Saturday, March 14, 2009


I would really like your feedback on this post. I am making no assumptions here. I am writing simply about my experience. What I imagine is that your experience is very much like mine and I would like to find out from you if this is true or not. Now I am not going to be writing about the content of my experience. I know that the content of my experience is quite a bit different than the content of yours (thank God, or we would all die of boredom) and by content I mean not just the facts and memories that I have experienced, but the attitudes and the beliefs that I have about this experience. No, what I am talking about is a bit more subtle than that. I am talking about the context of my experience; not the experience, but who is experiencing the experience.

Now I realize that we are not a very reflective society, but I am asking that you reflect on my words before you give me feed back. I am not interested in what your biology teacher thinks or what your pastor thinks. I am not interested in your 'researched' answer. I am interested in you searching, not researching. Just ask yourself as you read this post, if this an accurate description of your actual experience, or does your experience differ in some way. Again, not what you have been taught, but what and how you actually experience things. And I know that in our society we are taught by experts, both scientific and religious, not to trust our experience. Scientists tell us that we, as layman, lack the knowledge to understand our experience, and that we must be guided by the latest research; also, that there are many things about our experience that we do not yet know, but that must await future research which may take several generations. Some pastors, rabbis, priests and imams, also tell us that we, as layman, can be easily deceived; that experience can be misunderstood and we can be led down a dangerous path. But again, I am not talking about the content, but the context of experience. I am not talking about anything that can be observed or researched, and I am not talking about any attitude or idea about how to relate to the physical universe. I am simply talking about us, not the content but the context of our experience.

The first thing that I want to say about my experience (and possibly yours) is that I am not my body. I am that which experiences my body. I can move around my body; in fact I can move any place along my brain/nervous system that I choose to. But I am not my brain/nervous system. I am that which is moving around my brain/nervous system. Often I choose where I want to go. If I want to remember something, I go to that part of my brain where I have stored those memories; those memories are stored in a coded system of neural pathways and chemical deposits. When I go there, I translate that code; and those neural pathways and chemical deposits become the memories of what I had previously thought or experienced. If I want to enjoy the taste of something I go to the taste buds in my mouth and the chemical interaction of the food in my mouth and my tastebuds becomes the delicious experience that I was seeking. If I want to feel something pleasurable I go to where my skin is touching that surface and I have a pleasurable experience when I attend to it. Until I get there (and by the way, I am not travelling by bus, my mode of transportation is my attention) all the above are electrical and chemical reactions. It is only when I attend to them that they become an experience of pain or hunger or pleasure or memory.

Now many scientists will tell me that when I feel hunger, it only feels like I am experiencing it in my stomach, and it only feels like I am experiencing tastes in my mouth. That what is really happening, is that those chemical sensations are being translated into electrical patterns and these are travelling to my brain and my brain, at the hunger center, and at the tasting center, is what is really experiencing these sensations. Before I respond to this objection, I would like to discuss vision. The complexity of the eye and the optic nerve have been a hot topic of debate among Darwinian evolutionists and intelligent designers. How could any structure with the exquisite and coherent complexity of a human eye possibly be constructed by the blind, random system of genetic mutations? I am going to quote something here from Michael Behe. Have you heard of him? He is an intelligent designer and a biochemist. Here is his explanation of how we see:

Here is a brief overview of the biochemistry of vision. When light first strikes the retina, a photon interacts with a molecule called 11-cis-retinal, which rearranges within picoseconds to trans-retinal. The change in the shape of retinal forces a change in the shape of the protein, rhodopsin, to which the retinal is tightly bound. The protein's metamorphosis alters its behavior, making it stick to another protein called transducin. Before bumping into activated rhodopsin, transducin had tightly bound a small molecule called GDP. But when transducin interacts with activated rhodopsin, the GDP falls off and a molecule called GTP binds to transducin. (GTP is closely related to, but critically different from, GDP.)
GTP-transducin-activated rhodopsin now binds to a protein called phosphodiesterase, located in the inner membrane of the cell. When attached to activated rhodopsin and its entourage, the phosphodiesterase acquires the ability to chemically cut a molecule called cGMP (a chemical relative of both GDP and GTP). Initially there are a lot of cGMP molecules in the cell, but the phosphodiesterase lowers its concentration, like a pulled plug lowers the water level in a bathtub.

Another membrane protein that binds cGMP is called an ion channel. It acts as a gateway that regulates the number of sodium ions in the cell. Normally the ion channel allows sodium ions to flow into the cell, while a separate protein actively pumps them out again. The dual action of the ion channel and pump keeps the level of sodium ions in the cell within a narrow range. When the amount of cGMP is reduced because of cleavage by the phosphodiesterase, the ion channel closes, causing the cellular concentration of positively charged sodium ions to be reduced. This causes an imbalance of charge across the cell membrane which, finally, causes a current to be transmitted down the optic nerve to the brain. The result, when interpreted by the brain, is vision.

