Can a Rational Case Be Made for the Existence of the Soul?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Yes, it can, and I will be following the arguments of philosopher J. P. Moreland through several blog posts on this topic.  The source for this material is a book called Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality, which was co-authored by Moreland and Gary Habermas. 

So how does Moreland introduce this important topic?  He first introduces us to the two major philosophical camps that have formed around the debate:

Is a human being just composed of matter – a body, a brain, and a central nervous system – or does a person also have an immaterial component called a mind or soul?  Physicalists claim we are only material beings; dualists claim we are composed of both body and soul.  This is a fundamental difference.

What are the practical implications of these two points of view for life after death?   

If we are simply material beings, then when our bodies die, we die because we are our bodies, nothing more, nothing less.  On the other hand, if dualism is true, then we are both bodies and souls.  In this case, with the destruction of the former, it could be true that we continue to exist in a disembodied state indefinitely, or, according to Christianity, while awaiting a new, resurrected body.

Since the soul is something that we cannot see, some people doubt that a rational case can be made for it.  They believe that the only way to believe in the existence of the soul is through blind faith or appeal to revelation.  This viewpoint has even crept into the church.  What ideas have entered our culture to make us think this way about the soul?

Moreland concurs with the philosopher John Hick that strict empiricism and scientism are at the root of our modern skepticism of the existence of the soul.  Strict empiricism is the idea that “something can be a proper object of knowledge if and only if it can be verified with one or more of the five senses.  Seeing is believing, and since the soul appears to be embarrassingly invisible, then we must remain agnostic about its existence.”

Scientism is the belief that “science is the measure of all things.  A belief is true and reasonable only if it can be tested scientifically – observed, measured, quantified, and so forth.  But here again, the soul does not appear to be an entity that the so-called ideal sciences, physics and chemistry, can quantify and measure.”

But, Moreland argues, in spite of  “the cultural bias toward empiricism and scientism, we believe a very strong case can be made for dualism.”  Indeed, a strong rational case can be made for the existence of the immaterial soul.

In subsequent blog posts, we will explore Moreland’s arguments for dualism and against physicalism.  I hope you’ll stay with me while we dig into this important topic.

  • LeeBowman

    In a previous discussion, Bill mentioned segmenting the brain to see if ‘me’ was then segmented as well. Commenter ‘Time’ responded:

    ”It really depends on where, exactly, “me” is in the brain. Is “me” the entire brain … or is there a specific region of the brain that corresponds to my “identity”

    The following is based on my cursory understanding of brain function, and some conclusions based on same:

    Starting above the brainstem, we have the Cerebellum, which directly controls most [if not all] motor functions. Adjacent are the Temporal Lobes for short term storage of visual and verbal data, as well as olfactory [smell] data.

    Adjacent is the Occipital Lobe contains many sections, including the Visual Cortex, the largest discrete system of the brain, with the Thalamus for input from the eyes, and sections V1 … V4, for image processing.

    Adjacent is the Parietal Lobe for spatial discernment and speech recognition, and the Frontal Lobe, including pre-motor and motor function directing areas. Changes to the frontal lobe have been tied to personality alterations, which are indicative that they may serve to actualize personality, which to me constitutes a coloration of one’s self, rather than one’s self per se. In short [and IMO], all of these areas serve functions which are ancillary to consciousness, and in now-way constitute consciousness itself.

    Since most of the brain is for data processing of input information, for short term memory [storage of sensations and experiences], and for directed motor functions including speech output. The seat of consciousness might well be one small section of the cerebrum, and as ‘seat’ I would regard it as to where the spirit, soul or essence of one’s self interfaces with the brain, in essence, the control center and interface to the vehicular body form. Go here for some intuitive takes on the question:

    I have been out of body (experiments during my early 20’s), and noticed that I had visual perceptions, but somewhat different from ocular visual input by reflected and transmitted light. But what struck me most, was my ability to discern and reason. In fact, my inquisitiveness was at a higher than normal level, as I examined the space around me. My surrounding space itself appeared energy based, or perhaps that was the only aspect of it that was visible to me in that juncture.

    I also distinctly remember feeling not fears or emotive feelings, just a peaceful but inquisitive stance, which lends support to my current assessment of one of the key brain functions, which is to color perceptions, based on human inheritance perhaps, and on experiential data from days past.

