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A Legal Proof for the Existence of God (Part XI-A): Addressing some contemporary issues between science, philosophy and religion

This article addresses some contemporary issues between science, philosophy and religion, and more specifically, issues of right and wrong, or in the more spiced-up version, good and evil; human consciousness; the body/mind and mind/soul debates; the nature of knowledge (epistemology); free will versus determinism; and an initial consideration of the question of God.

But I want to start with a statement from a prominent physicist, which puts the issues in perspective.

In his book The First Three Minutes, Steven Weinberg said that “the more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless” (Weinberg, The First Three Minutes 1977, 154). He clarified that remark in Dreams of a Final Theory, by saying that what he really meant is “that the universe itself suggests no point.” However, he went on to insist that human beings could still “invent a point” to their own lives, “including trying to understand the universe” (Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory 1994, 255).

It is a rather curious suggestion that we can find some purpose to life by dedicating our lives to proving that there is no purpose to life, especially since most people have neither the intellectual aptitude to undertake such an endeavor, nor the appetite. But the sentiment that science has already ‘proved’ there is no point to life, and therefore no God, has taken root in the public consciousness. That perception has led to a mentality that the pursuit of pleasure is the highest ‘virtue’, and vanity the greatest ‘happiness’. It has given us the hedonistic ‘culture’ of the ‘modern’ world.

This article will challenge that misconception by addressing those contemporary issues in the debate (or what some more optimistically describe as a dialogue) between science, philosophy and religion. However, it will show that we don’t need to venture into the mystical to explain these issues. The physical (neurological) structure of the brain adequately accounts for them. So that is where I’ll start.

What follows is based on the evidence and arguments that have been advanced in previous articles in the series, and in my latest book, A ‘Final Theory’ of God. However, for those unfamiliar with the articles and book, a short summary is provided in Part XI-B of this article.

The Brain

Scientific evidence increasingly supports the proposition that the brain has three distinct but interrelated neurological faculties – instincts, reason and morality. It is the interaction of these faculties that gives rise to the phenomena that currently defy scientific, philosophical and religious consensus.

The instincts faculty comprises a number of neurological networks that give us the instinct to reproduce; the instinct to nurture and protect our offspring as a means of perpetuating the species and our own genetic lineage; the instincts for survival and security as a means to enhance the prospects of perpetuating the species and our genetic lineage; the instinct to subdue and control our environment (including, regrettably, others of our own species) in order to eliminate or reduce any threats to our survival and security; and the instinct to acquire knowledge of how our environment, and indeed we as human beings, function, so as to more effectively subdue and exercise control over our environment. This latter instinct accounts for the quest for scientific knowledge.

Instincts are activated by the prospect of the pleasure to be had by indulging them, or the fear aroused by perceived threats – that is, they are activated by the prospect of pleasure and the fear of pain, and the experience of pleasure and pain are the ‘by-products’ of the realization of our instincts.

The morality faculty comprises a neurological moral network that acts as a restraint and counterbalance against the instinct networks. It compels us to recognize that certain indulgences of our instincts are wrong, and that other actions, even if apparently contrary to our instincts, are right, or good. The neurological moral network speaks to us of moral imperatives as fundamental obligations. It drives the human quest for justice, and finds expression in the search for a Supreme Law and a Supreme Lawmaker.

The reason faculty comprises a neurological network that is entirely neutral, and thus morally ambivalent. It mediates between the competing demands of the instinct and morality networks, and is free to choose which to serve. When in service to instincts, it is also adept at justifying its choices so as to evade responsibility for the consequences of its actions.

The Evidence

That the brain has a neurological moral network is now widely accepted by neuroscientists. In 2009, Dr Mendez reviewed all the neurological research up to that point, and concluded that “humans have an innate moral sense based in a neuromoral network centered in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and its connections” (Mendez 2009). Subsequent research has reinforced that conclusion (see Yoder and Decety 2014 and Heinrichs, Oser and Lovat 2013).

The research also confirms that actions not moderated by the neurological moral network, and thus based on the instinct networks, are what we call psychopathic. That is because instincts are amoral, so the application of a morally ambivalent capacity to reason in order to service amoral instincts cannot produce moral outcomes, although it can imitate them (Stockley 2011-2012). A 2015 study defined psychopathy as “a personality disorder associated with a constellation of traits including a lack of guilt and empathy, narcissism, superficial charm, dishonesty, reckless risk-taking and impulsive antisocial behaviour” (K. J. Yoder 2015). All these characteristics are indicative of reason in the service of primitive instincts. That is confirmed by Yoder’s study, which concluded that “hemodynamic activity and neural coupling within the salience network are disrupted in psychopathy, and that the effects of psychopathy on moral evaluation are influenced by attentional demands.

Research also shows that utilitarian arguments for ‘morality’ are a consequence of reason in the service of instinct, and thus psychopathic. A 2012 study found that participants who showed “greater endorsement of utilitarian solutions had higher scores on measures of Psychopathy, machiavellianism, and life meaninglessness” (Bartels DM 2011). Another study confirms that reason is a morally ambivalent faculty which can justify behavior that the neurological moral network tells us is wrong. In this particular study, arguments were put forward to justify incestuous behavior between consenting adult siblings. The study demonstrated that a persuasive argument justified the behavior “when increased deliberation time encouraged subjects to reflect” (Paxton, Ungar and Greene 2012).

Research has also concluded that “empathy may not be necessary for judging moral actions as right or wrong” (Will and Klapwijk 2014). That empathy is not a factor, or at least a driving factor, in moral judgment, confirms that the neurological moral network speaks of moral imperatives as fundamental principles, and are not a consequence of ‘reasoning’ about how we may ‘feel’ about certain actions and behavior.

As Mendez notes, “most moral judgments are rapid, involuntary, and intuitive; whereas, deliberate rational reasoning is often post hoc rationalization for judgments which have already occurred” (Mendez 2009).

The studies to date demonstrate that the reason network “mediates” between the demands of the instinct networks and the neurological moral network (see Kelly, et al. 2008 and Menon and Uddin 2010). However, research also shows that the “morality network can be over-ridden by DLPFC-mediated reasoning processes, resulting in utilitarianism, ie, the greatest good for the greatest many” (Mendez 2009). But as already noted, utilitarian ‘judgment’ is based on instinct, and thus psychopathic, rather than moral.

On the content of the neurological moral network, I should refer again to Mendez, who notes that the “neuromoral network works through moral emotions and moral drives, such as the avoidance of harm to others and the need for fairness and punishment of violators” (Mendez 2009). This points to freedom as the basis of the neurological moral network, which makes freedom the fundamental principle of morality and justice. The evidence for that will be adduced in Part XII.

On a final note, Will and Klapwijk make an important observation on how the brain makes the choice between serving morality or instinct. They note that although “neuroscience has increased our understanding of the contributions of neural systems involved in emotion and cognition to judgments of right and wrong, it is time to further investigate how activation in these systems can influence why some people decide to act on a moral judgment and others do not” (Will and Klapwijk 2014).

