Friday, May 2, 2014

Will Our Pets (and Other Animals) Greet Us in Heaven? *

Al Hochrein photograph

Part Twelve:  More Scientific Evidence That Animals Possess Immaterial Minds/Souls

In last week’s blog article, I provided scientific evidence that our minds—the essential faculty of our souls—are distinct from our material (physical) brains. In this article, I will provide additional scientific evidence to support this thesis and then address a common challenge.

Now, these two articles may seem rather technical, and it may appear that I have drifted away from the goal of this series; that is, to demonstrate that earth-bound animals will be redeemed alongside God’s people and will inhabit the new heaven and earth, when Jesus returns to establish His eternal Kingdom. But this is not a rabbit trail. My purpose in these two articles is to demonstrate that sentient animals also possess immaterial minds distinct from their physical brain. And since the mind is the essential faculty of human souls, there is every reason to believe animals also possess immaterial souls.

Our Thoughts Can “Rewire” the Neurons (Nerve Cells) in Our Brains

Recent studies in brain science have demonstrated that changing one’s thinking can actually rewire the brain. Studies using brain-imaging technology on people experiencing obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD) have revealed that changing one’s thought patterns can alter the neuronal circuits of the brain. In other words, it was discovered that when OCD sufferers learned to focus their attention on positive things, they literally  rewired the brain circuit in the area of the brain that was the source of the problem.

This data is supported by “cognitive therapy,” a counseling technique that teaches patients to redirect their thoughts away from compulsions to thoughts and behaviors that are more emotionally beneficial and pleasant. The outcome of such therapy was changes in the way patients felt about themselves and other people. (It’s significant that the apostle Paul gave us the same advice nearly two thousand years ago in Philippians 4:8-9!)

This is exciting because it gives empirical, scientific confirmation that chemical and neurological processes in the brain do not dictate our subjective thoughts and other mental activities, as evolutionary materialists claim. Rather, our subjective thoughts and feelings, originating in our immaterial minds, can alter the physical functions of our brains. The mind dominates the brain, not the other way around. This is tremendously compelling evidence for the existence of immaterial souls.

But what about Brain Injury?

If it’s true that our minds exist independent of our brains, why do people loose mental capabilities when their brain is injured by head trauma? Why is thinking impaired—sometimes to the point of hallucination—from alcohol or drug abuse? Along the same line, why does the mind seem to loose mental acuity as one ages? These are valid questions, but not hard to explain.

It’s true that injury, substance abuse, and age can cause the brain to dysfunction, and this can affect mental processes. However, this only shows that while in our physical bodies our minds are “housed” within our brains—not that brain and mind are one and the same. Our brains are a receiver and the medium of transmission for our minds, but they are not identical. Injury to the brain would impose certain limitations on how the brain processes our thoughts while our souls are confined to our physical bodies. But because the mind exists independent of the physical brain—and remember the mind is the essential faculty of our souls—injury to the brain would not obliterate the mind itself. In other words, damage to or deterioration of the brain may interrupt the transmission of mental activities, but it would not affect our mind once it’s disembodied from our brain—the mind itself is not affected by our physical condition. Once our mind is liberated from its physical body, as when death occurs, it continues to exist fully functioning within our immaterial soul. When our brains die our consciousness continues in our souls because our souls never die.
Now, let’s apply this to animals. If sentient animals have cognitive thoughts and emotional feelings (albeit much less sophisticated or as intensely experienced as in humans), it strongly suggests that they too must possess immaterial minds that exist independent of their physical brains. In other words, if the origin of such mental activities in humans can’t be reduced to neurological and chemical process in brain cells (merely matter), why would similar mental states in animals not also originate in their immaterial minds? To go the logical step further, if human minds are the essential faculty of our souls, and if some animals experience mental states in their minds similar to humans, we have a good reason to believe that animal souls will also survive physical death. There is no scientific reason—or biblical (as we saw in parts 7-9)—why this shouldn’t be true.

The key here is whether or not animals actually experience emotions, feelings, and thoughts that in humans can only originate in our immaterial minds, our souls. If sentient animals share these same qualifying attributes, they too must have an immaterial mind or soul distinct from their physical brain. Demonstrating that sentient animals do possess human-like emotions, feelings, and thoughts—the fundamental attributes of immaterial minds/souls—is the topic of the next two blog articles.

*  The blog articles in this series are adapted from copyrighted material and may not  be reproduced in book or article form, either electronically or in print, without my written permission. But feel free to send links to these articles, with a brief introduction, to your personal email list, Facebook friends and groups, or other people who may enjoy them. Or post a link on your own website. If you would like to be added to my personal blog email list (people who receive an email notice whenever I post a new blog article), contact me through my website:

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