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How Do You Get Consciousness From a Hunk of Meat?

Posted on: January 12, 2016

Consciousness from Hunk of Meat.001

IT IS ONE THING TO TRY TO EXPLAIN LIFE WITHOUT GOD, BUT QUITE ANOTHER TO EXPLAIN CONSCIOUSNESS WITHOUT GOD

We spent two blogs advancing the case that modern science has no explanation for the human body outside of God’s having created us. They cannot explain DNA, nor can they explain irreducible complexity (see blogs for 12/15/15 and 1/5/16).

Now we move to the next troublesome issue: secular scientists have no answer for the immaterial part of humans. One of the thorniest problems in all of science is how to explain “how we get consciousness out of a hunk of meat.” The hunk of meat they are referring to, of course, is the brain. Plant life is “life,” but has no consciousness. The existence of moss and lichen is hard enough to explain, but a thinking brain that is conscious of itself and its surroundings is impossible to explain without God.

The theory of evolution and natural selection takes all reality back to the Big Bang, and leaves us with no God, nothing spiritual or non-material, nothing but a physical world. But consciousness is not physical. Therefore, many scientists and educators conclude that consciousness is not real. It is an illusion. We have evolved in such a way as to appear to be conscious, but without understanding how, we are not conscious.

On the other side of the ledger, it is extremely difficult to explain how a non-conscious brain can have the conscious thought that consciousness is impossible.

George Orwell is famously supposed to have said, “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.” This seems to be one of them.

In a New York Times review of the book, The Mysterious Flame (Conscious Minds in a Material World), the subheading is: “A philosopher examines human consciousness and argues that the mind is too ill equipped to understand it.” 1

Philosopher Evan Fales goes further and calls it a mystery: “Darwinian evolution implies that humans emerged through the blind operation of natural forces. It is mysterious how such forces could generate something nonphysical.” 2

Philosopher Colin McGinn takes the next step and treats consciousness as akin to a miracle. “We do not know how consciousness might have arisen by natural processes from [previously] existing material things,” he writes. “One is tempted, however-reluctantly, to turn to divine assistance: … It would take a supernatural magician to bring consciousness from matter.” 3

Yet none of them concludes that “divine assistance” is actually an option… just that one would be tempted to conclude that, if one did not begin with an anti-supernatural presupposition.

Yet everyone, on a practical level, operates as though consciousness is real. It is impossible not to. Philosopher Galen Strawson brings us down to solid ground when he writes that the denial of consciousness “is surely the strangest thing that has ever happened in the whole history of human thought.” It shows “that the power of human credulity is unlimited, that the capacity of human minds to be gripped by theory, by faith, is truly unbounded.” It reveals “the deepest irrationality of the human mind.” 4

If a person will not accept the most obvious explanation of reality, he is often forced into embracing incomprehensibilities. There is no other choice.

Secular scientists, philosophers and educators are not standing on the intellectual high ground here. Their arguments are not compelling and do not stack up with reality. The only thing they have going for themselves is numbers… most of them agree with themselves… and so they seem to be a formidable force. But “the emperor has no clothes”!

If their incomprehensibilities do not satisfy you, you have another option: God. If we believe and accept the evidence that there is a God and that He has created humans in His image, then the incomprehensibilities evaporate, and we are left with the perfectly reasonable conclusion that we are conscious because God is conscious and He has created us in His image.  

1 New York Times Book Review (https://www.nytimes.com/books/99/07/11/reviews/990711.11strawst.html)

2 Evan Fales, “Naturalism and Physicalism,” in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. Michael Martin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 120. (As quoted in Finding Truth, by Nancy Pearcey, page 109)

3 Colin McGinn, The Problem of Consciousness (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1993), 45; and The Mysterious Flame (New York: Basic Books, 1999), 13– 14. (As quoted in Finding Truth, by Nancy Pearcey, page 109)

4 Galen Strawson, Real Materialism and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 6 (italics added). (As quoted in Finding Truth, by Nancy Pearcey, page 110)
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