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god brain

John Cleese.

4 replies on “god brain”

I love John Cleese.

The stereotypical scientist. It seems we like reductionism, it helps us to figure parts of systems out. Doesn’t necessarily help us to relate that back to understanding the system holistically though.

I would be interested to know a little bit more about the quantum physics which says that everything cannot be explained mechanically.

It got me thinking about the nature of the relationship between our genes (genotype) and who we are as bodies and personalities (phenotype). We hear a lot about an obesity gene, a warrior gene, a sexual orientation gene, a cheat on your partner gene, a God gene etc.. But the casual relationship between our genes and phenotype is not clear. The existence of epistasis (genes effecting each other), pleiotrophy (single genes effecting many phenotypes) and the effect of the environment on phenotype (same genes but different environment give rise to two very different individuals) all mean that there is no simple cause and effect relationship between a gene and a trait. Talk of God genes etc. should, in my opinion, be written off as overly simplistic spin. It seems to me that the possession of a single gene usually only gives a predisposition at best (except in the clearly demonstrated cases of a few genetic diseases) and seldom relieves a person of personal responsibility and accountability. The question which comes to my mind is although the relationship between genotype and phenotype is complex and poorly understood can our humanity be ultimately accounted for by this complex relationship or is there a “God breathed” element unique to humanity? Is the image of God manifest in us as a result of the development of our genes over our evolutionary past, a kind of emergent property, or did God touch our humanity at some time in our past?

Welcome, Jonathan!
Thanks for your thoughts/comment. The ‘how we got the image of God’ question is a good one. I suppose I’d want to say that being in the image/likeness of God is not limited by, or better still, is not guaranteed by our mere state of biological developed-ness. A homosapien becomes more and more fully human when they live human-ly: the life of love (of God/neighbour – and self, I might add). Contrarily, a homosapien becomes less and less human when they live dehumanising-ly: the life of isolation, indifference – hatred.

That may sound like I’m ‘dodging’ the question, which was in terms of biology (genotype/phenotype, evolution, etc.), but whilst I do think our physical/biological bodies are an essential pre-requisite (if I can put it like that) of being a human and bearing God’s image, I also think it’s not ultimately our biology that makes us truly human, but rather relationships.

I’m curious as to your thoughts there. :)

However, in terms of biology, I’d also want to say that I think it makes sense to say that ALL of creation ‘reflects’ God, and that we can envisage a spectrum, as it were, from fuzzy to clear with humanity (and ultimately Jesus Christ himself) at the ‘clear’ end. Not only can we locate things like rocks, roses, red-ants, rhinos, rhesus monkeys and ‘Raymond’ on this spectrum, but we can also track the process of Raymond as he (as it were) develops along it: from embryo to foetus, from baby to boy, etc. (what’s the phrase again? ‘ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’?) And this would, of course, only be the biological spectrum of God-reflecting-ness. There would also be a ‘relational’/’spiritual’ spectrum of God-reflecting-ness, from totally self-absorbed, destructive, disconnected, isolated, hateful, etc. at one end, to other-focused, self-controlling, caring, connected/fellowshipping, sharing, loving, etc. (or just see Fruits of the Spirit in Gal. 5:22-23).

I’d better leave it there, but would love to hear your thoughts :)

Hi Dale,

I like the idea of people more fully or accurately displaying the image of God when they live more human-ly and the idea of a relational/spiritual spectrum of God-reflecting-ness. Perhaps it challenges us toward sanctification, of reflecting Christ more clearly? I do feel a little uncomfortable that perhaps it could also be taken to infer that those living dehumanising-ly have less intrinsic worth in their humanity.

You seem to put a relational emphasis on the nature of the image. It reminds me of an article I read by van Huyssten in Theology and Science recently where it discusses in what aspects of our humanity we bear God’s image. Apparently it is a Barthian way of thinking to consider God’s image in humanity to be our ability to relate to God. Others have also considered intelligence, wisdom, free will, virtues, morality, and judging right from wrong to be aspects of the image of God in humanity. The article suggests to me that although our evolved bodies give the underlying capacities (or prerequisite) that enable these qualities, it is how we choose to use them that is more significant, enabling us to transcend our biological origins.

I do agree that that all of creation displays God’s glory, that creation functioning as creation glorifies God. However, it seems to me that Genesis singles out humanity as unique from the rest of creation with regard to our image of God bearing capacity, as we are told that humanity specifically was made in “Our image.” So I dunno about a biological spectrum of fuzziness to increasing clarity. I think we also get into difficulties when we try to infer what God is like from creation alone without the benefit of special revelation. Whilst I think one could infer the presence of a creator from creation, the image of God in creation may be more difficult to infer. What do we learn of God from Tsunamis and parasites for example?

Cheers Jonathan,
On dehumanising living and intrinsic worth, I’d say that it wouldn’t lessen their our intrinsic potential to live human-ly, but would be lessening their our actualised realised human-ness – at their our own doing.

And yes, natural theology would never get us to Jesus the focal point of special revelation – indeed, the exact revelation of God. Perhpas if we include the “specially revealed reflector” in the spectrum (clay, cedar trees, crayfish, Cecil and ultimately Christ), we can hold both natural and special revelation in the one sepctrum?

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