Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Can Science Disprove the Soul ?


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In “Can a Machine have a Soul?” Bill Lauritzen claims to have disproved the soul.[1] He’s considering the issue of weather or not transferring human consciousness into a machine would give the machine a soul? His solution is to disprove that humans have souls then there’s no soul to worry about. In my view the soul is a symbol and it’s the spirit that lives on after death. So there’s no question of proving or disproving the soul since there is no question or proving or disproving symbols. For the sake of this issue I’ll use his terminology. He assumes the soul is the thing that lives. After all, he would make the same argument against the spirit. That argument is made by the bogus method of merely assume what he thinks human ancestors must have thought about after life and what they based it on. Basing it on something we know is false such as an literalized analogy between smoke is the afterlife of fire, and breath sustaining life, being like smoke, therefore like the smoke form the flame breath must live on as soul. That’s his conjecture. Of course he assume this is the only reason to think there might be a soul and thus he’s swept it out of the way with modern doubt! That really is his only answer. Rather he asserts that it was the attempt to explain oxygen. He’s using as breath in that sense. It’s really breath that he means.[2]
            To reinforce it all he goes through a mock play where two cavemen have things out and this is supposed to be actual proof. It’s nothing more than detailed speculation. His little play is nothing more than taking us through the steps one might go through to arrive at the conclusion of after life after having witnessed death: He sees the blood, he reasons from past experience, that when people lose a lot of this stuff they stop living. He sees the blood evaporate. He understands that it’s going from a liquid to gaseous state (would he understand that)? So he puts it all together and reasons. Of course it’s really a modern person “reasoning” his way to answers he already knows. Is that proof that this actually what happened? No it’s totally theoretical.  He even shows a series of pictures of a goat dying and rotting away to reinforce how one might come to the conclusion that there is some mysterious thing in the air that makes us life (like he would really know evaporation pus gas in the air).[3] “So early humans thought there were ghosts and spirits living in the air. They didn’t want a ghost angry with them, so they would kill and burn animals, even humans in some cases, in other word they would make a sacrifice, to feed these ghosts and spirits. Sacrafice as the root word sacer, meaning sacred.”[4] I don’t think I’ve heard of sacrifice being a meal for ghosts. That’s a conjecture and perhaps not a good one. It really is a minor point.
            Then he goes on a long triad about how science discovered oxygen to show that science is so much better than religious thinking. Of course since he made the whole thing up and its’ conjecture and he’s stepping over a bunch of steps that took thousands of years it’s a rather meaningless point. Of course he totally ignores the fact that modern science was created by Christians and one of the chief discoverers of oxygen was Robert Boyle who was a devout Christian and who did science as a form of Christian apologetics. I say the because the actual discovery was a complex process involving several people. Joseph Priestly was another of those and he actually discovered it but Boyle paved the way.[5] Both men were Christians. [6]. [7] It’s absurd to compare primitive thinking to modern and try to pass that off as proof that science is better than religion. We have modern thinkers who are both scientific and religious, and modern science owes a great debt to religious thinkers such as Newton and Boyle, and even Priestly. In fact part of his rendition of the discovery of oxygen includes a lot about Robert Boyle, he never does actually indicate that he was a Christian, so it appears as a rebuke to religious thinking.
            He then takes a long detour though a discussion of things that really could be just left out of the issue. These are matters of brain size vs the kind of diet we have its suitability for hunter gatherer society. It really has nothing to with the issues. He discusses alchemy and how the understanding of blood evaporation and smoke might contribute to correlations between the basic elements and alchemical knowledge. It’s not relevant but I surmise that he includes it to indicate how wonderfully predictive his theories are. He can predict the nature of alchemy with it, of course we already know how it turns out so it’s not as though he’s predicting the unknown. Realizing he has strayed from the topic he springs back to summarize the issue on the soul:
Getting back to the original question: can a machine have a soul? Of course, there may be some mysterious energy we know nothing about. However, if we apply Occam’s razor, I think we can see that we have a simple theory that covers all the facts: the “soul” and “spirit” are convenient terms invented by early humans who knew nothing about atomic theory. The “soul” and spirit probably do not exist except perhaps in this ordinary sense, “a person’s moral or emotional nature or sense of identity.”[8]
