What Does Science Tell Us About the Soul?

Everything we associate with the human soul may just be happening in our heads.

Last year, a Harris poll discovered that 64 percent of Americans believe in the survival of the soul after death, with 68 percent convinced of a heaven and 58 percent of hell. Many beliefs are discarded over time, but the existence of the soul isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon. There are good reasons, however, to think it should.

For millennia, theologians, philosophers, and poets have spoken of the soul as the immaterial counterpart to the body and the home of your feelings, intellect, and will. It is the center of your consciousness and personality; it is your mind.

The idea of a soul is infused into our vocabulary, as in when we talk of “soul mates” or “soul-sucking jobs.” Even the science fiction trope of uploading minds, as seen in Inception or Transcendence, implies that there is an immaterial essence that is the real you; you have a body, but your mind transcends the physical.

But is it the real you? Does it even exist?

Neuroscientists using tools like an fMRI have repeatedly found that these things we have attributed to the soul are actually occurring in the brain. Here are three implications of recent scientific research that challenges the notion of a soul:

1. Your brain is a pharmacy

Just as drugs manipulate the brain, the brain itself also produces chemical cocktails that influence us. Love, for example, is classically understood as an action of the soul. But there are good reasons to see love as the domain of the brain, which handily produces a hormone called oxytocin. This complicated chemical helps form romantic attachments, mother-infant bonding, foster empathy, aid in memory, and increase trust.

So your soul mate might actually be your brain mate. The phenomenon that moves us to proposals of marriage or deep love of our offspring is happening in the brain.

2. You can have two brains

If you have an immaterial mind or soul that is the real you, then an altered brain — either due to an accident or surgery — should not change who you are. But what happens to the brain can and does tremendously alter the entire person.

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.

By directing questions to one eye or the other — the left eye connects to the right hemisphere and the right eye to the left — doctors can ask split-brain patients specific questions or to perform tasks. In these studies, it becomes clear that the left side of the brain does not know what the right side of the brain knows (and vice-versa). Communication between the two has to occur outside of the brain, when information is passed visually or verbally.

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.”

3. You think, therefore I am

When philosopher René Descartes said, “I think, therefore, I am,” he probably hadn’t considered the development of Brain Control Interfaces (BCI). For a while now, scientists have worked to create brain-to brain-interfaces, with initial success coming in the form of a remotely connected human moving a rat’s tail. That was quickly followed by other research, with the most recent being two remotely connected human brains, with one playing a videogame through the hand of another person.

This technology has significant benefits for those paralyzed, but it also has ramifications for the will. It implies that willing is centered in the physical brain, not in an immaterial self. Your brain can light up my brain, willing me to blow up alien invaders.

***

For many centuries, the idea of the soul has been the best explanation we have for much of human experience. But we’ve never seen a soul in a lab or run tests on it. The brain, however, now provides a testable mechanism for explaining the idea of the self.

The force of these discoveries has even moved some theologians to rethink the soul, favoring instead a form of Christian materialism. From split-brain patients to brain-control interfaces, every new scientific discovery appears to be slowly taking away the role and necessity of the soul and giving it to the brain.

Brandon Withrow
Written by

  • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

    So the same science that tells me I’m responsible for climate change now claims that the soul is just in my head.
    But Shakespeare’s head said there are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    • Rudy R

      Just so I get this right, Shakespeare is an expert on souls?

      • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

        He’s the bard of what know-it-alls don’t know.

    • Michael Spagnuolo

      When Shakespeare’s said “there are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of in your philosophy” he was obviously referring to something like Quantum Mechanics — something that we would have never even imagined before science found it. Not what Iron Age peasant put in a book 2,000 years ago.

      • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

        As if humans couldn’t imagine things that science hasn’t already established.

        “O God, I am thinking Thy thoughts after Thee” — Johann Kepler

        • Michael Spagnuolo

          I read a LOT of science fiction. If you knew what the results of Quantum Mechanics experiments are you’d know how off base your comment is regarding Quantum Mechanics.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I wasn’t talking about quantum mechanics and neither was Shakespeare.
            And “Hamlet” isn’t science fiction.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Shakespeare also advised not to gild the lily. Who needs a soul when the brain is fantastic and, well, demonstrably real?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You sound like Mephistopheles.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Are you saying I serve the devil? That’s a shot from the dark, no idea where you got that one from. You know atheists don’t believe in gods right?

            I’ll make this as clear as possible, so you don’t accuse me of being manipulative again: there are an infinite number of possible claims to be made. It doesn’t work for us to believe a claim until it’s proven false, otherwise we end up simultaneously believing an infinite number of contradicting claims. How it works is that we believe claims that have good evidence in their favor.

            “Souls exist” is not a claim that has good evidence in its favor, and as such I do not currently believe it.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I’ll make this as clear as possible: “sound” and “serve” are two words with different meanings. And when I posted “You sound more like Marlowe’s Mephistopheles than Shakespeare,” that’s exactly what I meant despite your straw man accusation.

