I came across a great quotation this summer when I was reading Joel Green’s book, Body, Soul, and Human Life…
“As OT scholar Lawson Stone has rightly predicted, given traditional theological views about the human person – for example, regarding body – soul dualism and the immortality of the soul – ideas that have become the bread and butter of most strands of neurophilosophy raise serious challenges against the coherence of the Christian vision of human life.
Neuroscientists and philosophers conclude similarly. ‘Bit by experimental bit,’ writes Patricia Smith Churchland, ‘neuroscience is morphing our conception of what we are.’ Introducing recent work on the origins and nature of human consciousness, Thomas Metzinger observes, ‘There is a new image of man emerging, and image that will dramatically contradict almost all traditional images man has made of himself in the course of his cultural history.’ This new image ‘will be strictly incompatible with the Christian image of man, as well as with many metaphysical conceptions developed in non-Western religions.’ Genetics, evolutionary psychology, computational neuroscience – these and other fields of inquiry are generating a ‘radically new understanding of what it means to be human,’ he writes, before going on to index some of our previously secure beliefs that now teeter on the brink of obsolescence: free will, for example, or the locus of one’s ‘self’ in an ontologically distinct ‘soul’. Francis Crick, who shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discoveries concerning DNA and its significance for information transfer in living matter, thought that developments in the neurosciences challenged many widely held views of the human person. The led him to claim that ‘the idea that man has a disembodied soul is an unnecessary as the old idea that there was a Life Force. This is in head-on contradiction to the religious beliefs of billions of human beings alive today.’ Crick wonders, ‘How will such a radical change be received?”
I disagree on the free will component of this quote (as I believe Joel Green does as well), but the description of what science has shown us regarding body-soul dualism and the immortality of the soul is spot on.
That being said, what do you think? How will this change in the view of human persons be received by the Christian community? Do you think Christians will simply attempt to debunk the science? Or perhaps argue that science doesn’t provide relevant answers to these types of questions? Alternatively, does the Christian faith require this ‘traditional’ view of a separate and immortal soul that is distinct from the material body? Is it possible that the traditional view is wrong or that this view doesn’t accurately represent the description of human persons provided in the Bible?