that rape is explained by its selective advantage in propagating the rapists’ genes.11 See this interview, Rape and evolution, where the book’s second author was tied in logical knots trying to justify their claims—under their own worldview.

Theist Prof. Alvin Plantinga (Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, Indiana) correctly states: “God creates us all in His image, whether we are atheists or theists or agnostics or whatever. We are all created in His image; we all have a grasp of what’s right and wrong.”

Concerning what happens when a whole society abandons obedience to God on moral issues, emeritus Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (Baron Sacks) says: “Nazi Germany sought to get rid of one particular religion called Judaism by destroying Jews. Stalinist Russia sought to get rid of all religions by pursuing dialectical materialism. Both were as tyrannical and profoundly inhumane as it is possible for a society to be. And frankly, a world without God, a world in which human beings act without any sense of cosmic justice, is a world that terrifies me.” See:

Atheist Dr Dean Hamer gives viewers his view: “I think what is truly amazing is that something as simple as evolution could create beings like ourselves who have such noble ideas as justice and equality. These are very lofty ideas, and yet just by a bunch of molecules pumping around, that’s what we ended up with. That to me is truly astonishing!”

We let creationist and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis answer this irrationality. He wrote:

If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents—the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. And this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else’s. But if their thoughts—i.e. of materialism and astronomy—are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.12

See:

Conclusion

The DVD concludes with the Narrator stating: “Who we are and why is central to exploring the God question.”

We conclude by emphasizing that the central issue for all human beings, including atheists, theistic evolutionists, and readers of this article, is who God is and what He has said, namely that Jesus is the only way of salvation (John 14:6). And, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved … ” Acts 16:31).

References and notes

  1. Exploring the God Question is a set of three DVDs titled 1. The Cosmos; 2. Life and Evolution; and 3. Mind and Consciousness, each in 2 Parts. Various atheist and theist speakers give their personal opinions on these subjects, with evolution regarded as fact by all the scientists except lone young-earther, biblical creationist Prof. Andy McIntosh (Thermodynamics, University of Leeds). Return to text.
  2. Published in 2013 by Search for Truth Enterprises Ltd, a subsidiary of Search for Truth Charitable Trust, a private limited company based in Scotland. For more details see our comments in Exploring the God Question 1. The Cosmos, Part 1 (The Big Bang). Return to text.
  3. Latest research indicates a figure of about 86 billion; see http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2012/feb/28/how-many-neurons-human-brain. Return to text.
  4. Charles Darwin to William Graham, Darwin Correspondence Project, Letter No. 13230, dated July 3rd, 1881. Return to text.
  5. Bede, Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People), 731. Return to text.
  6. See Jesus Christ our Creator: A biblical defence of the Trinity. Return to text.
  7. This concept comes from the writings of French Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623–1662), although these three words have not been found in English translations of his Pensées [Thoughts], published posthumously in 1670. Pansées 10.148 says: “ … this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and unchangeable object; in other words by God himself.” Return to text.
  8. Cf. Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman at the well: “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14). Return to text.
  9. Augustine, Confessions, 397–400. The introduction contains that famous phrase, and is in full: “Great are You, O Lord, and greatly to be praised; great is Your power, and of Your wisdom there is no end. And man, being a part of Your creation, desires to praise You, man, who bears about with him his mortality, the witness of his sin, even the witness that You resist the proud—yet man, this part of Your creation, desires to praise You. You move us to delight in praising You; for You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” Translated by J.G. Pilkington. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 1. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight, newadvent.org/fathers/110101.htm. Return to text.
  10. “What will you do with Jesus?”, written by Albert B. Simpson, published in 1905 (public domain); the lines quoted are the Chorus. Return to text.
  11. Thornhill, R and Palmer, C.T., A Natural History Of Rape: Biological Bases Of Sexual Coercion, MIT Press, 2001. Return to text.
  12. Lewis, C.S., The Business of Heaven, Fount Paperbacks, UK, 1984, p. 97. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

The Image of God
From
US $6.50
DVD
Christianity for Skeptics
by Drs Steve Kumar, Jonathan D Sarfati
From
US $17.00

Readers’ comments

Stephen L.
There seems to be grave misunderstandings among some reading these articles and leaving comments.

This DVD series has NOT been produced by atheists but by what appears to me to be a Christian organisation. Moreover, it is being endorsed and promoted by the influential UK Evangelical Alliance and is now welcomed by much of the UK church. Furthermore, it is now being promoted around the world.

In August 2014 I attended a presentation given by the producer, Ian Morris, at the Keswick Convention (a conservative Christian annual event) and the capacity audience was very appreciative and applauded for some time at the end of the session. The presenter dismissed "creationists" as "the cause of a good punch up" which, judging by the enthusiastic applause, was true in the minds of most there.

This material is going into some large and influential UK churches and is, therefore, all the more dangerous. The UK Evangelical Alliance's survey of 2011 showed that 60% of it's members believe in Theistic Evolution, so there's a ready market for this material.

For more background search "exploring the God question" and "Kharis productions" online.
Phil K.
@ Robert W. : I realize you asked a rhetorical question, “Why are they so engrossed with the God they don't believe in?” But the answer is that atheists are at war with God. Their actions betray their words.
Jonathan Sarfati
I think you are right. This is in line with one of our previous articles Is Richard Dawkins an atheist?, which argues cogently that he is really a misotheist or God-hater.
james p H.
Seems to me that you’ve wasted a massive amount of time ‘rebutting’ this atheistic drivel. …
Jonathan Sarfati
No one is forcing anyone to read this.

To be honest, you wasted more time with this one-sentence expression of ingratitude.
Robert W.
Atheism is "running from God" or ""Hiding from God."
For they all spend an inordinate amount of time pondering, refuting, arguing the "God Question."
Why? Why are they so engrossed with the God they don't believe in? This article began with one of the Drs. Accusing believers of "wasting their time on God."
Yet, this is exactly what they do.
It seems that, considering they have only about 75-80 years on this earth, they would just shrug God off and spend no time considering all the reasons they should diss Him.
One Biblical fact they won't argue is their imminent death.
And was it not God Almighty who first recorded in history: "It is appointed unto men once to die."
And so, since they know they will die, and they know God decreed this, I wonder why it is so hard for them to accept the "gift" of what comes after death, eternal life in Christ.
If God appointed death, and everyone dies, then He must be right on all the other things He decrees, right?
Atheist friend, please study Gods Word, not just read it, study in depth. The joy you can have in Christ here and now, then forever, is immeasurable.
I pray you will contact someone like Lee Strobel for input as well. Receive Christ today. Amen
Steven F.
I thank you for this great set of articles and rebuttals! The atheist arguments in this DVD seem so ridiculous. The mere fact that the atheists feel the need to produce such a DVD seems to show desperation in defending their worldview.

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