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LostInParadise's avatar

Those of you who believe in an immortal soul, how do you explain the physical connections to mental behavior?

Asked by LostInParadise (17812 points ) October 22nd, 2013

We have known for quite some time that people’s behavior can be influenced by alcohol and other mood altering substances. If our behavior is ruled by our souls, how can this be? How can chemicals suddenly make a person violent and abusive?

In recent times we have found chemicals that can alleviate symptoms of psychological disorders. There are drugs that help with ADHD, schizophrenia and depression. How is such a thing possible if the brain and mind are separate?

We know that memories are physical. It is common knowledge that memories deteriorate with age. Recently, it has been shown that stimulating a specific portion of the brain causes recall of an associated memory. Does the soul keep a separate copy of memories? Who would we be without our memories?

We have also learned that the brain is highly compartmentalized. Damage to a small portion of the brain can cause highly specific abnormalities, including possible personality changes. How does the soul figure into this?

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54 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

You are making a mistaken assumption.

The soul doesn’t control or influence the brain or the physical, you’re conflating spiritual center with the physical body. Our behavior is not ruled by our souls.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@zenvelo Agreed. My soul cannot get drunk..lol

LostInParadise's avatar

What then is the soul responsible for? How does a person sin other than by engaging in sinful behavior? When you pray for forgiveness, where does the soul fit in?

Coloma's avatar

“Soul” simply means ones essence, not some magical part of ones being that can be influenced by “prayer.” The essence of a flower is it’s floweriness, the essence of a human is our humanliness, there is no magic “soul” to be influenced by anything outside it’s original essence.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LostInParadise I feel that my soul is essentially ‘me’, the essence of me. Responsible for nothing except to ‘be’.

Because I believe in God with my mind and dedicate my life/ soul to doing good works, helping others, being positive, etc…I picture myself as having a good clean soul.

If I engage in sin or sinful thoughts/ actions, I tend to ‘see’ it as a blemish on my soul until I ask for forgiveness and am ‘washed clean’ by God’s forgiveness and grace.

Purely my opinion and my perspective.

zenvelo's avatar

@LostInParadise The soul is a reflection of our spiritual condition, not the governor of it. The soul is not responsible for anything; one is responsible to the soul..

flip86's avatar

The whole concept of the “soul” is ridiculous to me. Our brain is who we are. Once it dies, we no longer exist. There is no “spirit” or “soul” that transcends brain death. Death is exactly the same as before you were conceived.

keobooks's avatar

You either believe in a soul or you don’t. You don’t have to explain anything because those who believe will believe anyway and those that don’t won’t. Why bother explaining anything to anyone?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@flip86 So does a malevolent spirit posess a brain and body or a soul? :)

LostInParadise's avatar

Is it possible for someone with “a good clean soul” to do something sinful when intoxicated? Where then is the responsibility for the sin?

flip86's avatar

@KNOWITALL I don’t believe in spirits of any kind. I also don’t believe in possession.

tom_g's avatar

I’m not following the answers so far.

Person A has a soul. Person A has a brain.

What is it about Person A that makes him/her Person A? Is it the brain, the soul, or both? And if the answer is both, in what specific ways does the soul and brain interact?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LostInParadise Of course it’s possible, but not likely. Even if I have a cocktail or two I’m still a good person and don’t do bad thing’s, like go sleep with people who aren’t my husband, etc… Do you have a specific incident in mind or ?

@flip86 I know, just a little joke because if you don’t believe in souls I was sure you didn’t believe in posession…lol

glacial's avatar

@keobooks ” Why bother explaining anything to anyone?”

I think Fluther just self-destructed. :/

I find this question interesting, and I think that a lot of the responses are not considering it fully. Is it just that those who believe in a soul have no interest in defining it and figuring out how it relates to the mind and/or brain? I can’t imagine why theists wouldn’t find this an interesting question. When I was a theist, I remember reading authors like Thomas Aquinas and thinking how important it was to explore every aspect of my belief. Doesn’t anyone here feel that?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@glacial That only human souls are immortal and capable of union with the divine? I’m not sure it needs to be explained that way, I was trying to simplify as most people here don’t seem to be theists.

As far as exploring every aspect of my belief, yes I feel that, but this is fluther and that was not the question asked.

glacial's avatar

@KNOWITALL “That only human souls are immortal and capable of union with the divine?”

