Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Soul: Our Greatest Gift



[God creating Adam; by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel ceiling , the Vatican]

Far more important and remarkable than the body, is another, invisible gift, which God has given to us: the eternal soul. The soul is a non-physical, non-material part of us which will live after the death of the body.

The creation of man’s soul is described in Genesis:

Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

We know that we have a soul even though we cannot see it, similar to the way that we know that radio waves exist even though we cannot see them. The brain perceives the soul just as a radio perceives radio waves. And just like the functioning of the radio’s parts will affect the radio reception, but not the radio signals themselves, likewise injury to the brain affects our thinking and ability to function, however it does not affect the soul.

The soul is apparent in two ways:

The feeling that you are not your body. We see ourselves as inhabiting our bodies but we don't identify ourselves by it. This feeling begins with the smallest children and is universal culturally.

The feeling of free will. We all feel the freedom to make choices that are not determined by prior causes. Therefore, we hold people responsible for their behavior and either reward or punish them accordingly.

No machine, no matter how complex, has any sense of these feelings. (HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssey" is still fictional.)

To claim that our belief in the soul is merely a delusion seems absurd. One may as well claim that our belief in anything is a delusion. In addition, without a soul, there would be no rational reason to punish criminals. No sane person says "I'm going to punish my car because the brakes failed and caused a fatal crash." One either fixes the car or throws it away.



Each morning every devout Jew fervently thanks God for his soul with this prayer:

My God, the soul which Thou hast placed in me is pure. Thou hast fashioned it in me, Thou didst breathe it into me, and Thou preservest it within me and Thou wilt one day take it from me and restore it to me in the time to come. So long as the soul is within me I give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, my God, and the God of my fathers, Sovereign of all worlds, Lord of all souls. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, who restorest souls to dead corpses. (Talmud Brochos 60b)

Amen.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the image of god.

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting is the fact that the brain is matter, but the mind has qualities that are not qualities of matter. So there must be more to the mind than the brain. And I don't lke the answer "we don't know yet" because we know a great deal about how the brain works. But bridging the gap between brain and mind is a problem.

Nathan

Alex said...

"In addition, without a soul, there would be no rational reason to punish criminals. No sane person says "I'm going to punish my car because the brakes failed and caused a fatal crash.""

Eh, did you want to reword that? One can say that we punish criminals as a deterrent. So he doesn't commit the crime again, and to persuade others not to do it either. I think I know what you were trying to say, but you could've picked a much better way to put it.

Anon1 said...

Nathan-

OK, so where is the soul/mind when a person is demented or in coma? Is the soul also demented? When a person is drunk is his soul drunk too? And when he sobers up, does his soul "become" normal again?

The answer of course is that the mind or "soul" rests on the physiologic functions of the brain and therefore when the brain stops functioning, so does the mind.

There is no problem whatsover "bridging the gap" between the mind and the brain. There are of course many details that are not understood, but that doesn't imply an unbridgable gap. In the past we thought schizophrenia was a problem with spirits or the soul, and now we know that its just too much dopamine in certain areas of the brain.

The big fallacy of talking about the soul and god, is that when you use that term you don't really know what you are talking about. Normally, when we use a term to name something, we should be able to define and describe it. When you use soul, you are basically referring to "those qualities of human thought and behavior which we cannot explain". Beyond that, I defy you to tell me what a soul is.

"What I find interesting is the fact that the brain is matter, but the mind has qualities that are not qualities of matter. "

Maybe not qualities of inorganic matter. But the mind has qualities of organic matter like the drive to replicate, feed itself, etc.

jewish philosopher said...

"One can say that we punish criminals as a deterrent."

Why should we bother? If humans are merely meat machines (as they must be according to atheism, because of course evolution could not create a soul), then if a human does damage we should simply bring him to a psychiatric hospital, see if his brain can be fixed and if not thow him in a Dumpster.

"so where is the soul/mind when a person is demented or in coma?"

Where does the radio announcer go when you turn off the radio?

"Normally, when we use a term to name something, we should be able to define and describe it."

So nothing exists which we do not presently fully understand. Who told you that?

Anonymous said...

The mind depends on the brain, which is matter, but the fact that the mind has qualities that matter doesn't have, like subjective experience, intenionality, the fact that you can't get into my mind if I don't want you to, the fact that the matter in our mind is always changing, but our core sense of self stays the same, self awareness, etc, would indicate that there is more to the mind than just matter. We understand a great deal of how the brain works. We can MRI a functioning brain, we can look at a neuron under the microscope, we know the chemistry of neurotransmittersm, but we don't know how the mind works. And organic matter does not necessarily have these qualities, nust because it is organic. We don't see this in plants.

Anonymous said...

I know its off topic, but here is some more evolutionary silliness:


http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20327234.900-did-two-species-mix-to-make-butterflies.html

Anonymous said...

From the article of that evolutionary silliness:

"Many insect groups, such as butterflies, bees and wasps, have larval stages that look nothing like the adults. Most biologists believe these evolved gradually, perhaps because natural selection favoured juvenile stages that differed from the adults and thus would compete less with them.

Williamson offers a different explanation. At some point hundreds of millions of years ago a larva-less insect - something like a grasshopper or cockroach, say - hybridised with a velvet worm. Also known as Onychophora, velvet worms are worm-like invertebrates with stubby, leg-like appendages. According to Williamson's theory, the resulting hybrid and its descendants now develop successively through stages resembling both parents.

'Nobody knows where caterpillars came from,' says Williamson, who thinks that many other invertebrate groups acquired their larvae in the same way (New Scientist, 24 January, p 34). 'It's the only solution that makes sense.'

