Monday, August 19, 2013

The Mind And God

Patrica Churchland has a new book on the Philosphy of the Mind. She makes a bunch of statements about religion. Mostly the same old errors. God of the gaps in reverse. Instead of arguing gaps in our knowledge prove God exists they assume a lack of gaps proves God does not exist. The argument does not work in reverse. A physical cause and effect and a spiritual cause and effect can both exist. One does not exclude the other. So when a farmer prays for rain and it rains he sees the spiritual dynamic of God answering prayer. A meteorologist might look at the same storm and see high pressure systems and low pressure system interacting and causing rain. They are both right. This is explained a bit more in point #1 here and here.

Then she says something truly interesting.
You begin your book, right off the bat, dispensing with the idea that human beings have a soulsome ethereal spirit that inhabits each of us.
It doesn't seem to be. It's hard to see how it could be given the dependency of personality, mood, memory and seeing and perception on the physical brain. Once that's gone, what's left? There really isn't anything left. Except one can still have a sense of continuity with the wider universe while recognizing that the continuity is very biological in its underpinnings.
You mean like "ashes to ashes, dust to dust"? 
Yes. I think some of the old boys had it right. Were there to be a resurrection it would have to be a resurrection of the body; but then, of course, it wouldn’t be quite the same body. It would have to a body that was glorified, and they're not quite clear what they mean about that, but it was obviously a better body than the one you died in.
The "what's left?" comment is the error about the physical cause and effect pushing away the spiritual cause and effect. But then she talks about the resurrection of the body. It makes a lot of sense in this context. Why does Christianity insist on a life after death with a body? One reason might be that a lot more of who we are is embedded in our body than we really think about. Our memories, our personality, our moods, the list seems to keep growing.  That does not cause a problem for Christianity because it teaches we will be going into eternal life with a body and a soul.

Many faiths do not say that. They see us as continuing without a body. It is one thing to imagine yourself without hands or feet but it it is a lot harder to imagine yourself without your memories or personality. In what sense are you still you?

It also makes more sense of the notion of purgatory. The idea of physical pain being associated with purging us of the stain of sin. If a lot of the brokenness of sin is physically in our neurons that control our thought patterns and subconscious reactions then why shouldn't we expect physical pain in repairing such things?

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