The Human Soul – Can it Survive in an Age of Neuroscience?
Ken Miller Brown University, Biology Stan Goldin Harvard Medical School, Neuroscience
All our behaviors are a result of neurophysiological activity in
the brain. There is no reason to believe there is any magic
going on. With its 100 billion neurons, the brain is highly
complex and unpredictable; so what might look like free will
from the outside and what might feel like free will from the
inside is not some mysterious violation of the laws of physics.
~ Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology, Harvard
There has always, seemingly, been a split between science
and life, between the apparent poverty of scientific
formulation and the manifest richness of phenomenal
experience...The magnitude of this discrepancy, as well
as our almost irresistible desire to see ourselves as being
somehow above nature, above the body, has generated
doctrines of dualism from Plato on...
~ Oliver Sacks, Professor of Neurology, NYU School of
It seems to me that a more fruitful approach to the question of
the soul will be to fully embrace the advances of
neuroscience, and to look forward to an even greater material
understanding of the workings of the brain. The soul should
no longer be thought of as a spirit that animates the body,
but rather as the spiritual reflection of human
individuality and immortality. Seen in this light, essential
human capabilities would emerge from the material of our
existence as living things, fully-dependent upon the physics
and chemistry of matter itself and the cell biology of neural
connections within the brain, while still preserving a sense of
the deep and continuing spiritual reality of the soul.
~ Ken Miller, Professor of Biology, Brown
Is there truly a reality of the soul? What is neuroscience telling us about spiritual experience?