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Using the Brain to Examine a Scripture/Religion January 25, 2010

Posted by Salim Boss in articles.

“God has given us more than fourteen billion cells and connections in our brain. Why would God give us such a complex organ system unless He expects us to use it?”

~ Ben Carson

He is the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. He is a Professor of Neurological Surgery, Oncology, Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics. He is also the author of Take The Risk (2008), The Big Picture (2000), Think Big (1996) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (1990). He has received numerous honors and awards including over 40 honorary doctorate degrees.

It is shaped a little like a loaf of French country bread, but the brain has been called the most complex object in the universe. Your brain consists of about 100 billion neurons*[1], “. . . the same order of magnitude as the number of stars in the Milky Way”[2] and which is about 16.6 times the number of people on Earth. The Oxford University biologist Professor Richard Hawkins said on man’s brain: “. . . if you unraveled a man’s brain cells and placed them end to end, there would be enough to go around the world 25 times”[3] These hundreds of billions of cells of the brain are interlinked through trillions of connections. Humans continue to make new neurons throughout life in response to mental activity. Every time you recall a memory or have a new thought, you are creating a new connection in your brain so why do people fear mental exercise. There are no pain receptors in your brain, meaning your brain can feel no pain yet people don’t want to risk thinking. Your brain uses 20% of the total oxygen in your body.[4] There are about 100,000 miles of blood vessels in the brain of which if they were stretched out they would circle the earth more than four times.

The composition of the brain is approximately 75 % water and we have been raised up knowing that water is life. “The average adult brain weighs about 1400g . . . .”[5] hence the human brain is 2% of total body weight (compared to 0.15% of an elephant’s brain), meaning humans have the largest brain to body size. And others argue over the “big brain-big ideas’’ assumption or rather ‘the bigger the brain the greater the cognitive capacity’ presumption! To further see the uniqueness of our brain, you will be amazed to learn that human beings have the largest and most complex cerebral cortex in the animal kingdom making them qualitatively different from other animals at the level of mental functioning. The cerebral cortex is the layer of the brain often referred to as gray matter and is responsible for mental functionings. In his book, Are We Unique, James Trefil, a Robinson Professor of Physics at George Mason University, author of more than thirty books, and a science commentator for National Public Radio states:

What distinguishes the human brain is not the existence of the cortex, but its size and organization. If the human cerebral cortex were flattened out, it would be about the size and shape of a large cloth dinner napkin. Our nearest relative, the chimpanzee, has a smaller cortex—something a little bigger than a page of this book.[6]

Therefore, the inhabitants of the earth should memorize the fact that what makes humans different from other animals is the human brain. Exactly what James Trefil voiced: “. . . whatever it is that separates us from the other animals has to do with the functionings of our brain. In that three-pound mass enclosed in the bones of our skull lies the secret to human uniqueness.”[7]

Our minds are still boggled at the thought of the speed of the information that can be processed by the brain. It has been estimated that neurons can send signals to thousands of other cells at a rate of about 200 miles per hour.[8] Ralph C. Merkle, researcher on molecular nanotechnology and cryonics writes, “It seems reasonable to conclude that the human brain has a “raw” computational power between 1013 and 1016 “operations” per second.”[9] Amazingly, the brain never stops developing and changing since embryonic times, till death. Trefil says the same thing: “Your brain never stops developing and changing. It’s been doing it from the time you were an embryo, and will keep on doing it all your life. And this ability, perhaps, represents its greatest strength.”[10] According to Brain Facts by The Society for Neuroscience, “Neuroscientists believe that the brain can remain relatively healthy and fully functioning as it ages . . . .”[11] After a study on intelligence of various age groups, Dr. K. Warner Schaie concluded that “. . . the decline in mental performance in many community-dwelling older people is probably due to disuse and is consequently reversible.”[12] Despite being told that the more we think, the better our brains function – regardless of age, why then, do people refuse to maximize the full potential of this unique organ?

While awake, your brain generates between 10 and 23 watts of power or enough energy to power a light bulb. “The brain works ceaselessly, even when you are sleeping, and it consumes prodigious amounts of energy.”[13] Even though it is 2% of your total body weight, your brain is the most energy-consuming part of your body because it uses 20% of your body‘s energy.

