Reasons to Believe

So Easy a Caveman Could Do It? Part 1 (of 2)

The slogan of the popular Geico commercials is now familiar to most television viewing people. It shows the frustration, resentment, and anger of cavemen toward certain twenty-first century corporate executives who portray their company’s product as being so easy to use that these mere cavemen can do it. It is a marvelously successful ad campaign.

Who are these cavemen? They most likely represent Cro-Magnons, human beings who lived at least 35,000 years ago. How do contemporary human beings, or “moderns,” consider the first humans in terms of their intellectual and physical capacities? Words that come to mind include ignorant, crude, violent, and powerful, and they are assumed to have been linguistically primitive, even guttural in expression. But such adjectives are not justifiable descriptions of the first humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, created by God in the imago Dei (Genesis 1:27, 5:1-2). Even the ads show the cavemen as articulate and able to use cell phones, check airline boarding passes, and order roast duck with mango salsa! The ads suggest that cavemen were not primitive but rather remarkably sophisticated.

These commercials draw attention to a trait that distinguishes human beings from other animals, namely their sophisticated linguistic capacity that emanates from a mind. What makes this kind of communication possible with other humans? An examination of neural synaptic transmission offers a model for the mechanism of communication, not only communication with other humans but also with God.

In Genesis 2:7 God breathed the breath of life into Adam, the crown of His creation. Human beings alone received spirit from God, and through it an interactive relationship with Him and life that transcends the physical, temporal life on Earth (see Who Was Adam?, p. 49). The first humans manifested spiritual awareness and were—considering their resources—artistically, socially, and technologically advanced. These attributes have been documented as far back as 50,000 years ago, when advanced human culture appeared out of nowhere, marking the appearance of God’s image in a created being (see Who Was Adam?, p. 249). What “modern” could survive and thrive as they did without the benefit of shopping malls? These first human beings, or cavemen, were concerned with ideas such as God, morality, purpose, destiny, the meaning of life, and what happens after death.

Of particular interest are cranial vault analyses of fossilized remains of the first humans. These show cerebral structures, called Broca’s region for speech and Wernicke’s region for language comprehension, identical to those of modern humans and that enable sophisticated linguistic communication.1 Language characterizes Homo sapiens sapiens (see Who Was Adam? p. 163-164),2 the only creation of God that possesses the intellectual capacity to acquire knowledge, discernment, and judgment through experience—wisdom. As the Geico ads suggest, the first humans were indeed remarkably sophisticated.

In the Genesis accounts we see that Adam displayed interactive communication with God. Endowed with the human spirit, two-way communication was possible between God, who is Spirit, and the human mind (see The Genesis Question, p. 110). The mental capacity of human beings gives us a unique awareness of self a concept of the mind that cannot be attributed to or localized within the physical brain. We are aware of our unique personal identity, our “I,”3 with which Adam communicated with God, the “I Am.” Let us examine the model by which this interaction may be better understood.

The neural synapse is an elegant and complex molecular machine.4 It transmits information5 as action potentials, or nerve impulses, according to codes. Codes are also associated with genetic expression, with language being integral to both.6 The release of neurotransmitters from synaptic vesicles across synaptic clefts is stochastic, and the probability of their transmission across synapses is proportional to the strength of impulses carried along neural fibers to synaptic complexes.7 The arrival of an impulse stimulates an influx of calcium into the complexes that, in turn, stimulates a series of intracellular chemical and molecular configuration changes. These changes mobilize vesicles containing neurotransmitters bound at presynaptic grids to release their contents into the synaptic cleft. The magnitude of the impulse determines the probability that neurotransmitters will be released across the synapse with resulting action on postsynaptic structures. The result is a continuation of the nerve impulse along the next nerve fiber to its receptor target, which could be a gland, muscle, or sensory organ.8 Synaptic transmission is further amplified in power, complexity, and specificity by the transmission of impulses through elaborate neural synaptic networks within multiple centers of the brain.9

