Intelligent Design

Neuroscientist says human head transplants are now possible

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Here’s a technological advance that should make us all go “Whoa!”: a neuroscientist says it’s now possible to graft one person’s head onto another person’s body, and to connect the transplanted head to the spinal cord of the body it’s grafted onto. The obvious question for dualists is: what would happen to the human soul, if such a hellish operation were ever carried out?

Dr. Sergio Canavero, a member of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, explains that successful head transplants have been carried out on animals since 1970, but they were always paralyzed below the neck, as scientists were never able to connect the spinal cord from the head to that of the body it was transplanted into. Even now, the connection of a spinal cord from the head of one animal to the body of another has yet to be accomplished. However, in a recent paper, Dr. Sergio Canavero contends that it could be done. A report by Christopher Mims (1 July 2013) in QUARTZ describes the technique:

…By cutting spinal cords with an ultra-sharp knife, and then mechanically connecting the spinal cord from one person’s head with another person’s body, a more complete (and immediate) connection could be accomplished. As he [Dr. Canavero] notes in his paper:

“It is this “clean cut” [which is] the key to spinal cord fusion, in that it allows proximally severed axons to be ‘fused’ with their distal counterparts. This fusion exploits so-called fusogens/sealants….[which] are able to immediately reconstitute (fuse/repair) cell membranes damaged by mechanical injury, independent of any known endogenous sealing mechanism.”

Canavero hypothesizes that plastics like polyethylene glycol (PEG) could be used to accomplish this fusing, citing previous research showing that, for example, in dogs PEG allowed the fusing of severed spinal cords.

A certain degree of skepticism is warranted until the technique described by Dr. Canavero has been demonstrated. But I think it’s fair to say that the head transplant scenario has now moved from the realm of science fiction into the realm of the feasible.

The conundrum facing dualists

So if Smith’s head is transplanted into Jones’ body, whose soul does the human being after the transplant possess? Four answers are possible:

1. Smith’s soul animates the body after the transplant, because even the human soul’s immaterial operations of reasoning, understanding and decision-making are physically implemented via the brain, while lower-level mental acts such as imagining, remembering, sensing and feeling intimately involve the brain (and in the case of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching, the sensory organs as well, most of which are located in the head), but no part of the body below the neck is involved (except in the case of touch). Thus it seems logical to say that wherever the head goes, the soul goes. Additionally, none of the mental capacities listed above can be meaningfully attributed to Jones’ decapitated body.

2. Jones’ soul animates the body after the transplant, because the body is undeniably Jones’ body, and the soul is defined as being essentially the form of the human body – that which makes it a body as such.

3. A new soul animates the body after the transplant, because the individual after the operation can neither be described as Smith nor Jones, biologically speaking: it’s more of an amalgam of part of the two. A new body requires a new soul.

4. The individual after the transplant doesn’t have a human soul at all. He or she is just an animal.

I think we could definitively rule out 4 if the individual after the transplant proved to be capable of reasoning and moral decision-making, and of justifying his/her opinions and choices, using human language. I see no reason to doubt that the post-transplant individual would possess such capacities, so that leaves us with 1, 2 and 3.

Three varieties of dualism, and how they address the head transplant case

In my previous posts on split-brain patients (see here and here) I distinguished between three varieties of dualism – leaving aside property dualism, which leaves no scope for human freedom – namely, substance dualism, thought control dualism and formal-final dualism. NOTE:I’ve decided to rechristen “thought control dualism” as “body control dualism,” following a tip from KeithS, who suggested a name change in a recent post of his, since “thought control” has rather sinister overtones. I believe the new name is quite apt, because according to this version of dualism, the human soul doesn’t merely inform the body; it also controls the body. (I leave open the question of whether this kind of soul-body control also occurs to some limited degree in the “higher animals.”)

It should be readily apparent that the head transplant case poses no problem for substance dualists, who would say that the soul (or self) goes with the head which it is causally connected to, and which it moves. The main problem with substance dualism, as Aquinas astutely pointed out, is that it fails to account for the unity of the self – i.e. the fact that we say that it is one and the same “I” who thinks, senses, feels, eats, grows and so on. According to substance dualism, only my mental acts are properly mine; everything else about me should properly be ascribed to another entity: my body.

Unlike substance dualism, which envisages the soul as a separate thing from the body, body control dualism and formal-final dualism both agree that the soul is essentially the form of the human body. However, whereas body control dualism views an organism’s form as being a hierarchical structure which informs the body at multiple levels and is capable of interacting with the brain, formal-final dualism regards an organism’s form as being determined by its built-in goals or ends, just as a knife’s form is determined by its function of cutting.

A formal-final dualist would argue that a severed head is not a body by any stretch of the imagination, and that since the soul essentially informs the whole body, the only candidate for a body surviving the operation is Jones’. A formal-final dualist would also add that mental capacities such as sensing, feeling, imagining and remembering cannot meaningfully be attributed to the brain alone, or even to the brain plus the sensory organs, but only to the whole person: it is I who sees, not my brain or my eyes. Hence it is a category mistake to infer that wherever Smith’s head goes, his mental capacities go. For a formal-final dualist, then, the only options deserving serious consideration are 2 and 3.

The only question remaining for a formal-final dualist is whether we have any good reason to believe that Jones’ body survives the head transplant operation. I can think of no good reason why a formal-final dualist would deny this. Since Jones’ body, before and after the transplant, has the same built-in goals or ends, then a formal-final dualist would have to say that it has the same soul. On this view, the patient’s identity is no more altered by the operation than it would be by a heart transplant operation.

A body control dualist, on the other hand, would have to ask whether the hierarchical structure of Jones’ soul, which informs the body at multiple levels, is preserved in the head transplant operation. And it should be pretty obvious that it is not: the soul’s higher faculties, which are either immaterial (intellect and will) or which intimately involve the brain (e.g. imagination, memory, the senses and the passions) are no longer present in the decapitated body of Jones. Hence it seems we can rule out option 2: the individual after the transplant is definitely not Jones.

The brain’s vital role in integrating the vegetative functions of the body

What about the lower, vegetative faculties, such as nutrition and growth? If these were still present in Jones’ decapitated body, then one could argue that Jones is still the same organism, after the transplant, and therefore has the same soul. However, Professor Maureen Condic, in a pro-life article in First Things (May 2003) entitled, Life: Defining the Beginning by the End, argues that in mature individuals – as opposed to early embryos – the ability of all cells in the body to function together as an organism depends vitally on the functioning of the whole brain:

What has been lost at death is not merely the activity of the brain or the heart, but more importantly the ability of the body’s parts (organs and cells) to function together as an integrated whole. Failure of a critical organ results in the breakdown of the body’s overall coordinated activity, despite the continued normal function (or “life”) of other organs. Although cells of the brain are still alive following brain death, they cease to work together in a coordinated manner to function as a brain should. Because the brain is not directing the lungs to contract, the heart is deprived of oxygen and stops beating. Subsequently, all of the organs that are dependent on the heart for blood flow cease to function as well. The order of events can vary considerably (the heart can cease to function, resulting in death of the brain, for example), but the net effect is the same. Death occurs when the body ceases to act in a coordinated manner to support the continued healthy function of all bodily organs. Cellular life may continue for some time following the loss of integrated bodily function, but once the ability to act in a coordinated manner has been lost, “life” cannot be restored to a corpse — no matter how “alive” the cells composing the body may yet be.