There has been a heart transplant, liver transplant, but there has never been a human brain transplant. We all know that reproductive organs (and other organs) are not endowed with maximum protection the way the brain is. The brain is best guarded in a protective skull and for enhanced security, the brain is further protected by three layers of membranes called the meninges (which comprise of the dura mater, arachnoid mater, and pia mater).[14] Some would easily argue that anything of great value should be under tight security. There are cells in your brain called astrocytes whose work is to look after your neurons, repair the CNS (Central Nervous System) tissue after injury or damage by disease. Such cells help keep the environment of your brain healthy.[15] Those not using the brain will see the futility of their brain being kept clean and healthy. The brain rules all of the body’s organs, including the heart. When the body encounters a shortage of nutrients, it is the brain that is privileged with nutrients above other organs. You may underestimate the importance of the brain, but your body recognizes the significance of the brain in that when there is hypovolaemia (decrease in the volume of circulating blood), the blood is diverted away from other organs and directed only to the brain and the heart.[16] In just 10 seconds after the loss of blood supply to the brain, you lose consciousness.[17]

Incredibly, more electrical impulses are generated in one day by a single human brain than by all the telephones in the world. Those who are afraid of thinking will be caught in a bombshell to learn that the number of thoughts that is estimated the human brain produces on an average day is 70,000. It is also noted that the brain is capable of having more ideas than the number of atoms in the known universe. The computer would disappoint the user warning, “hard drive full” but that is not the case with the human brain. Humans have an unlimited capacity to learn. Michael J. Gelb, the author of the international best seller How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci and Innovate Like Edison says,Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.”

Because of the powerful nature of the brain and the scanty information about the brain, people in every age and time, have tried using their latest technology as a model for trying to understand it. Ancient Greeks thought the brain functions like a catapult, Gottfried Leibniz compared it to a mill, other people compared the brain as a water clock while others as a telephone switchboard, some thought that the brain worked like a telegraph system, Sigmund Freud often compared the brain to hydraulic and electro-magnetic systems, and contemporarily some compare it with the computer. Did you know that many groundbreaking developments have been made by brain, and not brawn? As a matter of fact there are some great achievements that can only be made possible by the brain and which computers may not be able to duplicate. Can your PC paint the monalisa portrait, or can it, on its own, write the equivalent of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, or can it imagine? After all, the metaphor of the brain as a computer is false in that the human brain is not much like a computer. There is no “off” for the brain – even when you are sleeping, your brain is still active and working whereas when the power to your computer is turned off, signals are not transmitted. You will acknowledge and marvel at the awesomeness of your brain once the British neurophysicist W. Grey Walter declares that, “At least ten billion electronic cells would be needed to build a facsimile of a man’s brain. These cells would occupy about a million and a half cubic feet, and several additional millions of cubic feet would be needed for the ‘nerves’ or wiring. The power to operate it would be around a billion watts.”[18]

A discovery of this century is that the brain, unlike a computer, is a moldable organ which rewires itself all the time (neuroplasticity).[19] Rewiring in the human brain occurs when the brain is stimulated and when we remain passive far less rewiring occurs. It appears that brain plasticity and metacognition are closely entwined. The brain is reshaping itself constantly in response to the intellectual activity going on. Learning to perform new and challenging activities can help keep the brain fit, thanks to the ability of the brain to rewire itself.[20] And I believe that challenges like reading scriptures and attempting to discover the true religion is in the interests of the brain. The overthrown dogma was that the brain is hardwired, fixed in form and function therefore an older person is less inclined to learn new things. But with the discovery of neuroplasticity, the aging adults who feared their brains will fade had to put the fear at rest.

In The World of  the Brain, it is stated that: “ If we could learn how to utilize more of the brain’s capacity, or even to expand that capacity, the discoveries that would follow would transform our world into a healthier, more comfortable, and more stimulating place.”[21] Moreover, the human brain has a vast storage capacity in that it can hold information of 1000 supercomputers. The potential brain capacity is estimated as at least equivalent to that of 25 million volumes, a 500-mile-long bookshelf![22] In the words of Ben Carson, “No computer on earth can come close to the capacity of the average human brain. This brain that we all have is a tremendous gift from God — the most complex organ system in the entire universe. Your brain can take in two million bytes of information per second.”[23]

