Church of God, New World Ministries

Animal Brain vs. Human Mind - Part 1

The amazing complexity of animal brain (in the highest animals especially) is only very slightly less, in size and quality, compared to the human brain. Why, then, is human mind so transcendingly superior to animal brain? Advanced studies in the new science of brain research have made significant progress toward unlocking the ultimate secrets of the awesome human intellect. This is Part I of an eye-opening and remarkable series of articles on a most fascinating and important subject.

Man thinks. At least he thinks that he thinks. But he knows. And he knows that he knows. Man is indeed unique – no other physical being is creatively self-conscious, nor can any other ponder the transcendental question of life, death and ultimate purpose.

What is man? He is his mind – his human mind – which is of an immense capacity, able to comprehend the interrelationships of space, time, mass and energy. Animal brain, virtually equal in size and quality has no such power.

The human mind has gone to the moon! It can write poetry, paint portraits, compose concertos. It can investigate itself! And these abilities are totally absent from animal brain. Yet this same phenomenally unrestrained human mind, for all its complexity, intricacy, insight and foresight, cannot solve its own problems here on earth. As a matter of fact, it was the human mind which created all these problems in the first place.

What an incredible paradox! The human mind – so great and yet so helpless!

Man does not know the way to peace – but he is blazing new trails to war. Worldwide well-being eludes him – as the explosions of population and pollutions engulf him. Happiness is the well-worn platitude – but disillusionment and despondency are the commonplace reality. Love, or lust is all too often a joke and hatred is the brutal truth. The human race is sitting on a time bomb that looks like it’s going to explode. And soon!

The human mind – so great and yet so helpless! Man is a phenomenal creature. But he has reached the end of his rope – his moment of truth has come, his time is nearly up. Man seems. bent of self-extermination

But is this logical? Does it make sense in the “great scheme of things” for the human mind to obliterate itself?

No longer can we afford the lackadaisical luxury of relegating this vital issue to suburban cocktail parties, freshman philosophy courses, and the proverbial bull sessions. No longer can we waste what little time we may have left by playing the role of the “cool” philosopher, as if we were uninvolved bystanders. No longer can we nonchalantly and condescendingly assume that this problem is insoluble. We have no choice but to consider it.

We need an answer now!

It is within this sobering context that we begin this series of articles on the question – the organization and purpose of the human mind. Not as an interesting study in physiology or psychology. But as a matter of life and death for humanity!

What are we? Everything revolves around this one pivotal question. Scientists, philosophers and theologians have been locked in debate from time immemorial. But the time for debate is over. We must know. Our very survival hangs in the balance as this fundamental issue is weighed. The crux of our inquiry will be:

What is the human mind? How does it differ from animal brain? Does human thought differ from animal instinct in degree (quantitatively) or in kind (qualitatively)?

What is the relationship between man’s mental activity and his physical brain? What is “mind”? What is “brain”? Are they exactly the same – “the mind” being just another name for “the brain”? Or are they different – “the mind” being something more than “the brain’?

These questions are crucial. And we seek answers which are both scientifically founded and philosophically secure.

We will investigate the relationship between mind and brain by comparing and contrasting human beings and animals. We will do this on two levels:

  1. Mental activity;
  2. Physiological brain.

In the remainder of this article and also in the next article, we will analyze the similarities and differences between the mental activities of humans and animals. For the remaining two articles, we will analyze the similarities and differences between the physiological brains of human and animals. Finally, we will put it all together by correlating the two, coming up with an answer of enormous significance.

In these first two articles, we focus only on one part of the problem. We compare the mental activities of humans and animals. We ask the materialist’s favorite questions - “Is the human mind really different from animal brain?” – and proceed to detail a scientifically rigorous answer. The question can be phrased in a more scientific and precise manner: “Is the input, output and intervening mental activities of the human brain qualitatively different from the input, output and intervening mental activities of any and every animal brain?”

However it’s phrased, the question is fundamental. Because if the human mind is not qualitatively uniquely and even radically superior to the output of animal brain, then man would be just another animal – with little hope for species survival.

Yet this is precisely what the materialist seems compelled to prove – that the human mind is no different from animal instinct.

Does this claim sound ludicrous and absurd? It is not. The materialist is prepared. He has done his homework and has some carefully reasoned arguments. And even though he is motivated by a pre-packaged ideological bias, we must ask: Could he be right? Many people, religious people for the most part – intuitively “feel” that man “must be” unique and easily distinguishable from all animals. But the “feel” does not prove the point. In fact, religious ignorance, however sincere it might have been, has been the food by which materialism has been nourished.

It is our responsibility to present the tenets and arguments of materialism as accurately and as forthrightly as possible. Then, and only then, can we confidently begin to analyze them and discern whether or not the obviously unrestrained human mind is utterly distinct from the seemingly stereotyped animal brain.

The materialist clings to a fundamental axiom: He claims that humans think pretty much the same as animals do – that the psychological (individual) and sociological (collective) accomplishments of human beings are not qualitatively different from those of the animal kingdom. We present a typical materialistic argument:

“All the qualities,” say the materialist, “customarily considered ‘uniquely human’ are merely the highest psychological manifestations of the present physiological continuum and are in reality represented in other highly complex animals.” (Which is a technical way of stating the materialistic dogma that human mental activities are not all that different from anima mental activities.)

