God's Crime Scene

Day 5 of 7 • This day’s reading


Do Our Minds Point to the Existence of a Divine Mind?

Consciousness poses one of the most difficult conundrums for philosophers and scientists. As philosopher David Chalmers lamented, “Conscious experience is at once the most familiar thing in the world and the most mysterious. There is nothing we know about more directly than consciousness, but it is far from clear how to reconcile it with everything else we know. Why does it exist? What does it do? How could it possibly arise from lumpy gray matter?”

…While we are certainly aware of our mental lives as humans, scientists and philosophers have been unable to reconcile the precise relationship between our nonmaterial minds and our physical brains. Are they one and the same? What is the causal relationship between the two? If we acknowledge the distinct existence of nonmaterial minds, how do we account for this dual nonphysical reality? How can we get a nonmaterial mind from physical matter?

Dualism describes mind and matter as two distinct categories of being. There are mental states, such as conscious thoughts, and there are physical objects, such as brains. They are different and they coexist in the universe. Unsurprisingly, many philosophical naturalists committed to a material explanation from “inside the room” of the universe are opposed to a nonmaterial explanation from “outside the room.”

…Thomas Nagel, a naturalist philosopher eager to find an explanation “inside the room,” reluctantly acknowledged the deficiency of physicalist explanations: “So long as the mental is irreducible to the physical, the appearance of conscious physical organisms is left unexplained by a naturalistic account of the familiar type. On a purely materialist understanding of biology, consciousness would have to be regarded as a tremendous and inexplicable extra brute fact about the world.”

The “problem of mind” is as much a problem today as it was for ancient thinkers, in spite of tremendous scientific advances over the past century. The more these materialistic theories fail to account for the properties of the mind, the more likely those staying “inside the room” are to offer yet another explanation (even if these explanations continue to contradict one another and possess significant liabilities).

Philosopher John Searle observed the same trend: “Earlier materialists argued that there aren’t any such things as separate mental phenomena, because mental phenomena are identical with brain states. More recent materialists argue that there aren’t any such things as separate mental phenomena because they are not identical with brain states. I find the pattern very revealing, and what it reveals is an urge to get rid of mental phenomena at any cost.”

Only dualism begins to adequately account for the differences between mind and brain, and its liabilities are far less significant than the liabilities possessed by the other four explanations. Any reluctance to embrace a dualist explanation for mind seems grounded not in the evidence but in a desire to resist answers found “outside the room.”

…The existence of the nonmaterial mind is yet another piece of evidence pointing to a nonmaterial, external cause of the universe. Unlike the cosmological and biological evidences we’ve examined so far, this piece of evidence is wholly nonmaterial. It is part of a new category of evidences and adds an additional layer of complexity to our “suspect” profile. If we are nonmaterial minds, it is reasonable to infer we may be the result of a nonmaterial Mind, particularly if we bear any similarity to this creative force.