Are Humans ‘Computers Made of Meat’?

Three years ago, the British journal Resuscitation published a remarkable article about human consciousness. It described a year-long British study that offered evidence that consciousness continues after a person's brain has stopped functioning, and he has been declared clinically dead. As former journalist Lee Strobel notes in his book The Case for a Creator, "It was dramatic new evidence that the brain and mind are not the same," but are rather distinct entities. As Reuter's journalist Sarah Tippit put it, the research "resurrects the debate over whether there is life after death and whether there is such a thing as the human soul." In their article, physician Sam Parnia and neuropsychiatrist Peter Fenwick described their study of sixty-three heart-attack victims who were declared clinically dead but who were later revived. As Strobel relates, about 10 percent of these people "reported having well-structured, lucid thought processes, with memory formation and reasoning, during the time that their brains were not functioning. The effects of oxygen starvation or drugs -- [explanations] commonly offered by skeptics -- were ruled out as factors." According to Parnia, while large-scale studies are still needed, the scientific findings to date "would support the view that mind, 'consciousness,' or the 'soul' is a separate entity from the brain." These are important findings for Christians, who believe that human beings are both body and spirit. But it's bad news for scientists who are determined to find a purely physical answer to the question of human consciousness. They are, Strobel says, "candid in admitting that they currently have no explanation for how the brain might spawn consciousness." But other scientists are determined to follow the evidence wherever it leads. As the late neurophysicist Sir John Eccles put it, "I am driven by data, not theory . . . There are solid, concrete data that suggest that our consciousness, our mind, may surpass the boundaries of the brain." This data supports the teachings of the Bible. As Strobel writes, "Jesus described the body and soul as being separate entities when He said, 'Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.' The Apostle Paul says that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord." Looking at the current debate over mind and body, philosopher Alvin Plantinga concludes: "Things don't look hopeful for Darwinian naturalists." That dismal outlook, however, is not stopping them from trying. "Faced with data and logic that support dualism, and unable to offer a plausible theory for how consciousness could have erupted from mindless matter," Strobel says, "atheists are pinning their hopes on some as-yet-undetermined scientific discovery to justify their faith in physicalism. And some aren't even so sure about that. Physicist and atheist Steven Weinberg said scientists may have to 'bypass the problem of human consciousness' altogether, because 'it may just be too hard for us.'" In other words, Strobel says, "it's failing to give them the answers they want." Read Strobel's book The Case for a Creator. You'll find more exciting evidence that our minds are not reducible to mere matter: God created us, and our consciousness comes from His. For further reading and information: Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator (Zondervan, 2004). Visit the book's website. On September 26, CCN is broadcasting a special event on The Case for a Creator. Find out how your church can air the broadcast. BreakPoint Commentary No. 040920, "Putting God Out of a Job: The Case for a Creator." BreakPoint Commentary No. 040921, "Overlapping Territory: How Science Supports Theism." Jonathan Petre, "Soul-searching doctors find life after death," Telegraph (London), 22 October 2000. Sam Parnia, "Near Death Experiences in Cardiac Arrest and the Mystery of Consciousness," Horizon Research Foundation. Sarah Tippit, "Study Suggests Life after Death," ABC News, 29 June 2001.


Chuck Colson


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