The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Mount Rushmore and the Vanishing Entablature

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Christians begin with the presupposition that God created the universe and created man as a special creation different in kind from both inanimate and other animate creations. In fact, man is so special, the Bible tells us, that he is the very “image of God” (Gen. 1:27). One of these image attributes is the existence of the mind and the ability to think rationally (Col. 3:10) and to act with a moral sense (Eph. 4:24). The consistent materialist who denies God also denies the existence of the mind. For materialistic philosophers, the mind is an “illusion.” In their words, “the brain is a machine. We have no selves, no souls. How do they know? Well, it’s just a matter of faith.”[1]

Such a view begins with the presupposition that all that exists is material in nature. Since the mind as distinct from the brain is by definition non-material, the mind as a separate entity cannot exist. The existence of what we call the “mind” must be explained solely in physical terms. Philosopher Daniel Dennett presupposes that “the mind is somehow nothing but a physical phenomenon. In short, the mind is the brain.”[2] “The brain,” insists MIT’s Marvin Minsky in equally reductionistic fashion, is just “hundreds of different machines . . . connected to each other by bundles of nerve fibers, but not everything is connected to everything else. There isn’t a ‘you.’”[3]

With the advent of the computer, materialists believe they have found the perfect scientific mechanism to demonstrate that the mind is an illusion, a “ghost in a machine.” “The machinists’ model of consciousness is the computer; they see the brain as a superior model, somewhat more versatile than the industrial-strength Cray super-computer.”[4] The machinists’ computer analogy is self-evidently faulty, however. The machine is nothing without the program. The program is the product of the programmer. Who programmed the programmer? Are we to assume, following the materialist’s logic, that an organic machine programmed an inorganic machine? What kind of trust can we place in the random firing of neural synapses? No one has made this point better than C. S. Lewis:

If . . . I swallow the scientific cosmology as a whole, then not only can I not fit in Christianity, but I cannot even fit science. If minds are wholly dependent on brains, and brains on bio-chemistry, and bio-chemistry (in the long run) on the meaningless flux of atoms, I cannot understand how the thought of those minds should have any significance than the sound of the wind in the trees.[5]

There is no accounting for man and the world, between dreaming and waking, illusion and reality if the materialists are right. Of course, if we start with the materialist’s ultimate presupposition that the brain is an organic machine, how would we ever know?


[1] David Gelman, et al. “Is the Mind an Illusion?,” Newsweek (April 20, 1992), 71.
[2] Quoted in ibid.
[3] Quoted in ibid., 72.
[4] Ibid . The Cray computer, named after its founder Seymour Cray, is made up of numerous parallel computers that contain hundreds or thousands of microprocessor chips designed to work on a single problem at once by dividing the task among the individual computers. By comparison, traditional computers, such as the Cray-3, contain one or a handful of processors.
[5] C. S. Lewis, “Is Theology Poetry,” delivered at the Oxford Socratic Club, 1944, published in They Asked for a Paper (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1962), 164–165.

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The American Vision