What does the nature of death tell us about the nature of human life? The medical and legal definition of death draws a clear distinction between living cells and living organisms. Organisms are living beings composed of parts that have separate but mutually dependent functions. While organisms are made of living cells, living cells themselves do not necessarily constitute an organism. The critical difference between a collection of cells and a living organism is the ability of an organism to act in a coordinated manner for the continued health and maintenance of the body as a whole. It is precisely this ability that breaks down at the moment of death, however death might occur. Dead bodies may have plenty of live cells, but their cells no longer function together in a coordinated manner. We can take living organs and cells from dead people for transplant to patients without a breach of ethics precisely because corpses are no longer living human beings. Human life is defined by the ability to function as an integrated whole — not by the mere presence of living human cells.

Professor Condic goes on to argue that persons in a persistent vegetative state, whose brainstems continue to function normally, retain their integrated bodily function and are therefore fully alive, as are early embryos whose brains have not yet developed:

Embryos are not merely collections of human cells, but living creatures with all the properties that define any organism as distinct from a group of cells; embryos are capable of growing, maturing, maintaining a physiologic balance between various organ systems, adapting to changing circumstances, and repairing injury. Mere groups of human cells do nothing like this under any circumstances.… Even within the fertilized egg itself there are distinct “parts” that must work together — specialized regions of cytoplasm that will give rise to unique derivatives once the fertilized egg divides into separate cells. Embryos are in full possession of the very characteristic that distinguishes a living human being from a dead one: the ability of all cells in the body to function together as an organism, with all parts acting in an integrated manner for the continued life and health of the body as a whole.

To summarize: in human beings who are old enough to have have acquired a brain, the brain plays a vital role not only in mental acts, but also in the integration of bodily functions. If we define the soul in terms of its hierarchical structure, in addition to its built-in ends, then it is clear that the brain is a privileged organ, which the body cannot lose without losing its very “bodiliness.” Hence it would be incorrect, in the hypothetical head transplant example discussed above, to describe Jones’ decapitated body as a body, in the absence of a brain.

An objection from Dr. Alan Shewmon: Does a human body really need a brain?

In an article titled, The Brain and Somatic Integration: Insights into the Standard Biological Rationale For Equating “Brain Death” With Death (Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 2001, Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 457-478), Dr. D. Alan Shewmon argues that the brain’s alleged role in integrating the body has been much over-hyped. The abstract of his article provides a handy summary of his reasoning:

The mainstream rationale for equating ‘brain death’ (BD) with death is that the brain confers integrative unity upon the body, transforming it from a mere collection of organs and tissues to an ‘organism as a whole’. In support of this conclusion, the impressive list of the brain’s myriad integrative functions is often cited. Upon closer examination and after operational definition of terms, however, one discovers that most integrative functions of the brain are actually not somatically integrating, and, conversely, most integrative functions of the body are not brain-mediated. With respect to organism-level vitality, the brain’s role is more modulatory than constitutive, enhancing the quality and survival potential of a presupposedly living organism. Integrative unity of a complex organism is an inherently nonlocalizable, holistic feature involving the mutual interaction among all the parts, not a top-down coordination imposed by one part upon a passive multiplicity of other parts. Loss of somatic integrative unity is not a physiologically tenable rationale for equating BD with death of the organism as a whole.

Shewmon concludes:

Integration does not necessarily require an integrator, as plants and embryos clearly demonstrate. What is of the essence of integrative unity is neither localized nor replaceable – namely the anti-entropic mutual interaction of all the cells and tissues of the body, mediated in mammals by circulating oxygenated blood. To assert this non-encephalic essence of organismal life is far from a regression to the simplistic traditional cardio-pulmonary criterion or to an ancient cardiocentric notion of vitality. If anything, the idea that the non-brain body is a mere ‘collection of organs’ in a bag of skin seems to entail a throwback to a primitive atomism that should find no place in the dynamical-systems-enlightened biology of the 1990s and twenty-first century.

Why your body needs a brain

I would like to say that I have the greatest respect for Dr. Shewmon. However, it seems to me that his philosophical arguments in favor of the holism that he is advocating are inconclusive. Dr. Jason T. Eberl, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI, has written a rebuttal of Dr. Shewmon’s arguments in an article titled, “Whole-Brain-Dead Individuals” in The ethics of organ transplantation edited by Steven J. Jensen (Washington, D.C. : Catholic University of America Press, 2011). I’d like to quote a few relevant excerpts:

As the principle of a human body’s organic functioning, Aquinas understands the soul to operate by means of a “primary organ,” which he identifies with the heart; although it seems that the brain better befits this role. Aquinas describes the primary organ as that through which the soul “moves” or “operates” the body’s other parts; it is the ruler of the body’s other parts in the sense that it orders them as a ruler orders a city through laws.

Eberl gives two references to back up his claim: Quaestio disputata de anima a. 10, ad. 4, where Aquinas states that “the body’s principle of motion exists in one part, namely, in the heart, and moves the whole body through this part,” and De motu cordis, where Aquinas writes that “the movements of all the other parts of the body are caused by the heart, as the Philosopher proves in On the Motion of Animals (703a14).” “The Philosopher” is of course Aristotle, who regarded the heart as the seat of thought. On this point, Aristotle was of course mistaken: he was following the views of the Sicilian medical school of his day. Even in Aristotle’s time, however, there were farsighted Greek thinkers, such as Hippocrates and Empedocles, who realized that the brain was the organ of the body associated with thought.

The point here is that Aquinas adhered to a hierarchical view of the body’s organs, with a primary organ at the top, governing and ordering the movements of the other parts. Today we would identify this primary organ with the brain. This comports well with body control dualism, which defines the soul not only in terms of its built-in ends but also its hierarchical structure, which is manifest in the way that the body’s movements are regulated.

