Though religion has traditionally been the bastion for discussion of the soul, science has recently entered into the fray. It might be said that science began a study of the soul in the late 1800’s, when psychology first came to use scientific methodology. While this is true to a certain extent, it is only recently with neuroscientific methods that we have been learning how the brain may create mind, and thus extending the “hard" sciences into discussions of the soul (as opposed to the so-called “soft" sciences such as psychology and sociology, whose theories have traditionally been much less “falsifiable" and universal than those of the “hard" sciences such as chemistry and physics). As we have seen earlier in our discussion of neuroscience, much light has been shed on how our brains are able to sense the world around us (e.g. using the occipital lobe for vision, somato-sensory cortex for touch, auditory cortex for hearing), to direct our bodies to particuliar behaviors (motor and premotor cortices, basal ganglia, cerebellum), to produce language (pre-frontal cortex, Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas), and to give emotive content to our experiences (the limbic system), thus giving us excellent data with which to work when creating theories of mind/soul.

Several theories have been put forward in the past few decades which attempt to explain the mind. To help us analyze these theories more systematically, a few features of mind should be discussed. David Chalmers has put forth two types of problems that must be solved in order to explain mind (Chalmers 1995). The first problem he calls the “easy problem," which he admits is not easy at all. The easy problem (which we will call consciousness) consists of answering questions such as 1) how the human brain discriminates between the many sensory stimuli we constantly perceive, and then 2) creates a set of complex behaviors to respond to each unique situation. Two examples of the easy problem are how our internal states (both physical sensations and “mental" sensations) are able to be translated into verbalizations, and how our brains are able to integrate the inherent fragmentation of the sensory process into an holistic picture of our surroundings. While many of these questions already have very good explanations in the findings of neuroscience, there are still many crucial questions left to answer before the “easy problems" will have been considered solved.

The “hard problem" on the other hand, gets to the core of the mind debate, which is how the physical brain is able to create “subjectivity," what most of us would say is the prime aspect of mind. This problem (which we will call mind) can be further broken up into three parts, as delineated by Antti Revonsuo (Revonsuo 1994). The first part of mind is simply subjectivity. He quotes Thomas Nagel’s description of subjectivity as what “something is like for the organism" (Revonsuo 1994:13). I have an experience of riding down a roller coaster, and each one of us on the roller coaster has a different subjective experience of this event because of our different histories, fears, expectations, etc. My gestalt experience on the roller coaster is mine and mine alone. While my friends and I may all have shared the same event at the same time, we come away with very different subjective experiences.

The second part to mind is the phenomenon known as qualia. Qualia has become the term used to describe the “qualities" of the perceptions we have. For example, when we drink a cup of hot cocoa, we can break the experience down into several distinct qualia, such as its brown-ness, sweet-ness, chocolate-ness, hot-ness, etc. Qualia tends to imply our own personal experience of each of these phenomenon. I experience the cocoa’s color as “brown" as opposed to tan, burnt umber, etc., and I have some kind of unique perceptual experience of this aspect of the cocoa. Everything that we experience has qualia, and without them, we would experience only nothingness. The unified, integrated experience of qualia make up our mental representations of the world around us.

The third component of mind is intentionality. This is the aspect of mind which gives direction to our thoughts. Intentionality has been a hotly debated issue since at least the 1970’s, and no agreement on its precise definition has yet been reached. From a behaviorist’s perspective, intentionality is not something within an organism, but is something we ascribe to organisms based on our interpretations of their behavior. From a folk psychology perspective (common-sense beliefs that people use to explain psychological and behavioral phenomenon), we believe we all have personal intentions--“I" intend to do something, so I do it (who this “I" is, however, is one of the difficult questions which folk psychology answers simply with “I am me, and you are you. Why is that so hard to understand?").

In addition to breaking down different components of the mind, the different theories of mind can be also be broken down into categories. Three exhaustive categories are materialism, dualism, and “others." While the “others" categories is intentionally vague, there are very few, if any, theories which truly fit into this category. Moreover, while some people, like John Searle (Searle 1992) claim to reject both primary categories, they actually can be classed into one or the other, despite their firm objections. Both groups have proposed theories which hinge on dynamic interactions between the parts (for the dualist, the interaction between body and soul; for the materialist, the intaction between the parts which produce “virtual" phenomenon), which supposedly makes them something “other" than true dualists or materialists. However, since reducing each of the theories into their simplest components allows them to be categorized as one or the other, the “others" category, in my my opinion, remains unfilled.

Of the dualist theories, there are only two which have gained any prominence. The first is from folk-psychology, which has already been addressed earlier in this chapter. From an academic standpoint it is typically rejected as an acceptable theory because of its non-empirical nature. The only other dualist theory which has any respectability comes from Popper and Eccles. Their ideas are similar to those found in folk-psychology, except that they provide empirical evidence that the non-physical mind can potentially interact with the physical brain through a quantum-physical mechanism. The foundation for their theory has already been introduced in the quantum physics part of this paper, so further discussion about it will be left for later.

The reason for postponing this is that I believe a dualist approach is the only reasonable Christian solution to the nature of humans, while the mind-body problem itself can be solved using materialist theories. These two assertions are undoubtedly the most controversial assertions of this paper, but hopefully I will be able to explain them adequately enough to be neither classified as an heretic by the religious, nor as a mystic by scientists. Therefore after the materialist positions have been delineated, and I develop what I believe to be the most fruitful routes for future, more precise explanations of mind, then I will bring in Eccles’s ideas to tie together the mind-body-soul relationship, using the foundation laid by James Loder and Jim Neidhardt

Eliminative Materialism

Antti Revonsuo provides a good classification scheme for the materialist positions (Revonsuo 1994:250-273): eliminativist, multiple drafts, computational, and neuropsychological. The first of these, the eliminativist materialist, is the one most foreign and unaccaptable by the vast majority of people. This is the classic Western monist view of the early behaviorist psychologists (such as B. F. Skinner), who believed there is no such thing as mind. We believe other people have minds because we see them behave in ways that would suggest a mind; however, their behavior can supposedly be reduced to environmental or genetic influences--so in essence people are not minds, but merely “responding machines." While this behaviorist aspect of eliminativism is remarkably good at predicting and controlling many behaviors, it fails to convince most people because it has a very difficult time explaining our own subjective experience of mind. Here the eliminativists become mostly incoherent because they seem to deny the existence of the mental world. However in doing so they employ the tools of the mental world to deny the existence of the mental world--a contradiction obvious to most people, thus the rarity of finding a true eliminative materialist.

The Multiple Drafts Model

The second position, the multiple drafts model, is a step up from the eliminativists in that it denies the mind as we commonly think of it, but allows that the brain’s functioning provides the equipment neccesary to “put on a good show," thus letting us believe we have minds. The major proponent of this view is Daniel Dennett, which he puts forth in his book Consciousness Explained. While in this book Dennett might not claim to be an eliminativist, he clearly holds this view: “All there is to being a true believer is being a system whose behavior is reliably predictable via the intentional strategy," and “there seems to be phenomenology . . . but it does not follow from this undeniable universally attested fact that there really is phenomenology" (Revonsuo 1994:253, 255). The multiple drafts model, like the eliminativist model, is very objectionable to many; however, the case he makes here is very convincing, and can be used to explain many phenomenon. Moreover, while his model is critiqued harshly by several other materialists, at its foundation it is not incompatible with any of them. In fact, the tentative model of mind that I will develop later in this chapter is a compilation of many of the materialist views.

The multiple drafts model (as is each of the current materialist views) has at its base the neurobiological fact that the brain is divided up into functional parts. Dennett makes a rigorous case that there is no “Cartesian Theater" in the brain (this view of “no Cartesian theater" is now pretty much dogma among philosophers of mind). The Cartesian theater is the idea that there is a place in the brain where our thoughts all come together and where our mind is located. The metaphor is easily seen, and it is highly likely that the reader probably implicitly holds this. The pseudo-scientific description of this view would be that there are tracts leading from the visual processing area of the brain, the hearing area, etc, that all intersect at some “central processing unit" (CPU) in the brain, where all of the neural information comes together to give one picture of the world, where “thoughts" can take place, and mind created. After all, computers work by taking its program, breaking it down, and sending it all to the CPU to put output to the screen, or printer, or robot, whatever. It seems only reasonable that a similar process must happen in the brain. This, however, cannot be the case because there is no CPU-like place in the brain where all of the information comes together.

