Friday, March 25, 2011

The Spiritual World: Proof of Dualism

Is the mind and consciousness no more than a complicated hunk of matter. According to T. Huxley (1871), that’s all it is:

• “Mind or consciousness is a function of matter when that matter has attained a certain degree of organization.”

More recently, the acclaimed biologists Edward O. Wilson made a similar claim:

• “Conscious experience is a physical and not a supernatural phenomenon.”

More candidly, the atheist and Darwinist Michael Ruse wrote:

• 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 and why should you, even as you read now, able to ponder my points, agreeing or disagreeing, with pleasure or pain, deciding to refute me or deciding that I am just not worth the effort? No one, certainly not the Darwinian as such, seems to have any answer to this…The point is that there is no scientific answer.

But can science shed any light on this question? Can our exploration of the physical world give evidence for the spiritual? The dualistic claim is that the spiritual mind can plug into the physical brain much as sound and sight waves plug into a television to produce programming. Interestingly, the founders of modern neuroscience were dualists:

• Dualism reigned unchallenged in Western thought until recent times, and the founders of modern neuroscience, Charles Sherrington, Wilder Penfield, and John Eccles, were all dualists (Dinesh D’Souza, Life After Death: The Evidence, 108)

Penfield would electrically stimulate the brain but noted that there were responses that seemed to be extra-physical:

• Penfield would stimulate electrically the proper motor cortex of the conscious patents and challenge them to keep one hand from moving when the current was applied. The patient would seize this hand with the other hand and struggle to hold it still. Thus one hand under the control of the electrical current and the other hand under the control of the patient’s mind fought against each other. Penfield risked the explanation that the patient had not only a physical brain that was stimulated to action but also a nonphysical reality that interacted with the brain. (Lee Edward Travis)

Penfield found that his patients could distinguish between responses that had been electrically stimulated from those self-stimulated:

• Invariably the patient would respond, by saying, “I didn’t do that. You did…No matter how much Penfield probed the cerebral cortex, he said, “There is no place…where electrical stimulation will cause a patient to believe or to decide.” That’s because those functions originate in the conscious self, not the brain. A lot of subsequent research has validated this. When Roger Sperry and his team studied the differences between the brain’s right and left hemispheres, they discovered the mind has a causal power independent of the brain’s activities. This led Sperry to conclude materialism and false. (J.P. Moreland, interviewed by Lee Strobel, Case for the Creator, 258)

If the brain is entirely a physical entity, we should expect that every type of mental activity could be stimulated, but this isn’t the case. In fact, the very notion of freewill contradicts materialism. It affirms the fact that our choices aren’t totally determined by chemical-electrical responses.

The freewill problem is so daunting for the materialist – if everything is matter and energy, there is no room for freewill, something self-initiated – they often opt to deny its reality. Biologist E.O. Wilson writes:

• The hidden preparation of mental activity gives the illusion of free will.

Illusion? If freewill is an illusion, so too is the entirety of our lives. In this regard, D’Souza writes:

• If there is no free will, the entire literature of Western civilization becomes incomprehensible, because every single character from Oedipus to Gatsby was merely acting in response to uncontrolled brain states…Hitler can’t be blamed for killing Jews. Abraham Lincoln operated under a delusion when he declared slavery wrong, and Southern slaveholders were not guilty of buying and selling human beings…If that presumption [freewill] is wrong, all those institutions are a sham and the whole structure of modern society should be revised. (139-40)

To deny dualism is to deny freewill; to deny freewill is to deny every supporting rationale of human civilization. Materialism comes at a prohibitively high price. It also requires the denial of near-death-experiences (NDE).

Raymond Moody published Life After Life in 1975 based upon 150 interviews with people who had claimed NDEs. Cardiologist and assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine, Michael Sabom, had been highly skeptical. However,

• Over a five year period he interviewed and compiled data on 116 persons who had had a close brush with death. Of these, 71 reported one form or another of near-death experience…Sabom conducted extended interviews with the ten who had detailed recollections, either of resuscitations or surgery. The results were astonishing. In every case, the accounts jibed with standard medical procedures; moreover, where medical records were available, the records of the procedures and the accounts of the patients perfectly matched. In all of these cases, [unconscious] patients observed details that they could not possibly have observed from their physical vantage point. (Patrick Glynn, God: The Evidence, 103-104)

Due to reported out-of-body-experiences, some of the subjects were even able to report what was transpiring in the next room. If even some of these many accounts can be trusted, they argue very persuasively for an extra-material existence.

When one’s religion or paradigm requires the denial of so many phenomena, it might require the infusion of some fresh air or at least a read of Psalm 139:

I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. (Psalm 139:14)

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