• Robert Tomlinson
    4
    Does God have a brain? I thought such a basic question would demand the presence of clarity in the response. I ‘Googled’ it (well, Binged it, because Microsoft’s search engine has a beautiful home page) to test the waters. I came up with Aron Wall who is studying quantum gravity and black hole thermodynamics at Cambridge, read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got his physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. Aron suggests that rather than having a mind, God is like a mind: “ Unlike us, God knows things directly, rather than by the mediation of a perceptual apparatus and neural processing. For if an omniscient being knew things by representation, then he would need an exact identical copy of the entire Universe in his brain. If he is omniscient, the copy would be exactly like the original, which seems absurd on grounds of redundancy: everything in the world would exist twice, once in reality and once exactly the same in God's mind. Better to say that God just knows whatever is true, or rather that God is such that his knowledge and Truth are one and the same thing!
    Get outa’ that! In what I would term the real world, God in the popularised version of Christianity does, I believe, have a brain, a consciousness which prizes and guides every one of its 2.3 billion followers (31.4% of the global population). That belief is what occupies me and, I’m sure, a multitude of other thoughtful folk pondering the spiritual aspects of Life, the Universe (and Donald Trump). A friend once took me to task for dismissing her contention that, were she to be a passenger in an aeroplane plummeting to earth, God would save her, providing she prayed hard enough. Belief in her miraculous powers may well have been cemented had she been resident in my home in Kiveton Park just after World War 2, when a ‘plane, a Wellington Bomber, fell out of the sky, only narrowly avoiding a Lockerbie-style disaster, skimming the rooftops of hundreds of homes before plummeting into a grassy field, claiming only one life, that of an unfortunate cow. A bit steep in all senses, in my view, yet my friend’s reasoning is implied in the plethora of Christian pleadings for good fortune in dealing with the vicissitudes of survival (a trifle ‘wordy’ but I did so want to use the word vicissitude if only to prove that I could spell it. Incidentally, after eight Grammar School years, a bash at Uni’, and four decades in journalism, it is not I who spells, but my fingers typing. I have to type out in my head obstinate vocabulary).
    This one-on-one view of the Almighty may not sit comfortably in some company. Try approaching the original question in terms of does Good have a brain, or if not a brain, a reality built into our psyche. The transposition of ‘good’ for ‘god’ came to me from my mother, who had first hand dealings with a deity so fearsome that every wicked moment on earth carried with it the prospect of a lightning strike sufficient to split the Empire State like a stick of Bridlington Rock (you may be amused to hear that a passing acquaintance was inclined to believe my assertion that his Bedlington Terrier was in fact a Bridlington terrier, as it smelled of fish and chips). As I was saying, my Great Grandmother (mum’s mum’s mum Frances Philippa Roberts) had been whisked out of the ranks of generations of simple Cornish folk to join General William Booth’s Salvation Army special forces in a nationwide annihilation of evil (though Corporal Roberts did fall in love playing a banjo for a load of pitmen). So Good for God struck a chord for me, there being, I would suggest, a momentum towards goodness in this life, a completely natural repulsion from badness. The question posed is, why? Just a matter of preservation, or a ‘divine’ (be careful with that word) impulse. ‘Yet man is born unto trouble, just as the sparks fly upward,’ is a quotation from the Book Of Job (5.7) though brought to the attention of my fly-paper brain donkey’s years ago by a character in The Archers (what a fabulously clumsy mixing of metaphors) lamenting the problems in the life of one of her children. I might add, the same child in the current Archers series is still embroiled in that epithet. Clearly, when it comes to homo sapiens we are a troublesome creature defined, I think, by contradictions. “Wherever man goes, there is trouble,” wrote Henry Williamson, author of Tarka The Otter, lamenting destruction of our countryside by neglect and urban sprawl a hundred years ago in Devonshire. And look where we are now, with mankind’s folly threatening to warm our beautiful planet to a catastrophic degree. By the way, Williamson was, I believe, one of the thinkers of his age to consider there was merit in Hitler’s early efforts to bring German youth up to scratch.
