Home > Apologetics > Proof of God’s existence: The human mind

Proof of God’s existence: The human mind

Introduction

This is a simplistic proof—one of many—that recently sprung to my mind, and the more I think about it, the more valid it seems. I apologize if it’s been mentioned before elsewhere (and more eloquently). Let me retrace my steps.

I’ve mentioned William Lane Craig numerous times before (in this blog and to people I know), and I’ve become quite familiar with his arguments for God’s existence. A sub-point Dr. Craig makes is that the cause of the universe must be powerful and personal, in addition to being timeless, spaceless, and immaterial (because all of these properties came into being with the universe itself). Very briefly and simply put, there are only two things that exist outside the bounds of natural and physical reality: abstract objects (like numbers) and an unembodied mind. Because abstract objects, by definition, cannot effect anything in themselves, it follows that the cause of the universe must be a mind. He calls it “personal” because unlike other causes, this mind that caused the universe chose to bring it into existence, evidenced by the fact that the universe didn’t always exist, whereas the timeless cause did. So it wasn’t a necessary result of the cause itself. I apologize if I’m butchering this, but I don’t want to spend too much time elaborating on this. If you’re interested, please do yourself a favor and familiarize yourself with Dr. Craig’s work.

His elaboration about how the mind exists apart from the physical brain struck me. True, we as humans on earth wouldn’t be able to think without a functioning brain, but our minds and thoughts are actually independent from the matter of the brain. When we have certain thoughts, it may be reflected in certain electrical impulses in our brains, but that’s really only a simultaneous effect with the cause (the thoughts we willed to existence). In other words, our minds control the physical reaction of the brain.

Perhaps this analogy might be helpful: a driver, steering wheel, and a car. The driver represents the mind, the steering wheel is the brain, and the car is the outward (or even inward) results of the choices made upon the steering wheel. You can watch the expressions of a car, such as turning left, and link it to the steering wheel…but it doesn’t really tell you much about the driver or her purpose in turning the wheel that way. The driver seems to exist independently from the wheel and car, even if she needs the steering wheel to put her will into action.

Our thoughts, feelings, imaginations, artistic expression…they all spring to life seemingly out of nowhere, apart from any discernible natural cause.

There are only two possible explanations for the human mind

1) Human minds are endowed with autonomy, purposes, and will from God.

Christians believe that God created us in His image. This doesn’t necessarily mean that when we finally see God, He will be walking around with two legs, two arms, nostrils, etc. It means that we have been given spiritual and immaterial aspects that are wholly unique in resembling Him. We have souls, for instance. But we also have minds that defy all explanation.

In a way, we are able to act upon our own brains, which can subsequently act upon our bodies or not. I could sit here and will random thoughts from nothing, much like God can will things into existence from nothing. Of course God has no limits…we are the vastly weaker demo version “made in His image.”

Now, I must point out that this mind-brain interaction, as science as demonstrated, can be a two-way street. The brain, for example, can be acted upon to induce certain thoughts. Controlled electrical manipulation can make you think you’re smelling something that’s not really there (of course, this doesn’t mean that it’s illusory when you actually do smell it in the real world). On the flip side, the mind, while immaterial, can act as the origin of “messages” to the brain itself.

I could decide to type booglybooglybooglyboogly here in my blog. I could take out my violin or guitar and produce music, pre-written or not. Where does this autonomy come from? My thoughts do not magically spring to life from carbon atoms. The electrical impulses that might result can be naturally observed, but they are not the explanation or the source. Reactions do not cause themselves from nothing, they are only the natural result of certain preset conditions. We are a continual flux of such “reactions” that arise with no prior cause, other than the fact that we were endowed with this capability and potential.

Honestly, how can anyone explain this? Can even the smartest human being alive take a stab at this? Well, let’s take a look at one such attempt now.

2) Human minds are the result of naturalistic causes.

