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The Brain and the Bible
August 5th, 2007
© 2007

The August 2007 issue of DISCOVER magazine has an article entitled 10 Unsolved Mysteries of the Brain (pp. 54-61). It begins by saying:

"Of all the objects in the universe, the human brain is the most complex. There are as many neurons in the brain as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy."

The Bible also shows that man's creation was God's supreme act of physical creation. In Zechariah 12:1 God uses three aspects of His physical creation as an example of His creative powers and thus His sovereign authority over His Creation:

"This is the word of the Lord concerning Israel. The Lord, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundations of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him…."

No scientist is ever going to:

  1. stretch out the heavens,
  2. lay the foundation of the earth,
  3. form the spirit of man.

The spirit of man is unique. No animal has it. This spirit was given to our first ancestors, Adam and Eve. It's what makes us unique from the animal kingdom. While we have similarities with the animal world (fleshly, physical existence) we also have within us a spirit that longs to know our Creator:

"From one man He [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole world; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. For in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:26-28a).

So, the first thing the Bible educates us about ourselves is that we are especially made to seek God and to be found of Him [animals don't do this]. Furthermore, unlike any other creature, we were created in the image and likeness of our Creator:

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them" (Gen. 1:26-27).

This image of God originally made for perfect fellowship between the created and their Creator, until sin entered the picture and that relationship was shattered. Now that relationship is restored when we become God's children through the waters of Holy Baptism:

"Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all" (Colossians 3:9-11).

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them characteristics that made them different from the animals. These characteristics reside within the unique "spirit of man" that dwells within each and every one of us.

Hence, the Biblical revelation is that these characteristics are NOT physical. That is, they originate from something spiritual – the "spirit in man."

Science, by its very nature, deals with the physical. That's why modern day science refuses to acknowledge the supernatural. It will try to find a purely physical explanation to everything. All it knows is what can be tested and evaluated and analyzed by instruments and experimentation. God, needless to say, can't be put into a test tube!

So, with this in mind, let's examine some of the "unsolved mysteries of the [human] brain," as given in the recent magazine article.

  1. The mystery of how information is "coded." Scientists can SEE the human brain, can MEASURE electrical pulses traveling within the brain, etc., but how can this explain our thoughts? The article goes on to draw this comparison:

    "The challenge is something like popping the cover off a computer, measuring a few transistors chattering between high and low voltage, and trying to guess the content of the Web page being surfed."

    Science will never find this out because the origin of our thoughts are not physical, they are from the SPIRIT of man within us. And spiritual things can't be put into a test tube.

  2. Science has no idea how memories are stored and retrieved in the human brain:

    "Memory retrieval is even more mysterious than storage…there is no good theory to explain how memory retrieval can happen so quickly."

    Much of the article is written as if the human brain is a complex computer. However, this is only an analogy. The human mind is much more complex than any man-made computer and operates on a different level – a spiritual level.

  3. The brain has a "baseline" level of activity. That is, a brain at rest still has activity even without any outside stimulation. "Most things we care about – reminiscences, emotions, drives, plans, and so on – can occur with no external stimulus and no overt output that can be measured." The article goes on to mention that: "When your eyes are closed during dreaming, you still enjoy rich visual experience."

    The reasons for dreams are unknown to science. Computers don't dream! The Bible tells us that dreams can serve as an avenue for fellowship with our Creator:

    "…Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams" (Joel 2:20ff quoted by St. Peter in Acts 2:16-21).

    We see in various places in the Bible where God communicated with people in a dream (see Genesis 28:12ff, Daniel 2:1ff, Matthew 2:13, and many others). This is a function of the human spirit in communication with God.

  4. Science has no idea how the brain can simulate the future. What gives us the ability to plan out what we want to do before doing it? Science admits "…we know little about how the brain's future simulator works…"

    The Bible tells us that God has given this basic ability to us:

    "God…has…set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end" (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

    This very helpful God-given ability in the human spirit to think ahead (and in the past as well) is very essential to our existence as human beings. Yet, ultimately it has its limits.

  5. What are emotions? A very basic question indeed. While emotions can be described (science is good at things like that), what are their origin? Computers don't have emotion.