That is something I shall now consider by addressing those issues between science, philosophy and religion that still defy consensus.

In order to do so, however, we need to establish how these neurological faculties came to be in the brain.

Origin of the neurological faculties of the human brain

The evidence is fairly conclusive that these neurological faculties are the natural, physical consequence on the laws of physics. In science, this is called reductionism.

Weinberg says that physicists “believe that atoms behave the way they do in chemical reactions because the physical principles that govern the electrons and electric forces inside atoms leave no freedom for the atoms to behave in any other way” (Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory 1994, 9-10). And he goes even further by stating that physicists study fundamental particles like quarks and electrons not only because all matter is made up of such particles, but that by studying them they hope to discover “something about the principles that govern everything” (Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory 1994, 61).

Martin Rees makes the same point when he says that “Mathematical laws underpin the fabric of our universe – not just atoms, but galaxies, stars and people” (Rees 2000, 1).

Weinberg insists that although the properties of molecules and DNA create life, they are only able to do so because of the “properties of electrons and atomic nuclei and electric forces” of which molecules and DNA are composed (Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory 1994, 57-58).

What seems to be important, according to the physicists, is that the properties, or laws, that govern sub-atomic particles determine how they can combine with other sub-atomic particles which, in turn, create ‘structures’ dependent on the properties of their constituent sub-atomic particles, yet having their own distinct ‘identities’, so to speak. These combined sub-atomic particles we call atoms, and atoms, although dictated in their ‘behavior’ by their constituent sub-atomic particles, have properties unique to themselves. The uniqueness of certain atoms in turn ‘permits’ them to interact with other atoms to ‘create’ more complex structures such as molecules. But we must constantly keep in mind that although these more complex structures appear to have their very own and very unique properties, they are still the product of the properties of the sub-atomic particles of which they are composed, and the properties of these more complex structures are an extension of the fundamental properties that govern their constituent parts, that is, their sub-atomic particles.

That is what Weinberg means when he says that by studying sub-atomic particles we may be able to discover “something about the principles that govern everything.

Recent evidence supports that position.

  • On 8th August 2011, it was reported that “NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space”(NASA Researchers: DNA Building Blocks Can Be Made in Space 2011).
  • On October 27, 2011, Science Daily reported the results of research by Professor Sun Kwok and Dr. Yong Zhang of the University of Hong Kong: “Astronomers report in the journal Nature that organic compounds of unexpected complexity exist throughout the Universe. The results suggest that complex organic compounds are not the sole domain of life, but can be made naturally by stars … in extremely short timescales of weeks. Not only are stars producing this complex organic matter, they are also ejecting it into the general interstellar space, the region between stars” (Kwok and Zhang 2011).
  • In 2013, Jeremy England of MIT published a theory which proposed that entropy (the second law of thermodynamics) appeared to arrange particles and atoms in such a way that the creation of life is inevitable under certain conditions, and not a question of luck(England 2013). England suggested that this process is the basis of reproduction. If the theory is correct, it will provide evidence that the instinct to reproduce is a product of the fundamental laws of physics which are ‘imprinted’ into the human brain. But it will also provide evidence that all the instinct networks are likewise a consequence of the physical laws that determine how the universe functions, and indeed a neurological image of those fundamental laws.
  • Dr Kelly Smith, a physicist and philosopher, has also suggested that the laws of physics may naturally produce organisms with a capacity for moral judgment(Smith 2015).

Philosophy has its own version of this physical-based explanation of the human brain; it’s called reductive physicalism, although mostly replaced today with supervenience. For a summary of the philosophical account, see (Stoljar 2015).

The incredible abilities of the savants is compelling evidence that the human brain is ‘programmed’ with the raw mathematical data of the fundamental laws that govern the universe (see Part X). In his book Islands of Genius, Treffert notes that savants show that we can “know things we never learned.” Even babies have inbuilt data giving them “specialized innate abilities” (Treffert 2012, 55-57). This ‘knowledge’ cannot come from experience, because savants who are born with the condition mostly exhibit these extraordinary abilities at an early age, long before they could have had the opportunity to ‘learn’ them (Treffert 2012, 12).

Regarding the neurological moral network, the San people of southern Africa are compelling evidence that it was the neurological moral network itself that created the first of what we would recognize as a human brain (see Parts VIII and IX). The recent discovery of Naledi man in South Africa may well be the remains of these first human beings with fully functioning neurological moral networks. As Lee Berger, the head of the team that discovered Naledi man said, the fact that they buried their dead indicates “that naledi individuals recognised their own mortality and the other self that comes with death” (Barras 2015).

The reductionist explanation of the origin of the structure of the human brain is, therefore, supported by compelling evidence. It shows not only that the human organism, including the neurological structure of the human brain, is in every respect a manifestation of the fundamental laws that govern the universe, but also that those laws are ‘programmed’ into the brain in mathematical form as neurological networks. And the fact that one of those networks is moral tells us that there is a moral dimension to the fundamental laws of physics, both the quantum and Classical laws.

Weinberg’s reductionist argument is itself evidence of the moral dimension of the laws of physics. If the human organism is an inevitable consequence of the fundamental laws of physics when matter encounters certain conditions, and that manifestation of those laws is a conscious human being with the capacity for moral judgment, then the laws that govern the universe must likewise possess those properties. In other words, if the human brain is a “self-aware mathematical sub-structure” of the universe, and a miniature replica of the mathematical superstructure of the universe, then the universe itself must necessarily be a conscious, moral structure (reference to ‘self-aware mathematical substructure’ is from Tegmark 2014, 323)

If that is the case, the dilemma of how the “fundamental laws of quantum physics morph into the Classical (Newtonian) laws” would be resolved (Greene 2005, 199 and Weinberg, Dreams of a Final Theory 1994, 84). The observation necessary to effect the transformation is made by a conscious universe with a moral dimension. But that doesn’t account for how the original matter, subject to quantum laws, tranformed into a universe subject to laws that create consciousness. That is something I shall deal with in the final article.

I shall now consider how the interaction of the three neurological networks, and in particular the competing demands of the moral and instinct networks on the otherwise neutral faculty of reason, relates to those unresolved issues between science, philosophy and religion.

Right and Wrong; Good and Evil

Actions (and thoughts) we call wrong, or evil, are a consequence of reason in the service of human instinct, while actions we recognize as right, or good, are a consequence of reason in service of the neurological moral network.

However, since instincts are necessary for our survival, just as they are in animals, instincts are not in themselves ‘evil’; they only attract reprobation when they become the deliberate objective of our actions. That being so, if there is such a thing as God, then He does not in fact ‘create’ evil. Evil is a consequence of our own decisions.

