7. Mind Over Matter
“And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Gen 2:7 (KJV)
The contemporary theory of Evolution states that natural selection acts on random chance to favor increased order. On this foundation many evolutionists say man represents the highest form of evolutionary order. This line of reasoning stems from recognition that mankind has mental powers above the animal kingdom.
The Materialism model predicts that the human mind is the result of complex biological functions (primarily if not completely) in the brain. The complexity of the human brain is believed to be the result of Evolution. Evolution, then, is credited with the power and complexity of the human mind which, by definition, is a biological feature.
The Creation model predicts that the human mind was created by the perfect eternal mind of God. Gen 2:7 indicates Adam became a living soul when God breathed (put spirit into) into his body. Genesis predicts that our ability to function as unique persons comes from a combination of material biology and non-material spirituality.
The most important question to address in this chapter is whether the human mind is material or non-material. The idea of God and the supernatural in general are flatly denied by pure Materialist doctrine. Logically, the idea that man is anything more than his biology is also flatly denied. This premise, that we are only our biology, is a fundamental assumption of Evolution. Demonstrating the mind is material will support the predictions of Evolution and Materialism. Demonstrating the mind is non-material will support the predictions of Creation and permit if not require the existence of God.
There are many flaws with the idea that we humans are no more than our biology. One of the most substantial arguments against Materialism and purely natural Evolution is made by the human mind. Either the mind is material (biology) or it is not. There is a great deal of evidence in favor of the mind being something other than biology.
According to Gen 2:7, human beings are part biology and part spirit. God made man in His image (Gen 1:27). We are not some random blind chance process of nature. First, God formed man’s biology. Once the body was formed, God breathed into man the breath of life. The word translated as “breath” is also translated “spirit” or “wind” elsewhere in scripture. Jesus alluded to this likeness of wind and spirit when he told Nicodemus, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn 3:8, ESV).
Our biology alone does not constitute life. The biology God formed of the earth was not living until God put the “breath of life” (spirit of life) into the body. Only then did it become a living soul. This breath or spirit came from God. Once life came into man, scripture says God spoke with man. This means the first man had a mind with language—a means of communication between the human and divine mind. He had a purpose and a special place in Creation. “Mind” is probably the best single word to describe how man is most completely in the “likeness” of God. We think. We have free will. We experience love, fear, grief, and joy. Thoughts, emotion and will directly affect our biology, but the question is whether these things we associate with the mind originate from our biology alone.
The human brain is an amazingly engineered neurological organ. It is the least understood of all biological systems, but it is easily the most important when it comes to anything we associate with the mind. But are the mind and brain the same thing? The sciences of neurology, psychology, psychiatry, and sociology all argue strongly against it.
To explain how the mind and brain differ, consider a book. Materialism says the book is the storyteller. A non-Materialist sees that the book contains words, but realizes the story told by the book came from an external intelligent author. A Materialist believes we are only our biology and reality is only the physical. A non-Materialist recognizes the human mind is distinct from its biology. The mind uses the brain as the medium to control body functions like speaking or driving a car, but the mind is not actually part of the body. If the body originated from some original, it stands to reason that the mind also originated from an original non-material mind. This need for a non-material cause for a non-material mind is the principle reason for refusal to believe the mind is non-material.
God is self-aware (Ex 3:14). Since man is created in God’s image, the Creation model predicts humans will be self-aware. Evolution does not predict humans being self-aware. Being self-aware means we each experience our world from a uniquely personal perspective. First person personal experience is called “qualia.” Since we are conscious as individuals, we perceive the world around us uniquely.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a popular theme in Science Fiction. The premise often is that a computer eventually gathers so much information so quickly that it somehow becomes “self aware,” often with horrible consequences (i.e. Matrix, Terminator, Battlestar Galactica, etc.). It makes for great drama for a host of reasons, but the basic premise requires the audience to assume a mind can be purely material. These stories are often fatalistic because the underlying premise is fatalistic—we are no more than our biological programming. Materialism accepts the possibility of self-aware artificial intelligence because the Materialist believes the human mind is merely a highly sophisticated “self-aware” biological computer. With the proper algorithms and input from the environment, a computer can make logical decisions. This is not the same thing as thought. Computer decisions are limited to the logic designed by the mind of a human engineer. Even supercomputers that play chess against grand masters do not think—they calculate. Evolution predicts biological calculators, but what we observe coming from the mind of a human is far from calculation. Human beings are not robots. We love and hate, grieve and enjoy, and experience a range of emotion and thought. These things are simply not possible in any computerized artificial intelligence regardless of how fast, large, or sophisticated it may become.
