More Than Matter

How Do I See Myself and the People Around Me?

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Design, More Than Matter | Leave a comment

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How Do I See Myself and the People Around Me?

Whether we realize it or not, what we think about the origins of human life can have a dramatic effect on how we view ourselves and others. If I think I’m just an evolved animal, or going further back, just an accidental blob of chemicals that happened to come together in the right way, what reason do I have to think that there’s much value to my life? Or what about the people around me?

On a sinister scale, views of human life as just being an evolutionary accident, no different than an animal or the chemicals that make us all up, have been used to justify atrocities against entire races and groups of people. While I may not identify with that, what about in smaller ways in my daily life?

What about those people I have to wait in line behind at the Kwik Trip as I try to quickly stop for a doughnut on the way to work? If I think of them as just other accidental blobs of chemicals that happen to be in my way, I might degrade them in my mind as I watch them slowly put their wallet back away instead of quickly grabbing their stuff and moving out of my way. What about people that have some skills of abilities that I am in need of? I might think of them just as tools to be used. Or what about people that I find attractive? If I think of them as attractive, accidental arrangements of chemicals, I might think of them simply as objects that are there to be seen.

When I have a low view of human life, it’s easy just to see others as nuisances in my way or as a way to get what I want. But are we just accidental arrangements of chemicals, that beat incredible odds in coming together just right, or are we something more?

Made in His Image

As I’ve written here on this blog many times, I believe that the evidence from the fine tuning of the universe and our amazing planet, along with the start of life from non-life itself, makes a very strong case for a designer of it all. The odds against it just happening by accident are astronomical. I believe that it took a creator, it took God to bring about life and ultimately human life. The Bible says that humanity is special. It says that God made all living things on Earth and then as a culmination, he made human beings.

Genesis 1 says

Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:26-27

God created human being as special. He created us in his image. I don’t claim to know exactly what all that means but it means that in some senses we are like him. You and I bear the image of God. Every person we see in our daily lives bears his image. That means that they are special and have great value and worth, just as you do.

I realized that while I believe that, I need to remind myself of it more often., throughout my day. Whether someone irritates me or pleases me, I need to remind myself that there in front of me is a valuable human being who is made in God’s image. They’re not an accident, they have great value and worth.

Not only did God create human beings in his image, he later became one of us in his Son, Jesus Christ, further showing the worth and value he has placed on us. So don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not special and valuable and don’t let yourself think that of anyone else.

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Do Near-Death Experiences Show We are More Than Physical?

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Do Near-Death Experiences Show We are More Than Physical?

I’ve always been skeptical of stories of near-death experiences. People have said all sorts of things and I’ve just never given the things they’ve said much weight. It’s not that I don’t believe that there’s life beyond death, I do. I guess my thinking has just been that anyone can tell stories of tunnels of light and angels, and while I believe that I will go to be with God after I die, because of what Jesus has done for me, how do I know which stories describe it as it will actually be? Some people might just be making things up. So I’ve been skeptical but one aspect of some of the near-death experiences that I’ve been reading about has definitely caught my attention.

As I’ve been writing about for a while, some would have us believe in naturalism, that physical matter is all that there is. They would not believe in near-death experiences because if all we are is physical matter, there’s no way someone can have any experience apart from their body. Someone like this is certainly not going to be persuaded because someone says that in a brief period while they were technically dead that they traveled through a tunnel of light and met God. It could just be some kind of hallucination while the person’s mind was far from well. But what if someone recounted details of things they saw or learned during a near-death experience that they would have no way of knowing otherwise?

How Could They Know without Being Apart from Their Body?

It’s these kind of stories of near-death experiences that have caught my attention as they include things that someone couldn’t have just made up. And because these things couldn’t have just been made up, it’s yet another evidence that we human beings are more than just physical matter.

Consider the case shared by Kimberly Clark Sharp, a near-death experience researcher, of a woman named Maria who was rushed to a hospital with a severe heart attack. She died and was resuscitated and told Sharp about her near-death experience. She gave a detailed account of watching her resuscitation from outside of her body, as many have, and then she added another very interesting detail. She said that, outside of her body, she had traveled outside of the hospital and she saw a tennis shoe on a third story window ledge. She provided detailed information about the shoe. It was a man’s shoe, left foot. It was dark blue with a wear mark over the little toe and a shoelace tucked under the heal. Sharp then went window to window on the third floor looking on the ledges. Finally she found the shoe, exactly as Maria had described it.

Seven-year-old Katie was found floating face down in a swimming pool. She was resuscitated in the emergency room but remained comatose. They gave her a ten percent chance of surviving but she made an amazing full recovery in three days. She was later taken back for a follow up visit and she recognized the doctor who had resuscitated her and was able to give an accurate detailed account of what she had “seen” in her time in the emergency room, all while her eyes were shut and her brain deeply comatose. The doctor asked her what she remembered of her near drowning. She talked about meeting Jesus and the Heavenly Father. What’s more she told of following her family home, outside of her comatose body which lay in the hospital. She told of seeing her brothers pushing a GI Joe in a jeep. She reported watching her mom cook roast chicken and rice. She even knew what clothes each family member was wearing that night. Her parents were shocked by her accuracy.