Dr. Eberl goes on to address Dr. Shewmon’a arguments against equating biological death with whole-brain death. Citing Aquinas in support of his views, he argues forcefully that a whole-brain-dead individual whose respiration and blood circulation are being maintained by a mechanical ventilator or cardiopulmonary bypass machine is no longer alive, and that the bodily functions manifested in such an individual can no longer be attributed to that individual. Hence they cannot legitimately be used to back up Dr. Shewmon’s contention that a wide range of bodily functions don’t require the brain to integrate them, and that the brain is therefore more of a “fine-tuner” than a governing organ of the body:

Shewmon rejects the whole-brain criterion after examining cases in which a human body appears to maintain its integrative unity after whole-brain functioning has irreversibly ceased. Such cases lead Shewmon to conclude that the brain does not function as the body’s central organizer. Rather, Shewmon argues that the brain “fine-tines” the vital functions that the body itself exercises as an integrative whole…

If, as Shewmon argues, a body can maintain its integrative unity without any brain function, then whole-brain death cannot be equated with a human organism’s death. Shewmon thus advocates a circulatory/respiratory criterion for determining when death occurs.

Shewmon appeals to a number of cases in which a whole-brain-dead individual appears to exhibit somatic integrative functioning. The most provocative cases are those in which patients are properly diagnised as whole-brain-dead and yet survive for extended periods of time with technological and pharmacological support. Despite the requirement of mechanical ventilation for respiration and circulation of oxygenated blood to occur, Shewmon contends that these cases exhibit integrative unity by virtue of exercising the somatic functions listed above [viz. “homeostasis of various interacting chemicals, cellular waste handling, energy balance, maintenance of body temperature, wound healing, infection fighting, stress responses, proportional growth, and even sexual maturation” – VJT.] He thus concludes that these patients cannot be considered dead, even though they lack whole-brain function.

If, as Shewmon maintains, integrative vegetative operations can remain in a whole-brain-dead human body, one ought to conclude that a rational soul continues to inform such a body until it ceases its vital functions of circulation and respiration… [However], there are several issues that can be raised about the cases Shewmon uses to support his conclusion and the inferences he draws.

Shewmon describes a human brain as more a “regulator” or “fine-tuner” of a body’s vital functions, rather than being constitutive of them. It does not seem, however, that this distinction makes a real difference in criticizing the whole-brain criterion. While brainstem functioning is certainly not solely responsible for the vital functions of circulation and respiration, a human body cannot carry out such functions on its own in the absence of brainstem functioning. The assumption of such functions by life-support machinery indicates that the body has lost the capacity to perform them under its own control. It thus remains arguable that integrative unity has been lost in such cases…

Aquinas further defines a living animal’s vital function in a way which would preclude their being taken over by an artificial device and yet remaining functions of that animal: “Vital functions are those of which the principles are within the operators, such that the operators induce such operations of themselves.” [Ref. Summa Theologica I, q. 18, art. 2, ad. 2 – VJT.]

Dr. Eberl concludes that if a human being’s vital functions are being performed by a mechanical ventilator, then “such functions and the capacity for performing them are no longer attributable to the individual dependent upon such a device.” He adds that an individual who is irreversibly dependent upon such support cannot properly be said to possess an “active potentiality” to exercise the vegetative functions that characterize organisms. Rather, such an individual has only a “passive potentiality” to receive oxygenated air which is introduced and circulated throughout her body. Dr. Eberl cites the opinion of Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, the current Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, that such an individual is no longer alive:

The instrument-ventilator becomes the principal cause that holds together the sub-systems which previously had a natural life, but which now, with their actions conserved mechanically, have the appearance of a living organism. In reality, to be precise, since the soul is no longer present, the life we see is an artificial one, with the ventilator delaying the inexorable process of the corruption of the corpse.
(Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, ed. The Signs of Death. The Proceedings of the Working Group 11-12 September 2006, Scripta Varia 110, Vatican City, Pontifical Academy of Sciences 2007, xliii.)

Readers who are interested might like to have a look at the document, Why the Concept of Death is Valid as a Definition of Brain Death, a statement by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences with Responses to Objections by Professor Spaemann and Dr. Shewmon (Extra Series 31, Vatican City, 2008).

Dr. Eberl concludes that a human body ceases to be a body when it loses the capacity to control its own vital functions of circulation and respiration:

A human body loses integrative unity when it no longer has the active potentiality to co-ordinate the vital functions of circulation and respiration, and such functions can only be maintained by artificial means. The clinical sign that this capacity has been lost is the irreversible loss of spontaneous heartbeat and respiration. These two vital functions are emphasized insofar as the circulation of oxygenated blood throughout the body is the fundamental biological requirement for any and all organic activity in the absence of technological replacement. While other functions such as digestion, waste excretion, and immune response – are also vital for an organism to survive, the respective organs associated with these functions are dependent upon oxygenated blood being circulated through them. Thus the form of dependency a whole-brain-dead individual has with respect to a mechanical ventilator or functionally similar device is quite different from that of a living human being who requires a pacemaker, or some such device, to regulate her vital functions.

Furthermore, Shewmon’s conclusion that certain functions are “integrative” just because they are holistic does not follow…

I conclude that a human body’s having control over its vital functions of circulation and respiration is a necessary criterion for it to have integrative unity; these specific activities are the vital functions necessary for somatic integrative unity insofar as all other organs of the body depend upon oxygenated blood circulating through them in order to survive and function. Shewmon’s case for abandoning the whole-brain criterion depends upon there being cases in which spontaneous heartbeat and respiration occur in the absence of whole-brain functioning, and he has not presented any such case.

While I agree with Shewmon, contra Lizza, that an organism which has suffered the irreversible loss of higher-brain function may continue to be rationally ensouled – and thereby compose a human person – Shewmon’s extension of this conclusion to a whole-brain-dead body appears to be, as Lizza terms it, “vitalism run amok.”

The upshot of Dr. Eberl’s argument vis-a-vis the head transplant case (where Smith’s head is transplanted onto Jones’ body) is that we cannot legitimately speak of a body living without a head, since a brainstem is required to regulate spontaneous heartbeat and respiration in a living individual. Thus if Jones’ body is decapitated, it is no longer a body.

But what about Smith’s severed head? Can it be called a body? And can it still be said to possess Smith’s soul, if that soul has no body of its own to inform? To shed light on these difficult questions, Dr. Eberl considers a case which should be familiar to us all: the late Christopher Reeve (1952-2004), whose spinal cord was severed when he was thrown from a horse in 1995.

Superman to the rescue

In his article, “Whole-Brain-Dead Individuals,” Dr. Eberl goes on to discuss two cases – one real and one hypothetical – put forward by Dr. Shewmon to support his challenge to the whole-brain criterion. The first case involves high cervical cord transection, the injury suffered by the late Christopher Reeve. The interesting thing about this case, as Dr. Eberl explains, is that it is functionally equivalent to whole brain death:

High cervical cord transection involves a structural separation between the upper vertebrae and the brainstem, as in the injury suffered by the late Christopher Reeve when he was thrown from a horse. This structural separation results in the loss of communication between the brainstem and the rest of the body. Patients in this condition are conscious and able to control the parts of their body that remain neurally connected to the brain above the transection – for example, facial muscles, eyes and mouth – but they cannot spontaneously respire and must be connected to a mechanical ventilator. This condition is thus functionally equivalent to whole-brain-death.

