Saturday, December 08, 2007

What Makes Us Human?

A Study of the mind and consciousness-Material Facts from a Nonmaterialist Perspective
Vision Insights and New Horizons - USA

"The human brain cannot explain the human mind—there must be a non-physical ingredient, beyond our microscopes, test tubes, electrodes and computers. To the truly open-minded individual, it is fruitless to physically rationalize the uniqueness of mind. There must be a non-physical essence—a ‘spirit’—in man."

"From this Hebraic perspective, what makes humans unique is the nonphysical component, “the spirit in man.”

"In the case of the ancient Israelites, God wanted them to change their ways by first changing their minds."

Ask “What makes us human?” and a range of responses is guaranteed from materialist and nonmaterialist scientist and religious thinker alike. From self-awareness to free moral agency, from conscience to the capacity to imagine, such traits are put forward as distinguishing us from nonhuman species. There’s also the capacity for spoken language, which some say is the most distinctive difference, even innate. On a more troubling level, some might list the deliberate decision not to reproduce ourselves, and more darkly still, the willing invention of weapons that assure mutual mass destruction, threatening extinction of the species.

That all of these characteristics have a connection with human consciousness is clear. But the definition and operation of human consciousness is not. Despite the fact that a US presidential proclamation declared the 1990s “the decade of the brain,” with the assurance that “a new era of discovery is dawning in brain research,”[i] little has been achieved in understanding the brain-mind relationship. Addressing a 2005 neuroscience conference, Stephen Morse, Professor of Psychology and Law in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, candidly noted, “Here’s a dirty little secret: We have no idea how the brain enables the mind. We know a lot about the localization of function, we know a lot about neurophysiological processes, but how the brain produces mental states—how it produces conscious, rational intentionality—we don’t have a clue. When we do, it will revolutionize the biological sciences.”[ii]

Philosopher of mind John Searle has remarked that in the absence of agreement on the subject of consciousness, he welcomes discussion from all perspectives, including the nonmaterialist, to further the search for an explanation.[v] Thus, it might be helpful to reexamine some of the wisdom of the past for answers of a different order. By this I do not intend a repetition of what has become the conventional Western religious conceptualization of the human being—body and soul—but rather an examination of the largely forgotten wisdom of the ancient Hebrews. In so doing, we might light upon an alternative explanation that could inform present efforts.

Click here to read this very thought provoking article: What Makes Us Human?

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