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The Soul Vs The Brain.


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I don't believe human beings have souls.  Period. And it's not that I don't want to believe it. I've learned the hard way that wanting to believe something is a very poor reason for believing it. Believing something is true because it gives you comfort or reassurance or a feeling of belonging is the coward's way out. 

 

The reason I don't believe is because there is no evidence to support it.  In fact, it is just the opposite. 

 

If the human soul is the source of morality and judgment, then the human soul can be altered by a brain injury.  The human soul can be altered by psychotropic medications.  The human soul can be erased altogether by alzheimers.  And the human soul can be altered by simple transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). 

 

Cognitive neuroscientists at Harvard and MIT have altered a person's morality and judgment by stimulating the right temporoparietal junction of the brain using TMS.

 

If human beings have a soul, it is located inside the cranium, just above and behind the right ear.

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125304448

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I don't believe human beings have souls.  Period. And it's not that I don't want to believe it. I've learned the hard way that wanting to believe something is a very poor reason for believing it. Beli

Logically speaking these studies do not actually disprove a souls existence. Take the computer analogy: If a computers processor fails and returns an incorrect calculation, does this disprove the exis

Yep. The "soul" is a hopeful myth which allows folks to imagine survival beyond death. Thanks for sharing.

Yep. The "soul" is a hopeful myth which allows folks to imagine survival beyond death. Thanks for sharing.

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I dont think I've ever heard what a "soul" actually is.  I dont think there can be a good explanation.   People want to live forever and claim to have souls which live eternally after you die.  t strikes as wishful thinking.

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People (and I include myself, in the past) want to put themselves into a story that ends in "happily ever after".

 

But it's just a story.

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Julien Musolino is a cognitive scientist and professor at Rutgers University.  He has written a book called the Soul Fallacy. It's a good read for anyone who is interested in exploring the subject.  Here he is doing an interview about his book and the Soul / Mind / Brain. 

 

http://appliedsentience.com/2014/08/26/the-soul-fallacy-an-interview-with-psychology-professor-julien-musolino/

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Logically speaking these studies do not actually disprove a souls existence. Take the computer analogy: If a computers processor fails and returns an incorrect calculation, does this disprove the existence of the user? Of course it doesn't. Likewise, a failure of the brain resulting in poor judgement doesn't rule out a soul. Don't get me wrong here, a soul is very unlikely to be real and has almost zero evidence behind it, but I feel the need to point out that this sort of neurological study doesn't actually imply a soul CANNOT exist -just that it DOESN'T NEED to exist.

 

What these studies actually prove is two things: 1) A soul is unnecessary to explain conscious decisions. 2) We can affect a persons mind with outside interference. The latter is actually more interesting and at the same time alarming at how easily it can be achieved. We may be seeing some interesting human rights codes in regards to mind control propping up in the future depending on how this goes. Time to break out the tinfoil hats!

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When it comes to absolute proof that is only found in mathematics.  However brain damage certainly debunks the concept of soul.  We can rule it out beyond a reasonable doubt.  It can be sent to the discard pile with all the other dead ideas.

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The soul is a very poetic concept to me. I'm not concerned about whether it's "objectively true", because the truth is I will never know.

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There are so many things that we do not understand. One of those things is consciousness, an awareness of self. To me the issue is not the soul vs. the brain, but a full explanation of consciousness, particularly when seen from an evolutionary standpoint. In that regard, we start with material which is not living and therefore has no consciousness. Then over billions of years beginning with a one cell life form and going all the way forward to today with self aware, intelligent creatures. How did it go from an unaware, not living matter all the way to full consciousness? That's the mystery and the brain does not explain it fully.

 

Oh, the mysteries...

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The soul is a very poetic concept to me. I'm not concerned about whether it's "objectively true", because the truth is I will never know.

 

I also find the concept rather poetic, and have decided that I can use the term even from a materialistic standpoint. Because my brain isn't my mind; my mind is what my brain does. My soul is... overarching patterns in the way my mind works? My soul is my experience of being alive, all the more subjective experiences, the deep emotions, the epiphanies and existential experiences. They're all quite real things, that happened to the matter in my body/brain at a particular time, and the echos of them are stored in my body, and my body generates my mind....