Another woman described a near-death experience she had when she was five years old. She got meningitis and fell into a coma. She recalled that after she died she was free of fear and pain and felt at home in the place she found herself. At one point she saw a young girl who looked about ten years old. She thought that the girl recognized her. The two girls hugged and this other girl said, “I’m your sister… I was named after your grandmother. Our parents called me Rietje for short.” Then Rietje said, “You must go now” and she returned to her body and opened her eyes to see her parents. She excitedly told them about her experience and even drew them a picture of the sister who had welcomed her. Her parents were shocked. They got up and left the room. When they came back they confirmed to her that they had indeed once had a daughter named Rietje who had died of poisoning. They had decided not to tell their other children about Rietje until they felt they were old enough to understand the meaning of life and death.

Just one more because it will be especially meaningful for many of us. Four year-old Colton had a near-death experience and afterward told his mom that he has two sisters. She corrected him that he only had one sister. But he insisted that he had two sisters. His mom said, “Cassie is your only sister” and she asked him if he meant his cousin, Traci. “No!”, Colton insisted, “I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn’t you?” After she was able to overcome the shock, his mother asked him who told him that she had a baby die in her tummy. “She did, Mommy,” Colton explained, “She said she died in your tummy”. They had never told Colton about the miscarriage. “It’s okay, Mommy”, he said, “God adopted her.” This girl had run up to him and wouldn’t stop hugging him. She said that she couldn’t wait for them all to join her in heaven.

What Do You Make of It?

While these stories alone might not convince me that God exists and that there is life after death, when you put it together will all of the other evidence I’ve shared here on the blog, it just adds that much more certainty for me. I believe that God made me in his image, both physical and spiritual, and as such I can know him, both in this life and in the life to come. While I am not worthy of knowing or being with God, because of my sin, Jesus died for me and rose again so that I can be forgiven and know Him. I enjoy getting to know him better here and look forward to being with him when I die. My wife and two daughters and I also look forward to meeting our third child who died in a miscarriage. What a day that will be!

Source: Imagine Heaven by John Burke

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

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in More Than Matter, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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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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Are Animals Physical Matter and Nothing More?

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in More Than Matter | Leave a comment

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Are Animals Physical Matter and Nothing More?

My daughter started college this year and today she is coming home for the first time since she left. I’m excited to see her, and while she’s excited to see us, she’s probably more excited to see our dog. I don’t take this personally, he’s a very sweet dog and, while we have visited her several times, she has only seen the dog once since she left. In my last post I talked about whether you and I, human beings, are simply physical matter, a complicated combination of chemicals, or whether we are something more. As we continue to consider that, let’s consider the animals in our lives.

Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?

I think that as a child I thought that animals were more than just physical beings. I certainly had a special relationship with our family dogs. But then when I became a Christian at the age of 16, I started learning about the Creation / Evolution debate and I think that what happened was that, in reaction to the idea that humans were just slightly more evolved animals, I came to see and defend a very clear distinction between humans and animals. Believing that only humans are created in the image of God, I began to think of only humans as being more than physical. Around the same time the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven came out and I thought, “That’s not right because dogs/animals don’t have a soul.” Out of a reaction against the evolutionary idea that we are just animals, I think I went too far in thinking of all animals as purely physical, denying the more than physical aspects I had always seen in some animals, like our dogs.

Scientists have discovered that not all animals can be treated as purely physical entities. There seems to be more to the way certain bird and mammal species interact with humans than mere physical attributes. I was seeing life on just two levels, purely physical and physical plus spiritual, but as Dr. Hugh Ross sees it, God created three distinct forms of life, not just two.

Three Distinct Forms of Life

  1. Purely physical life (reptiles, fish, insects)
  2. Life both physical and soulish (animals manifesting mind, will and emotions)
  3. One species with body, soul and spirit (human beings)

Hugh watched his young son test the idea that any animal could be turned into a pet. Their home became a zoo. Amphibians, reptiles, fish and insects were everywhere. But his son soon discovered that these creatures treated him no differently than any other animal they randomly encountered. On the other hand his son learned that he could experience an emotionally fulfilling relationship with any bird or mammal species. These are the soulish animals.

Hugh believes that the soulish animals exhibit a freedom to choose apart from instinct.They posses a mind capable of exploring new experiences and solving problems.Such creatures bond with members of their own species and can form relationships with members of other bird and mammal species, and soulish animals can form emotional attachments with humans. Yet there’s still a clear distinction between what he calls soulish life and humanity, which has body, soul and spirit.

He says that the Hebrew word nepesh in Genesis 1 and Job 39 refers to the unique soulish attributes of birds and mammals and he believes God created each soulish species with specific capacities to serve or please humans, and these capacities are diverse.

