Train Them Up Right…

Several years ago I was challenged by a skeptic to defend my belief system. I didn’t do a very good job at understanding why I believed the way that I did other than my subjective feelings about it. This encounter inspired a passion in me to put 1 Peter 3:15 into action in my life.

Over a period of time I discovered that to be most effective at defending the faith you must first be willing to question your most sacred beliefs. You must be willing to see your beliefs from the skeptic’s perspective so that you can meet him where he is and then try to persuade him using the evidence available and under the power of the Holy Spirit.

With this in mind, and experience as a guide, I have detected what I believe is a flaw in how we train people, especially our young people, to defend the faith. In this article I am first going to disclose the flaw. I am then going to cite three ways the flaw manifests itself. The three examples I offer happen to be in the field of science which should be no surprise since this area is popular among skeptics. As I discuss each of these I will offer a solution to correct the flaw so that ultimately we will become improved trainers, and most importantly, improved ambassadors for the Gospel of Jesus.

The Flaw

The most prominent flaw I see when we try to defend our Christian position is often a failure to understand terms. For example, it may be the case that a pro-life Christian assumes that a pro-abortion individual is in favor of killing babies. But if we stop for a moment and listen to the view of the pro-abortionist, we will likely discover that a person in favor of abortion is just as opposed to killing babies as a pro-life person is. The difference in positions is not whether we should or shouldn’t kill babies. The difference in our positions is determined by when we believe life begins. How then do we begin effective dialogue with a pro-abortionist? When a person says they are pro-choice or pro-abortion ask them, “What do you mean by abortion?” Then ask them how they came to that conclusion. If you do this, not only is the burden of proof on them, you will also come to an understanding of their position instead of talking past them.

When we place more effort into understanding terms we will become more effective in communicating our views and being taken seriously by those who oppose us. There are three scientific areas where skeptics will pound a wedge between themselves and believers. In each of these wedge topics, believers can be left vulnerable if their position is not communicated properly.

Wedge Topic #1: Evolution

I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe in evolution. Say what? That’s right! But, wait a minute. Hear me out. Remember what we just discussed? We have to define our terms. But before we do that, we need to understand why we should focus on evolution when training people to defend the faith.

Evolution is one of the most popular avenues skeptics use to discredit Christianity. After all, if life simply evolved then we have no need for a Creator. Darwinian evolutionists believe all life is descended from one common ancestor and it happened only by natural causes, precluding belief in a Common Designer.
Many Christians will flat out deny any truth to the evolutionary theory. This is why skeptical people who believe in evolution don’t take Christians seriously. They see Christians as anti-science, bronze-age numbskulls. Of course we aren’t those things, but there is truth in some parts of the evolutionary theory.

There are two facets of evolution. There is macro-evolution and there is micro-evolution. Macro-evolution is the portion of the theory that says all life forms have descended from one common ancestor and it happened only by natural causes. It describes one species magically changing into brand new species. This form of evolution, due to the near-absence of evidence, is largely faith-based. It’s almost certainly not true and contains many, many problems including the inability to be reproduced in a lab.

Micro-evolution on the other hand, describes the ability of life forms to change or adapt to its conditions. This form of evolution is not only true, but it is verifiable and repeatable. Micro-evolution is what Darwin observed on the Galapagos Islands when he was studying finches. He noted that in years with an abundant food supply, the finches beaks were shorter because they presumably did not have to forage as deep for food. In years with short food supplies, the finches beaks could adapt to be longer so they would be more successful finding food to survive. Micro-evolution does not contradict Biblical creation in any way.

As Christians, we should not be denying this type of verifiable “evolution.” This is why the skeptics do not take us seriously. But when we can come to understand our terms, we find that we actually have more common ground than we thought. We are doing a disservice to our children and others when we train them to be completely against evolution. We know a certain form of evolution is true and we should be teaching our kids the difference between good science and bad science. When we do this, we give them a huge advantage when they are trying to find common ground with unbelievers.

(As a side note, I could write pages on the failure of macro-evolution but it is beyond the scope at this time. Comment below or message me if you want to discuss evolution further).

Wedge Topic #2: The Big Bang

I’m an evangelical Christian and I believe in The Big Bang. That’s right, I do! But, like evolution, you should be asking, “what do you mean by that?” This topic is a little easier to explain. Science has proven beyond all doubt that the universe has a beginning. This is agreed upon by virtually everyone.