            “Who needs a soul …”?
            Shakespeare and Marlowe did — otherwise they would just be a hack writer like you.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            RE your accusations of me – I only followed the obvious implication of your statement. That’s only a strawman if you didn’t mean to imply something derogatory about me by comparing me to that character from Faustus.

            ‘Shakespeare and Marlowe … needed souls’

            Prove it. Until you support this assertion I have no reason to believe it, and neither do you.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “You sound more like Marlowe’s Mephistopheles than Shakespeare” doesn’t mean that you’re diabolical.
            It’s an observation, not an accusation.

            As for my “Who needs a soul …? Shakespeare and Marlowe did …”
            Unless you’re artistically blind, the proof Shakespeare and Marlowe had souls can be seen in their own writings.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            “the proof Shakespeare and Marlowe had souls can be seen in their own writings.”

            You’ll have to explain this further. As far as I know, the idea of a soul is some spiritual/non-physical force that contains one’s identity, the ‘true self’. What part of that definition makes it more likely (or necessary) to produce creativity, or empathy, or whatever else you see in great writers?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I’m not alone in seeing the soul in great writers like Shakespeare. But if you can’t see that soul in his work, no further explanation on my part will be of any use.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            ^ ‘I have my opinion and if you don’t already agree with it, I’m not going to try to justify it’

            That’s cowardly. Don’t be afraid of justifying your beliefs… if they’re true, they’ll only benefit from rigorous reasoning/testing.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Hey Horatio, what part about there being more things in heaven and earth than in your philosophies can’t you comprehend?

            Not everything can be tested empirically.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I don’t get how that quote applies to this article or our conversation. Of course there are things I don’t know, (‘more things … than in my philosophies’) how is that relevant to this conversation? If you’ll recall I did not claim to know that souls don’t exist, I asked you to provide evidence for your assertion that souls do exist. If you cannot provide such evidence, you do not have any reason to believe that claim.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Yes, there are things you just don’t know, and I am beginning to feel like the Wizard of Oz explaining to the Tin Man that he has had a heart all along.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Seeing as you’re trying repeatedly to divert the topic away from evidence, is this a concession that you really don’t have a reason to believe what you do?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            The evidence was already cited as Shakespeare and Marlowe, to which I’ll add Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.
            Or are you tone-death as well as blind?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Another dodge. I asked you to support your position that souls are necessary or useful for creativity and empathy. I don’t see any reason that a non-physical being would be more capable of those things than a physical being.

            You: shakespeare et al simply must have had a soul

            Me: why would that be so? prove it

            You: psh I just told you why souls have to exist, because shakespeare must have had one

            Do you see the circular logic of citing the necessity of souls by referring to individuals who you assume a priori have souls?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “I don’t see any reason that a non-physical being would be more capable of those things than a physical being”.

            Since you admit that you don’t see either Shakespeare and Marlowe as more “capable” than yourself, you are truly blind.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Wait a second… from your perspective, shakespeare and marlowe have souls and I don’t? Uh, just what exactly do you think I am?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You are a self-described atheist millennial; as an atheist you won’t admit to anything in the universe outside of yourself, and as a millennial you’re too immature to know how little you know.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Haha, calling me immature because of my age. Old people can be real full of themselves for some stupid reasons. Though I don’t self-identify as a millenial I’m aware I fit into that generational category, not that it’s relevant.

            Atheism is the null position on theism. Theism asserts that god/gods exist, and atheists are people who have not been convinced that is the case. You telling me that I “won’t admit to anything in the universe outside of [myself]” is a true strawman, unlike what you accused me of. I only accurately transposed your words into a logical argument and showed you why it’s fallacious, but here you are telling me that I believe something I don’t.

            And hey, another dodge! You’ve turned this conversation into how much you can insult me instead of attempting to support your assertion that souls exist. Though you did respond to my having pointed out your bandwagon fallacy by recommitting the same fallacy:

            “As if I’m alone in recognizing Shakespeare’s soul.” = ‘I’m right because other people believe the same thing.’

            “Re Shakespeare, most of Western civilization agrees with me.” = ‘Look HOW MANY other people believe the same thing! I’m so totally right!’

            If lots of people believing the same thing were enough to force that thing to be true, the earth would have made itself flat long ago. Try again, but this time watch out for errors in logic.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Calling you immature because of your age?
            Yes. And that immaturity is reflected in your posts.

            “Old people” like Shakespeare are full of knowledge; you just can’t see beyond yourself.
            You’re too immature to know how little you know.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Again, no relevant response except to continue belittling me. Why are you so afraid of justifying your position? This is, what, the third or fourth post in a row where instead of engaging in conversation you’ve chosen to insult me?

            And you’re calling me the immature one. Alright then.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You belittle yourself with each new post; you dismiss any relevance out of hand then play the victim.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Dismiss relevance? Many posts ago I challenged you to defend your assertion that souls exist. In the time since then literally the only support you have provided is that some other people also think souls exist, and when I called you out on that error you eventually (inbetween insults) responded by telling me that LOTS of other people also think souls exist. Every other post made by you has been an attempt to belittle me, either because of my age or calling me ignorant, immature, disingenuous, tone-deaf, blind… and of course, you opened by comparing me to mephistopheles. There hasn’t been relevance to dismiss. I don’t attempt to play the victim, you’re just rude all the time.

