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What exactly is consciousness? Scientists and philosophers have been trying for years to figure that out.
Philosophers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, so have speculated on all kinds of possibilities. Of course, speculation is the basic currency of philosophers as they deal with ideas. That said, they have no way of definitively coming to any objective conclusion. They just continue to speculate.
Scientists, on the other hand, have a methodology for coming to definitive conclusions – with one caveat. They can only deal with things that are a part of the natural universe, and must explain them within the bounds of the laws of nature. When they move outside of that, they have ceased to be scientists and moved into the arena of the philosopher – the speculators.
Now it is not necessary that a scientist be a Naturalist – a person who believes that the natural universe, operating by natural laws, is all that exists. Those who are not Naturalists recognize that they can legitimately study the world using the scientific method, while also recognizing that there are things they simply can’t study because they are not a part of that arena. Scientists who are Naturalists, however, are convinced that there is nothing outside the realm of the natural universe, so it must somehow be possible for EVERYTHING that exists to ultimately be explained using the scientific method. They will readily admit, of course, that there are many things science has yet to figure out, but they will not let go of the belief that figuring it out is possible.
This brings us to the topic of consciousness. Dr. Nir Lahav, a physicist from Bar-Ilan University in Israel, believes he has come up with a new conceptual and mathematical framework for understanding consciousness. Obviously he is a Naturalist since he considers consciousness something that can ultimately be understood by science.
Now, of course, he does not claim to have figured it out at this point. In fact, one of the things he acknowledges from the outset is that our conscious experience cannot arise from the brain ... or any physical process. He admits that the conscious experience in our brain cannot be found or reduced to some neural activity. At the same time, he does believe that the brain is responsible for the creation of our conscious abilities.
Huh? That sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo to me.
His solution is to look at consciousness as a relativistic phenomenon. Rather than there being an absolute physical answer, he sees it as dependent on the frame of reference of the observer. That is, the one experiencing a conscious thought is able to recognize it is there, while one trying to study it only has brain activity to evaluate it by – which is a futile exercise since conscious experience is not found in the brain.
Huh? What kind of double talk is this?
Essentially, all they are saying is that they are convinced that there is some physical measurement that can be made, but scientists just don’t yet know what that is. The speculation by these folks is that the person having a conscious thought measures it directly by interaction between different parts of the brain, whereas scientists trying to study it are not able to take those kinds of measurements.
Huh? The more you think about this, the more you realize that all we have here is another attempt to speculate about how consciousness could be a physical attribute of human beings. At this point, this physicist has stepped out of his role as a scientist and moved into the role of philosopher.
Naturalism is a religious belief. Naturalists honestly believe they are not religious, but this particular example demonstrates quite clearly that they are. They believe in their naturalistic beliefs purely by faith. They are convinced that the natural universe, operating by natural laws, is all that exists. But they don’t believe it based on science – it is a philosophical belief that essentially guides the way they think about reality.
The truth is, consciousness is a spiritual capacity that mankind has because human beings are persons created in the image of God. As with other spiritual qualities, such as creativity and the ability to self-consciously use knowledge, we have them because God put them in us in a way that transcends the laws of the natural universe. In our core essence, we are spiritual beings. Certainly in this life we are housed in a physical body, but the core of our personhood is spiritual. These naturalistic scientists will certainly continue to speculate about spiritual elements like consciousness, but all they will ever have is speculation. It is part and parcel of their naturalistic religion.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books entitled The Truth Mirage, Rules for Christians Radicals, Liberalism vs. Conservatism, and his latest book Shattering the Truth Mirage and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.
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