I’m not sure where that came from…

KNOWITALL's avatar

@glacial Wikipedia & Thomas…lol

For example, the Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas attributed “soul” (anima) to all organisms but taught that only human souls are immortal.

glacial's avatar

@KNOWITALL I only mentioned him as an author who I read at the time, and who explored questions that I thought were important. What he wrote does not necessarily have any bearing on this question.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@glacial Then I apologize for taking your question above seriously.

tom_g's avatar

Note: This is one of the more interesting questions I have seen on fluther, and has the potential to be one of the more enlightening conversations. Let’s not get sidetracked. @LostInParadise asked a very clear question, yet it has not yet been answered. I ask those that have responded to go back and read it again and respond (or at least take a stab at my starter question in my comment). Nobody is looking to attack anyone here. This is one of those questions that I have never been able to ask anyone because I don’t know anyone who believes in the soul. But I am very interested in the answers. Thanks!

glacial's avatar

@KNOWITALL I’m not trying to be argumentative, but I didn’t ask any questions about Aquinas or his thoughts. Maybe read my post again? I was only asking that people consider @LostInParadise‘s good question.

Neodarwinian's avatar

They usually sidestep the issue or offer some rationalization that makes no sense.

“ Soul” simply means ones essence, ”

Essentialism is often proffered as the souls job, so to speak.

It ends badly in any case. Something like asking what happens when monozygotic twins are born. Do they split as soul? The answers are generally devoid of biological accuracy and knowledge of gestation timetables.

Asking such questions of believers is a exercise in pure futility.

zenvelo's avatar

@tom_g I have answered the original question as best I could,but the original question is based on an incorrect premise.

tom_g's avatar

@zenvelo: “The soul doesn’t control or influence the brain or the physical, you’re conflating spiritual center with the physical body. Our behavior is not ruled by our souls.”

Does this mean that there is no connection between the soul and the self? Does the soul have characteristics? In other words, does the soul influence in any way (not “rule”) behavior, intention, desires, etc?

Edit: If the premise of the question is incorrect, and nobody is able to discern why that is, it might help to explain rather than simply asserting that the premise is incorrect.

tom_g's avatar

Let’s try it this way. Maybe this will help…

If @LostInParadise has incorrectly defined the soul, could someone define what the soul is?
And in defining it, it would be helpful to tie it back to @LostInParadise‘s question. If, for example, the soul simply does not manifest in any way or reflect what we consider to be a person, does this mean that the soul is without definition or character in any way?

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The “mind” is an inferred construct that is one of the ways we know we have a functioning brain. Our souls don’t control our behaviour. The way we make moral choices influences the health of our souls. Of course, we have to choose to belief that we have immortal souls. There is no scientific way to validate the existence of a person’s soul. That is a matter of belief or faith only.

Blondesjon's avatar

When I still believed in an afterlife I came to the conclusion that Heaven or Hell for eternity didn’t cut it. The brief moment that our souls we encased in human form couldn’t determine where we spent forever, could it?

I started to believe that the soul was a real, eternal entity, the core of what I was regardless of the box it came in. I reasoned that basic morality governed the condition of the soul. If I was ‘bad’ I was damaging my soul the same way that smoking cigarettes damages the heart and lungs. If I was ‘good’ then it was like I was taking my soul to the gym and buffing it up.

My ideas of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ were very basic in terms of how they affected my soul.

‘Good’ wasn’t going to church or paying your taxes. ‘Good’ was helping when help was needed and loving when there was none to be found. ‘Bad’ wasn’t cursing or sleeping in on Sunday. ‘Bad’ was causing hurt to others or myself. How I lived my life on those terms would determine what kind of shape my soul was in when my human form finally wore out and died.

This mattered to me because I thought that an infinite universe contained infinite ‘levels’ of existence. The condition of your soul upon exiting one level would determine where you ended up next. I saw it as a metaphorical ladder stretching both up and down forever. Each rung ‘up’ represented something new and different as you approached, but never reached, infinity. Each rung ‘down’ meant you needed to try again until you got it right. The condition of your soul upon physical death would determine which way you traveled on the ladder.

Since then I have come to the conclusion that this is, unfortunately, the only go around that we get. I realized that my own ideas still boiled down to a fear of death and no longer existing. It hasn’t stopped me from living my life in terms of how I view good and bad. It simply makes me appreciate the time that I have a whole helluva lot more.

