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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Posted on by Reasons for Hope 315 in More Than Matter, Uncategorized

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