The materialist continues by asking, “Why do these traits appear to be “uniquely human”? He answers his own question: “Simply because they are enhanced and exaggerated by the full-range means of expression available to man, but are not developed in lower animals.” In other words, all human mental processes differ from their precise counterparts in animas only because of man’s ability to write, speak, compose and draw – abilities which in themselves are just improved techniques of expression, and are not, if we care to admit it, limited to human beings.”

Materialists will readily admit that mankind has a phenomenally large intellectual and technological capability – as evidenced by the full scope of 21st century society. They vociferously maintain, however, that all these impressive accomplishments are actually the product of many generations of accumulated knowledge. As a result, materialists reason that man’s innate abilities are not as great as they first seem – and that man is merely a mentally advanced animal.

So the onus and the burden of proof falls on the shoulders of the nonmaterialist. The facts must be scientifically established. Nothing less than rigorous reasoning will be tolerated. To begin, we review materialism’s main tents:

  1. The output of the human brain – if unprejudically measured by the real accomplishments of individual human beings – is not qualitatively distinct from the output of animal brain.
  2. Those mental activities labeled “uniquely human” are just the result of improved techniques of expression.
  3. Man’s intrinsic mental abilities are not as great as they first seen – they are just barely superior to the mental abilities of the higher mammal such as chimp and dolphin.
  4. The simple capacity in humans to pass on information from one generation to another has artificially generated the appearance of a huge gap between the psychological and sociological creations of humans and animals.
  5. Human mental activity is purely the refined product of evolving animal instinct.
  6. Human beings are animals.

Are these statements true? Is human mental activity just quantitatively – and just barely superior to animal mental activity? Or is the difference qualitative and fundamental? Is human mental activity purely the refined product of evolving animal instinct. Or is it something more?

Does there indeed exist an unbridgeable gulf between the unrestrained higher mental abilities absolutely unique to human beings and the compulsive “higher mental abilities” characteristic of all mammals? The eminent (now former) mathematician and philosopher, J. W. N. Sullivan, as an example of many, concluded that “a great gulf separates even the lowest races of mankind from the highest living animals.”

But can it be proven?” This is the question.

We are now ready to scientifically test whether the human mind is fundamentally and radically different from animal instinct.

In all fairness and completeness, we must first present the psychological similarities between the mental abilities of man and animals. Because if we are to successfully differentiate the human mind from animal instinct, we must really differentiate the two. Not a superficial, self-convincing differentiation, but a real one! To do this, we must carefully determine which characteristics are shared by animals and human alike, and which characteristics are the exclusive property of human beings.

The average person might well assume that “obviously human mental activity is vastly superior to animal instinct – humans have intelligence while animals do not – why all the fuss?” Such a simple-minded assumption lends credence to the materialist’s argument that animal and human thought patterns lie along the same continuum! Because indeed animals and humans both can have “intelligence.” This assertion is, of course, wholly dependent on the precise meaning of the word “intelligence.”

We must recognize that word-concepts such as intelligence, memory, thought, sensation, perception, emotion, learning, behavior, communication, etc., are all included in the materialist’s definition of animal mental activity! Surprising? Not to the astute materialist. But he has also thought about the problem. Remember, the difficulty is one of semantics – a problem of establishing the exact definitions of complex and highly subjective word-concepts.

Carefully note that the above-mentioned mental similarities between man and animal have been generally thought, by uninformed laymen and sincere religious professionals, to be unique characteristics of the human mind. Now it is certainly true that these shared mental qualities mean much more to the human mind than they do to animal brain. Of Course! But that does not change the basic fact that both the human mind and the animal brain do share these mental attributes. Therefore, it is logically impossible to use them for the purpose of differentiating the human mind from animal brain.

To try to use the simple world “intelligence,” for example, in any attempt to prove that the human mind is vastly superior to animal instinct would only confuse and undermine the entire case. Consequently, we must discard all qualities of the human mind which are in reality also qualities of the animal brain. We must be circumspect in our analysis. We must not be biased. We must be rigorous in our logic.

As another example, the materialist confidently contends that “memory, personality and consciousness” can be completely explained as the output of the physical brain alone. The non-materialist, as expected, finds himself on the other side of the fence, vehemently disputing the contention.

What about it? Are memory, personality and consciousness unique attributes of the human mind? Or are they found in the animal kingdom? Again, it depends on the precise definition of the word-concepts. Because, for one thing, the materialist claims that an artificial system of electro-mechanical mechanisms – nuts and bolts (robots), transistors and wires (“computers”) can simulate (artificially imitate) memory, personality and consciousness. And he is right! That can be done – depending, of course, on how the words are defined.

So if a robot and a computer can do this, how much more the living animal brain! Memory? Personality? Consciousness? There’s nothing here that’s unique to the human being.

Where does this leave the non-materialist – like the traditional religionist. In trouble!

One must reject the simple-minded approach of those well-intentioned religionists who are not aware of current scientific data and methodology. But we can not necessarily reject all the religionists’ conclusions. Because the human mind is racially different from animal brain, as will be illustrated in the coming articles.

Thus far, we have seen examples of what cannot differentiate humans from animals. Now, what can?

It is time to examine the evidence and to demonstrate what could only be stated – without proof – in the past:  That the uniquely unrestrained human mind is unequivocally distinct and irrevocably dissociated from the instinctively automatic animal brain

That mind is far different from brain. That humans are not animals. The materialist waits – he knows we cannot use intelligence, memory, behavior, consciousness, etc. What has he overlooked?

Be watching for the next article in this amazing series, “Animal Brain vs. Human Mind.”

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