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February 18, 2013
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Since the dawn of time humans have looked to the sky and marveled at its immensity, its vastness, the sheer unfathomable number of stars dotting the dark night. The heavens declare God’s glory in all of these ways, but also in this: the heavens provoke wonder. The heavens provoke wonder and that wonder calls us to worship. The sky declares God’s glory through the fact that it exists and the sky declares God’s glory in calling us to that reaction of worship.
For millennia the heavens have provoked wonder. It is only in recent times that we have been able to begin to see God’s creation on the micro scale as much as on the macro, and here too we feel wonder.
I recently read Moonwalking with Einstein, a fascinating bestselling book that recounts author Joshua Foer’s yearlong quest to improve his memory. He came into contact with competitive memorization and what was at first simply another story for another magazine article became an obsession. Soon he was competing in the World Memory Championships, memorizing the order of a deck of cards in less than two minutes, performing feats of memory almost too amazing to believe. This quest to improve his memory took him deep into studies of the human brain.
The brain must be God’s creative masterpiece. The brain has been the subject of intense study for many years now. Modern technologies are able to peer deeper into the brain than ever before; imaging technologies allow us to see the brain in action; experiments are able to temporarily disable parts of the brain; yet all of this study has provided only the smallest glimpse of how the brain actually works. For everything we know with certainty, there are many more things about which we can do little more than speculate.
Consider memory, as just one example. We know that memories are stored in the brain, but we don’t really know how the brain stores them, how it recalls them, how it forgets them.
All of our memories are … bound together in a web of associations. This is not merely a metaphor, but a reflection of the brain’s physical structure. The three-pound mass balanced atop our spines is made up of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 billion neurons, each of which can make upwards of five to ten thousand synaptic connections with other neurons. A memory, at the most fundamental physiological level, is a pattern of connections between those neurons. Every sensation that we remember, every thought that we think, transforms our brains by altering the connections within that vast network. By the time you get to the end of this sentence, your brain will have physically changed.
Wonder. Worship. That is what the brain calls us to do.
For all the amazing technologies mankind has been able to fabricate, none of them come even close to duplicating the brain’s power. We like to speak of computers as if they are a form of synthetic brain, but a computer is to the brain what a picket fence is to the Great Wall of China—just the barest, dimmest, most unworthy reflection.
It is good for the Christian to read of the inner workings and unfathomable nature of the brain just as it is good for the Christian to read of the unfathomable immensity of the universe. This world contains endless displays of brilliance and beauty; brilliance and beauty direct us beyond themselves to something or someone brilliant and beautiful enough to create and direct all of this and so much more. Advances in the ability to see this world on the macro and micro levels only give us more reasons to wonder and more reasons to worship.
Joshua Foer does not believe in God as Creator; rather, he believes in naturalistic evolution. There is something so jarring about hearing of the wonders of the brain and then immediately suggesting that it is the product of evolution, the product of time plus chance. To describe the inner workings of the brain is to arouse wonder; to hear of time and chance is to squelch that wonder, to suppress it, to deny its desire. Wonder’s great desire is to lead us to worship; evolution’s great desire is to deny that worship. To speak of the brain is to begin to reveal something of the Creator of the brain, but to introduce evolution is to cry out, “But it’s not what you think! It wasn’t created! Suppress that worship!”
Foer could not keep me from worship. The brain is just too wondrous, too wonderful, too awe-inspiring to keep my heart from following that wonder to the Source of wonder, to the Creator. I enjoyed the book from the first page to the last; I enjoyed it because, despite the author’s intent, I met the Creator in its pages.
(Moonwalking with Einstein is available at Amazon. It is worth reading for what it teaches about the human brain. It is also worth reading if you are interested in improving your memory.)