When talking with a skeptic, there is absolutely no reason to disagree with him on the main idea regarding Big Bang Cosmology. After all, the science does not indicate what caused the Big Bang, it can only demonstrate what happened after the bang was banged. If you’re arguing the merits of the Big Bang verses the merits of Creation with a skeptic then you may find that you’re more interested in scoring points than you are in leading them to Christ. Now, I’m not saying Christians should believe in those portions of the the Big Bang Theory that have very little evidence. All I’m saying is that both skeptics and believers agree the universe has a beginning. In simple terms, that’s what the Big Bang Theory describes. It’s also what Genesis 1:1 describes. We all believe the universe was “banged” into existence. Christians believe they know who banged it.

We are doing our children and others a disservice if we teach them to be against the Big Bang. When we define it in terms of good science and scripture, we can meet the skeptic where he is and begin fruitful dialogue.

Wedge Topic #3: Age of the Universe

I’m an evangelical Christian and I have no clue how old the universe is. That’s right, no clue. In fact, it is impossible to know the answer to this on this side of Heaven. We were not there at Genesis 1:1. The Bible and science leave room for many assumptions. There are very good assumptions made by young universe people and there are very good assumptions made by old universe people. I don’t have space to dissect them all here. If you want to discuss it more, comment below or message me.

In the end, I believe that remaining dogmatic on this point can be counter productive. If you’re dealing with a skeptic who is scientifically inclined, forcing him to swallow something that seems counter-factual in his mind may permanently turn him away from hearing other evidence about the truth of Christianity. I guarantee you that salvation is not predicated on your belief on the age of the universe. The fact that God actually created the universe, not when he created the universe, is what is important when reaching the lost. I believe Satan uses this point of contention to sow division among all of us and when we entertain it as dogma we are playing into his hands. This is an in-house debate which should rarely, if ever, be discussed among unbelievers. It is not productive and I’ve never known anyone to come to Christ by their belief on the age of the universe.

As for me, I wake up believing in a young universe and I go to bed believing in an old universe. Neither position contradicts the fact that the universe is created.

We are doing our children and others a disservice if we teach them to be dogmatic on this issue. We should expose them to both scenarios and if we want to be intellectually honest, we will admit that we have no idea how old the universe is.

Conclusion

People have doubts. Christians should be prepared to engage the doubters in order to be effective witnesses for the truth about God, Jesus, creation, sin, and redemption. Intellectual honesty about science and Christianity always works in the Christian’s favor. Good science will never contradict God’s word and should be viewed as way to study in awe of God’s creation work. We should release ourselves from old-fashioned dogma and embrace sound scientific discoveries as confirmations of God’s awesome creation. When our children are released into the real world, we should want them to be taken seriously as ambassadors. To enable that we need to teach them how to communicate what they believe effectively and convincingly without coming across as backward, religious fruit cakes. We can teach them the things of the scientific world that line up with God’s word. We should be able to show people that Christianity will never be compromised by science or any other field of study. Let’s give the next generation of Christians the tools necessary to engage an increasingly skeptical world.

A Child Primed to be a Defender

A few nights ago I was driving home with my eight year old son. As I drove along all of the sudden the entire city went dark. It was a power outage. Fortunately, the power was restored a few seconds later and the city became bright again. My son loves to ask lots of questions, so naturally he wanted to know why the outage occurred. I told him the possibilities and then the following exchange happened.

My son: “Daddy, when the power went off, why didn’t the lights in our car go off too?”

Me: “That’s a great question. Our lights stayed on because our car is not attached to the power grid. Our car produces its own power. It sort of has its own power plant under the hood.”

My son: “Tell me how it works, Daddy.”

I explained to my son that the flammable gas in the gas tank interacts with a spark plug which causes the engine to fire up. I told him how the parts in the engine begin to spin which in turn causes a belt and pulley system to circulate. I taught him that the belt turns the alternator and the energy created by the alternator keeps the battery charged and the power in the battery causes the lights in our car to function.

My son’s next statement is what caused my to smile. He said, “Yeah Daddy, and if one of those parts are missing, our car will not work.”

