Note to Physicalists: If the Mind is Not the Brain, Then We Have Souls

by N.P. Sala

“If it can be shown that the mind is immaterial then human beings have souls.”

The Decade of the Brain

Advancements in neuroscience were soon forthcoming after George H.W. Bush pronounced the 1990s as the decade of the brain.[1] Since then new brain-related discoveries have been (and are continuing to be) shaped into an overall narrative that the mind and the brain are identical. Due to these advancements, theologian Nancey Murphy writes, “neuroscience has in a sense completed the Darwinian revolution, bringing not only the human body but the human mind as well, into the sphere of scientific investigation.”[2] In other words, since the mind is the brain, science can explain thoughts and behaviors as mere neuronal activity.

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As a substance dualist, I will attempt a cumulative case for showing that the mind cannot be identical to the brain. Please note, these arguments will trade on a couple of factors: 1) if it can be shown that the mind is not identical to the physical brain, then the mind is an immaterial substance; 2) If it can be shown that the mind is immaterial then human beings have souls.[3]

Our Sustained Identity

There is a fundamental problem at the heart of suggesting that we are a physical body and nothing more; that is, our body keeps changing. Think of it this way: Let’s say Joseph is 5’9” at age 32 whereas his body was only 4’9” at age 12. The cells at all levels in his body have been replaced various times over in his life such that his body is entirely different than the way it was at age 12. And yet Joseph, the person, retained his identity throughout the entire process. There was no partial Joseph or a degree of a Joseph. He was fully Joseph at every moment of his life. The physicalist who holds that the mind is identical to the body cannot adequately explain: 1) why there is a unified center of experience otherwise known as an enduring “I”; and 2) why this enduring “I” remains the same even though the body’s parts continue to change…

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Note to Physicalists: If the Mind is Not the Brain, Then We Have Souls | A Clear Lens