On Facebook today, Dr Leaf published a menagerie of memes, a full house of five of her favourite little nuggets of wisdom that comprise the pillars of her teaching. For example, “Everything you first do and say is first a thought.” And, “You alone are responsible and can be held responsible for how you react to what happens in your life: your future is open, filled with an eternity of possible situations and choices.” Too bad that our genes, which are not the result of our choices, are the biggest influence of our personality and our capacity to cope with our external environment (Vinkhuyzen et al, 2012), and that we often do and sometimes say things without thinking (https://cedwardpitt.com/2014/11/08/dr-caroline-leaf-putting-thought-in-the-right-place/).
But the most interesting meme in today’s trick is “The mind controls the brain … the brain influences but does not control the mind.”
For years, Dr Leaf has taught that the mind is separate from and controls the brain through social media and through her books. Take a meme she posted to social media in May 2016. It said, “As triune beings made in God’s image, we are spirit, mind (soul) and body – and our brain being part of the body does the bidding of the mind …”, and “God has designed the mind as separate from the brain. The brain simply stores the information from the mind and your mind controls your brain.”
With the weight of scientific evidence bearing down on her, Dr Leaf has finally given a little and made a concession. Now the brain influences, but is still controlled by, the mind.
While it’s a step in the right direction, Dr Leaf’s meme is still wrong. It doesn’t matter what small changes Dr Leaf makes to the window dressing of her teaching, her ministry is so structurally unsound that it’s derelict.
This is because the mind is a product of the brain. Yes, the brain influences the mind, because the brain creates the mind. Actual neuroscientists like Professor Bernard Baars in collaboration with mathematician and computer scientist Professor Stan Franklin have shown that the mind is simply a small projection of a much greater stream of unconscious brain activity (Baars and Franklin, 2003; Franklin, 2013; Baars, 2005)
The relationship of the brain to the mind is a little like the relationship of our cars dashboard to the engine. We don’t see all of the actions of the engine under the hood of our car, but it powers our car nonetheless. What we do see is the dashboard. We can see our speed, and depending on the make and model of the car you drive, the dashboard also shows the engine temperature, revs, fuel and the warning lights for our engine and our electrics.
In the same way, our brain powers us. It’s the engine purring along under the surface. Our mind is the dashboard, giving us a tiny glimpse at a much greater process underneath the surface. Suggesting that our mind is in control of our brain is like suggesting that our dashboard is in control of our engine. The mind is a product of our brain designed to give us conscious awareness of a small portion of a much deeper stream of activity that senses our environment, alters our moods, plans our actions and then executes them.
By basing her entire ministry on such science fiction, Dr Leaf makes a mockery out of every church that hosts her, of everyone that buys her books, and of everyone who subscribes to her programs. She also makes a mockery of herself, which is the saddest part of this whole story. I hope that she stops making changes to the window dressings of her ministry, and starts to make the necessary changes to her foundations before it’s too late and the whole thing comes crashing down.
Baars, B.J., Global workspace theory of consciousness: toward a cognitive neuroscience of human experience. Progress in brain research, 2005. 150: 45-53
Franklin, S., et al., Conceptual Commitments of the LIDA Model of Cognition. Journal of Artificial General Intelligence, 2013. 4(2): 1-22
Vinkhuyzen, A.A., et al., Common SNPs explain some of the variation in the personality dimensions of neuroticism and extraversion. Transl Psychiatry, 2012. 2: e102 doi: 10.1038/tp.2012.27