I was stunned to realize that my eight year old son understood what scientists refer to as Irreducible Complexity. This is something that was introduced by the Lehigh University biochemist, Michael Behe. In his book Darwin’s Black Box, Behe argues that certain systems are irreducibly complex. The example he uses is the bacteria flagellum.

behe_and_book
Michael Behe

To put it simply, he contends that there are necessary parts that interact with other necessary parts and if just one of the parts are missing, the organism could not live or survive. Just as my son pointed out, the functionality of a car is an easy to understand example. There are certain necessary parts (spark plugs, ignitor, coolant, etc.) in which all of them must be present in order for the car to function. If one part is missing, the car will not operate.

What are the implications as it relates to a balanced, logical worldview? Irreducible Complexity creates a world of problems for Darwinian Evolutionary Theory. All living things are irreducibly complex, even at the cellular level. This means that living organisms likely cannot evolve from less complex organisms through slight, successive changes over a long period of time. Take the human body for example. The human body must, in all cases, have a heart, a liver, kidneys, and other essential organs in order to function. Under Darwinian macro-evolution, human bodies apparently evolved these parts at different times over eons of time. This is just nonsense in my opinion. We have absolutely no evidence to show this and we certainly cannot repeat it.

All of this apparent design and dependent functionality points toward some kind of intelligent design. Just as John Lennox points out, a car does not exist based solely on the existence of natural laws. Clearly there is design at play when one looks at a car. There are parts that must function together for the machine to work. Based on our experience and repeatable trials, we know these parts and their corresponding functionality did not arise from natural forces. So the car’s existence and functionality not only depends on natural laws (internal combustion, etc.) but clearly there is some kind of intelligent design involved. Frank Turek summarizes it nicely. He says, “No matter how much you learn about [natural laws], the need for a designing engineer will never change. In other words, learning more about how [a car] works should never cause you to conclude there was no designing engineer.”

We can learn all we want about natural laws and we should never cease to do that. But we also should not toss out the other obvious elephant in the room. Irreducible Complexity is a strong argument for the existence of some kind of intelligent designer.

As we drove along, I told my son that he had a clear understanding of Irreducible Complexity. His eyes got big and he said, “Daddy, that’s a big word. I don’t even know what that means.” I told him that he just explained to me what it means and to not be intimidated by big words. Then we reviewed it and now he is very clear about what it means. Because of his age, I did not relate it apologetically, but you can be sure that I will be building on this foundation as he grows.

Daniel, Babylon, and the Ancient Primordial Soup

I’ve been doing some reading about Daniel (from the Bible) in a book by the great Oxford University mathematician, philosopher of science, and Christian apologist, John Lennox entitled, “Against the Flow, The Inspiration of Daniel in an Age of Relativism.” While studying the history, it is pointed out that in order to draw parallels with the Babylonian society of Daniel with today’s Western society, we must first understand the worldview of the ancient Babylonians.

Ancient Babylon was an ultra-modern, polytheistic, yet secular society. The people found meaning and salvation through science and technology, much like many people do today. After all, the Bible says there is nothing new under the sun (Ecc 1:9). At this time of great prosperity and ultra-modern secularism, Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. He ordered many of the young men of Jerusalem back to Babylon to be stripped of their old way of life and be socially engineered into being a Babylonian and serving the king in various capacities. Daniel and three of his friends were just a few of the young men who were ripped from their families and taken to a foreign land to learn a new language, new literature, and all new customs.

Daniel found out real quick that these people did not believe in Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Daniel believed that Yahweh was the one true God, creator of heaven and earth. But after studying in Babylon (think about being away at college) he obviously had to study their gods. While they had many gods, the very beginning of the long line of gods began with a goddess named Nammu. She was the goddess who gave birth to all other goddesses.

I have three points I have learned about the time period, Nammu, and the view the ancient Babylonians had about her. I’ll share them and parallel it all with today’s world.

  1. Nammu was dubbed the “Primordial Sea Goddess.” This name for her gives us some great clues related to how the ancient people viewed their gods. In all of ancient Sumerian and Greek mythology, the gods all seem to be dependent on a pre-existing form of matter. These gods seem to originate inside an already existing cosmos (in this case, the sea). This is hugely important in drawing the distinction between these phony gods and the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible clearly exists outside of the cosmos. He created the cosmos and therefore He transcends it altogether, just as the Bible teaches. This leads me into my next point.
  1. The most vocal and militant evangelist of the New Atheism movement, Richard Dawkins, has been quoted many times saying this line: “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” The problem with this is that Judeo-Christian monotheism is not some streamlined version of pagan polytheism. Christians believe in a God that cannot be compared to the gods Dawkins speaks about. They are two totally different categories and I’ll show why this is the case.

John Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of the UK puts it nicely when he says, “We make a great mistake if we think of monotheism as a linear development from polytheism, as if people first worshiped many gods and then reduced them to one. Monotheism is something else entirely. The meaning of a system lies outside the system. Therefore the meaning of the universe lies outside the universe. Monotheism, by discovering the transcendental God, the God who stands outside the universe and creates it, made it possible for the first time to believe that life has a meaning, not just a mythic or scientific explanation.”

So this argument that atheists simply believe in one god less than a Christian sounds very clever but fails miserably to make its point. While all the other gods that humanity has ever believed in which Dawkins speaks about are products of heaven and earth, our Christian God actually created heaven and earth and exists wholly apart from them.

  1. The third point I want to make draws a connection between the mythical goddess Nammu and the idea of macro-evolution. Remember from above that Nammu was called the “Primordial Sea Goddess.” Anyone with a basic familiarity with macro-evolution probably has ears that perk up when they hear the word “primordial.” Today’s evolutionists will use this word to form the term “primordial soup.” According to Webster, primordial soup is a mixture of organic molecules in evolutionary theory from which life on earth originated. Today’s evolutionary theorists, despite all the advances in science, et al, are still thinking the same way the ancients of Babylon thought thousands of years ago! Like today’s evolutionary theorists, the Babylonians thought life itself emerged from a primordial sea as evidenced by the primordial sea god, Nammu. Their old philosophy was much like that of today’s evolutionists in that they deified the basic forces of nature without ever knowing how to explain how the basic forces of nature could possibly originate on their own. While they derived all life from somehow pre-existing matter, the Christian God created the matter, it did not create Him!

Lennox notes in his book that “this idea that mass-energy is primitive, and all else derives from it, is the essence of the materialistic reductionism that tries to dominate Western society. On this view, mass-energy is subject to the laws of nature…and must have latent capacity to produce all we see around us…

Isn’t it amazing that there truly is nothing new under the sun?

“History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” –Ecclesiastes 1:9.

Quick thoughts…

On morals: People who believe in Darwinism cannot adequately explain why anyone should obey any kind of moral law. On Darwinism, why shouldn’t the strong prey on the weak to get what they want? If nothing exists beyond this world and beyond this life, why not rape, steal, and kill to get what you want? Why should the powerful stand up for the weak and poor among us? It’s a noble thing to do, but on Darwinism it’s senseless. On Darwinism, there is no ultimate standard, but the Darwinists go on acting like there is. 

On love: Darwinists obviously believe in natural selection and macroevolution. It is widely known that on this view, love is merely a chemical reaction in the brain. It’s a way to describe the devolpment of these chemical reactions in order for us to survive. If a Darwinist is to be consistent in his worldview, he should be ready to say his love for his wife and children are illusions. He should be prepared to tell them that the love isn’t actual; the love is merely a means that helps his own genes survive. That’s it. Nothing more. 

Let’s see some examples of how Darwinists should be living and acting if they truly are consistent. There does exist consistent Darwinian atheists. Their views are alarming, as follows.

On the value of life: There is a Darwinist named James Rachels who you should know about. In his book, Created From Animals, he says that retarded people are nothing more than animals. He says they should be used the way humans use non-human animals—as lab subjects or possibly for food.  Another Darwinist, Peter Singer, thinks parents should be allowed to abort their children after they have been alive outside of the womb for up to 28 days! He also says newborn human babies are of less value than the life of a pig!

The bottom line is that if only material things exist, then horrible behaviors espoused by some Darwinists and some atheists such as baby killing and eating retarded people, really aren’t wrong. They’re simply chemical reactions in the brain. None of these things can be objectively wrong because on a view of natural selection there are no moral laws if our brains are reacting to chemicals. In fact, our governmental laws could not be enforced if the world operated on Darwinism. Raping and murdering would simply be considered unfashionable at most. Fortunately, all rule of law is based on a transcendent moral law, just like the transcendent morality cited in order to convict the Nazi’s at the Nuremberg trials. 

