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For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well...Psalm 139

The Computer and the Brain

by John N. Johnson, Ph.D.
President of the Creation Association of Puget Sound


It is a difficult task to compare the computer with the brain, which is further compounded by the separation between the mind and the brain. We find that many scientists are convinced that the conscious mind has a separate existence (dualism) from the brain. The Bible makes a discrimination between feelings, the person, and conscious will; Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 - "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind."

First, I will discuss the uncertainties in science - how do we determine if something is true? What I will present about the vast capabilities of the brain many scientists find hard to believe because of their entrenched preconceptions. Much of science is influenced by presuppositions, so I will discuss the difference between facts, theories, and laws, and how do we know something is really true?

Brain as processor
......Dude, I'm gettin' a "Dale"?

Second, I believe that the evidence is compelling that each person's entire waking life (that is, picture, sound, taste, nerve feelings) is permanently stored as a stream of consciousness. When the brain is touched with electrodes, people will replay a scene from their past, in parallel with their present consciousness, complete with emotions, sound and feelings.

Third, I will describe how intelligence applies to robotics and how the android robot in science fiction is really an unrealistic dream. Real robots are effective only if they do exactly what they are asked to do.

Fourth, I will show we have been deceived into underestimating the potential of our brain. It has enormous storage potential and can be trained to have vast recall and associative power; in fact it works better the more you use it!

Fifth, I believe that most evidence indicates that man's thinking is totally unique from animals. Animal behavior is largely preprogrammed by their genes like a computer, whereas man is largely taught and has a "free will" to choose.

Let us consider these five points:

I. The only facts are observations, and even scientific laws are not necessarily true.

It is absurd for a committed evolutionist to insist that evolution is a "fact" simply because he insists that there is "no doubt about it." The problem is that blind faith in evolution has confused what is really science. True scientific theories must be testable in the present - the past is uncertain history.

The only things that can be facts are observations in the present, but even these are not necessarily true! In a court of law, eyewitness testimony is considered unreliable evidence. The problem is that an observer must interpret the observations by his limitations and presuppositions. For example, suppose that an eye witness to a crime claims that he saw the suspect in a brown sweater. If he is color-blind to red, then his testimony is worthless, but it nevertheless remains a fact that he saw a person in a brown sweater!

A theory is a conjecture that tries to explain the mechanism of a phenomena so as to make predictions. If it repeatedly makes successful predictions, then it becomes an "established theory" when the majority of professionals in that field accept it as valid. However, some experts may still hold to a very different theory or even reject them all.

For example, it is a fact that most people (but not all) that contract lung cancer are smokers, and it is an established theory that smoking increases the risk of getting lung cancer (but not everybody does). When a theory makes successful predictions for a long time, and almost all experts accept it as valid then a theory becomes known as a law, but that doesn't mean that it is necessarily true for all time.

For example, in the late 18th century 100% of the physicists believed in the law that matter could neither be created nor destroyed. Then in 1905 Einstein asserted in his theory of relativity that energy was interchangeable with mass, but few scientists believed him until he made accurate predictions. The last skeptics were finally convinced by the explosion of the atomic bomb!

Finally, how do we know something is true when scientists can't agree, like in the recently alleged cold fusion of hydrogen, and they keep changing their theories? Jesus accurately said in John 8:31 that "if you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine, and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." I claim that the truths in the Bible can benefit our science as well as our spirit!

II. Our consciousness is a continuous stream like a video tape permanently stored in our brain.

Dr. Wilder-Penfield was a pioneer brain surgeon who attempted to relieve the symptoms of epileptics. He stimulated the brain with probes to make sure that he was not removing a necessary part. The patient was conscious since the brain itself does not have pain sensors; our headaches are not brainaches!

In his report to the Smithsonian Penfield notes that "Your brain contains a permanent record of your past that is like a single continuous strip of movie film complete with sound track. The film library records your whole waking life from childhood on. You can live again the scenes from your past when a surgeon places a gentle electrical current and applies it to a certain point on the temporal cortex of your brain."

The report goes on to say that "as they relive the scenes from their past they feel exactly the same emotions they did in the original experience."

Penfield further notes in his book, The Mystery of the Mind [1] that the subjects report the past so vividly, it is like having two streams of consciousness simultaneously; your consciousness seems to reside in the upper brain stem. It directs the sorting out of the multitude of signals it is receiving. The past stream of consciousness can be stimulated by photos or faces.

A few years ago, I sat down with my dad and albums of old pictures, and I could sense that his visualization of the events were more than snapshots, but vividly real. I felt that surge of recall recently when singing at my college glee club reunion, and visited with people I hadn't seen (or thought much about) for 21 years. I felt that it was only yesterday that I was singing those beloved songs.

As you sit, try concentrating first on your shoes on your feet, now the taste in your mouth, now the pressure of your back against the chair, now direct your thoughts to some other sounds. All that information must be filtered out most of the time. Also, the body is able to sense the location of your limbs by muscle tension. Try touching your fingers with your eyes closed; then repeat it several times and you will improve your chances.

