Skip to comments.The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul
Posted on 10/01/2007 9:46:38 AM PDT by SirLinksalot
BOOK REVIEW :
The Spiritual Brain : A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul By Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary
HarperOne. 368 pp. $25.95
Neuroscience is a combat zone. It is here, in the human brain, that the final conflict between materialism and, to invent a word, soulism is being fought. For materialists, the outcome is not in doubt. Our minds, our selves, our awareness are merely the outcome of the electrical activity of the few pounds of hyperconnected matter between our ears. All claims to the contrary are wishful thinking or superstitious remnants. But the materialists have two problems. Their certainty of victory is, for the moment, a leap of faith. There is no clear scientific consensus on how the brain produces the higher functions we call being human. And, second, the great mystery, the ultimate hard question, remains: How does matter produce mind, how can it? Irrespective of religious belief, immaterialism cannot easily be dismissed. What is the nature of what I am thinking and feeling now? To tell me that it is all a by-product of my brain is to tell me nothing. What I am is at least as real as the chair I am sitting on, and what I am seems to be immaterial.
Hard scientists and militant atheists tend to dismiss this as spilt religion or philosophical hair-splitting, a futile pursuit of an artifact of language. But all serious thinkers understand the problem. Most, however, will fall back on what the philosopher of science Karl Popper called "promissory materialism." We will, one day, find the material answers because, in essence, we must. There simply cannot be anything other than matter.
This book is an attempt to show that, even in terms of the most rigorous science, this cannot be true. Based, in part, on his study of brain activity in Carmelite nuns in the course of their deepest religious experiences, Mario Beauregard claims it is simply not possible for the matter of the brain to be all that is involved. Something, he insists, is causing this to happen from outside.
The great strength of his position is the folly of the materialists. Beauregard continually draws attention to the scientifically dubious basis of their leap of faith. They argue that it must be so and then set about proving it. Their triumphalism - driven by big publishing deals - is their greatest weakness.
There are plenty of examples. People were terribly excited when a computer beat Garry Kasparov at chess. The machines, it was claimed, were thinking like - or, rather, better than - humans. But, of course, they weren't. They were simply aggregating the skills of their programmers. Kasparov was playing a team. Claims about "God genes" have proved absurd, attempts to induce religious experiences with magnetic helmets are dubious in the extreme, and temporal-lobe epilepsy explains almost nothing about either religious or high artistic talent. The inflation of scientific claims based on such patently feeble evidence is an embarrassment to the materialists.
That said, the claims of the soulists, once we step back from the simple experience of being an aware self, are equally problematic. Beauregard uses evidence like near-death experiences (NDEs) and psi - or paranormal - effects and his own work on religious experience to show that the self or soul is not simply locked inside the skull. In the case of NDEs, for example, people often report seeing themselves from the outside, typically, reporting a bird's-eye view of an operating theater. One cannot doubt these experiences, but the interpretation that they involve a separation of the self from the body is speculation. In the case of psi effects - telepathy, psychokinesis - the evidence is patchy. Finally, it is unquestionable that religious experiences are not the simple pathologies claimed by some materialists, but that is not to say they are demonstrably different in kind from anything encountered in material science.
None of which devalues the overall message of this book. The materialists, reductionists and militant atheists have not done what they claim to have done, and Beauregard performs an admirable service in explaining why. Above all, he shows that our current science is provisional and as far from answering final questions as science has always been.
The book would have been massively improved if it had avoided the irritating trick, beloved of publishers, of peppering the pages with dozens of information boxes and the equally irritating trick, beloved of authors, of scattering long quotations like confetti. But as a guide to the war zone from the antimaterialist perspective, it's a valuable read.
Nothing says credibility like a heapin' helpin' of woo.
“militant atheists” are curious folk. They remind me of “Organized Anarchists” or “Militant Peaceniks” or “Nihlist Bureaucrats”.
Science can only measure that which is measurable. We should not expect “science” to aid us in understanding or proving things that are easily proved by philosophy and intellect. A great book, which explains Aquinas, is Theology And Sanity by FJ Sheed. It’s the only book you’ll ever need besides the Bible.
bump for later...
“Above all, he shows that our current science is provisional and as far from answering final questions as science has always been.”
Not true. Hawkins some time ago pointed to nanotubes unique to brain cells that appear to support some interesting quantum phenomena. Two scientists (names slip my mind) recently built on his work and are positing a physical basis for a soul that due to certain distemporal aspects of QM could be considered eternal.
In other words, both the physicalists and the soulist may be both right and wrong.
My belief in the supernatural, God, is solely because of faith. I know that, and recognize its weakness as an argument. However, my experiences inform me that it is true. They are basically non-repeatable, though, and materialists could offer other explanations, including statistically improbably coincidences.