The original metaphor for the Cartesian theater comes from modern cinemas. In this model, there is a little person-like thing sitting in the brain, watching a screen of what is going on in the “outside world." Our eyes act like cameras that simply project the images that fall on the retina back onto the theater screen, and similarly, the sounds from our ears are piped into the speakers of the theater. This theater is highly advanced though, because this show comes to you in “smell-o-vision," “taste-o-vision," and “feel-o-vision" as well as in the normal modalities! The outside world is projected into the little theater in the brain, where “you" sit and experience it, then tell your body what to do. Gilbert Ryle called this the “Ghost in the Machine" (The Concept of Mind, 1949). The problem with this model of thinking about how the human brain works, is that you go into an infinite regress when you consider the person watching the screen inside the theater: How does its brain work, and so on, ad infinitum?

Another metaphor, drawing from the pseudo-scientific model, considers that the occipital lobe (which does much of the visual processing) “shows" “me" what the retina sees. Just like a video camera picks up light rays and translates them into a form that can be shot through the sky and land in your television set, to be re-interpreted back into images that we can understand, the occipital lobe translates the electrical impulses from the retina back into something that “You" can understand. However, there is no “You" in the brain that anyone can point to. And even if there were, we are again faced with the question if “You" see the images your occipital lobe has made for “You," how are “You" actually able to understand what you see, unless there is a more foundational “You" inside the head of the first “You," which must also be using its occipital lobe to translate this visual picture for yet another “You" inside its head, and , again, so on, ad infinitum.

So the question becomes, if there is no Cartesian theater, and no place in our brains where all of the sensory information comes together, then how are we able to experience anything in an integrated way? This paradox is what has allowed folk-psychology to be firmly entrenched in dualism--there must be an immaterial soul which is “hovering over or through my brain" watching the Cartesian theater, since there is no physical explanation for my experiences. This is another way of asking Chalmer’s easy and hard problems. Neurobiology has been able to answer many of the easy problems to a certain degree. We see things because our retinas, lateral geniculate nuclei, occiptal lobes, etc., translate the electro-magnetic radiation of the visible spectrum into electro-chemical signals which our brain can process into something our brains can understand. How this visual information is integrated with the rest of our sensory information into a world picture which the motor cortex can respond to (thus producing behavior) is the part of the easy problem that Dennett’s multiple draft model tries to answer. Dennett would probably rest with this, because I doubt he would consider there to be any validity to the hard problem.

Before getting into the multiple draft model itself, let’s spend some time with issues that Dennett raises as he prepares us for this model of accepting the fact that there is no Cartesian theater, and that all there is to our minds are our brains. This concept is very hard for most people, and will be especially hard for many Christians. (Note that while I may come very close to fully accepting this assertion, I am not agreeing that the brain is all there is to being human, so I am therefore not equating our minds to our person-hood.) Dennett asks what we may have at one time asked ourselves: can our brains be the images we see, or be the “me" that I know, or be the emotions I feel like appreciation, love, anger, resentment, or be the thing which acts with moral responsibility (Dennett 1991:33)? It certainly seems that “I" cannot merely be the three pound lump of squishy gray matter that sits inside my skull. However unless you want to hold to a view of the “soul hovering above the brain" there is no other alternative, since we have already done away with the Cartesian theater model.

Dennett tries to make this idea more plausible by breaking down other folk-psychology pictures that keep us from understanding how our minds work. We commonly think that what we see is pretty much what is really out there. Dennett would agree with this, but not without several qualifications. First, of course we already have discovered that there is no screen to which the images from our retina are projected. The light waves are translated into electro-chemical images, and broken down into parts that the “I" part of us would consider totally incomprehensible. For example, the left half of our visual field is ripped from the right half, and are processed by the two opposite sides of our brains (the right half of our vision is processed by the left half of our brains and vice-versa; note also that the right and left eyes don’t respectively send the “whole picture" back to each hemisphere--the retinas of each eye splits the visual fields in half, so that each eye sends half of its information to each hemisphere, not simply the right eye to the left hemisphere, and vice-versa).

Moreover, the occipital lobe breaks things down by degree of angle, not by object. For example, when I see a complex image, like my grandmother, my occipital lobe doesn’t register “grandmother," or even “eyes," “nose," etc., but merely a series of lines separated by the degree of tilt. The vertical lines are processed by one column of cells, the horizontal by another, and the whole range of degrees of tilt by different columns of cells. There is processing at the retina which separates the colors and intensity of the images we see, and that information is piped down to yet other columns of cells in different areas of the occipital lobe (Young 1978:50). Another set of information that is processed and separated early on is motion, distance, speed, etc., and that information as well is sent to still other parts of the brain. Somehow the brain is finally able to match all of this information with something similar that it has experienced in the past, and it says “Grandma."

But even at that, even though we think we can say “But at least we are seeing conglomerates of lines that are really there, so we are at least getting an image of ‘reality’," we aren’t really perceiving what is really out there.1 After the image of all of those lines and colors and shades and motions have been sent to the occipital lobes, they have to find some way to make sense out of it. This is far from a passive process. Rather, it is highly dynamic and constructive. Take for example stereo-dot pictures (“Magic Eye" pictures), and optical illusions, such as the Necker cube. Stereo-dot images are highly complex series of dots that, when stared at long enough, in just the right way, can produce three-dimensional images (Dennett 1991:111). Of course we know that these three-dimensional objects are not really there hovering in the paper, but given the pattern of random dots the brain processes, it is (after a certain amount of experimenting and recombining) translated into what we believe to be a three-dimensional image. Take also the Necker cube, which is merely a series of lines on the page, which comes to look like a three-dimensional cube. The problem comes in when you look at it long enough, then the brain can’t tell which way the cube is supposed to point--to the left or to the right--at which time the brain keeps trying to see which works best, and as you stare at the image, it appears to switch periodically back and forth. A third example is a face behind a window panel. What reaches your retina is four parts of face separated by white pieces of pane. However what you actually end up perceiving is one face behind a window-pane.

Finally, when considering the world external to the brain at all, we aren’t really looking at a solid thing as we normally think of “Grandma." She is really, according to quantum physics, just an aggregation of electro-magnetic waves of differing wavelengths and intensities, not unlike the waves picked up by your radio. However, this particular energy field exhibits certain behaviors that your brain picks-up via your built-in energy-field transducers (eyes, ears, nose) and matches it up with some past information it has stored and claims that that energy-field is something you call Grandma! Based on your past experiences with this energy-field, you can predict certain behaviors, like walks slowly, bakes good cookies, and doesn’t like to be cold.

Further consideration leads us to realize that our own brains, built-in energy transducers, and bodies are also nothing but aggregated energy-fields, which we find interacting with other external energy fields, thereby producing experiences we call the universe around us. But, we may object, “I" certainly don’t feel like an aggregation of electro-magnetic waves--“I" feel like “Me"! Moreover, my consciousness doesn’t feel like a bunch of abstract electro-chemical pulses shooting around in my head, but my consciousness feels “real." Dennett quotes Lockwood, who answers our questions with a question of his own (Dennett 1991:410): “What would consciousness have felt like if it had felt like billions of tiny atoms wiggling in place?" The obvious answer to Lockwood’s question is that it would feel just like our consciousness’s feel, since from a biological, chemical, and physical standpoint, that is how are bodies have been designed to experience the universe.

