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God / Theism

Why Consciousness is Best Explained by the Existence of God

Why Consciousness is Best Explained By the Existence of God
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Despite the progress of science, fundamental questions remain related to the issue of consciousness. Philosopher Michael Ruse opined, “Why should a bunch of atoms have thinking ability? Why should I, even as I write now, be able to reflect on what I am doing…there is no scientific answer.” [1] Such a question is indeed difficult to answer for those adhering to a strictly materialistic worldview; human consciousness and the ability to comprehend the universe are more reasonably explained by an appeal to the supernatural.

A number of views exist with regard to human consciousness. Those who hold a view of “reductive physicalism” believe human beings to be “reducible to their physical properties… [so that] the mind or the mental is simple brain chemistry.” [2]  In such a view, the human brain and mind are identical. [3] As a result, “free will” is illusory and human behavior is the result of a series of purely physical responses (much like the falling of a very complex series of dominoes. However, there are several problems with this approach.

First, it flies in the face of human experience; each person experiences the world as though they are a distinct individual making distinct choices. Secondly, there is no known naturalistic mechanism which would explain how the experience of consciousness could arise from the material composition of the human brain alone. [4] Further, if each human being is simply going through the motion of inevitable behavior, concepts related to morality and ethics cease to have meaning. There is no human good nor evil by definition if human beings are essentially organic automatons. Yet, morally good and evil actions appear to exist (which themselves cannot in principle be explained by science [5]), indicating human free will and consciousness truly exist.

But if human consciousness exists as something more than simply illusion, it is difficult to understand how it could have arised from unguided, purely naturalistic evolutionary processes. Atheist Colin McGinn makes a striking admission with regard to the miraculous appearance of human consciousness when he asks, “How did evolution convert the water of biological tissue into the wine of consciousness?” [6] So unanswerable is this question in the world of science that many have resorted to simply asserting consciousness “is just something that happens as a natural byproduct of our brain’s complexity.” [7] Perhaps this is why some ascribe to physicalism to begin with, so as to deny the existence of the mind as a distinct entity and thus not have to account for its appearance.

Not only does humanity appear to have consciousness minds, but humanity is able to comprehend the universe around them with their minds. Human consciousness has allowed for the discovery of “mathematical reality.” [8] Not only do mathematical concepts exist in such a way that they could be discovered by conscious minds, but these mathematics allow for human understanding of the universe with surprising effectiveness. Physicist Eugene Wigner notes, “The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious… there is no rational explanation for it.” [9] It is on this basis that Christian mathematician Johannes Kepler argues God “intentionally ordered the universe in a way that could be comprehended by the human intellect.” [10] The most reasonable conclusion to draw is that human beings have rational minds which exist apart from the brain Click To Tweet

The most reasonable conclusion to draw from available evidence is that human beings have consciousness in the form of minds which allows for the ability to comprehend the world around them, and that these minds exist as something “beyond the brain.” [11] Theism enjoys a greater explanatory power when it comes to this issue. The myriad problems facing a naturalistic explanation are erased in a theistic worldview. Therefore, the most reasonable conclusion to draw is that human beings have rational minds which exist apart from the brain (called souls in Christian theology) given to them by a Creator who designed the universe for humanity’s study and comprehension.

[1] Michael Ruse, Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? (Cambridge: Oxford University Press, 2001), 73, quoted in Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 247.
[2] Melissa Cain Travis, Science and the Mind of the Maker (Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2018), 179.
[3] Sharon Dirckx, Am I Just My Brain? (Epsom: The Good Book Company, 2019), 24-26.
[4] J.P. Moreland, Scientism and Secularism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2018), 151.
[5] Moreland, Scientism and Secularism, 155-157.
[6] Colin McGinn, quoted by J.P. Moreland, himself quoted in Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 263.
[7] Strobel, The Case for a Creator, 264.
[8] G.H. Hardy, A Mathematicians Apology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 123-124, quoted in Travis, Science and the Mind of the Maker, 157.
[9] Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences,” in The World Treasury of Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics, ed. Timothy Ferris (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1991), 527, quoted in Travis, Science and the Mind of the Maker, 161.
[10] Melissa Cain Travis, “A Grand Cosmic Resonance: How the Structure and Comprehensibility of the Universe Reveal a Mindful Maker,” CRI, last modified August 19, 2019.
[11] Dirckx, Am I Just My Brain?, 24-26.

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Jimmy Wallace (J. Warner's son) holds a BA in Psychology (from UCLA) and is currently completing his MA in Theology - Applied Apologetics (from Colorado Christian University).

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