    To summarize, the brain is definitely not the producer of consciousness [although it ‘colors’ it], but merely an interface to the physical world. I base this upon not just deductive logic, but by direct experience.

    But returning to Bill’s question, “Can a rational case be made for the existence of the soul”, and if by ‘soul’ can one infer a separate, non-carnate self, the short answer is yes; definitely. But to the greater questions of cosmic tenure and allegiances, the implications of duality lean strongly in that direction.

  • You might want to check this out; the seat of consciousness seems to be the tectum (colliculi). I realize this increasing knowledge about the brain may stand contrary to your seemingly assured stance based not on evidence but on your personal experience (forgetting that you are the easiest person in the world to fool) that “the brain is definitely not the producer of consciousness.” You’re pretty sure it’s more rational to believe that there is a ghost without physical properties hovering about your head. And you can demonstrate this… how?

  • The short answer to the title of this post is, “No.”

    A slightly expanded answer is, “There is no evidence to suggest that there is.”

    No amount of Platonic wiggling through the vast labyrinth of metaphysical mazes will alter this absence of evidence for your claim that the soul is real, that it exists, that it has properties independent of the functioning of the brain.

    On top of this glaring absence resides mounting evidence that the mind – or consciousness – is what the brain does.

  • “A belief is true and reasonable only if it can be tested scientifically – observed, measured, quantified, and so forth. But here again, the soul does not appear to be an entity that the so-called ideal sciences, physics and chemistry, can quantify and measure.””

    Why would you have any reason to believe that something exists that cannot be somehow demonstrated to us to exist. Sure, it’s possible that there are invisible pixies living in my basement, but if there is no way to observe, measure, or in any way quantify or qualify their existence, why should we believe they exist?

    When I first found your blog Bill, I liked the title and the idea of answering difficult questions. I hope you will stay true to your title and respond to some of the very good points that have been made on some of your posts lately.

  • Paradox

    This “mountain of evidence” is stuff that finds a home just as easily in Dualism as it does in Monism. Your closing observation is completely empty.

    I have given you one piece of evidence over at “Can the Mind be Explained by Physics?” but I have other pieces that might be worth examining. The first is freewill. As I study Hebraic thought, neuroscience, philosophy (mostly Hebraic thought and philosophy), I find myself inclined to a variation of Emergent Dualism. The mind is dependent on a brain in order to be expressed (like software on hardware), and a complete human being is the unified whole of a spirit and a brain. My main consideration is how the two cooperate in order to produce freewill.

    Here is some more positive evidence to suggest that there is something more than just meat:
    1) If people are purely material, it follows that “our” choices are determined by entirely by external forces (the individual has no true control over his actions). Because these forces do not reason, it follows that our choices are not rational. So you are not a materialist because of the evidence, you are so because the world around you FORCES you to be one.
    2) Mental states are directed toward things other than themselves. Material things are directed toward themselves. Therefore, mental states are not material things. Obviously, you will demand proof that material things cannot be ABOUT other things.Let’s assume that material things can express intentionality. What happens? Matter gains mental properties –At least one! This is not materialism, this is Property Dualism!

    Once again, you are flat wrong.

  • Paradox

    I think that you are missing the point.
    If some system of belief that you hold to is rationally defensible in the areas that can be tested, it seems that the principle of induction alone give us a good probability for believing the things that cannot be tested by this system of beliefs.

  • Paradox

    No, this increased knowledge of the brain is perfectly consistent with Dualism.
    Don’t be an idiot (contrary to popular belief, it is usually the fault of the individual for being an idiot), actually take time to understand what the other people believe before making these assertions. You’ll probably be contradicted less often by those of us who try to be open to contradiction.

