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The Science of the Soul


PaulaJedi
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I have been struggling with questions like these for a while. I feel like I have a soul, or at least that my body is not all that I am.

 

There's interesting studies on DMT, that multiple participants have very similar results.

 

And then accounts of children recalling their past lives and taking police to their bodies, pointing out their murderers and such things.

 

I try and take a scientific view of existence, but I don't think we've quite cracked the human experience yet.

 

 

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I'll see what I can find when I get home tomorrow, but Gpa's article is a good start. So is Hank Green's neurology videos on Youtube. Note that I am no expert, just a geek ;)

I completely forgot to follow up on this, but basically, searching for "how memories are formed" on Youtube will bury you in videos, and the ones I clicked were informative, although a bit dry (science might be cool, but it doesn't always *look* cool). I do still recommend Hank's stuff on the Crash Course channel for newbies in the world of neurobabble :geek:

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

It's fascinating how people can use a whole lot of words without really talking about anything. Here's my 2c on the matter.

 

To start, in these types of matters (religious/spiritual/etc), I like to call myself "ignostic", which is a good way (in my opinion) of approaching this stuff. Most of it's been so diluted that no one really has any idea what they are talking about, and just use the word as some magical unknown 'woo'. So it's best to point out that no one has provided a clear definition for 'soul'. In that sense, as soon as a definition is provided, it's merits can be discussed.

 

As for some tangential topics, most of those are covered via neuroscience and various parts of the brain. To start, any sort of brain activity naturally takes place in the brain. This includes memories, thoughts, sensory interpretation, personality, etc. To think any of this stuff is metaphysical is laughably wrong.

 

From there, it's important to note that the subjective experience and the awareness of such are separate. That is, you can see without being aware you can see (or be blind and not be aware of the fact).

 

Ultimately each of these various traits can be removed and identity can still be kept in tact (as seen in famous thought experiments, like gradual neuron replacement and the gradual boat replacement experiments). This ultimately leads to the conclusion that 'identity' is really a metaphysical label for an arbitrary collection of matter which gradually changes over time. Meaning identity itself is an illusion. Again, awareness of being aware.

 

Now, all of that is clearly determined to originate in the brain. And we've poked at pretty much all of it. So if there's a "soul", someone's gonna have to come out and pinpoint what they are talking about.

 

And finally, as for the 'death' thing. I hold reincarnation to be true. The reasoning as for why is a bit too complicated for this post, but if people are curious I'll go into it. But no memories, personality, etc. is preserved. This is due to the physical nature of those things.

 

 

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I'd like to hear your thoughts on reincarnation

Alright then. As I mentioned in my last post, no physical traits would/should get carried over. Due to the mechanism for reincarnation being entirely subjective, rather than a literal reforming of matter. And given that I also hold that personality, memory, etc. are all physical (as determined by science), it's safe to say that 'reincarnation' as I use it is a bit different from the standard religious concept.

 

Now, I mentioned before that I'd describe myself as 'ignostic', which in general means that I reserve judgement until a clear definition of the terms in question are supplied. This goes for 'soul', 'god', and other such unclear terms. Though for casual conversation, I'd say most of my views line up with the typical atheist fare. Except, of course, on this reincarnation bit, along with some other unrelated stuff.

 

Most atheists would generally have a hard time accepting a reincarnation, unless it was over a long period of time, the same matter happening to form in the same way, and so on (a literal recreation of the same collection of matter). However, I disagree with this, for one big reason: it implies a metaphysical "thing" that is somehow created (and later destroyed) based on an arbitrary collection of matter that somehow not only transcends time, but is unique for every individual. I find this hard to buy. The other alternative is to reject the subjective experience in it's entirety (which I've seen people do!) Again, I fail to reject this. Primarily due to personal experience.

 

So, now on to the rationale.

 

Starting from the concept that more or less that identity is a metaphysical label to a collection of physical matter, we can easily accept that moving this label around, or applying it to something else would work fine. That is, the gradual replacement experiments would be a success, and the 'new' collection would have the old label. Likewise, we can see that the subjective experience works in a fundamentally similar way. it's an evoked characteristic of a variety of collections of matter. Again, this idea isn't too far off from the typical atheist tale. You have matter give rise to a subjective being, which then observes that collection of matter and related content.

