March 4, 2015

In Their Own Words XXIX: Flushing God's Image Down The Toilet

“Imagine for a moment that we are nothing but the product of billions of years of molecules coming together and ratcheting up through natural selection, that we are composed only of highways of fluids and chemicals sliding along roadways within billions of dancing cells, that trillions of synaptic conversations hum in parallel, that this vast egg-like fabric of micron-thin circuitry runs algorithms undreamt of in modern science, and that these neural programs give rise to our decision making, loves, desires, fears, and aspirations. To me, that understanding would be a numinous experience, better than anything ever proposed in anyone's holy text.” - David Eagleman, Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain

David Eagleman is a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action and the Initiative on Neuroscience and Law. He is best known for his published work on time perception. He is not foolish enough to commit to atheism but in his own words he is, by definition an agnostic whether he wishes to commit to agnosticism or not. His agnosticism borders on atheism as even militant atheist Sam Harris once pointed out here(Whither Eagleman?). Either way, what I am sure he isn't, is Christian. His exact quote about his religious view explains why he would minimize man in a theological manner and defame the Bible. In a National Public Radio (NPR) interview in February 2009, he said:
"I call myself a Possibilian: I'm open to...ideas that we don't have any way of testing right now.” 
There is a strong indicator of empiricism and logical positivism in this statement. In a later interview with the New York Times, Eagleman expanded on his NPR statement:

"Our ignorance of the cosmos is too vast to commit to atheism, and yet we know too much to commit to a particular religion. A third position, agnosticism, is often an uninteresting stance in which a person simply questions whether his traditional religious story (say, a man with a beard on a cloud) is true or not true. But with Possibilianism I'm hoping to define a new position — one that emphasizes the exploration of new, unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story. 

In this second statement we see a hefty helping of pluralism, syncretism and a Universalist's desire to blend belief systems. So Eagleman is a Universalist/Pluralist Agnostic that seems to have difficultly committing to absolutes. By attempting to embrace all religions he demeans them all by trying to crowd them all together while ignoring their tenets or core beliefs. By grouping them all together he trivializes all including Christianity. He also inadvertently makes goofy and theologically inaccurate statements or he wouldn't be part of this series. I guess what us surprising is that a man so concerned with perception and how we perceive reality would completely discount an entire portion of it by demeaning God and His holy writ. If he didn't have a secular science degree and some novel approach/theory for about how our minds work, he would most likely be viewed as a quack or some type of eccentric oddball. Unfortunately, due to his academic credentials...he is often taken quite seriously. In this fact we see the danger of exalting men through man-made institutions devoid of biblical and intellectual moral guidance.

So what is David Eagleman really doing here making these comparisons? The prominent thing I see in Mr. Eagleman’s quote is a forceful predilection for minimizing human life and therefore the high water mark of God’s created order. This is not surprising considering he is (what I consider) an atheist. He diminishes the amazing systems in our bodies that allow a human not only to live but thrive and even worship God. We see comments like…

(1) The product of billions of years of molecules just “coming together”. As if even a billion years of a billion chemical changes or mutations would be an insignificant thing, even it was true. It further minimizes man’s entire existence down to some cosmological coincidence or slight-of-hand.

(2) We are composed only of “highways of fluids and chemicals”. It makes the circulatory system, nerve system, musculature, sodium/potassium pumps and other intricate systems in the body sound like man-made inanimate lifeless objects like roads and pipelines. In themselves valueless unlike man who is valued by a great God.

(3) Trillions of synaptic conversations. This analogy is likened to dehumanization of communication to nothing more than nameless electrical signals over a computer when there is clearly human intelligence and human pathos underlying every word typed or spoken over internet or phone. In reality, electrical signals might physically be the only thing going on in our brains but we all know that these words I speak to you and how you read and interpret them are much more than the sum of just chemically created electric current. There is cognizance and intent.

(4) Then we have the biomechanical portion that says, “…this vast egg-like fabric of micron-thin circuitry runs algorithms undreamt of in modern science.” Here Eagleman switches over wholesale to a human machine hybrid terminology. This amounts to a devaluation of man’s incredibly complex brain to that of a man-made circuit...a series of on/off switches. This totally downplays the significance of God’s creation. Please, anyone, name one brand of computer that can heal itself after being damaged. Name one computer that is actually self-aware and sentient. Name a computer that can reason like I have for you in this post and draw out implications as I have.