They Live Inconsistently

I’ve noticed how many liberal, skeptical-minded nonbelievers tend to have strong convictions as it relates to protecting the environment, liberating the poor, eradicating diseases, and justice for the oppressed. All these things are worthy causes, though we all hold different methods by which we think they should be addressed.

I also notice some glaring contradictions with this kind of thinking among skeptical non-believers. These non-believers create an inconsistent worldview for themselves. They like to say things like, “all senses and convictions can be explained through biological evolution.” They readily admit that since we have evolved via natural selection, we can’t completely trust our own senses. They say our belief in God is simply a belief that has helped us survive, not that there is an actual God. They think beliefs, even our false beliefs, are beneficial to our survival and that is how our false belief in God originated. Maybe so. But here’s the rub with this kind of thinking: If we cannot trust our faculties as it relates to the falsity or truth about God, then why should we trust our faculties as it relates to anything at all, including macro-evolutionary science? To put it another way, if our cognitive faculties tell us only what we need to survive, not about what is actually true, why trust those faculties about anything at all? What a glaring contradiction!! Couldn’t it be then that this idea of macroevolution is simply an imaginary one that has merely assisted our human development? Why trust it?

We know God exists not because we have tangible proof, but because of cumulative clues that point very strongly toward His existence. We have the Cosmological Argument about causation of the universe. We have the teleological argument regarding the undeniable design features of the universe. We have the Anthropic Principle, which describes the delicate fine-tuning of the universe to allow life to survive. We have the regularity of nature. We have the existence of undeniable, objective moral values and duties. All of these things (plus many more) cumulatively form a solid basis for God’s existence.

But there are a few more things to add to the list. Remember what I wrote in the first paragraph. Many people have a very deep conviction to protect the environment, stand up for the oppressed, help the poor, and eradicate disease. As I pointed out, under a macro evolutionary view of the world, we have absolutely no reason to trust our convictions in these areas. After all, under this view, how can we trust anything we think to be true? Why should we carry a strong conviction about environmental issues? A Darwinist, if he is to be consistent, should admit it’s all just an illusion. The point is this, if there is no God, we should not trust any of our cognitive faculties at all.

But the problem for the Darwinist is that he does trust his cognitive faculties in areas he is most passionate about! He goes on about his every day life using his cognitive faculties and trusting them probably more than he trusts anything else. He has no real basis to say nature will go on regularly but he goes right on benefiting from nature’s regularity. He has no ultimate purpose for his social causes but he goes right on crusading for them.

However, if we believe God exists, we have every right to trust our cognitive faculties. We have every right to know the list of evidences for God is actually real. We can ground all the questions about the regularity of nature, moral obligations, helping the poor, or caring about God’s creation. Believers can crusade for justice and environmental stewardship because we have ultimate purpose in doing so.

Just like the bible states in Romans 1:19-20, everyone knows God is there. But isn’t it funny that those who deny him cannot actually live that way consistently?

Altruism and the Existence of God

Altruism is a behavior and feelings that show a desire to help others and show a lack of selfishness.  The reality of altruism is a huge problem for atheism and Darwinian evolution.  We know altruistic behavior has existed for as long as knowable human history.  An example of why this creates major problems for Darwinian evolutionists can be understood in the following examples.  A newspaper runs a story at Christmastime detailing the difficulties of a less fortunate family that is very needy.  A man reading the story is compelled to anonymously donate a large portion of money to this needy family to help them get through winter, to have necessities, and gives them the ability to provide some extra Christmas gifts to the children of the family.  This anonymous, altruistic action offers absolutely no kind of evolutionary advantage yet things like this happen all the time.  It stands to reason that, since this kind of behavior offers no evolutionary advantage, the trait of altruism should have disappeared long ago, if Darwinian evolution were true.

Consider the following story, which is true.  In May 2012, several groups of people were attempting to climb Mt. Everest as they do every year.  A young Israeli climber was nearing the summit when he came across another climber who had run into trouble.  This Turkish climber had fallen and lost most of his equipment, including his oxygen tank and his face mask.  He was clearly going to die very soon. The Israeli halted his ascent and spent several hours helping the distressed Turk back down Everest.  He saved the Turks life and lost three of his own fingers and four toes to frostbite.  He also lost his lifetime dream of reaching Everest’s summit.