Dr. Eberl, in discussing this case, argues for a conclusion which may strike some as counter-intuitive, but which makes perfect sense if we view the brain as the body’s “central organizer”: he argues that Christopher Reeve’s body below the neck was no longer his body, properly speaking, following the accident he suffered.

…[G]iven that life-support machinery cannot become a proper part of a human body’s substantial unity and that a body dependent upon artificial support for its vital functions cannot have integrative unity, it follows that the body of a patient with high cervical cord transection is no longer informed by his rational soul below the point of the transection. The patient remains conscious and able to control his body above the level of the transection, which indicates that he is alive and informed by his rational soul; but his soul now informs only his head and those parts of his body which his brain can still control, such as motor control over his facial muscles and other parts of his head such that he can communicate, grimace, move his eyes, etc. The rest of the body, though still structurally joined to him, is no longer a proper part of him, because it no longer participates in his integrative organic functioning. With the help of artificial life support, the rest of the body continues to circulate oxygenated blood to the brain, which allows it to continue functioning and the patient to remain conscious. This relationship, though, of body to brain is no different than if the patient’s head were severed and connected to an external mechanical pump, as will be discussed below; neither the pump nor the body are proper parts of the patient.

However, while the body attached to Christopher Reeve’s head was not properly a part of him, Dr. Eberl points out that the individual cells in that body were still alive, thanks to the mechanical ventilator. Consequently, if the body could have been surgically reconnected to Christopher Reeve’s head, then it would have become part of his body, properly speaking, once more, and his soul would have then informed it:

If a patient with high cervical cord transection regains functional unity of his brainstem with the body reconnected to him by having the neural tissue or an artificial electrical conductor grafter onto the spinal cord to eliminate the transection, then his rational soul would re-inform the body owing to the reinstatement of the brainstem’s control over the body’s vital functions.

The curious case of the headless corpse

Dr. Eberl then considers a hypothetical thought experiment proposed by Dr. Shewmon, involving decapitation of a person, followed by artificial support of both the body and the severed head, which is still conscious. This is very close to the head transplant case which is the topic of this post. Dr. Shewmon argues that if the body is mechanically ventilated, it still exhibits integrated functionality and is still an organism as a whole, an argument which Dr. Eberl rejects:

Concerning the ontological status of the decapitated body, Shewmon asks: “Is the ventilated, non-bleeding and headless body a terminally ill ‘organism as a whole’ or a mere unintegrated collection of living organs and tissues? Based on the above considerations, I conclude that the latter is the case, in agreement with Bernat:

There is an important distinction to be made between an organism on the whole on one hand, and the whole organism on the other. If you remove a limb from a human, that in no way disturbs the organism as a whole. Although it is true that some aspects of the organism may not be present solely in the head portion of this thought experiment… the head portion, who is able to communicate, think and experience, would represent the person and not the body portion, which is analogous to the brain dead patient.

Dr. Eberl points out that Dr. Shewmon himself acknowledges that the severed but still conscious head possesses a rational soul of its own. What that means is that in the hypothetical case of a single person whose head and decapitated body are maintained separately, we would have to posit two distinct souls – a very messy solution.

But is a conscious head an organism?

There remains one more objection for Dr. Eberl to address: the objection that a severed head (conscious or not) is not an organism, and therefore cannot (according to the Thomistic view) be said to have a soul.

Dr. Eberl solves this conundrum by acknowledging that a severed head is not an organism, but insisting that it is still an animal, as it still possesses (unactualized) sensitive and vegetative capacities. According to Aquinas, a human being is essentially an animal, but Eberl thinks it is only a contingent fact that human beings are organisms. Eberl argues that it is (technically) possible for an animal to exist without being composed of a material, organic body.

Summary

To sum up: there seems to be no good reason to deny the common intuition that in the head transplant case where Smith’s head is transplanted onto Jones’ body, the person after the transplant would be Smith, and not Jones or some new individual.

Let us all devoutly hope that no-one ever carries out the bizarre experiment of a head transplant on human beings. The point of this post, however, was to show that dualists have a ready response to the question of what would happen to the human soul, if such a hideous operation were ever carried out. Head transplant cases pose no threat to dualism.

23 Replies to “Neuroscientist says human head transplants are now possible

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Turin??
    Who is providing the heads and tails?
    I don’t see a problem with the soul idea.
    If it works okay but are we just a spinal cord ?
    A whole body works on that cord?
    Let them do it first with a ape!
    I can jusr imagine the movie story’s, and perhaps real life, coming from this idea.

  2. 2
    OldArmy94 says:

    I keep thinking about that old schlock movie, The Brain from Planet Arous after reading this article.

  3. 3
    Jon Garvey says:

    I just keep imagining this poor road accident victim who is decapitated, but wakes up to be told they were able to save him by transplanting a perfectly good head from someone caught in an industrial machine.

    Everyone involved, of course, is most grateful that normal life is continuing… especially two wives and families, who thought they had lost their dear ones.

  4. 4
    tragic mishap says:

    According to substance dualism, only my mental acts are properly mine; everything else about me should properly be ascribed to another entity: my body.

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    Here Jesus advances the idea that the real sin is a mental one. The question of sin is not decided by a physical act, but by a mental one. I fail to see any problem with making distinctions between acts of the mind which control the body, a position you explicitly defend, and acts of the body which are merely physical extensions of mental orders and spiritual choices.

    The main problem with substance dualism, as Aquinas astutely pointed out, is that it fails to account for the unity of the self – i.e. the fact that we say that it is one and the same “I” who thinks, senses, feels, eats, grows and so on.

