Monday 12 June 2006 - Filed under Essays
I’ve been thinking about souls lately. As an agnostic/atheist, this can be pretty entertaining. You don’t have to call it a soul, though. Even if you call it a mind or a personality, it is an odd thing.
First of all, between 50% and 80% of you is made up of water. Good ol’ H2O. I weigh (unfortunately) about 190 lb. (or 86 kg). That means that what I refer to as “me” includes 3 water-cooler sized jugs of water (about 14 gallons at 8.33 gallon/lb.). Does 3 water-cooler sized jugs of water have a soul? I would think not.
I found a site with the elements of the periodic table sorted by their presence in the human body. It looks like we are, in decreasing order of percentage, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulphur, sodium and magnesium. Do any of those things have a soul? Do they have a mind?
A mind, we could argue, is a higher level brain function essentially involving close analogs to computers, with data storage, processing and interconnections. Thus a mind is explicable as a rather sophisticated “ghost in the machine” that can be fully explained by physics.
Where is the soul, though? What is a soul? Why do some believe in souls? A soul, they would say, is exactly that part of us which is not a function of the intricate arrangement of various elements. It is not physical. So people have souls and water jugs do not. Who decided that? A soul, apparently, is a special designation by God of supernatural permanence. Or, to be more objective, a soul would be some extra-dimensional aspect of human beings whose existence was not dependent on the “mortal coil” here incarnated. In this case the other dimension may not be study-able, i.e. literally beyond the capabilities of 4-D science, but if this soul thing plays any role in our dimensions, it can’t be completely beyond the realm of study.
I’m trying to be open-minded and thorough because it is an important question. As a hardcore agnostic slash light-weight atheist, it is still hard for me to completely relent to the fact that I am not special. Part of me just so wants to believe that somehow I am special. As someone decidedly non-religious, that translates to there somehow being more reality than we are able to sense. A more complex answer, really, to cosmological questions than the Big Bang/GR/Quantum ones we have discovered. In a way it seems somehow to deny my humanity if I deny the possibility that maybe there really is more than we think.
There is not the slightest shred of evidence for something like this, nor the slightest evidence for God, Heaven or Hell. While it is totally natural to speculate, the only rational answer is extreme agnosticism. Or perhaps atheism. All the rest is the wishful thinking of people that just don’t want to die.
You are going to die. That is a fact. I’m not scared of dying in the abstract. I’m not scared of being dead. My life is precious and therefore all lives are precious, regardless if, and especially if, when we die we are dead. That will not hurt. The fact that we are going where all people go, even if that is to an eternity of non-being, should give us comfort.
We don’t need souls. We are special, you and me, either way.
2006-06-12 » lolife