 

In some sense I could say that I believe in minds but not souls, but those two words have very different connotations to me. Like music can have soul, it's that special something that sets a performance apart as special, as a particular time when the performer was intensely alive and aware of being alive and fully engaged in the music. Not everything a mind does every day rises to the level of soul. So in those contexts I think the word can be quite useful, even if I don't believe I have any supernatural components to my being.

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Logically speaking these studies do not actually disprove a souls existence. Take the computer analogy: If a computers processor fails and returns an incorrect calculation, does this disprove the existence of the user? Of course it doesn't. Likewise, a failure of the brain resulting in poor judgement doesn't rule out a soul. Don't get me wrong here, a soul is very unlikely to be real and has almost zero evidence behind it, but I feel the need to point out that this sort of neurological study doesn't actually imply a soul CANNOT exist -just that it DOESN'T NEED to exist.

 

What these studies actually prove is two things: 1) A soul is unnecessary to explain conscious decisions. 2) We can affect a persons mind with outside interference. The latter is actually more interesting and at the same time alarming at how easily it can be achieved. We may be seeing some interesting human rights codes in regards to mind control propping up in the future depending on how this goes. Time to break out the tinfoil hats!

 

Your analogy breaks down when you realize that the person would be the user of the computer and not the output of the computer. The computer would be throwing out incorrect outputs, but the user would remain rational and be aware that there was a problem as he couldn't function in the normal way due to the faulty computer. With someone who's mind has been altered, if your analogy was to hold, the person would be there thinking perfectly rationally, but his actions seen from those outside would be altered. This is not the case when it comes to cases of brain damage and mind altering drug use. The person is not mentally just the same but can't express him or herself properly.

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It doesn't break down, you just don't really understand it. I'm pointing out how from a dualism perspective it doesn't actually disprove anything. In this case the user wants to do X but the cpu cannot do X and outsiders would actually be virtual, which means from our perspective the only thing we would know is that X didn't happen.

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If there is no soul (and I don't mean soul as in Biblical), then am I just observing what my brain is doing? If I'm not deciding anything, and my brain is doing all of the work, why am I here? And who am I?

Am I not needed here in my brain?

If not I'm just a lost soul, I think.

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If there is no soul (and I don't mean soul as in Biblical), then am I just observing what my brain is doing? If I'm not deciding anything, and my brain is doing all of the work, why am I here? And who am I?

Am I not needed here in my brain?

If not I'm just a lost soul, I think.

The reality is consciousness is still poorly understood. We have a vague idea that certain regions of the brain when damaged cause consiousness to fail, but the actual mechanism is still a scientific mystery. We don't even know enough to fully debunk or verify the "quantum consciousness" theories that spring up every now and then. This is somewhat where I am getting at: We really don't know enough to say anything. A whole extra layer could exist to consciousness and with our current level of knowledge we would be none the wiser. Until we fully understand the mechanism we can only observe effects and guess. The current best guess is that there is no soul and "You" are a biological process just like anything else.

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Soul is a mythological concept.  If science were to find something resembling a soul science would give it a name like "dark mind" and then they would set about trying to study it.  

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It doesn't break down, you just don't really understand it. I'm pointing out how from a dualism perspective it doesn't actually disprove anything. In this case the user wants to do X but the cpu cannot do X and outsiders would actually be virtual, which means from our perspective the only thing we would know is that X didn't happen.

So suppose I'm given a general anesthetic. It's not that I want to do X (perhaps move around and react to my environment) but can't. It's not just that the outsiders observe that I can't do anything and that's all we have to go off of. From a first person perspective, I know I was not feeling, experiencing or wanting to do anything at the time. The general anesthetic changed "me," who is the user in the analogy, not the computer. The only way I could see around this is that using your memory is part of using the computer in this analogy so your computer was impaired for the duration of the anesthetic and cannot recall the surgery. But I would find it hard to be able to identify something as yourself absent of any memory function as memory plays an important part in the concept of self.