    Non-substance dualists have a much more severe unity problem: How is it that the resurrected person is the same as the one who died and whose body decayed and burned to ashes? All the molecules could be in perfect order, but to argue the glorified body embodies the same person as the original is to argue that a person reduces to a pattern of molecules. Substance dualism allows the body to die without discontinuing the person’s existence.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley, I don’t know if you are aware of the following ‘anomaly’:

    Memory transference in organ transplant recipients – April 2011
    http://www.namahjournal.com/do.....iss-1.html

    In which it was, among other things, found that:

    Case 1: Claire Sylvia develops desire for chicken nuggets and green peppers

    On May 29, 1988, an American woman named Claire Sylvia received a heart transplant at a hospital in Yale, Connecticut. She was told that her donor was an eighteen year-old male from Maine, USA who had just died in a motorcycle accident. Soon after the operation, Sylvia declared that she felt like drinking beer, something she hadn’t particularly been fond of. Later, she observed an uncontrollable urge to eat chicken nuggets and found herself drawn to visiting the popular chicken restaurant chain, KFC. She also began craving green peppers which she hadn’t particularly liked before. Sylvia also began having recurring dreams about a mystery man named Tim L., whom she felt was the organ donor. On a cue from someone, she searched for obituaries in newspapers published from Maine and was able to identify the young man whose heart she had received. His name had indeed been Tim. After visiting Tim’s family, she discovered that he used to love chicken nuggets, green peppers and beer. These experiences are documented in the book, A Change of Heart (1).

    and

    Case 3: murder mystery involving donor is solved by an organ recipient

    An eight year-old girl, who received the heart of a murdered ten year-old girl, began having recurring vivid nightmares about the murder. Her mother arranged a consultation with a psychiatrist who after several sessions concluded that she was witnessing actual physical incidents. They decided to call the police who used the detailed descriptions of the murder (the time, the weapon, the place, the clothes he wore, what the little girl he killed had said to him) given by the little girl to find and convict the man in question (2).

    A few related notes: It is now found that non-local, beyond space and time, quantum entanglement, which is not reducible to any conceivable materialistic scenario, is confirmed to be within the human body on a massive scale:

    Non-Local Quantum Entanglement establishes empirical evidence for the transcendent soul
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-463942

    But of related interest to this is that the brain has a different, much more spread out, mechanism of quantum entanglement than the rest of the body does with its ‘close quarters’ quantum entanglement:

    Quantum Entangled Consciousness – Life After Death – Stuart Hameroff – video
    http://vimeo.com/39982578

    Brain ‘entanglement’ could explain memories – January 2010
    Excerpt: In both cases, the researchers noticed that the voltage of the electrical signal in groups of neurons separated by up to 10 millimetres sometimes rose and fell with exactly the same rhythm. These patterns of activity, dubbed “coherence potentials”, often started in one set of neurons, only to be mimicked or “cloned” by others milliseconds later. They were also much more complicated than the simple phase-locked oscillations and always matched each other in amplitude as well as in frequency. (Perfect clones) “The precision with which these new sites pick up on the activity of the initiating group is quite astounding – they are perfect clones,” says Plen
    http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....ories.html

    Bridging the Gap – October 2011
    Excerpt: Like a bridge that spans a river to connect two major metropolises, the corpus callosum is the main conduit for information flowing between the left and right hemispheres of our brains. Now, neuroscientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have found that people who are born without that link—a condition called agenesis of the corpus callosum, or AgCC—still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains.
    http://media.caltech.edu/press_releases/13465

    “Wolf Singer Director of the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research (Frankfurt) has found evidence of simultaneous oscillations in separate areas of the cortex, accurately synchronized in phase as well as frequency. He suggests that the oscillations are synchronized from some common source, but the actual source has never been located.”
    James J. Hurtak, Ph.D.

    The preceding empirical evidence provides a viable mechanism to explain why Harvard neurosurgeon’s Dr. Alexander’s Near Death Experience (NDE) was experienced as a pure ‘non-local’ consciousness NDE, outside the confines of space-time matter-energy altogether, instead of him experiencing his soul going through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension as is experienced in ‘normal’ NDE’s.

    This following video interview of a Harvard Neurosurgeon, who had a Near Death Experience (NDE), is very interesting. His NDE was rather unique from typical NDEs in that he had completely lost brain wave function for 7 days while the rest of his body was on life support. As such he had what can be termed a ‘pure consciousness’ NDE that was dramatically different from the ‘typical’ Judeo-Christian NDEs of going through a tunnel to a higher heavenly dimension, seeing departed relatives, and having a life review. His NDE featured his ‘consciousness’ going outside the confines of space/time, matter/energy to experience ‘non-locally’ what he termed ‘the Core’, i.e to experience God. It is also interesting to note that he retained a ‘finite sense of self-identity’, as Theism would hold, and did not blend into the infinite consciousness/omniscience of God, as pantheism would hold.

    A Conversation with Near Death Experiencer Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander III, M.D. with Steve Paulson (Interviewer) – video
    http://www.btci.org/bioethics/...../vid3.html

    Whereas in contrast to Dr. Alexander’s ‘pure consciousness NDE, here are some examples of ‘normal’ NDE’s of traveling through a tunnel to a higher heavenly, eternal, dimension:

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/

    Also of note, the tunnel and timelessness experienced in ‘normal’ NDE’s is confirmed from the physics of relativity: Please compare the similarity of the optical effect, noted at the 3:22 minute mark of the following video, when the 3-Dimensional world ‘folds and collapses’ into a tunnel shape around the direction of travel as a ‘hypothetical’ observer moves towards the ‘higher dimension’ of the speed of light, with the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ reported in very many Near Death Experiences: (Of note: This following video was made by two Australian University Physics Professors with a supercomputer.)

    Approaching The Speed Of Light – Optical Effects – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5733303/

    The NDE and the Tunnel – Kevin Williams’ research conclusions
    Excerpt: I started to move toward the light. The way I moved, the physics, was completely different than it is here on Earth. It was something I had never felt before and never felt since. It was a whole different sensation of motion. I obviously wasn’t walking or skipping or crawling. I was not floating. I was flowing. I was flowing toward the light. I was accelerating and I knew I was accelerating, but then again, I didn’t really feel the acceleration. I just knew I was accelerating toward the light. Again, the physics was different – the physics of motion of time, space, travel. It was completely different in that tunnel, than it is here on Earth. I came out into the light and when I came out into the light, I realized that I was in heaven.
    Barbara Springer

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.”
    Richard Swenson – More Than Meets The Eye, Chpt. 12

    ‘In the ‘spirit world,,, instantly, there was no sense of time. See, everything on earth is related to time. You got up this morning, you are going to go to bed tonight. Something is new, it will get old. Something is born, it’s going to die. Everything on the physical plane is relative to time, but everything in the spiritual plane is relative to eternity. Instantly I was in total consciousness and awareness of eternity, and you and I as we live in this earth cannot even comprehend it, because everything that we have here is filled within the veil of the temporal life. In the spirit life that is more real than anything else and it is awesome. Eternity as a concept is awesome. There is no such thing as time. I knew that whatever happened was going to go on and on.’
    Mickey Robinson – Near Death Experience testimony – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045544

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    also of interest to the soul: There is now empirical evidence for laser-like biophoton emissions from the human body:

    Photocount distribution of photons emitted from three sites of a human body – 2006
    Excerpt: Signals from three representative sites of low, intermediate and high intensities are selected for further analysis. Fluctuations in these signals are measured by the probabilities of detecting different numbers of photons in a bin. The probabilities have non-classical features and are well described by the signal in a quantum squeezed state of photons. Measurements with bins of three sizes yield same values of three parameters of the squeezed state.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16520060