Interestingly, even people that have limbs amputated occasionally sense pain in their phantom limbs. The ear is capable of sorting out simultaneous sounds that we can't do electronically. If you tape record a lecture you will find it much more difficult to focus on the speaker's voice. If you have a friend with a hearing aid, ask him or her if they find it difficult to follow conversations when there are background noises like birds chirping.

III. The human brain has a computer-like part called the automaton which is all that a robot could ever be.

When I am driving down the road thinking deeply about something, occasionally I find that I have no recall of driving the last few miles, as if I were totally unconscious. This phenomena also occurs under brain disorders or sleepwalking where the individual appears to be awake but yet is not really conscious. Consciousness is the mind asserting control over the mindless automaton part of the brain.

To illustrate the difficulty of determining when someone is conscious, Penfield notes the strange case of Russian physicist Lev Landau who had been unconscious for six weeks after a auto accident by the time Penfield examined him. His limbs were paralyzed, and his eyes opened but apparently unseeing. They were contemplating a brain operation on Landau, and his wife was present. Penfield writes [1]

"as I stood silent, watching over her head I became aware of a startling change in the patient. He lay unmoving, still, as on the previous night. But his eyes, which had deviated from each other then were focused now in a normal manner. He seemed to be looking at her. He appeared to hear, and see, and to understand speech. How could this be? She came to the end of her explanation and was silent. His eyes then moved upward to focus quite normally on me. I moved my head from side to side. The eyes followed me. No doubt about it! Then they swung apart again and he appeared, as he had the night before, to be unconscious."

Based on these observations, Penfield recommended physical therapy instead of surgery, and Landau eventually recovered. In other instances Penfield notes that individuals such as epileptics can complete their tasks like a robot even though they have lost consciousness and become unaware of their surroundings.

A partial loss of consciousness occurs with amnesia, where individuals become unaware of their past or even who they are. People are sometimes are oblivious when they were drunk. In the PBS series on the mind, one brain-damaged man was convinced that he was always only meeting his own wife for the first time, but he could continue to play the piano or conduct.

We have been overly optimistic that someday we can someday build a computer as a human-like robot that could "understand" things, as if consciousness was simply a mechanical brain function.

To illustrate that this is not possible, let us imagine that you are locked in a room with only a rule book of strange Chinese characters (David Ritchie, The Binary Brain [2]). You only know that when someone slips a paper with some strange characters on it, you can quickly look up some other strange characters to associate with it and then respond back; in time you become very fast at it.

If the rule book is sufficiently complete, the Chinese person outside may be fooled into thinking that you are comprehending him, but this is clearly not true, since you have no idea of what those characters really mean. Really, you have no awareness or comprehension - just like the hypothetical robot.

If this were a robot like our artificial intelligence (AI) computers, it will be bound to a set of rules. It can never have free conscious will or allowed even random decisions without a real danger to its maker. It can never be happy or sad - or marvel at the colorful lilies in the field. It can never contemplate about its maker, the human. Even with massive redundancy, a little problem may cause it to lock up until its maker can reset it (I often have to do this with my computers.)

IV. The brain is limitless in its capacity and its capabilities are far superior to the supercomputer.

How superior is the human brain compared with our awesome supercomputers? We are staggered that a CRAY supercomputer can do 100 million multiplications in one second, more than we're likely to do in a lifetime! It can store a million words of information in fast memory and a billion words on disk drives.

Nevertheless, the brain is far superior in practical capabilities like running, skating, recognizing objects of voices, that are vastly too complex for our computers. Scientists had so much trouble with making a robot walk that we put six legs on it so it wouldn't topple over all the time. In fact the human brain is so well designed that we are attempting to model it in a field of computer design called neural networks.

The brain is estimated to contain some 15 billion neurons with up to a thousand interconnections each (Richard Restak, The Brain [3]).. It seems to be able to store trillions of bits of information, more information than the library of congress. It seems to be able to hold more information than we can possibly give it in a lifetime, let alone the vast information content contained in scenes from the past.

Ordinary people routinely memorize the Bible or the encyclopedia (Van Doren) if they set their will to do it. When China was about to be taken over by communism, God moved at least four preachers to memorize the Bible for when it would be taken away from them. Do you think it could happen to you?

Wycliff missionary Chet Bitterman was kidnapped in Columbia. However, he had memorized 1 Peter, and wrote that he found purpose in I Peter 3:15, "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account of the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence." The conductor Toscanini memorized 250 full orchestra scores and 100 operas. We take it for granted that this is beyond us, without realizing that memorization is an acquired skill. Incredibly, there are savants with low IQ's that are capable of paradoxical feats such as calculating cube roots (difficult with a four-function calculator) while being almost unaware of how they are doing it. For example, there is Leslie Lemke, who can play classical piano pieces by ear without any previous music instruction.