 

However, you run into a problem. With this narrative, there must be no continuity. As two different sets of matter cannot (or should not) give rise to the same entity if we are to call them unique. That is, matter X/Y/Z gives rise to subjective experience R. And matter A/B/C gives rise to subjective experience S. R and S are obviously not the same (under this narrative). However, when we account for the fact that past/future you SHOULD give the same result, we arrive at a contradiction. See, A/B/C should give rise to R, if this were to be true. That is, working of a strictly physical narrative, we arrive at the issue of transcending time (past you is the same as present you, just at a different 'time'). This means one of a few things:

 

1. Every subjective experience evoked is identical.

 

2. There's a metaphysical/non-physical explanation for the subjective experience.

 

3. Past/Present/Future you are completely separate and unique subjective experiences.

 

4. The subjective experience doesn't actually exist.

 

4 is rejected in our initial premises. It's something I don't think can be proven, but should be something most everyone accepts. I think therefore I am, and that sort of thing. If you accept 4, I think it's safe to say you are a "philosophical zombie" (A human that's identical to the rest, but lacks a subjective experience, and the perception of qualia). This isn't satisfying to me, as I personally am aware of the subjective experience (it's what I'd define myself as). So that's out.

 

3 is rejected, on the notion that there's a clear continuity of the subjective experience. We don't continually see a single "frame" forever. We have an illusion of time. Which means that the past/present/future versions of this entity must be somehow connected. More on that in a minute.

 

2 is rejected, based on the fact that we know pretty much everything about this subjective experience is tied to physical matter. Keep in mind from before, how sensory info, and being aware of that info are two separate things, both affected by physical matter. It's safe to say that it's all physically tied. At best we can say the subjective experience itself is metaphysical/non-physical, but is evoked via physical means.

 

And ultimately we arrive at 1. Which is that every evocation of this subjective experience is indeed identical. That is, it's physically tied, but in every instance it's the same subjective experience. This allows the physically distinct past/present you's to be "the same person", and it also allows you to hold that everything is physically tied (as we observe in experiments). This also is consistent with the identity thought experiments, as well as the fluidity of identity itself (that the subjective experience functions the same as identity itself).

 

But ultimately it comes with the major caveat that every instance is the same. Meaning that other people are about as 'you' as past 'you' is. To give a more accurate statement, every evocation of consciousness at every point in time is simultaneously subjectively experienced. And the linear narrative we find ourselves in is due to human memory, tying back to older versions of the same physical matter. Or rather, possible older versions of the same physical matter, and viewing various possible (and probable) outcomes. Amusingly, this view is ALSO supported by the recent wheeler's delayed choice experiments.

 

So now what about reincarnation, you ask? That's how this whole system should appear subjectively. That is, you are born, perceive a series of events that are possible to observe from that state, play them all out until the chain 'ends' (death). And then pick yet another chain to perceive. This isn't quite the case, since it's all done simultaneously, but that should be the perspective of the viewer. Really, after death would be the same as before death. Just.... from a different viewpoint. A good way of imagining it is to pretend you are dead right now, just in the future. Since that's what it'll be like, just later. I find "reincarnation" to be the best description of this idea.

 

This all ties in with my other views on the universe, time, and all that fun stuff. But I think I've more or less hit everything on my views on the subjective experience. The only thing I really haven't worked out is the chronological ordering and viewing of these individual evocations. That is, "why Kafke"? Why 'me'?

 

And on that note, I actually had a pretty interesting discussion with another user (elsewhere on the internet), who proposed a sort of pattern evocation. Which certainly seems like an interesting idea, and fits with some of my other observations. And would easily fit in with what I've described above. I simply haven't accepted it because I haven't found any sure-fire way of knowing that it's the case (and deducing it independently).

 

The thing I like about the stuff I just described is that it all fits in perfectly with the rest of my views, and was more or less easily deduced by things I already hold true about the world.

 

 

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So it's best to point out that no one has provided a clear definition for 'soul'. In that sense, as soon as a definition is provided, it's merits can be discussed.

Great point! And I say that because I said pretty much the same thing in another thread we had awhile back that tried to discuss "mind" and also the distinction between "mind" and "soul." You may, or may not, find food for thought in that thread:

 

http://timetravelinstitute.com/threads/what-is-mind-and-does-it-require-a-soul.8402/

 

As you will see, I begin the thread by at least trying to offer a definition of mind before ever getting into the issue of what a soul might be.

 

RMT

 

 

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Interesting thread - I just finished an article on the book "The Power of Soul," which is that there is a way to heal the Soul that can then help all humanity to heal it's ills - Now, whether this is possible or not is highly questionable. For one thing, as stated in the article, it is impossible for many who do not work within a framework of organized religion to accept that each individual has a soul be that soul damaged, tormented or lost - As I am a comparative theologian and ordained minister working from a secular perspective, while I believe a spirit or soul can be healed, I'm not sure that in doing so, the act has the power to heal society as a whole though it is no doubt a worthy goal of the author and those who follow him as well - Thoughts?

 

 

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