January 15, 2021

Minds, Brains, Souls, and Gods: A Conversation of Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience – Part 3, Chapter 3: How Free Am I?

Minds, Brains, Souls, and Gods: A Conversation of Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience – Part 3, Chapter 3: How Free Am I?

We continue the series on the book, Minds, Brains, Souls and Gods: A Conversation on Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience.

Today Part 3, Chapter 3: How Free Am I?

Malcolm’s student raises the question; since the brain is a physical system made up of atoms and molecules, how can there be any room for the top-down processes you have described that enable us to make choices and decisions?  Malcolm begins by discussing how this is a problem for the legal system.

  • The Royal Society in London convened a forum in 2011 with neuroscientists and lawyers to discuss neuroscience and the law.
  • The Chicago-based MacArthur Foundation has invested several millions of dollars to fund research in this area.
  • In 2009 in Italy a women was convicted of murder and her legal defense neuroscientist demonstrated that she had structural brain anomalies and a geneticist demonstrated she had genes (the MAOA so-called warrior gene) predisposing her to violence. The judge reduced her sentence from life to 20 years.

Malcolm notes it is a genuine issue.  It is well documented that people with brain tumors have seemed to lost control over their actions and lie, damage property, even in extreme rare cases commit murder.  The individuals simply lose the ability to control impulses or anticipate the consequences of choices.  Whereas, prior to the tumor they did not have those problems.

The solutions proposed to justify our conviction that we have free will fall into two groups:

  1. The “compatibilists” who argue that determinism is compatible with free will.
  2. The “libertarians” who argue that free will requires a fundamental indeterminism in nature, and in particular in the way the brain functions. In order to justify the required indeterminism, most of those who invoke the libertarian view depend heavily on what in physics is called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

He notes that for the Christian is the further question of how each of these approaches relates to what the Bible teaches about our responsibilities to choose wisely.  How many sermons have you heard on “Choose you this day whom you will serve…” or “If anyone is willing… then…”  Can we really choose?

He then give a synopsis of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle for his student and notes that most scientists argue that the Heisenberg effects are much too small to affect even the most sensitive physical changes in the brain, such as the concentration of synaptic calcium.  Most of those who attempt to free the brain from determinism using the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle have yet to convince fellow scientists, who are aware of the smallness of the uncertainty involved, of the cogency of their case.  I would tend to agree with the critics here.

Malcolm then points out there is increasing evidence that leads us to believe that systems made up of elements obeying the laws of physics nevertheless embody forms of causation that seem to transcend the determinism of the atomic, physical and chemical laws.  The two concepts that we come across most often in these discussions are emergence and a more sophisticated version of what he called “top-down effects”, which is actually top-down causation.  If you put these things together, a scientifically plausible picture emerges of one possible way in which mental processes and moral agencies can remain the real causes of behavior even though embodied with a physical/biological system.  He says:

The concept of emergence helps to describe how complex entities like biological organisms can have properties that do not exist within the elements, such as molecules, that make up the organism.  Even simple organisms like an amoeba, which is a complex organization of molecules, manifest properties that don’t exist in the molecules themselves. The behavior of the amoeba depends upon the current state of the organization of the molecules, not the molecules themselves.  In this sense the activity of the amoeba is an example of an emergent property.

The Lorenz attractor is an example of a non-linear dynamical system. Studying this system helped give rise to chaos theory.

In the scientific literature another term for emergence is dynamical systems theory.  Application of this theory helps explain how new causal properties, such as the behavior of humans can emerge in complex systems characterized by a high level of nonlinear interactions between their elements.  A perfect example of this is the human cerebral cortex.  The millions of neurons and their millions of interconnections form an ideal dynamical system.  From this point of view, the elements of human neurobiology in the form of the cerebral cortex produce the cognitive properties of a whole person.