In addition to all that, since May 2010, Turkey and Israel have been political enemies.  There is no love lost between these two countries.  So why did the Israeli risk his own life and give up his own dreams for such a self-less act?  It’s possible that he could have gained a better standing in the mating world had he had he been able to place “Everest Conqueror” on his dating resume.  The act did not do a thing to save and propagate his own DNA.  He did not save one of his relatives or even someone of his own ethnicity.  These are things that atheism cannot adequately answer.

What does atheism and Darwinian evolution have to say about this subject?  Natural selection tells the evolutionist that all humans strive to propagate their genes through future generations.  Some evolutionists claim that altruistic prestige that goes along with say, being a fireman, attracts healthy, beautiful females to altruistic males who, if they survive the risk of dying, have the ability to better propagate their genes over men who are less willing to risk their lives.  This is a flimsy argument on its own merit.  Oftentimes, complete slobs who are lazy and cowardly can attract beautiful women.  Maybe the slob has huge amounts of money from an inheritance or lottery winnings, as “luck” would have it.  Moreover, based on Darwinian evolution, it seems strange to me that any woman would want to reproduce with a man who consistently risks the gene pool by tempting death or giving away his family’s money to help others.  Let me be clear.  I understand things like this happen, it just doesn’t make sense based on Darwinian evolution.

Evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton has another explanation to the problem of altruism.  He claims that an altruistic person will still save his genes because he is more likely to rescue or die for his own kin.  He says you can save two of your children at the expense of your own life.  But if you’re saving cousins, your one life would have to save four cousins to make it worthwhile.  Or if you’re saving second cousins, you would have to sacrifice your one life for eight of your second cousins in order for the statistical formula to work and for your genes to be properly propagated.  These genetic computations seem very, very questionable.  Who would really be ready and willing to calculate these formulas in preparation for an altruistic action?

Geneticist E. O. Wilson has recently shied away from his lifelong belief that evolutionary processes could account for altruism.  He has begun to use an example that compares people to ants.  Ants will “choose” to assume roles that will shorten their own lives to enhance the colony.  But, as mathematician and the history of science research fellow at Boston University Amir Aczel asks, what is analogous to the human “colony?”  Is it one’s family, race, community, nation, etc.?  Aczel reminds us of examples of people jumping in icy water to save a dog or firemen rushing into a fiery building to save a cat.  Neither act will be beneficial to the “colony.”

People all over the world are paid modest wages to fight as soldiers and to serve as policemen and first responders. They do altruistic acts for people of different races, ethnicities, languages, religions, etc. European Christians risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis.  Soldiers form brotherly bonds that cause one another to fight to their death to save their comrades.  As Aczel (who is agnostic) points out, “To claim that these are acts that propagate one’s own genes would seem preposterous.”

So what could be the cause of this kind of behavior?  The answer to me is very simple.  It is caused by decency and goodness that is rooted in a decent and good God who upholds all of creation (Col 1:17, Psalm 100:5).  Christians have a great deal of evidences for objective morals rooted in God such as goodness, selflessness, kindness, and generosity.  We are friends of a good God (James 2:23) and friends and helpers to one another (Matt 5:42).  Christians have very good evidence for God’s existence, the truth and authenticity of the Bible, and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus.  If we follow the evidence where it leads without a presupposed worldview, we can find the answers to many, if not all, of our questions.

 

(Some of the material in this article has been adapted from the book by Amir D. Aczel, Why Science Does Not Disprove God (New York: HarperCollins, 2014).

 

 

Is the Mind the Brain? A Christian Apologetic (Updated)

The subject of this writing is something that comes up fairly often.  The assertion made by the atheist to the Christian is that minds cannot exist without brains.  We must be very concise in how we respond to this assertion.  Christians do not necessarily claim that the mind does not use the brain and the brain does not use the mind.  The claim a Christian should make is that the mind and the brain are two separate things.  Claiming anything more or less than that is unnecessary.  Let me define something before moving forward.  For the purposes of this article, I am going to use the terms mind and soul interchangeably.  The main thing we are looking at here is the differences in the material (the brain) and the immaterial (whether that’s the soul or the mind).

