Is It Reasonable to Believe in Minds Even If We Can’t Explain How They Interact with Brains?

by J Warner Wallace

As a Christian theist, I am a “dualist”; I identify the brain and mind (as well as the body and soul) as two distinct entities and realities. Dualism describes mind and matter as two separate categories of being; neither can be reduced to the other in any way. If nonmaterial minds truly do exist, they are free to possess their own distinct characteristics, unshared by their physical counterparts (brains).

Materialists (those who reject non-material entities) typically reject such dualistic explanations. If dualism is true, the source for nonmaterial mind cannot come from “inside the room” of the material universe, and this, in and of itself, is objectionable to those committed to atheistic, material explanations. As a result, atheists have offered several objections to dualism. In this article, I’d like to examine just one of them to discover if it minimized the strength of the Christian explanation of reality:

Objection: Dualistic Interaction Is Difficult to Understand, Therefore Dualism Is Untrue

The “interaction problem” is perhaps the largest obstacle for dualist explanations. Dualists believe the mind is completely distinct from the brain yet interacts with it in some way. But how precisely does this occur, especially given the nonmaterial nature of the mind? The laws of physics explain the causal interactions between physical objects, but how can a nonmaterial mind interact with a material brain? In response to this objection, philosophers have historically offered a variety of explanations, including “occasionalism,” “parallelism,” and “epiphenomenalism” (read God’s Crime Scene for more on these definitions).

But even without certainty related to the specific way in which the mind relates to the brain, this objection alone fails to exclude dualism from consideration…

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