These higher level emergent properties are similar to what Jeeves said about top-down effects.  Looked at in this way, thinking, believing, and remembering can be seen as represented by shifting patterns in the dynamical neural system, and these patterns create top-down influences on the lower-level neuropsychological phenomena that are the substrate of, and that support, the mental activities themselves.

What this amounts to is that the description of the mind-brain in terms of its physical properties is compatible with a description of the same system in terms of mental concepts like thinking, believing, and remembering.  Both levels of description are necessary to give a full account of the whole unbelievably complex system.

Well, as I finish typing these words, I hear the faint drumbeat of the determinists, the reductionists, and the empiricists as they mass their tribes for the attack.  Fine.  Bring it.  I chose this book (see what I did there) knowing that it would be a great controversial conversation generator, and on issues that are important for a faith-science dialogue.  But know this; without these higher-level mental conceptual tools, we cannot even talk about and debate these issues, and in this sense, any attempt to reduce them to the chattering of interacting neurons at once empties them of all logic and meaning.  That argument is self-contradictory and therefore self-defeating.


Dana Ames- she’s up to the challenge too!!


Mike “Cool-Hand” Mercer will back me up


Charles Fines, a little unconventional, but still has my back…


Robert F and Adam Tauno Williams, I mean if you’re going to have a brain-fight, who better?


And, only if absolutely necessary, in extreme situations…

Daniel “Apocalypse Now” Jepsen !!!!!!!


  1. Susan Dumbrell says

    Before you guys get started.

    Ascension Day today

    ‘Christ is ascended’

    ‘From earth to Heaven’

    ‘To the right hand of the Father,
    glory to him’

    Peace to all, Susan

    • Robert F says

      A day to be celebrated, though it receives short shrift in many mainline, and all evangelical, churches here in the US. Roman Catholics make an appropriately bigger deal about it, and maybe a few Episcopalians, but strangely enough the Amish and plain Mennonites actually give it the props it deserves: they take the day off from work to observe Ascension Day, making a very big deal about its celebration.

    • The Sufi poet Rumi wrote that the Ascension of Christ was less like a man flying into the sky than like grapes turning into wine. A powerful, edgy but beautiful image from a culture that proscribed consumption of the fruit of the vine.

  2. Robert F says

    MG, I don’t remember signing any releases allowing you to use my image for your post. You can expect to hear from my lawyer — Adam Tauno Williams — before the day is out!

    • It’s in the fine print in the “Terms and Conditions” clause when you sign up to comment. All your memes are belong to us.

      • Robert F says

        The system is rigged!

      • Robert F says

        See, I told you you’d hear from my lawyer before the day was out! My lawyer Adam’s brain is so big that he will out-litigate a battalion of your lawyers with half of it tied behind his back! He will beat you, even if it takes decades of litigation! That’s what he said! Just you wait!

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      He is probably safe under the fair-use doctrine. Also… how does the intellectual property work for extraterrestrial photos? How do you define a public space (with no reasonable expectation of privacy) in the context of non-human cultures? This will be in tied up in litigation for decades.

  3. Robert F says

    For me, the epistemological aspect of this issue is central: If the mind is merely the wholly determined epiphenemon of material cause and effect, a kind of illusion projected by brain chemistry and other material processes, then how can I or anyone else be said to know anything? To talk of knowing something would then be as misleading as to talk about a mind somehow distinct from the brain.

    • Robert F says

      If the mind is just a mystifying name for the synergy of brain chemistry and other material processes, then I don’t actually know anything; my thinking may or may not converge with the truth on any given subject, but that is a wholly accidental state of affairs, having nothing to do with any ability to know. Without minds that can observe, measure and assess, how would science be conducted?

      • EXACTLY!!!

        • Robert F says

          Science, along with knowledge, requires an observer. Without mind, the observer doesn’t exist. These lessons I learned not from Christianity, but from Buddhist philosophy. Some schools of Buddhism take this insight to extremes, asserting that there is mind only.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > If the mind is ***just*** a mystifying name

        There is some reductionism! 🙂 I propose “just” is only intellectually responsible in front of a process or thing one can thoroughly explain.