    Hold on, though. This question of rightness and wrongness is all relative. Why is it bad that we are despoiling Planet Earth? Why does it matter? Is an amazing, unspoiled spot in the Universe a good thing? And what about crime? Why is it wrong to kill another person? We’re only animals, aren’t we, clever apes? Those questions of morality take us right back to my suggestion that we have an inherent urge to live positive lives, avoiding destruction, desolation, mayhem. In this sense morality is the key word. Are we following some inherent, or in this context, spiritual need, spurred by the power of Good/God? This cannot be determined objectively. We cannot know for certain what it is which powers our incessant need to progress, survive, protect. A subjective judgement raises the spectre of what we believe. There is no doubting the evolutionary theory, which determines that atoms, molecules, protons, neutrons, the infinitely tiny fragments of every substance we know, on earth and in space, all these pieces of the puzzle have a tendency, an urge, to become catalysts, given the chance, to either repel other matter, or combine and coalesce, so evolving, progressing, into another state. Maybe our urge is built into our DNA. Humankind evolved, changed to suit the circumstances, to survive. With a higher brain function came emotion, in all animals, ourselves included, including fear of threats to our people, to our territory, to the familiar patterns which makes us what we are, or what we seem to be. Like starlings attacked by a hawk, we band together, safety in numbers, if we’re lucky surviving. It’s a gut feeling. A Good feeling? A God feeling?
    Life is scary, red in tooth and claw. We’re all subject to the ‘fight or flight’ response. To that you could (many do, in effect) add ‘or worship’. With a god on your side, what can go wrong? Even if it does, there’s always heaven, though maybe best not to lean too heavily on that crutch, or you may take your animal eyes off the main prize, making the most of what you’ve got. Because you are an animal, on a world full of other animals which, arguably, have as much right to exist as do you*. And if you think otherwise, for instance making an assumption that you’re the only animal to have a soul (whatever that is), take a look at gorillas (undeniably our relatives, their gene sequence differing by just 1.6%), fearing for their families, caring for their young in a such a humane manner. It’s a pity they’re stuck with the name given (in Greek translation) to ‘savage people’. For all their size and strength, troglodytes gorilla appear to be peace-loving, predominantly herbivorous, devoted to family life, meticulous in the care and instruction of children. Undeniably, we homo sapiens’ share these qualities, yet are capable of acts which can be described as evil, deliberately bad or harmful.
    We are unique among living organism on this planet in recognising moral code to govern our behaviour, to tell us what is right and wrong, even inventing deities to enable us to explain our lives, to become better people. And who goes to ‘heaven’, the repenting human who murders a gorilla, or the kindly animal he kills? Please don’t think I’m preaching. It’s just a question? The ‘modern’ expression self-aware is one I like. This state can lead to narcissistic preening, which has been a characteristic of the rich and the powerful and the noble and the holy for just about ever. However, we are in the age of the common man (short for mankind in context, not sexist). In the century since my grandfather, aged 14, was cleaning pit locos, Joe and Josephine Soap have become emancipated, in Western society at least. People matter now, their voice more powerful, and importantly they have what my grandad’s generation had not, time to explore their lives, time to think. Tradition beware! I recall a thought that came to me at the dawn of the 1960s ( so clearly it could have been today), namely that the Rock ‘N Roll tsunami whipped up by Elvis, Little Richard, The Beatles, The Stones, was destined by to sweep away every vestige of the dingy, stuck-in-the-mud past, including religion. It’s taken me fifty years to learn that it was not to be so simple a catharsis, yet I was on the right path. The earth has moved. Self-awareness is here to stay. Homo Sapiens, the thoughtful species.
    “I think therefore I am; Je pense, donc je suis; Cogito, ergo sum,” the one and only certainty in life as expressed by French philosopher Renee Descartes. A flawless argument you might consider, except that, additionally, Descartes proposed another level of existence, suggesting that even a baby’s mind contained an ‘innate idea’ of mind, matter, and God, this juxtaposed with that which is received or compiled from experience. Therein lies the philosopher’s pitfall, confusing how things are with how he’d like them to be. Emotion, imagination, contain limitless power to conceive that which is not real, yet which feels unquenchably substantial. Let Scientia Est Potentia be your code, Knowledge Is Power. If there is a conclusion to be reached about Life, the Universe, God (and Donald Trump), it is that we should all distinguish that which is known from that which is believed, not only in religion, but in science too. Though it may be impossible to prove that the Almighty has a brain, this priceless implement is most certainly in your possession. Use it, or lose it. And vote Democrat next time.
    Bob Tomlinson
    *Here I have made what could be described as an intellectual assumption (maybe elsewhere too) when it comes to ‘rights’. Taking a nihilistic sort of view, nothing existing on Earth or elsewhere in the Universe has any ‘rights’. This assumption is reached by attaching ‘worth’ to the state of ‘existence’, concluding that Planet Earth as we know it has some merit and so neither it, nor its inhabitants, should be considered worthless or without rights.
  • tim wood
    2.7k
    Difficult to read as it is, it is worth reading. Now, Bob, back on your meds. And think about how you can make your next foray into philosophy as we here style it a little more accessible. Larger font? Line breaks and spacing? It's your oyster, try to do a better job of opening it?
  • T Clark
    3.4k


