A weak analogy to the human auditory system may be found in some of the more complex machines devised by man. An automobile is a highly integrated machine functioning for a generally singular purpose—transportation. The are 1800 parts in an automobile if we count units such as engines, themselves composed of many parts. If we count individual parts from which more complex units are built, the number rises by multiples.
Our auditory organs also exist for a singular purpose—hearing. This does not include how our conscious mind analyzes and processes physical sounds with which we are surrounded. Physiologists have revealed the complexity of physical processes entailed in successful hearing. Much as scientists recognize the human mind as a far more complex processing unit than any man-devised computer, we propose that the human auditory system is superior to the most advanced man-devised sound processing system. MIT professor Barry D. Jacobson has expressed, “The auditory system…far surpasses any sound reproduction system around. No artificial intelligence based system built to date can interpret sounds with the accuracy that the auditory system can.”
The Creator has consigned man to a physical world. We may describe phenomena such as sound and sound processing with respect to multiple interactions of physical matter. Humans study and understand these physical interactions. Physiologists recognize the capabilities of human-built machines do not compare with sensory systems of the human body. We use sound processing capabilities of the human body as our present example. In terms of understanding the physical processes of human hearing, God has enabled present day scientists to identify and describe what happens in our bodies when we hear, not to mention what happens in our brains when we process the sounds we hear. Believers in intelligent design do not stumble at the handiwork of an Intelligent Designer as we study the auditory system.
In previous posts we discussed the transduction of compressional waves to digital signals. Our discussion of the sequence of action, however, was incomplete. The impulses are first converted to digital signals in the cochlea where neural coding first occurs. Re-encoded signals then travel through the nerve known as the eighth cranial nerve on their way to the processing centers of the auditory cortex. There are several processing and integrating centers along the way, including the cochlear nucleus, superior olivary nucleus, inferior colliculus, and medial geniculate body. Finally, the newly encoded auditory impulses arrive at the auditory cortex. The auditory cortex is the brain’s most highly organized sound processing unit.
Reading just a phrase or two of this post on sound consumes far more time than we ordinarily need to react to sounds and process our responses. Campbell and Reese’s AP text Biology summarizes the beauty of our senses, not only our auditory sense, but also all senses: “It is customary to think of animal behavior as a linear sequence of sensing, brain analysis, and action—similar to a computer passively waiting for instructions before it acts. This is not the case. When animals are in motion, they are probing the environment through that motion, sensing changes, and using the information to generate the next action. This is a continuous cycle rather than a linear sequence, as the brain carries on background activity that is constantly updated as sensing and acting proceed.”
Our post title is a contraction of Psalm 139:14: “…I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Fearfully connotes a response “full of awe and wonder.” In this sense we may better understand wonderfully. We close with a quote of the full verse: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (NIV)