This is the fourth post in a series of posts providing counter-arguments to common religious apologetic arguments for God. Click here to see the list of all posts in the series.
This week’s argument for God that we will be taking on is the “argument from consciousness”. The argument from consciousness is this: the origin and functioning of consciousness is not fully understood yet by science, and so consciousness must be the result of God’s work.
The argument is a complete non-sequitur. Consciousness is as dependent on God as cats are dependent on computers. It makes no sense, really. But, since that does not really counter the argument, let’s go deeper.
History shows that theists have used God, or gods, as an explanation for many phenomena that were not understood at the time, but that science now explains. Ancient Greeks believed storms to be the work of Poseidon. Philostratus attributed ocean tides to the work of spirits. But meteorology now explains the weather patterns responsible for storms. Tidal physics is now understood as the interaction of gravitational forces on our oceans.
When we do not understand something, it therefore stands to reason that whatever successfully explained things before, will very likely succeed again. History shows that religious explanations for everything from weather to astronomy have always been shown to be wrong. The scientific explanations have historically been successful. So we should rely on science, not religion, to understand and explain consciousness.
Our brains are complex organic machines that have evolved over hundreds of millions of years. The evidence of this evolution shows itself in the structure of the human brain. Successively more complex brain structures evolved on top of the earlier less complex ones. Our brains are essentially a human brain wrapped around an ape brain, wrapped around a mammal brain, wrapped around a lizard brain. Scientists are learning more and more about the brain all the time, and discovering the functions of specific brain regions. They may have already found the area of the brain responsible for consciousness if the tests summarized in this article are any indication.
The human brain contains somewhere around 86 billion neurons, which each form thousands of connections to other neurons. Trillions of these connections, or synapses, exist in each human brain. The human brain is the most complex structure known to us. That is why we still do not know so much about it, but it will only be through science that we learn the secrets that it holds. One thing we have no evidence for though, is that consciousness can exist without a brain. If God exists then he does so without any physical brain, which we have no evidence for. The claim that God “made us in his image” is clearly not compatible with the fact that we need our physical brains in order to experience consciousness but God, if he were to exist, does not.
Any claims that science makes require evidence. Not only is trying to argue God’s existence from the existence of consciousness a non sequitur, but it is also completely lacking in evidence. The continuing march towards greater and greater scientific understanding of ourselves will render this argument more and more irrelevant over time.