The first thing that must be pointed out when discussing this matter is that science cannot really do much of anything to help us answer the question.  All science can do is show that X causes Y, or that Y depends on X.  To illustrate this think about the self-driving cars being tested by Google.  Let’s say you tell the car GPS where you want to go and sit back in your seat to relax until you arrive.  So this car is required for your transportation.  You are dependent on it.  Likewise, the car is dependent on you to tell it what to do.  You are not the car and the car is not you but you both need each other to reach your ends.  Now let’s say the car breaks down and you are trapped inside.  If you couldn’t escape the car, you would be dead for all intents and purposes.  But, if you can remove yourself from the car, you can get around again.  So, in this case your body is not the same thing as the mechanism that was transporting you.  I want to show that souls (and minds) and physical bodies are like this.  The soul (and mind) uses the body but when the body breaks down, you leave the body and still exist.  Your self-consciousness lives in a body but is not the body.  This is a basic description for how a Christian describes a soul.

Ok, back to showing how this matter cannot be answered by science.  A well-known atheist by the name of Peter Atkins claims, “There is no reason to suppose that science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.”  This type of thinking is called “scientism,” which I consider a sort of religious viewpoint.  If Atkins claim is actually true then there are many disciplines that we should toss out the window such as literature, poetry, art, music, ethics, and philosophy.  How can science tell us that the Mona Lisa is a work of genius? Science can tell you that adding poison to someone’s drink can kill them but it cannot answer whether the act was right or wrong.

The physical brain

The great Oxford mathematician, philosopher of science, and bioethicist, John Lennox gives us an example of how science cannot deal with every aspect of existence.  He tells the story of his Aunt Matilda baking a beautiful cake and the cake is submitted to top scientists for analysis.  The nutritionists will calculate the calories and tell us its effect on the body.  The biochemists will tells us about the structure of the fats and proteins in the cake.  The chemists will describe the elements involved in their bonding.  The physicists will analyze the cake in terms of fundamental particles.  The mathematicians will offer equations to describe the behavior of those particles.  After all of this can we say the cake is completely explained?  We know the how of everything but suppose someone wanted to know why the cake was made.  Aunt Matilda knows she made the cake for a purpose, but not a single scientist in the world can tell why she made it.  Unless Aunt Matilda tells us, they are powerless.  Science cannot answer questions of ultimate purpose.  Moreover, it’s absurd to say that because Aunt Matilda made the cake for her nephew who just earned his degree, that we must dismiss purpose as an illusion because science cannot deal with it.

There are many things that are far outside of scientific explanation.  Two big ones are laws of logic and laws of nature.  Science could not even happen without the scientist presupposing laws of logic and laws of nature.  C.S. Lewis once said, “Unless human reasoning is valid no science can be true.”  Science simply cannot explain these things.  The main point is that science deals with the materialistic world but there are clearly immaterial things in the world.  To name a few:  laws of logic, laws of nature, love, guilt, emotions, reason, etc.  If everything can be reduced to materials as atheists insist, then the atheist has a huge problem on his hands.

Darwin knew this.  He even admitted that his ideas on evolution are bunk if a human soul exists, that is to say an immaterial being that exists apart from the physical body.  Macro evolution rests on a foundational presupposition that immaterial minds do not exist.  That is why atheists must cling fervently to the idea that there is no mind, but just a moist brain.  Perhaps Obama would refer to them as “bitter clingers.”  If there is an immaterial mind, their dogma on evolution is false!  It is presuppositional belief.  Remember this!

Now that we know this topic is outside the realm of science we can discuss whether the mind and the brain are the same thing.  One way we can know this is not the case is by showing the mind is not materialistic like the brain.  If it was, then you would be an entirely different being today than you were 15 years ago.  We know the brain changes molecules completely about every 7 to 15 years.  So if your mind was completely material, it would not be the same as it was 15 years ago, but yet, you are the same being with the same personality.

Think about this:  Let’s say scientists are experimenting on your brain and they prod it in different areas.  They may prod one area and it conjures up a memory.  They may prod another area and it may conjure up an image of your sister wearing a pink dress.  Now, if your mind was just as physical as your brain, the scientist should not have to ask you what is in your mind during the experiment.  It seems somehow, somewhere he could dig around in your brain and find the image of your sister in a pink dress.  But he cannot.  That’s silly.  Furthermore, no one is aware of their physical brain.  The subject would never say, “Oh, I just felt a molecule line up when you prodded and it corresponded to my sister in a pink dress.”  So, you are unaware of your physical brain, but you are certainly aware of what’s going on inside you.

