Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Human Freedom and the Immortality of the Soul

The recent development of theories that explain the human mind as a supervenient or emergent aspect of the activity of the brain*1 presents a significant challenge to the classical arguments*2 for the ontological independence of the human soul. Simply put, if consciousness and intelligence can be shown to be completely dependent on brain function, then the claim that the human soul has sufficient independence and integrity to survive bodily death would appear to be nothing more than a mere metaphysical possibility.

In this post I will address the question of the immortality of the soul. First, through a phenomenological investigation of human freedom; and, secondly, by showing that recent advances in our understanding of neurological function presents new possibilities for explaining how a human beings can be both free and in control of their own choices and actions.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Lessons from a Snowflake

Of all the wonders in the world, sometimes the simplest things can teach us the most profound lessons. Consider the lowly snowflake. Simplicity, beauty, and unfathomable mystery all crystallized in a few molecules of water. What can it teach us?

Lesson #1:

The world is not a passing illusion derived from random purposeless events.

In a single snowflake there is order, harmony, and directedness that reveals the intelligence and purpose behind every existing thing. The feeling that life is chaotic and meaningless that is frequently communicated in modern art, music, and philosophy is a sign that far too many people have missed this lesson. Their lives may be chaotic and out of control, but the universe is not that way.

Lesson #2.

The world is not a machine in which everything is rigidly determined by impersonal forces and laws.

If determinism and fatalism were true, then every snowflake would be exactly the same. There are of course, certain natural laws that maintain limits on how snowflakes can be formed. But within those boundaries there is unlimited freedom for each snowflake to be uniquely what it is and never to be repeated in any other. If there is freedom and individuality at the simplest physical level in nature, how much greater is the uniqueness of every human being. One of the great lies of modernity is that we are just the products of our genetics and the environment. Don’t you believe it.

Lesson #3.

If the world was either pure chaos or rigidly determined there would be no wonder and there would be no joy.

Wonder is the experience of seeking understanding in a world in which everything cannot be fully explained. In a chaotic world nothing can be explained. In a mechanical world everything can be explained. This is a wonderful world which we can partly understand, but which always retains its mystery. Joy is not found in confusion, nor is it found in cold hard facts. Joy is found in knowing the mystery.

Lesson #4.

People who have learned these lessons know that there is a God. There can be no other explanation for the world as it actually exists.

Atheists live in a world of their own creating. It is either chaotic which leads to the nihilism of the west. Or it is deterministic which produces the totalitarianism of the east. These two points of view miss the reality that the other sees. They cancel each other out and cannot be true. The real world is a world of faith, hope, and joy. This is the world created by Love itself.

Photo: SnowCrystals.com