When the neurological moral network is active, but subconscious, human beings act on its moral impulses without question, and adapt their behavior accordingly. The San people of southern Africa are evidence of that (or at least those who have not yet been ‘civilized’). They are the direct descendants of the ancestors of the whole human race (Choi 2012). They simply ‘know’ what is right and wrong, so they do not indulge their instincts with the primary purpose of maximizing pleasure, nor do they excessively respond to the fears aroused by their instincts. They do not fence-off land to provide for greater security; they do not build castles to protect themselves from their fellow human beings; they do not subdue others of the species as a means of enhancing their security, or to allay the fear of threats to their survival; they do not need courts of law to tell them what is right and wrong, because they know what is right and wrong, and they know that such systems of law would simply be a justification for violating the universal law that applies everywhere and to everyone. War and conflict are alien to them, as is deceit, deception and dishonesty.

However, the neurological moral network was consciously activated when a number of these first humans committed some act that offended against it. That would have happened when they succumbed to the temptations of the pleasures to be had by indulging in actions the neurological moral network told them were wrong, or undertook actions to allay the fears aroused by their instincts which offended against their morality networks.

The evidence shows that the branch of those first human beings who did succumb to the pleasures and fears aroused by their instincts, consciously activated their own neurological moral networks, and those of their descendants. That suggests that offending against the neurological moral network caused a genetic change to the DNA of that branch of the species, and it was not a positive one.

It led to what we call today ‘civilized’ human beings. Activation of the morality network caused these human beings to relentlessly toil to enhance their security and allay fears for their survival. It led to conflict, war, crime, exploitation of resources to excess, even at the expense of the ability of others of the species to have access to those resources for their own survival, and it gave rise to institutions as mechanisms for one person or group of people to impose their authority on others. Institutions also cater to the instinct for security that is fired by the fear of insecurity. Being part of an institution appeals to the ‘herd’ instinct in human beings, because it provides a sense of security and ‘identity’.

Once those first of the species that would become ‘civilized’ human beings had activated their neurological moral networks, the genie was out the bottle. Thereafter, great effort would be required to model behavior on the demands of the neurological moral network. But there have always been those human beings who had stronger conscious impulses from their morality networks, and they have always sought to encourage and persuade others to forsake servicing their instincts, and make the effort to listen to the demands of their morality networks. That gave rise to religion and philosophy, and more importantly, the human quest for justice. But despite the intentions of the originators of these efforts, the ‘movements’ that their teachings inspired were corrupted by those in bondage to their primitive instincts, because they recognized that these ‘movements’ could be exploited to their own advantage as vehicles to subvert others to their authority and control.

There can be no doubt, therefore, that the so-called ‘modern’, or ‘civilized’ world, is a consequence of human beings in bondage to their primitive instincts, not in service to their morality networks. And that is leading us inexorably towards our own destruction.

To see what a world would look like if we were all in service to the demands of our morality networks, we need look no further than the San people. They automatically comply with the demands of their morality networks, and so live in harmony with the universal law, and thus in harmony with each other and their environment.

Human Consciousness

Artificial intelligence (a robot) was first shown to have acquired a degree of self-awareness in 2015. The process by which it was created was a variation of the “wise men” logic puzzle (MacDonald 2015). Essentially, self-awareness is a consequence of one part of an integrated structure having to evaluate competing demands from other parts of the same structure, and make a decision on how to resolve the dilemma. The ‘degree’ of consciousness depends on the extent and type of data that the ‘decision’ part of the structure has to evaluate.

Animals have more limited instincts than human beings, and an ability to reason limited to servicing those instincts. To what extent animals have some neurological network that relates to morality is unclear, but any such network in animals is clearly not to the same level of sophistication as humans. Animal consciousness is limited to the task of servicing primitive instincts. It should be noted, however, that humans share many of the same instincts with animals, notably the instincts to reproduce, and to protect and nurture their young, the instinct for survival, and a limited instinct to provide for their security.

So consciousness in animals is a consequence of the limited choices their limited capacity for reason has to resolve in order to most effectively cater to the demands of their instincts, like the most effective method for securing food and water.

In humans, however, the activation (even subconsciously) of the neurological moral network presents reason with a choice between the conflicting demands from the neurological moral network and instinct networks. This challenge compels reason to recognize that certain actions, thoughts and behavior are wrong, irrespective of whether there is a declared law that prohibits them, or whether there will be a consequence (in this life) for indulging them. The realization that certain actions are wrong, irrespective of the prospect of punishment in this life for a transgression, compels reason to recognize the possibility that the consequence may be visited upon us after death. The prospect of an after-life thus causes a consciousness of our own mortality, and thus a consciousness of our own existence. Berger’s comments on Naledi man burying their dead is evidence of that (Barras 2015).

However, it is also clear that those who have no connection to their neurological moral networks are also conscious. But their consciousness is of a different complexion to consciousness that is based on the morality network. It derives from their primitive instincts, which accounts for the characteristics they exhibit, such as “lack of guilt and empathy, narcissism, superficial charm, dishonesty, reckless risk-taking and impulsive antisocial behaviour” (K. J. Yoder 2015). More importantly, however, the fact that they are wholly or partially disconnected from their morality networks means that they are incapable of recognizing that right and wrong are not concepts of human invention, but universal concepts that exist independently of human existence, just like the laws of physics. That is why such people have difficulty recognizing that there could be a God, except in so far as they see such belief as something to be employed to their own advantage.

The question then is, does consciousness exist independently of the physical structure of the brain, or is it simply a chemical process in the brain? In other words, when the chemical processes in the brain cease, does human consciousness cease as well?

That leads to the mind/body and mind/soul debates.

The Mind/Body Debate

The first point to make here is that when I refer to ‘body,’ I mean the physical brain as the ‘control center’ of the integrated system that is the human organism.

The brain is composed of these three distinct but interrelated faculties. The reason faculty is neutral. Consciousness is a consequence of the reason network being compelled to ‘mediate’ between competing demands either from the instinct networks themselves (as in animals, and those disconnected from their morality networks), or from the instinct and morality networks (in those who have some connection with their neurological moral networks).

These competing demands create a ‘polarity’ in the reason network, which creates an electromagnetic structure that is ‘independent’ of the reason network itself, just as any other electromagnetic field is ‘independent’ of the physical materials that create it. Most of us will recall the experiments done in school when iron filings placed on a piece of paper over a magnet are arranged in the shape of the magnetic field of the magnet. We could then ‘interfere’ with the pattern of that field by introducing an electrical current at one end of the magnet which changed the pattern of the iron filings by concentrating them on the other side of the magnet.

We have known about electromagnetic fields even since James Clerk Maxwell discovered the relationship between magnetic and electric fields in the 1860s (Maxwell 1865). Amongst many other things, electromagnetic fields give us light, both natural and artificial. We know that artificial light is created when a negative current and a positive current are applied to a lightbulb. Until the current is switched on, the light bulb is ‘neutral’. But once the switch is thrown, the bulb fills the room with light. But the bulb itself is not the light, it is simply the device through which the light is created.

