Friday, November 29, 2019

Do Occurrences Of Brain Damage Refute The Immateriality Of The Soul?

        Critics of mind-body dualism (the position that the mind is immaterial, body is physical, and both are separable) argue that changes in brain function rule out the existence of a soul. It is claimed that instances of the brain influencing our behavior prove consciousness to be illusory. A common assertion made in neuroscience is that the mind and the brain are one in the same.

       There is a relationship between the mind and brain, but that does not mean both are the same. The brain is the instrument by which we access our consciousness. Thus, the mind is dependent in a sense on the brain. Organic brain damage may hinder our overall performance. Just as a broken computer which is unable to access the internet does not prove such to be nonexistent, so a damaged brain does not disprove the immateriality of the soul. Following are a few excerpts from secular sources that expressly reject mind-body dualism but argue the mind transcends the brain:

        "...neuroimaging studies may not be as objective as some would like to think. There are still large gaps between observation and interpretation – gaps that are ‘filled’ by theoretical or methodological assumptions. It is then no surprise that researchers have difficulty replicating experimental findings, and that one lab may often find results that contradict those found in another lab where researchers have slightly different biases and make different methodological assumptions (Miller, 2010). This is not to dismiss neuroimaging studies altogether, but rather to suggest that there needs to be more skepticism about what grandiose conclusions we draw from them." (http://modernpsychologist.ca/the-mind-does-not-reduce-to-the-brain/)

        "...The brain plays an incredibly important role. But our mind cannot be confined to what’s inside our skull, or even our body, according to a definition first put forward by Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of a recently published book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human." (https://qz.com/866352/scientists-say-your-mind-isnt-confined-to-your-brain-or-even-your-body/)

        "...the mind is not just a product of brain activity. If it were, it would be impossible for changes in psychological functioning to bring about changes in the brain, in the same way that it would be impossible for changes in the images on a computer screen to bring about changes to the circuitry of a computer. This highlights the fact that the psyche is a phenomenon in its own right, with its own features, its own structures and patterns. It can’t be entirely reduced to neurology. It has to be studied in its own terms."(https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/out-the-darkness/201701/why-the-mind-is-more-the-brain)

        Following is an excerpt from a source that does argue for mind-body dualism:

        "Penfield’s observations bring to light a perplexing aspect of epilepsy — or at least an aspect of epilepsy that should be perplexing to materialists. Seizures always involve either complete unconsciousness or specific activation of a non-abstract neurological function — flashes of light, smells, jerking of muscles, specific memories, strong emotions — but seizures never evoke discrete abstract thought. This is odd, given that the bulk of brain tissue from which seizures arise is classified as association areas that are thought to sub-serve abstract thought. Why don’t epilepsy patients have “calculus seizures” or “moral ethics” seizures, in which they involuntarily take second derivatives or contemplate mercy? The answer is obvious — the brain does not generate abstract thought. The brain is normally necessary for abstract thought, but not sufficient for it." (https://evolutionnews.org/2016/04/wilder_penfield/)

2 comments:

  1. Are you equating the mind and the soul?

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  2. Moksha,

    The mind and the soul are not the exact same thing. At the same time, the mind is not a separate "faculty." The mind is the thinking dimension of the soul. The mind and the soul are "the same thing" in that they are the same substance.

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