Reasons for Having Faith
Part 3 of 7
Where Did Consciousness Come From?
Being conscious is an amazing mystery. Why are we conscious rather than unconscious beings? Why are we aware? Why are we aware that we are aware? Where did our consciousness come from?
Approximately 85 billion neurons make up our brains. Each neuron is connected to 10,000 others. These neurons fire a signal on the synapses between them. The mind’s process for thinking is a matter of these neurons firing or not firing; you could call them biological on and off switches of the brain. How can consciousness arise from these simple firings of neurons?
The function of a computer is similar to how our brains work in that all computer computations are a huge number of 0s and 1s, much like the firing or not firing of the brain’s neurons. These 0s and 1s, in long strings and combinations, allow a computer to process data, but unlike our brains a computer is not conscious.
Dr. Rosalind Picard, a Christian who is the founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at MIT, is heading the effort to give computers the ability to sense and respond to emotional clues. Will they ever have emotions? Dr. Picard stated, “We are working on methods that give machines what I say are mechanisms of emotion… We can make the computer smile and look like it’s happy, act like it’s happy, and retrieve happier words. We can make a computer write poetry that’s more iambic, but it doesn’t have the same internal experience, or self, that we have.”
In other words, we can program computers to simulate emotions by writing code so they respond in ways that seem emotional, but they aren’t really feeling anything. When IBM’s Watson computer won the game of Jeopardy over humans it couldn’t be happy about the win. Watson wasn’t truly “thinking,” just crunching vast amounts of 0s and 1s to arrive at the right answer.
No computer code, no matter how long or complex or how fast it runs, is going to become conscious; code can’t be conscious. We can program computers to mimic consciousness, but not to experience it. If the 0s and 1s of computer code are never going to achieve consciousness, there’s no reason to believe that switching on and off the firing of the neurons of any brain will generate consciousness.
There’s really no adequate explanation for the existence of consciousness other than believing that the Creator, who is supremely conscious, created us this way! As His conscious creation we are not only conscious of self and of the world around us, we were created to be conscious of our Creator, and to live accordingly.
“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God…” (Jeremiah 24:7)