    I agree with @Tim wood. I scanned the post, but it was really hard to read. If you will edit it, I'll come back and give it my full attention. I bet you'll get more responses from others if you do that too.

    I know it can be discouraging putting out your first few posts and not getting much in the way of response. I have found that posting on the forum has improved my writing significantly. Writing clearly is as important as being right.
  • Anaxagoras
    349
    Does God have a brain?Robert Tomlinson

    God is incorporeal. The brain is a corporeal substance.

    But what the heck does Donald Trump have to do with this?
  • Anaxagoras
    349
    I agree with Tim wood. I scanned the post, but it was really hard to read.T Clark

    This is the result of tangential thought.
  • Robert Tomlinson
    4
    I fear I have posted my essay in the wrong place. Evidentially, based on your corporate reactions, you take your philosophy seriously. But there's no need to deliberately turn away from understanding. My daughter, a psychology student studying for her Ph.D. in LA, thought my essay beautifully argued. So did I, after 40 years in journalism. Now that I recognise my essay doesn't fit, maybe I can come up with something which will. Studying philosophy for my degree, I enjoyed investigating Hans Eysenck and his personality traits. I shall now see where mine lead.
  • Robert Tomlinson
    4
    I fear I have posted my essay in the wrong place. Evidentially, based on your corporate reactions, you take your philosophy seriously. But there's no need to deliberately turn away from understanding. Of course a brain is 'corporeal'? Not true in general conversation. You might remark to a child, "For heaven's sake use your brain", in the sense of a thought process, not a lump of matter. And why did each of you seem to think it was difficult to read? Are you joined at the hip? My daughter, a psychology student studying for her Ph.D. in LA, thought my essay beautifully argued. So did I, after 40 years in journalism. Now that I recognise my essay doesn't fit, maybe I can come up with something which will. Studying philosophy for my degree, I enjoyed investigating Hans Eysenck and his personality traits. I shall now see where mine lead. And Trump's just a 'teaser' so next time I can ask, "Did no one guess what my Donald J allusion was about?" All the best, philosophically speaking.
  • Robert Tomlinson
    4
    Having given the matter some thought overnight, I can see where you are 'coming from'. As a blog (a term I dislike, preferring 'essay') I know in my heart this really IS readable. All my years of experience tell me so. Yet it is not YOUR language. This was an ill-fit, which I failed to appreciate when hastily posting. Paragraphing did not suit my Blogger site, where I'm stuck with a very wide editorial base. Do you have any thoughts on Hans J. Eysenck? I took his work to heart when at Uni. When I have thought things through, maybe I'll be back.
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