    Evidence of quantum nature of life in human photon emission – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....dM#t=1351s

    Biophotons – The Light In Our Cells – Marco Bischof – March 2005
    Excerpt page 2: The Coherence of Biophotons: ,,, Biophotons consist of light with a high degree of order, in other words, biological laser light. Such light is very quiet and shows an extremely stable intensity, without the fluctuations normally observed in light. Because of their stable field strength, its waves can superimpose, and by virtue of this, interference effects become possible that do not occur in ordinary light. Because of the high degree of order, the biological laser light is able to generate and keep order and to transmit information in the organism.
    http://www.international-light.....hotons.pdf

    As well, the face/head region is shown to give off a much brighter intensity of biophotonic ‘laser’ light than the rest of the body:

    Image – This first image shows one of the test subjects in full light. The middle image shows the body giving off weak emissions of visible light in totally dark conditions. The rightmost image of the subject, captured in infrared wavelengths, shows the heat emissions.
    http://msnbcmedia1.msn.com/j/M.....#215;2.jpg

    Schematic illustration of experimental setup that found the human body, especially the face, emits visible light in small quantities that vary during the day. B is one fo the test subjects. The other images show the weak emissions of visible light during totally dark conditions. The chart corresponds to the images and shows how the emissions varied during the day. The last image (I) is an infrared image of the subject showing heat emissions.
    http://i.livescience.com/image.....1296086873
    http://www.livescience.com/779.....light.html

    Why all this is interesting for establishing empirical evidence for a eternal soul which lives beyond death is because many Judeo-Christian Near Death Experiencers report being in a ‘body of light’ during their Near death Experiences:

    “I was in a body, and the only way that I can describe it was a body of energy, or of light. And this body had a form. It had a head, it had arms and it had legs. And it was like it was made out of light. And it was everything that was me. All of my memories, my consciousness, everything.”,,, “And then this vehicle formed itself around me. Vehicle is the only thing, or tube, or something, but it was a mode of transportation that’s for sure! And it formed around me. And there was no one in it with me. I was in it alone. But I knew there were other people ahead of me and behind me. What they were doing I don’t know, but there were people ahead of me and people behind me, but I was alone in my particular conveyance. And I could see out of it. And it went at a tremendously, horrifically, rapid rate of speed. But it wasn’t unpleasant. It was beautiful in fact. I was reclining in this thing, I wasn’t sitting straight up, but I wasn’t lying down either. I was sitting back. And it was just so fast. I can’t even begin to tell you where it went or whatever it was just fast!” –
    Vicki’s NDE – Blind since birth – quote taken from first part of the following video

    Near Death Experience Tunnel – Speed Of Light – Turin Shroud – video
    http://www.vimeo.com/18371644

    Also of interest to the head region giving off a much brighter intensity of laser-like biophoton emission are these Bible verses which were written a few thousand years before we could even detect biophoton emission:

    Exodus 34:29-30:
    “Moses didn’t realize as he came back down the mountain with the tablets that his face glowed from being in the presence of God. Because of this radiance upon his face, Aaron and the people of Israel were afraid to come near him.”

    Matthew 17:1-2
    After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.

    Moreover:

    ‘2nd face’ on Shroud points to supernatural origin – April 2010
    Excerpt: The researchers, in other words, found a “doubly superficial” face image on both the front and back sides such that “if a cross-section of the fabric is made, one extremely superficial image appears above and one below, but there is nothing in the middle.”
    The shroud, therefore, they concluded, was not created by paint soaking through the linen or by a photographic image printing through to the reverse side, because the front and back facial images are not identical and the center fibers show no image creation whatsoever.
    Fanti and Maggiolo concluded the shroud image was created by a “corona discharge,” understood as a radiant burst of light and energy that scorched the body image of the crucified man on the topmost fibers of the shroud’s front and back sides, without producing any image on the centermost of its linen fibers.
    “Imagine slicing a human hair lengthwise, from end to end, into 100 long thin slices; each slice one-tenth the width of a single red blood cell,” writes Daniel Porter, editor of ShroudStory.com. “The images on the Shroud of Turin, at their thickest, are this thin.”
    Fanti and Maggiolo found the faint image of the face on the reverse side of the shroud contained the same 3-D information contained in the face and body image of the crucified man seen on the shroud’s front side.
    http://www.wnd.com/2010/04/146689/

    Verse and music:

    Matthew 7:13-14
    “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

    Third Day – Creed – Acoustic
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxEFqjH9G9Y

  7. 7
    Axel says:

    Your over-arching synthesis continues apace, Philip. Well done. Fascinating stuff!

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Thanks Axel, it is rather neat how it all fits together to form a cohesive whole isn’t it?

  9. 9
    Proton says:

    Such a loooong post from a Christian to try to find a complicated explanation for a problem that exists only in the mind of Christians anyway…

    I guess that the idea that a soul exists but is INDEPENDENT of the body and doesn’t interact with it misses you people completely right?

    Let us all devoutly hope that no-one ever carries out the bizarre experiment of a head transplant on human beings

    Why? If someone is about to die or has an agonizaing disease and a head transplant could save his life or improve it greatly, would they just let the person die or keep agonizing because some people find it “bizarre”?

  10. 10
    Bemused says:

    Hello VJ Torley,

    RE: Your hylemorphic response to brain/head transplantation

    If Smith’s body is completely destroyed other than his head/brain which is somehow still animated then this would still be informed (albeit incompletely). If this is then placed on Jones’ animated body then I am still unclear whose soul (‘configured configurer’ in Eleonore Stump’s words) the unity would be animated by. I am very sympathetic to the Thomist view but I am not sure you have provided a complete resolution to the problem but perhaps I am missing something here. It seems to me that there would have to be a new mixed soul and, as embodied soul (a substance), a new person. I’m not sure I like this but why is it wrong?

  11. 11
    Bemused says:

    Actually, the more I think about it the more I think it is Smith’s soul that survives as Smith’s body without it’s head surely lacks the capacity for rationality (the characteristic activity of the human soul), and that whatever animates Jones’ body is at most reduced to something less than human and more like a nutritive/vegetative soul.

  12. 12
    Barb says:

    Proton: There are no diseases or conditions that would warrant a human head transplant.

    I’m curious as to how one’s life would improve with a head transplant; one day, I look like me, and the next day, I don’t. I have a completely different appearance from the neck up. Wouldn’t that be jarring?

    Reminds me of the MST3K film “The Brain That Wouldn’t Die”.

  13. 13
    vjtorley says:

    Hi bornagain77,

    Thanks very much for the link to the article on heart transplant recipients at http://www.namahjournal.com/do.....iss-1.html . Very interesting stuff! I don’t know quite what to make of it, although I notice from the article that personality changes following a heart transplant seem most pronounced in people who are female, have a high EQ, and are “environmentally sensitive, sensual, animal-loving, music-loving, creative types, more inclined to go with the flow rather than dominate.” The cellular memory theory could have something to it, as well.

