Julian, Here is another one. Hope it’s warm where you are. [Sure, it was down to 7 last night]
CONSCIOUSNESS IS BORN OF THE BRAIN, NOT FATHERED BY A GOD
Rene Descartes, (1596-1650) French philosopher, viewed the physical world as mechanistic and entirely divorced from the mind, the only connection between the two being by intervention of God. His view is called dualism. Thus, he believed consciousness to be a product of God. He called it soul.
The church from day one has believed in dualism. Darwin disturbed the belief and the church finally had to concede that evolution was the manner in which life developed but it never gave up its dualistic belief. Somewhere, it taught, in the evolutionary development of man, God introduced a soul, a substance divorced from the material world and of eternal duration.
Science has proved Descartes and the church wrong. Consciousness or soul is a product of the brain and the brain is a product of the material world. The latest evidence is set forth in an essay by Michael Craig Miller, M.D. titled “Sad Brain, Happy Brain” and published in “Newsweek.” Here is the first paragraph:
“The brain is the mind is the brain. One hundred billion nerve cells, give or take, none of which individually has the capacity to feel or to reason, yet together generating consciousness. For about 400 years, following the ideas of French philosopher Rene Descrates, those who thought about its nature considered the mind related to the body, but separate from it. In this model—often called ‘dualism’ or mind-body problem—the mind was ‘immaterial,’ not anchored in anything physical. Today neuroscientists are finding abundant evidence of an idea that even Freud played with more than a 100 years ago, that separating mind from brain makes no sense. Nobel Prize-winning psychiatrist-neuroscientist Eric Kandel stated it directly in a watershed paper published in 1998: ‘All mental processes, even the most complex psychological processes, derive from operations of the brain.’”
Thus during four billion years of evolution by mutation and natural selection, nature has developed a mass of cells interconnected by chemistry and electricity that provides humans with consciousness of the environment and all that is in it including themselves. Also it has provided humans with intelligence, empathy, conscience and morality. A damaged brain can deprive a human of all that a healthy brain can provide. When the brain dies all that it provides dies.
An analogy is the electromagnetic field produced by a current flowing through a coil of wire. The field cannot be seen, smelled and detected in any manner except by its magnetic effects and the measurement of it by instruments. But when the current no longer flows through the coil the field collapses. Death has come to it and it is gone, returning to nature whence it came.
The article doesn’t mention the seismic ramifications affecting religions that posit in their theology the existence of an eternal soul, even in a zygote. If consciousness or soul is material and subject to the fate of all material things, then most religions have built their cathedrals and dogmatic doctrines on sand.
If there is not an immaterial soul with an everlasting future either in heaven or hell, the tent preachers can fold their tents and take up another profession; and the ministers of the more sophisticated and well-heeled sanctuaries can abandon grace and begin good works for this world, because this world is all there is—since there is no soul to dwell in another world hereafter.
What happens to the argument that a zygote has a soul and that abortion at any stage is the killing of a human with an eternal soul? It becomes untenable and baseless. The repercussions in religion and politics are incalculable, as well as the consequences in all other areas of human laws and culture. For instance, if one’s will is an aspect of consciousness and thus generated by the brain, which is material, then the will is inextricably and inevitably tied to cause and effect and thus a puppet of history. Without free will what happens to the premise of criminal law?
In the present political contest, one party’s platform is opposed to abortion for any reason and that opposition is Biblically based. The premise is that a zygote or embryo or fetus has a soul and is therefore human and in some minds it is a mortal sin and even murder to abort it. But if there is no soul, what happens to the argument? In a world that is run over with humans, many of whom live and exist in wretched and desperate conditions, the premise that humans are God-created and thus semi-divine and everyone of them precious in the eyes of God is questionable and certainly debatable. But the lack of a soul should not diminish one human’s respect and concern for another.
Descartes was wrong. Humans are not dual, part natural and part supernatural. They are one with the natural world. They evolved from the natural world and they will dissolve into the natural world, for they are material.
Evolution provided human with consciousness, conscience, empathy and sympathy, among other virtues, fashioned from the material world. It also provided humans with intelligence, imagination and morality, as well as the propensity to sin the seven deadly ways. But a personal god and a designing devil had nothing to do with any aspect of the human condition. Or at least one can argue so now with more authority than at any time in history.