* about consciousness - the fact that we are aware of existence?
* about the vital difference between animals and humans?
* about whether a "soul" or "spirit" is necessary for matter to have consciousness?
There can be no greater loss than the permanent loss of consciousness.
Rocks respond to the heat of the sun by physically expanding.
Plants respond to stimuli according to their genetic design.
Animals respond to subjectively felt sensations which cause them to interact appropriately with their environment.
Computerized robots can be made to use tools, interpret information, and respond to nearly any type of physical stimulus - all with amazing speed and accuracy.
But, although robots, plants, and rocks can "sense" a physical stimulus, for instance light, they have no mental mechanism (as animals do) with which to subjectively experience it as sight.
Subjective sensory experience, such as the experience of sight and sound, and even emotional feeling, memory and mental visualization, is the conversion of physical stimuli in the brain into a mental experience. Until it is converted by the brain, in its appropriate centers, into a subjective sensory experience, pain has no reality as pain, a falling tree makes no crashing sound, and the memory of a particular person is not "pictured" and felt emotionally.
(The experience is the final step in the transfer of information, as represented successively in a variety of possible media - radio waves, magnetic tape, light, etc - between the original stimulus and the brain. The experience is thus a representation of the original stimulus or message.)
But, although animals may have the mental features necessary to convert a physical stimulus into a sensory experience, and obtain meaning from it, their "minds" are blank to the higher, (objective) knowledge that they are experiencing these things.
(It is because animals cannot "know" that they are doing or experiencing things, that they can never be held morally accountable for their actions. Animals do not have objective consciousness.)1
Humans have a higher awareness which allows them to be objectively conscious of the drives, emotions, and environment which they subjectively feel. Humans need the subjective "animal" experience of sensation in order to have something to be objectively conscious of.
(This essential human ingredient would appear during childhood as mental structures developed sufficiently to allow it.)2
Consciousness allows us to know of existence. It is our most precious possession and its permanent loss would be the greatest loss that we could ever have. Without consciousness, nothing would exist for us - we would not even know that we know nothing.3
Consciousness and awareness of existence develop as the genetic design, placed in us by God, unfolds from innocent, trusting childhood into full, analytical questioning, and accountable adulthood. When our brains are unable to support consciousness, due to physical reasons, we lose all awareness of existence.4
Consciousness places mankind in a unique position among creatures in that we alone are able to question our origin and acknowledge God as our creator.
Indeed, this greatest of all gifts from the hand of God, places on us the just obligation to acknowledge with thanks, Him, who not only created this world and us living, feeling, and creative beings in it, but who also made us able to be aware of it all.5
Supporting Biblical References
1 Psalms 32:9
2 Exodus 21:22 (fine for life of fetus);
Exodus 21:23; Leviticus 24:21 (life for life of adult).
3 Ecclesiastes 9:5,6,10
4 Psalms 146:3,4
5 Genesis 2:7