Thus, even Isaac Asimov concludes that “The human brain, then, is the most complicated organization of matter that we know.”[24] And Keith Black, chief of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles and who performs about 250 brain surgeries a year stated that, “If you look at the anatomy, the structure, the function, there’s nothing in the universe that’s more beautiful, that’s more complex, than the human brain.”[25] Susan Blackmore, a lecturer in psychology at the University of the West of England states:

In proportion to our body mass, our brain is three times as large as that of our nearest relatives. This huge organ is dangerous and painful to give birth to, expensive to build and, in a resting human, uses about 20 per cent of the body’s energy even though it is just 2 per cent of the body’s weight. There must be some reason for all this evolutionary expense.*[26]

Hippocrates, the Greek physician, mathematician and the Western father of medicine has also voiced the significance of using the brain when he made the following statement: “Men ought to know that from the brain, and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joy, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs, and tears.” Others see it’s better to have weak kidneys, lungs, or other organs than having a weak brain. And Pasko T. Rakic, highlighting how unique we are from other species, say:  “The brain is the organ that sets us apart from any other species. It is not the strength of our muscles or of our bones that makes us different, it is our brain.”[27] And funny enough, the word “brain” appears 66 times in the plays of William Shakespeare.*

Now, if man is punished for not using such a powerful organ; the brain, then who is to blame? Man uses other organs for his survival. He maximizes the utility of his sexual organs for attaining sexual pleasures, he uses the organ eye to see even the microscopic things, the tongue is utilized by man to utter thousands of bizarre combination of words including backbiting and gossiping but why doesn’t he use his important organ, the brain to recognize the most important issue of life: the true religion? Of course man uses his brains but for other trivial things while ignoring to use the same brain to understand the purpose of life. This is no doubt a staggering display of ignorance. Are there better words than those of Edward Humphrey who quipped “true wisdom is to know what is best worth knowing, and to do what is best worth doing.” Astonishingly, you may see someone scratching his head toiling to solve puzzles (math puzzles, crossword puzzles, sudoku puzzles, jigsaw puzzle, word puzzles e.t.c.) while he is totally unprepared to scratch his head to examine religious scriptures to solve the puzzle of the authentic scripture. Solving math puzzles is good for the brain and solving religious puzzles is also good for the brain. What I condemn is priority disorder.

You also use your greatest helper; the brain, and not the Holy Spirit, to choose the best watermelon in a supermarket. It is a waste of human brainpower to blindly accept religions/scriptures. God gave you brains in order to use it, so use your brains to distinguish the true religion from the false ones. You can’t get lost. Just utilize your faculties of mind. Because humans have an intuitive sense of right and wrong and since “Truth stands out clear from Error” [Q 2:256], I believe we can discover the true religion. Never have a blind faith, use the brain to challenge the credibility of your religion. Galileo Galilei was absolutely right when he said, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” To show the magnitude of the crime of not using the brain, the Qur’an calls those who suspend reason as the worst of species. “Indeed, the worst of living creatures in the sight of Allah are the deaf and dumb who do not use reason.” [Q 8:22] The brain has made it possible for us to achieve the wonders of walking on the moon and if well used we will surely achieve the wonders of walking on the surface of the Kingdon of Heaven.

Remember, brain is the top organ situated in the head then follows the heart which is situated in the chest. Superiority is from top downwards hence ask anyone where is God and he will point in the sky and not down. “Allahu-Akbar” is what Muslims normally chant, a phrase that means “God is Great” and this is a conviction which is in harmony with their Qur’anic verse: “Indeed, your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne.” [Q7:54] No wonder Bart D. Ehrman will resonate with the conception that a God would probably be the “. . . one who was above all else, far beyond what we could imagine . . . .” On further contemplation, Bart Erhman, the Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina and a leading authority on the Bible adds, “as we gaze out into the evening sky and consider the billions of stars and the billions of galaxies. He (i.e. God) was above and beyond it all. . . .”[28] And you have also heard jargons like “upward mobility” and “downward mobility.” The point I am trying to emphasize here is that superiority is from top downwards. Therefore, you should first use your brain (which is at the top) then secondly, you believe with the heart. We should doubt those who discover a ‘true’ religion through their hearts rather than their heads. Ben Carson, is the world-famous brain surgeon, who when he speaks on issues of the brain, attention should be provided and to raise your voice is utter disrespect to intelligentsia. He once said: “The human brain is the thing that makes you who you are”. Those who are blessed with quickness of thought will unblinkingly face a Muslim and say, “your brain is the thing that makes you a Muslim”. For the sake of justice, the same witted person will unblushingly confront a Christian and say, “Your brain is the thing that makes you a Christian”. And since two divergent religions cannot both be true and since Jesus did not tolerate the luxury of neutrality [Mathew 12:30] but insisted on one way leading to heaven [John 14:6], we can safely conclude that either the Muslim or the Christian did not use the brain to search for the true religion. I therefore request you to undertake the most cerebral of tasks: to find out the true religion. To those who are motivated to re−examine their scriptures/religions in the supervision of the brain, I strongly recommend Laurence B. Brown’s two books, God’ed and MisGod’ed.