            Now I’ll ask again and if you won’t comply, at least give the reason for your constant dodging of this request: support your assertion that souls exist.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “Dismiss relevance? Many posts ago I challenged you to defend your assertion that souls exist …” and then you dismissed those assertions out out of hand.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            The burden of proof lies on the one making the claim. If you claim that souls exist, it’s reasonable for me to not believe it until you’ve provided good reasons to believe that claim. So of course one can dismiss any number of unsupported assertions.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “‘the proof Shakespeare and Marlowe had souls can be seen in their own writings’
            You’ll have to explain this further …”

            “… For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible” — Stuart Chase

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Hey, another dodge. Cool beans. Though you also didn’t explain why you continue dodging over and over again.

            If you meant for me to take that quote seriously regarding our conversation then you hold yourself in arrogantly high regard. So far literally the only defense you’ve made for your assertion is a fallacious appeal to popularity. There’s something wrong with your understanding of epistemology if you think I’m being particularly obstinate for not being convinced by such a common and worthless fallacy.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            The only thing I expect a self described millennialist atheist to take to take seriously is himself, or did you forget what you said you were?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Are you seriously bigoted against a couple of nearly meaningless labels? Both ‘millennial’ and ‘atheist’ mean practically nothing. Any kind of person can be an atheist and any kind of person of a specific age range can be a millennial. What’s your problem?

            Also, another dodge. You’re still purposely avoiding having to actually support your belief in souls that initiated your contention with this article and me in the first place. Well if you’re not going to be honest with me you should at least be honest with yourself and try to justify your belief to yourself.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            If both ‘millennial’ and ‘atheist’ mean practically nothing, why did you apply them to yourself?
            I mean, if you’re going to describe yourself to other posters as a millennial atheist, isn’t it dishonest not to own up to it?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I don’t describe myself as a millennial, never have. I happen to be aware that I fit into that definition, but that’s not the same as identifying with it.

            I do identify as an atheist, because is theism is such a widespread issue where I live. Once theism goes away there will no longer be a reason for atheists to self-identify as such. Take japan for example or norway or sweden, theism is basically dead in those countries, something like 70-90% of their given populations are atheists, but almost no one talks about it because atheism is simply a position on theism. Without theism, atheism is irrelevant.

            “if you’re going to describe yourself to other posters as … atheist, isn’t it dishonest not to own up to it?”

            What do you mean about dishonesty and owning up to it? Theists believe that gods exist, or a single god, and atheists don’t. If you had asked me at any point whether I was an atheist I would have said yes, and that ‘yes’ is all the honesty right in that one word. It would only have been dishonest for me to say ‘no’. You could ask me to expand, like “why are you an atheist?”, and my response would be that I’ve so far found no good reason to believe any asserted gods exist. Which is basically a tautology, as that’s the definition of the word atheist, I would be saying “I’m an atheist because I’m an atheist”. There’s nothing to own up to because atheism is a single position on a single claim: the null position on the theistic claim. One doesn’t need to defend the null position as the burden of proof lies on the claim being made.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “What do you mean about dishonesty and owning up to it?” I mean exactly what I posted; get a dictionary if you’re having a problem understanding it.

            And I don’t care why you’re an atheist; you’re not the topic of this thread, which was about souls until you made it all about yourself: a narcissistic millennialist atheist.
            Come New Year’s, a good resolution would be for you to get over yourself.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I want you to do something, and I don’t mean this as a rhetorical point. Please, seriously, clear your head of anger and reread this entire thread starting from the first post. Take a break from replying for a while and just read the whole thing from the beginning, but instead of seeing it as [me] versus [you], read it as if it were a discussion between two strangers that you happened to come across.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “certain individuals”?
            Everyone has a soul, but to paraphrase Shakespeare, there are more things in heaven and earth than an atheist will admit to; one of them is the soul, which can’t be empirically proven.
            But if you reread this thread, you’ve already seen this.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Empirical is one thing, it also can’t be reasoned for as you’ve demonstrated.

            edit: which brings up an important point: if someone doesn’t have a good reason, empirical or otherwise, to believe a proposition, what do they do regarding that proposition?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            For many people the Bible presents a “good reason” to believe the proposition Jesus proclaimed based on his death and resurrection.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            It may appear to them a good reason, but it’s not. It’s simply an argument from authority fallacy. Propositions are not true by virtue of having been asserted by a source of authority, be it a professor, book, or religious scripture. With the bible specifically this is admitted to be the case, as christianity has a strong focus on faith. When one wants to believe a proposition but lacks good reasons they turn to faith.

            Although talking about the christian resurrection story is a bit of a sidestep from talking about souls, they’re both related to the bible.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            If “When one wants to believe a proposition but lacks good reasons they turn to faith,” why are you here?
            This site is called “onfaith” and is presented by faithstreet.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Because I have opinions regarding faith and specific religions (islam, christianity, buddhism, and various hindu traditions).