    I was also interested in the article on people born with agenesis of the corpus callosum, or AgCC, and who still show remarkably normal communication across the gap between the two halves of their brains. As I understand it, scientists think that the the two halves of the brain in these patients must communicate using more indirect means which are currently unknown. Here’s a blog article about the report: http://alfin2100.blogspot.jp/2.....tween.html .

    The New Scientist article on how brain entanglement could help explain memories was also food for thought: http://www.newscientist.com/ar.....fBVC9JkNLo

    Finally, thanks for the video on Stuart Hameroff’s theory about life after death at http://vimeo.com/39982578 . Hameroff’s ideas could prove to be scientifically fruitful. Thanks again.

  14. 14
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Proton,

    I’m a little curious. You say you believe in a soul that’s independent of the body and doesn’t interact with it. But if we can explain the entire gamut of human behavior, including what people say and how they reason and make decisions, then wouldn’t Ockham’s razor make belief in such a soul redundant? Or is your belief based entirely on introspection?

  15. 15
    vjtorley says:

    Hi tragic mishap,

    You raise an excellent question when you ask: “How is it that the resurrected person is the same as the one who died and whose body decayed and burned to ashes?” I agree that a substance dualist can explain this fact readily, but I would ask the substance dualist: “How is it that your soul is tied to only one body, and not several?” It seems that even a disembodied Self has to have physical properties of some sort: in particular, the property of being related to this body and not that one.

    I think a body control dualist could explain the resurrection along these lines: at the highest level of control, my separated rational soul retains a built-in disposition to control a specific human brain (my brain), and to regulate its sensory, motor and vegetative functions. What’s more, I’m inclined to think that this disposition to control must be directed at the actual physical particles that compose my brain at the instant when I die. When I’m resurrected, I have to get most of these back. (The tired old objection from cannibalism strikes me as pretty weak: it would only be a telling one if all of my brain ended up being absorbed by all of someone else’s brain.) When my body is raised to life again, my soul is therefore able to re-inform it.

    I suppose another possibility is that when we die, some “astral” part of our body still survives. That’s highly speculative, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

    A third possibility is that when I die, I get instantly resurrected in Heaven, with a celestial body that’s somehow causally imprinted with the pattern of molecules composing my terrestrial body. A few theologians (e.g. the late Karl Rahner, S.J.) have toyed with the idea of a resurrection at the moment of death, but I agree with former Pope Benedict XVI that this idea seems out of keeping with Scripture, especially 1 Corinthians 15.

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    Your welcome Dr. Torley. I’m glad you found the links interesting, and hopefully useful as well.

  17. 17
    tragic mishap says:

    “How is it that your soul is tied to only one body, and not several?” It seems that even a disembodied Self has to have physical properties of some sort: in particular, the property of being related to this body and not that one.

    That does not have to be a physical property. As I argued in one of the other threads, laws that are undecipherable via the scientific method can govern spiritual things. Laws themselves are immaterial after all. I believe, for instance, that God cannot be in the presence of evil. If evil is defined as rebellion against His will, and we accept omnipresence, then evil must run and hide somewhere, indeed the only place, Hell, where God is not. “And I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven…” That is something like a spiritual law. Again, the juvenile atheist objection to omnipotence about the big rock must be answered by saying that omnipotence does not include logical impossibilities, so again the spiritual must follow the laws of logic. I see no particular difficulty in accepting God’s direct governance over which spirits are connected to which bodies. God cannot be fooled. Or there could be some sort of spiritual law that again, cannot be broken in some clever thought experiment.

    I suppose another possibility is that when we die, some “astral” part of our body still survives. That’s highly speculative, but I wouldn’t rule it out.

    I don’t see what the difference is between that and substance dualism, though I would use the word “spiritual” not “astral”. This isn’t D&D.

    Towards you’re preferred explanation, I guess I am still confused about what you mean by the “soul”. I use the word “spirit” for the same thing I think, since the term “soul” does seem to be ambiguous and refers to the whole unified self. But if you mean “soul” in the same way I mean “spirit”, that is the opposite number to the body which makes us both dualists, I really do not get what you think it is if it’s not a different, non-physical type of substance. Either it’s a physical substance or a property of a physical substance, or it’s a non-physical substance, or it doesn’t exist. I have always interpreted you to mean it’s a property of a physical substance, but I view that the same way I view emergence. I don’t believe you can make a distinction between emergence and so-called body control dualism.

    What’s a “disposition to control” that has no substance? What’s a “separated rational soul” that doesn’t actually exist anywhere, anyplace and is not made of anything? You seem to be saying its a particular arrangement of molecules, a blueprint if you will, like the information in DNA. But unlike the information in DNA, it’s not destroyed when the DNA is. How do you justify that? Does God create a copy of it somewhere in the cosmos to serve as a template for the resurrection? Does He hold it in His mind until then? Either way you cannot solve the problem of a discontinued existence. A person may be the same in every immaterial property as another one, but it is still not the same person. If it was, then two of the same person could exist at the same time. And how in the world can you be an intelligent design theorist and believe that something like information has the capacity for free will? Free will creates information. It cannot reside in information.

    Forgive me but I still cannot grasp what exactly you understand yourself to be saying. I am not sure whether that is my lack of understanding or the lack of anything to understand. I do know that you are fond of making distinctions without differences, and honestly despite all my efforts to understand you, I still feel like your view is a distinction from materialism and emergence without a difference.

  18. 18
    vjtorley says:

    tragic mishap,

    Thanks for a very thoughtful response. I’ll address your key comment:

    I don’t believe you can make a distinction between emergence and so-called body control dualism… I still feel like your view is a distinction from materialism and emergence without a difference.

    What distinguishes my position (body control dualism) from that of emergentist materialism is that: (a) I believe that the human soul is capable of performing immaterial operations without the body (reasoning, understanding, choosing, and being charitable); and (b) I believe that the soul’s immaterial acts are capable of making the body move.

    What distinguishes my position from substance dualism is that I believe that it is one and the same “I” or self that performs both the immaterial acts listed above and the bodily acts of feeding, growing, sensing, desiring, remembering, imagining and so on.

    With regard to the human soul, you write:

    Either it’s a physical substance or a property of a physical substance, or it’s a non-physical substance, or it doesn’t exist.

    I would say it’s a substance (a) with both physical and non-physical properties, where the latter are tied to a specific organized piece of matter (my body, which is not a distinct substance from my soul while I’m alive, although some of its properties are not properties of my soul); and (b) with both physical and non-physical operations, where the latter are capable of causally influencing the former.