    Ultimately, emotions stem from the very nature of God Himself who describes Himself in the Bible as having emotions. His creation reflects these same characteristics and human emotions most mirror God's emotions.

  6. What is intelligence? Science again is in the dark: "Intelligence comes in many forms, but it is not known what intelligence – in any of its guises – means biologically." The article goes on to explain that not too long again it was commonly believed that we could make smart robots, but today "…our robots are little more intelligent than sea slugs." "Whatever intelligence is, it lies at the heart of what is special about Homo sapiens. Other species are hard-wired to solve particular problems, while our ability to abstract allows us to solve an open-ended series of problems. This means that studies of intelligence in mice and monkeys may be barking up the wrong family tree."

    How true! For the Bible makes it clear from Chapter One that man is distinct from the animals in terms of the human spirit. Furthermore, even our bodies were made directly from the dust of the earth, the same method God used for the animals (compare Genesis 2:7 and 2:19). Again, Zechariah 12:1 specifically tells us that the human spirit is unique. It is a great evidence of being created by God. Man can't duplicate it. Artificial Intelligence isn't an easy task, as science is quickly learning!

  7. How is Time represented in the brain? In fact, what IS time? Nobody really knows. We measure "it," but we don't know what it is. Researchers have failed to find evidence for a single "time organ" in the brain. Again, Zechariah 12:1 and Eccles. 3:11 help us to see that "time" is something put within the heart or spirit of man by his Creator and thus has a supernatural origin.

  8. "Why do brains sleep and dream?" the article in DISCOVER magazine asks. While there are plenty of ideas, "there is no universally agreed-upon answer…." Whatever it is, sleep isn't something that God needs: "…[God] who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep" (Psalm 121:4).

    The Bible uses sleep as a type of the death of the body. Daniel 12:2 speaking of Christ's Second Coming says:

    "Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt."

    Sleep by its very nature is a necessary form of rest for the body. Without it, we die. And, ultimately, our bodies enter what is commonly called eternal rest. Eternal in the sense of the time before Christ's return.

  9. How do the specialized systems of the brain integrate with one another? Much research has gone into the different activities of the brain. Neuroscientists have a good idea of how the brain is divided into seemingly different compartments for hundreds of different tasks, but "despite their disparate functions, these systems seem to work together seamlessly. There are almost no good ideas about how this occurs."

    The human spirit works in conjunction with the physical brain. It ties things together we might say. The Bible reveals that the spirit can function separately without the human brain or body. St. Paul, for example, spoke of a time when he was taken into God's Heaven and he wasn't even sure whether it was just his spirit that went or his whole human body!

    "…I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who 14 years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. [and then he repeats it for emphasis] And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows – was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell" (II Corinthians 12:1-4).

    Jesus said that we should not fear those able to kill the body but unable to kill the soul/spirit (Matthew 10:28). At death, our bodies return to the dust and our spirits return to God in Heaven (Ecclesiastes 12:7). The real you is the spirit within you. St. Paul likens it to living in a tent:

    "Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands…[therefore, for this reason, St. Paul said that Christians should] …prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:1 and 8).
  10. Scientists also are ignorant of how to explain consciousness. "An explanation of consciousness is one of the major unsolved problems of modern science." "If I give you all the Tinkertoys in the world and tell you to hook them up so that they form a conscious machine, good luck. We don't have a theory yet of how to do this; we don't even know what the theory will look like."

    After God made Adam directly from the dust of the Earth (and before He created Eve out of Adam's rib), Adam not only had consciousness, but he was out naming the animals! (I like to say that he did that before Eve was created so there would be no argument!). Man, from the very beginning, because of the unique human spirit placed within him, had consciousness, intelligence, and all these "mysteries" of modern science!

    The answer is plain. Science is too limited in scope. It can't see or measure the unseen spiritual world, be it our human spirit or the Spirit of God! Only when God reveals Himself to us, as He has in the Bible and in the life of Jesus Christ, can we even begin to understand those things which will forever be a "mystery" to the one who rejects God in his knowledge.

Further Reading:

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