The question of how the brain produces the feeling of subjective experience, the so-called ‘hard problem’, is a conundrum so intractable that one scientist I know refuses even to discuss it at the dinner table. Another, the British psychologist Stuart Sutherland, declared in 1989 that ‘nothing worth reading has been written on it’. For long periods, it is as if science gives up on the subject in disgust.
Read the rest of this fascinating article here, where a secular science writer explains how science can’t figure out why humans and animals have consciousness. He reviews the scientific and philosophical literature before concluding that there’s still no answer.
There may never be, if we constrain ourselves to the measurable and observable. There are many theories, some of which are ridiculous or self-defeating. Others are more firmly grounded in science, using advanced imaging equipment to measure brain waves and the like. But that still doesn’t explain the difference between us and a computer, which also displays measurable electric signals when it performs calculations, but has no consciousness.
The writer above deserves credit for being honest about science’s failure in this area. He’s not blinded by pride like so many others. He admits that even the most advanced “explanations” for consciousness are often just word games. I love this quote:
Saying we understand consciousness because this is what it does is like saying we understand how the Starship Enterprise flies between the stars because we know it has a warp drive. We are writing labels, not answers.
For Christians, the answer is quite direct: there is such a thing as a soul in both humans and animals. It’s the life-giving principle that turns a bunch of tissue into a living being. Human souls are immortal, while those of animals aren’t.
You could stitch together all the body parts of a dog, freshly amputated so that all the tissue is still alive; you could use a pump to move it’s blood around; warm it’s body to just the right temperature, etc. but it still won’t be any more alive than a door nail. You won’t get it to wag it’s tale and eagerly seek it’s master’s attention. That’s because life is more than body parts.
While the details of how body and soul interact hasn’t been revealed to us, we know that the soul seamlessly interfaces with the body, in such a way that acts of consciousness will also produce brain waves in a living creature.
The writer above concedes that the existence of a soul would resolve the conundrum of consciousness, but science doesn’t like that answer because it can’t be proven in a lab.
Note that the soul can act independently of the body. There have cases of out of body experiences where the person was “brain dead”, ie no brain waves were recordable. Yet the person can accurately recount events that occurred in the hospital room and in adjacent rooms because the soul was conscious. That blows away any scientific theory.