Excerpted from Salim Boss’ book “They are either Extremely Smart or Extremely Ignorant” For more articles from this author, please visit his blog; https://extremelysmart.wordpress.com/. Get your free eBook of “They are either Extremely Smart or Extremely Ignorant” from the author’s website.


[This article may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted and used on the conditions that absolutely no change, addition, or omission is introduced and that it should always include the title, author’s name, author’s website/blog, and this reprinting notice is displayed in the exact same form as the original.]


*A neuron is the principal functional unit of the nervous system, specialized for the receipt, processing and transmission of information. See Crossman, A.R. and D. Neary. Neuroanatomy. 2nd ed. Edinburg: Harcourt Publishers Limited, 2000.p 35.

[1]. Guyton, Arthur C. Textbook of Medical Physiology. 8th ed. India: Prism Books Limited, 1991.p.478.

[2]. Scientific American Sept. 1992.

[3]. Seymour, R. Ian.  Maximize Your Potential. Nigerian Edition. BeninCity: Joint Heirs Publications Nigeria, Ltd., 2002. p. 70.

[4]. Ganong, William F. Review of Medical Physiology. 22nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2005. p.617.

[5]. Ganong, William F. Review of Medical Physiology. 22nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2005. p.617.

[6]. Trefil, James. Are We Unique?: A Scientist Explores the Unparalleled Intelligence of the Human Mind. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997. p. 20.

[7]. Trefil, James. Are We Unique?: A Scientist Explores the Unparalleled Intelligence of the Human Mind. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997. p. 43.

[8]. Guttman, Monika. “The Aging Brain.” USC Health Magazine Spring 2001.

[9]. Merkle, Ralph C. “Energy Limits to the Computational Power of the Human Brain.” Foresight Update 1 Aug. 1989. No. 6. <http://www.foresight.org/updates/Update06/Update06.1.html#anchor171085&gt;

[10]. Trefil, James. Are We Unique?: A Scientist Explores the Unparalleled Intelligence of the Human Mind. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997. p. 78.

[11]. The Society for Neuroscience. Brain Facts: A Primer on the Brain and Nervous System. Washington, DC: The Society for Neuroscience, 2008.p.34.

[12]. The Human Brain. The Franklin Institute Online. 2004. <http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/exercise.html&gt;

[13]. Alvin & Virginia, Sivestein. World of the Brain. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986. pp. 20-21.

[14]. Crossman, A.R. and D. Neary. Neuroanatomy. 2nd ed. Edinburg: Harcourt Publishers Limited, 2000.p.11 & p.49.

[15]. Young, Barbara and John W. Heath. Wheater’s Functional Histology. 4th ed. Edinburg: Elsevier Science Limited, 2002.p.134.

[16]. Ganong, William F. Review of Medical Physiology. 22nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2005. p.637.

[17]. Ganong, William F. Review of Medical Physiology. 22nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2005. p.619.

[18]. Seymour, R. Ian.  Maximize Your Potential. Nigerian Edition. BeninCity: Joint Heirs Publications Nigeria, Ltd., 2002. p.70.

[19]. “How The Brain Rewires Itself.” Time 19 Jan. 2007. For more about brain rewiring see a book titled “The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Science.” by Norman Doidge.

[20]. A Jom. “Neuroplasticity: How to Achieve a Brighter Brain.” 3 Dec. 2007. healthmad.com. <http://www.healthmad.com/Senior-Health/Neuroplasticity-How-to-Achieve-a-Brighter-Brain.63961&gt;

[21]. Alvin & Virginia, Sivestein. World of the Brain. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1986.p. 2.