Encoded information that is transmitted is not derived from the physical components of the nervous system. Information has never been generated by that which is material,10 and neither natural laws nor chance can give origin to information. A myth of modern evolutionary biology is that information can be generated without recourse to intelligence.11 Information transmitted by a neural impulse is selected from a full array of informational entropy12 and assigned specificity, or meaning, by an intelligent agent. The greatest amount of information in a transmitted impulse is associated with the least uncertainty and smallest probability, or meaning, and reflects the will or intention of the intelligent agent that assigns meaning to it (e.g., the location of a predator!). Only intelligent causation or a mental concept that transcends the natural causes of a biological system can generate information that is exogenous to a physical organism but is transmitted to and assimilated by it. Specificity, or meaning, is assigned by an intelligent agent, whether that is a human being or God, the divine Logos (John 1:1-2).13

Information is information, neither matter nor energy. No materialism that fails to take account of this can survive the present day. – Norbert Weiner, MIT Mathematician and Father of Cybernetics

Similarly, the intellective capacity of the human mind that includes will, intention, and attention is not generated by the material brain. Mortimer J. Adler states that although the material brain is necessary for thinking, it is not sufficient. We cannot think conceptually without our brains, but we do not think conceptually solely with them.14 The brain is not the organ of thought. An immaterial intellect is required, and the difference between human and animal cognition is a difference in kind. The immateriality of the intellect in its cognitive dimension makes conceptual thought and freedom of will possible. According to Adler,

Acts of the will are not uncaused acts, but the kind of causality that governs acts of the will, not being physical, permits them to be both caused and free.

Next week we will see how clinical studies have confirmed that the will of the nonphysical human mind expressed as language can interact with, and cause changes in, physical brain matter.

Part 1 | Part 2


Stan Lennard, M.D.

Dr. Lennard oversees the "Advanced Seminar on Human Origins" and "Advanced Seminar on the Origins of Life" courses. He is also the chairman of the board for Reasons To Believe. 


Subjects: Consciousness, Image of God, Life Design, TCM - Human Origins, TCM - Life Design

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RTB guest writers employ their backgrounds, education, and experiences to provide faith-building, testable evidence, each from the perspective of their unique disciplines.

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References

  1. Jeffrey M. Schwartz and Sharon Begley, The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the Power of Mental Force (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2002), 169.
  2. Richard G. Klein and Blake Edgar, The Dawn of Human Culture (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2002), 145-46.
  3. Karl R. Popper and John C. Eccles, The Self and Its Brain (London: Routledge, 1998), 355-76, 555-61; John C. Eccles, Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self (London: Routledge, 1996), 236-38.
  4. Gordon M. Shepherd and Christof Koch, “Introduction to Synaptic Circuits,” in The Synaptic Organization of the Brain, 4th ed., ed. Gordon M. Shepherd(New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 3-7.
  5. Alexander Borst and Frederic E. Theunissen, “Information Theory and Neural Coding,” Nature Neuroscience 2 (1999): 947-57; Bruno B. Averbeck and Daeyeol Lee, “Coding and Transmission of Information by Neural Ensembles,” Trends in Neurosciences 27 (2004): 225-30; Fred Reike et al., Spikes: Exploring the Neural Code (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997), 13-16, 21-24, 59-64.
  6. Werner Gitt, "Information, Science and Biology," Technical Journal Archive 10 (1996): 181-87; Reike et al., Spikes, 81, 87.
  7. Misha V. Tsodyks and Henry Markram, "The Neural Code between Neocortical Pyramidal Neurons Depends on Neurotransmitter Release Probability," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 94 (1997): 719-23; Borst and Theunissen, "Information Theory," 947-57.
  8. Thomas C. Sudhof and Richard H. Scheller, “Mechanism and Regulation of Neurotransmitter Release,” in Synapses, eds. W. Maxwell Cowan, Thomas C. Sudhof, and Charles F. Stevens (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001), 177-216; Rafael Fernandez-Chacon et al., “Synaptotagmin I Functions as a Calcium Regulator of Release Probability” Nature 410 (2001): 41-49.
  9. Wulfram Gerstner et al., “Neural Codes: Firing Rates and Beyond,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 94 (1997): 12740-41.
  10. Gitt, "Information," 181-87; William A. Dembski, "Intelligent Design as a Theory of Information," Intelligent Design: The Bridge between Science and Theology (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1999), 153-83.
  11. Dembski, Intelligent Design, 153-83.
  12. Reike et al., Spikes, 110-20.
  13. Dembski, Intelligent Design, 180-83.
  14. Mortimer J. Adler, Intellect: Mind over Matter (New York: Collier Books, 1990), 47, 53, 163.