KaY_Jelly's avatar

How does one ever answer this correctly?

There is no positive proof that a soul even exists, so any answer could be correct based on any evidence that has been collected up to this date.

But afaik there is pretty decent evidence out there that backs up spirits and may prove that there just might be more to this than we think there is, and until this is classified completely as a hoax then I also know that my ghost hunting equipment works well and no one yet can explain to me how I have my husband’s voice recorded on my ghost box and when I let my family and friends hear it they pick his voice out no problem without me even telling them.

So until proved otherwise this evidence is just as scientifically evident as knowing through probing and wiring and drugging and testing how sufficient the brain and memory work. At least that is what I think.

LostInParadise's avatar

Let me make this really simple. A man is a loving husband and caring father until he gets drunk, at which point he becomes violent and abusive to spouse and children. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know this is not an uncommon occurrence. Does the man have the same soul when he is drunk as when he is sober? Is he good or evil?

Second example. A schizophrenic is violent toward self and others due to the voices in his head. He is given medication and the voices are silenced. He gets a job and is able to manage on his own. Who is he? If he goes off the medication, he returns to his previous behavior. Does his soul change when he takes his pills?

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Blondesjon's avatar

@LostInParadise . . . According to what I posted the man has the same soul when he is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. He is retarding it’s growth when he is violent and abusive and aiding in it’s growth when he is the loving husband and caring father.

Schizophrenia is an illness. The violence and voices are symptoms of that illness. His soul is still the same soul on or off of the medication. His conscious choice of whether or not to take his meds is a decision that would change his soul.

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ETpro's avatar

There are so many holes it the idea of humans having a soul that the concept seems to me utterly absurd. We know that if you suffer brain injury, brain function is lost. Injury to one part of the brain will cause you to forget the names of people you have known all your life. Injury to another part, and you can’t think of the words for various things, no matter how mundane and familiar they may be. And yet we believe that if the whole brain dies, the soul will still be just as completely the individual as their healthy brain was. If that’s so, why can’t the soul pinch hit for a dingle damaged piece of the brain?

Then there are the math problems. An egg cell get’s fertilized and right away it gets a soul. But then in its first attempt at mitosis, it gets a bit aggressive and inadvertently splits completely in two. Now we have two zygotes that, if fortune is with them, will go on to to become identical twins. One doesn’t have a soul, though. So does a second, unanticipated soul get injected? And what about the rare occasions when two separate zygotes merge resulting in chimerism, does 1 soul + 1 soul = 1 soul and 1 soul / 2 = 2 full souls?

downtide's avatar

[mod says] Flames off, folks, let’s keep it civil.

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downtide's avatar

[mod says] For the record, flame-bait and attacks from both sides are being moderated. There is no favouritism here.

If anyone receives attacks by PM, flag them. Auggie can deal with that.

flutherother's avatar

Our minds and our bodies are always changing. One minute we are healthy the next minute we are ill, we are kind and then we are cruel. We are happy and then we are sad. We are sober and pleasant and then we become obnoxious through drink. We are inevitably growing older. And yet we have a sense of continuity, of an ’I’ that persists despite everything. We have confidence that this ‘I’ though it vanish when we fall asleep at night will return once again in the morning. That is what our soul is. It isn’t immortal but it will last as long as we do. That is all the time there is.

Blondesjon's avatar

@ETpro . . . What if we consider that everything is God?

A God that is not the various religious gods that we all hear about but an entity outside of space and time. Let’s also say that it is omnipotent and omniscient. Furthermore, let’s say that this God became ‘bored’ with it’s omnipotence and omniscience. As an experiment it particulates itself in one ‘Big Bang’ and KABLAM! it is now everything we know as the universe. Each individual part is unaware on a conscious level that it is a piece of an enormous, unfathomable whole. Everything from the crumbs in your beard to supermassive black holes to quarks are all pieces of God trying to forget itself and live each moment as an individual instead of as an all powerful force.

