Thursday, May 21, 2009

Soulless it Seems

In regard to human consciousness, I consider myself a philosophical materialist: brains generate minds; minds are what brains do, with no other substance, concept, or mechanism needed to explain human thought processes. I think the evidence from neuroscience favors this view.

But what about dualism, the idea that there is more than the physical, the notion that the real you is your soul, and that your consciousness continues to exist even after your death? I think a computer CPU, with integrated RAM and a firmware operating system, is a good analogy for the human brain.*

* For those who aren't acquainted with the innards of computers: I'm talking about all the parts of a computer (the memory, information storage, and information processing) being completely fused together on one integrated, self-contained computer chip.

In the materialist view, the entire "self" is exclusively contained on that one chip. If a part of that chip fails, say, part of the RAM becomes corrupted, it's like suffering from Alzheimer's. That part of the self can never be restored; it is forever lost.

In the dualist view, the chip is a transceiver and physical projector of the non-material self (soul), which is transmitted over the ether(eal)net to the body. If part of the chip fails, the transmission and reception of information between the hardware body and the self becomes garbled, but the "true self" is still intact on a server somewhere.

Problems: we've never been able to find a method of transmission between the body and the soul, and no one has ever been able to provide good evidence for the existence of the heavenly server farm.

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