Brain examination: A scientist inspects a human brain in a research center in Academgorodok, outside Novosibirsk, Russia (Jan. 4, 2007).Source: Valery Titeyevsky/AFP/Getty Images
Both evolutionists and religionists agree there is “something” about mankind that differs from animals. Each offers explanations, certain the other side is wrong.
How can we know which is correct?
What is the human mind? How does it relate to the brain? Why do we not see animals with minds? Most people do not understand the plain answers that have been available for thousands of years.
The argument can be summarized as the “mind-body problem.” It has been recognized that the physical characteristics of the human brain do not warrant the extreme creative and processing power that defines human ingenuity.
The answer is either physical or spiritual in nature—it can be explained no other way.
Consider just a few of the qualities man possesses that are unique among all living creatures. Many attributes are so common and assumed that few give them much thought. Yet it should become clear how special human beings are.
Ask yourself: Why does man have so many distinctive characteristics?
• Humor: No other creature is able to appreciate, create and express humor. Not only does it require creativity, but humor also requires the ability to detach oneself from one’s surroundings to see the odd, surreal or ironic.
• Appreciation of beauty: Man is able to appreciate all kinds of beauty. This can be as simple as a sunset, a work of art, or the intricate design of a flower.
For example, take someone to see New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he will likely feel emotionally moved by the seemingly limitless number of paintings and sculptures on display, dating hundreds of years. Take a dog to the same museum, and it will be more excited about the trip and seeing the crowd of art lovers than anything else.
• Self-consciousness: Beyond a simple recognition of self (as seen in a few animals), man can step back and become a spectator, critic or admirer of the world around him. He is able to see his place in the greater picture and analyze what needs to be done to affect his role.
• Awareness of death: While animals have a survival instinct, man is able to consider that he will one day die. Aware that his days will not last forever, he has a deep respect of his mortality. In fact, nearly all cultures perform some form of funeral ritual. This is not found in the animal world.
• Understanding time: Animals are only able to relate time to themselves; they have no ability of relating time to third parties. Humans can wonder, speculate and search the annals of history for lessons, and apply those lessons to goals far into the future.
• Connections between words: While animals can understand simple words or tones, they do not comprehend syntax or communicate in complex sentences. Human beings have created hundreds of languages (and thousands of dialects), even though they are born without any way in which to communicate.
• Meaning of life: The simple act of asking about life’s meaning and purpose makes man unique. No animal contemplates its reason for living—nor would it be willing to live or die for specific values and ideals.
• Malleability: Humanity is able to adapt to its surroundings. We wear clothes, build shelters or modify our environment to suit our needs.
• Lack of harmony with nature: When left to its own devices, nature will reach balance and harmony. Only man disrupts that natural balance: deforestation, changing the course of rivers, pollution, over mining for resources, etc.
• A sense of morality: Animals always take the path of least resistance. They do not have a conscience or sense of right and wrong. On the other hand, mankind will go so far as to control his thoughts based on what he considers right or wrong.
• Character: This is the ability to know right from wrong, and turn from the wrong and do what is right, even in the face of pressures and temptations. The desire to build character is only found in man.
• Free moral agency: Unlike animals, man can deviate from his course of thinking and living however he sees fit. Animals react through instinct—programming.
• Capacity for wisdom: Without the ability to place themselves in time, animals are unable to weigh situations with previous experiences. While animals are able to develop behavioral patterns based on positive or negative stimulation, they are completely unable to analyze actions before they are performed. This ability, known as wisdom, is unique to human beings.
• Desire for worship: No matter what part of the world or his culture, man exhibits a desire to seek, follow and worship a higher power. Animals do not.
• Love: While some animals form lifelong relationships for the purpose of reproduction, none exhibit a parallel with the human characteristics of love, in which a couple shares experiences, goals, dreams, hopes and aspirations.
The mind-body problem is a towering issue—one that dramatically separates us from the animal world. There must be a reason for why the human mind is different from the animal brain.
The mind is one subject most evolutionists will not engage. Simply put, the physical differences between the human brain and that of animals are insufficient to explain the “horsepower” described above. Three aspects of the human brain demonstrate this point.
• Weight: Human beings do not have the heaviest brains in overall weight, or even weight in proportion to their bodies.
• Anatomy: Correlations differ between man’s brain and that of animals.
