Isaac Asimov, my favorite philosopher and science fiction writer wrote, “The human brain is the most complicated organization of matter that we know.”
Our brains compare favorably to a computer. The processing power of an average brain is estimated to be at least ten times as fast as current super-computers.
Our home computers instantly calculate a large number of mathematical formulas in a spreadsheet, a feat impossible for a human mathematician. Our human brains, however, can multitask far better than a computer.
The Hockey Computer
When a hockey player stick-handles the puck past a defense man, he not only sees the moving puck and the approaching defense man, he sees the rest of the players, the speed and direction in which everyone is moving, and, of course, the position of the goalie in the goal he is headed for. The 200 million neurons of his eyes’ retinas are sending 10 million point images per second through the optic nerve—a million-fibre cable—which reaches deep into the brain, where the images from both eyes are combined to calculate depth of field and movement.
His brain also continually processes the movement and feedback from his arms and hands as they control the puck, and from his legs, feet and torso as he speeds up, turns, stops and starts. His ears send streams of impulses through the auditory nerves to the brain which processes the roar of the crowd, while alert for a referee’s whistle and keeps his speeding, twisting, turning body in balance. As he flashes by the boards, he hears his girlfriend cheer and feels an emotional response. All the while, the same brain continues to regulate his breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion.
But even though our 1,500-gram (3 pound) brains are incredibly complex and multitask far faster than any super-computer, that is not what really matters.
What is Most Important?
A computer can run a program guiding a surgeon to excise a deadly tumour, or it can run a program that guides a weapons system to kill and destroy many lives. In the same way, the brains in our heads can be programmed to curse, kill and destroy, or bless, love and give life. And everything in between these two extremes.
So what is it that programs and guides our brains?
It is not IQ. Our intelligence quotient is simply the measure of the ability of our brain to process information. But this has nothing to do with our programming.
It is not education. Two people can have identical IQs and receive the same education and yet one person’s brain is programmed to become a murderous Mafia boss while the other’s brain guides him to found a humanitarian organization.
Insight From Canela Philosophy
The Canela word for the heart of a tree is caxwyn. This is also the word for inner person or soul. It is our caxwyn—our hearts, that program our human brains. Our innermost selves hold our values: our principles, convictions, ideals, motives, morals, ethics or character.
What our hands do, our mouths say, and the way we live our lives, is controlled by the brains in our heads. Our brains, however, are guided by the values in our hearts. Since as Christians we want to live lives that please God, we need to be aware of what our values are.
How can I discover what I value? How can I change my values? How can I confirm and strengthen my values? And how can I pass them on to my children? What are some values that produce a positive life? What are some values necessary to influence others to live well?
See What Makes Us Tick, Part 2, in next week’s posting.