            It’s also an important goal for myself to be confronted by people who think differently, so I can evaluate their reasoning and be given a chance to have my mind changed. Truth matters a great deal to me, and I’ve found the most effective way of getting there is to A. have a firm fundamental understanding: the three logical absolutes, the structure of epistemology, physics from the quantum to the relativistic scale, that sort of thing, and to B. examine all perspectives, claims, and statements as if they were detached from any individual, myself and my beliefs included. Beliefs, rather than being a part of my identity, are things I carry around in a box beside me and if I find a better belief to replace one I currently have I can do so immediately. It all comes down to understanding systems and evaluating the reasons behind beliefs, so it’s highly important for me to confront myself with as many beliefs as possible and judge them on their merits.

            Also I’m pretty sure onfaith is not an exclusionary organization dedicated to forwarding faith, they’re dedicated to putting forth various perspectives and having the discussion. That’s why they host writers from many different religions, and no religion eg herb silverman.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            So you’re here because you have strong opinions on religions whose names you don’t capitalize even though they are all proper nouns?
            BTW, when you challenge the beliefs of others on a website devoted to faith, you’re not the one being confronted.
            We are.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Not capitalizing names online is habitual for me, I only capitalized shakespeare because you did and you seemed like the kind of person who would be annoyed if I didn’t.

            “We”? So you count yourself among the muslim authors on this site as well? And simultaneously the protestant and evangelical authors? And the atheist authors? I thought you considered yourself a christian. Though as I explained earlier all claims exist apart from individuals, mine included. I challenge beliefs, which includes asking the people who hold those beliefs to present their reasons. I’ve also got a menagerie of my own opinions, so many of my comments are open to discussion.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “Author” is non-sectarian, as are faith and belief, to include the secular beliefs that you seem to espouse.

            onfaith is just one site available through the Religion News Service, which I follow on Twitter.
            And as the name implies, RNS includes all religions.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Okay.

            Regarding the main topic, we seem to have finally made progress. You’ve admitted you don’t have a good reason to believe in the existence of souls and implied this belief is based on the bible’s words. Is that the case? If so, why are you fervently defending this belief despite lacking support for it? Even going so far as this long conversation with me.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Who are you conversing with? I made no such admission!
            Are you so desperate to discredit something you don’t even believe in that you must insist that everyone else doesn’t believe in it as well?
            To go to such lengths, you must not be very secure in your unbelief of the soul.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Look buddy, you’re the one who started our discussion by asserting that souls exist in the first place. It’s not that I’m “going to such lengths”, you’re just being obstinate about acknowledging the position you’re in. Which I’m finding more tiresome coming from adults, I expected it in high school but to find out the wider world reacts the same way… it’s disheartening. Doesn’t anyone argue honestly?

            What do you mean you made no such admission? Allow me to remind you how this conversation has gone:

            You: “one of them is the soul, which can’t be empirically proven.”

            Me: ‘it hasn’t been empirically supported nor reasoned for, as you’ve shown’

            You: ‘the bible said jesus was resurrected and that’s good enough for me’

            Me: ‘bit off topic, but that’s just an argument from authority fallacy anyways’

            You: … *changes topic*

            That’s an implicit admission anyways. So are you going to make it explicit now, and admit that you don’t have a good reason for your belief in souls?

            Also nice shot going for a distraction by calling me insecure. Sorry, but I’m just going to keep demanding you actually support your original assertion.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            So now, after parsing my words out of context, it’s just an “implicit admission”.
            It’s nothing of the sort.
            My reasons for believing in the soul are recorded in the Bible and can also be seen in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
            And for the record, I posted that you were insecure in your unbelief, not insecure, period. That diagnosis calls for a psychologist.
            Perhaps you can consult the Yellow Pages and find yourself a good one.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            More insults, fantastic. Not that you’ve proven yourself equipped for much else, I should expect it by now.

            “seen in the person of Jesus” here meaning “from the words of the bible”. So when it comes down to it you’re asserting that souls exist because your special book says so. That’s just not a good reason, and I’m sorry if that fact bothers you. Do you have any other support to bring up?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Not good enough for someone so insecure in his own atheism, but reason enough for one of the most intelligent human who ever lived: Blaise Pascal.

            Ever hear of his game theory wager?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Are you about to make another argument from authority? Hey I can give you a couple more if you want to keep piling on the same fallacy over and over! Did you know einstein was a deist? I mean, he made fun of religious people, but he wasn’t strictly an atheist. Deism is the most content-free version of theism. Here’s another really smart guy for you: george lemaitre, the priest and physics professor who conceived a hypothesis of an expanding universe and named it the Big Bang. He was an avowed theist.

            But if you were going to mention pascal’s wager, I’ll have to cut you off. It’s a truly pathetic attempt to post-facto justify christianity, he was a MUCH better mathematician than theologian. I’m always kind of shocked to heard the literate self-styled intellectuals citing pascal’s wager, it fails at several points upon cursory examination. But education is a passion of mine as well, so I’m happy to break it down for you.