The reason network is like the bulb, the neurological networks within the brain are like the negative and positive currents that feed it, and the mind is like the light.

That would mean that the mind is something independent of the reason network in the brain, but structured on it. Consciousness must reside in this independent structure that we call the mind, not in the physical (chemical) processes in the brain itself. But if that were the case, why can we not detect or measure it in some way, for example in fMRI scans.

Well, there are several possibilities. First, there is the ‘mathematical reality’ theory proposed by the physicist Max Tegmark. In his Mathematical Universe Hypothesis (MUH), Tegmark argues that “mathematical structure is our external reality, rather than being merely a description of it. This equivalence between physical and mathematical existence means that if a mathematical structure contains a self-aware substructure, it will perceive itself as existing in a physically real universe, just as you and I do” (Tegmark 2014, 323). Even if Tegmark is wrong about the universe itself being a purely mathematical structure, the concept may be an explanation for the mind. The mind would thus be a “self-aware (mathematical) substructure” that is modelled on the reason network, but independent of it, just like the light and bulb example.

An alternative, but perhaps related explanation, may be found in dark matter. Considering that the matter we know something about constitutes only some 5% of the universe, and dark matter some 27% (CERN n.d.), it may well be that the mind is composed of dark matter that is structured on the reason network. Although we know virtually nothing about dark matter, other than it must be there, CERN notes that “one idea is that it could contain “supersymmetric particles” – hypothesized particles that are partners to those already known in the Standard Model (ie, ordinary matter like electrons).

If some of these theories are proved correct, then it would be entirely plausible that the mind is a model of the structure of the reason network, and composed of partner particles. That would also explain why we cannot physically detect the mind. As CERN notes, theories suggest that particles of dark matter may be so light that they would even be undetectable by the particle detectors of the Large Hadron Collider. The only reason they would know that they had discovered particles of dark matter, says CERN, is that the particles “would carry away energy and momentum, so physicists could infer their existence from the amount of energy and momentum ‘missing’ after a collision. Dark matter candidates arise frequently in theories … such as supersymmetry and extra dimensions. One theory suggests the existence of a ‘Hidden Valley’, a parallel world made of dark matter having very little in common with matter we know.

So it seems most likely that the mind is a structure independent of the brain, but modelled on the reason network, whose structure, in turn, depends on whether it is in service to the instinct networks, or the neurological moral network.

It is the mind, therefore, that makes ‘decisions’, because it is conscious, and the reason network that ‘implements’ the decisions. The neurological phenomenon of insight confirms that, because it functions when reason is ‘muted’ (Stockley 2011-2012), which means that the decision made on the basis of insight must be taken elsewhere than in the reason network.

The Mind/Soul Debate

What this suggests is that if there is such a thing as a soul, it is in fact a description of what happens to the mind after physical death.

The ultimate ‘destiny’ of the mind will depend on whether the reason network on which it is structured is modelled on the neurological moral network, or on the servicing of the instinct networks. There are two alternative possibilities: one is that the mind survives physical death only if its structure is modelled on the neurological moral network, and if not, it dissipates after physical death because its structure is not sufficiently cohesive to exist independently of the brain; the other is that the mind survives, irrespective of whether it is modelled on the neurological moral network or on servicing the instinct networks, but that the ‘destiny’ of each is different.

If structured on serving the instinct networks, the mind may still survive physical death, but will be subject to the frustrations of still having powerful motivations to service those instincts after death, but without any physical body to indulge them.

If structured on the morality network, however, it will have detached itself from the need to satisfy physical appetites, so that after physical death it can integrate itself with the consciousness of the universe, or exist in some other dimension, or beyond. Most religions, whether more or less distinctly, focus on such a ‘detaching’ of the mind from instincts if it is to survive physical death.

The prospect of the mind surviving physical death has been around since human beings first became conscious of their own mortality. As we have already seen, the neurological moral network is the cause of that perception. It compels the mind to recognize that there must be a consequence for actions that are wrong, and if that consequence is not imposed in life, then it can only be imposed after death. And for that to occur, we must survive in some form after physical death.

That perception is what drives the human quest for justice. One philosopher who addresses the justice aspect as an explanation for God and an after-life is Professor Evan Fales of The University of Iowa.

In his essay Despair, Optimism and Rebellion, Fales suggests that Christian soteriology is a consequence of our “deep passion for justice” which requires injustices to be rectified if life is to have objective meaning (Fales 2007). He suggests, but does “not argue,” that there are two reasons for this:

One is that justice is so fundamental to our conception of morality and of human well-being that a human existence in which the demands of justice are irredeemably unsatisfied appears to be a fundamentally defective, poor kind of existence. The other is that we think of justice as an objective demand, a demand that transcends the self-serving interests of partisans. Hence, we are satisfied with nothing less than that the universe be ordered in such a way that the principles of justice are woven into its very fabric.

Fales cites Segal’s Life After Death (Segal 2004) as confirmation that justice was “a primary motivation” of the ante-Nicene Fathers for “the idea of a disembodied post-mortem existence of the soul …” He identifies the human demand for justice as an objective moral (naturalist) human condition, but argues that this does not pre-suppose a supreme being:

If it were true that human beings were designed by a supreme being to have by nature certain ends, then it would be true that, in giving us those ends, God would indirectly have determined the principles of action that properly guide human social behaviour. However, it would remain the case that the basis of morality is to be found in facts about human nature. It is a genetic fallacy of sorts to suppose that objective moral truths cannot be justified except by appeal to a divine will, even if the ultimate cause of the relevant natural facts is such a will.

The problem with this argument is that Fales pre-judges what the “facts about human nature” may tell us about the principles of morality.

The neuroscience shows that the natural human condition is what is ‘programmed’ into the human brain as neurological networks, one of which is a morality network that speaks to us of a Supreme Law and a Supreme Lawmaker. That is what drives the human quest for justice (Yoder and Decety 2014).

However, precisely such ‘disagreements’ as to what these generally agreed natural or neurological conditions mean, can in fact be a basis for reconciliation and accommodation between science, philosophy and religion, as well as inter-religiously. That is because each could agree that the neuroscience confirms that certain fundamental moral principles are ‘programmed’ into the brain as a neurological moral network, and that they should form the basis for any system of justice. Any differences about how the brain came to be ‘programmed’ with such a network would not then constitute a barrier to agreement as to what moral principles should underpin such a system of justice. In other words, whether the principles were ascribed to a God, to natural forces, evolution, or otherwise, agreement as to the core principles and how they should be implemented here on Earth would attract general consensus.

That would at least constitute progress for the human race as a whole towards a more just and equitable world.

Knowledge

The evidence demonstrates that the principles (laws) that created and sustain the universe are ‘programmed’ into the human brain in mathematical form, which creates the instinct, morality and reason networks.

