Why is the human mind so vastly superior to the animal brain? The heated debate about the human mind rages on. Some scientists firmly say the debate is over, yet it appears that each new decade brings on another theory. The human effort spent to know the secret of the human mind is nearly immeasurable.
The question is as old as human history. Western philosophers have been writing and talking about the human mind since the 18th century. Modern psychology and its separate branches were brought to birth by the quest to know the human mind. Beginning in the mid-20th century and still today, millions of dollars are spent on scientific research to answer this seemingly unanswerable question. Biologists, geneticists and even astronomers and mathematicians have entered the dispute. And for all of this, still there is not an answer that satisfies. The question remains unanswered. Why can’t science unlock the secret of the human mind?
We are not saying that the struggle to understand the human mind has not borne fruits. Scientific research has added to our fund of knowledge about the human brain. Science knows that it is of an incredible design.
Technology’s challenge to build human-like robots has taught software and computer engineers that the taken-for-granted functions of the human brain are nearly impossible to duplicate. It is a relatively simple technology to build a robot that works well on an assembly line. It has been proven that robots can successfully paint cars and do other such routine tasks. Some very sophisticated robots can even perform surgery on the human body. However, it is an overwhelming task to build a robot with a humanlike brain. There are incredibly huge hurdles to overcome in order to give a robot the ability to see as a human sees, to hear as a human hears or to have the common sense human beings use every day. While science fiction would like us to believe that it is possible to recreate ourselves into robots like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, experts know that it is highly unlikely we’ll meet a Data in this 21st century.
Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has written several extremely popular books discussing recent research on the human brain. In his national bestseller How the Mind Works, he writes, “The reason there are no humanlike robots is not that the very idea of a mechanical mind is misguided. It is that the engineering problems we humans solve as we see and walk and plan and make it through the day are far more challenging than landing on the moon or sequencing the human genome.” Humans navigate through living spaces and around furniture without even thinking about it. It is automatic. Our brains give us that ability. But it is a major mechanical and computer software feat to build a robot to make such maneuvers.
Pinker continues, “No database could list all the facts we tacitly know, and no one ever taught them to us.” Brain scientists know that there are trillions of bits of information that we draw upon unconsciously every day to live and survive. Yet, no one taught them to us—we just seem to know them. Why? It is human to know so. For example, if our cat is in the yard, we know that it is not in the house. If we go to the grocery store and buy a gallon of milk and then carry it home in the car, we can instruct a helper to get the gallon of milk out of the car. Generally speaking, our helper wouldn’t even question our request. Going to the car and retrieving the gallon of milk would be a simple task. It is not simple to program a robot to know about cats, yards, houses or how to retrieve a gallon of milk out of a car.
Of course, if our brains become damaged by accident or through stroke, then we often lose these abilities so generously bestowed upon us. In fact, much of our knowledge about the human brain has come about through the study of such calamities. Stroke often impairs our ability to walk, see, hear or speak. Brain injury often destroys our memories.
To gain a better knowledge of the human brain, researchers have studied animal brains as well. But instead of actually learning more about the human brain, science has hit a quagmire of uncertainty. Neuroscientists have discovered that there is no vastly significant difference when the human brain is compared to the animal brain.
Mr. Pinker admits this fact. “Neuroscientists like to point out that all parts of the cerebral cortex look pretty much alike—not only the different parts of the human brain, but the brains of different animals.” In other words, when we crack open the skull of a human or an animal we see pretty much the same material. Of course there are some differences. The human brain is only slightly larger than a chimpanzee’s. But it is much smaller than an elephant’s brain. However, the output of the human brain is immensely superior to both a chimp’s and an elephant’s. The output of the human brain can simply not be accounted for because of size, or more cells, or improved design. That is the unexplained riddle with which science wrestles.
There are certain brain functions that are solely human—no animal can do them. Language is a prime example. Although animals communicate with sounds and movements, only human beings can talk and write. Only humans can build a fund of knowledge and teach it to future generations. Animals cannot grasp abstract concepts such as the highly developed system of mathematics or physics. Animals cannot appreciate art, music or architecture.
Human beings can think, reason and make choices. Animals can only do such things in a limited way based on either instinct or repetitive training. For example, animals cannot decide to go and visit a sick friend. But humans can choose to serve, share or cooperate. In a similar vein, humans can choose to be jealous or hateful. Animals have no such choice. These are functions exclusively bestowed upon humans and are attitudes of mind.
To date, no scientist has been able to explain why the human brain gives us the functions of mind that we so obviously possess. Of course, scientists want to convince us that they know—but the truth is, they simply do not know.
Pinker states early in his book, “I will try to explain what the mind is, where it came from, and how it lets us see, think, feel, interact and pursue higher callings like art, religion and philosophy. On the way I will try to throw light on distinctively human quirks.” The most important word in these two sentences is the word try! The author uses it twice and spends nearly 600 pages doing so. But all of his arguments never explain why the human mind is so vastly different. He explains how the human mind is different, but never why! Here is why he cannot.