        I mean, whatever with the Heisenberg thing, it is *just* Quantum Mechanics . 🙂

    • “If the mind is merely the wholly determined epiphenemon of material cause and effect, a kind of illusion projected by brain chemistry and other material processes…”

      But if the mind is an emergent property then why assume it must be an illusion? That doesn’t follow.

      “If the mind is just a mystifying name for the synergy of brain chemistry and other material processes, then I don’t actually know anything…”

      This doesn’t actually follow either.

      You know friends, this free will argument is very old and predates the modern scientific age. Not all Christian belief is tied to libertarian free will. Why would a TULIP Calvinist balk at determinism?

      • Robert F says

        I didn’t mention libertarian free will, because I don’t think it’s germane to my comment or the point I’m making. It’s about epistemology, and the grounds for the mind’s confidence that it can know existence as it really is, and know itself as a trustworthy subjective center of awareness.

        • Robert I agree libertarian free will is not germane to the questions I was asking you. You have made some associations which I dispute. Why is mind an illusion if it evolved through physical processes? Why can’t you know anything if your mind is physical?

          • Robert F says

            Do you agree that the mind’s experience of its own ability to choose one course of action over another, or others, is not an illusion? That it has a degree of freedom, not libertarian or absolute, to influence its own choices as a primary cause rather than being entirely fated to predetermined ends by the mechanism of cause and effect?

            Or do you think that our experience of our own contingent freedom as minds and selves is completely illusory, that mind is only a link in a chain of cause and effect? If you think that our direct experience of our own contingent freedom is always illusory, that you have no more real volition than a star or stone, then you can no more know anything than they can. Isn’t that self-evident?

          • Robert F says

            Why is mind an illusion if it evolved through physical processes?

            Why is my mind’s direct experience that I make choices not totally predetermined by material processes of cause-and-effect an illusion?

          • Robert F says

            I guess volition and mind do get mixed up here, since the only way for mind to become aware of the world it finds itself in is to make choices that exert influence in and on that world. I see the mind as a causal agent, itself directly caused by God shaping the physical world into an instrument suitable for the experience, choices and expression of mind. If you want to call that Ghost in the Machine, go right ahead. It is totally compatible with my primary experience of myself, and the development of my awareness of self, including mind, and world. That awareness cannot be explained in its entirety by material processes, however much it may depend on them to find and develop itself in the world.

  4. Adam Tauno Williams says

    Both the “compatibilists” and “libertarians” are being disingenuous; that is the real confusion on these issues, IMNSHO. It is similar to economic ideologues and their arguments about “free markets”. “free” is an undefined modifier, “free” is rhetoric. Just as a Market is the instrumentation of coercive power [aka Money] and therefore not in any meaningful sense ever “free” a Mind is the instrumentation that creates Will, and neither is in any meaningful sense “free”. Which is not to say that Markets, Minds, and Will are void concepts – that is a fallacy of the disambiguated middle writ large.

    I have a Mind and therefore I have a Will. Is it “free”? First, tell me what that means. But I am willing to concede “no” in any case as it is demonstrable that my Mind/Will is Constrained – so… not Free. I am constrained by biology, experience, limited knowledge, cultural bias, and there is ample evidence I/We can also be briefly biased in one way or another by various tricks.

    Ever had the experience of sitting in a meeting, talking about some issue, and someone else announces a solution that is so blisteringly obvious it is like being struck between the eyes with a hammer? Why didn’t my Free Mind come up with that? Because my mind is constrained, in apparently different ways than that of that other person. Hence the proverb: From the council of many comes Wisdom.

    In many ways our operational constraints are what make us, each, us. They create the value evident in diversity. Personally, I take joy in that, not trepidation. Perhaps Freedom would be lonely. What would it even mean to be me if every possibility was open? [not that I can even imagine that – again I question the essential meaning of “free” in this context].

