Intelligent Design and the Human Brain

by Stephen Caesar

The enormous, nearly inconceivable complexity of the human brain has defied scientific inquiry since the dawn of civilization. According to the science journal Discover, neuroscientists have yet to "master the syntax or set of rules that transform electrochemical pulses coursing through the brain into perceptions, memories, emotions, and decisions. Deciphering this so-called neural code—think of it as the brain's software—is the ultimate goal of many scientists tinkering with brain-machine interfaces" (Horgan 2004: 42).

The reference to "the brain's software" is highly telling. Lately, many scientists and philosophers have been looking at the universe as one gigantic computer program. Even molecules seem to behave like computer bits. The same goes for the human brain; its essential structure is highly similar to the most complex computers, which of course are not the product of random chance over eons of time, but of intelligent (human) design.

John Chapin, a leading researcher in brain-machine interfaces (hooking up animal brains to machines), ranks the brain's neural code with the other two great mysteries of science: the origin of the universe and of life on earth. "In addition to being the most significant mystery in science, the neural code may also be the hardest to solve," reported Discover (ibid.). The journal then goes on to compare the neural code to a computer, noting that the "computer" we have in our skulls is infinitely more complex than the ones created by man:

"The neural code is often likened to the machine code that underpins the operating system of a digital computer. Like transistors, neurons serve as switches, or logic gates, absorbing and emitting electrochemical pulses, called action potentials, which resemble the basic units of information in digital computers. But the brain's complexity dwarfs that of any existing computer. A typical brain contains 100 billion cells—almost as numerous as the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. And each cell is linked via synapses to as many as 100,000 others. The synapses between cells are awash in hormones and neurotransmitters that modulate the transmission of signals, and the synapses constantly form and dissolve, weaken and strengthen in response to new experiences.

"Assuming that each synapse processes one action potential per second and that these transactions represent the brain's computational output, then the brain performs at least one quadrillion operations per second, almost a thousand times more than the best supercompters" (ibid. [emphasis added]).

Since the most advanced computers ever designed by man are only one one-thousandth as complex and capable as the human brain, is it "unscientific" to conclude that the brain is also the product of an external, designing Force having an express goal in mind?


Horgan, J. 2004. "The Myth of Mind Control." Discover, vol. 25, no. 10.

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