Mind the Gaps

Ben posted a little about the conscious mind here and what makes it what it is. I’m not going to treat that subject here (there are libraries full of everything from theology to neuroscience on this topic), what I am going to treat is Ben’s comment about various acts of a conscious mind:

“The desire to call to mind a specific memory for no reason. The desire to ask a question out of the blue. The desire to desire. Such examples find no answer in biology; they do not evidence the patterning, causality, and predictability found universally within biological systems.”

It fits nicely with Cartesian duality here, doesn’t it? The body is biological, but the mind is different, it’s special. The reality is we still have a staggering amount to do to decode the human brain. The other reality is that we one day might. This whole topic reminds me of Pete Rollins (I know I already quoted him in, like, the last 24 hours) on Bonhoeffer:

“Interestingly, Bonhoeffer does not attack religion as such. However he reflects that in the 20th century (though he sees it beginning in the 17th century) religion has become possible for less and less people because it has been problematical. Not because it has changed but because human beings have entered into a different epoch (my words not his, he talks of “man come of age”). In this new historical situation a religious expression of Christianity places God at the edges of human life as the Deus ex machina. Why? Because religion, for Bonhoeffer, is the belief in a metaphysical absolute from which everything hangs (onto-theology), and as human knowledge increases the more things in our existence do not require this metaphysical explanation. Religion is now exposed as advocating a God of the gaps. In addition to this the God of religion is only for those who feel a need to ask the metaphysical question, “Why”, and in a ‘world come of age”, this question is asked by fewer and fewer (a Nietzschian point par exellence).”

As human knowledge increases, I have no reason to doubt that the gaps in question will become rather narrower. Every time we latch on to some mystery in the natural world and say “Aha! This is a proof!” we risk being shown up as simply jumping the gun. Ben may be correct in asserting that there is currently no biological explanation for every aspect of consciousness, but that does not preclude a future explanation.