            First, pascal’s wager has nothing to do with believing a proposition. It commits what’s known as a fallacious appeal to consequences: “if x were true you would be better off” is not an argument supporting the truth of x.

            Second, it presumes a false dichotomy between christianity and atheism. In fact christianity is not the only religion to make special afterlife claims by a long shot. Just to take one relevant modern example in islamic tradition christians burn in hell forever, and in christian tradition muslims burn in hell forever. There are various hindu faiths with similar mutually exclusive assertions regarding a special benefit or punishment in the afterlife, and there are thousands of other religions, virtually all of them with their own afterlife myth and rules surrounding it.

            Either of these would be sufficient to entirely eliminate pascal’s wager as an argument for the truth of christianity. Both of them together make it an embarrassing argument to quote seriously. There are other issues I don’t need to go through in detail as this argument has already been made found unsound, I’ll list them quickly though: is belief in the truth of a proposition something that can be chosen? Given my first point, that pascal’s wager can’t be an argument for the truth of a proposition because it’s a fallacious argument from consequences, the weak version of pascal’s wager is simply an argument for make-believe. Are there any proposed gods that would be fooled by calculated profession? Yeah some, but not the christian one.

            My final comment on the wager might leave a sour taste in your mouth, but… even if it were true that one of the religions that have existed on earth happened to have the right god out of an endless parade of co-evolving god-concepts, then all the wager (and hell itself) amounts to is a thuggish threat to non-believers. It can be simplified as “turn or burn”. You can see how that’s unconvincing to anyone outside the religious circle of the one making the threat; after all, right at this moment you’re absolutely unconcerned about the muslim threat of hell hanging over your head that I just mentioned.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Pascal’s wager has everything to do with believing a proposition.

            His argument — rooted in game theory — is that the best course of action is to believe in God — regardless of any lack of evidence — as that choice can produce the largest potential gains.

            If you believe in God and God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven: infinite gain.
            If you do not believe in God and God does exist, you will be condemned to remain in hell forever: infinite loss.
            If you believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded: finite loss.
            If you do not believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded, but you have lived your own life: finite gain.

            And as Pascal was a devout Catholic, the god in question would be the Judeo-Christian one.

            Further, I’ll wager that Pascal was a much better mathematician, theologian, inventor, physicist, scientist, writer and philosopher then either you or I ever will be.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            “If you believe in God and God does exist, you will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven: infinite gain.
            If you do not believe in God and God does exist, you will be condemned to remain in hell forever: infinite loss.
            If you believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded: finite loss.
            If you do not believe in God and God does not exist, you will not be rewarded, but you have lived your own life: finite gain.”

            I’m aware that this is pascal’s wager. I’ve already responded, please refer to my two refutations above where I call out the fallacious argument from consequence and the false dichotomy. Did you just ignore it? I’m certain I addressed this argument sufficiently.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I found no merit in your so-called “refutations” and your certainty of them is a product of your own bias.
            Pascal’s Wager still stands.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Then what is your response to my rebuttal?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You have no rebuttal.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            This was my rebuttal:

            “First, pascal’s wager has nothing to do with believing a proposition. It commits what’s known as a fallacious appeal to consequences: “if x were true you would be better off” is not an argument supporting the truth of x.

            Second, it presumes a false dichotomy between christianity and atheism. In fact christianity is not the only religion to make special afterlife claims by a long shot. Just to take one relevant modern example in islamic tradition christians burn in hell forever, and in christian tradition muslims burn in hell forever. There are various hindu faiths with similar mutually exclusive assertions regarding a special benefit or punishment in the afterlife, and there are thousands of other religions, virtually all of them with their own afterlife myth and rules surrounding it.

            Either of these would be sufficient to entirely eliminate pascal’s wager as an argument for the truth of christianity. Both of them together make it an embarrassing argument to quote seriously. There are other issues I don’t need to go through in detail as this argument has already been made found unsound, I’ll list them quickly though: is belief in the truth of a proposition something that can be chosen? Given my first point, that pascal’s wager can’t be an argument for the truth of a proposition because it’s a fallacious argument from consequences, the weak version of pascal’s wager is simply an argument for make-believe. Are there any proposed gods that would be fooled by calculated profession? Yeah some, but not the christian one.

            My final comment on the wager might leave a sour taste in your mouth, but… even if it were true that one of the religions that have existed on earth happened to have the right god out of an endless parade of co-evolving god-concepts, then all the wager (and hell itself) amounts to is a thuggish threat to non-believers. It can be simplified as “turn or burn”. You can see how that’s unconvincing to anyone outside the religious circle of the one making the threat; after all, right at this moment you’re absolutely unconcerned about the muslim threat of hell hanging over your head that I just mentioned.”

            So… what is your response to my rebuttal of pascal’s wager? Please don’t just deny its existence again.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            It doesn’t exist.
            By definition, a rebuttal is the “act of refuting by offering a contrary contention or argument,” and you haven’t refuted Pascal’s Wager.