The reference to atomic theory pertains to the reality about atoms and molecules and a modern understanding of what happens with evaporation. He says we have a simple theory that covers the facts. The problem here is he doesn’t know the facts. He has not given us any facts. He has literally just concocted a speculative idea with no empirical proof to back it up. He’s merely assuming correlations are cause and that he’s exhausted the facts merely because he’s brought out a few facts that back his view. Since he doesn’t value religion he doesn’t even try to understand what really went into understanding the soul or the spirit. He offers just enough facts to explain it away and then claims he has the facts. Moreover, notice that he puts his theory in terms of probability, and not in terms empirical proof. It can’t be a real disproof if it’s just a probability. There are other aspects of the spirit that he had failed to come to terms with. Basically, he has made the assumption that all knowledge is scientific so therefore the soul was invented to explain scientific questions, the physical workings of the world. It’s more likely the soul was a means of explaining religious and spiritual truth not physical truth. We don’t’ know what al that entails.
            It’s probably related to the need to explain mystical experience, or the sense of the numinous. It’s bound to be related to spiritual needs, that would relate to the special sense that engenders concept such the Holy. First of all we know that those aspects of the sacred that issue forth in mystical experience, the sense of the numinous, are used to with complex psychological issues. 
Atheists and skeptics reduce everything they critique and then lose the phenomena in the reduction. Thus, they only see the explanatory aspects of ancient religion and never try to think beyond the simple assumption that people were doing this to explain things. This is the “Og no like noise in sky” Idea. Stupid primitive people without science try to explain simple things they don’t understand so they make up religion. That is all the skeptic can see. But those who are aware of the mystical consciousness can see more. I am sure the skeptics will argue that they are reading it in. All I can do is to assert that if the reader will read Maslow and if the reader is aware of Maslow’s acuity as a scholar, one will place a great deal of confidence in the notion that Maslow was discovering and not reading in. Maslow   interpreted everyday psychology as laced with the trace of the supernatural, because for him “supernatural” just meant a deeper level of consciousness about ordinary things. His views of human psychology were laced with Jungian notions of archetypes. He equated the archetypes with “supernatural.” In speaking of the relationship between men and women and their relation to the psychological archetypes, he finds that the same symbols are always used for the same meanings. This comes out in psychological studies across the board. He marks archetypical thinking, as B and D. B analysis has to do with the higher, ideal, abstract, D has to do with the earthy human aspects of our existence; the practical the earthy. These are roughly equivalent to St. Augustine’s terms: height and depth. An example of what he’s talking about is the male tendency to seek two of womanhood, the goddess and the witch (or what rhymes with “witch”). Maslow says that psychology tells us that we need a bit of both. A woman put on a pedestal and seen only as a goddess is unapproachable and cannot be pleased. A woman seen only as the ‘other’ can’t be respected and won’t make a good partner. Of course this goes vice versa for the way women view men: the “good guy” vs. “the outlaw,” the rebel, the “bad boy.” Materialists are going to find that this point is trivial and just a part of daily living, and that’s the point. The reason ancients have a tendency to sacralize these kinds of ordinary relationships is because they sense a connection between them and the transcendent. That is the sense of the numinous. The same symbols turn up again and again, according to Malow, in all kinds of psychological study. Psychologically there is a link between the use of certain symbols in mythology and religion, and the transcendent.
            He makes this connection himself. Iin speaking of the dichotomy of most religious life between the “mystical” or ‘inner.’ ‘Personal’ to the organizational (he doesn’t use the phrase but the “doctrinal”) “The profoundly and authentically religious the person integrates these trends easily and automatically. The forms, rituals, ceremonials, and verbal formulae in which he was reared remain for him experientially rooted, symbolically meaningful, archetypal, unitive.”[9] He is revealing a link between the rituals of the primitives, mythology, and religious experience (especially “peak experience” or Mystical consciousness). That link is in the archetypes, the psychological symbols that ground us in a sense of what life is about and give us a connection with these concepts of height and depth, or the ideal and practical. In appendix I. “An example of B analysis,” He states:
This can also be seen operationally in terms of the Jungian archetypes which can be recovered in several ways. I have managed to get it in good introspectors simply by asking them directly to free associate to a particular symbol. The psychoanalytic literature, of course, has many such reports. Practically every deep case history will report such symbolic, archaic ways of viewing the woman, both in her good aspects and her bad aspects. (Both the Jungians and the Kleinians recognize the great and good mother and the witch mother as basic archetypes.) Another way of getting at this is in terms ofthrough the artificial dream that is suggested under hypnosis. It can also probably be investigated by spontaneous drawings, as the art therapists have pointed out. Still another possibility is the George Klein technique of two cards very rapidly succeeding each other so that symbolism can be studied. Any person who has been psychoanalyzed can fairly easily fall into such symbolic or metaphorical thinking in his dreams or free associations or fantasies or reveries.[10]