Stephen Hawking—theoretical physicist and cosmologist—is one of the greatest modern minds in existence. He is arguably “today’s Einstein,” and while his intelligence is admirable, he also resorts to using science as the sole explanation of everything in the universe. To him, there is no justification for theology or even, shockingly, philosophy (even though he is employing philosophy in his thoughts, and science itself is its offspring). He enthusiastically and diligently spends his life searching for the complete theory, or “Theory of Everything,” that promises to explain much more about the universe, including its origins.

In his latest book, The Grand Design, we get a glimpse into such a theory. Specifically, he argues that the human mind is not autonomous or purposeful at all, but rather, it is simply a conglomeration of matter and laws that have predetermined our every thought until we die.

Wow. Think about that for a moment, really try to grasp it…

…1, 4, 100, -36, 24.32671516543…see those numbers? That was all predetermined by the laws of nature. Even the times I hit Backspace on the keyboard to try different numbers instead, that was not my will or autonomy. That was the inevitable path I would take based on the laws governing the universe and everything in it.

The matter that existed before I was officially born, to the plums my mother may have eaten, which contributed to the matter of me in the womb, to where I am today…and the interplay of every other person in the world who has affected my life, the environment, events, situations…that ALL was just part of the natural path to me typing those numbers or even this blog. It even led to me contemplating the absurdity of it.

Brilliant minds really are capable of all kinds of craziness, aren’t they? Maybe Hawking is an example of being too smart for his own good. A “smarter” theory, such as scientific determinism, is not necessarily a correct one.

Conclusion

Now, the first possibility makes a lot of sense to me. In my heart AND my mind, this resonates clearly and fits together.

Does this naturalistic explanation really make any sense at all? I don’t know about you, but my common sense, intuition…even my humanity is already screaming “DOES NOT COMPUTE.” Perhaps it makes more sense to Hawking because he feels a little dead inside, like his life is going through the motions. I say this without condescension or derision, but I just find it hard to understand how someone could believe this determinism if they were living a fulfilling life.

Now let’s try a fun little exercise. I am going to be very generous and assume Stephen Hawking could be right. I am going to assume that he knows the feeling of artistic intensity, freedom, and expression when engrossed in an incredibly intricate section of a violin concerto. I am going to assume that he is so smart that he doesn’t make mistakes. (Being wrong and losing the black hole bet publicly? Forgiven.) I am going to assume that WITHOUT PROOF of any kind, his ideas that seem illogical are in fact, logical.

Where does that leave us? Well, funny enough, that leaves us with even higher implausibility of our brains being the product of evolution and natural process in the first place. Mathematically, you’ve just gone from impossible to even more impossible. Keep in mind that science estimates the universe’s age to be “only” about 14 billion years old, and the earth is newer at about 4 billion years. That wasn’t enough time to get to our evolved state without guided assistance, let alone this unfathomable thing we call a brain.

Think about it. Allowing for the supernatural along with the natural, we Christians are able to say that the brain is complex enough to house our thoughts, send signals to our legs to kick, to develop tendencies, and to learn and memorize. But the rest of it is accounted for with our immaterial minds, given to us by God, that allow us to generate thoughts from nothing, contemplate things beyond us without provocation, experience love in a real way, or to even appreciate humor. (If you don’t think God has a sense of humor, you obviously haven’t seen a parrot talking to a stuffed bunny or seen them dancing.)

Only allowing for natural causes means the brain needs to be additionally complex to be able to do all those things on its own. The brain, under this view, also needs to be able to account for every possible contingency, and be prone to both randomness/spontaneity and predictability. When you look out to a beautiful sunset and feel yourself in awe, that’s just an evolutionary trait instilled in you (for who knows what reason). It’s really quite unthinkable.

Let’s say that the multiverse theory (again, no observable proof) pretty much makes up for the probability issue. Even if every possible complexity-increasing beneficial mutation were to be passed on from generation to generation, would it still be enough to reach this level of development in 4 billion years? How is it that our brains are more complex than the universe itself, which is really just matter and natural laws of gravity and such? How is it that an infinitesimally small speck of the universe, like one human brain, is qualitatively greater than the whole?

Are theists really the ones with “dumb” faith?

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