    If my mind can answer the question: “in the where/when I am, knowing what I know, having the resources and networks I have, what is the best thing I can do?” Then it is real and healthy. Which is not the same thing as “free”.

    A steam locomotive is, after all, *just* a few wheels, a couple of cylinders, and some pipes, held together by rivets. That it turns water and coal into the experience of settlers sailing across the great plains at 79mp/h… what does that prove about synergy?

    Perhaps it is decades of working in Information Technology – the notion that a system of “just stuff” can be vastly vastly vastly more than the sum of that stuff…. causes me not a moments hesitation, more like, “well, duh!”.

    • And Jeeves would agree with what you wrote, Adam. There is no such thing as absolute freedom, except, perhaps, for God. The numerous examples of personality changes from major surgery, heart attack, stroke, etc. abundantly demonstrate that whatever “we” are “we” rest on a physical substrate subject to the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, and so on.

      Perhaps it is decades of working in Information Technology – the notion that a system of “just stuff” can be vastly vastly vastly more than the sum of that stuff…. causes me not a moments hesitation, more like, “well, duh!”.

      Just so, Adam. And it is that marvelous complexity of the created order that points us (metaphysically, not empirically) to the wonders of God.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Ironic. I was once rushed to the hospital in the back of an ambulance, rushed through ER, into the cardiac unit. Quite an experience. Did that change my life and personality? Yes, very much. Was that a biological change be or an intellectual one? It feels like distinction without a difference; it did help convince me that my mind needed to be more attentive to my body. In return my body has rewarded my mind. The lack of distinction is quite practical – and beneficial to recognize.

    • Rick Ro. says

      I just had a weird question pop up while reading your comment, Adam. Not sure it relates, but perhaps it does…

      In regard to this…

      –> “I have a Mind and therefore I have a Will. Is it “free”? First, tell me what that means. But I am willing to concede “no” in any case as it is demonstrable that my Mind/Will is Constrained – so… not Free. I am constrained by biology, experience, limited knowledge, cultural bias, and there is ample evidence I/We can also be briefly biased in one way or another by various tricks.”

      Did Jesus have free will?

      Regarding this comment…

      –> “Ever had the experience of sitting in a meeting, talking about some issue, and someone else announces a solution that is so blisteringly obvious it is like being struck between the eyes with a hammer? Why didn’t my Free Mind come up with that?”

      I once heard a comedian point out that every joke ever told “was there for the taking, it just took someone to come up with it.” I found that a profound, astounding observation.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Did Jesus have free will?

        Again – Define “free”, in a useful way where this question can actually be answered Yes or No.

        • Robert F says

          Could Jesus make choices not causally determined? Or were Jesus’ actions and thoughts completely determined in a way not qualitatively different from billiard balls in motion on a table? That is, was Jesus freer than the billiard balls, or did they have nothing to envy of Jesus?

          It seems to me the whole idea of absolute free will is a logical dead end. Freedom is always the ability to make a choice among options, and those options involve boundaries differentiating one from another, and from the chooser. Absolute free will would have to exist by itself in a vacuum, where it would be totally useless.

  5. Adam, if you carefully read Proverbs 11:4 in the KJV, then Proverbs 11:2 also, you may find that your statement “from the councils of many comes Wisdom” contains a sort of fallacy of the disambiguated middle of its own. Then again, having both mind and free will, you may not.

  6. Why do we make this so complex? It seems so self-evident to me that our human assignment is predicated on free will, all the philosophical discussions about it strike me as an enormous waste of time. Yes, our animalistic nature does complicate matters, but that’s pretty much what the whole assignment is about, overcoming the ego. That’s worth talking about. This planet would do just fine without this laughably designated Sapiens element. Animals, plants, rocks don’t have our free will and don’t need it. Those guys who made the same spear point for a hundred thousand years didn’t have these discussions. Free will came along with Adam. It wasn’t original sin he bequeathed, it was free will, and here we are in the middle of this monstrous mess we have made of things with it. Apparently, the way out of the mess uses that same free will we used to get into it, and apparently in the end it all comes down to what I do with my own gift of choice. Some days I do better than others, but when the obvious determinism of the animal world starts to intentionally slop over into the world I inhabit, I go on high alert for signs of creeping totalitarianism.