(5) Eagleman continues with the computer parallel by stating, “…these neural programs give rise to our decision making, loves, desires, fears, and aspirations.” By stating this he implies that computers could possibly have these characteristics or qualities. He’s making a huge assumption even for technology in the distant future. There might be things that can mimic emotion, love or fear but to have the actual machine experience these things in a meaningful manner?

I see this as being highly improbably or impossible. There is a difference between being aware and self-aware. There is a difference between mechanical/digital processing of data and consciousness. Data processing is physical, sentience is metaphysical. I do not see man being able to bridge this chasm because man is not God (obviously).

At the end of his statement we have the biggest denigration and it isn’t about the creation but it’s an attack directly on God Himself. To attack the Word of God is a direct attack on God. Eagleman in his biblical ignorance claims that knowledge for the sake of knowledge about a created object (the brain itself) is more spiritual than God’s own revealed will in His Holy text. “To me, that understanding [of the brain God created] would be a numinous experience, better than anything ever proposed in anyone's holy text.”  It is just another case of man worshiping the creation while pushing out the knowledge of God. In his dumbfounding ignorance he completely misses that the Bible explicitly reveals that man’s brain (being part of his body) was created by God in the beginning to be an image of God Himself. In trying to play the middle of the field between all the religions, he looses everything by ignoring Jesus Christ.

The creation of man’s intellect and existence was actually proposed in the Christian’s Holy text and it was consciously designed to be in parallel or communion with God (through Christ). The rest of the Bible speaks to man’s mind and his cognizant choices to repent or not to repent. To sin or not to sin. To turn to God (repent/metanoia) or turn from Him. This is distinct from machines and animals. As far as I can tell animals are not self-aware and computers that appear to give off an illusion of making decisions are in actuality working through a linear protocol or algorithm. This is not conscious choice it is light switches going on and off folks. It just looks like thought because we can't see the little switches.

So, Eagleman is wrong to assume the understanding of man’s brain is not proposed in the Bible. By revealing the purpose of man’s creation…we even learned a little bit about the mind of God. What is the Bible but an exemplification of God’s thinking and will and man’s thinking and mans’ tainted fallen will? The entire bible is an attempt to get man’s brain and thinking back to its original state that is holy like God. The Bible even goes as far as to explain why man is as messed up as he is now. As a matter of fact, the Bible explains why Eagleman's comment and thinking is so off base. It tells us…

Romans 1:21 ~ “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Even now in his fallen form man still holds a distorted image of his original potential for holiness and their walk with God. Eagleman and those of his ilk who will down play the original significance of man is bashing the grandiosity of man in his original created form. The person that will do this is directly attacking God and telling Him, “What you’ve created is garbage and I can do just as good.” Godless men will always try to bring God and the things of God down to man’s level while simultaneously attempting to exalt themselves or the things they have made (idols). They attempt to deify themselves while trying to remove the deity from God by degrading Him to man’s level. Instead of man being the capstone he is the cap that covers the sewer. Instead of lifting up the creation for the miracle that each and every life is, it attempts to flush its value down the drain.

Eagleman tried to see the human body as a machine built of constituent parts. This is also exactly how he views religion and spiritually. He sees them as separate or disparate parts that just need to be assembled to make them work correctly. This is an incorrect view of both man and religion. God sees man and his relationship through his Son Jesus as much more than the sum of its components. Because He is our Creator, we should see it as He does because he knows the purpose for which it was originally created, men like Eagleman do not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If I could talk to this man the first thing I would ask him is if he thought man or a laptop computer was more complex. Whatever his answer, logic says he would say that man is. I would say, "what if I said that I did not believe there was a Toshiba Computer Company and I believe that the laptop has evolved from the abbacus.I have never seen the Toshiba factory so I believe these computers come from a remote part of Japan and the Japanese just harvest them from the ground and they are ever evolving." Of course he would rightly say I was out of my mind. I would then ask him if he thought that man could create people from scratch, without sex, egg or sperm, totaly from scratch. I doubt he would say yes. I would then ask him if a computer that is far less complex than man how can man not be created by some "intelligent power" far superior to us? I would like to hear his response to this.

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