            First, the wager is obviously a proposal for acceptance or rejection with consequences for those actions. Second, as a devout Christian living in Catholic France, Judeo-Christianity is the context of the wager.
            No refutation, no rebuttal.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            So you’re saying that pascal’s wager is not an argument you are using to support the conclusion “therefore christianity is true”? Good, then we can stop talking about it.

            Any other defense you want to make for your belief in the existence of souls, or for your belief in the historicity of the bible ie truth of christianity?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            It’s obvious that you have no idea what I’m posting, or what Pascal is proposing .
            In fact, I’m not even sure you know what you’re talking about.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            An argument is set up in a simple format:

            Presupposition 1
            Presupposition 2
            etc
            Conclusion

            If you’re using pascal’s wager as part of an argument the conclusion of which is “christianity is true” then you’re committing an error called appeal to consequences fallacy. This is because, as I pointed out several posts ago, pascal’s wager has zero impact on whether or not christianity IS TRUE, but is instead an argument attempting to persuade unbelievers into strategically professing to believe, or an argument attempting to show that being a christian may lead to better consequences than being an atheist.

            Because pascal’s wager is not related to determining truth, it doesn’t have a place in a conversation about what’s true. This is what I meant by my previous post.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Pascale’s Wager is a proposition based on game theory, and if you don’t understand game theory you won’t understand his wager, something you have repeatedly demonstrated in your posts.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I just deleted a whole rude response to you… It’s really hard educating you on what pascal’s wager is trying to do when you’ve already decided not to listen to me.

            I’ll try again. Pascal’s wager is not about truth, it’s about making a bet. The content of the bet is to “profess to believe”. Professing belief is not relevant to truth, ergo his argument does not have a place in a conversation about truth.

            Get it now? The conclusion pascal was arguing for was “therefore one should profess to believe in the christian god”, not “therefore christianity is true”.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Pascal’s Wager simply states that anyone who puts their belief in God has nothing to lose.
            But because you don’t, no one else can?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Correction, pascal’s wager argues that anyone who puts their faith in the christian god has nothing to lose. Which is false anyways, as other religions have their own rules for afterlife reward and punishment and all are equally evidenced, which is to say unevidenced.

            Whether any given individual or population (myself included) is theistic or atheistic is irrelevant to what the most reasonable position is. Theism is an untenable position defended only by faith and bad arguments without evidence. As I’ve said before, the argument pascal makes is not attempting to support the proposition of theism as it does not comment on truth. So no, it’s not “because I don’t, no one else can”, it’s “because theism is not a justified position, no theistic belief is justified”.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Correction: As already explained, the wager has nothing to do with “other religions,” or theism or any other straw man you can create.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            What do you mean, nothing to do? It only has nothing to do with other religions if it has nothing to do with reality, because here in reality where I live there are lots of religions, pretty much all of them making different threats or enticements for the afterlife. Christianity is nothing special and the bible is just one religious book among many.

            If you meant to say that pascal tried to dodge the implications of reality, you’re probably right. Like I said before he was not particularly good at this sort of thing, as his pathetic wager demonstrates. It marks a low point in his efforts considering his accomplishments in math and physics, it’s really too bad he wasted the last decade of his unfortunately short life on theology.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            I mean exactly what I post, which is why you have to create straw man arguments, e.g., “If you meant to say,” to “refute” me.
            Although Pascal’s life was cut short, it was full of discoveries and accomplishments that stand in stark contrast to the way you waste yours online.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I presented two interpretations of your intent and responded to both of them. “If you meant to say” means just that, I’m not asserting that this is what you meant but IF this is what you meant then here is my response.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “What do you mean, nothing to do?”
            What do you think it means?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I understand that you think pascal’s wager has nothing to do with other religions, but you’re wrong. This is to be expected, as you’re using a bad argument to post-facto justify a position you had arrived at for unrelated reasons or been indoctrinated with since childhood. People in your situation rarely allow themselves to see weakness in the rational support for their presuppositions. It’s a hard cycle to break from, which is why just 6% of people change the religious belief they were taught from childhood, despite most people’s religious beliefs necessarily being wrong.

            Just to note: in my last post I asked you to support your assertion that souls exist, and in your last post you ignored that request yet again. Please support your assertion that souls exist.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            You can’t understand mundane, earthy things — such as wagers — yet you want to debate that the soul exists because you are so desperate to believe that it doesn’t.

            As Jesus said to Nicodemus: “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:1-21).

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Just because it’s labeled pascal’s wager doesn’t mean it’s actually a wager. It’s an argument wherein pascal attempts to convince nonchristians to become christians based on the mere possibility of christianity being true. Saying that I can’t understand pascal’s wager when my very first post on the topic (my rebuttal) completely refuted your attempted use of it to argue that the bible is trustworthy is just backwards. You’re the one who’s putting a bad argument on a pedestal simply because of who wrote it and that it argues for your presuppositions. Have you ever actually thought about this argument? Do you really understand what the conclusion is supposed to be? Obviously not because you brought it up in defense of the truth of your god, when it’s actually not even attempting to address truth at all.