He is relating this to the mythological symbols of the grate mother, the goddess, the witch, the demon, and one might also think of Lilith or for men the Shy Father, vs. the demon the trickster. The link between mythological symbols and mystical consciousness is further born out by another psychologist, David Lukoff who made the link between the high incidence rate in the general population found by the Greely study and the use of archetypes. Lukoff framed schizophrenic delusions as private mythology.
 “This method derives from the discipline of comparative mythology but goes beyond to decipher the psychological truths embodied in the symbol-laden stories. Campbell’s (1949) study The Hero With a Thousand Faces is the premier example of this method. Lukoff (1985) treated the account of a psychotic episode as a symbol-laden personal myth and attempted to uncover themes that parallel the structure and content of classic mystical experiences.”[11]
Other studies, such as Buckley and Galanter (1979) have observed individuals in the midst of mystical experience when exposed to religious ceremonies.[12] Some might see this as undermining my own argument because skeptics do argue that religious experience is a form of mental illness. But there is a distinction between some mentally ill people having religious experiences and saying that mystical experience is mental illness. Many studies disprove this assertion (see chapter on “studies”). But as Lukoff shows, this does not mean that some mentally people can’t have mystical experiences.
Maslow talks about the psychological necessity of being able to maintain a transformative symbology. He is not merely saying that we should do this, but that this is what we do; it is universal and through many different techniques and psychological schools of thought he shows that this has been gleaned over and over again. What Jung called the Archetypes are universal symbols of transformation, which we understand in the unconscious[13] , and we must be able to hold them in proper relation to the mundane (the Sacred and the Profane) in order to enjoy healthy growth, or we stagnate and become pathological. It is crucial to human psychology to maintain this balance. Far from merely being stupid and not understanding science, striving to explain a pre-Newtonian world, the primitives understood this balance and held it better than we do. Religious belief is crucial to our psychological well being, and this fact, far more than the need for social order or the need for to explain thunder, explains the origins of religion.

As Maslow says:
“For practically all primitives, these matters that I have spoken about are seen in a more pious, sacred way, as Eliade has stressed, i.e., as rituals, ceremonies, and mysteries. The ceremony of puberty, which we make nothing of, is extremely important for most primitive cultures. When the girl menstruates for the first time and becomes a woman, it is truly a great event and a great ceremony; and it is truly, in the profound and naturalistic and human sense, a great religious moment in the life not only of the girl herself but also of the whole tribe. She steps into the realm of those who can carry on life and those who can produce life; so also for the boy’s puberty; so also for the ceremonies of death, of old age, of marriage, of the mysteries of women, the mysteries of men. I think that an examination of primitive or preliterate cultures would show that they often manage the unitive life better than we do, at least as far as relations between the sexes are concerned and also as between adults and children. They combine better than we do the B and the D, as Eliade has pointed out. He defined primitive cultures as different from industrial cultures because they have kept their sense of the sacred about the basic biological things of life.

“We must remember, after all, that all these happenings are, in truth, mysteries. Even though they happen a million times, they are still mysteries. If we lose our sense of the mysterious, or the numinous, if we lose our sense of awe, of humility, of being struck dumb, if we lose our sense of good fortune, then we have lost a very real and basic human capacity and are diminished thereby.”

