Science vs. Theology? - Human Mental Activity How It Differs From Animal Instinct
Robert L Kuhn
FOR ALMOST four full decades now, Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong has been proclaiming to the world that man is not an animal. Mr. Armstrong has repeatedly asserted what the Bible teaches: that the human mind is vastly superior to animal brain, having been designed that way by a Great Creator God for a transcendental spiritual purpose. Throughout this same period of time, the growing forces of materialism* have been "religiously preaching" precisely the opposite. These "erudite authorities" would have us believe that man is just an animal and his so-called "mind" merely the complex output of the most advanced mammalian brain.
Is man an animal? If so, he has now reached the end of his rope — his "moment of truth" has come, his time is nearly up. Man is irreversibly bent on self-extermination. At least it won't be dull. Human ingenuity has concocted a macabre variety of hyper-efficient techniques for mass suicide. The job can be done quickly by nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, or more subtly through overpopulation, famine and pollution. Yet man acts oblivious and carefree, merrily clinging to a fanciful host of idealistic "solutions," as he conveniently represses historical reality. Face it. Humanity's death certificate is signed and sealed — all that remains is to affix the date of demise. But is this logical? Does it make sense? Did "human animals" abruptly materialize on earth out of the equally unfathomable infinities of space and time for the express purpose of busily organizing their own execution? Is the totality of human history just a passing wisp of time, an evanescent twinkling in an unconcerned rush of eternity? Should beings who can perceive the presence of eternity be denied it — wouldn't that be almost a self-contradiction? Must we believe that all mankind has been conjured up merely to be the butt of a sadistic cosmic joke? Whatever our particular opinions may be, one fact stands clear: If man is an animal, he will soon be extinct. But is man an animal? Or is there a non-physical — a "spiritual" — factor in his being? No longer can we afford the lackadaisical luxury of relegating this vital issue to suburban cocktail parties, freshman philosophy courses, and the proverbial "bull sessions." No longer can we waste what little time we may have left by playing the role of the "cooly7 philosopher — exuding airs of pompous aloofness — as if we were uninvolved bystanders. No longer can we nonchalantly and condescendingly assume that this problem is insoluble. We have no choice but to consider it. We need an answer. And soon!
It is within this sobering context that we offer the following presentation. Not as an interesting study in psychology. But as a matter of life or death for humanity. Now it is not our present purpose to go into details about what cases the human mind to be vastly superior to animal brain. Nor are we going to undertake a complete scientific analysis to prove that a nonphysical component — a "spirit in man" — does in fact exist. (Those who are interested should consult Mr. Armstrong's "Personal" in the January 1970 issue of The PLAIN TRUTH.) Rather, we are going to focus in on one part of the picture. We are going to ask the materialist's favorite question — "Is the human mind REALLY different from animal brain?" — and then proceed to detail a scientifically rigorous answer. The question is fundamental. Because if the human mind is not radically, qualitatively and uniquely superior to animal brain, then there can be little hope for the survival of the human species — became the Biblical description would then be in error. And the only way by which human beings will still exist by the end of this present century is if the Bible is true. Yet this is precisely what the materialist seems compelled to attack. He must "prove" that the Bible is not inspired by a supernatural source, and that THE HUMAN MIND IS NO DIFFERENT FROM ANIMAL INSTINCT. To the layman, this latter claim may sound ludicrous and absurd. It is not. The materialist — let's call this representational gentleman "Dr. Materialist" — is prepared: He has done his homework, and has some carefully reasoned arguments. And even though he is motivated by a pre-packaged ideological bias, we must hear "the good doctor" out. Just because most people — religious people for the most part — intuitively "feel" that man "must be" unique and easily distinguishable from all animals just does not prove the point. In fact this religious ignorance, however sincere it might have been, has been the food by which materialism has been nourished.