  • Anon

    It’s funny because dualism arose BECAUSE of physicalism. Thinkers like Decartes were busy taking final and formal causes out of science on a metaphysical whim. They then realized that, on a metaphysical view that only allowed for material and efficient causes, mental thought processes are utterly inexplicable. That’s why Cartesian dualism was established, so the mind could make sense in an otherwise mechanistic world. Some physicalists just assume that “science backs physicalism” and “dualism is spooky stuff.” Characterizing dualism as spooky stuff is an utter strawman. Here’s something to think about, it’s one of Searle’s arguments, summarized by Ed Feser:

    1. Computation involves symbol manipulation according to syntactical rules.

    2. But syntax and symbols are not definable in terms of the physics of a system.

    3. So computation is not intrinsic to the physics of a system, but assigned to it by an observer.

    4. So the brain cannot coherently be said to be intrinsically a digital computer.

    And no, brain damage does not count as evidence against all
    forms of dualism. On many forms of dualism, you still need the brain to think, even though the brain is not the mind. I think the case for dualism is actually very easy to make, but to bridge the gap between dualism and the soul is harder and requires much more reasoning/argumentation.

  • “Because these forces do not reason, it follows that our choices are not rational”

    No, that doesn’t follow. You can equally argue that because computers are made of components that don’t individually calculate, then computers themselves cannot calculate. You’ve not shown that we cannot make rational choices.

    You also haven’t shown in your second point that consciousness cannot be produced by the brain.

  • Paradox

    I fixed the wording, thank you for pointing out my semantic error.
    You may want to edit your comment in light of this, as your objection is based on my (supposedly) committing the Fallacy of Composition, which has been averted.

    My second argument is that mind and matter are qualitatively different. As long as the materialist asserts that matter is only ABOUT itself, rather than other things, the argument holds. Otherwise, they have accepted Property Dualism. This is not a pure demonstration, but it does refute materialism.
    If we add my argument from “Can the Mind be Explained by Physics?” we have proven that the mind is not identical to the brain.
    Here is yet another argument to show that pure meat cannot generate your mind:

    1) Matter possesses Third-Person ontology.
    2) Mind possesses First-Person ontology.
    3) (1&2) Mind and matter are qualitatively different.
    4) A qualitative difference is a fundamental difference.
    5) (3&4) The mind is fundamentally different from matter.
    6) If it is possible for two identities to be different, the they signify different objects.
    7) (5&6) The mind is different from matter.

    Unless we adopt Panpsychism, (1) and (2) hold, and (3) logically follows. (4) seems self-evident, and (5) follows. (6) seems self-evident, and (7) follows.

  • Anonymous Mind

    I’ve been looking into this Philosophy of Mind stuff, and your argument seems like a new one. Is it inspired by another philosopher’s work or did you develop it independently?

  • What do you even mean by matter is only about itself? That makes no sense to me. And I see nothing in your argument to show that the mind is not an arising property of the brain.

  • Anon

    You are familiar with the term “intentionality,” right? Take these examples: Is a rock, by itself, about anything? Does it point to or mean something beyond itself? Now take a stop sign. By itself, does it point to something or mean something outside of itself? Lastly, take a thought, is the thought about something external to it? I think he is saying that the explanation for how matter, without any intrinsic intentionality gives rise to the mind, which does have intentionality, is an incomplete, and perhaps untenable explanation on materialism. This link is also relevant, if you have the time give it a read and let paradox know what you think.

  • Is a rock about anything? That’s like asking is Thursday blue, or what’s the difference between a rat. The question doesn’t even make sense. As for how matter gives rise to a mind, it’s a simple argument from ignorance or incredulity simply to say it doesn’t or can’t.

    Is a thought about something external to it? That depends on the thought, surely?

  • Thanks for the link. Djindra’s responses are pretty good and nail the problems with Feser’s arguments.

  • Anon

    Preliminary question, do you agree with Paradox’s argument that the mind and brain are not the same things? Feser’s argument is not merely about whether mind depends on the brain for existence, IIRC, Feser is not a Cartesian Dualist, and he affirms the fact the mind depends on the brain. Feser’s brand of Dualism does not require that the mind be “added” or “bestowed upon” an organism from the outside. Djindra misses the point, Feser is not arguing that it is impossible for the brain to give rise to the mind and he is not talking about consciousness. Djindra even objects by going on to say “We don’t even know what meaning is.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t take that seriously.

    Feser is arguing that Coyne’s materialist explanation for the mind emerging from the brain fails, because it ends up being circular. His explanation ends up (un-wittingly) sneaking in intentionality into the explanation, in the attempt to explain intentionality.