The Creation model predicts free will (Gen 2:16-17). God tells Adam he can eat of any tree but one. When tempted by Satan’s lie, Adam eats of it anyway. Adam used free will to make a choice. If Adam had no free will he could not have made such a choice. Evolution says we and all the detailed information in our genes are the product of chance and natural selection. In other words, we merely respond to our environment. If our mind is the same thing as our brain, then our brain is only capable of responding to external stimulus. Evolution predicts that thought is no more than a biological function. Thought calculation is performed as directed by biological programming. According to the Materialist, free will is only an illusion.
Altruism is a behavior of self-sacrifice for people other than self and kin. Altruism is often (though not always) associated with spiritual beliefs. Altruism cannot be explained satisfactorily in Materialist terms except as a brain defect. The Creation model predicts altruism. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Ro 5:8, NASB) Since we are made in God’s image it stands to reason that we would demonstrate some degree of altruism.
The human mind is demonstrably not the brain although it interacts intensely with and through the brain. Every human brain pattern is unique. Patterns appear different for the same experience in different people or the same person at different ages. Brain patterns can demonstrate if a brain is processing a visual or motor experience, but cannot describe the image or event. Medical doctors can examine the chemistry and even electrical signals of the brain, but to know what a person is thinking the doctor must ask.
The brain is designed for fitness. The mind is designed for truth. The most profound evidence that the mind is distinct from the brain is uncovered in the examination of mental illnesses. OCD, phobias, depression, and a host of other mental illnesses can be treated without treating biology (e.g. pharmacology).
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric disease marked by distressing, intrusive and unwanted thoughts (obsessions) that trigger an urge to perform ritual behaviors (compulsions). The sufferer knows the behavior is damaging, but cannot help themselves. Neurologists learned OCD triggers the part of the brain that reacts to danger, driving the urge to act. The Materialist approach would be to medicate, but the non-Material approach realizes there is power in the mind to control thoughts. Mental techniques, not pharmaceuticals, provide the most effective treatment. The human mind has the power to drive changes in brain chemistry and reorganize its neural pathways to correct “bad brain wiring.” The most effective treatments for OCD are literally mind over matter.
Clinical depression is generally treated with strong medications. The medications, however, have been shown to only slightly outperform placeboes. As with OCD, clinical depression can be conquered using mental techniques where drugs fail.
A phobia is an abnormal and disabling irrational fear. Experimental techniques performed on sufferers of arachnophobia (fear of spiders) were highly successful in reducing or eliminating their fear by treating the mind as a nonmaterial controller of the brain. Changing the mind literally changes the brain.
Perhaps the most powerful and well-documented non-Material effects in medicine is the placebo effect. The effectiveness of a placebo depends on the affliction being treated, but on average placeboes help 35% to 45% of the people as well as real medicines on any given illness. Sham surgery has been shown to be equally effective. Placebos do not work on everything, but when it does work the key is belief. When someone believes they will get well, they generally do. The nocebo effect is the opposite of a placebo and it is extremely negative. The nocebo effect occurs when faith in a medicine is undermined by bad media, poor bedside manner, or other negative input from caregivers. An example of a strong nocebo effect is scaring someone so badly they suffer cardiac failure. The same concept applies with first responders at an accident scene. Encouragement and hope provided by a responder as well personal will power—the desire to live—can make all the difference between life and death.