  7. The more I practice silent contemplative prayer the more I suspect that “Will” is not first and foremost a function of intellect but is only secondarily so. It begins, sans logos, as a movement of the soul, a more general intention that becomes fleshed out by brain activity. I have a will to live that I sense as such and then I begin sorting out with my brain the ways in which I’m going to make that happen. Will is bigger than the brain. It is served by the brain and hence becomes completely associated with it.

    • As a follow-up to my previous comment I would say that we often speak of a person as having an indomitable spirit or say that such and such a guy really has guts. Those guts would be the will to do the right thing or the will to preserve life. A person like that sees a dangerous situation and is intent on taking action despite the brain activity which is discouraging him in every way from doing such a dangerous and risky thing. He is compelled by his will regardless of what his brain says. We speak of addicts as having a lack of willpower but it may be quite the contrary. They may have a will to pleasure that cannot be dissuaded by anything their brain tells them. In that case they are negatively subjected to their will but nonetheless the will is found to be at odds with brain activity which commits to quitting the addiction.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        We speak of addicts as having a lack of willpower but it may be quite the contrary. They may have a will to pleasure that cannot be dissuaded by anything their brain tells them.

        Sort of a personal Triumph of the Will?

  8. Mike, this is a fascinating topic for me, that touches on so many pertinent topics; faith, the soul, the possibility that there is something ‘more’ than blind process going on in the universe. Sadly, my lack of scientific knowledge has made it difficult to follow the argument presented here. I’m going to read again, and see if I can understand what’s being argued.

    On a different note, I’d love to know more about most everything connected with this subject. Mystical Experience? how does that relate to the chemical processes going on the brain? Freud and Jung? the unconscious? the collective unconscious? archtypes?

    (BTW, does anyone know what the plural of process is?)

    • >> (BTW, does anyone know what the plural of process is?)


      • Ben, on further thought I’m thinking you must be asking how you PRONOUNCE “processes”. There is no simple answer. Allowing for regional differences in vowel pronunciation, you have two choices. If you prefer to be identified with common people and the majority of the American population and speak Midwest, say PRAH- ses-siz, like talking with your mechanic. If you want to be accepted in the professional and post-grad world, say PRAH-ses-Seez, like talking with your doctor. If you want to be snooty and supercilious, say PROH-ses-Seez, which is Brit speak, except it isn’t snooty if you’re in Britain and maybe Australia, don’t know about Canada. So one choice does not fit all situations and it can also be used to jab a finger in someone’s eye.

        • For example, if Science Thursday was meeting in person or on the radio, the expectation would be to speak of various PRAH-ses-Seez or even Prah-ses-Zeez. I would go out of my way to find opportunity to say PRAH-ses-sis and give it an extra twang.

  9. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    And Science Thursday returns to Internet Monk…

  10. Iain Lovejoy says

    This discussion seems backwards. Only consciousness is directly experienced. Everything else is a deduced construct derived from that experience. The existence of the brain, of atoms, molecules, of physical reality itself is evidenced only by the conscious experience of it. It cannot be logically and consistently maintained, as far as I can see, that consciousness is somehow an “illusion” or of less certain or concrete existence than the material world, since the existence if the material world can only itself be evidenced by accepting as valid ones conscious perception of it.

    • Robert F says

      Exactly. And this awareness of itself and the world around it is related to the mind’s ability to make non-predetermined, contingent choices in the non-self-aware world that the mind finds itself inhabiting. If the mind cannot make free choices not completely determined by material cause and effect, then it can no more know anything than a star or stone can.

