> "Bio-chemical in origin" is far too simplistic an explanation for
> what goes on in the brain. It's like considering everything my
> computer does as being "simply V=IR"--a technically true, but
> horribly incomplete description. The first thing I learned in
> graduate school was "The brain is not the liver"--that is to say,
> yes, biochemistry is certainly involved--but it is practically
> meaningless apart from the context of the brain's biological
> structure (anatomy), COMPLEX physiology, and most importantly, its
> *plasticity*--how it changes in both over time and with
> experience. That said, I think that you misrepresent modern
> neuroscience a bit. I suppose there are some reductionist folks
> who would like to do away with the idea of "spirit", but you
> dismiss (a priori!) too much biochemistry, anatomy, and physiology
> in your efforts to defend it.
I don't dismiss biochemistry, anatomy or physiology. My question is
this, how does the bio-chemical/bio-physical activities of the body
interact with the spiritual aspect of the person. Some people see it
as "like" a computer; I wonder if it is more like an antenna. That
doesn't deny the physical - just how does it all fit together?
> I have to agree that with respect to the spiritual, the human brain IS a kind of
> antenna--after all, without it how could we hear from God, consider Him, or
> respond to Him? But I disagree with the dualism that you seem to be proposing
> where *all* thoughts and feelings originate in the spirit. What is left for the
> brain to do in your model, if all thought processes and feeling originate
> externally? A major problem I have with your model, at least as you describe it
> so far, is that I believe it lends itself to various types of New Ageish
> dualisms in which the "mind" is somewhere "out there"--separate and dissociable
> from the body/brain, generating "energy fields" and such.
I will turn the question around to you - what is left for the spirit
to do if all thought processes and feelings originate in the body? If
the brain does all the thinking, what happens at death? Do our
memories and thoughts get left behind after we die? Of course not,
we keep our memories (Luke 16:25) and soul and spirit into the next
life, whether in Heaven or in Hell. But, since we have a NEW body,
will God create the old memories in the new body, assuming the body
maintains the memories? This is a philosophical debate.
> Your model doesn't mention the biblical concept of "soul", which I
> think of as being equivalent to mind or psyche, and *maybe* to the
> biblical "heart". Perhaps you lump all these references in under
> "spirit", but I think that that is incorrect. I've been
> pondering this for some time now, and still wouldn't say I've
> come up with anything definitive, but I'm inclined to the
> tripartite Body/Soul/Spirit concept, with Soul being those
> mental processes and functions that the brain produces. (And
> after 6 years in this program I'd really have to admit that I
> think that that accounts for almost *all* mental
> functions--certainly cognition and emotions).
I follow the tri-une nature of humanity - that we have a body, a soul
and a spirit, but are one person. However, even Paul refers to the
soul and the spirit of a person under the generic context of spirit
(1 Corin 7:34). I have, by the way, listened to my soul talk and
debate inside. Was that of the body or of the spirit? I don't know.
> Finally, one comment about Star Trek--which I love, at least until
> Beverly starts waving her "magic sensor wand" and measuring
> "neurotransmitter levels". PLEASE don't judge what real scientists
> believe or don't believe about the brain based on treatments of the
> subject in the popular culture--unless you're willing to think that
> treatments of *Christianity* in those same popular media also
> always represent the true beliefs and feelings of real Christians!
Of course not! When I see the 3 Stooges playing the role of
plumbers I don't judge plumbers by their actions. Unfortunately, too
many of us scientists and engineers do not have the glamorous life
shown on Star Trek (when did you ever see Mr. Scott filling out
requisition forms?) The item I was referring to in Star Trek is the
transporter system. If you read the so-called "technical manuals"
about the Star Trek systems, the transporter is not a unit that
transforms matter into energy and then reassembles the matter from
the original energy. Rather, the transporter determines the "pattern"
of the person (down to the sub-atomic level, I assume), then
reconstructs an identical "person" out of, I suppose, "matter banks".
The persons personality is determined by the state of their
bio-chemical/bio-physical pattern at the moment of transport. The
original person was effectively disintegrated. As the "manual"
stated, the transporter could not withstand the amount of energy that
would be required to physically convert a person into energy and then
back into matter. Hence, only their "pattern" has to be transmitted
and stored. This is where I draw the inference of a purely physical
basis of life and personality: the show defines a person has being
the sum total of their bio-chemical/bio-physical processes.
> Actually, the "phantom limb problem" really is not a problem for
> neuroscience at all. There was a good treatment of this phenomenon
> in _Scientific American_ in 1993 or so. Briefly, what happens is
> that the somatosensory system of the cortex is something like a
> map: Normal neural activity from a limb, for example, arrives in
> a specific area of cortex. When that area of cortex signals other
> areas of the brain, such as association cortex, the activity is
> "interpreted" as representing stimulation of that limb. However,
> if the limb is no longer there, other neural fibers will begin
> encroaching on the "vacated" space of this cortical map with
> *their* firing being interpreted as sensation in that limb. It is
> a matter of the brain having "learned" that certain inputs in
> certain areas mean specific things. A similar phenomenon is that
> of referred pain--such as feeling a heart attack as sharp pain
> radiating down the left arm. The heart has few pain receptors, but
> these few synapse in the cervical and thoracic spinal cord onto
> the same spinal cord neurons that relay pain sensation from the
> left arm. The intense firing of the heart's nerve fibers excites
> these neurons in the spinal cord and they relay the activity to
> areas of the somatosensory cortex associated with the left arm.
I agree this is the accepted theory of phantom limbs and related
> My experience with CP patients suggests that many of them are
> better in tune with their spiritual aspects of being than are many
> of us with "intact" brains. OTOH, their brains often deprive them
> of the ability to communicate or act upon the "signals" they
> *BTW--I don't believe in an *eternal* soul. I believe God
> foreknows us, but i don't believe that entails pre-existance--and
> I don't know of any Scripture that teaches that human souls have an
> existance prior to the womb. (And I'm not going to *touch* the
> question of "just *when* in the womb?"!!!)
Why should we assume God "en-souls" the body? The example from
nature is that life originates and grows. I believe when the
physical body begins, the soul (and spirit) begins and must grow.
The spirit and the soul of the child is a unique conjunction and a
unique begetting from the spirits and the souls of the parents, just
like the body of the child is unique conjunction of the bodies of the
parents. Of course, this would mean that life begins at conception
and that abortion would be sinful at any point.
William M. Frix
Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering
John Brown University
Siloam Springs, AR 72761
Phone: (501) 524-7466
FAX: (501) 524-9548