It is in this way that authors such as Dennett, Francis Crick (Crick and Koch 1991), Paul Churchland (Paul Churchland 1995), and others try to break down the ways we think we experience the world, to prepare us for versions of the world with more empirical support, and predictive capabilities. Dennett, as was mentioned earlier, would agree that what we see is really what is “out there," but in a different way than most of us think. He would fall in-between two opposing ideas of the perception of the external world. The first, from folk-psychology, is that there is a semi-solid person out there that is Grandma. She has white hair, liver spots, and says wise things. The opposite view is that she is either not there at all (you are only making her up in your head, as you do with the rest of the universe), or that there is “something" out there that you happen to call Grandma, but you have no way of knowing what properties Grandma “really" has, so you make this false picture of her in your head. Dennett falls in-between these. He would say that what you really experience is what is out there, however, not like you would expect. What you actually experience is a series of energy fields that you believe to be a semi-solid Grandma-type-thing because of the constructive/creative aspects of neural processing, and the constraints/structure of human language (Clark 1990:139).

Dennett’s multiple drafts model comes into play at this point. Information enters any of the respective sensory modalities. That particular part of the nervous system which processes that information does its job, draws a conclusion based on that modality’s processing, and sends a report to the motor and/or language and/or memory system. For example, when I see Grandma, my visual system processes her image, encodes it with the appropriate electro-chemical signature, then sends that signature to any relevant part of the brain. It may send it to any of the verbal areas which will determine if we want to call to her, or to any of the various motor areas which will determine if we want to walk to her, etc. Each of these several perceiving, recognizing and deciding events will be occurring in the respective areas of the brain--there is no one area which decides all of this and then sends those commands to the various brain regions. Rather, Dennett gives us the model of a cooperative anarchy, in which all systems work together, and whichever system is best for a given task assumes control in that situation, and the other systems follow its lead (Dennett 1991:228).

One might feel inclined to ask, because of our subjective understanding of how we experience our consiousness, “So then at what point do I actually become conscious of my experiences?" Dennett’s answer would be that there is no one point at which you can say you became aware of it. He gives an example by asking when the British Empire first become aware of the truce in the War of 1812? The answer is that there was no one time, because the British Empire consisted of many distinct parts. At best, he would say, the British Empire learned of the truce somewhere between December 24, 1814, and mid-January 1815 (Revonsuo 1994:59). Similarly, the brain consists of many distinct parts, with different connections. Not everything is connected to everything else, so while some parts of the brain might get immediate word of certain circumstances, others may not find out until after it has been processed by several different areas. It is from this that the name derives: there is no “final copy" of the “stories in our heads"--all we get are a continuous production of “drafts," multiply produced in response to the continuous barrage of external stimuli and internal processing we experience.

Four examples show us that these anarchic-type, disjointed phenomena are not only plausible, but that they indeed occur. First, consider the blindsight patients mentioned earlier. These patients claim to be blind, and while several neurological tests will confirm this, certain patients will be able to perceive flashes of light, and “guess" shapes that are presented to the patients. While they will, of course, say they cannot see the shapes or flashes, if asked “If you had to guess, what is the shape of the object being shown to you right now?" or “If you had to guess, was a light flashed at you just now?" the patients can sometimes have up to 100% accuracy. These subjects have no conscious awareness of any information entering their consciousness, yet the information is being processed at some level. Thus the little person inside the Cartesian theater is able to send a message to the language center saying that s/he has just seen some flashes of light on the theater screen, even though he doesn’t “know" he’s seen the flashes of light! Impossible given the Cartesian theater model, but it is possible if the area of the brain that processes flashes of light has direct connections to the language centers of the brain (and in this case has become disconnected with visual processing at an higher level which would allow to be “conscious" of the phenomenon; Dennett 1991:325).

A second example is another example of unconscious perception. There have certainly been times when you were driving down the road deep in thought, and you suddenly realize you have no idea what has happened on the road for the past few minutes. You have been able to safely traverse the distance, even though you have no memory of it. This effect is from the visual information you were processing not being put into working memory, because your working memory was being occupied by whatever other problem you were working on. Your visual areas were able to send information to your motor areas telling it enough to keep you on the road, even though you may not have been conscious of it (Dennett 1991:137).

A third example is of colonies of termites, ants and bees. These colonies work together in unison, and roles are taken, without there being a “head." There is no administrator insect who tells each bug what to do, and who then plans out the structures they make. Each of these thousands of automatons simple “do what they do" and it works to such great efficiency that it appears that they “had to have a soul" (Marais, an entomologist from 1937, quoted in Dennett 1991:415-416). Spiders also don’t plan out their intricate webs, they just do it because their genetic code gives them the urge, and it happens.

The fourth example is of the human habit of talking to oneself. The entire phenomenon is paradoxical from a Cartesian theater perspective, but is logical from Dennett’s model. In the Cartesian model, why would I talk to myself if I knew what I was going to say? In the multiple drafts model, we discover what we think by verbalizing those thoughts. As Dennett quotes E. M. Forster, “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?" (Dennett 1991:245). Dennett here gives another anecdote of a famous politician recounting how he had spent a lot of time with a particular woman. It never dawned on him that he was in love with that woman until he leaned over to kiss her. Further, there are times when writers are suprised and emotionally effected by what they find themselves writing (Dennett 1991:61). There are often times when we discover what we “really believe" by how we behave or what we write. Theologically, the implications of this can be profound, and will be explored later in this chapter.

Neural Network Models

Moving on from Dennett, we come to the computational view of the mind, most clearly explained by philosophers Paul and Patricia Churchland. The basic worldview is the same--that the mind can be completely explained by research into the physical processes of the brain. This doesn’t necessarily mean that “just" looking at how neurons work will tell us how the mind works. There are several levels of analysis one must consider when trying to examine the complex functioning of the brain. One can, of course, look at the quantum and atomic levels of how the physics work to make the neuron exist. One can look at the biological processes of individual neurons and how they adapt to their environment, repair themselves and get energy. One can look at individual nuclei, which would involve looking at how large numbers of neurons interact together to create a functioning part of a larger system. Such a larger system could also be studied, for example the visual system. Then one could go further up and look at the entire brain, and then the body as a whole, to see how each of the brain systems and body systems work together to make a powerful, adaptive, creative survival machine.

It is at the level of nuclei and systems that computational neuroscience focuses its attention. They reject such evasive terms as “emergent properties" and try to explain individual components and how they work.2 One of the most foundational explanations is rooted in the field that explores neural nets in computer science.3 Neural nets are a special type of computer program that mimic some of the things that individual parts of the human brain do. There is disagreement whether the neural net model is how the brain itself actually works, but regardless, neural nets show remarkable adaptive capabilities that previous computer programs didn’t have.

Neural nets are programs which show a capacity to learn. There are typically three levels of neural net systems. The first level is the input. The second level is a matrix of “weights" which do the decision making process to give the third level, the output. The weights in the second level are changed based on the input and point to an answer which is given as the output. Consider the simple multiplication matrix we all had memorized in elementary school (we will call this a “look-up table"). Before we had this table memorized, if our teacher gave us some input (2 x 3), then we would go to the table, match up the numbers, and give him/her some output (6). Standard computer programs do similar things, but because of their complexity, much more difficult look-up tables can be constructed. We could program a “virtual" three dimensional look-up table which, if we gave it some input of country, date and food, could potentially look up the price for that food in that country on this date, assuming we had pre-programmed this data before-hand. This look-up table could have hundreds of countries, dates, and foods, which would make this look-up table incredibly difficult to use if we were to actually produce a real-life three-dimensional cube of this data. Moreover, since computers use math to make their “virtual" look-up tables, the matrices we program could have more than three dimensions, making all kinds of combinations of look-up tables possible..

One of the problems with this kind of program is that you have to input all of the data before you can use it. Granted, you can program in certain representative data throughout the matrix, and then each time you look something up, it could calculate a value based on linear or logarithmic relationships. But this is a very static and slow way of looking-up information. Neural nets solve this problem because they can dynamically interact with the input they get and learn from it. Rather than programming in every piece of data, you can input a few representative data, let the program run, and it teaches itself the best ways to calculate the data by setting the “weights" of the second level.