The instinct and morality networks process data from the senses and ‘feed’ it to the reason network in the form of words, images and concepts. The reason network then evaluates the data, formulates judgments as to what it means, then presents recommended responses to the mind for a decision.

The outcome of this process produces what we call ‘knowledge’. However, the pursuit of purely physical (scientific) knowledge is a human instinct, whilst pursuit of an understanding of the moral dimension of the physical laws is a response to the ‘voice’ of the neurological moral network.

‘Knowledge’ is thus both external and internal. External in the sense that the brain processes data from the outside world which is fed to it by the senses, and internal in the sense that the brain can access the mathematical laws that determine how it was created because they are ‘programmed’ into the brain itself. That is the point Einstein made when he said, “I am convinced that we can discover by means of purely mathematical construction the concepts and the laws … which furnish the key to the understanding of natural phenomena. Experience may suggest the appropriate mathematical concepts, but they most certainly cannot be deduced from it [experience] … In a certain sense, therefore, I hold it true that pure thought can grasp reality, as the ancients dreamed” (Einstein 1954, 274).

Free-will versus Determinism

The mind is ‘free’ to choose between servicing the demands of the instinct networks, or the demands of the neurological moral network.

The neurological networks themselves are entirely the product of the fundamental principles of the laws of physics, and as such entirely deterministic. How those networks process data through the senses is likewise deterministic. However, the decisions made by the mind as to how to respond to the data and options presented to it is not deterministic. The mind is free to choose how to respond, and that choice determines whether the decision is moral or not.

The choice is deterministic only to the extent that the reason network has been conditioned and accustomed to respond to such demands by its environmental circumstances, such as education, culture, upbringing, form of government and law, religion, and so on.

But even if the reason network, and thus the mind, has been accustomed to predominantly or wholly service the instinct networks, it still remains free to re-focus its attention to service the morality network. One way that can be done is through meditation (Simon-Thomas 2012). The other is through religious constructs such as repentance, or being ‘born again’ (see Part B). Another phenomenon relates to insight, in which the mind suddenly, and often inexplicably, ‘sees the light’ and rejects the demands of the instinct networks to follow the ‘voice’ of the morality network. The apostle Paul seeing the light on the road to Damascus is such an example, as is Asoka.

However, the best way to ensure that human beings act on the basis of the impulses we receive from the morality network, rather than the demands of the instinct networks, is to teach them how to do so from an early age. That is because research shows that the neurological moral network is activated at an early age, so nurturing it in a child’s early years is fundamental to a child’s moral development – discourage behavior based on instinct, and encourage moral behavior (Winston 2015).

Recognition of a Supreme Law and a Supreme Lawmaker

As we have seen, the neurological moral network compels reason to recognize that there must be a consequence for actions that are wrong, and if that consequence is not imposed in life, then it can only be imposed after death. That causes a recognition that we must ‘survive’ in some form after physical death, at which time ‘perfect justice’ will be dispensed by a Supreme Lawmaker applying the principles of a Supreme Law.

It is this consequence of the interaction between the neurological networks of instinct and morality that points to freedom being the fundamental principle of morality and justice.

The mind can only recognize as objectively right and wrong, or good and evil, that which comes from the neurological moral network. That means that it cannot recognize the authority of other human beings as a source of right and wrong. And it cannot recognize as justice an authority imposed on it by other human beings.

We could thus state the principle of freedom as follows: No one person, group of people, or institution, however constituted, has any authority, natural or otherwise, over any other human being (see Part I).

That being the case, then the following propositions must follow:

  1. Freedom cannot recognize as law the commands and doctrines of other human beings;
  2. Freedom and law can only coexist under the auspices of a Supreme Law and a Supreme Lawmaker as a legitimate basis for justice.

As already mentioned, Part XII will deal with the evidence of the Principle of Freedom in more detail. But for now, we can deduce that these propositions suggest a Supreme Law that is ‘imprinted’ into the human brain as a neurological moral network, and that Law speaks to us of a Supreme Lawmaker.

Insight

As was demonstrated in Part X of this series, there is also a further neurological phenomenon that enables the mind to ‘bypass’ reason, so to speak, and gain direct access to the mathematical principles that make up the instinct and moral networks; that is the phenomenon of insight.

This is the phenomenon behind revelation, prophecy, religion in general, and some of the greatest scientific discoveries. Because this phenomenon is most common when reason is muted, it often occurs unexpectedly and inexplicably, giving the impression that it is of external origin, and thus mystical. However, on a theological level, if there is a God, and He did at times intervene in human affairs, it seems likely that it would be through the vehicle of such a neurological phenomenon, much like the adverts that pop up on computers in order to influence what we purchase. Unfortunately, insight can occur in support of primitive instinct as well, producing the more destructive ‘talents’ of military conquest, and exploitation of other human beings and the resources of the earth, even to our own detriment.

Conclusion

So we can conclude that Weinberg’s evaluation that the universe suggests no point to human existence, or indeed its own existence, is not borne out by the evidence. On the contrary, Weinberg’s reductionist theory of the universe and life means that conscious human beings with a capacity for moral judgment are the highest manifestation of the fundamental laws of physics, and indeed an ‘image’ of those fundamental laws. However, the human quest for justice reveals a moral dimension to those laws, which finds expression in the recognition of a Supreme Lawmaker as the author of the Supreme Law.

Furthermore, as already noted above, if conscious human beings with a capacity for moral judgment are a manifestation and an ‘image’ of the universe, then the universe itself must necessarily be a conscious, moral structure. And its purpose must then be to give expression to the will of a Supreme Lawmaker.

That being the case, then it must follow that human beings are themselves capable of discovering the will of the Supreme Lawmaker, and thus their own moral purpose and destiny on Earth. That was certainly the mission of the Prophets of the Old Testament. As Leon Wood says in his book The Prophets of Israel, the words used for prophets signify people who acquire “insight regarding God’s will” (Wood 1998, 63).

However, these neurological faculties and phenomena that are the motivations for religion and justice, and speak to us of a Supreme Law and a Supreme Lawmaker, are discovered within ourselves, not in formalized religion.

With its rituals, doctrines and hierarchies, formal religion violates the fundamental principles of the neurological moral network. It is a product of reason in service of human instinct, which facilitates the exercise of authority by one person, group of people, or institution, over others. And that violates the principle of freedom that is the fundamental principle of morality and justice. According to Wood, the objective of the prophets was to warn against just such rituals and pomp in seeking to discover and do God’s will (Wood 1998, 76).

In Part B of this article (posted separately), I shall demonstrate how the Scriptures support the arguments set out in this article, and how they tell us that we can only discover our true moral purpose and our true moral destiny within ourselves.

Joseph BH McMillan http://josephbhmcmillan.com

This article is based on the book A ‘Final Theory’ of God by Joseph BH McMillan.

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Perspectives on the Scriptures: Genesis Chapter 3 – Adam and Eve; awakening the neurological moral network in the Human Brain.

