Physical Matter and Nothing More? – My Mind and My Brain

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Physical Matter and Nothing More? – My Mind and My Brain

Some would have us believe that you and I are physical matter and nothing more. They say that we don’t have a soul, that science has explained that all away. They say that I am just my body and that neuroscience has shown that my mind is just my brain. I, on the other hand, believe that there is both a physical world and an immaterial world and that you and I stand in both. Are you just your body and brain or is there something more to you that can survive the death of your body? Let’s continue to consider which of these two ways of thinking about you is true.

Charles Darwin knew that the answer to this question is important. If consciousness is real and not physical, then evolution can’t explain where my consciousness came from. Darwin said that if there is anything about human beings that isn’t physical, then there has to be another explanation.

Is My Mind Just My Brain?

Is my mind nothing more than my physical brain? Let’s consider the Law of Identity. This says that if A is the same thing as B, if they are identical, then everything that is true of A will be true of B, and vice versa. If George Washington is the first President of the United States, then everything that’s true of George Washington will be true of the first President of the United States. If George Washington was 6 feet 2 inches tall, then the first President of the United States was 6 feet 2 inches tall, because George Washington and the first President of the United States are one in the same. We’re just using different words to talk about the same thing.

Therefore, if you can find anything that’s true of one thing that isn’t true of the other thing, then they aren’t identical, they aren’t the same thing. As Apologist J.P. Moreland says, if I can find one thing that’s true of one that isn’t true of the other, then I’ve been able to establish that there are two things, not just one.
So then, if my mind is just my brain, if they are one and the same thing, then there can’t be anything that’s true of one that isn’t true of the other. If there is such a difference, then there are two different things and not just one.

In the next couple of posts we’ll be looking to see if there is anything true of my mind and consciousness that isn’t true of my physical brain. First though, J.P. Moreland points out a couple of other ideas we should have in mind.

Identity is not the same as Correlation

Just because I can correlate a wavelength of light to a color, that doesn’t mean that the two are identical. Just because one conjoined twin always shows up with the other, that doesn’t prove they are identical.

Identity is not the same as Cause and Effect

Just because fire causes smoke, that doesn’t mean that fire is the same thing as smoke. Just because I can touch a certain region in your brain with an electrode and that can cause a certain electrical firing event in your brain and that can cause you to have a memory of your grandmother making fried chicken, that doesn’t prove that the brain event is the same thing as the memory event.

What if I can show that A depends on B to work? A car engine depends on the ignition, but does that mean the engine is the ignition?

Questions that Can’t be Answered by Science

If more than one theory calls for the same observations, then you can’t decide which is true by the observations.

There are  special cells in our brains called Mirror Neurons that help us to feel empathy for others and if they are damaged, a person is not able to feel empathy. So what does that prove? There are three possible theories that would all produce the same observations.

  1. A feeling of empathy is identical to the firing of mirror neurons. What is empathy? It’s just the firing of certain neurons.
  2. A feeling of empathy is different than the firing of mirror neurons, but a feeling of empathy can’t happen unless they fire, there is a dependency. Empathy is non-physical but it depends on the firing of the neurons. Both the feeling and the neuron firing occur in the brain. (This is known as property dualism)
  3. A feeling of empathy is caused by the firing of neurons, so if they don’t fire there won’t be the feeling, but the firing of neurons occurs in the brain and the feeling occurs in the soul. Not only are the two different , but the possessor of the two is different. The brain contains the electrical activity but the soul contains the consciousness. (This is known as substance dualism)

So which is right? Neuroscience can’t answer this question. Science can’t answer it. All are consistent with the same observations. It takes philosophical and theological reflection to consider these things. So come back next time and we’ll explore some of the philosophical evidence in our quest to see if you are more than just your body and if your mind is more than just your brain.

If it makes you feel uneasy that we need to look outside of science to find the answer, that’s probably because in our modern age we’ve been so conditioned to think that science is the answer to everything, but remember that there are all kinds of important truths we arrive at in life outside of science. Even the concepts of logic and math, that science depends on, are arrived at outside of science. You can’t do science if you don’t know that an element can’t be both heavier and lighter than another element at the same time.

Source: Lectures by J.P. Moreland in defense of the soul

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Is Christianity in Conflict with Science? – Religion and the Scientific Revolution

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Is Christianity in Conflict with Science?