What Materialism Propounds
It is our responsibility to present the tenets and arguments of materialism as accurately and as forthrightly as we are able. Then, and only then, can we confidently commence to prove that materialism is wrong and that the unrestrained human mind is in fact utterly distinct from the stereotyped animal brain. Dr. Materialist clings to a fundamental axiom: He claims that the psychological (individual) and sociological (collective) productions of the human mind are not qualitatively distinct from those of the animal kingdom. We present what a typical "Dr. Materialist argument" might sound like: "All the qualities," our Dr. Materialist might announce, "customarily considered 'uniquely human' are merely the highest manifestations on the present psychological continuum, and are in fact represented in other animals.'' (Which is a technically pompous way of stating the materialistic dogma that human mental activities are not all that different from animal mental activities.) The learned doctor continues by asking, "Why do these traits appear to be 'uniquely human'?" He answers his own question: "Simply because they are distended and exaggerated by the full-range means of expression available to man. In other words, all human mental processes differ from their precise counterparts in animals only because of man's ability to write, speak, compose and draw — abilities which in themselves are just improved techniques of expression, and are not, if we care to admit it, limited to human beings." Dr. Materialist will readily admit that mankind has a phenomenally large intellectual and technological capability — evidenced by the full scope of 20th century society. But he vociferously maintains that all these impressive accomplishments are actually the product of many generations of accumulated Knowledge. And he thereby deduces that man's innate abilities are not as great as they first seem. Dr. Materialist might choose to frame his argumentative logic into the following scenario:
People are traditionally misled by almost anything. Especially religious people. So we must take care to always use the most incisive and analytical reasoning procedures. We must avoid the pitfalls of "traditional religion" just as surely as we want to dissect and destroy the materialistic argument. The "two frogs on the steps" analogy epitomizes the entire scope of materialism's main point. It propounds that the fundamental difference between the mental output of man and the mental output of animals is deceptively minor. But this minor difference — in whatever reference system this "minor difference" exists — exceeds the crucial threshold for mental advancement. The analogy of the "two frogs on the steps" applies here. It explains how the concept of "threshold" applies to the problem of the relationship between human and animal mental activity. The frog which can jump only eight inches can never reach even the second (nine inch) step, whereas the other frog, which can jump a bare two inches higher, can eventually climb to the top of an Empire State Building of steps. (Nine inches is, in this example, "the threshold.") Consequently, a triumphant Dr. Materialist gleefully points out, if a "religious observer" came along near the end of this process and saw one frog at the bottom of the first step, continuously jumping up, hitting its head on the second step and falling back down to the first step, and then compared this frog with its companion frog who was merrily vaulting step after step on the 100th flight of stairs of the building, the "spiritually oriented gentleman," being rather naive, would probably come to a rather erroneous conclusion. He might well postulate that since both frogs were nearly identical in structure and function, the leaping frog, hundreds of feet above its fellow frog, "must be vastly superior'' — and this "vast superiority must be" due to a "nonphysical component." This analogy, sarcastically comments Dr. Materialist, may seem absurd. And it is. But, he continues, religionists casually reach just such an absurd assumption regarding the supposed "unbridgeable gap," separating the mental activities of man (the vaulting frog) and chimp (the head-hitting frog). The assumption is absurd — naive would perhaps be a nice word — because this concept of "threshold" is overlooked. And herein, Dr. Materialist concludes, lies the simple, wholly physical solution: The one (man) has exceeded the crucial threshold — which is the capacity to pass on information from one generation to the next — and the other (chimp, dolphin, etc.) has not. And this is the only difference between the two. Not some ethereal "nonphysical component." Such is the "last-gasp" argument of materialism.
The Burden of Proof
Nonetheless, the onus and burden of proof falls on our shoulders. We must scientifically establish the truth. Nothing less than rigorous reasoning will be tolerated. To begin, we review materialism's main points: 1) The psychological and sociological products of the human mind are not qualitatively distinct from those of animal brain. 2) Those mental activities labeled "uniquely human" are just the result of improved techniques of expression. 3) Man's innate mental abilities are not as great as they first seem — they are just barely superior to the mental abilities of the higher mammals in the same manner as the human brain is just barely superior to chimp and dolphin brain. 4) The simple capacity to pass on information from one generation to another has artificially generated the appearance of a huge gap between the psychological and sociological outputs of humans and animals. 5) Human mental activity is purely the refined product of evolving animal instinct. But are these statements true? Is human mental activity just quantitatively — and just barely — superior to animal mental activity? Or is the difference qualitative and fundamental? IS human mental activity purely the refined product of evolving animal instinct? Or is it something more? Does there indeed exist an enormous gap between the individual, innate higher mental abilities absolutely unique to human beings and the compulsive, straight-jacketed "higher mental abilities" characteristic of all mammals? The eminent writer, J. W. N. Sullivan, as an example of many, concluded that "a great gulf separates even the lowest races of mankind from the highest living animals." But can we prove it? This is our objective.