For example, one neural net has been trained to recognize human faces (Paul Churchland 1995). Pictures were taken of a few dozen faces and shown to a camera that was connected to this program. After each picture was shown, the computer was programmed to know if this person was male or female, along with the person’s name. After this “training-up" period had taken place, new photos of the people were taken and shown to the camera, but this time the photos were distorted, or the people had distorted their own faces. The computer ran this input through its weights and popped out the correct person’s name, even with the distortion. Moreover, novel faces were shown to the computer of people who had not been programmed in, and the program was able to accurately guess the gender of those people. As early tests are run on these types of nets, after the initial faces (or whatever the net in question is being trained for) are shown to the program, new faces are shown and the computer makes guesses about the identity of those faces. In response to those guesses, the programmer tells the computer correct or incorrect, which is what helps the program set the weights for its own program. In this way the program can design a matrix and place information on that matrix as is most useful for the output required from the user (see appendix A.2 for a visual representative of the matrix created by this particular net). After a neural net has produced its set of weights, the programmer can go in and study what the program has done to itself, and in that way understand how the program is able to produce appropriate output.

Thus, we can create programs that can both learn for themselves based on the programmer correcting guesses the program makes about the input fed into the program, and can also recognize and handle novel input. It is on this idea that computational neuroscience has invested its study of the mind. By creating models of how each of the individual systems in the brain produces its output, given the input we continually receive, the computationalists believe we can eventually understand the workings of the brain as a whole. The idea is that just as computers have a barrage of binary switches (0/1) as their method of storing and computing information, the brain has its own methods of information storage and computation using neurons. By understanding how individual neurons in any given nucleus work, and then knowing the type of output the nuclei produce, we can postulate interactive mechanisms of the neurons for how they work together to give the appropriate output, just like neural nets.

The search then, after we discover how the different kinds of neurons work, becomes a search for algorithms, which is a term used to describe analyzation processes. These algorithms are the basis for computation, thus the term computational neuroscience. The assumption in computational neuroscience is that the nuclei and systems of the brain are actually computing something to produce thought. This is the basis for the critique lodged against computational theories by Antii Revonsuo (Revonsuo 1994:260), since there is still doubt about whether computational processes are actually what are used to produce thought. If computational processes are not what are used, then the search for algorithms is useless, because there are no algorithms to find. This critique however, while it puts the burden of proof on the computationalists to show that thought is at its root computational, has been weakened by the fact the the computationalists have had great success modeling many of the different brain processes using neural nets (which of course use computation to produce their output). The burden of proof would then shift back to the anti-computationalists to show that mind can’t be computational.

Roger Penrose attempts to do this in any of his recent writings (see Penrose, Shadows of the Mind, 1994). Penrose, a physicist/mathematician who worked with Stephen Hawking in the discovery of black holes, has written on the need for a new kind of physics in order explain the mind. In addition to this goal, he also tries to show why computers will never mimic human consciousness because computers must use computation to produce output. Nervous systems, on the other hand, use some other mechanism to produce their output (consciousness). Penrose supports this assertion by relying on the works of Goedel and Turing to show that computation could never have come up with mathematical theories, because of the non-mathematical nature of certain mathematical theories (Penrose 1994:28ff). For example, certain problems are paradoxical and have no answer, such as creating an algorithm to determine what numbers are prime numbers. Mathematics can prove that such an algorithm could not be produced, but non-computational methods are supposedly used to prove this. The proof uses an inherent recursivity, which would throw a computer into an infinite regress of loops, thus it would forever be searching for a solution, not being able to see that it will never find a solution (Penrose 1994:195ff). This idea is not universally accepted by all mathematicians (Davis 1993:611), but it is the foundation for Penrose’s search for non-computational methods of producing mind.

Regardless of whether the brain is actually a complex computational machine or not, computational methods have been able to shed light on real neurobiological processes, as mentioned in the previous chapter. The individual nuclei in the brain do their individual jobs, and produce their specific output. One of the fundamental differences between current computers and the brain is that each of the nuclei and systems do their specific computations and output (assuming the brain “computes") with ease and efficiency, but they are very inflexible (Churchland 1992:7). The visual cortex cannot take over the job of the auditory cortex if the auditory cortex becomes damaged. Likewise, no system can take over another system’s job. The architecture of, and connections to and from each of these systems, is such that if that system is lost, our capacity to perform that task is lost. Digital computers, on the other hand, can compute anywhere there is space to compute. One of the advantages of modularity (having brain functions split up), is that if the visual cortex is damaged, the other parts can function perfectly normally, but if any of the crucial computational components of a digital computer are damaged, then nothing else will work.

In addition to the usefulness that computer neural net models have provided in our study of the real brain, the concepts of “noise" and “information" combined with synaptogenesis and early cell death provide support for the neural net theories of brain function. In electrical systems, noise is pretty much anything that is not relevant to the task at hand. For example, if you were to go to a rock concert to tape the music, when you played it back you may hardly be able to hear the music from all of the noise of the crowd. Similarly, in optical systems, too much reflected light which obscures a picture can be considered noise. Information is the combination of noise and what you actually want.

Consider how much information your body perceives from birth to death. Most of this information is noise, which must be filtered out. Certain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia are thought to be related to the brain’s inability to filter out the noise from the valuable information. In addition to the need to filter out noise, it is necessary for the brain to be able to sort out all of the information that enters the brain into usable data. When we are born, we must have ways to create patterns and usable criteria for dealing with all of the totally new experiences that we have. These problems can be solved at a theoretical level by neural nets.

Discovering patterns from input with noise and distortions is no problem for neural nets. For the face recognition program described above, despite heavy distortions, or even given just small parts of the face, the program has high accuracy in guessing who that person was. That is part of the nature of nets, to filter out noise and create holistic representations from small pieces of data. The human brain does very similar things. Consider four of the figures in Appendix B. The picture in the upper-left corner of B.1 is just lines, however we clearly see a cow, a house and some trees. None of these groups of lines look anything like a “real" cow or a “real" house or “real" trees, but there seems to be some kind of correlation in our brains between the objects on the page, and objects we experience in the natural world. Note additionally that none of us (hopefully) confused these images with a “real" cow or a “real" house or “real" trees--for example, if we had seen these line-trees while reading this thesis on a hot day, none of us would think “I will go to those trees for some shade." Though we saw them as trees, we did not actually believe them to be real trees. Similarly, the picture in the lower-left corner of B.1 is merely a series of poorly defined ink spots, yet most of us can eventually make out a dog sniffing the ground, without making the assumption that there is a real dog on the page.

A person most of us will immediately recognize from Appendix B.1 is Abraham Lincoln. Even through heavy distortions, and with much of the detail left out, we are still able to process this image into a recognizable form. Of course, this picture could be any of a thousand people who have similar features as Abraham Lincoln, but we match the images we can discern to what we know, which is of course Abraham Lincoln. The image at the bottom of Appendix B.2 is the most difficult to recognize, yet even though there is nothing in the picture that is recognizable, there are three images there that our brains can process if we give our visual system long enough to figure it out (the figure above and to the left of the stereo-dot image). A final note about hidden images like these (this does not include stereo-dot images) is that once you have “seen it" then that image stays with you. If it takes you half a minute or so to see through the noise to make out the picture, then that process (according to net theorists) adjusts the weights of your network, so that from that point, you will immediately see that image, and other images like it will be easier to see.

Neural net theorists point to data such as this as evidence that our brains use methods similar to networks to produce thoughts, since these are the strong points of computer neural networks. Additionally, there is the initial phenomenon during fetal development and for some time after birth of synaptogenesis and massive cell death. Synaptogenesis is the term used for how the brain connects neurons together. In the visual cortex alone, for example, a newborn starts with approximately 2 x 10^11 synapses, jumps to about 24 x 10^11 synapses, then settles to approximately 15 x 10^11 at about 10 years old.

