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 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!
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.