 

The fact that changes in brain states cause changes in mind in every way is strong evidence against dualism. Sure, you can come up with some contrived ad hoc explanation to make dualism fit with the data, but that is the antithesis of how good science and philosophy works.

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My 50 cents worth.

 

Whenever (or if) we get round to creating an artificial intelligence, that might well have some impact on the soul/brain issue.

 

If this machine is (as best we can tell) fully aware, conscious and intelligent, then we will have created a brain from dead, unliving material that arguably 'lives' without being inhabited by a soul.  

 

This then raises the pertinent question, "If said machine doesn't require a soul to be just as aware and intelligent as we are, why do we believe we need one?"  

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

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It doesn't break down, you just don't really understand it. I'm pointing out how from a dualism perspective it doesn't actually disprove anything. In this case the user wants to do X but the cpu cannot do X and outsiders would actually be virtual, which means from our perspective the only thing we would know is that X didn't happen.

So suppose I'm given a general anesthetic. It's not that I want to do X (perhaps move around and react to my environment) but can't. It's not just that the outsiders observe that I can't do anything and that's all we have to go off of. From a first person perspective, I know I was not feeling, experiencing or wanting to do anything at the time. The general anesthetic changed "me," who is the user in the analogy, not the computer. The only way I could see around this is that using your memory is part of using the computer in this analogy so your computer was impaired for the duration of the anesthetic and cannot recall the surgery. But I would find it hard to be able to identify something as yourself absent of any memory function as memory plays an important part in the concept of self.

 

The fact that changes in brain states cause changes in mind in every way is strong evidence against dualism. Sure, you can come up with some contrived ad hoc explanation to make dualism fit with the data, but that is the antithesis of how good science and philosophy works.

 

Again, you are not understanding my analogy. The observers would not be outside the computer with the user, they would be the ones and zeros.

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And once again I said nothing of the sort. I think you are the one misunderstanding me. Otherwise you've just been very poor at articulating what exactly the analogy is you are arguing for. I've been using pretty much exactly the language you've provided in my examples of how the analogy breaks down.

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I don't believe human beings have souls.  Period. And it's not that I don't want to believe it. I've learned the hard way that wanting to believe something is a very poor reason for believing it. Believing something is true because it gives you comfort or reassurance or a feeling of belonging is the coward's way out. 

 

The reason I don't believe is because there is no evidence to support it.  In fact, it is just the opposite. 

 

If the human soul is the source of morality and judgment, then the human soul can be altered by a brain injury.  The human soul can be altered by psychotropic medications.  The human soul can be erased altogether by alzheimers.  And the human soul can be altered by simple transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). 

 

Cognitive neuroscientists at Harvard and MIT have altered a person's morality and judgment by stimulating the right temporoparietal junction of the brain using TMS.

 

If human beings have a soul, it is located inside the cranium, just above and behind the right ear.

 

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125304448

 

You're probably right. But because I'm only agnostic I like to think that there might be a soul.

 

The soul and the human brain have been compared to a television. When Jimmy Fallon is on tv is Jimmy Fallon actually there in my living room ? No. It's just a cable tv signal being fed to the tv. If a resistor in the tv burns out and the picture gets all messed up is Jimmy Fallon now sick? No. The tv signal is just not being correctly decoded. The tv could be compared to the human body and Jimmy Fallon's studio could be compared to a human soul. The human soul is just transmitting a signal to the human body. if the tv breaks this doesnt kill Jimmy Fallon in his studio. The signal is still being sent. The receiver is just broken. One might say this about Alzheimers. The soul may still be transmitting correctly, but brain hardware is defective.

 

If I will my leg to move but for some reason it doesn't, does this mean I dont have a brain? No, it means the signal between brain and leg is being interrupted somewhere.

 

Stimulating the brain might create some particular behavior that turns me into an asshat. Does this mean "I" dont want to be nice anymore? Maybe my soul is sending the nice signal but the cognitive neurosurgeon is overriding the signal with a higher voltage. smile.png

 

If someone is driving a car and the brakes go out , since the vehicle hardware failed does this mean that there never really was a driver (soul) controlling the car? Or does it mean...the brakes went out? When the vehicle fails, the driver is unable to control it. When the brain fails (alzheimers) , the soul is unable to control it. 