The number of synaptic contacts in human cerebral cortex is staggeringly high, of the order of 10^14 for the adult brain.4 It is clear that this large number cannot be determined by a genetic program, in which each synapse has an exact assigned location. More likely, only the general outlines of neural connectivity are genetically determined. Many early synapses appear to be formed randomly, at points of contact of growing axons and dendrites. . . .

Recent computer simulations of neural networks suggest that this mechanism for establishment of order in a chaotic system is at least feasible. They show that a considerable degree of organization can be imposed on a system that initially has random connections, provided that the system is subjected to incoming signals that have repeating patterns. . . . In response to such input, some connections are strengthened over time, while others decrease in strength; this is similar to what is thought to occur in neural networks during development, and probably in relation to learning throughout the life span. The computer network eventually has areas of strong connectivity corresponding to specific inputs, similar to the sensory maps in somatosensory cortex. (Dawson 1994:138-139)

Thus, because of the similarities between what neural nets can do and what human brains do, as well as how neural nets develop and how human brains develop, there is enough evidence to believe that human thought processes are at least partly controlled by neural net mechanisms.

Neuropsychological models

From here we can move into Revonsuo’s fourth and final category, the neuro-psychological materialist view. These differ from the previous theories in that they give the folk-psychologists a little room for the Cartesian theater, while trying to give neurobiological explanations for mind. One major proponent in this category is Bernard Baars and his Global Workspace theory. While Baars agrees that the brain’s functions are split up into different areas, he disagrees that there is not a center somewhere where some sort of order is maintained. The metaphor he gives is of a large auditorium filled with many different committees of experts. Each of these committees can solve the problems that pertain to their particular field, but not much else. The difficulty occurs when a complex problem arises that cannot be solved by one committee alone. At this point a large blackboard at the front of the room becomes essential.
Experts could form coalitions to support certain blackboard messages, to interrupt them, change them, or decompose them into subproblems. At any time a number of experts may be trying to write messages on the blackboard. However, if two contradictory messages were written at the same time, different coalitions of experts would be struggling against each other’s messages, so that inconsistent messages would not last long. The tendency, therefore, is for consistent blackboard messages. This tendency toward internal consistency at any single time tends to serialize blackboard information, because mutually exclusive messages could only occur one after the next. And because any global message requires the cooperation, tacit or active, of many other processes, the likelihood is that novel problems would be solved more slowly than problems that fit in the domain of a particular specialist. Indeed, one function of this configuration might be to train new specialists to handle novel problems in a routine fashion. [Global Workspace] messages could also be used for recruitment, to elicit cooperation from other experts in the audience so that new coalitions may be established through the use of the blackboard. Finally, it can be used to coordinate coherent actions that require input from multiple systems. (Revonsuo 1994:157).
For this kind of system to work, there has to be a place where all of these systems have some kind of connections. We have already established that there is no such area in the brain. There are, however, areas that seem essential for consciousness, and where there are many convergent tracts from different areas. The neuropsychologists propose that two areas could possibly fill this role: the reticular formation (RF) and the nucleus reticularis (NR) in the thalamus.
The reticular formation is thought to modulate the activity of many higher-level neural structures, notably the neocortex; the nucleus reticularis is believed to control thalamic ‘gatelets’ that can open or close sensory tracts on their way to the cortex. Lesions of either structure result in a loss of consciousness. (Baars 1993:288)
Baars goes on to admit, however, that the tracts leading from these areas do not seem large enough to carry the large amounts of information necessary for a global representation of one’s surroundings. Additionally, blindsight patients have no problems with either of these two areas, yet lose the ability to be conscious of visual events, even though the information of the occurrence of certain visual events still seems to reach the language areas of the brain. The solution, he believes, is that both areas work together to get consciousness together, which could possibly give the amount of space necessary to carry large amounts of information. The blindsight difficulty could be solved by proposing that the areas that do register the visual activity makes connections to some intermediate areas, which are eventually sent to the RF and NR, which can then of course be sent out to the language centers.

While this hypothesis sounds reasonable, the latter part has little empirical evidence to support it. Certain parts, however do have neurophysiological correlates. For example, “even very specialized tasks, when they are novel and presumably require more conscious involvement, show widespread activity in the cortex" (Revonsuo 1994:219). Further, the orienting response (which occurs with any kind of novel, surprising, or frightening stimulus) mediates a multi-system response, in which every major part of the brain and hormonal systems are activated.

A Proposed Integrative Theory of Mind/Soul

So far in our journey we have covered a lot of territory. We have summarized how the brain works, emphasizing pathological characteristics which might shed light on how the brain produces mind. Then we looked at the philosophy of language, how the brain produces language, and the how language is unique to humans among all living things. Next we looked at the counter-intuitive phenomena produced by quantum physics, and how those findings might help us explain mind. Finally we looked at religious views of the soul, and how science sees the soul (assuming that most scientists view mind as equivalent to the soul, if they believe we have a mind or soul at all). Using this information, I hope to present a model of the mind that is compatible with Scripture, and will allow the Christian to interact intelligently and responsibly in situations where Biblical values of person-hood are at stake.

Briefly, I believe that almost all human behavior (both mental and observable) is determined by a combination of genetics and environment, that person-hood is a dynamic synthesis of the body-mind-soul interaction, and that the interface of soul and body occurs at the quantum physical level. In addition to explaining this view further, I will reemphasize certain information from previous chapters and bring in data from psychology and behavioral genetics to support this assertion.

First, I believe that almost all human behavior is determined by the nature-nurture interaction. The debate over which of these two substrates causes behavior has been raging for decades if not centuries. Most psychologists have come to an eclectic position where an interaction of the two produce the behaviors of the individual, and the only question is which one influences what kinds of behavior most. There are several sources which point to the hypothesis that biology forms the foundation of thought and behavior, and environment merely provides the route for expression of those internal states. The most compelling evidence is that brain-damaged patients often have dramatically altered thought-patterns, and behaviors. Moreover, the expression of these altered states are incredibly well correlated with the areas of brain damaged, indicating that not only does brain control behavior, but that specific areas of the brain produce certain behavioral and mental phenomenon.

When looking at a schizophrenic or a depressed patient, and the characteristic neurobiological pathologies, one is led to ask (among other questions), did the behavioral problems cause the brain anomalies, or vice-versa? Granted, behavior certainly can and does affect neurobiology, but there is little if any evidence that thought or behavior patterns influence gross anatomy or biochemistry. Conversely, the mass of evidence suggests that alterations of the brain cause behavioral and mental changes. Mental and behavioral disorders are consistently being given “disease" status now and are put under the therapeutic umbrella of medicine. The effectiveness of current pharmacological treatment of many mental disorders is obvious by the dramatic results that are consistently obtained. The efficacy of traditional psychotherapy, however, is still being debated (Anderson 1995:503).

Add to this the fact that more and more mental disorders are being attributed to genetic factors. A common attempt to discredit genetics claims is that mal-adaptive traits don’t necessarily have to come from the parents’ genes, but mal-adaptive patterns can be learned from their parents. This, however, does not seem to be an empirically sound hypothesis. Certainly many behavioral traits can be seen from parent to child, but I believe most of those traits can be attributed to biological inheritance, not social inheritance. Concerning schizophrenia, for example, as early as 1966, it was proven “conclusively that the vulnerability to the illness was transmitted through the biologic parents and prior to the age of adoption, which was less than 4 months in this series of studies" (Winokur 1994:459). Most if not all major affective disorders have shown definite genetic predisposition, as evidenced by studies on twins and non-twins who have been separated early in life to be raised by different adoptive parents.