If this were true then I could believe in a ‘soul’.

glacial's avatar

@Blondesjon That version of events makes the soul sound like a hoarcrux. :)

Blondesjon's avatar

@glacial . . . The biggest one ever.

i can’t believe you pottered me

glacial's avatar

@Blondesjon I have many skills.

zenvelo's avatar

@tom_g You are confusing connection with causation. I ma saying the should doe snot control or drive the physical or the mental or emotional being, it’s a one way influence o the other direction. The physical actions, the mental actions, the emotional being, all result in the state of the soul.

ETpro's avatar

@Blondesjon The gospel according to J. K. Rowling aside, we could say that. We could also say that the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster created the Universe and grants soul to each of us in direct relation to the quality and quantity of pasta we eat. As long as we keep all these postulates outside spacetime and claim that the more preposterous the claim, the less it should need any evidence to support it, then we can claim anything we like. Unfortunately, claiming something doesn’t make it true. And in this world, truth does seem to matter.

@zenvelo I think I can read through the typos and tell what you are saying. Why do you think that?

LostInParadise's avatar

@zenvelo , You make the soul sound like a passive repository, a piggy bank that we deposit sins into and withdraw sins from. That does not seem to be the way most people think of soul as our conscious being.

Blondesjon's avatar

@ETpro . . . But doesn’t current scientific theory basically explain that the Universe kicked itself in to being from beyond spacetime?

tom_g's avatar

@zenvelo: ”@tom_g You are confusing connection with causation. I ma saying the should doe snot control or drive the physical or the mental or emotional being, it’s a one way influence o the other direction. The physical actions, the mental actions, the emotional being, all result in the state of the soul.”

The point of my question was an attempt for you to elaborate so that I wouldn’t be so confused. This likely requires a conversation, rather than comment bombs.

So, if I understand what you are saying:

The soul is an entity that is a result of the physical actions (works), mental actions (beliefs), and emotions of a person. Is this correct? If it is, could you elaborate on…

- If my brain is damaged and it results in a change in the 3 things that result in my soul, does that actually change my soul?
– Does the soul grow (not in size, but in its characteristics) as a human ages? For example, is the soul of an infant different from the soul of an adult since the 3 things that build the soul have been limited?
– Is the soul immortal?
– Does your understanding of the soul match any particular doctrine? In other words, for more details could I research a particular religion or sect to expand my understanding?

zenvelo's avatar

@tom_g My explanation of the soul as a reflection of the human’s physical/spiritual/mental/emotional self derives from basic Roman Catholic teaching. The soul is the spiritual reflection of the self that connects with the Divinity. Through the actions of the human, the soul may be besmirched or the soul may be “cleansed”/restored.

I always thought of it as a big etch-a-sketch in which our actions can be recorded, and through conscious action can be shaken clean.

ETpro's avatar

@Blondesjon No. Science doesn’t attempt to explain what it doesn’t yet understand. It is not afraid to tell the truth when the truth is “We don’t yet know.” We can see the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation of the Big Bang. You could think of that as the event horizon of the Great Singularity and be close to what we currently know. What’s beyond (in this case, what came before) the event horizon. We can’t see that from here. Someday we may figure it out, but right now, we simply do not know.

Religion is the opposite. It is almost exclusively about stating absolutisms about things it has no evidence to support.

@zenvelo Why? You can’t measure a soul, so how could you know that’s what it is? Somebody told you so. But they couldn’t measure it either. So why?

Blondesjon's avatar

@ETpro . . . When did I bring up religion?

We were talking about souls. I believe I stated that the fictional ‘God’ I was speaking of was not a god of religion. It was merely a fictional description of the Big Bang that allowed for a soul. I assumed it was obvious that not being a god of religion meant not having any type of worship or ‘religion’ attached.

The God in my example doesn’t require any worshipers, churches, or adversaries because it is the worshipers, churches, and adversaries.

ETpro's avatar

@Blondesjon Why do you think you have to bring up something in order for me to be able to comment on it? It is relevant to your answer because the Kalam Cosmological Argument is a bogus, well debunked claim that the religulous use to justify their evidnece free beliefs, and your answer harkens to the Kalam.

I also wonder what serious scientist claims in a peer reviewed journal that the Big Band allowed for the soul? Where do you get this stuff? You mentioned nothing of the kind in your original answer, then take me to task for not having read your mind? What’s going on? Still in a snit about the mouse?

Since you did not define this god of yours till after the fact, such a definition has nothing to do with my answer above. If you want to use a special pleading, at least lay it on the table before the discussion begins.

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