Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Point Four: Thought

The next point Varghese uses that would suggest that God exists is the concept of thought and its supraphysical nature.

·          He writes, "How is it that, from childhood, you can effortlessly think of both your dog Caesar and dogs in general? You can think of redness without thinking of a specific red thing (of course redness does not exist independently, but only in red things). You abstract and distinguish and unify without giving your ability to do these things a second thought. And you even ponder things that have no physical characteristics, such as the idea of liberty or the activity of angels. This power of thinking in concepts is by its very nature something that transcends matter. 

·         Once you think about it for a few minutes, you will know instantly that the idea that your thought of something is in any sense physical will be seen as unthinkably absurd. 

·         The point here is that, strictly speaking, your brain does not understand. You understand. Your brain enables you to understand, but not because your thoughts take place in the brain or because “you” cause certain neurons to fire. Rather, your act of understanding that eliminating poverty is a good thing, to take an instance, is a holistic process that is supraphysical in essence (meaning) and physical in execution (words and neurons). The act cannot be split into supraphysical and physical, because it is an indivisible act of an agent that is intrinsically physical and supraphysical. There is a structure to both the physical and the supraphysical, but their integration is so total that it makes no sense to ask if your acts are physical or supraphysical or even a hybrid of the two. They are acts of a person who is inescapably both embodied and “ensouled.” 

·         Supercomputer calculations and mainframe transactions performed in response to data and instructions are purely and simply a matter of electrical pulses, circuitry, and transistors. The same calculations and transactions performed by a human person, of course, involve the machinery of the brain, but they are performed by a center of consciousness who is conscious of what is going on, understands what is being done, and intentionally performs them. There is no awareness, understanding, meaning, intention, or person involved when the computer performs the same actions, even when the computer has multiple processors operating at superhuman speeds. The output of the computer has “meaning” for us (the weather forecast for tomorrow or your bank balance), but as far as the bundle of parts called the computer is concerned there are binary digits, 0’s and 1’s, that drive certain mechanical activities. To suggest that the computer “understands” what it is doing is like saying that a power line can meditate on the question of free will and determinism, or that the chemicals in a test tube can apply the principle of noncontradiction in solving a problem, or that a DVD player understands and enjoys the music it plays."

So the question arises, "How can we as nothing more than matter and electrical impulses construct thought to contemplate complex matters such as the questions of why that arise?" From a purely materialistic and naturalistic stand point it seems rather outlandish to suggest that pure matter can convert itself into a being that is not only alive, but a being that is capable of understanding. To go even further, how out of the millions of species that have existed in our planets history, only one species seems to be able to carry out these higher order processes. To describe how this happens without intelligence already existing in some form or another, it would seem to me, to be the same as to suggest that it happened by magic.

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