What's NOT Unique About the Human Mind
We are now ready to scientifically and unequivocally prove that the human mind is fundamentally and radically different from animal instinct. We shall accomplish this task by enumerating and detailing — over the next few months — the various qualities, attributes and proclivities of the individual human mind which can never be initiated or imitated by the animal brain. But first, in all fairness and completeness, we must present the psychological similarities between the mental abilities of man and animals. Because if we are to successfully differentiate the human mind from animal instinct in order to prove that the physical human brain alone cannot account for the human mind, we must really differentiate the two. Not a superficial, self-convincing differentiation — but a real one. The average person might well assume that "obviously human mental activity is vastly superior to animal instinct — humans have intelligence while animals do not — why all the fuss?" Such a simple-minded assumption lends credence to Dr. Materialist's argument that animal and human thought patterns lie along the same continuum! Because indeed animals and humans both can have "intelligence." Obviously this assertion is wholly dependent on the precise meaning of the word "intelligence." And in any basic definition, acceptable to the scientific community in general, animals and humans just do NOT differ all that much. So it becomes our responsibility now to carefully differentiate which characteristics are shared by animals and humans alike, and which characteristics are the exclusive property of human beings. First of all, concepts like intelligence, memory, thought, sensation, perception, emotion, learning, awareness, consciousness, personality, behavior, imagination, communication, etc., are all quite prevalent in animal mental activity! Surprising? Not to the scientifically astute Dr. Materialist. Sure, he's biased. But he also has thought about the problem. Remember the difficulty is one of semantics — a problem of establishing the exact definitions of very complex and subjective word-concepts. Carefully note that the abovementioned mental similarities between man and animals have been generally thought to be unique to the human mind by uninformed laymen and sincere religious professionals. Now it is certainly true that these shared mental qualities mean much more to the human mind than they do to the animal brain. Of course. But that does not change the basic fact that both the human mind and the animal brain do share these qualities. Therefore, it is logically impossible for these mental attributes to be used to differentiate the human mind from animal brain, and so they can never establish the need for a nonphysical component in the human mind to explain this difference. Concerning "intelligence," for example, we read from J. W. N. Sullivan's classic book The Limitations of Science a short demonstration which proves that it is a semantic error to instantly and categorically attribute "intelligence" to humans, and only "instinct" to animals:
Obviously, to try to use "intelligence" in any attempt to prove that the human mind is vastly superior to animal instinct would only undermine our entire case. Consequently, we must continue to expose and discard those qualities of the human mind which are actually qualities of the animal brain. We must be circumspect in our analysis. We must not allow (what we hope to be) our conclusion to influence our reasoning procedures. We must not be biased. We must be rigorous in our logic.
Memory, Personality and Consciousness
These three qualities of mental activity are completely explained by the physical brain alone. This is the position of Dr. Materialist. And, as usual, the religionist finds himself on the other side of the fence, vehemently disputing this contention. What about it? Are memory, personality and consciousness unique attributes of the human mind? Or are they found in the animal kingdom? Again, it depends on the exact definition of these word-concepts. Because, for one, Dr. Materialist claims to have developed an artificial system of electromechanical mechanisms — nuts and bolts and transistors and wires — which can simulate memory, personality and consciousness. And he is right! He can do just that — depending, of course, on how the words are defined. And if a computer can do this, how much more the living animal brain! Memory? Personality? Consciousness? Nothing here unique to the human mind. Where does this leave the traditional religionist? In trouble, What about us? We reject the simple-minded approach of those well-intentioned religionists who are not aware of current scientific methodology. But we do not reject their conclusion. We support it. The human mind is radically different from animal brain. God designed it that way. The Bible confirms it. And we are going to prove it! Furthermore, we are going to use current scientific methodology. All right — we have seen examples of what cannot differentiate animals and humans. Now what CAN?
The Uniqueness of the Human Mind
Is human mental activity merely "the highest manifestation on the present psychological continuum" — solely the refined product of evolving animal instinct? That's the crux of Dr. Materialism's argument against a non-physical component in the human mind. It is now time to prove what could only be stated — without proof — in the past: That the uniquely unrestrained human mind IS unequivocally distinct and irrevocably dissociated from the instinctively automatic animal brain. Dr. Materialist waits — he knows we cannot use intelligence, memory, behavior, consciousness, etc. What else is there? What about the attributes listed in the box on the left? The adjacent list means nothing of itself. Over the next few months we will publish a brief but comprehensive analysis of each of the enumerated areas. This will not be easy because all of these concepts and categories are subject to as many "interpretations" as there are minds to read them. Why? Part of the difficulty is semantics: What do these often-repeated and much-abused words really mean? The other part of the problem is preconceived ideas: What is the particular bias of the individual evaluator? Dr. Materialist, quite naturally, will quickly pick his convenient description and understanding so that he can just as quickly "prove" that the human mind is not unique because "animals inherently exhibit all these characteristics to one degree or another." This means that again the burden of proof falls on our shoulders. We must define and examine — in detail — the above-mentioned traits to first discover exactly what we mean by each one of them and then to demonstrate why the human mind has it and why the animal brain does not. Many of the areas will overlap. Don't let that bother you. Consider each as a distinctly individual expression of the uniqueness of the human mind. But don't just agree with us. Think about what we say. This is serious business. Serious because the Bible dogmatically proclaims that Almighty God created the human mind to be unique — in a class by itself — with a non-physical component for a great purpose — with a "spirit in man" — in a universal plan — for a spiritual destiny transcending our imaginations. Man is not an animal. But make us prove it.