  • “Ends up being circular”

    Djindra addressed that too in one of his last posts. What exactly needs explaining about ‘intentionality’? As Djindra says, I don’t think Coyne was even attempting to ‘explain intentionality’.

  • Anon

    Okay, I’ll admit that Feser might be wrong on the question of whether or not Coyne was trying to provide an explanation specifically, but Coyne did say something about intentionality, and Feser showed that the claim was circular. The question is how can intentionality or “aboutness” be explained, in a non-circular manner, by non-intentional components, such as atoms, neurons, action potentials, etc. The concept of non-computing components giving rise to a device that can compute is not really parallel to this because that is a case of inherently meaningless components giving rise to an inherently meaningless process. Computation is meaningless on its own, an external observer has to assign meaning to it.

  • Anon

    This ties in to the stuff I posted earlier:

    1. Computation involves symbol manipulation according to syntactical rules.

    2. But syntax and symbols are not definable in terms of the physics of a system.

    3. So computation is not intrinsic to the physics of a system, but assigned to it by an observer.

    4. So the brain cannot coherently be said to be intrinsically a digital computer.

  • Intentionality and ‘about ness’, such as they are, just seem to be arising properties of consciousness. So really this is just another way of asking how consciousness can arise from non-conscious components. Which again simply strikes me as the composition fallacy. I don’t know how consciousness can be explained, but equally I don’t know how mobile phones work – I don’t ascribe the supernatural to either. And doing so would be no explanation at any rate.

  • I’m not saying it is a computer, I’m pointing out the composition fallacy – that it’s false to argue that an entity can do nothing that its individual elements cannot do.

  • Paradox

    No, asking is a rock about anything is NOT like asking “Is Thursday blue?” Only the uninformed, and liars make this assertion.

    Rocks do not naturally mean anything. No matter who you asked to examine a stone from my backyard, you could not get them to honestly say, “This rock is true,” or “This rock is false.” You could however, find a person who, when told of your beliefs, can tell you whether these beliefs are true or not. That is intentionality in a nut-shell.
    This is a qualitative difference between matter and mind, and the only way to resolve it is to give matter mental properties (which is to reject materialism, and adopt Panpsychism). The other alternatives are Emergence, or Dualism; Emergence gives up on an explanation, and makes a counter-intuitive assumption that meaning and truth-value can somehow be reduced to something else; Dualism is just unacceptable for people like you.

  • Paradox

    The only one I can think of which could be called “Mine” is the one where we replace your brain with another one, but it was inspired by J.P. Moreland’s Modal Argument.

    The subjective experience argument was inspired by trying to make Descartes’ argument stronger. I still need to prove that subjective experience cannot be reduced to another phenomenon, or set of them, if the argument is persuasive.

  • Paradox

    This seems to boil down to one question: do you accept that qualitative differences are fundamental differences?
    If you do, then because mind has at least one qualitative difference from matter, the two are fundamentally different. They simply are not the same, and we cannot reduce one to the other (That’s what ‘fundamentally different’ means).

    I think that the question of matter being about itself, or else about other things, has been resolved in other comments here.

  • No. Simply no. Holding a worldview or belief system that is reasonable and rationally defensible does not allow you to say “well this other belief makes fits the rest of my worldview, so even though its untestable (read: impossible to prove) I’m going to believe it.

    All claims must be supported with evidence. Just because some famous, reputable scientist, or highly lauded religious leader makes an assertion, the truth of their claim is independent of who makes it. Just the same, a claim falls or stands are on its own merit, not the “probability” of it as it makes sense in a specific worldview.

  • Anonymous Mind

    Shouldn’t we be scientifically agnostic about the soul? There is no hypothesis that can be tested in a lab, “If the soul does not exist, then X.” However, the question “does the soul exist?” is still a meaningful question. That’s what metaphysics and deductive logic are for.

  • Andrew Ryan

    A cow bell can produce a loud noise. The noise is different from the bell. They arenot the same. That doesn’t mean the bell cannot produce the noise.

  • Can a rock have truth value? Sorry, you’ll have to expand on what you mean.

  • Anon

    That case it not parallel to what Paradox is saying, because the sound wave is not intrinsically “about” anything, and sound waves cannot be true or false. On the other hand, thoughts are about things and can be true or false.