• Cerebral Cortex: The nerve center of the human brain is only slightly more complex than that of animals.
No physiological explanation exists for man’s mind! Biologists have no irrefutable evolutionary evidence. Psychologists are stupefied by the human brain. And evolutionists are left with only one answer: There is no scientific answer to the mind-body problem!
If the differences between animals and human beings cannot be explained by physical means, we must look for a spiritual explanation. Most professing Christians would quickly agree there must be a spiritual aspect to the human condition. The most common attempt to offer explanation considers the non-physical component an immortal soul. Those who support this approach try to use the Bible for proof.
Certainly, if man had an immortal soul, this would help explain the immeasurable capacity of his mind. But what does the Bible state?
The word “soul” appears in Scripture over 400 times, and for a variety of reasons. The first instance occurs during the description of man’s creation. Notice Genesis 2: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (vs. 7).
The wording here is important. Note that man became a “living soul.” The Hebrew word from which “soul” was translated is nephesh, which means “a breathing creature.” This passage states that man became a living, breathing creature.
However, was the soul that man received different from that of animals, in that it was immortal?
Again, let’s allow the Bible to speak for itself: “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:4, 20). If a soul dies, then it cannot be immortal! How can so many believe that man has an immortal soul when just two passages from God’s Word prove this to be absurd?
If the immortal soul does not come from Scripture, what is its origin? Even the briefest look at the historical record makes this plain: “The belief that the soul continues its existence after the dissolution of the body is a matter of philosophical or theological speculation rather than of simple faith, and is accordingly nowhere expressly taught in Holy Scripture…The belief in the immortality of the soul came to the Jews from contact with Greek thought and chiefly through the philosophy of Plato, its principal exponent, who was led to it through Orphic and Eleusinian mysteries in which Babylonian and Egyptian views were strangely blended” (The Jewish Encyclopedia, “Immortality of the Soul”).
Early Catholic writer Tertullian (A.D. 155-220) details where the immortal soul doctrine has its roots: “For some things are known even by nature: the immortality of the soul, for instance, is held by many…I may use, therefore, the opinion of a Plato, when he declares, ‘Every soul is immortal’” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Chapter III).
If the mind-body problem cannot be solved by professing Christianity’s immortal soul doctrine, then what is the answer?
A biblical answer exists to the mind-body question, which has been missed by the masses. There is a spiritual component to man that elevates him above the physical.
Notice a passage in the Old Testament: “The burden of the word of the Lord for Israel, says the Lord, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (Zech. 12:1). This clearly states that God created a spirit inside you.
Proverbs 20:27 sheds some light on its purpose for this spirit: “The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly.”
God uses the spirit in man as a way of interfacing with humanity. This is further expounded in the book of Job: “There is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty gives them understanding” (Job 32:8).
Putting these two passages together clarifies that God uses the “spirit in man” to impart understanding. Through this spirit, God is able to teach physical man a degree of spiritual knowledge. However, he is spiritually incomplete; he needs another spirit.
Man is a physical being with a spirit component. For centuries, mankind has experienced awesome progress and advancement, but—at the same time—continues to suffer ever-worsening and appalling evils, troubles and ills. This is because man’s problems are spiritual in nature.
Great leaders have recognized the link between humanity’s problems and the need for spiritual answers. General Douglas MacArthur, while attending the signing of imperial Japan’s surrender, Sept. 2, 1945, said, “Men since the beginning of time have sought peace…Military Alliances, Balances of Power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blots out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we do not devise some greater and more equitable system Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advance in science, art, literature and all material and cultural developments of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh” (The Reports of General MacArthur).
Over half a century has passed since General MacArthur uttered these words, yet problems worsen. Man is desperate for spiritual knowledge—a solution to his problems. He must turn to God to learn how to resolve his deep-rooted problems. Again, man is spiritually incomplete: he needs another spirit: “For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God” (I Cor. 2:11).
God’s Spirit, when combined with our spirit, enables us to know “the things of God”—and to build holy, righteous character.
The spirit in man also records the events, experiences and lessons in the life of each person, and then returns to God when we die: “Then shall the dust [man] return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7).
God stores the vital ingredient of man until we are resurrected.
The human spirit allows man to reason, analyze and create. We are able to greatly exceed the capability of animals because of this special, unique spiritual component.
If you would like to learn much more about humanity’s incredible future, read our book The Awesome Potential of Man.