Furthermore, the more the brain is used the better it works! In other ways the brain is very much like a computer. It takes in information and outputs responses. If we are developing a skill - like playing the piano or shooting basketballs, we find that our improvements do not come primarily from thinking about the last time, but we improve by simply repeating an action over and over with a small input of conscious direction.

V. Animal intelligence is primarily controlled by complex instincts whereas human intelligence is primarily controlled by free will.

Many scientists mistakenly believe that animal intelligence is just a simplified form of human intelligence. However, animal behavior, which looks like intelligence, is largely driven by instinct as dictated by their genetic code.

Von Frisch found that bees which find nectar go through a complex waggle dance in a dark hive to communicate to the other bees the direction (relative to the sun) and distance of the food. How the other bees sense this in the dark has been partially deciphered; see Science News (May 20, 1989). There William Towne and Wolfgang Kirchner report that "bees probably detect shifting air particles with organs lying at the base of each antenna."

They say that the organs "respond best to air movement of 250 to 280 Hertz, which is exactly the frequency of the dance sounds!" The bees are never taught these dances, but an incredible amount of information is required to be genetically coded to be able to automatically perform this ritual. Clearly, if one bee does the dance but the other cannot sense it, the dance is worthless.

How could anyone believe that this could possibly evolve by chance? The apostle Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 4:4: "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

More spectacularly, the warbler bird migrates from Europe to Africa at a precisely coded time of year, and seems to navigate by recognizing star formations. E.G.F. Sauer demonstrated this by individually hand-raising warblers from eggs in a cage within a planetarium (Scientific American, August, 1958, p. 46). Sauer reported that:

"One very interesting puzzle is the fact that birds must somehow be able to make adjustments to astronomical evolution, for in the course of time the pattern of constellations in the sky is slowly but constantly changing.

Even more difficult to explain is the mystery of how the birds ever came to rely on celestial navigation in the first place. We know that warblers are not the only creatures possessing this gift. Other birds, insects, crabs and spiders have been found by experiment to be capable of guiding themselves by the sun or stars. But there are many other guidance mechanisms and signposts available on earth. What evolutionary process was it that endowed these animals with the highly sophisticated ability to read the stars?"

The answer is obvious - evolution can't work such miracles, not even in a trillion years. The information requirements are staggering. I submit that the overwhelming conclusion for the unbiased observer is that these features were recently created in the warblers within a hundred thousand years, since the star patterns are totally changed over that period of time.


Our brain contains our whole conscious life - even from when we were in the womb. We can frequently recall past events when something is triggered, such as by a photograph, or electronic stimulus. German computer genius Gerhard Dirks couldn't believe that God could hold us accountable for sin until he recognized that our brain holds those events permanently; then he could accept Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:36 "and I say to you, that every careless word that men speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment." Also we need to recognize the potential that God has given each one of us for Bible memorization. Psalm 119:11 says "I have hidden Thy word in my heart that I might not sin against Thee." The use of "heart" represents the feelings of the soul; it is not necessarily resident in the brain cortex. The "heart" is the caring part of feelings of a person that can never be explained by the Darwinian "struggle for survival." It need not be associated with either the heart or the brain, and indeed affects both.

Finally, we need to recognize the over-whelming evidence of God's creative hand, which are signs for us to believe in His plan and purpose for our lives. In Romans 1:20 we read: "For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse."

I hope that everyone here believes that God created the world by plan and purpose, and that it was not the result of capricious forces of time and chance. However it is also urgent that those who believe this would also personally know the Creator in the person of Jesus Christ.

In Colossians 1:16, Paul says about Jesus Christ that "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things and in Him all things hold together."

But one must not only believe in the Creator, but recognize that we have a sinful nature inherited from Adam's folly. There is abundant evidence of evil people in the world who have done vile acts. It was a lot harder for me to recognize my sins and accept Christ in 1980. I was an upright church member doing good works in my own strength, and baptized a Christian as an infant.

I recall John 1:12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name who were born not of blood nor the will of the flesh, not the will of man, but of God." I could never have anticipated the abundant joy and peace that comes from abiding in His word and following in His steps by living a new life as a disciple for Christ with Him as Lord.

See Also:Brain Power 1


[1] Penfield, Wilder, M.D., The Mystery of the Mind, A Critical Study of Consciousness and the Human Brain, Princeton University Press, 1975. (Penfield says he is from a Christian family, and seems to hold Christian values. This book is highly recommended.)

[2] Ritchie, The Binary Brain - Artificial Intelligence in the Age of Electronics, Little, Brown and Company, 1984. (Ritchie is a dogmatic evolutionist, but he has interesting information on computers and the brain between his dogmatic statements on evolution.)

[3] Restak, Richard, M.D., The Brain - the Last Frontier, Warner Books,- 1979 (Restak believes that evolution is a "well-established biological principle," but he is not religiously dogmatic. He is the author of the PBS video series on the brain.)

Public domain August 15, 1989; rev. Sep. 12, 2001 John Johnson Ph.D. 16204 S.E. 24th St., Bellevue, WA 98008;



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