Friday, November 10, 2006

The Brain and Truth

An anonymous commenter left a few questions in my comment section which I’ve seen discussed many times in on-line forums. The comment was as follows:
“Speaking of happy accidents, could someone please explain to me when and how neurons began to fire in the superfrontal gyrus and the creature of man become self aware? How did random mutations with no motive, no goals create a conscious? Why do we feel guilt... was the information for love stored somewhere in the depths of that primordial goo?”
Of course, we often ponder these difficult questions which Darwinian evolutionists are still seeking answers for. But, the reason this particular comment caught my eye is because I am currently reading a book by Richard A. Swenson, M.D.. It is titled, More Than Meets the Eye. Someone recommended this book to me, but after reading the Amazon review, I almost passed on it. Luckily, something told me that perhaps the review on a book like this might be a bit negative for a variety of reasons. Anyway, I bought it and have found that it is quite interesting. Dr. Swenson draws from his background in medicine and the natural sciences to put together a book that describes the breathtaking complexity of the human body and the grandeur of the cosmos.

The following is a bit lengthy, but I want to share some of the insight he shares regarding science, truth, and the words of scripture:

The brain is so complex, wrote evolutionist Michael Denton in 1985, that even using the most sophisticated engineering techniques it “would take an eternity” for engineers to assemble an object remotely resembling it.

...When God designer the brain, He became the original computer scientists. He built a unit of remarkable sophistication, complexity, and beauty. Despite the fact that the entire brain creates only about twenty watts of power, its performance is astounding. The brain’s curriculum vitae, according to brain expert Todd Siler, reveals it to function in more than 200 ways: alignment equipment, altitude and heading reference systems, data processing equipment, direction finders, closed-circuit television displays, distance measuring equipment, optical guidance systems, information retrieval systems, night vision equipment, strategic acquisition and direction-finding systems, frequency synthesizers, velocity-measuring equipment, and so forth.

...Any discussion of the brain in the context of faith would be incomplete if it did not at least attempt to clarify the limits of what the brain can do, that is, the spiritual limits of knowledge. The brain is a proven expert in the gathering and processing of data and information. But can we trust it to bring us all the way Home? Sadly, we cannot.

There is no clear correlation between filling the mind with facts and discovering Truth; between advancing in educational attainment and advancing into the things of God; between IQ and righteousness. Should we then forsake education and go in the other direction? On the contrary, we should instruct and discipline the brain. But if at the beginning of every day the brain will not humbly bow to Truth, then our synapses are pointed in the wrong direction. Paul, one of history’s most brilliant thinkers, warned: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

The brain is the realm of data, information, and knowledge. The spirit, however, is the realm of understanding, wisdom, and Truth. The brain and the spirit need to register for classes together in the halls of education, and their togetherness needs to be fixed. Harvard University, for example, had in its original charter this statement: “Let every student well consider...that the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ.” Somewhere in the process of gaining prestige they lost Eternity. And such a loss can never be compensated by piling up Nobel laureates, for it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate”.

The brain must act humbly or it will sabotage its own search. God resists the proud, and He surely and reliably will resist the brain when it defies Him. This is why, sadly, many brilliant thinkers stumble in the darkness their entire lives. As A.W. Tozer accurately warned: “The uncomprehending mind is unaffected by truth”. God has ordained from the beginning that worldly learning will never be sufficient to reveal Christ. This does not, of course, mean that the message of Christ is irrational, but only that it is extra-rational. Its meaning is not accessible through neurons and synapses, no matter how exceptional. To see Christ requires that a light be turned on in our understanding, and the light switch is controlled by God and not the brain. This has upset many prominent scholars throughout the ages, but it is a matter God alone adjudicates and so far He has not changed His ruling in the matter.

God’s published opinion on knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and truth:

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

“Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, “I am, and there is none besides me.”

“If I have...all knowledge...but have not love, I am nothing.”

“There will be terrible times into he last days. People will be...always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.”

“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.”
“Knowledge puffs up,” explained Paul. Following two millennia of progress, the puff factor has now grown quite pompous. Francis Bacon said knowledge is power, and in today’s economy indeed it is. But knowledge is insufficient. T.S. Eliot in The Rock bemoaned the loss of transcendence:

Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The British scholar Paul Johnson, in researching a scathing book about the personal lives of intellectuals, came to the following stern conclusion:

“Intellectuals have the arrogance to believe that they can use their brains to tell humanity how to conduct its affairs. In so doing, they turn their backs on natural law, inherited wisdom and the religious background that have traditionally defined the aims of society. They find it hard to admit that there is a higher authority than their own judgment; they have a deep-rooted and tremendously powerful arrogance.
An intellectual consensus can and often does become a general consensus, warned Johnson, because intellectuals “are very influential, powerful people who have a gift for words and access to the media. That’s why I think they are so dangerous...One should listen to and read intellectuals but not necessarily take great notice of what they say, particularly when they gang up and produce manifestoes."

World-class brain researcher Sir John Eccles, himself a Nobel laureate in medicine and physiology and a Christian, offers this perspective:

We need to discredit the belief held by many scientists that science will ultimately deliver the final truth...Unfortunately, many scientists and interpreters of science don’t understand the limits of the discipline. They claim much more for it than they should. They argue that someday science will explain values, beauty, love, friendship, aesthetics and literary quality. They say: “All of these will eventually be explicable in terms of brain performance. We only have to know more about the brain.” That view is nothing more than a superstition that confuses both the public and many scientists.
...The brain is quite spectacular in its own right, and it does not need inflated claims about its potential. Let’s challenge it diligently to learn, but then let’s accept the borders it cannot cross. Even given its limitations, the brain’s amazing capacity speaks to the genius of the God who endowed it.
Hmmm.....worth thinking about.