Evolution vs. God
Scientists, with few exceptions, will not even consider the likelihood of a nonphysical part of the human brain. Scientists cannot explain the human mind because they will not admit that anything other than the physical exists. All the latest research on the human brain is based on what can be seen, observed, or subjected to experimentation. Current human brain research, known as cognitive science, has limited itself to evolutionary biology and genetics. Man is reduced to matter—alone.
Mr. Pinker is one of the leaders of cognitive science. He admits to his readers, “I want to convince you that our minds are not animated by some godly vapor ….'’ He also states that previous to this time of advanced scientific research, we have been “victims of an illusion: that our psychology comes from some divine force or mysterious essence or almighty principle.” His answer to why the human mind is the way it is may astound you: “The mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life, in particular, understanding and outmaneuvering objects, animals, plants and other people. … The mind is organized into modules or mental organs, each with a specialized design …. The modules’ basic logic is specified by our genetic program.” In other words, man is only physical, and his thinking—even his emotions, such as love, anger, joy and frustration—can only be explained by biology or genetics.
Isn’t it truly incredible that on one hand he can recognize that the human mind is utterly fantastic, an instrument of incredible design—yet, on the other hand, he states that a mindless process called natural selection brought it into being? Why cannot such a brilliant thinker admit that God could have had something to do with the design of the human mind?
The brightest minds in science are the victims of the illusion known as evolution. The theory of evolution, which is the explanation of a creation without a Creator, severely limits science. Belief in evolution is a faith that blinds human minds to truth that only God can reveal.
No matter how detailed the investigation, science will never come to understand the human mind, because it will not recognize God as Creator.
What Is Man?
The plaguing questions about man, his mind and his God-ordained purpose that puzzle scientists, philosophers and even today’s religious leaders have been answered—for those willing to listen. The answers to the most intriguing questions about man are revealed in the pages of the Bible. Realize, though it may seem strange, that not even our modern religions have given the right answers.
The Bible reveals what man is, why man is, and where he is going. The Bible reveals why the human mind is so vastly superior to animal brain.
In his book The Incredible Human Potential, Herbert W. Armstrong simply and clearly explains what the Bible teaches about man. The book is eye-opening and fully satisfying. He explains why science will never unlock the secret of the human mind. He stated, “When man, in the name of science, denies—or by indifference, ignores—his Maker, he blinds his mind to what he is, why he is, where he is going, and what is the way!”
From the beginning of human history, man has cut himself off from God and in the process has cut himself off from knowledge that only the Creator can give us. It is time we take a closer look at the Bible. It is the instruction book written by a Master Designer.
In the earliest pages of the Bible it is revealed clearly that man is not an animal. There are animal kinds—birds, cattle, insects, reptiles and fish. All were created after their own kind. Man is different. The Bible states clearly: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26). Man was made after the God kind.
God also reveals in the Bible that man was created for a great purpose. To achieve that purpose man was made out of the dust of the ground. Man is composed wholly of matter. This is clearly explained in Genesis 2:7. Just like the animals, our human life depends solely on the air we breathe and the food we eat, taken out of the ground. The Bible and science agree on this fact about the life of man and animals.
Nowhere does the Bible say that man has an immortal soul. Herbert Armstrong wrote, “Notice carefully that man, made wholly of matter, became a living soul as soon as the breath gave him his temporary physical life. The scripture does not say ‘immortal’ soul. Man does not have an ‘immortal’ soul. He is a soul as soon as physical life enters him” (ibid.). Man and animals are similar in that we share the same physio-chemical existence. The Bible shows than man and animals die the same death (Eccl. 3:19-20).
The Human Spirit
But there is a spiritual component in human brain that is not in animal brain.
The Bible states, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8). Mr. Armstrong wrote, “This is a great truth, understood by but very few” (ibid.). It is this great truth that science refuses to see. Why? This truth is spiritual and must be revealed by God.
Why is the output of the human mind so vastly superior to the animal brain? God placed within human brains a spirit that gives us our distinctly human qualities and abilities.
Herbert W. Armstrong explains this about the human spirit: “Let me make clear a few essential points about this spirit in man. It is spirit essence, just as in matter air is essence, and so is water. This human spirit cannot see. The physical brain sees, through the eyes. The human spirit in a person cannot hear. The brain hears through the ears. This human spirit cannot think. The brain thinks—although the spirit imparts the power to think, whereas brute animal brains without such spirit cannot, except in the most elementary manner.”
The Apostle Paul clearly explains the function of this human spirit in i Corinthians 2:11. This spirit in man gives us the power and ability to know the things animals cannot come to know. The human spirit empowers us to comprehend abstract concepts like philosophy and mathematics. The human spirit gives us the ability to appreciate literature, art and music. Without the human spirit, the human brain could not even come to know these things. This fantastic truth, when accepted, answers the seemingly unanswerable paradox.
The knowledge of the human spirit opens up new vistas of incredible possibilities for mankind. There was great purpose behind God placing in man the human spirit. Mr. Armstrong also explains why God gave man this incredible tool. The reason will astound you. Write for your copy of The Incredible Human Potential. It will be sent to you gratis.