Humans can experience two types of sensations.  One type is an awareness detected by the five senses.  The other is awareness not detected by the senses such as fear, love, anger, and thoughts.  These types of sensations can be described using words and can be true or false.  Physical states cannot be true or false but thoughts can.  Mental states in the mind do not have size or shape and are not spatially located.  Everything about the brain runs counter to all of this.  The brain is completely physical.  A scientist may have more knowledge about my brain than I do but he can never have more knowledge about my thoughts, emotions, and mental state than I do.  I know what my thoughts and feelings are but a scientist can never inspect these things.

There is no amount of information in my moist, physical brain that can tell a person who I am, my dispositions, and my personality.  If I am just a brain then others ought to be able to know everything about me by prodding around in my brain.

If I am only a brain and do not have a mind, then all my behaviors, intentions, and decisions, are fixed by my brain, genes, and environmental input.  Physical objects always, always, always obey natural laws and inputs, therefore if I am only a material brain then I am simply reacting to molecular reactions based on natural laws.  If this were the case I would have absolutely ZERO grounds to claim free will.  I would no longer be personally responsible for my actions, whether good or bad.  And on top of that, I wouldn’t be able to freely type this article!!  But, as the empirical evidence shows, free will does exist and it requires that we are more than just a physical brain reacting to the laws of nature.  Therefore, I am a mind and soul that has a physical body.

When we are asked a specific question such as, “What is your middle name?” we can answer that question specifically.  How can blind, repetitive laws of nature explain our ability to answer such a question?  Should we think that molecules magically line up in the proper way by blind, repetitive laws to respond accurately?  That’s the height of absurdity!  We have the intelligence and intentionality to answer correctly.  Mere physical objects cannot do things like this.  A rock is just a rock.  It does nothing but exist as a rock.  If humans are simply materialistic beings, then why should we believe we have any more of an ability to reason than a rock?

Concerning the placebo effect, it’s always funny to see the atheists squirm with this one.  To put it in basic terms, it’s mind over matter.  A person in severe pain can be told he will be administered pain medicine.  He believes this to be that case when the doctor actually gives him a sugar pill to swallow.  Studies show that in up to 45% of patients, the mere thoughts in their mind of getting what they think is actual medicine will cause their pain to subside.  Likewise, the mind can cause the body to deteriorate quickly when consumed by depressive thinking and mental stress.  This makes no sense if the mind is physical.  The publication New Scientist magazine listed the placebo effect as number ONE on its list of “13 Things That Don’t Make Sense.”  Well of course it doesn’t make sense if you approach the matter from presuppositional Darwinian evolution dogma!

When Christians claim to have a soul separate from the body the atheists get very, very militant.  And earlier I showed why.  They think this is superstition when in fact they are the superstitious ones!  They are the ones who believe their creator magically popped into existence out of nothing by nothing by chance.  And by the way, chance is not a cause.  It’s a way to describe mathematical possibilities or to gloss over ignorance on a particular matter that can’t be answered on atheism, a sort of “God of the gaps” for the atheists.  Speaking of nothing, atheistic evangelist Daniel Dennett claims consciousness is an illusion.  Now think about that for a minute.  In order to detect an illusion you would have to see and know what is actually real!  LOLOLOLOL.  So apparently he exempts himself from his own theory.  I wonder when he wrote that nonsense if he sat there and thought, “You know, every truth claim I believe and am writing is an illusion.”  Let’s hear him talk about that on his book tour!

Daniel Dennett

It’s important to point out that the notion of the mind being the same as the brain is not a mainstream scientific idea.  This notion is popular in atheistic circles but there are plenty of scientists who don’t buy it, rightly so.  Nobel Prize winning neuroscience professor John Eccles supported the theory that the mind is a separate entity from the brain and cannot be “reduced down to the brain cell processes.”  That’s just one Nobel Prize winner.  There are hundreds if not thousands of search engine results with some great peer-reviewed resources showing how science is baffled by this subject.  And it will stay baffled for reasons we discussed.  It’s really not a scientific issue, but I digress.

So this notion of mind and brain is very easy to discern.  Sometimes it just takes a little bit of thought (pun intended).  Remember, to be a consistent atheist, materialism must be true.  To be a consistent atheist, the mind cannot be immaterial.  Former world-famous atheist Antony Flew had something to say on the matter.  He said, “Science cannot discover the self; the self discovers science.”  Perhaps, that is partly why he became a former atheist.