My explanation is just a sketchy overview of the biochemistry of vision. Ultimately, though, this is what it means to "explain" vision.

Pretty complicated, eh? And notice that he says that this is just a 'sketchy' overview of vision. Now I am about to criticize Michael Behe, and in criticizing him I feel a little like a Democrat criticizing President Obama. Obama has enough criticism to deal with at the moment coming at him from the right; he doesn't really need criticism from the left. In the case of Michael Behe, it is not a criticism of left vs. right, or liberal vs. conservative. With regard to Michael Behe, he is taking a daring and heroic stand as a career biochemist and is under a constant barrage of attack from the Darwinist establishment. This is not a criticism from the left vs. the right, but from a spiritual spiritualist, me, criticizing a spiritual materialist, Behe, who is under siege from material materialists, the Darwinian scientific establishment (please see my post MIRACLES).

But I do want you to notice one very important thing about Behe's explanation of vision: although I am sure that all the impressive details of his explanation are accurate, it is NOT an explanation of vision. It is an explanation of how photons of light are translated into electrical impulses in the optic nerve. What about actual seeing? After this entire complex and detailed description of how photons are translated to electrons, all he says regarding vision is the following:

The result, when interpreted by the brain, is vision.

That's it. That is his entire explanation, after all that biochemistry, of how we translate those electrons into our actual experience of sight. To explain the translation of photons to electrons, three incredibly complex paragraphs which is only a 'sketch.' To explain the translation of electrons to the actual experience of vision, four words "interpreted by the brain." Okay, so where? Where is this brain interpretation taking place? Not where the optic neurons are located, but where the translation is located, the organ, the process, that translates the neural electrical patterns to vision?

And the answer, of course, is that there are no such organs or processes, electrical or chemical. When I focus on looking at something it seems like I am looking at it through my eyes, from just behind the retina, at the tip of the optical nerve. It seems that way because it is that way. That is where I experience vision from. That is where I, a non-physical being, am when I see. I see through and at my eyes, I hear through and at my ears (at the tip of the auditory nerve, just behind the cochlia), taste at my taste buds, and touch on my skin. All the endless discussion about an eye evolving by 'itself' makes absolutely no sense. An eye is of no use unless there is an intelligent being looking through that eye; and by intelligent I do not mean intellectual. The purpose of the eye is discernment; to distinguish one thing from another, and most simply, to distinguish what is harmful from what is needed. Intelligence is the ability to read one's environment to be able to distinguish what is needed from what is harmful and to adjust one's behavior correspondingly, or adaptively, so that one's needs can be met and one can survive. I appreciate the dilligent work that has gone into the enormously detailed analysis of the mechanisms of the eye, but what sense does it make without including, in one's understanding, the non-physical being with his or her non-physical intelligence, that is looking through that eye?

So why do I always have this corresponding neural activity in my brain when I am looking at something? Two reasons: The first is that my brain is RECORDING everything that I experience; but the brain is recording what I experience; it is not recording what my brain experiences (the brain, like the rest of my body is matter, and experiences nothing). The second reason, and the reason that I have a brain connected to my consciousness in the first place, is that I use the memories and thoughts and insights that I have recorded in my brain to help me DEFINE my experience. When I see a tree, I see those sensations of green and brown against a blue background, and my brain lets me know, by automatically conjuring associations that I have previously made, that those sensations are called a tree, that it is located in our backyard, and that it needs trimming.

Which brings me to another point. I can be in more than one place along my brain/nervous system at a time. I can be focussed and focussless. I can only focus deeply on one place at a time, but even when I do I am also receiving background information. So I am experiencing something and defining my experience simultaneously. Why do I do that? Because I want to. At a very early age I discovered that I didn't like bunking into things and falling into holes, so I decided, whenever I was moving, to be continually aware and interpreting peripheral visual signals even while I was focussing on something else. But besides peripheral awarenesses, my focus of experience, be it my eyes, ears, nose, mouth, or whatever, become the focal point for a whole raft of defining information and connected thoughts. These associations that I make are guided by the structures of my brain and by my desires; I automatically understand what I am experiencing because of the memories of related experiences that I have had and have recorded in my brain. These definitions allow me to establish and deepen my relationships to the physical world, my society and to other beings.

I am the seer of my sights, the hearer of my sounds, the thinker of my thoughts. I am that which experiences that. My fantastic sensory equipment and my fabulous brain assist me in defining what I am seeing and hearing and thinking, but all of my actual experiencing is not taking place on the physical plane, because I am not part of the physical plane. Matter does not experience anything; and matter does not initiate anything. Matter does not initiate anything because matter does not want to initiate anything. Folks, it's just matter. As amazingly complex and intricate as my eyes and ears and brain are, they are, still, just matter. They neither experience nor initiate. Me, a non-physical being, does that. What about you?

Your comments are most welcome.