Body and Soul: A "Whole" in One
- Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Like so many others in our culture, he was firmly committed to Sagan’s creed - "the Cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be." In addition, he had embraced the mantra of Madonna - "I am a material girl living in a material world." From his perspective human beings are merely material brains and bodies. As we rolled on down the road, I attempted to convince Matt that there are compelling reasons to believe that human beings have an immaterial aspect to their being that transcends the material.
I pointed out that from the perspective of logic we can demonstrate that the mind is not identical to the brain by proving that the mind and brain have different properties. As Christian philosopher J. P. Moreland persuasively argues in his book, Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality (Crossway Books, 1998), co-authored with Gary R. Habermas, "The subjective texture of our conscious mental experiences - the feeling of pain, the experience of sound, the awareness of color - is different from anything that is simply physical. If the world were only made of matter, these subjective aspects of consciousness would not exist. But they do exist! So there must be more to the world than matter." An obvious example is color. A moment's reflection is enough to convince a thinking person that the experience of color involves more than a mere wavelength of light.
I went on to argue that, from a legal perspective, if human beings were merely material they could not be held accountable this year for a crime committed last year simply because physical identity changes over time. We are not the same person today that we were yesterday. Every day we lose multiplied millions of microscopic particles-in fact, it is said that every seven years virtually every part of our material anatomy, apart from aspects of our neurological system, changes. Therefore, Moreland concludes, from a purely material perspective "the self who did the crime in the past is not literally the same self who is present at the time of punishment." Appealing to Matt's legal background, I suggested that a criminal who attempted to use this line of reasoning as a defense would not get very far. Such legal maneuvering simply does not fly in an age of scientific enlightenment. Legally and intuitively we recognize a sameness of soul that establishes personal identity over time.
Since we were nearing the golf course, I quickly moved on to one of Moreland's most powerful arguments - the argument from libertarian freedom. If we are merely material beings, I said, then freedom of the will does not exist. Instead we are fatalistically relegated to a world in which everything is determined by mechanistic material processes. Realizing that at this point Matt might have begun thinking about the golf tournament, I transitioned to a golf illustration to make sure I had his attention.
The distance a golf ball flies is fatalistically predetermined by such factors as club head speed, angle of impact, and wind velocity. Thus, in concert with Newton's laws of motion, the precise distance the ball will travel is fatalistically determined by the physical processes involved. Likewise, if I am merely material, my "choices" are merely functions of such factors as genetic makeup and brain chemistry. My decisions are therefore not free, they're fatalistically determined.
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