Not only strictly affective disorders have shown this propensity, but also such diverse phenomenon as substance-abuse and homosexuality show genetic propensities (Winokur 1994:474, 480). There has been much recent evidence that criminality and anti-social behaviors have genetic links. One particular study of 3226 male twin pairs showed that while a shared environment “significantly influenced early criminal behaviour," “genetic factors . . . significantly influenced whether subjects were ever arrested after age 15, whether subjects were arrested more than once after age 15, and later criminal behaviour" propensities (Winokur 1994:474, 480). This indicates that “the environment shared by the twins has an important influence on criminality while the twins are in that environment, but the shared environmental influence does not persist after the individual has left that environment" (Lyons 1995:61). Further, specific genes are being sought to explain such phenomenon. Studies in mice show that one only needs from one to four generations to selectively breed certain traits such as aggressivity or passivity (Cairns 1995:48). Similarly, genetic predispositions to crime can be seen in studies of children of criminal offenders who have been adopted away soon after birth. These studies clearly indicate that even when these children are removed from the environment of a parent who commits crimes, they are still significantly more likely to commit crimes themselves (Bohman 1995; Brennan 1995; Cicchetti 1995).

Major disorders are not the only phenomenon that have become linked to genetics.

There is nearly universal agreement among temperament researchers that the individual differences that are called temperament have developmentally early, biological roots. In fact, a very big part of the conceptual appeal of temperament concepts is their assumed inborn, biological basis, even if it is also generally agreed that temperament characteristics may shift over time to some degree (Bates 1994:2).
Not only does there seem to be a strong biological correlation between behavior, there is the converse phenomena that learning may not have as large an influence on children as has previously been thought: “. . . children who experience their growing up years in the same home are hardly more alike in personality than any two randomly paired individuals" (Jeeves 1994:74). Further, pre-school programs which produce IQ increases in their students during the programs are not enduring--after the programs are over, the IQ levels drop back down to baseline (74).

Finally, the evidence is incontrovertible that altered neurobiological states produce altered mental and behavioral states, and possibly even social status. Common-sense evidence for this is altered consciousness or behavior following trauma to the brain, or ingestion of psycho-active drugs. Further, social status can be affected by brain changes. In a study of a vervet monkey colony, it was found that the monkeys higher in the “pecking order" had increased brain serotonin, and those low in the pecking order had low serotonin. In order to see which caused which, the high serotonin monkeys were given serotonin inhibitors (which would decrease the production and efficacy of serotonin), and the low serotonin monkeys were given serotonin agonists (which would increase serotonin production and efficacy). These two groups switched social status, while the middle group stayed the same. The logical conclusion, then, is that serotonin levels within this colony determined pecking orders, not the reverse (Paul Churchland 1995:177). Finally, combine this with the fact that, even if one does accept the efficacy of psychotherapy, few people would defend that producing enduring change in human behavior is easy, regardless of the length or intensity of counseling. Even pharmaco-therapeutic measures, though extremely successful in many instances, run into cases that are intractable to all drugs or surgeries we currently have available.

This evidence sets the stage for me to believe that almost all human behavior and mental events are determined by neurobiology, rather than the traditional conception that our mind controls our thoughts and behaviors. Thus, not only do I reject the folk-psychological view of human behavior, but I fall to the far end of the nature-nurture spectrum, asserting a strong nature influence on behavior. There are of course important theological and ethical effects from such a view, which will be developed later.

From this genetic assumption clearly stated from the outset, I will start from the top-down explaining my proposed model of mind. As I stated earlier, this model is basically a pulling together of various pieces of the other models presented. On an holistic level, I do not presume to explain the binding problem, which is the phenomenon of having a single, unified, coherent view of the world and of our own thoughts given the fragmentation of the sensory, motor, and language components of our brains. I agree with Penrose that quantum physics may eventually be the solution to this. Given that quantum physics breaks the laws of non-locality, this may be how we are able to have a unified picture of the world when the parts of our brains are processing sensory data in different geographical regions. The Crick and Koch hypothesis about the 40 Hz phase-locking of cortical neurons is evidence that coherence does occur, but I don’t know that a neuroanatomical structure could produce such an effect--quantum dynamics, on the other hand, has already been shown to produce such effects (see the discussions of non-locality, and quantum coherence effects such as lasers and super-conductivity in the quantum physics chapter).

The next level down is the phenomenon of thought processes themselves, and our brains’ ability to react in real-time to our environment with all of our sensory modalities. Dennett’s multiple-drafts model seems appropriate here. Each of the different systems of our brains processes its own information, and then transmits any relevant information to the appropriate systems. For example, take a situation where we start to fall on the ice while walking with a friend. First, our autonomic system and cerebellar systems immediately take over to position our bodies so that if we were to complete our fall to the ground, we will not land on top of our heads--our reactions speed up, and we thrust our arms out in front of us. At the same time, our visual system, seeing that our world is moving in odd directions similar to a falling situation, may start looking for something to hold onto--if it sees something, it need not send the information to a central location as in “tell the motor system to grab hold of that railing." Rather, it can directly communicate to the relevant systems. Likewise, the language areas in our brains, which senses all of the commotion in the body because of the rush of “emergency" hormones throughout the brain and body, might decide to yell out for help, or at worst, yell out unfortunate expressions of our embarrassment at falling.

Relevant to this discussion of environmental interaction and thinking are dreams. Antii Revonsuo does an excellent job reviewing recent dream research (Revonsuo 1995). According to what he has found in the dream-research literature, dreams appear to be just as coherent and “real" as waking phenomenon. We typically don’t think of dreams as having much strength because they are always and necessarily in our past when we reach a point when we are capable of thinking about and discussing our dreams. But consider that remembering a particularly memorable dream is as vivid as remembering any particular event in our lives. Most of our dreams simply aren’t stored into memory like our daily waking lives are, so aren’t as “memorable." Waking a subject, however, while they are in the middle of REM (dream) sleep, allows the subject to remember the dreams very clearly. For the most part, the only difference neurobiologically, between dream states and waking states, is that there are inhibitory signals coming from the upper levels of the motor system. In fact, one series of experiments cut those particular nerves which sent the inhibitory information in cats. Those cats, though asleep, would engage in goal-oriented motor activity, such as stalking prey and attacking (Soh 1992). Revonsuo goes as far as to say that “not only are dreams experiences but, in a way, all experiences are dreams" (Revonsuo 1995:55).

The reason that this data on dreams is important is that it shows us another aspect of our consciousness, and in some regards, a more foundational aspect of our consciousness. As I consider my own thinking processes, I can name only a few components: visual images, and “verbalizations" and “hearings." Though I can imagine smelling a chocolate bar, tasting it, and feeling it in my mouth, I personally don’t seem to be able to experience them to the same degree in my imaginings as I can visual or linguistic images. When I day-dream, or when I try to concentrate to think about something, it seems that just visual and linguistic information are operating.

We have already discussed visual and linguistic phenomena in detail in earlier sections, so we should have a fairly good understanding that these are phenomena that neurobiology has mapped out and explained to a large degree. In this regard, a large chunk of consciousness has been explained if you consider that in thinking, you are merely “talking to yourself," and “hearing yourself talk." This phenomenon comes about because there are separate areas in the brain involved with hearing and speaking. These paths are connected to each other, and can therefore communicate with each other without us having to actually verbalize our thoughts in able to hear them. Dennett describes this from an evolutionary perspective (whether or not you agree with specie-ism evolution, the metaphor itself is still useful), that early on, prior to these two areas of the brain being connected, we had to literally talk to ourselves in order to talk to ourselves. But as time went by, it became more survival-efficient if this process could be done silently so we didn’t inadvertently warn our prey we were stalking it (Dennett 1991).

Take a different sense other than vision. If I smell gasoline, then I just seem to “know" that this is gasoline. This system is connected, however, to the language centers (possibly not directly, but it is connected at some level), and if there is a need, I can say “I smell gasoline." If there is no need, for example if I see that I am at a gas station and I am in the process of pumping gas, then I merely smell the gas and go on with my business without devoting more attention to it. While my olfactory system smells gasoline and sends a general message to the various systems, no other system seems to care about it, so there is no need for the hypothalamus (that controls the fight or flight response) to engage itself.