 

...

 

Still, there is no scientific (aka material) evidence for souls so souls cannot be shown to exist. I dont believe in Jesus either, btw. Somewhere in the middle. I dont believe scientists are able to explain what consciousness is and so this makes me wonder about 'souls.'

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My 50 cents worth.

 

Whenever (or if) we get round to creating an artificial intelligence, that might well have some impact on the soul/brain issue.

 

If this machine is (as best we can tell) fully aware, conscious and intelligent, then we will have created a brain from dead, unliving material that arguably 'lives' without being inhabited by a soul.  

 

This then raises the pertinent question, "If said machine doesn't require a soul to be just as aware and intelligent as we are, why do we believe we need one?"  

 

Thanks,

 

BAA.

What you say does not necessarily hold because the machine with self awareness was created by living beings with self awareness, too. What your hypothetical would show is that if you start with a self aware intelligent being, that being can create machines with similar attributes, sort of how Christians and other theists would say God did it.

 

To me, there has to be another proven example of non living matter achieving self awareness without the intervention of a self aware living being. That may very well be what happened on earth, but as yet no one can explain how or even define consciousness. It is a great mystery.

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And once again I said nothing of the sort. I think you are the one misunderstanding me. Otherwise you've just been very poor at articulating what exactly the analogy is you are arguing for. I've been using pretty much exactly the language you've provided in my examples of how the analogy breaks down.

I understand you perfectly. The problem is you are trying to add things to my analogy that have absolutely nothing to do with the main point, and confusing yourself in the process. I'll admit it isn't the easiest to understand since I didn't make clear who and what the observers were so I'll use a different analogy instead:

 

Imagine a humanoid robot/android is sent to an island with an indigenous native population that has absolutely no knowledge of robotics and computer science ( This is very important ). The android is being remote controlled via satellite from somewhere in the first world. He ( The Android ) is based on a neural node type AI, and thus has a computerized "mind" that feeds data back to his controller while having some level of autonomy and AI reasoning even without being given commands. The natives are unable to tell the difference between the android and a normal person, but one day the android bumps his head and damages the part of his "mind" necessary for calculating distance. The controller is unable to make up for this problem, as the android is unable to feedback any significant information. Thus to the natives perspective, the android has incurred brain damage and can no longer judge length properly, same with the android. But in reality the controller is perfectly capable of doing so but simply cannot due to hardware damage, but the natives have no way of knowing this.

 

This is why brain damage doesn't necessarily disprove a type of soul can exist, as from our perspective we have a knowledge of science but no knowledge of any sort of spiritual realm. Thus we can connect the dots and see that damage to regions of the brain also seem to damage the mind, but we have no way of knowing if there is a higher order above it or not. In the hypothetical situation there was a soul and a persons brain was suffering from short term memory loss, it could easily be that the soul is perfectly capable of forming short term memories but cannot because the "hardware" needed to do so is damaged and thus the brain is unable to feedback short term memories correctly. In this case, the soul and the brain are actually copies of each other both having a mind but only one we can be aware of. Thus brain damage doesn't prove a soul doesn't exist, rather it just proves that a soul doesn't need to exist to explain the phenomena of the "mind".

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midniterider:  So by what means do you envision the soul transmitting a signal to the brain?  And what's to keep my soul from transmitting a signal to your brain?

 

Seems like a much simpler explanation is - everything is contained in the brain.  And eventually, as our understanding increases, we will know that the mind, the soul, everything is contained there and operates by chemical / electrical signals and neuron firing.  They say the human brain is the most complex thing in the known universe.  Maybe they're right.

 

I have a good friend who is dying as we speak from Alzheimers.  His brain is very close to not functioning at all.  I cannot accept that his soul is just fine somewhere and his brain just isn't receiving the signal properly.  His memories and knowledge are gone forever.  And he won't become suddenly lucid again once he dies.  (not that you were proposing such a thing, but lots of people think that). 

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Jedah - I've been reading your posts and trying to absorb what you're saying.  But I think your brain is receiving a stronger signal than mine. smile.png

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