If the physical universe that we see, smell, hear, feel and taste is all that exists, how can we account for the fact we all have thoughts and emotions that are just as “real” to us as any of our senses?
This might initially seem like an odd question, but in fact it “points” to one of the most important questions any human being can ever ponder: If the non-material (i.e. thinking, consciousness) is as real as our five material senses (which can be explained merely by physical factors), how do we explain the origin and ultimate significance of the non-material?
J. Warner Wallace, NBC “Dateline’s” cold-case detective, addresses this issue in chapter five of his superb book “God’s Crime Scene.” There he observes this:
“If humans are simply the product of ingredients and processes from ‘inside the room’ of the universe, we are nothing more than physical beings, and as such, every part of our existence ought to be subject to physical laws and processes, including processes used to measure and predict the behavior of our physical components.
“Our brains, as physical entities, can be weighed, measured for length or width, and calculated for mass. Our brains and central nervous systems, as physical entities, can be described thoroughly using terms from chemistry or physics.
“This is not possible for mental entities such as desires, sensations, emotions or wills, however. These entities cannot be measured or analyzed using the processes appropriate for physical objects.
“While your thoughts have propositional content, they obviously don’t have physical weight. Physical entities can be measured using physical measurement instruments and evaluated with the laws and terms of chemistry and physics.
“Our mental entities — our thoughts, wills, desires and sensations — cannot be measured or evaluated in this way.”
But how can we know with confidence that what we think is true about things like emotions and fears is valid with as much confidence as we can about physical things?
When you see a photograph of a starving child in the Sudan who is near death and feel an intense sense of injustice, sadness and anger rising up within you, are those things mere illusions or accurate representations of reality?
If you look at a board and say to yourself it looks to be about a foot long, you can get a tape measure and determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of your estimate.
But when you see a photograph of a starving child in the Sudan who is near death and feel an intense sense of injustice, sadness and anger rising up within you, are those things mere illusions or accurate representations of reality?
And where are you when you realize that, if things from the non-material realm like “being” are just as “real” as things in the material realm, then the existence of God, the ultimate non-material being, is as logically possible as the existence of the Grand Canyon?
And what about material things that convey information about non-material things, like the Bible? Think about that one today.