Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Don't Ask Your Brain, Ask Your Mind

This November 15, 2007 Scientific American news story, "Are You A Liar? Ask Your Brain," prompted me to re-address a related article from over a year ago in the journal Discover, which reported on the work of:
"researchers [who] wanted to see whether brain scans can even pick up a significant difference between brain activity during lying versus when telling the truth."
The new research claims that ...
The act of lying or suppressing the truth triggers activities in the brain that send blood to the prefrontal cortex (located just above the eye sockets), which controls several psychological processes, including the one that takes place when a person crafts a new rather than a known response to something. "Lying is an example of this type of executive response, because it involves withholding a truthful response," says Sean Spence, a professor of general adult psychiatry at the University of Sheffield in England. "When you know the answer to a question, the answer is automatic; but to avoid telling me the true answer requires something more."
My contention is that that connection can only be explained by the actual existence of a non-physical entity called your mind. That there is also activity registered in the physical brain does not entail a physical cause. Those activities may be correlated but, as we have discussed before, correlation does not equal causation. Though the claims all sound very technical, a cursory analysis of the facts brings up some fairly obvious questions (that haven't changed since the last time this subject came up) regarding the connection between abstract ideas like truth and the purely physical neuron activity in your brain.

First, one is compelled to ask the materialist scientist on what premise this research is based. After all, if the human mind is nothing but a complicated mass of meat which has come to be what it is through an irrational, physical process, why would they expect to detect any physical reaction to such an abstract idea as truth?There seems to be no reason why unguided evolutionary mutation would in any way connect physical reactions with abstract notions. Yet …
"the brain scans revealed unique areas that only lit up during lying. However, the researchers point out that there isn't one telltale spot in the brain that can automatically indicate a lie. "There really is no one lying center," Faro says. "There are multiple areas in the brain that activate because there are a lot of processes that have to take place."
Second, if evolutionary processes could explain a physical reaction to a moral standard of behavior, it would seem logical to assume that that reaction would be centralized to the specific area in which evolution had brought about the divergent speech pattern. There seems to be no reason that this would involve multiple areas of the brain – unless those areas were holistically connected in some way. This, however, is exactly what one would expect to find on the Christian worldview – that moral awareness resides in the soul so that breaching a moral boundary would effect the entire being of the person who did so.

Third, why would researchers care about such a thing? What would cause a scientist to have any notion of what lying is, unless that researcher was aware of an objective standard by which one determines right or wrong – a standard that cannot exist on the naturalistic worldview. The very fact that these scientists are compelled to study such a thing is evidence that objective morality is real and that its effects are inescapable.

Finally, and a little humorously, the research showed that …
"'In the group that lied there were two times the number of areas throughout the brain that showed activation compared with the group that was telling the truth,' Faro says. '‘That's because to lie, you have to actively suppress memories that are triggered by the question, which takes more effort than simply asserting the truth,' he says."

And that …
"One of the most important of these is that the brain has to work much harder to lie than to tell the truth."
On the naturalistic worldview, there is absolutely no explanation for these findings. The state of the human brain is just the way it is because of a chain of deterministic evolutionary events that brought it to its current form. On this view there is no right or wrong so there should be no impetus for the brain to have to "work harder" to achieve any one outcome rather than another. After all, no one outcome is in any way superior to another.

The only way to make sense of this research, or to understand why the research was even done in the first place, is to accept the fact that the human mind is more than just a clump of gray matter.

I am currently reading Beauregard and O'Leary's, The Spiritual Brain. When I finish I hope to be able to post some more insights from their research about the actual existence of the human mind and soul.

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