We Think, Therefore God Is

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We Think, Therefore God Is

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We Think, Therefore God Is

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Stop and think for a moment. It doesn’t matter about what—just take 10 seconds and imagine anything you like. Really think about it.

OK, good job. You just experienced perhaps the greatest miracle in the physical universe: human thought and consciousness.

If human consciousness didn’t evolve, then where did it come from? Why does it exist in the first place?

Sometimes it seems like the potential for human thought, imagination and creativity is endless. Every day thousands of books are published; music is composed; computer programs are coded. With each scientific breakthrough, each new discovery, each new formula, humanity gets closer to understanding the physical nature of the universe. The potential of human beings for creative and critical thought is immense.

Why is it, then, that the very thing that enables us to think creatively and critically, our human consciousness, is one thing that we can’t seem to figure out? Why do we think? Why do we create? Why do we have the ability to understand complex, abstract concepts? Why can we imagine that which doesn’t even yet exist?

The current prevailing scientific explanation for human consciousness is that it’s a product of darwinian macroevolution, which posits that life as we know it, along with all of its functions, resulted from a series of positive mutations over long periods of time. Although the actual mechanics of the development of consciousness can’t be adequately explained by current evolutionary theory, any alternative explanation is often viewed as a complete non-starter. This “invisible war” within evolutionary theory is the topic of a book by philosopher and New York University professor Thomas Nagel. In Mind and Cosmos, Nagel takes a philosophical approach to the debate by arguing that the current materialistic explanation for consciousness is illogical and should be open to further discussion. He writes: “It is prima facie [basically, at first glance] highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection . . . I realize that such doubts will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science” (2012, pp. 6-7).

For the record, Nagel is no creationist, saying about the concept: “I am not just unreceptive but strongly averse to the idea” (ibid., p. 12, footnote). His argument is motivated by the sheer illogic of attributing something as complex as human consciousness to random mutations.

That still leaves us with the big question. If human consciousness didn’t evolve, then where did it come from? Why does it exist in the first place? Why, with our advanced understanding of the brain and the universe around us, do those answers still elude us?

The answer is that, even with the near limitless potential of the human mind, we still can’t fully comprehend or imagine spiritual things—and that’s exactly what human consciousness is: a spiritual thing. The book of Job in the Bible is, in many ways and among many other things, a book of philosophy. The various soliloquies of Job and his three friends read like philosophical arguments, laying out theories for the harsh realities of life and what man’s role in it all is.

All four men present their arguments eloquently, each monologue a mix of truth and error about Job’s misfortunes. A fifth man takes the scene in chapter 32, and he seems to have a better grasp of the truth. Elihu risks seeming presumptuous and corrects the older men. In his speech, he offers this bit of truth about the human mind: “But it is the spirit in a person, the breath of the Almighty, that gives them understanding” (Job 32:8 Job 32:8But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding.
American King James Version×
).

Elihu struck upon an eternal truth about the nature of humanity here that’s echoed and expanded on in other parts of the Bible. Solomon, another great biblical philosopher, explained part of the function of the spirit in man: “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts” (Proverbs 20:27 Proverbs 20:27The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
American King James Version×
, English Standard Version).

A purely materialistic explanation for human consciousness cannot be proven or demonstrated because humans are not solely material organisms. We are instead a special creation, gifted with a spiritual component in our minds by a Creator who is Himself spirit. We have the potential for immense creativity because we are made in the very image of God, the great Creator of all things (Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×
). Nagel acknowledges the fact that human consciousness is a marvelous feature of our world and that a purely material theory of its origin is inadequate: “ . . . certain things are so remarkable that they have to be explained as non-accidental if we are to pretend to a real understanding of the world” (p. 7).

We live in an age in which we’re privileged to know more about the work of that Creator than at any other time in human history. As we learn more about our world, the universe surrounding us and about our own minds and bodies, and as we marvel at the complexity and beauty of God’s creation, let’s also appreciate the gift of the spirit in man that allows us to comprehend God’s work. Let’s appreciate and marvel at the human mind—the most wondrous and mysterious of God’s physical creations.