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Dr Sharon Dirckx next to an image of a brain and lightbulb
Purposeful UniverseMarch 5, 20242 min read

Purposeful Lab: Understanding the Mind and Brain

In today's Purposeful Lab episode, Dr. Sharon Dirckx joins Dan and Catherine to discuss the differences between the mind, the brain, and what we know about consciousness. Dr. Dirckx has an extensive background in neuroscience and Christian Apologetics. Throughout the episode, she argues for how the brain and the mind work together in a meaningful manner, ultimately pointing towards the existence of a transcendent creator. 


What can Neuroscience Tell Us About the Human Mind? 

Dr. Dirckx explains that the brain and the mind are correlated. We don’t just have a brain—we also have a mind. The mind can be understood as the seat of awareness, thought, volition, and memory within the human person. However, while the scientific method is no stranger to the brain, the mind is still a mysterious phenomenon within the scientific field. 

Materialistic Approach towards the Human Mind 

Many scientists today presuppose a materialistic worldview when conducting research. This means that many scientists believe that we can only formulate statements of truth about the world from physical matter. In this way, many scientists claim that the mind is simply a part of the brain and that mental states are simply processes of the brain. However, as Dr. Dirckx explains, this view does not account for the experience of individual selfhood. In that, if the mind was simply a part of the physical brain, there would be nothing to differentiate one self from another outside of the physical composition of their brains.

Another major view from materialism states that the brain generates the mind. Meaning, the mind is simply a product of the brain’s development. Yet, this view fails to answer the question: how do you go from brain processes to the experience of what it is like to be you?  

The Relationship Between Mind and Body 

Dr. Dirckx believes that there is more to humans than chemicals inside of our heads. It is highly improbable to conclude that unconscious neural activity in the brain can somehow produce conscious minds. This is because the mind focuses on abstract concepts while the brain operates through material processes. Dr. Dirckx calls this belief substance dualism, which posits that within us exists a physical brain and a non-physical mind. Under this view, we cannot reduce everything within consciousness to the physical world because the mind can clearly conceive of things that are immaterial effortlessly, such as concepts like love, happiness, and fulfillment. 

Take a Listen 

This episode demonstrates that the mind and brain have a relationship that points to a more meaningful existence than that of materialism. The complexity of the human person cannot be reduced to simply physical phenomena, and the existence of the mind proves that. The mind has a powerful impact on the brain and produces the things in life that we find most meaningful. Without the existence of the immaterial mind, concepts like free will would cease to exist since our choices could not exist outside of deterministic processes in the brain. 




Purposeful Universe

The Purposeful Universe seeks to explore and present, through award winning videos, the abundant order in nature that funnels biological systems toward increasing levels of complexity and sophistication—suggesting that human life is the purposeful outcome of a complex, ordered system.