The first question we need to address is whether the story of Adam and Eve refers to two particular individuals, or is a generic reference to the first of the species to acquire specifically human characteristics. And Genesis tells us that it is both.

The key to understanding the story of Adam and Eve is found at Genesis 5, verses 1 and 2:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him;

Male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day they were created.”

The references to “the generations of Adam”, and “the day God created man”, clearly refer to a period of time, and a generic description of the first human beings.

The wording is the same as Genesis 2, verse 4 – “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.” As we saw in respect of The Garden of Eden, this verse clearly refers to a period of time as well. Conflating the words “generations” and “day” can have no other reasonable explanation.

We then see in verse 2 that the “male and the female” are collectively called “Adam”. There is no mention of Eve.

Adam clearly thus refers to the first human beings endowed with human DNA. However, as we saw in the previous article on the Garden of Eden, there would have been two literal human beings in whom this DNA would have been activated, who must have joined up to create new human life in their own genetic image. References to the “woman” and “Eve” in these chapters tell us that although the story is generic, it also refers to literal people, literal events, and literal places.

So there would have been two, or more likely several, human beings with human DNA who were the ancestors of all other human beings.

As we have seen, the San people of southern Africa speak to the fact that Genesis is certainly referring generically to the first human beings. That is because the San people seem to be the descendants of that branch of the human species that did not succumb to the temptation of eating of the ‘forbidden fruit’.

Chapter 3 of Genesis addresses the branch of the early species that did take of the fruit, and who are the ancestors of so-called ‘civilized’ human beings.. And that is what we will now address.

Chapter 3 records what happened when the primitive instinct to reproduce was aroused by the allure of the pleasure to be had by indulging in the act of ‘reproduction,’ not for the main purpose of reproduction, but with the principal aim of deriving physical pleasure from the act.

It is appropriate here to quote again from Philo: “For other animals pursue pleasure only in taste and in the acts of generation; but man aims at it by means of his other senses also, devoting himself to whatever sights or sounds can impart pleasure to his eyes or ears.[1] It is the transformation from the latter to the former that Chapter 3 addresses.

We should set out the whole account of this transformation:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:

But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:

For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.[2]

Before we analyze these verses, it is important to remember that we are looking at the symbolism of what is being said. But there can be little doubt that the symbolism relates to real events that took place many years ago, if not with just one such couple, then with several in various places over a period of time.

The important point to note is that these verses symbolize the first conflict between primitive human instincts and the promptings of the “morality module.” A picture is painted of a woman wrestling with the allure of pleasure by indulging in an act which her conscience is telling her is wrong. She is fantasizing; but about what?

Well, it is impossible to ignore the phallic imagery of the speaking serpent, so the most plausible explanation is that she is fantasizing about sex.

We should also remember that it was very likely that these early humans would have been living with, or at least in close proximity to, the species from which they had emerged, and even other species of primates that were genetically very similar to them. And these other species would also have been “naked.” And more tellingly, these other primates would have indulged in sex quite openly and casually, as they do today.

But at this stage, a number of characteristics had developed in the early human species which distinguished them from other primates. First, as we have seen, they had developed a higher level of communication, as well as an ability to ‘reason’. But they also had a partially activated “morality module” which acted as a restraint to their actions descending into an imitation of the species from which they had emerged. And that “moral law” acted by way of guilt aroused by conscience.

So these early humans would not have a conscious list of moral principles – only a strong comprehension that certain behavior was ‘wrong’.

However, the woman would have enjoyed the pleasure of intimacy with Adam. And this would have acted as a spark to ignite her ability to ‘reason’, and to consider other ways in which further pleasure could be had from the act of intimacy in reproduction.

And there would have been plenty of suggestions in the behavior of the more primitive primates living in close proximity. The imagery of the account of the woman being tempted by the serpent is then not hard to translate into a real picture. Although constrained by her moral impulses to refrain from sexual encounters other than with Adam, by observing the casual sexual interplay of primates around them, the woman begins to fantasize about what it would be like to do the same. She starts to imagine what ‘forbidden pleasures’ could be had if she just suppressed the feelings of guilt aroused by such fantasies.

No doubt she would have asked herself why it would be wrong for her to do what the other primates were doing. There was no consequence to them for doing it, so what could happen to her? Her ‘reasoning’ appears to have gone into overdrive to justify doing what she knew would be wrong by suppressing the restraint and guilt demanded by her newly acquired moral aptitude.

In the end, the woman succumbs to the allure of the pleasures to be had by indulging her sexual fantasies – “she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat.”

And by employing the newly acquired ability to combine ‘reason’ with an ability to communicate, the woman persuaded “her husband” to do the same.

And what they did, it can only be concluded, is indulge in casual sexual encounters with members of the other species around them, and no doubt with other newly formed humans if and when they encountered them.

Now many reading all this about a woman fantasizing about imitating the sexual practices of apes, and engaging in sexual encounters with them, will no doubt ridicule the whole interpretation. So what evidence is there that human beings could act in such a manner, either back then, or now?

Well plenty, actually.

Let’s start with the fantasy part, and humans looking to apes for ‘moral inspiration’. And for that we need look no further than a professor of philosophy, no less – a certain AC Grayling. Grayling is so enamored by his ‘philosophical opinions’ that he set up his own university in London to propagate them. His university is called New College of the Humanities, of which he was appointed Master and Professor of Philosophy.

Grayling claims that the arts (books, music, films and so on) demonstrate the importance of intimate physical relationships to human beings, but laments that the traditional moral consensus that sex should be limited to one other person in a bonding for life, apart from a little youthful experimentation, somehow inhibits what he calls human “flourishing.”[3]

So Grayling cites the behavior of bonobo chimpanzees as a model for a better approach. Being the primates most like humans, Grayling says that the bonobo’s equivalent of shaking hands, or doing a ‘high-five’, is to engage in sex, and to do so often.[4]

Grayling thus claims that “pleasure is good – and sexual pleasure is very good.”[5]

According to Grayling, this all means that sex only becomes a problem when it is “rationed and starved.”[6] So his solution is sexual experimentation. And with a lot of practice, Grayling believes that ‘humans’ can better learn to ‘love’ and be ‘loved’.[7]

But if anyone inhibits your sexual self-indulgence, such as a wife or children, then they need to be made to understand that some human beings have certain “needs and interests,” which the victims simply have to “accept and tolerate … and be open-minded” about.[8]

And it is belief in God (religion) that Grayling claims inhibits this kind of sexual indulgence in the pursuit of human “flourishing” – so he devotes the first half of his book to ‘disproving’ the existence of God. Of course, by getting rid of God, the likes of Grayling hope to get rid of guilt and conscience as well.

Grayling’s ‘philosophy’ is really based on a simple premise – why shouldn’t we behave like animals?

So we see that what is said to have aroused the first woman, and the ‘reasoning’ employed to justify indulging the arousal, is something that has stayed with some members of the species up to this very day. And Grayling is not unique in that regard; it is not an uncommon phenomenon.