This is one reason why learning takes place more effectively when more sensory systems are involved. There is no central brain component which, when you hear the teacher say that the occipital cortex is in the posterior part of the brain, then sends that information to all other areas of the brain in strong pulses so we will always remember it. Neural nets mimic our brains in that way, that while ordinary computer programs “learn" by just downloading the data, brains and nets have to learn by repeated presentation of data, which then strengthens the weights used to process the information. Therefore the more senses you get involved in the learning process, the more you set the weights for your individual systems to be able to interpret the data, plus, the more systems you have with which to attach that memory. So not only will I know linguistically that the occipital lobe is in the rear portion of the brain, but if I see a model, then I will be able to store a visual memory as well.

So if we use computational neuroscience and neural net theory to explain the workings of the individual systems as the next level down, then we can combine all of those different systems together in a multiple-drafts model to give an holistic picture of consciousness. When we visualize images, we are using our visual systems to create an image, in the same way it creates an image when we actually perceive them from the outside. And when we create images in our heads, we are taking images from our memory banks and putting them in the appropriate visual areas. Sometimes we create fictional images, such as when we think of unicorns or flying-purple-people-eaters. Each part of these images are things we find in the “real" world, however we put them together in new, creative ways, which is like what we do with language.

The only other component of my thought processes that I can perceive is the subjective component, or my feelings about a situation. The limbic system produces the emotional responses we experience, and just as the visual system produces vision, and the auditory system produces hearing, the limbic system casts another dimension to our mental representation. I can be excited, sad, or resentful about any given situation. Many of these are learned or genetically programmed responses. For example, upon presentation of dangerous or painful stimuli, our bodies produce fear, or anger, similar to the fact that the visual system produces images upon presentation of light-waves. One distinction, however, is that the phenomena that cause our limbic systems to make their products (emotions/feelings/affect) are not as neatly and universally related to identifiable external phenomena as the other senses (in other words, while I experience a cup when I see a cup, there is no “happy" object which causes me to experience happiness). This is another area that few writers have addressed, and one that I will leave for future research.

Finally, at the lowest level, the level of the individual neuron, or small groups of neurons, we make the circle complete by returning to quantum physics. We started with Penrose on a macroscopic level, and now Eccles fixes our quantum effects at the synaptic level into empirical possibility. Even Patricia Churchland, while I have never found an instance where she has made reference to Eccles, states the following, when referring to inter-neuronal influences on neural nets after they have been “trained up" (after their weights have been set to respond to the environment we experience):

This raises the possibility that under normal physiological conditions it may be very difficult to find detectable changes at the microscopic level, even though there are large changes in behavior. If this principle were to hold in general, then for vertebrates with thousands of interneurons in small networks, the sizes of the changes may be equivalent to the fluctuation observed in the variation of quantal packets of transmitter release. (Churchland 1992:350)
To reiterate what has been stated before, what is being theorized here is that the quantum-brain interface is capable of taking place at the level of the synapse. This is because slight alterations in the electrical charges of the axon can, under the right circumstances, cause the release of neurotransmitters from the synaptic terminal. The release of neurotransmitters can influence the mind by interacting with local neural nets, which send their information up to the brain as a whole by the multiple-drafts hypothesis of mind.

It is also at this quantum level that I am proposing the soul-body interaction. Note that though I am proposing this, I am not saying “this is how it is." Based on the information available right now, this model seems reasonable to me. From an historical perspective, however, I am certainly wrong, since people have always been theorizing on this topic, and new paradigms always pop up to make the previous ones look foolish--who knows what theory will develop to surpass quantum theory?! But these models, while quickly becoming outdated, typically serve as the foundation for falsifiability experiments, which provide us with new data and questions that bring us ever closer to more useful models.

At any rate, the quantum level seems like a good level on which the soul interacts with the body because there seems to be an inherent chaos in quantum effects, and therefore non-predictability. While on a classical level, the brain doesn’t ordinarily go around breaking energy conservation laws, it seems plausible at this time to imagine a “non-physical" force interacting with the quantum world, which then influences the electrical charges in axons in such small ways that the actual detectable alteration of charge is not detectable above general background/normal statistical chaotic noise.

I put non-physical in quotion marks earlier because it certainly seems plausible to me that the separation between spirit and matter is not the large gulf we tend to picture. It seems reasonable, that since Scripture is clear that humans are not bodies with souls attached (or vice-versa), but that we are soul/body entities, that the soul has a “foot in both worlds" so to speak. Just like the quantum entity is a thing with a foot in both the particle and the wave worlds, likewise, couldn’t God have made the soul with similar dual-phasic properties? This hypothesis seems like it could help explain how the soul, being non-physical, could influence quantum events, being physical.

It is at this point that I complete my model with Loder and Neidhardt’s asymmetrical, bipolar relation. The Loder-Neidhardt model seeks to bridge the gap between the spiritual world and the physical world. The key to their model is relationality: relationality between body and mind, which is our spirit, and relationality between our own spirits and the Holy Spirit, both of relationships being described by this asymmetrical, bipolar relationality.

This model is useful because it can help us understand how our souls interact with our mind and bodies. One alteration I want to make with the Loder-Neidhardt model up front is to do away with their distinction between mind and body. They seem to postulate an entity called mind, that interacts via spirit with the body. I disagree with this concept, and propose that mind arises directly from neurobiological processes, and the only interaction between mind and body is a causal one, from body to mind. I do, however, believe that their model is well applied to our relationship with the Holy Spirit, and with our own souls.

Entering into this section of the paper, I fully expected to be able to create a fusion of the deterministic consequences of biological processes (as described by classical physics) and the chaotic behavior of quantum physics to describe the soul. Not just in a metaphorical or representative way, but to actually define soul as the integration of the structure of neurobiology with the chaos of quantum physics, thus describing human behavior and mind using biology, and allowing free-will with quantum physics. However I have discovered that that is not possible, given certain Evangelical assumptions I bring into this paper. While I feel I have made a good case for explaining and defining mind in terms of neurobiology, overlaying chaos on top of that determinism does not create an entity which we can call the soul--it merely creates a chaotic form of determinism, which is not useful as far as I am concerned.

The two prime assumptions which disallow the simple combination of neurobiology and quantum physics to define soul are the concepts of judgment and of free-will, both of which, while separate categories, are intimately tied together. I assume that I am a free-willed agent, capable of making moral or immoral choices of my own volition. Bypassing the many complexities of “sin nature" and “transformation" for now, the concept of free-will and judgment have been perennial issues for theologians and philosophers alike. If I am only my biology, then I can have no freedom of will, because all of my behavior can be reduced and predicted. If I am truly free, then why would I ever choose evil, unless I were created with a propensity for evil? And if I were created with a propensity for evil, wouldn’t that make God evil, assuming he created me? As far as judgment goes, if I had no freedom of will, then wouldn’t God be unjust in sending me to hell for actions I could not have stopped even if I had wanted? And if I were created neutral (with neither the capacity for evil nor good), what could possibly sway me to choose good or evil unless that decision choice were a random event (since I would have neither “good" nor “evil" algorithms for which to make such decisions), in which case how could God send me to hell if the decision to follow evil were random (in this case also, I would not have a choice in the matter)?

From a physicalist perspective, if it becomes possible to predict all human behavior, then it would seem that free-will could not exist. If free-will did not exist, then that would certainly bring into question essential doctrines of the Christian faith. However, I don’t feel this is a matter that should cause anyone distress. In science, almost nothing is 100%. In order to prove free-will does not exist, it would be necessary to show prediction with 100% accuracy. For example, in simple experiments like counting radioactive emissions from an excited source, the emissions seem to occur in a near random (even though somewhat predictable) fashion (e.g. clicks on a Geiger counter). It is possible to explain and predict much of what occurs in this situation, but because of the quantum effects (which essentially cause “randomness"), it is safe to say that it would be impossible to predict with 100% certainty the exact times when an emission would occur. Similarly, though we can get close to predicting many human behaviors even today, to think we could come to predict all human behaviors with 100% accuracy seems quite absurd.