    What happens at death is that the substance we call a human being splits in two: there is now a substance with physical properties (a corpse) and a substance with non-physical operations (which it still performs) but which is no longer capable of causally influencing any physical events in the piece of matter that was my body. Thus the soul can no longer perform any physical operations. Nevertheless it is still “tagged” with physical properties that point to the piece of matter that it used to inform; hence it is still the soul that is meant to inform that particular piece of matter, which it will one day when the body is raised to life again.

    You also write:

    You seem to be saying it’s a particular arrangement of molecules, a blueprint if you will, like the information in DNA… And how in the world can you be an intelligent design theorist and believe that something like information has the capacity for free will? Free will creates information. It cannot reside in information.

    I agree that the soul is not just information. I’m not a property dualist. The soul is not an arrangement of molecules; it’s an agent. What I maintain, however, is that in a living human being, the molecules in the brain that the soul pushes around are not molecules of something else which is ontologically distinct from it. My body is also me.

    Finally, please note that a formal-final dualist would give a very different answer to the questions you posed above. As far as I can make out, a formal-final dualist would say that the soul is a part of a substance (namely, its form) which is nevertheless capable of immaterial operations, but not of making the body move (as an efficient cause). I agree that the soul is the form of the body, but my understanding of “form” is different: for me, the form the hierarchy of control in a living body, and especially the top level of control (which in the case of human beings is entirely immaterial, because it is rational). For a form-final dualist, on the other hand, my form is simply that by virtue of which my body is a human body. I would say that there’s an inconsistency here: if my soul is simply the “human-ness” of a human body, then it cannot meaningfully be said to perform any non-bodily operations in its own right (such as intellectual operations). Thus I would say that formal-final dualism is incoherent. But that’s my own opinion.

    I hope that helps.

  19. 19
    tragic mishap says:

    What happens at death is that the substance we call a human being splits in two: there is now a substance with physical properties (a corpse) and a substance with non-physical operations (which it still performs)…

    Okay but how is that not substance dualism? You are talking about two different substances.

  20. 20
    Proton says:

    vjtorley:

    I’m a little curious. You say you believe in a soul that’s independent of the body and doesn’t interact with it.

    Yes.

    But if we can explain the entire gamut of human behavior, including what people say and how they reason and make decisions, then wouldn’t Ockham’s razor make belief in such a soul redundant?

    Not at all. That would depend on what we define as the purpose of a soul. In Christians’ view, a soul is the reason we’re free to choose, and therefore because of it we can be held accountable for our actions.

    I don’t have such a complicated view of the soul. In my view, the soul is just our way to keep existing after our physical body dies. In such sense, there’s no redundancy. Our brain is the only one keeping our thoughts and memories and everything we feel while we are alive, and the soul takes it’s place after we die to keep our selfs existing.

    Or is your belief based entirely on introspection?

    In part, yes. I practice lucid dreams often, so I have a very high conscious awareness of how my brain works and how to manipulate my consiousness, so I have very powerful reasons, from first hand personal experience, to believe that our brain is all there is regarding our thoughts/feelings, etc. (at least while we’re alive).

    On the other hand, my belief is also based on the argument I’ve given so far: That it’s obvious that backgrounds affect choices, so there can’t be an inmaterial soul “having the final say” unconstrained from such backgrounds.

  21. 21
    vjtorley says:

    Hi tragic mishap,

    Good question. The short answer is that after a person dies, body and soul are two substances, but while that person is alive, they’re one substance. Death is a biologically traumatic event which severs the top-down flow of control within this substance. In the case of a plant or a typical animal, where even the highest capacities in the organism’s “hierarchy of control” are inherently matter-bound (i.e. bodily capacities), death is the destruction of the organism, which becomes a corpse. The organism’s life is gone, because the flow of control is gone, and nothing outside the corpse remains. In the case of a human being, whose highest capacities are rational and therefore non-bodily, these capacities are ontologically severed from the body they used to control, and they continue to exist in an entirely spiritual entity which is now separate from the corpse – namely, a separated soul. However, these rational capacities continue to “point at,” or be directed at, the particles that were in the brain of the body at its moment of death. So the separated soul retains a disposition to control its body, if and when that body is ever reassembled (resurrected). That’s how I would explain it.

  22. 22
    vjtorley says:

    Proton,

    So you’re a lucid dreamer? Interesting. All right. Consider the following thought experiment. You run into another person who declares that they too are a lucid dreamer. You swap details on your respective dream experiences and have a lively discussion. You then wander home, thinking, “That was an interesting person I met today.” But then a sudden thought stops you. You’re a determinist, and you also believe that everything a person does and says is entirely the product of events in their brain. For you the soul is real, but does not interact with the body. So the things that the person you met today said in the conversation they had with you are entirely the product of their brain chemistry.

    Question 1: Is it rational of you to impute a soul to such a person, given that (on your account) their behavior and speech would be exactly the same, even if they didn’t have one?

    Question 2: Is it rational of them to impute a soul to you, given that (on your account) what you said to them would be exactly the same regardless of whether you had a soul or not?

    Question 3: Is it rational of you to impute a soul to yourself, given that (on your account) your outward behavior and speech – including your professed belief in a soul – would be exactly the same, whether you had one or not?

    That’s what I meant when I wrote about Ockham’s razor.

  23. 23
    Proton says:

    @vjtorley

    I understood what you meant by the Ockham’s razor. But you didn’t understand that the Ockham’s razor only applies to the soul under Christians’ definition of soul, not mine.

    Question 1: Is it rational of you to impute a soul to such a person, given that (on your account) their behavior and speech would be exactly the same, even if they didn’t have one?

    Question 2: Is it rational of them to impute a soul to you, given that (on your account) what you said to them would be exactly the same regardless of whether you had a soul or not?

    Question 3: Is it rational of you to impute a soul to yourself, given that (on your account) your outward behavior and speech – including your professed belief in a soul – would be exactly the same, whether you had one or not?

    For all 3 questions, the response is exactly the same:

    Absolutely yes, because for me the soul is not the source of behaviour, the brain is. In my view, whether a soul exists or not doesn’t affect in any way the material world. I think a soul exists because I believe in an afterlife (and I believe in an afterlife because looking at the Creation/Design I see that human conciousness is central to it). I can’t infer the existence of a soul from observation, I only believe in the existence of a soul because I believe it’s a requisite for an afterlife.

    In my view, the soul is the replacement of our material brain and body when we die, and it’s only function is to contain our memories, feelings, dreams, etc so we can keep existing in the afterlife.

    In other words, for me, we live in a material world and our self exists in a material container (our body/brain), and when we die we “upgrade” to an inmaterial self in an inmaterial container (the soul) so we can keep existing (in a different reality than the one we’re in now).

    Does it makes sense?

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