“Now that may be taken as a frank admission of a naturalistic psychological origin, except that it involves a universal symbology, which is not explicable through merely naturalistic means. How is it that all humans come to hold these same archetypical symbols? The “primitives” viewed and understood a sense of transformation, which gave them integration into the universe. This is crucial for human development. They sensed a power in the numinous, that is the origin of religion.”[14]
Ceremonies and rituals about ordinary things such as puberty, sex, marriage, birth, death, these are attempts at mediating the Ultimate transforromative experiences that all religions take to the resolution of what they identify as the human problematic. Pre historic man says “I see a connection between my place in the universe, and this sense that I get when I reflect upon nature as a whole. I sense that I am one small part in a great unity, and I sense this in everything in life, falling in love, having children, death., I have a place in the universe in relation to whatever that is I sense beyond the stars…” The skeptic reduces this to “Og like girls, but girls make Og nervous.” So he makes rituals about sex and relationships to ward off the evil spirits that make him nervous. But it’s clear, while pre-historic man probably wasn’t an existentialist and perhaps wasn’t that sophisticated about it all, he did sense a connection between life and the numinous. Of course this doesn’t mean that the primitive humans had any special insight into relationships that we need to follow.  This is strong evidence that people have always had a sense of the numinous as far back as we know. This is an indication of some form of this sense because it clearly shows a connection between ordinary aspects of life and the transcendent. It also means that the typical skeptical explanation for the origin of religion is just losing the phenomena, taking out the real indications of a form of consciousness and reducing what they find to nothing more than a simplistic explanation for things.

While it is true that these experiences and their psycho-social uses have probably evolved over time, it is equally true that they were probably being put to the same uses all along because we can see the relationships between religious symbols, spiritual concepts, and psycho-social aspects. It makes more sense to think they were used in that way all along. the cocnept of the soul is just some simple idea of saying "what keeps me living?O it's some ghost in the machine" but rather why do I feel this strange sense of importance of life and the world when I stare at the stars all night? Then to explain mystical experience they come up with the realization that consciousness probably transcends the material world. From that it's easy to think it lives on after life. Then if the associate it with the wind in the trees and blood and breath and life, that's scientifically mistaken but it's not completely off track. It does at least link the feelings of mystical experience with the reality and meaning of the world and the after life.
Mystical experience is at the base of religion itself. "Mysticism is a manifestation of something which is at the root of all religions."[15] 

David Steindl-Rast,

The question we need to tackle is this: How does one get from mystic experience to an established religion? My one-word answer is: inevitably. What makes the process inevitable is that we do with our mystical experience what we do with every experience, that is, we try to understand it; we opt for or against it; we express our feelings with regard to it. Do this with your mystical experience and you have all the makings of a religion. This can be shown.

Moment by moment, as we experience this and that, our intellect keeps step; it interprets what we perceive. This is especially true when we have one of those deeply meaningful moments: our intellect swoops down upon that mystical experience and starts interpreting it. Religious doctrine begins at this point. There is no religion in the world that doesn't have its doctrine. And there is no religious doctrine that could not ultimately be traced back to its roots in mystical experience – that is, if one had time and patience enough, for those roots can be mighty long and entangled. Even if you said, "My private religion has no doctrine for I know that my deepest religious awareness cannot be put into words," that would be exactly what we are talking about: an intellectual interpretation of your experience. Your "doctrine" would be a piece of so-called negative (apophatic) theology, found in most religions.[16]

It makes sense that if every doctrine has it's roots in mystical experience that the doctrine of the soul does as well. Now it could easily be that the basic idea was invented by observing breath i the body and wind in the trees then backed up by these emotional experiences. That's ok it means there is no Casper the friendly Ghost-like entity in us waiting to get out. We do not need to hold to that view of the soul or the spirit. Spirit is mind, the word in Greek means mind, it's perfectly logical to understand consciousness as the aspect that lives on. A connection through mystical experience would be quite logical for the spirit. So the reality of consciousness as enduring connection with God and the infinite got mixed up with hoaky notions about wind in trees and evaporation and produced this idea of the ghost. That doesn't mean there is conscoiusness that survives death and unites us with God or not spirit that is reinvigorated when we give our lives to Christ. 