    • Iain, I agree with your take on our so called reality, but it does seem that useful knowledge and practical application can come from the discipline of confining investigation to that which can be observed and measured. It’s a different matter to believe this actually is the extent of reality. That seems more like backwards religion. I would go farther and say that all we can observe and measure in a so called material world is ultimately illusion and mental construct, but that is not well received in many camps. Most of us still start our day to all intents and purposes getting out of bed and standing up in our body with our feet supported by the floor or ground. Weird.

      • Iain Lovejoy says

        I would say it is the observable reality of our experiencing and reasoning about the material world that proves the material world’s reality. That I can experience and reason proves there exists an “I” doing the experiencing and reasoning, but likewise demonstrates the existence of external reality, otherwise what am I experiencing and reasoning about?
        The problem arises when you try and use the conclusions you reach about external reality to deny the reality of the experience and reasoning by which you drew the conclusions in the first place.

  11. Klasie Kraalogies says

    Dynamical systems are deterministic. But they are non-linear in their determinism, ie, they appear to be indeterminate because of their complexity, especially within certain parameters – at that point where the parameters of the system causes it to go chaotic. Chaotic systems are not completely unpredictable either, yet one has to step through them to see what would happen, and can only make broad predictions as to potential outcomes.

    And using Heisenberg for philosophical discussions is a big no-no. It is like using Einstein to make points about truth, absolute or relative. It betrays an ignorance of both physics and philosophy, imho.

    • Iain Lovejoy says

      I thought the point of chaotic systems was that you couldn’t make broad predictions as to the outcome without knowing the exact initial circumstances: you can get wildly different final outcomes from (literally) immeasurably small differences in initial parameters. The result is a system which is both completely deterministic and also completely uncertain in outcome.
      If people do use Heisenberg in philosophical discussions it can only be to bolster the point that the concept of “exact” starting parameters (which would be required to make chaotic systems even theoretically predetermined in outcome) is meaningless (in so far as it wasn’t already).

  12. Dana Ames says

    I’m flattered to be included in the picture gallery 🙂

    Well, all I have to say is that we are very complex, and the mind/will/”soul”/ body connections are not going to be easy to sort and codify, if it can ever be done at all.

    St Maximos the Confessor (c. 600 AD) wrote some very deep things before there was Heisenberg or MRIs or brain chemistry analysis or anything else. He’s not unintelligible, but one has to concentrate when reading him. Fr Stephen has done a good job of laying out some of St Maximos’ thoughts on will and choice. One thing the Saint discussed in his writings was the difference between our natural will (what we would do because of our nature as human beings, especially absent the Fall, because God created our will as a good thing) and what he called gnomic will (what we are forced to utilized because we’re not in communion with God the same way we were in Eden – our understanding is darkened, and we find ourselves having to make a choice among many choices, often without even knowing why). If you want to read more, go to Fr Stephen’s web site and search for these articles:

    The Right Choice
    Obedience and the Modern World
    How Good is Your Will? Part 2 of the Ontological Model

    Fr Stephen explains much better than I am able to do at this point.

    Christ is ascended from earth to heaven. And he has taken his own human nature, along with his material body – which means our human nature as well, and reinforcing our hope for the resurrection of our bodies – with him to the right hand of the Father. This is a Very Big Deal.


    • Susan Dumbrell says

      Hi Dana,

      Christ is Ascended.

      I read Fr Stephen’s blog and he is such a source of compassion and reassurance in troubled times.

      Christ’s blessings be yours.


  13. I have the feeling that I just walked into a bar or a coffee shop, where there was an excellent discussion, still hanging in the air, but now the group has moved on down the street to another bar, leaving behind only empty coffee cups, mugs and the burnt ends of old stogies. I think this is a wonderful topic and am so glad it has been discussed here. I just wish I had not come to the table so late.