  • I don’t see why that makes a difference. A tune can be about something anyway. What difference does ‘about’ make? It’s purely an abstract concept, surely?

  • Anon

    A tune is just sound waves, and it only means something once an outside observer assigns meaning to it, for example by saying “That is a tune.” Until then, the “tune” is just molecules bumping into one another. To say that tunes can have meaning or can be about something independent of an outside observer is basically saying what naturalism denies. On naturalism, there is no meaning, purpose or “aboutness” intrinsic to matter and energy. However, the difference between thoughts and the rest of the universe is that our thoughts can be purposeful and can be about something without needing meaning assigned to them by an outside observer.

  • Right. So what?

  • Anon

    “However, the difference between thoughts and the rest of the universe is that our thoughts can be purposeful and can be about something without needing meaning assigned to them by an outside observer.”
    This is a problem that needs an explanation.

  • Anon
  • Paradox

    Andrew, I am SO GLAD I am not sitting at my desk right now.
    The sound is not qualitatively different from the bell.
    The First-Person Ontology argument shows qualitative difference, the “Brain Switching argument” is about how the two are not the same.

  • Paradox

    The claim that all claims must be supported with evidence cannot be supported with evidence. Furthermore, it is not self-evident.

    Although you are right that a claim should not be accepted just because one famous individual believes it, that is NOT what I said.

    And the probability of a claim being true actually IS important. If a given worldview is true, and we have evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, it follows that even though the claim cannot be proven, it is probably true. The truth of the surrounding claims is the evidence.

  • Paradox

    If beliefs are reducible to matter, it follows that because beliefs are necessarily true or false, matter can be true or false.

    My argument goes like this: Matter is composed of particles, beliefs are composed of propositions. Suppose that minds are reducible to matter. Beliefs are reducible to minds. Therefore, it minds are reducible to matter, beliefs are reducible to matter. Therefore, if minds are reducible to matter, propositions (the stuff beliefs are made of) are reducible to matter. Beliefs can be true or false. Therefore, matter can be true or false.

    There simply is no way to elaborate on this any further.

  • Why is that a problem?

  • Beliefs aren’t made of matter. Matter being true or false is a nonsensical idea.

  • Paradox

    Andrew, that is the point, I’d think.

    If it is nonsensical to think that an aspect of mind can be material, it is nonsensical to think that mind is material.
    If beliefs are not made of matter, do you believe that they can be reduced to matter (not necessarily the same thing)? Because the argument is supposed to handle that, too.

  • Andrew Ryan

    No, abstract concepts and ideas are not made of matter. But that has no bearing on whether consciousness is a product of material. It doesn’t follow that brains must have supernatural help in order to produce a mind capable of abstract thought.

  • Paradox

    If we cannot reduce a key aspect OF mind to matter, then there is at least ONE part of the mind that cannot be reduced to matter. It follows that materialism is not true, as this contradicts the defining postulate of materialism.

    Your complaint simply missed the point.

  • Our minds understand concepts. Concepts are not matter. Why does this mean our minds cannot be an arising property of our brains? You seem to be saying that either concepts are material or they must be magical. What would you expect a mind produced by a purely material brain to look like?

  • What it comes down to is whether or not you care if your beliefs are actually true and consistent with reality (to the extent that this is possible). If you truly believe it is not self-evident that assertions or claims can be justified without supporting evidence, then it’s clear you do not care whether or not your beliefs are true.

    On your point about probability, you are still making the mistake of confusing a specific point within a worldview. If broad idea X is true, and specific point A is logically consistent with X being true, it is no more likely than if X was not true, other than to say it is possible, not probable.

    If we were to find out tomorrow, with absolute certainty, that a god did indeed exist, yet we knew absolutely nothing about it other than it existed, there’s little a million specific details that become “possible”, but none of them is any more probable now. For example, in this scenario some people would then assert that their version of heaven must exist, since we know that a god exists. Yet Muslims and Hindus and Jews and Christians would all have different ideas about the characteristics of this supposed heaven, any one of which could be true, or it could even be the case that no heaven exists, and the god that was confirmed was a god that had never been proposed before. Again, possibility does not imply probability.