The new Cosmos TV show presents science in an interesting way but it also seems to have an agenda to put down religion.  Even the hosts of a non-faith-based podcast I listen to have commented on how they don’t think the show needs to take up after religion like it has.  But is Christianity at odds with science?  Is there an inherent conflict between the two?  I don’t believe so.  While there have been some historical conflicts,  it was actually the religious faith of many of the leaders of the scientific revolution that inspired their scientific research. Cosmos has been happy to point out the conflicts but has left out the positive influence of religious belief on the scientific revolution, so let’s take a quick look at that.


Religion and the Scientific Revolution

Sir Isaac Newton is recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution.  So what moved him to his scientific studies?  As Casey Luskin puts it, Newton “believed in a loving, truthful personal God who would create an orderly, intelligible universe that he wanted us to discover and enjoy.”  It was these religious beliefs that inspired him to study the laws of nature.


Historian John Hedley Brooke writes this,

“Any suggestion that what was revolutionary in seventeenth-century thought was the complete separation of science from theology would be disqualified by Newton himself, who once wrote that the study of natural philosophy included a consideration of divine attributes and of God’s relationship with the world. … Robert Boyle and Isaac Newton saw the study of nature as a religious duty. A knowledge of God’s power and wisdom could be inferred from the intelligence seemingly displayed in the designs of nature. Newton affirmed that the natural sciences had prospered only in monotheistic cultures… He believed the universality of his laws was grounded in the omnipresence of a single divine Will.”

Ian G. Barbour wrote that, “Newton himself believed that the world-machine was designed by an intelligent Creator and expressed God’s purposes.”

Barbour explains how profound an influence religion had in inspiring science in England during the crucial early stages of the scientific revolution.  These English scientists were…

ps 19-1-2“mainly from Anglican (Church of England) and Puritan (Calvinist) backgrounds. The charter of the Royal Society instructed its fellows to direct their studies “to the glory of God and the benefits of the human race.” Robert Boyle (1627-1691) said that science is a religious task, “the disclosure of the admirable workmanship which God displayed in the universe.” Newton believed the universe bespeaks an all-powerful Creator. Sprat, the historian of the Royal Society, considered science a valuable aid to religion.”

Astronomer Johannes Kepler, another great figure in the early history of modern science, is frequently quoted as saying, “O God, I am thinking Thy thoughts after Thee.”  His strong theological convictions prompted him to find a connection between the physical and the spiritual, and his scientific discoveries led him to believe he had uncovered God’s plan for the universe.  He wrote,

“The heavenly motions are nothing but a continuous song for several voices (perceived by the intellect, not the ear)… It is, therefore, no longer surprising that man, in imitation of his creator, has at last discovered the art of figured song, which was unknown to the ancients. Man wanted to reproduce the continuity of cosmic time within a short hour, by an artful symphony for several voices, to obtain a sample test of the design of the Divine Creator in His works, and to partake of his joy by making music in imitation of God.”

Galileo Galilei, while often known for his controversy with the church, was in fact a devout Christian.  He said, “God is known by nature in his works, and by doctrine in his revealed word.”

Nicolas Copernicus, who formulated the model with the Sun at the center, rather than the earth, wrote,

“To know the mighty works of God, to comprehend His wisdom and majesty and power; to appreciate, in degree, the wonderful workings of His laws, surely all this must be a pleasing and acceptable mode of worship to the Most High, to whom ignorance cannot be more grateful than knowledge.”


Summing it all up, Michael Keas of the Discovery Institute puts it this way,

“Are Christianity and science at war with one another? Not according to leading historians…  The truth is that science and biblical religion have been friends for a long time. Judeo-Christian theology has contributed in a friendly manner to such science-promoting ideas as discoverable natural history, experimental inquiry, universal natural laws, mathematical physics, and investigative confidence that is balanced with humility. Christian institutions especially since the medieval university, have often provided a supportive environment for scientific inquiry and instruction.

Why have we forgotten most of the positive contributions of Christianity to the rise of modern science? This cultural amnesia is largely due to the influence of a number of anti-Christian myths about science and religion. These myths teach that science came of age in the victory of naturalism over Christianity.”


For a detailed response to each episode of Cosmos see posts by Casey Luskin at  evolutionnews.org.  My thanks to him for several of these quotes.

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