Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Brain: Causes, Effects, and Design

Basic knowledge of the human brain is an appropriate launch point for a discussion of the currently popular concept of intelligent design. The brain is the control center of an elaborate living system. Knowledge of its anatomy and function are merely introductory to an in-depth understanding and appreciation of the design of the brain. Consider as an example the knowledge possessed by a young man or woman when considering the purchase of their first automobile. The prospective first time buyer knows the appearance he or she wants in the car. Next, awareness of how the car will perform becomes paramount. Unless the young person was mentored by a knowledgeable auto mechanic, most first time car owners are concerned about little else than the car’s appearance and how it will satisfy transportation needs.

Knowledge of the thousands of individual physical components of an automobile combined with familiarity of how the vehicle operates is a preliminary step in our automotive knowledge. Likewise, diagrams of the brain along with a general description of the brain as the body’s control center serves as an introductory account of the intelligently designed brain.

Internet search engines help us place the wondrous functioning ability of the brain and its design in perspective. The ExtremeTech website tells us, “The brain is a deviously complex biological computing device that even the fastest supercomputers in the world fail to emulate…..Using the NEST software framework, the team…succeeded in creating an artificial neural network of 1.73 billion nerve cells connected by 10.4 trillion synapses. While impressive, this is only a fraction of the neurons every human brain contains. Scientists believe we carry 80-100 billion nerve cells, or about as many stars as there are in the Milky Way.”

A Science channel article claims, “Humans can integrate information from many different variables and stimuli, and they can learn by experience, observation, and experimentation…..The things that make humans truly unique (emotion, empathy, self awareness, ambition) are beyond the capacity of computers.”

Stephen Smith, professor of molecular and cellular physiology, says the new images revealed the brain to be vastly more intricate than we had ever imagined: “One synapse (a junction between two nerve cells across which impulses pass by diffusion of a chemical neurotransmitter) by itself, is more like a microprocessor - with both memory storage and information processing elements - than a mere on/off switch. A single human brain has more switches than all the computers and routers and Internet connections on earth.”

Fruitful investigations of brain anatomy and function—both the what and the how—may be found in many fine AP biology textbooks. One example is Biology by Campbell and Reece—over 1200 pages. This resource deals extensively with multiple life science topics. This highly rated textbook handles the topic of naturalistic evolution as a presupposition to explain changes in every biological entity since life first appeared on earth. This means every living thing on earth has descended from a common ancestor through an evolutionary process, they intone.

The complexity of the natural world has long been cited as evidence of intelligent design. This term has not been formally promoted until the last quarter century. In  that time proponents such as William Dembski, who popularized “specified” complexity, and Stephen C. Meyer, who specializes in the origin of biological information, have risen to prominence in the movement.

In science, the issue of causes and effects has always been vital. As we study the human brain, one must ask, what is the cause for the incredible specified complexity of the brain? And what is the source of information by which information responsible for the appearance of the human brain arose along the timeline of bio-history from our purported first common ancestor until now?

Naturalist scientists obscure the importance of such questions as the naturalistic science community has difficulty answering them. Subjective intuition suggests to intelligent design theorists that the effect of the brain as a “deviously complex biological computing device” and the brain as “vastly more intricate than we had ever imagined” cannot be attributed to a naturalistic, natural selection-driven cause.

Many intelligent design theorists attempt to shield themselves from criticism in the scientific world by failing to identify the identity of the Designer - aka the Cause. They fear that to identify the Judeo-Christian God as the source of (1) specified complexity, and the source of (2) new biological information, insulates them from the accusation that ID is a creationist concept. Yes, actually, it is. We live with the reality that the science profession, especially the bio-science profession, has successfully established that theists and scientists may not cross each other’s borders. The naturalistic world view has declared victory in this border dispute. The close sibling relationship of creationism and intelligent design has been relegated to the status of distant relative. I recommend this post for related reading: