What do you think about your consciousness?

396 what do you think about your consciousnessAmong philosophers and theologians, it is called the mind-body problem (also called the mind-body problem). It's not about a problem of fine motor coordination (like swallowing from a cup without spilling anything or missing the dice game). Instead, the question is whether our bodies are physical and our thoughts are spiritual; or in other words, whether humans are purely physical or a combination of the physical and the spiritual.

Although the Bible does not directly address the mind-body problem, it clearly points to a nonphysical side of human existence and distinguishes (in New Testament terminology) between body (body, flesh) and soul (mind, mind). And although the Bible does not explain how body and soul are related or how they interact, it does not separate or make them interchangeable, and the soul is never reduced to the physical. Multiple passages point to a unique "spirit" in us and show a connection to the Holy Spirit, which suggests that we can have a personal relationship with God (Rom 8,16 and 1 Kor 2,11).

When looking at the mind-body problem, it is important that we begin with a basic teaching of Scripture: There are no people and they would not be what they are, beyond an existing, ongoing relationship with the transcendent Creator God, all Has created things and maintains their existence. Creation (including man) would not exist if God were completely separate from it. Creation has not produced itself and does not sustain its existence - only God exists in itself (theologians speak of God's aseity here). The existence of all created things is a gift of the self-existing God.

Contrary to the biblical testimony, some claim that humans are nothing more than material beings. This assertion raises the following question: How can anything as intangible as human consciousness actually emerge from something as unconscious as physical matter? A related question is: Why is there any perception of sensory information? These questions raise further questions as to whether consciousness is merely an illusion or is there a (albeit nonphysical) component that, while related to the material brain, must be distinguished.

Almost everyone agrees that people have a consciousness (an inner world of thought with images, perceptions and feelings) - commonly referred to as thinking, and that is as real to us as the need for food and sleep. However, there is no agreement about the nature and cause of our consciousness / mind. Materialists consider it exclusively as a result of the electrochemical activity of the physical brain. Non-materialists (including Christians) see in it an immaterial phenomenon that is not identical with the physical brain.

The speculations about consciousness are divided into two main categories. The first category is physicalism (materialism). He teaches that there is no invisible spiritual world. The other category is called parallel dualism, which teaches that the mind can have a nonphysical characteristic or be completely non-physical, so that it can not be explained by purely physical expressions. The parallel dualism sees the brain and mind as interacting and working in parallel - when the brain is hurt, the ability of logical thinking may be impaired. Likewise, as a result, the parallel interaction is affected.

In the case of parallel dualism, the term dualism is used in humans to distinguish between observable and unobservable interaction between brain and mind. The conscious mental processes that take place individually in each person are private in nature and inaccessible to outsiders. Another person can get our hands, but she can not learn our private thoughts (and most of the time we love it, that's how God arranged it!). Moreover, certain human ideals that we hold within are not reducible to material factors. The ideals include love, justice, forgiveness, joy, mercy, grace, hope, beauty, truth, goodness, peace, human action and responsibility - these give life purpose and meaning. A biblical passage tells us that all good gifts come from God (Jak 1,17). Could this explain the existence of these ideals and the care of our human nature - as gifts of God to humanity?

As Christians, we refer to the unfathomable activities and influence of God in the world; this includes his actions through created things (natural effect) or direct action by the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is invisible, his work is not measurable. But his work happens in the material world. His works are unpredictable and can not be reduced to empirically comprehensible cause-and-effect chains. These works include not only God's creation as such, but also the incarnation, resurrection, ascension, the mission of the Holy Spirit and the expected return of Jesus Christ to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God, and the establishment of the new heaven and earth.

Back to the mind-body problem: Materialists claim that thinking can be explained physically. This view opens up the possibility, if not the need, to artificially reproduce the mind. Since the term "Artificial Intelligence" (AI) has been coined, AI has been an issue that is viewed optimistically by computer developers and science fiction writers. Over the years, AI has become an integral part of our technology. Algorithms are programmed for all types of devices and machines, from cell phones to automobiles. The software and hardware development has progressed so much that machines won over human games experimenting with games. In 1997, the IBM computer Deep Blue beat reigning world champion Garry Kasparov. Kasparov accused IBM of fraud and demanded revenge. I wish IBM had not refused, but it was decided that the machine would have worked hard enough and simply sent Deep Blue to retirement. In 2011, the Jeopardyuiz show hosted a game between IBM's Watson Computer and the two best Jeopardy players. (Instead of answering questions, players should quickly formulate the questions about given answers.) The players lost at a great distance. I can only point out (and that's ironically) that Watson, who only functioned the way he was designed and programmed, was not happy; but certainly the AI ​​software and hardware engineers. That should tell us something!

Materialists claim that there is no empirical evidence that mind and body are separate and distinct. They argue that the brain and consciousness are identical, and that the mind somehow emerges from the quantum processes of the brain or emerges from the complexity of the processes taking place in the brain. One of the so-called "angry atheists," Daniel Dennett, goes even further, claiming that consciousness is an illusion. Christian apologist Greg Koukl points to the fundamental flaw in Dennett's argument:

If there was no real awareness, there would be no way to even realize that it was just an illusion. If awareness is required to perceive an illusion, then it can not be an illusion itself. Likewise, one should be able to perceive both worlds, the real and the illusory, in order to recognize that there is a difference between the two, and thus identify the illusory world. If all perception was an illusion, it would not be recognizable as such.

By material (empirical) methods one can not discover immaterial. Only material phenomena can be identified that are observable, measurable, verifiable and repeatable. If there are only things that are empirically verifiable then there can not exist what was unique (not repeatable). And if that is the case, then history that came from unique, unrepeatable episodes of events can not exist! This may be convenient, and for some it is an arbitrary explanation that there are only things that can be proved by a specific and preferred method. In short, there is no way to prove empirically that only empirically provable / material things exist! It is illogical to reduce the whole reality to just what can be discovered by this one method. This view is sometimes referred to as Scientism.

This is a big topic and I just scratched the surface, but it's also an important issue - note Jesus' remark: "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but can not kill the soul" (Mt 10,28) , Jesus was not a materialist - he clearly distinguished between the physical body (to which the brain belongs) and an immanent component of our humanity, which is the very essence of our personality. When Jesus tells us not to let others kill our souls, he also refers to not letting our faith and trust in God be destroyed by others. While we can not see God, we know and trust Him, and through our non-physical consciousness we can even feel or perceive Him. Our belief in God is indeed part of our conscious experience.

Jesus reminds us that our mind is an integral part of our discipleship as disciples. Our consciousness gives us the ability to believe in the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It helps us to accept the gift of faith; this belief is "a firm confidence in what one hopes, and a non-doubting of what one does not see" (Hebr 11,1). Our consciousness empowers us to know and trust God as Creator, to "realize that the world is created by God's word, so that all that one sees has become nothing" (from the unseen) (Hebr 11,3). Our consciousness enables us to experience peace higher than all reason, to realize that God is love, to believe in Jesus as the Son of God, to believe in eternal life, to know true joy, and to know that we truly are God's beloved children are.

Let us rejoice that God has given us the mind to know our own world and to know Him,

Joseph Tkach


pdfWhat do you think about your consciousness?