    I will give my perspective as someone who has worked in neurology for 35 years and thought about this a lot. First of all, I think it is dangerous to move towards a determinism. I’ve seen that happen before for theological reasons (what we called at the time hyper-Calvinism). It never ended well. A close friend took his own life as his one effort of self-actualization to break the chains of Christian determinism.

    While neurological science has a lot to discover there are some known impressions. The structure of the brain, of course, has a profound influence on our behavior and thinking patterns. In nature vs nurture discussion, that structure has powerful genetic influences and then the influences of life experiences. Those can be emotional (PTSD), physical (closed head injury) or things like strokes. Forms of dementia, as mentioned in a previous post on this topic, would be another. In these events, brain structure is actually altered with different new pathways established, which can’t be easily reverse if at all.

    However, in a poor example, the brain structure is like the computer hardware (memory, processor, etc.). We have some congenital software pre-loaded. The basics. But then through our learning, which happens every day, we are constantly rewriting that software, repairing it and changing it. It is more fluid in a computer because it is stored as digital (1s and 2s) electrons within memory chips (if I have that right and others here know better). In the brain, the memories are laid down in more physical changes such as new pathways. New, nerve endings are formed to connect different neurons. So, those pathways, once established, are not easily erased or rewritten but have to over-ridden with new circuits. So it is more complicated with us.

    Now here is where it comes to conjecture. I believe that there is free will at the juncture where we (meaning ourselves, which you can define as our soul or our collective state of consciousness) decides the input into that software writing process. I could make the free will choice to surrender to Isis and have them imprison me and torture me for a year. Then, when I am released (if I were so lucky), I may have permanent damage to my brain from the chronic stress. I may never recover. But I made the choice to surrender and I don’t think I was forced to by some behavioral manipulation, spiritual fixed response or brain structure layout.

    On a more subtle basis, this programming, I think relates to the Biblical concept of the renewing of the mind as in Romans 12:2. We do have a choice of input.

    One big mistake evangelicals have made is seeing the body-mind connection like the Pharaonic Egyptians or Pythagorean (Metempsychosis) views that the brain. In that view, the brain is just a bowl of jelly and we (our consciousness) are purely spiritual beings who just happen to inhabit the body. In that model, there are no physical structures being laid down to form new ways of behavior. It is a mist that can change on a dime. Therefore, they believe that when you become a Christian, you can, by will, become perfect overnight. When that, of course, can’t happen, then you must start this life-long charade of pretending to be better than you really are, or could be.

    The last thought is about patients I’ve seen with frontotemporal dementia, which is a brain structural problem (poorly understood), that impacts the judgment more than memory, at least at first. I had a patient, strong Christian man, who was arrested when he walked up to a middle school girl in broad daylight and grabbed her crotch. He later, at a family reunion, he asked his granddaughter if he could feel her breast. The family was totally embarrassed and could not understand why he had me so influence by Satan and turned away from the Lord. I was able to get a brain PET scan and prove to the judge that his behavior was structural, not of his own choice and therefore was not culpable.

    This is hard to deal with, but none of us, in my opinion, realize the haunting depths of the Fall, giving us diseases of the body and the mind.

    Okay, I better go . . . hello, anyone still here? Woops, is Mike turning out the lights on this bar?

    • Robert F says

      I came back to the bar because I left my hat. I’m glad I did, since I got to read your wonderful contribution. Thank you, j Michael. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdbXGi2WX0Q

    • Robert F says

      It is necessary to ask: When a choice is made by the mind between two options, why is one option chosen and not the other? If there is a reason why one of the options is chosen and not the other, then there is a cause for the choice of that option, which means that the choice is not made freely but determined by a cause. If there is no reason why one option is chosen over the other, then we are saying that the choice is uncaused, which involves an act of volition that in traditional theological models is attributed only to God as the uncaused cause.

    • Just stepped back into the bar. No question that brain damage alters personality. My wife and I have this little dark comic ritual whenever we get into the car. We say, “buckle up, you don’t want to become a zombie.” It’s actually said pretty much in seriousness.

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