            Hey by the way, did you think I wouldn’t notice? Yet again you refused to support your assertion that souls exist. And you dodged by quoting the bible, attempting to get yourself out of justifying your beliefs again. Every time you’ve desperately tried to get out of justifying your beliefs by dodging my questions or putting me down or changing the topic, you make it more and more obvious that you know you’re not justified. Even if you’re not going to be honest with others you should at least try to be honest with yourself.

            Just to give you some perspective: this comment thread is probably around 50 or 60 replies long. For most of mine I have challenged you to support your assertion, and for almost every single one of yours, you’ve desperately avoided answering this. Think about that, really think about it. Ask yourself what you’re so terrified of, if your belief is reasonable or correct then you should be able to defend it easily right?

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Despite your claims, you haven’t refuted anything.

            And your “Just because it’s labeled pascal’s wager doesn’t mean it’s actually a wager” confirms that though you refuse to understand the earthly, you still want to “debate” the existence of the soul because you are desperate to prove that it doesn’t exist, which is why this has gone on for so long.

            Just to give you some perspective, take a good look at chromehawks’ post below:

            “if you aren’t LOOKING for something in tests you cant find it. And none of the lab or run tests were looking for it. In fact, in all likelihood(sic) they were SPECIFICALLY looking(sic) for NOT a soul. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be scientific … Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it does not exist … lack of proof is not proof of lack of existence …”

            Or to paraphrase the Bard, there are more things in the universe than can be cataloged.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Lack of proof is lack of justification you fool. Can I get that through your head? If you don’t have a good reason to believe that a proposition is true, you should not believe that the proposition (proposition x) is true. This does not mean you must believe the antithesis of the proposition (proposition not x), it only means there is no justification to believe the former.

            Are you seriously trying to say that pascal’s wager is not an argument? Are you that stupid? It’s not simply a set a mathematical facts, there’s a conclusion that pascal was attempting to achieve with it. Although the truth is there are no mathematical aspects of it, so one can barely call it game theory. It deals with proposed philosophical possibilities, not mathematical probabilities.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Temper, temper, little troll.
            Or do you need a “time out”?
            Are you calling me foolish for putting up with you for so long, or because I refuse to cave in to your childish tantrums that dismiss any possibility that the human soul exists?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            Have you paid any attention to what I’ve been saying inbetween trying to put me down and satisfy your ego as a self-styled intellectual? I have not once claimed that souls do not exist. All I’ve ever done is demand that you justify your belief in souls, which you’ve failed to even attempt to do for fifty straight posts.

            Now ask yourself. If you’re right in your beliefs why in the world are you so desperate to avoid justifying them? What are you afraid of?

            I called you foolish because you quoted that guy as if it defended your own belief in souls. He’s right that lack of proof is generally not proof of absence, but it is lack of justification. And the reason I called you foolish is because that principle is one of the absolute basics of epistemology, it’s practically the first thing you learn as you study the structure of knowledge and belief. That you don’t know this and think you’re qualified to talk down to me is laughable. At least quell your gigantic ego and actually try listening to me for once.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Quell my “gigantic ego” and listen to you act like an undisciplined child, or else you will hold your breath and stamp your feet?
            Don’t they pay enough attention to you at home?

            I recall posting almost a week ago that there was no empirical proof for the soul, and you said that was reasonable.
            So why are we still here?

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            If you’ll recall, what I actually said was that you have not supported the existence of souls with reasoning or empirical evidence. Neither of the two have been employed legitimately by you to justify your belief. Of course, if something like souls actually existed, one would expect to be capable of demonstrating them empirically.

            And hey, more insults thrown from your high horse and more condescension. Do you talk that way to everyone? Does anyone in your life enjoy speaking with you? Anyway, I can see my request to start listening to me has been ignored. You also ignored my explanation of epistemology, presumably because I hit the nail on the head.

            Why are we still here? It’s a good question. I’m here because I happen to see the disqus notification pop up every time I load a chapter on this chinese history comic I’m reading, and I enjoy spending a portion of time online educating people on various topics and you’re in serious need of education. Which is ironic considering how condescending you’ve been to me this whole time. Though it gets very tiresome when people like you cover your ears and pretend not to hear what I’m saying. I would guess you’re still here because it bothers you that I’m right about your evasion and weak arguments, and you want to settle something before you begin doubting presuppositions that must never be doubted on threat of eternal torture.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            “Of course, if something like souls actually existed, one would expect to be capable of demonstrating them empirically” only proves that in addition to everything else, you don’t even understand Shakespeare, much less the Gospel of John.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            I’m tired of your ignorance and condescension. Please stop responding now, as that’s what I’m going to do.

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Then depart with Descartes’ “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.

