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Thank God for your brain

Tags: brain soul human

The most complex object in the universe, as far as we know, is inside your head. The Human Brain, in terms of its complexity far outstrips its nearest competitor. It might be 10 million times slower than a computer but it can do far more than any computer we’ve yet built. A computer may be able to beat a human at chess but it wouldn’t know what to do if you asked it for directions to the shops and would be entirely useless if you asked it for its thoughts about the match on Saturday.

Our understanding of the human brain is growing at an unprecedented rate and yet, on the whole, it remains a complete mystery. And certainly, no one seems close to knowing how the brain produces consciousness, which is the holy grail for neuroscientists.

You can send an electrical charge through a brain to make it move an arm or a leg but not one that will produce logic or abstract thinking. Where those things happen and how they happen remains a bit of a mystery. Some scientists can imagine a time where we would be able to upload our mind and travel the universe making us essentially immortal. Others scoff at such nonsense.

One recent intriguing study showed that there were some interesting parallels between the universe that is your brain and the universe itself. Now, nothing is proven here and because we are pattern-seeking creatures, it’s possible that we’re seeing patterns where none really exist. In the same way, say that the Bible has hidden codes.

But let’s assume, just for a moment, that there is a connection, of some sort, between the two.

“The tantalizing degree of similarity that our analysis exposes seems to suggest that the self-organization of both complex systems is likely being shaped by similar principles of network dynamics, despite the radically different scales and processes at play,” wrote the scientists in their new paper.

Now, what would be the odds of that happening by chance? How big a number would you need? I think something like that surely gives weight, at the very least to the idea that behind the complexity of the universe is a mind and that mind, we currently call God.

Most agnostics in the field of the brain and consciousness argue that the human idea of the Soul is simply consciousness itself and that is generated by the complex lump inside our skulls. Any organic brain complex enough becomes conscious and self-aware. The more complex it becomes, the more abstract thought it is capable of, the more likely we are to develop ideas like soul and spirit. But they don’t actually exist as a separate entity. Yet souls, as the recent Pixar film, Soul illustrates, will be a stubborn idea to shift. If anything films like Soul is far more powerful at fixing it in the popular imagination than any materialist is at removing it.

I imagine for many Christians, they have this concept of the disembodied soul too. Yet the hope of heaven is not a disembodied soul floating on the clouds but a resurrected body inhabiting and creating in the new heavens and earth. In fact, as this Bible Project video shows, the Jewish concept of soul is not at all what people today think the soul is.

Therefore the idea that consciousness, soul and sense of being and self are intricately connected to our physical bodies and brains, is not one that is inherently problematic for Christians, but we are sure that we are not just our bodies. We are bodies+ and our hope is that in Christ, that will be eternally true.

But let us return to the subject of our brain – it is a remarkable thing but it is not the sole marker of what it means to be human. For those whose brains fail to function as they should do not become any less human as a result. We should be wary of any system or idea that privileges people, in terms of rights and value, by brain function. That sort of utility is foreign to one who believes each human is made in the image of God irrespective of their IQ.

Yet, we should marvel at what our brains have accomplished. Humanity has, in however long you think we’ve been around, created and created and created. We’ve worked the garden (and damaged a chunk of it) as well as we know how. We’ve dug, discovered, researched, invented, recreated, collaborated, improved, refined and yes occasionally destroyed it all only to start over once more. All of this has led us to do millions of things that no other creature on earth has done or will ever do. We might be mammals but we know we’ve risen up out of the dust.

That I can create thoughts and form them and write them down and you can read, understand and disagree with them in a matter of minutes is down entirely to the functions, complexity and almost limitless flexibility of your brain. That you can marvel, wonder, reflect, remember, appreciate, ponder, meditate, learn, understand, analyse, question and sometimes answer are verbs of the brain.

Together with your soul, your mind makes you what you are and helps you to relate to God and His creation in a way no other creature can. It’s why we are stewards, co-labourers, and through faith in Christ, children of God. And that is why you should thank God for your brain.

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Thank God for your brain


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