  • Insert “god” in their for “soul”. Better yet, replace “soul” with “Loch Ness Monster’. You are right in that some claims are proposed with (currently) un-testable hypothesis, but this does not mean we need to take an agnostic position regarding it. Gnosticism simply deals with knowledge, so saying that we can not know, with absolute certainty, if a soul exists or not is fairly meaningless. If practicality we can only base our beliefs on what we do know, and it is quite clear that anything resembling a “soul” has ever been demonstrated to exist, and therefore the burden of proof has not been met and a lack of belief in the soul is justified.

  • We can reduce a key aspect of mind to matter, perhaps the most important aspect: There is no documented case in the history of our planet of a mind existing without a material brain.

    Furthermore, decades of neurological and psychological experiments have demonstrated that one’s conscious experience can be manipulated through physical interference in the brain.

  • Paradox

    My arguments for Dualism do not require that the mind can exist independently of A brain, only that the mind is not IDENTICAL to the brain that sustains it.
    Furthermore, these decades of research are perfectly consistent with dualism. How many times will I have to say it?

  • Paradox

    I would expect a purely material brain to be in the following fashion:
    They are irrational, they lack subjective experience, they do not possess beliefs.

    They would be irrational, because they are controlled entirely by irrational forces.
    They would lack subjective experience, because matter is objective, and to be subjective is of a completely different category than matter.
    They would not possess beliefs, because beliefs have something which cannot supervene off of matter (otherwise, we make a Category Mistake), which is truth-value.

    I have explained all of this before.

  • Paradox

    Oh, really? Can you prove to everybody (excluding myself, for obvious reasons) that I don’t care whether my beliefs are consistent with reality, and true? By your own standards, you should not believe what you just said.

    I CARE, I just disagree with what warrants a belief. To say otherwise is to make straw-men, or else tilt at the windmills. Why should everybody agree with your completely arbitrary standard? That you didn’t try to show that the assertion IS grounded by evidence, I think, is proof enough that you know that there are exceptions to your dictum.

    My argument is not based on consistency between ideas, and anybody who isn’t TRYING ON PURPOSE to disprove his enemy can see that. You’ve blinded yourself.
    The argument is “We are almost certain that Worldview X is true. Worldview X requires that idea I be true. Therefore, we can be almost certain that idea I is true.”

  • Paradox

    Let’s see, there are the several arguments I’ve presented for belief in a soul, most of which have been posted here. I’d say that the burden has been shouldered, and evidence provided!

  • How about an example to illustrate the point:

    Say I propose a new philosophy, the general principal of this new worldview states that the world around us is made up of matter and energy. However, my new philosophy also posits an additional, specific point about the cause of this reality. On a tiny planet 999 zillion light years away in a different dimension, an alien lifeform sits at a computer which created our universe and controls all matter and energy in it.

    Now, as far as we know, the basis for that philosophy is true: the world is made up of matter and energy. However, my worldview requires the caveat that this is all being controlled by an alien in another dimension. Unfortunately, this is an un-testable claim, but, by all other measures, the general grounding for my worldview is accurate. Therefore, by your logic, we must also accept the un-provable caveat of the alien at the computer.

    This is such an obviously problematic way to approach beliefs. I’m not trying to misrepresent your argument, and I have no idea at all what you mean when you say I’ve “blinded” myself.

    Perhaps my example only added to your confusion, but I now see an even simpler way to refute your claim.

    You said:
    “We are almost certain that Worldview X is true. Worldview X requires that idea I be true. Therefore, we can be almost certain that idea I is true”

    One simple problem: How can we be “almost sure” that Worldview X is true IF a fundamental, required component of X, Idea I, is un-testable or otherwise unknown? Rational thought simply does not work that way, and that is not some “arbitrary” assertion of mine.To disagree is to refute the scientific method itself.

    The evidence to support the claim “claims should be supported with evidence” is the wealth of scientific knowledge that humankind has gathered over thousands of years. Science is the single most objectively consistent and reliable way we have to learn anything about the nature of reality. Sure, you can guess or hope or pray, but the track record for such methods isn’t so great…

  • So what are we make of the statement, “Science is the single most objectively consistent and reliable way we have to learn anything about the nature of reality”?

    It is not a statement of science, and therefore, by your assertion, it is less consistent and reliable than a truly scientific statement. This seems to put your claim in a tailspin.