Moreover, even if it were possible to predict all of an individual’s behavior, there would still be room for faith. Who knows, for example, how the Spirit works? Atheistic scientists have declared that because of the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter, if it could be found that all neural activity can be accounted for from within the “closed" system of the brain, then free-will is impossible, since there could be no “spirit" influencing brain activity. This however, again, is not something that can be proven with 100% accuracy because of quantum fluctuations. We know the Holy Spirit works in our environment in ways we could never hope to comprehend.5 Who knows how the spiritual realm interacts to “set-up" our brain events (neural nets) and social contexts well before the times when we are actually faced with decisions of right and wrong?6 So, even if on a classical physical or psychological level this most foundational idea of free-will could be entirely predicted by neurophysiology or environment, this would still not have to destroy faith.

But beyond such speculations as these, there is constantly an element of faith that must be retained, and the acceptance that some issues may be beyond the scope of human reasoning altogether. I therefore must rest in the assurance that God is just and good, and that this paradox is one of the many paradoxes found in Scripture that requires Kierkegaard’s leap of faith, rather than a solid foundation of understanding on which to ground my relationship with God.

After this process, I found I had no choice but to accept the traditional idea of a soul that exists for each individual person. The nature of this soul is beyond the scope of this paper, but the interaction between this soul and our bodies is where I believe we can call on quantum physical interactions at the synaptic level for explanation. It seems reasonable to me that the soul, as part of the human entity, must be able to interact with our bodies, since our earthly lives seem to hold a very important place in both the Old and New Testaments. In light of the Scriptural evidence that our soul/body entities will be judged based on what we have done in our earthly lifetimes, there seems to be no other alternative except that our souls work in unison with our bodies to allow us to function as free-willed, thinking, acting, judgeable beings.

Part of the problem, as I see it, is that because of the original fall, there is an inherent disintegration in the relationship between our souls and our bodies. It is this disintegration which causes us so much pain and confusion in our daily lives. One could easily hypothesize that if true harmony existed between one’s soul and one’s body, then our “minds" would be filled much easier regarding spiritual matters. The most common problem Christians struggle with is worldliness. While the world is not inherently evil (God created it, and He created it good), we become obsessed with the world since it is so difficult to focus on spiritual issues because of the breakdown of communication between our souls and bodies.

The main thing to consider here is the express statement of dualism, the two parts being related by quantum physics. I contend that almost all of our thinking and acting is neurobiological, reducible to brain processes. Even many spiritual experiences to which can testify, I believe are reducible to biology. This is not meant to trivialize all spiritual experiences since our own spirits and the Holy Spirit (and Satan also), having access to our thoughts (via Eccles’ or Penrose’s quantum physical mechanism), can not only cause immediate thoughts and emotions (mental phenomenon that occur spontaneously and briefly), but can over time, build up strong neural nets in our brains which may be for good or evil purposes. The neural nets that our souls create reflect algorithms our souls find beneficial for allowing us as physical agents to have access to and function in the spiritual realm, such as acts of faith, worshipping God and recognizing and combating Satan. The neural nets the Holy Spirit (or angels) and Satan (or demons) create, are similarly designed to support their respective holds on our lives. I therefore see much of our experience of the spiritual struggle as a continual war in our brains to build and destroy neural nets, with our own soul having ultimate control of who gets to put what net where, thus imputing it with the capacity to be judged. It is by this route that I explain our minds, and the interaction between our bodies and the spiritual world.


1. Another example comes from Michael Gazzaniga's experiments on split-brain patients (Gazzaniga 1985:145ff). Since the right half of the brain couldn't directly communicate with the left half in split-brain subjects, a command could be shown to only one side, and the other side would have no way of directly knowing why the body was behaving as it was. If the command was shown so that the right hemisphere of the brain responded, then the left hemisphere (which is where the primary language area is located) could be asked to verbalize why the subject was engaging in that particular behavior. The left half of the brain of course could not know, but the subject did not hesitate to explain in detail exactly why s/he was doing this particular behavior, even though the explanation was totally wrong. The left hemisphere believed the story to be correct, for who else but him/herself know why s/he was engaging in that particular behavior. It came as a shock for the subject to discover the real reasons behind her/his behavior, because the assumptions and explanations the brain automatically jumps to are so powerful and innate.

2. The term “emergent" properties is used to describe phenomenon arising directly from the combination of simpler materials. For example, John Searle calls the liquidity of water an emergent property of the combination of H2O molecules. Likewise ice would be an emergent property of H2O molecules at low temperatures. Searle's use of this term seems to equate emergent properties with qualia. This however, I do not believe, was the intention of the phrase emergent properties. Many scientists and philosophers reject any usage of the term emergent properties as an attempt to end discussion of a subject that is not well understood. Such is the case with consciousness, which is considered an emergent property of the interaction of neurons. This in effect, would be like saying that the reason mitochondria produce ATP is because ATP is an emergent property of the interaction of mitochondria, therefore the explanation cannot be reduced to a better explanation. This, however, is far from the case, since entire textbooks can be written on the discrete biochemical processes that occur to get from glucose to ATP. Thus, many people (including myself) feel that putting the term emergent properties (and similar terms such as supervenience, etc.) is an outdated, lazy, and useless method of explaining phenomenon. It explains nothing more than the apparent fact the "we don't know yet" what causes the phenomen, or that the speaker is unwilling to accept current theories that attempt an actual explanation of the phenomenon. Therefore any use of the term emergent properties will be avoided in this paper.

3 An exhaustive explanation of neural nets and how they work would require a large series of textbooks. Both Paul Churchland's book The Engine of Reason (1995) and Patricia Churchland's book The Computational Brain (1992) do a decent job of explaining some of the theory of neural nets and how they work, but plan on spending a lot of time working through the material, because the concepts aren't things we use on an everyday basis. Both do an excellent job explaining how neural nets are applied to neuroscience research, and Paul takes the time to examine where neural nets may take us in the future..

4. As a side-note, to add to the representational capacity of 1014 neurons, each of these synapses has (conservatively) ten different strengths for their connections, which thus means the possible connectivity patterns is actually 10^1014 (10^10 representing 1010). To get an idea of the incredible magnitude and complexity of this number, the volume of the entire universe, in meters3, is only 10^102 (Paul Churchland 1995:5).

5. For example, one may think it mere “chance" that we were born where we were, the parents we have, the apparently “random" events that surround our lives, and the people we continuously meet. But we have some Biblical and anecdotal evidence that this is not necessarily the case. Acts 17:26-27 indicates that God “chooses" the times and places we are born which would be best for our spiritual lives. Since this is a direct act of choosing, and not a random occurrence, I interpret this passage to mean that God, knowing something about how our personalities are structured (before we were born that is; c.f. Jer.1:5; Isa 49:1) and therefore how we will react to certain events, puts us in places that would be the most conducive to our spiritual growth (though not necessarily the “easiest" places and times to live). This kind of “pre-acting" by God, or “setting-up" are not things that can be predicted by science, nor can it even fit into a scientific paradigm, since it is about God’s subjective decision-making about his own knowledge. Neither subjectivity, nor “God’s mind" can be studied by “objective" science (1 Cor 2:11), this “setting-up" process is out of the reach of rigorous scientific description and prediction. Additionally, we have all heard of “providential" events which seemed to “work things out" for the good of the people involved (even though the process of achieving the results may not have been easy or pleasant, the end results are spiritually beneficial; c.f. Rom 8:28).

6. I am not saying here, that by “setting-up" brain events, the Holy Spirit “controls" our thoughts or behavior. What I mean will be made more clear throughout the following. We have already seen that God may “set-up" our social world. Similarly, God may “set-up" our biological world in ways that science cannot rigorously describe. For example, release of certain neurochemicals in the brain is a fairly well-described process. However, though science has the potential to be able to exhaustively describe the process, there is always the question of “ultimate origins" that science does not have the capacity to address. We can say what caused “A" to happen, which in turn caused the release of the neurochemical, but one is always pressed further back to ask “What caused ‘A’ in the first place?" One can ask this indefinitely, and eventually we arrive at a place where it no longer seems profitable (from a scientific standpoint) to continue describing causation. It is because of this necessary limitation that non-physical causation remains a possibility, especially if this causation is caused at the quantum level, which has an inherently random quality. 114