[22]. DeYoung, Donald B.  “Thinking about the Brain.” icr.org. < http://www.icr.org/article/thinking-about-brain/&gt;

[23]. Carson, Benjamin. The Big Picture. Nairobi: International Bible Society, 2002. p.50.

[24]. Hooper, J. and D. Teresi. Foreword. The Three-Pound Universe. Macmillan,1986.

[25]. Schreiber, Le Anne. “Determined to enter the brain in a friendly way.” Discover April 2004.

*In this quote, there is an element of evolution theory and it is important to clarify that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is not a proven scientific fact. In the Quandary of Evolution Harun Yahya writes: “Scientific discoveries and evidence reveal one unalterable truth: Life did not emerge as the result of a chain of coincidences, as evolutionists claim. The truth revealed by science today is that everything was created according to a flawless plan.” Those interested in facts and not hypothesis should read Harun Yahya’s books on the Refutation of Darwinism which include: 1)the Quandary of Evolution (encyclopedic) i & ii; 2) The Errors of the American National Academy of Sciences: A reply to the Book Science and Creationism; 3) The Collapse of the Theory of Evolution in 50 Steps; 4) Why Darwinism is Incompatible with the Qur’an; 5) The Error of the Evolution of Species; 6) The Perfect Design of the Universe is not by Chance; 7) The Evolution Deceit; 8) Darwinism Refuted; 9) The Dark Magic of Darwinism; 10) Confessions of Evolutionists; 11) Tell me about the Creation; 12) The Microbiological Collapse of Evolution; 13) The Collapse of Materialism; 14) The End of Materialism; 15) The Biggest Deception in the History of Biology: Darwinism; 16) The Collapse of the Theory of Evolution in 20 Questions; 17) The Collapse of the Theory of Evolution; 18) The Religion of Darwinism; 19) The Theory of Evolution; and 20) Evolutionary falsehoods. The books are available from Harun Yahya’s website http://www.harunyahya.com

[26]. Blakemore, Susan. “Meme, Myself, I.” New Scientist 13 March 1999.

[27]. Great Issues for Medicine in the Twenty-First Century. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sciences, vol. 882, p. 66, 1999.

*For more references on the complexity of the brain see, The Society for Neuroscience. Brain Facts: A Primer on the Brain and Nervous System. Washington, DC: The Society for Neuroscience, 2008. Trefil, James. Are We Unique?: A Scientist Explores the Unparalleled Intelligence of the Human Mind. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997; Ondigo, Yahya M.A. God’s Blessings to Humanity: Part iii. Nairobi: Abu Aisha Stores, 2009; <http://www.brainsource.com/amazing%20brain.htm&gt;; Sandra Aamodt, Sam Wang. “Ten amazing facts about your brain.” The Times 28 March 2008; <http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/facts.html&gt;;Disabled world. “Human Brain Facts and Answers.” disabled-world.com 19 Oct. 2008. <http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/brain-facts.shtml&gt;;”100 Fascinating Facts You Never Knew About the Human Brain.” nursingassistantcentral.com 2009. <http://www.nursingassistantcentral.com/blog/2008/100-fascinating-facts-you-never-knew-about-the-human-brain/&gt;;Gillman, Steven. “Ten amazing Brain Facts.” downthelane.net <http://www.downthelane.net/ten-brain-facts.php&gt;

[28]. . Ehrman, Bart D. Jesus, Interrupted. Kindle Edition. HarperCollins e-books, 2009.p.277


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1. christie achebe - January 27, 2010

Thank you for this accessible illuminating and exciting piece.You make neuroscience and the brain wholesome and savory -no jargons or undue technicality. You stimulate my interest in this subject matter. I couldn’t stop reading it. You made me think that we can coax older members of our society for whom religion is meaningful to encourage their brain to continue rewiring through daily reading of the scriptures. Write some more.

Salim Boss - January 27, 2010

Thanks for your comment. Very touching.

2. Sahil Amar - February 26, 2011

Thanks for your message.. truly it’s upon us to adhere to the rule of Allah and follow His guidance. Jazakallah.. may Allah guide us to His straight path. Ameen

Salim Boss - February 27, 2011

Thanks for your comment. Let us ask Allah to give us Tathbeet (steadfastness) in Islam.

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