Wet Gushy Stuff

Materialism Can’t Explain Consciousness

As we know, science can explain a lot of things. But it can’t quite get its head around our minds. I’ll explain next, on BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

The “biggest mystery left to science” is the fact that you are listening to this broadcast. Well actually, it’s that you’re aware that you’re listening to this broadcast.

You see science can explain or at least believes it can explain a great many things. But consciousness has it stumped. We can describe the brain in ever-increasing detail. We have a pretty good idea about which parts of the brain control certain actions and even emotions.

But what about the so-called “mind/brain” distinction? It’s just as mysterious today as it was when philosopher Rene Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am” some four centuries ago.

This mystery and what to make of it was the subject of a recent public radio series entitled “Mind and Brain.”

The mystery lies in the fact that, as one guest put it, this “wet gushy stuff” with the “consistency of mashed potatoes” in our skulls is an integral part of “us”: of our thoughts, our feelings, our hopes, and desires.

As was clearly evident on the program, the culture we live in is, in large measure, shaped and governed by a materialist worldview. That worldview holds that the only “real” things are matter and energy and that everything we observe is the product of the interaction between matter and energy.

That “everything” includes our awareness that we are the ones doing the observing. But as the philosopher David Chalmers said, “materialism doesn’t have the resources to fully explain consciousness.”

Instead of acknowledging the inadequacy – or, as the program called it, “limits” – of the materialistic worldview, three of the program’s guests, militant atheists all, tried to play down the problem.

Daniel Dennett, author of “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” insisted that there was no mystery at all. When challenged by the host, he argued that, within 15 to 20 years, we would be able to “read” people’s dreams while they slept. Right.

When the host challenged that assertion, all that Dennett could say was “hang on to your hat.”

Richard Dawkins, who penned, among other things, “The God Delusion,” admitted that we may never solve the mystery of consciousness, but added “What on earth makes you think that religion will?”

And Sam Harris would not rule out the possibility that consciousness survived death. That’s right, one of the world’s most famous atheists allowed for the possibility of life after death. He just thinks that the “idea that the brain can die and a soul that still speaks English and recognizes Granny is going to float away into the afterlife” is “profoundly implausible.”

Well perhaps it is. But what is equally implausible is that the materialism that reduces consciousness to chemistry and electrical impulses can tell us anything worthwhile about the human condition.

As award-winning writer and Christian Marilynne Robinson explained in her book “Absence of Mind,” a “central tenet” of this materialistic worldview is “that we do not know our own minds, our own motives, our own desires.” Only “well-qualified others” know them.

Thus, materialistic neuroscience explains away “experience and testimony of the individual mind,” and substitutes a story that more neatly fits the materialist paradigm.

Except that it doesn’t fit. And people are noticing this, and are pushing back against junk neuroscience and even the worldview that produced it.

Which is a very good thing. I’m sure the wet gushy stuff inside your head would agree.
Further Reading and Information

BP_Daily_Template_2_19_13"Wet Gushy Stuff"
Materialism Can't Explain Consciousness:
Take the Next Step

This is a good time to read and examine further. Eric mentions people who are "noticing the weaknesses" of the materialists' arguments and "pushing back." You have a great opportunity to examine their side of the argument at BreakPoint.

We list helpful links below, including articles, books and a classic BreakPoint commentary from Chuck Colson.

The book Absence of the Mind, by Marilynne Robinson, was quoted in the script, and is available in our bookstore. Another classic book on this subject is Anatomy of the Soul, by Curt Thompson.

Transcript for David Chalmers, the Hard Problem of Consciousness

Wisconsin Public Radio | ttbook.org

Transcript for Steve Paulson on Why Consciousness
Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins | Wisconsin Public Radio | ttbook.org

Anatomy of the Soul
Curt Thompson | Saltriver | June 2010

Absence of the Mind
Marilynne Robinson | Yale University Press | June 2011

The Spiritual Brain
Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary | HarperOne | September 2007


Anatomy of the Soul
Chuck Colson | BreakPoint.org | November 22, 2010

Your Soul Is Still Kicking
Eric Metaxas | BreakPoint.org | December 10, 2012

Is It All a Grand Illusion?

Kim Moreland | BreakPoint.org | April 4, 2008

Ah Yes, Conscious Deliberation
T. M. Moore | ColsonCenter.org | April 9, 2012


Deja vu all over again
See my comment on the Feb. 1st commentary (Not Tickled) page. I would only add that this topic was much discussed and thought about when I was in college, a number of decades ago, both in philosophy (and computer science) class and in the dormitory. I was pretty much a materialist at the time, and an agnostic. I did not reject the apologetic evidence for the truth of scripture; it had never been presented to me. That happened a few years later. Long story.
Feb. 19 article by Eric
Would recommend the following by Arthur Custance

The Nature of the Soul (doorway papers)
The Mysterious Matter of Mind
Nature of soul and mind (spirit)
Relative to Feb. 19 column by Eric:-

You might wish to reference the following by Arthur Custance:
The Nature of the Soul
The Mysterious Matter of Mind
Another good source
I highly recommend the book Proof of Heaven by a neurosurgeon which strongly supports your editorial.