Re: [asa] Event or process

From: David Buller <>
Date: Mon May 14 2007 - 15:12:41 EDT

On 5/12/07, Christine Smith <> wrote:
> David continues:
> "My statement that animals are "purely material" was
> poorly worded. I should have said "of purely natural
> origin." Evolutionary biologists have demonstrated
> how natural selection can also work on "emotions."
> Once again, I am no expert, but I would view emotions
> and conciousness as emergent properties of complex
> brains. Are they unrelated to souls? No, not
> unrelated. They are very closely intertwined but at
> the same time seperate from the human soul. How then
> can it be said that "God is love" and that God is the
> "great I Am"? I see absolutely no contradiction here.
> I can bake a cookie that has no conciousness,
> emotion, or love, but does that say anything about me.
> After all, did I claim that I baked it in my own
> image? Nope, so there's no contradiction."

Christine now,

What distinction do you draw between "purely material"
> and "purely of natural origin"? Beyond the fact that
> God is the supernatural creator of our natural laws,
> is not everything that is of pure natural origins also
> purely material?

Not necessarily, as far as I can see, because I would view conciousness not
as a *thing, per se*, but rather as an emergent property. I would say that
emotions can be a result of that conciousness. I am basically
distinguishing between two slightly differing syntax.

> The emergent properties issue gets back to the very
> heart of my "spiritual meltdown"--if you can say that
> somehow, someway, the unique complexity of our brains
> RESULTS in emotions, consciousness, etc., then what is
> left to say of a soul?

Well, in humans I would view the soul as much more than just conciousness
and emotion. Therefore, we can say of that "although some parts of our
immaterial nature (e.g., coniousness) were shaped by evolution, we also
posess an eternal spiritual nature implanted in us by our Creator."
Remember that although I believe our conciousness can be the result of
evolution, I would never say that our soul is the result of evolution.

What part of our "being" is
> eternal, if not these?

Our soul, meaning the eternal nature of our soul that sets it apart from the
evolution-shaped "soul" (nephesh) of animals. This is partially answered by
my comments above.

When we *feel* hatred, is that
> not a sin?

Yes it is a sin, and the emotion of hatred (here I exclude "righteous
hatred" of sin) is of natural origin. This is compatible with the biblical
picture of man, throught the power of the Holy Spirit and through his free
will, overcoming the "natural man."

Do we tell an atheist that everything, even
> the most intangible parts of us, come from nature, but
> conveniently there is something else in us that is
> eternal, that not only is completely immaterial, but
> is also completely imperceptible?

As far as I can see, that's what science and the Bible together teach. I
may be much more convenient to be able to dissect a human and say to the
atheist, "See, here's the eternal spiritual part of man!" I find no problem
in saying that God has created man in such a way that he doesn't have a
"Made by God" sticker in him. After all, that's why parts of Christianity
must be accepted by faith. I would, however, say that there are clues in
our conciousness that point to this belief, which is backed up by Scripture.

That would seem to
> me to make a creator God rather superfluous in the
> creation process.

When you get to Ken Miller's *Finding Darwin's God* (notice the "when" there
:-)), there's a great part at the end that partially answers this. I'll try
to summarize it. How could we ever really *choose* to believe in God if he
was so unavoidable obvious in the creation process? God has given us clues
in the natural world of his existence, but nevertheless he has given us free
wills to accept or reject Him. Consequently, he has revealed the world to
us in such a way that we can rationally accept *or *reject Him. Therefore,
an atheist does not have to abandon all reason to look at creation and say,
"I don't see a need for God anywhere." Christians like us can just as
rationally follow biblical teaching and recognize that God is necessary for
the very continual existence of creation, and also its formation.

I hope I haven't given the impression that the world looks rather atheistic
to me. I'm merely trying to say that it was created in such a way that you
could come to either conclusion and therefore truly have free will.

From a Christian vantage point, if
> we say that these attributes are derived from the
> physical structures of our bodies, then do we also
> attribute these qualities in God to a physical
> structure of some type? If not, and we maintain that
> (at least until the Word became flesh) God is entirely
> spirit, then how can we assume that these same
> qualities in us are not as spiritually immaterial as
> these qualities in God--how can we presume to
> attribute these qualities to natural processes in the
> one case, but not the other?

 Interesting question. I think the difficulty disappears a bit more when we
recognize the differences between emotions as we feel them and emotions as
God "feels" (speaking anthropocentrically) them. For example, when God
"loves," his love is so vastly above ours that it could never be thought of
as natural.

I agree that there is certainly a *correlation*
> between the complexity of brain structure and these
> types of intangible qualities, but one cannot assume
> cause based only on correlation. That was where my
> prism analogy came in--if light is reflected through a
> prism, the physical structure of the prism directly
> correlates to how, or even whether, the light is
> reflected--but it itself does not produce the light.

Interesting way of putting it.

David Buller

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Received on Mon, 14 May 2007 15:12:41 -0400

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