But is there any evidence that the first humans did interbreed with other primates? Again, the answer is yes.

In an article in the online journal Public Library of Science (PLoS), Dr Paola Villa of the University of Colorado Museum, and Professor Wil Roebroeks of Lieden University, say that “current genetic data suggest that complex processes of interbreeding and assimilation may have been responsible for the disappearance of the specific Neandertal morphology from the fossil record.”

In their conclusion, they say that “The momentous cultural changes that followed the arrival of AMH (anatomically modern humans) in Western Eurasia were not uniquely due to the residents’ cognitive or technological inferiority causing rapid and total replacement. The Neandertal demise appears to have resulted from a complex and protracted process including multiple dynamic factors such as low population density, interbreeding with some cultural contact, possible male hybrid sterility and contraction in geographic distribution followed by genetic swamping and assimilation by the increasing numbers of modern immigrants.”

And Villa and Roebroeks cite evidence of this interbreeding in modern human beings: “In 2010 a draft sequence of the Neandertal nuclear DNA provided clear evidence of interbreeding between Neandertals and modern humans, estimating that Neandertal inheritance makes up 1–4% of the genomes of people outside of Africa. A revised estimate based on a high-coverage sequence of a Neandertal from the Altai Mountains now suggests 1.5–2.1%.[9]

Now I am not claiming that the story of Adam and Eve relates solely, or at all, to this possible interbreeding between humans and Neandertals. It is likely that the story relates to a much earlier time when humans were only just emerging as the species we recognize today as humans. The example of the interbreeding with Neandertals appears to be a continuation of something that had started earlier.

The real significance of the story, however, lies in its explanation of how the “morality module” in the human brain was initially activated.

But if the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” symbolizes the “morality module,” why, some will ask, would it be wrong to acquire “the knowledge of good and evil’?

The answer is that to awaken the ‘morality module’ the first human beings had to take some action which offended it. That produced a sense of guilt in the form of a conscience. And as we have seen, according to Genesis, the action which initially activated the “morality module” related to pleasure – “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was PLEASANT to the eyes, and a tree to be DESIRED to make one wise …”[10] As Philo says, “anyone who follows a reasonable train of conjecture, will say with great propriety, that the … serpent is the symbol of pleasure.”  And he goes on to say that the “serpent is said to have uttered a human voice, because pleasure employs innumerable champions and defenders who take care to advocate its interests, and who dare to assert that the power over everything, both small and great, does of right belong to it without any exception whatever.”[11]

The story of Eve’s (“the woman’s[12]) temptation, therefore, clearly illustrates the interaction between morality, instinct and reason.

The serpent represents the instinct for reproduction. The symbolism of the serpent ‘speaking’ relates to the allure of pleasure to be had by indulging the instinct for reproduction. And Eve ‘seeing’ “that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, …” symbolizes the human ability to ‘reason’ to justify taking actions that we ‘know’ are wrong.

The prohibition against eating of the tree represents morality – the neurological moral network within the brain that ‘speaks’ to us of the morality of certain actions, and acts as a restraint to actions which offend against it, if we listen. However, until this moment, the neurological moral network was subconscious.

But once the first humans succumbed to the allure of the pleasure to be had by indulging their primitive instinct for reproduction, the “morality module” (the neurological moral network) was activated. This is symbolized by the words “and the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”[13] They realized then that they were different to the other species around them, even those most like them, and that it was not appropriate to simply imitate animal behavior.

And this also suggests that the activation of the ‘morality module’ is directly related to human consciousness. It is only when humans activated the ability to judge their own actions that they became aware of the consequences of their actions, and thus their own mortality. And that brings about an awareness of ‘self’. That is the true meaning of the consequences God is said to have told Adam would follow should he eat of the tree – the Hebrew is not ‘thou shalt surely die’, but in ‘dying thou shalt die’.[14] The consequence related to the afterlife. And that gives rise to a distinction between life and death, and a consciousness of being alive.

Thus the very concept of morality, the human ability to judge its actions as right and wrong, triggers in the brain a sense of mortality, and thus an awareness of life. And that comes from the fact that humans can look at the behavior of animals, even ‘intelligent’ apes, and recognize that the same behavior in humans would be wrong. And that does not only relate to casual sexual indulgences with multiple partners, but to other things like violence.

Genesis tells us that once the “morality module” had been activated, it gave rise to a sense of guilt, and Adam and Eve are said to do what people do to this day in order to justify their actions; they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the Garden.” They attempted to escape the guilt aroused by their actions by seeking justification in their primitive instincts; in “the trees of the garden.” As we have already seen, the trees in the garden symbolize the instincts with which humans were programmed, amongst which are the instinct to reproduce. So when they are plagued by a sense of guilt, they seek to justify their actions by reference to their instincts. They ‘reason’ their way to a justification by attempting to convince themselves that they should not feel guilty because what they did was perfectly natural – just like the animals around them.

But clearly the guilt could not be easily silenced. And so, like today, they started the blame game – Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. In ‘excusing’ her behavior by claiming that “the serpent beguiled” her, the woman is essentially seeking to defend her actions by saying that the attractions of the pleasures she imagined could be had by indulging her primitive instincts were so strong as to be ‘irresistible’. So she should not be to blame.

But, of course, it was all to no avail.

Once they had crossed the moral threshold, no longer did they simply respond to an intuitive restraint from certain actions, they acquired the ability to identify and classify specific actions as right or wrong. Yet, on the other hand, they were also driven on by their primitive instincts. And their ability to reason compelled them to service those instincts, either from fear of pain, or the attraction of pleasure.

The ‘punishment’ that God is said to inflict on them clearly symbolizes the conflict with which humans would be plagued from then on – a conflict between servicing their primitive instincts, or servicing the promptings of their “morality module”.

We can see that the ‘punishment’ puts “enmity” between the attractions of pleasure to be had by indulging primitive instincts, like those of reproduction, and the consequences of doing so. They now realize that the act of reproduction is not simply something to generate pleasure and excitement, it is not simply a ‘romantic’ experience. It is, as John Stuart Mill said, “one of the most responsible actions in the range of human life.” And I would say, THE most responsible act.

And the ‘punishment’ said to have been inflicted on Adam clearly relates to human beings falling into bondage of their primitive instincts. From that moment on, human beings would be driven to provide for their survival and security by relentless toil. The instincts for survival and security generate a fear of being unable to provide for themselves, and a fear of anything and anyone perceived to be a threat to their survival and security.

The words “in sorrow shalt thou eat of [the ground] all the days of thy life[15] clearly refers to the instinct for security; “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground[16] clearly refers to the fear of death, and the survival instinct.