    Or, you could admit that other disciplines, such as the philosophy of science, also provide consistent and reliable ways to learn about reality. Will you take that path? If not, we can pretty much ignore everything you’re writing on this blog, as none of it is scientific.

  • When I say “science” I mean the “scientific method” of inquiry, gathering data and experimentation, testing and retesting, and only then making conclusions based upon the information that has been gathered. If I may quote from the Wikipedia article on “Scientific Method”:

    “The chief characteristic which distinguishes the scientific method from other methods of acquiring knowledge is that scientists seek to let reality speak for itself, supporting a theory when a theory’s predictions are confirmed and challenging a theory when its predictions prove false.”

    You can play word games all you want, but there is no way to avoid the simple, observable fact that the scientific method is the BEST method we have of acquiring knowledge. If you think there is a better way, by all means, please enlighten me.

    The philosophy of science, as well as any other philosophy, adheres to the scientific method. Although perhaps in a more abstract way than conducting physical experiments, a strong reliance upon reasoning, logic, and rational inquiry is still applied.

    If you truly believed that anything unscientific should be ignored, you wouldn’t write the majority of the stuff that you do, so please take the higher road instead of taking a petty jab at me while holding yourself to a different standard.

  • Andrew Ryan

    “They would be irrational, because they are controlled entirely by irrational forces.”

    Again, this seems to be the fallacy of composition. Computers calculate yet they are formed of components that do no calculate. And what is ‘irrational’ about the forces that form or ‘control’ the brain? The brain obeys the laws of physics, yes, but why is that ‘irrational’?

  • I apologize for my comment coming across as a petty jab. Perhaps it was petty, but there is a point to be made.

    There is a very strong stream of scientism among the skeptical community which rears its head frequently on this blog, and I thought you were falling into that camp. However, it seems like you are using the word science in a very broad way that is most unusual.

    You are equating science with the scientific method, and you are then allowing that the scientific method consists of a “strong reliance upon reasoning, logic, and rational inquiry.” In addition, you say that we should “let reality speak for itself, supporting a theory when a theory’s predictions are confirmed and challenging a theory when its predictions prove false.”

    I completely agree with this approach to acquiring knowledge. In fact, the great Christian theologians, including Augustine and Aquinas would also agree. By the way, I would not refer to this approach as science or the scientific method, as those terms have more specific meanings. I would refer to it as philosophy.

    I think you, me, and Paradox are all on board with this approach (and hopefully everyone else in the world).

    Merry Christmas.

  • Paradox

    If this is a fallacy, it is not one of composition, as I am not saying that the whole necessarily lacks what the parts do not have.
    Your attempt to repeat your “defeater” fails.

    The brain would be irrational because it is controlled by forces that are not rational. Your brain is as ‘rational’ as the corns on my grandmother’s feet, and so is my brain.
    If you were in control, the brain would be rational.

  • Paradox

    You act as if you are INCAPABLE of understanding what I said. Where do you live, so that I can call the insane asylum?

    To reiterate, I said that we would be JUSTIFIED in believing in something, given the near-certainty of a worldview’s testable truth-claims. How is it that you keep making straw-men??

    On to the rest?
    To disagree is to put the scientific method in its PROPER place, which is on top of a worldview, and its given postulates.

    What if some key idea is untestable? The scientific method is based on several untestable hypotheses; any attempt to test them must assume that they are true in the first place, yet we are allowed to believe these. (I can’t help but notice that you haven’t thought about that.) If it is the key DEFINING feature of a view, and there is a view which is the same in all places but this one idea is different, one would be justified to accept the idea, or take a different view, with its own idea.

    What I’m doing is acknowledging the limits of empirical knowledge, and trying to devise a way of keeping people from falling into the gap. I really don’t know what the Verificationists are doing these days.

  • junebug

    Well I have a guess that since I am aware of the possibility of infinity and life after death that it is more likely that I have something more than just my physical body.

  • Donny

    Yes, we can make a rational case for the existence of a soul..absolutely! That’s what our imagination is for. However, it depends…does anyone consider our imagination rational?
    IMO, it’s a paradox! I maintain that our imagination is most real.
    Can I prove it, No! But I don’t care to. (Big smile)