The Brain and the Future

In August 2017, the online science periodical New Scientist published an article which reviewed an article published in The Journal of NeuroScience. The original article made the claim that brain activity can predict the future with an accuracy level outside the realm of chance. This is a bold claim, one which requires some scrutiny.  In this article, we will examine the claims put forward in the New Scientist article, discuss their potential implications, and look at the potential implications for origins.

The article in New Scientist, which I have linked to below, as well as the scientific journal it cites, which I have also linked to below, make a very bold claim. Before going into the claims, however, we need to explain how the study was performed. In two separate studies, researchers brought in around thirty early twenties adults of roughly equal gender disparity.  These test subjects were each presented, in a random order, with thirty-six different projects from the online fundraising platform, kickstarter. Each subject was shown the same thirty-six projects. They were asked to select either a yes or no to the question of whether they would fund each project. The test subjects were given seconds to make this determination. While viewing each project, the subjects underwent an MRI brain scan, to determine brain activity. After viewing each project, the subjects rated their response to that project. The results were somewhat expected.  Test subjects chose to fund projects they either liked or thought would be successful. However, the tests subjects ability to guess which projects would succeed was only about 52.9 percent. If the experiment were conducted across the whole population, this is close enough to the average that it would likely regress to 50 percent. However, during the brain scan, a region of the brain, called the nucleus accumbens, was active. The activity in this region was predictive of kickstarter project success 59.1 percent of the time.  This is well outside the potential regression to pure guesswork. The researchers repeated the study with different test subjects and got similar results. This led them to believe that the nucleus accumbens can be used to predict how the market will react to a given product.

If the researchers are correct, then the brain is smarter than our decision-making process.  However, the research for what is called “neural forecasting” is still in its infancy so it is too early to make any assumptions. Further, the term “predict the future” is plastered in the title of the New Scientist article. 59.1 percent accuracy is better than pure random luck, but it is far from the standard of predictive. This near 60 percent accuracy still means that the nucleus accumbens is wrong 40 percent of the time.  While the brain may be a bit better than its owner at making choices, it is not remotely close to predictive.  Neural forecasting can certainly be an aid to decision making and perhaps further experiments will demonstrate results much higher than the near 60 percent demonstrated in this study. However, until such time as neural forecasting can predict with above 85 percent certainty that something will be successful, it will remain a mere aid, and expensive one at that, to the human cognitive process.

Taking a step back and looking at this from an origins perspective is useful. Remember that evolutionists claim that our brains are mere blobs of gray matter, with some energy mixed in. Yet this blob of gray matter has the ability to come close to a 60 percent accuracy rate when picking out what will succeed and what will fail. By contrast, human logic, experience, and cognition have an over six percent lower likelihood of doing so.  The brain is an incredibly designed feature of the body, which shows intricacy on every level. It is incredible that these same brilliant scientists who showed that the nucleus accumbens could predict success and failure at nearly 60 percent, believe that it can do so after evolving by chance.  The belief that the brain evolved by chance, yet somehow can predict the future requires far more faith than that possessed by any Creationist.  Far better to believe that God made the brain in a perfect state, and that man is merely less able, due to his fallen nature, to take advantage of its amazing capabilities.




Journal of NeuroScience Article

New Scientist Article

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