But there was a far more unpleasant consequence of this awakening of the “morality module”. The previous mental tranquility of intuitively refraining from actions because they knew them were wrong, and responding to the promptings of their instincts “only in taste and in the acts of generation”, had been replaced with an obsessive preoccupation with the pleasures and fears aroused by those instincts. No longer were these first humans content to live day by day without the constant fear of want and death – now they were consumed by a passion to indulge the demands of their instincts so as to alleviate their fears, or feed their appetite for pleasure.

As Philo said, they condemned themselves to “an existence more miserable than death.”

They were expelled from the Garden of Eden. But this doesn’t mean that they were ‘expelled’ from their own brains. It suggests that they lost the mental tranquility they previously enjoyed, and embarked on a life of the relentless servicing of their instincts. And yet, at the same time, they would be plagued by the promptings of the “morality module” to moderate and control their appetite for pleasure, and their fear of pain.

And being deprived of the ability to “take of the tree of life” points to a clear consequence between regulating human actions in accordance with the “morality module”, or in service of human instinct. And that consequence, Genesis is telling us, relates to the afterlife.

From this point on, Genesis, and the Bible as a whole, records the conflict between human instinct and morality as it plays out in historical context.

So we see in the account of Cain and Abel that Abel’s endeavors were proving successful whereas Cain’s were modest. This fired insecurity in Cain, and wounded his vanity. Abel was seen as a threatening competitor who had to be neutralized. The symbolism of God speaking to Cain to ask why he is angry relates to Cain’s “morality module” intervening in an attempt to quell the anger. God says to Cain, “If thou does’t well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou does’t not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”[17]

The Hebrew for the last sentence actually says this: “And subject unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

The message is quite clear – Cain has a choice about how to act. One choice is acceptable, or moral, the other is wrong, and will have consequences. The “desire” to satisfy his instincts is under his control – “subject unto thee.” And morality must rule over the desires of the instincts – “thou shalt rule over him.”

But, like Eve, Cain could not or would not listen to the moral ‘voice’ within him, and planned to slay Abel. We see that Cain “talked with Abel” before he implemented his plan. This is clear evidence that Cain was using ‘reason’, and the ability to communicate, in service of his primitive instincts, and not in service of the “moral law.” And even once he had killed Abel, he sought to deny any involvement, saying he does not know where Abel is. Furthermore, he also asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?

Cain’s reaction to the guilt that arises from his actions is first to lie, then to ‘justify’ the lie by ‘reasoning’ that he is not responsible for his brother’s welfare.

We see in Cain a regrettable model for those who believe that satisfying their own “needs and interests” at any cost is their primary ‘duty’ in life, and they ‘reason’ their way to justifying whatever actions they take in pursuit of their ‘goals’. And their goals are always the same – indulging their appetite for pleasure, and relieving the fear of their insecurities; in short, being in the service of their primitive instincts, and silencing the voice of morality whenever it ‘speaks’.

However, Cain realizes that he cannot completely silence the voice of morality, and finally acknowledges that “Mine iniquity is greater than can be forgiven.”[18]

And the only way he can live with the guilt of his conscience is to deny God – “And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord.”[19]

That, it seems, is the “mark” which God is said to have put on Cain; the propensity to apply ‘reason’ to justify the servicing of our primitive instincts in defiance of the “moral law” which created us, and which is within us. And humans accomplish that self-deception through the denial of a universal moral law, and thus a denial of God.

In that way, those who seek to impose their own authority and will on others are free to ‘make’ such ‘laws’ as best serve their own interests, and to implement such measures as are necessary to compel others to submit to those ‘laws’.

That is the meaning of Cain building a city which he names after his son Enoch.[20] God is replaced with the pursuit of power and wealth to feed vanity and allay insecurity.

However, at the end of Chapter 4, the story reverts again to Adam and Eve. Eve conceives and gives birth to Seth, and he has a son called Enos. And it is this strand of the genealogy of Adam and Eve that came to the realization that God is indispensable to human existence. That is because, after the birth of Enos, “then men began to call on the name of the Lord.” [21]

And it is this strand of genealogy that leads to Abraham and on to Moses, and the Ten Commandments. They were the ‘keepers’ of the moral law that reveals God’s Will.

It was through Abraham that “all families of the earth shall be blessed.”[22]

And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”[23]

The crucial words in that last verse are “because thou hast obeyed my voice.” It was this strand of the human species that stayed most obedient to the principles of the “moral law”; and, it seems, most easily able to decipher it over the clatter of demands from our primitive instincts.

They were the people most able to recognize that the laws which govern the universe are moral laws; and those moral laws are an expression of a will, God’s Will.

Through Abraham’s descendents God’s moral law would be revealed not just to the Israelites, but to all humanity.

This is the “insight regarding God’s will” possessed by the Prophets.[24]

But this kind of insight into the moral dimension of the human mind was not exclusive to the Israelites. It has arisen in many people in many diverse areas over the millennia, at times more clearly than at others. But we can detect from these various sources an unfolding set of common principles, right down to modern Charters and Declarations of Human Rights.

What these sources reveal, however, is not a ‘building’ of moral principles to accommodate changing times, but a discovery of those principles that were well understood by our ancestors millennia ago.

So what we see in these first few chapters of Genesis is a perfect description of the origins of life and the universe that validate and preempt scientific discovery. And we also see a compelling explanation of human behavior, human consciousness, and the capacity for human evil and human good.

But most important of all, we see that the human capacity for moral judgment is a manifestation of the moral content of the laws of physics. And the human capacity for moral judgment finds expression in the human quest for justice, which reveals the human search for a supreme law and a Supreme Lawmaker.

Joseph BH McMillan

This series of articles titled Perspectives on the Scriptures form the basis on which is constructed A ‘Final Theory’ of God.

Notes

[1] Philo, On the Creation, LVIII (163).

[2] Genesis 3: 1 – 7.

[3] Grayling, ACX. The God Argument, page 192 and 199. A full Review of The God Argument can be read under Book Reviews on this website jbhmcmillan.com.

[4] Grayling, page 205.

[5] Grayling, page 206.

[6] Grayling, page 201.

[7] Grayling, page 202.

[8] Grayling, page 193.

[9] Villa P, Roebroeks W (2014) Neandertal Demise: An Archaeological Analysis of the Modern Human Superiority Complex. PLoS ONE 9(4): e96424. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0096424.

[10] Genesis 3: 6.

[11] Philo, On the Creation, LVI (157) and (160) respectively.

[12] The name Eve is not used in Genesis 3 until verse 20 – “and Adam called his wife’s  name Eve …”

[13] Genesis 3: 7.

[14] Genesis 2: 17.

[15] Genesis 3: 17.

[16] Genesis 3: 19.

[17] Genesis 4: 7.

[18] Genesis 4: 13 – also translated “My punishment is more than I can bear.”

[19] Genesis 4: 16.

[20] Genesis 4: 17.

[21] Genesis 4: 20.

[22] Genesis 12: 3.

[23] Genesis 22:18.

[24] Wood, Leon J, The Prophets of Israel, page 63