Williamson offers little evidence other than physical resemblances, but he predicts that insects with caterpillar larvae should show genetic similarities to velvet worms (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0908357106)."

So this Williamson has this CRAZY opinion, but then makes a prediction on what we should see if he's right or if he's wrong. How silly!

But we know the "soul" exists because if it didn't, then one of those stories in Genesis might be a fib. If the eternal soul didn't exist, then we would be able to think. If the soul didn't exist, then we wouldn't have feelings!

You know, when we sleep G-d takes our souls away and then returns them to us when we wake. Hallelujah! \0/

Take that, atheists! We'll see your souls burning in hellfire as you experience God's abounding love as WRATH.

Anonymous said...

But insects can't possibly mate with velvet worms. Even a forced mating wouldn't produce a viable offspring. That's why it's silly.

Anonymous said...

See, evolutionist often resort to these silly ideas to explain away problems with evolution. For example, now that the tree of life has been shown to be way off, they are talking about horizontal gene transfer. But here is no mechanism for horizontal gene transfer.

Anonymous said...

Everything has a soul.

'"In truth, not just the human being, but also every created entity possesses a "soul." Animals have souls, as do plants and even inanimate objects; every blade of grass has a soul, and every grain of sand. Not only life, but also existence requires a soul to sustain it--a "spark of G-dliness" that perpetually imbues its object with being and significance. A soul is not just the engine of life; it also embodies the why of a thing's existence, it's meaning and purpose. It is a thing's "inner identity, it's raison d'ĂȘtre. Just like the 'soul' of a musical composition is the composer's vision that energizes and gives life to the notes played in a musical composition--the actual notes are like the body expressing the vision and feeling of the soul within them. Each soul is the expression of G-d's intent and vision in creating that particular being."' http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/3194/jewish/What-is-a-Soul.htm

Anon1 said...

It would be interesting to find out if JP believes in ghosts. Many people assert their existence. Like the soul, they are invisible, immeasurable (unless you have ghostbusting machines), and some people claim to have seen or communicated with them. If JP doesn't believe in them, I request that he please prove that they don't exist.

jewish philosopher said...

Who doesn't believe in ghosts?

The Bible describes Saul raising the ghost of Samuel. 1 Samuel 28:11

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt08a28.htm#11

Anon1 said...

"Who doesn't believe in ghosts?"

At least you're being honest :)

But perhaps you should up the dose of thorazine.

Anonymous said...

What exactly is the ghost of Samuel ?

jewish philosopher said...

Check out 1 Samuel 28:11

Anonymous said...

I looked it up, but still can't undertand what he's trying accomplish. Please explain.

Anonymous said...

"I looked it up, but still can't undertand what he's trying accomplish. Please explain."

There's no actual evidence for the existence of a soul, so we're indulging in weak reasoning and rabbit trails to make the idea somehow seem less ridiculous.

The truth is that each of us has little men running around inside our heads. Ever seen Woody Allen's Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex?

The brain perceives these little agents just as a radio receiver perceives radio waves. If you don't perceive the little men, then your receiver must not be working probably because of your bad, disbelieving heart.

You consider your "self" different and more than just your body, right? Hooray! It's because of the little men inside you.

You think you have free will, right? Hooray! It's because of the little men inside you.

Let us now pray to Woody Allen in thanks for the little men inside us. Woody is that he is. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Woody. Our Woody which art in heaven, hallowed by thy name.

jewish philosopher said...

"There's no actual evidence for the existence of a soul"

Sure there is. The feeling that you are not your body. The feeling of free will. No machine, no matter how complex, has any sense of these feelings.

Anonymous said...

"Sure there is. The feeling that you are not your body. The feeling of free will. No machine, no matter how complex, has any sense of these feelings."

This is evidence for the existence of little men running around in the body.

"No machine, no matter how complex, has any sense of these feelings."

Yet. Machines can lie. They can make ethical choices. Assuming religious fanatics in the US, Iran, Israel or elesewhere don't blow up the planet to bring on the rapture we may likely see robots with feelings in our lifetimes. Of course, some will deny that these robots do or can have feelings, but this reaction is to be expected from the fearful and small minded.

jewish philosopher said...

"Machines can lie. They can make ethical choices."

Really? Did a little man running around tell you that?

Anonymous said...

"Machines can lie. They can make ethical choices."

It's been shown and reported here -

http://discovermagazine.com/2008/jan/robots-evolve-and-learn-how-to-lie

And here -

http://gizmodo.com/346029/scientists-invent-robots-that-lie-real-bender-closer-than-ever

And here -

http://www.livescience.com/technology/090824-robots-lie.html

And here -

http://botropolis.com/2009/08/evolving-robots-lie-to-each-other/

jewish philosopher said...

It think it's baloney. People are often making claims like this

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Grand
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/02/arts/man-who-would-be-god-giving-robots-life.html

It's still science fiction, not reality.

Computers do relatively simple things which they are programmed to do and that's it. No machine, no matter how complex, has any sense of free will or self awareness.

Anonymous said...

"It think it's baloney. People are often making claims like this."

Translation: I choose not to accept what might actually be true because I don't like it.

Typical cowardly theist. You say the truth is obvious but you're afraid to look at facts.

We're done. Maybe when you grow up and learn to deal with reality, I'll come back and post.

Be well.

jewish philosopher said...

When you turn your computer on one morning and it starts yelling "Let me sleep! I'm tired! Go away will you!" without anyone having programmed it to do so, and your psychiatrist and the Geek Squad at Best Buys have no advice, give me a call. I'll retract this post.

gatogreensleeves said...

THE SOUL: OUR MOST COMFORTING LIE

jewish philosopher said...

So you actually believe that you are just a bag of chemicals sitting in chair, nothing more or less?