It works for me, though, and if it doesn’t work for you, that is between you and God. Or not.
What’s mind? No matter.
What’s matter? No mind.
Science can only measure that which is measurable.......very true. But you need the right measurement tool. That’s why I consider psychology a pseudo science at best.
The problem with measuring cognitive function is the bias of the human brain processing any stimulus perceived by the sensory receptors. In short, a person thinks about what they are experiencing and then must communicate it based upon their prior experiences.
I have found that Karl Pribram of Stanford University was correct in his theory that memories are stored as holograms. Problem has been, all the neursocientists are using a reductionist approach and searching the synapses of the brain thinking that they will find memories encoded much the way a hard drive stores encoded data on a computer. Memories are no more “in” the brain than the music you hear on a radio is in the radio. The brain acts as an antenna interacting with the soul. I do presentations where I take a total stranger who I know nothing about and without touching them in any way, without either of us saying a word, and with the person’s eyes being closed (thus bypassing their sensory receptors), I stand back about ten to fifteen feet from the person and tell them details about events in their life that have occurrred since birth. How, by stimulating the memories that are stored at the soul level a person’s physical body moves in response to me. It’s all logical and scientific. I did a presentation for a select group in Washington DC about a year ago and it freaked them out. Their response was laughable...”People aren’t ready for this yet!” “They like to think their thoughts are private.” Did the same thing in December at Harvard Medical School. Had a group of MD’s accuse me of hiring private investigators to find out about them the details were so accurate. I laughed as they were volunteers out of a group and I didn’t even know their name. It’s a very simple process to understand how the soul interacts with the physical body and easily demonstrated in a scientific controlled setting.
This same simple process explains how mind control works. Also, how charisma works, and hypnosis. Why people select the type of religion they choose to practice. Even why personality develops the way it does. All I’m saying is... Yes, always be skeptical, but keep your mind open. There is no such thing as a miracle, it is merely science that we don’t understand yet.
“What is mind? No matter. What is matter? Never mind.”
What a great time to be alive!
A few months ago I read one theory that information in the brain may be transferred by sound waves. I think there is still much to learn.
It was Roger Penrose, not Stephen Hawking who proposed quantum phenomena in the nanotubules of neurons as a possible basis for consciousness.
Your last suggestion has a ring of truth: both wave and particle, both infinitely divisible and composed of smallest particles*, both God and Man, both generated by the brain and eternal, . . .
*Admittedly that one is obscure: the conundrum of whether matter is infinitely divisible or composed of smallest particles has the answer “both”—attempting to divide a smallest particle divides it into two particles and an antiparticle, provided one uses enough energy.
But does it help you score chicks?
This book is worthy of “ the only book youll ever need besides the Bible.”
The Physics of Consciousness: The Quantum Mind and the Meaning of Life
By Evan Harris Walker.
It was a best seller for a few months...
Truly fascinating book. I’ve read is almost a dozen times....and each time I learn (retain) something new.
First half is an in depth historical account of the study of physics throughout the ages....the second half is reverse engineering / search for consciousness / the soul.
Very deep subject matter yet an easy read.
Since the author referenced Kasparov and the ‘team’ that built the computer which beat him, I will state we already built a replica of us. The human mind is a computer. The processor controls the motor function and desires, the sub-conciense is a hard drive and interacts with the processor to attempt to understand the uknown. I am a Christian and could write a book of testimonies about the love and relationship of Christ. He is real, the heavenly Father is real.
We will evolve artificially thousands of times faster then our evolutionary pattern is designed. That statement is in the bible itself with numerous reference to our intelligence being increased in the last days. We have accelerated a proton faster then the speed of light. How long do you think it will be before we can entirely human store conciensness into that proton and explore, become multi-dimensional and exploring the universe in moments? Perhaps a hundred or two hundred years? We will be immortal. Perhaps it is not like many class Christians believe but that is what the Apostles saw when Christ transformed Himself, a being of light. Moses face was glowing when he got down the mountain after his encounter with God and had aged, obviously irradiated.
It is your personality and historic interactions that can be eternal and replicated as energy into whatever form desired. Manipulating matter is something man is just starting to become very good at. Christ analogy of a tree bearing good or bad fruit comes to mind. That is every good tree producing fruit is pruned. Every bad tree not producing fruit is thrown into the fire. Now before I hear mass flames about hell, my understanding of it may be a lot different then what you may think. In this case, I am simply stating that beings of energy whom created this universe will have no purpose for self-centered personalities (souls) and will not be stored or replicated. They are the good guy network and joining it is easy and free. Once a member, you will fight their common enemy, the 1/3 of the angelic host whom have decided they want what they did not build for themselves and at our species expense.
Another interesting development in the ongoing coming together of science and spirituality.
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