This tendency to want to destroy ideas of religion through scinece is nothing more than the illusion of technique. This notion harkens back to a book form the 70's by William Barrett.[17]Perhaps because science is misunderstood by many as thriving upon proof, and it is seen as the umpire of reality because its ability to prove empirically, (apologies to Karl Popper) the illusion of technique is created in the minds of those who misunderstand science in this way. I will say more about this in the next chapter. It is not the scientists who create the illusion but the needs of science groupies who expect it to ground their metaphysical needs that create the illusion. The tendency to reduce all knowledge to one thing enables the illusion to work. The illusion works in the way that reductionism works. If some aspect of reality can’t be gotten at by our methods then we assume it doesn’t exist, because that means it’s not something we can control.
"The illusion of technique," the modern dream of a single method that would apply in all areas of human concern. Such hegemony encourages thinking in terms of a "will to power," seeing things as 'manipulanda', that which awaits reshaping by humans. Barrett contrasts this with the "will to prayer," an attitude which, inspired by Platonic 'eros', seeks, not control, but active engagement leading to personal transformation.[i]
Thus the only knowledge there is, is in our control. In other words, the facts always support our view. So naturally our manipulation of the world is absolute and produces all the knowledge there is. If there seems to be anything beyond that we can reduce it and lose the phenomena and we explain it away. Religious experience is reduced to brain function, brain function is reduced to chemistry, chemistry has no room in it for transcendent sprits and thus they don’t’ exist. The illusion is backed by the fact that we can always manipulate more and more stuff and thus demonstrate our view of the world works.


[1] Bill Lauritzen, Abstract, “Can a Machine Have a Soul,” Journal of Personal Cyberconscienceness. Vol. 8, Iss 1 (2013) 30-39, 30-31.
[2] Ibid.31
[3] Ibid. 32-33.
[4] Ibid. 33
[5] Zbigniew SZYDŁO, “Who Discovered Oxygen?” Proceedings of ECOpole, Vol. 1, No. 1/2 (2007)
[6] Kevin de Berg, “The Enlightenment and Joseph Priestley’s Disenchantment with Science and Religion.” Christian Perspective on Science and Technology, ISCAST Online Journal, (2012) Vol. 8. http://www.iscast.org/journal/opinion/deBerg_K_2012-06_The_Enlightenment_&_Joseph_Priestley.pdf   accessed 4/7/14.
[7] Margaret Jacob, The Newtonians and The English Revolution 1689-1720. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1976. Boyle’s Christianity and apologetics are discussed throughout  the work.
[8] Bill Lauritzen, Ibid. 38.
[9] Abraham H. Maslow  Religiooins, Values and Peak-Experiences, “preface” to the 1970 edition.
[10] Ibid, appendix I. “An Example of B Analysis.”
[11] David Lukoff “the Diagnosis of Mystical Experiences With Psychotic Features” Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, (1985) 17, (2) 155-81 in Lukoff and Lu, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, (1988) 20, (2) 182.
[12] Ibid
[13] Abraham H. Maslow, Religions, Values, and Peak-Experiences
Appendix I. An Example of B-Analysis

[15] Frank Crossfiled Haphold, Mysticism: A Study and Anthology. New York:Penguin Books, 1979, 16
[16.]David Steindl-Rast. "The Mystical Core of Organized Religion," ReVision, Summer 1989 12(1):11-14. Used by the Council on Spiritual Practices with permission. 1989
 on line: http://csp.org/experience/docs/steindl-mystical.html  
accessed 4/8/14.
Brother David Steindl-Rast, O.S.B., is a monk of Mount Savior Monastery in the Finger Lake Region of New York State and a member of the board of the Council on Spiritual Practices. He holds a Ph.D. from the Psychological Institute at the University of Vienna and has practiced Zen with Buddhist masters. He is author of Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer and Music of Silence: A Sacred Journey Through the Hours of the Day.
[17] William Barrett, The Illusion of Technique: a Search for Meaning in A Technological Civilization.
New York:Anchor books, 1979.

[18] Raymond D. Boisvert, “The Will to Power and the Will To Prayer: William Barrett’s The Illusion of Technique 30 years Latter.” Journal of Speculative Philosophy: A Quarterly Journal of History, Criticism, and Imagination.” 22, (1), 24-32.


Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

please make ommemts

7th Stooge said...

Great analysis, Meta. I agree with you that science cannot 'disprove a soul,'since a soul by definition would be non-physical and therefore outside the purview of scientific investigation. Philosophical argument possibly could render the idea of soul implausible at best.

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Not just not physical but symbolic. Spirit is consciousness that means the hard problem.

Mike Gerow said...

How does knowing about oxegen help?

The whole point of the "breath" image was about the violability of the self, i.e. the self is not whole and independent but depends on the breath. That some particular part of air is most significant or knowing a little about how it processes in the body ... well, that really doesn't get you or mankind much more independence at all .. unless we can make our own oxegen... out of nothing.

The usual over-literalization. I blame the fundies for this.... ;-)