3 for Thursday: 3 Reasons to Question the Existence of the Soul

Brain-neuronsThis “3 for Thursday” comes from an article I wrote for On Faith this week: “What Does Science Tell Us About the Soul?”

In this fairly short piece, I’m introducing the reader to three scientific experiments—with one that is very recent—which pose real difficulties for believing in the soul.

The scientific samplings in the piece is not, I recognize, going to convince every theologian to surrender the idea of a soul. When it was shown that strong mystical experiences, for example, were often associated with temporal lobe epilepsy, this did not deter theologians from offering the response: perhaps God put it there to make the mystical experience possible.

But brain science does show that the part we identify as us—our thoughts, feelings, decisions—are verifiably connected to the brain, which is in relationship to our bodies and environments. In other words, if the evidence continually points to the brain (as a good explanation), should humans continue on with the idea of a soul (which is untestable)?

This led me to think of it this way: could the conclusions of science work in reverse? Would we go from understanding what we know about the sun today to turning it into a deity? Would we go from a modern understanding of the universe to that of medieval geocentrism? (OK, maybe one or two people would, but still.) And if the evidence appears to say what it does, would we go from brain science to the soul?

So here it is:

“Scientists have controlled severe epileptic seizures by separating the left and right hemispheres of the brain (the corpus callosum). The loss of communication between the hemispheres creates some unusual results, which has been described as having two brains….

This phenomenon only gets stranger: when neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran asked a split-brain patient, ‘Do you believe in God?,’ the right hemisphere replied ‘yes,’ but the left hemisphere replied ‘no.’…” Read the full article at On Faith.

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