Diversity of Soulish Animals

Carnivores, though difficult to tame, can make excellent household pets. Unlike herbivores, they don’t have to spend much of their time eating and digesting so they can focus more intently and for longer periods of time on serving and pleasing their human owners.
Dogs often form such strong emotional bonds with their owners that they will sacrifice their health and even their lives to serve them.

Herbivores are mammals that sustain humanity’s agricultural work. The first such animals to be domesticated in large numbers were goats.
And it’s easy to see why. Even a goat that has never seen a human will readily approach and follow one. They can eat almost anything and thrive in virtually all climate conditions. These mammals provide their owners with a wide range of agricultural products for very little cost.

Can Mere Physical Matter Explain the Diversity?

Naturalistic evolutionary theory says that we are all just physical, nothing more. But if we are all just physical, then bird and mammal species that are physically similar to one another should also be soulishly similar, they should have the same soulish attributes – the same interactions with humanity, for example.

Donkeys, horses and zebras are physically so similar that humans have easily crossbred them to make mules, zorses, and zebrasses. However, their soulish characteristics are very different.

Horses can form strong emotional bonds with their human owners. They will forgive cruelty. If treated well, they’ll sacrifice their own needs and even their lives to protect their owners. Loyalty to their human owners can be so strong that they will charge into battle with them.

Donkeys are extremely adaptable. Like horses, they can form a lifelong emotional bond with a human. However, if a human loses his donkey, the donkey can take care of itself under almost any circumstances.It easily transitions from domestication to living in the wild and from living in the wild to going back into domestication. Unlike the horse, the donkey hates danger and provides useful service in warning it’s human owner of impending risk.

Zebras are much more difficult to domesticate, harness and ride, than either horses or donkeys. However, they are more alert to imminent danger than horses or donkeys. In the wild, zebras form dense herds providing human hunters an easy source of food and leather.

If they are just physical beings, naturalistic evolutionary theory has no explanation for the different soulish characteristics of animals which are so physically similar. However a creator who had different purposes in mind for all the marvelous creatures he made, could make them, both physically, and soulishly, like he wanted them to be.

More Than Matter

I don’t know about you, but I just called our dog over by me and I believe that there’s something more there than just the physical. I”m even more sure that’s there more than just physical matter to you, as you read this and consider whether you’re just physical matter or something more. I don’t think chemicals wonder if they’re just chemicals. I don’t even think my dog wonders if he’s just chemicals or something more. But I wonder that and you wonder that, and there’s no natural explanation for that. I hope that you realize that you’re much more. I believe that you were created for a purpose, first and foremost to come to know the God who made you and who sent Jesus Christ to be your savior. On this day before Thanksgiving I want to express my thanks to Him for making me and for making all the life I see and enjoy.

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Are We Physical Matter and Nothing More?

Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in Evolution, More Than Matter | Leave a comment

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Are We Physical Matter and Nothing More?

Some would have us believe in naturalism, that physical matter is all that there is and everything can be explained in natural terms. But while we continue to learn more and more about how nature works, does that mean that that explains everything? Does that mean that there is nothing more than nature and physical matter? Let’s consider the implications of that idea.

Of course, most significantly, as my title suggests, if there is nothing more than physical matter in the universe, then you and I and everyone you know are nothing more than physical matter. We would each just be a complicated combination of chemicals and chemical reactions and nothing more. Does that seem to be the case to you? Does that seem to line up with what you have experienced in your life and from the lives of others? Do you believe that that’s all that we are, or is there something more?

Does Mere Physical Matter Do These Things?

Have mere combinations of chemicals learned and figured out all that we have about how the universe works? Have mere combinations of chemicals learned so much about how to advance the length of the functioning of these combinations of chemicals we call human beings? Have mere combinations of chemicals produced all the beautiful and inspiring artwork that has been created? Have mere combinations of chemicals produced all the music that so moves our hearts? Have mere combinations of chemicals produced such meaningful relationships with one another? Is a mere combination of chemicals writing this to try to get you to consider these ideas, which probably have a bigger impact on how we view our lives and the lives of those around us than you might realize?

More Than Matter

Personally I believe that you are much more than just a combination of chemicals, more than just physical matter. When I look at all that we are, all that we create and how we relate to one another,I believe that simple chemicals just can’t explain it all. I believe that the Biblical worldview explains it all much better. I believe that a living God, who is spirit, created human beings in his image. In many ways we are like him. We are creative because he is creative. We long for meaningful relationships because he made us to have a loving relationship with him. And while we are physical beings, he has also created us with a spiritual component. In addition to our physical bodies we have souls.

I believe this is why we experience life as we do, and why we want to know what our lives are about. This is why every human life is valuable, no matter the person’s age, gender or race, because we aren’t just complicated combinations of chemicals. I believe each human being is an amazing combination of the physical and the spiritual. Maybe you aren’t ready to go that far, but do you really believe that we are nothing more than just the physical? If not, then naturalism can’t explain it all.

In coming posts we’ll explore some further aspects of this.

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