Telepathy (ESP) and psychokinetic (telekinesis) phenomena are generally called “psi effects.” People who exhibit telepathic capabilities indicate the mind’s ability to communicate over some distance without any conventional form of contact. Telekinesis is another kind of psi effect where a mind is capable of affecting physical objects without conventional physical contact of any kind. Real psychics (people who exhibit psi effects which can be validated in a lab) generally want to avoid attention. A practical application for psychic use is in criminal investigations where a psychic can be used to help find a missing person or some important piece of evidence leading to an arrest. There are countless documented cases where people who exhibit psi effects lead investigators to evidence. Creation predicts that we are partially spirit (Jn 3:8) and thus we are more than our biology. The Gospels records many miracles performed by Jesus. In clinical terms it could be said that Jesus exhibited strong psi effects. Jesus predicted his followers would also exhibit psi effects (Jn 14:12). Scripture gives numerous examples of people who exhibit psi effects who were not believers. Materialism predicts the human mind is restricted to its biology. Psi effects of any type defy Materialism and its biological component, Evolution.
Near death experiences (NDE) indicate the mind is unique from the brain. An NDE occurs when a person experiences clinical death where the heart is stopped and brain function ceases. Brain function ceases within 30 seconds of heart stoppage. Permanent brain damage usually occurs less than 10 minutes after clinical death. Several systematic studies of NDEs have been performed. Most NDEs can be divided into a few common types including out of body experiences, holographic life review, or encounters with deceased people. Many report being led back to their body by a light, a relative, or a friend. Most people who have an NDE lose their fear of death and are fundamentally changed and they become more altruistic. A small percentage of people reporting an NDE described it as negative.
Prophetic dreams and visions provide strong evidence for a spiritual reality in direct defiance of Materialism. Scripture contains hundreds of specific as well as general prophecies. Some were fulfilled moments after being given, some days, some after years, and some after centuries. The biblical test of a prophet is whether their prophecies come true. There are many very detailed prophecies related to the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles found in several books of the books of the bible which came to pass with startling accuracy. There are many more prophecies related to Jesus given hundreds of years earlier that were fulfilled very precisely. There are many charlatans who give false prophecy for personal gain, but there are also those who give reliable, detailed prophecy. Materialism does not predict—and generally rejects –prophecy because it requires the gift of knowledge from a source both non-material and unbound by time. The Creation account includes (thus predicts) prophecy.
People who have a body part like a leg or hand is amputated often complain of pain or other sensations in the missing limb. A purely biological being should not “feel” their missing parts. Reorganization of the brain to accommodate the mind’s need to make the body work in a new way is called “neuroplasticity.” Neuroplasticity would seem impossible if the mind were limited to the purely biological realm.
The first step in the search for cures to mental illness is accepting that while the mind affects biology, the mind itself is not biological. Materialism undermines understanding the relationships of mind and brain. Materialism limits or prevents finding answers for real mental health problems. The limited scope of Materialism leads to false assumptions and dead end or dangerous conclusions. A perfect example of this is the quest for commonality with supposed animal ancestors. Evolution predicts that man descended either from apes or from a common pre-ape ancestor. Evolutionists focus on the similarities between ape and man when making the case for their faith. What Evolution fails to predict is that compared with apes, swine organs are more compatible for transplants and dogs are vastly better companions. Similarities suggest common design at least as strongly as common descent. Scientifically, not much of value can be learned from examining the similarities between man and ape. The differences tell us far more. For example, even though ape and human DNA are very similar, humans have two less chromosomes. A vast gulf exists between the minds of men and apes. Even so, a greater gulf exists between the mind of an animal and the artificial intelligence of a computer.
Substantiating the existence of non-material reality does not prove the existence of God. It does, however, eliminate one of the major Materialist objections. The Creation model predicts a non-material human mind (Gen 1:27, 2:7). The Evolution model predicts a purely biological mind. In this case the Creation model is the better model.
Related Topics: Creation