          • bakabomb

            Pascal’s “Le pari” has indeed been successfully rebutted, and it happened scarcely after it was originally published. You’re absolutely correct. I read “Le pari” in 10th grade, in the original French, in my Hawaii high school. I was impressed until I read the rebuttals. It’s unworthy as a so-called “proof of existence.”

          • bakabomb

            Well, at last he acknowledged why he likens you to Mephistopheles.

          • W Maxwell Cassity-Guilliom

            “As if I’m alone in recognizing Shakespeare’s soul.”

            ‘I’m right because some other people agree with me.’

          • http://www.worthynews.com/ Joe DeCaro

            Re Shakespeare, most of Western civilization agrees with me.
            And paraphrasing what I say into quotes is a not only a straw man argument, but disingenuous.

      • Guest

        I can’t tell if you’re being serious or sarcastic.

  • James Stagg

    Silly article. Another “expert” on what is not even understood by the human mind. Will he define “love” next?

    • Guest

      Hasn’t that already happened? Love is just chemicals!

  • Charlie Jackson

    Why am I seeing a story about halloween instead of the original article?

  • chromehawk

    The author finishes with
    “For many centuries, the idea of the soul has been the best explanation
    we have for much of human experience. But we’ve never seen a soul in a
    lab or run tests on it”

    Now the problem with that statement is twofold.

    1 ) if you aren’t LOOKING for something in tests you cant find it. And none of the lab or run tests were looking for it. In fact, in all liklihood they were SPECIFICALLY loohking for NOT a soul.
    Otherwise, it wouldn’t be scientific.
    Science requires a material logical explanation for a phenomena ( event ) … the soul would not be a viable answer.

    2 ) Just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it does not exist. Yje Higgs Boson has not been seen yet either. ( we MAY have found one. They need to retest in 2015 and see whether or not it has no spin. And even then it would be a “type” of Higgs Boson ).
    This is a key factor of much research. NOT seeing it does not mean you can’t hypothesize it, and then LOOK for it ( see point 1 ). If stuff happens that still cannot be explained, you have two choices. a ) say it didnt really happen or b ) hypothesize a heretofor unseen causual agent.
    Again — lack of proof is not proof of lack of existence. I can’t stress that enough.

  • pastordavidsweet

    lot’s wrong with this article. he puts forth a false if-then. If we had a soul then the real person would not be affected by severe brain injury. What if we have a soul but the soul’s connection in life-in this world–is the brain. No one who is dualistic believes that the soul can operate apart from the brain. They are precisely related. To have brain damage is to severely affect one’s conscious states and responses to the world–but that does not mean that the real person–or the soul–is therefore no longer in existence.

  • adel fathi

    i think that only heart which explain soul

  • Guest

    Rather than trying to disprove the existence of the soul, why not try to better define what we mean by the word in the first place?

    Is the “mind” the same thing as the “brain”? Is a “soul” just another word for “mind”? What do we mean by the word “spirit,” and is it different than a soul? Is “conscience” just a fancy word for “feelings”? What then, is an “informed” conscience?

    I’d respect that effort a lot more than what is presented in this article.

  • bakabomb

    This article is much more germane to the mind / brain question than to the existence-and-nature-of-the-soul question. The former question is plenty mysterious and complex enough without dragging the latter one into it.

    “But we’ve never seen a soul in a lab or run tests on it.”

    Right there, the author falls prey to the commonest mistake Stephen Jay Gould (an evolutionary biologist) describes in his 1999 book, “The Rocks of Ages”. Namely, the author ignores the boundary between what Gould refers to as “NOMA” — non-overlapping magisteria.

    Science is one “rock of ages” and spirituality the other (hence the book’s title). There’s a fluid interface between them — a shifting, dynamic equilibrium if you will — yet Gould’s key point is that each magisterium has a distinct, unique toolbox appropriate to it. The tools of the scientific method, essential as they are to science’s magisterium, are quite simply unsuitable for investigating — let alone proving or, especially, disproving — matters relating to the spiritual magisterium. (And, of course, vice versa.)

    The author falls prey to a classic misstep here, and the insight that provides into his thought process devalues his argument considerably.

  • John Matthew Allison

    This type of materialistic reductionism is so trite and one-dimensional. Where, exactly, is experience (i.e. consciousness) happening when a neuro-chemical is released? Yes, neuro-chemical X is discharged when experience Y occurs, but where is consciousness in all of this? How do you make the leap from the quantitative to the qualitative?

    Also, every type of evidence given in this article for why your consciousness is reducible to your brain can also be interpreted non-reductionistically in the proverbially known “reducing valve” theory of consciousness, which operates upon the idea that your brain is the means by which consciousness is filtered through the body. Frederic Myers, William James, Henri Bergson, Aldous Huxley, C.D. Broad, John Raymond Smythies, Jeffrey Kripal, David Bently Hart, and a host of others have all held this type of position, which I think is sophisticated and nuanced. If anyone is seriously interested in a serious account of this type of model, I’d recommend a volume called “Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century” (2007). There’s also a more accessible book by Hart called “God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss” (2014) that I just read that has a great chapter on the logical flaws in a reductionistic model of mind.