Mind-Body Dualism: the fundamental assumption of most superstition

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Ghosts. Spirits. Astral Projection. Heaven. Hell.

Souls.

What do all these things have in common?

They are all based on the fundamental assumption that within each of us, there exists something that is not explicitly linked to the flesh – that there exists, with us, something that is more than the emergent behavior caused by trillions of cells working together to live as long as possible and reproduce as much as possible.

I find this position fundamentally untenable. In order to convince me of its plausibility, I’d like to see what responses people have to the following questions:

1. Neurological diseases can affect who people are in a fundamental way. If there is such a thing as a soul, why is it that purely physical effects can change it?

2. If who you are is changed in a fundamental way, what determines whether or not you get into the afterlife? After all, if physical causes you have no control over change your soul, would any just deity be right in refusing you entrance to Heaven?

If you would like more information on my point of view in this topic, this is a very thorough examination of the problem which I found quite enlightening. It is, of course, written from an atheistic point of view.

 
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Err, it was an example. Phineas Gage’s personality was reported to have dramatically changed for the worst after a rod was shoved through his head. What happened to his soul?

 
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The idea that the mind is somehow separate from the body has long been refuted.

 
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I don’t think it is necessary to include heaven and hell in the discussion. I hope this doesn’t disintegrate into another atheism vs christianity or what is heaven and hell thread…

>1. Neurological diseases can affect who people are in a fundamental way. If there is such a thing as a soul, why is it that purely physical effects can change it?

Gage had an inch thick rod through his skull, so it wasn’t a disease. We can identify different parts of the brain which influence aspects of our personality, emotions, or control over bodily functions. Gage likely had some part of his brain that managed self control destroyed. Honestly, I don’t think this type of thing is relevant to things like energy and spirits all that much. Schizophrenics or people taking psychedelics may often speak of these types of supernatural forces, but it isn’t a requirement for the experience. It may seem easy to write off the soul and its connection to the body with some medical scenarios, but the atheist article is full of misunderstandings and faulty analysis.

>2. If who you are is changed in a fundamental way, what determines whether or not you get into the afterlife? After all, if physical causes you have no control over change your soul, would any just deity be right in refusing you entrance to Heaven?

This is one of those flaws, using contradictions in organized religions. Concepts like heaven and hell are creations of those wishing to exert authority over other humans. So, again it is largely irrelevant. I explained most of the relevant parts in another post when we talked about this article I think. Spirit worship predates the created concept of this sentient God who made the Earth. You want to look at animism and primitive shamanism for the answers, not christianity usually.

>The idea that the mind is somehow separate from the body has long been refuted.

Ever hear of the phrase “mind, body, and soul”? I don’t deny that our brain plays a role, but I haven’t really seen any good arguments against the existence of a soul here yet, so refute it if you can. Are you actually knowledgeable on the subject and made a dedicated effort towards your spirituality? I doubt it. If atheism and christianity were sins, they would be laziness and greed. Over time, humans have found various ways to drown out our natural senses and abilities, but they are still there waiting for anyone to discover through various paths.

My journey started from trauma and I question the meaning or purpose of my experience to this day. This period of heightened senses lasted about 2 years. A decent analogy might be that I accidentally fell in water, wondered what was at the bottom, then made a conscious decision to come back to the surface when I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. As you may learn, “god” is not purely good or evil so any afterlife is also not some either/or situation. Eventually, the extremes of terror and wonder became more than I wanted to mess with and I followed the path I could out.

Could I go back to this state of being? Probably, and not in one day if even one year. The experience was worthwhile and I am grateful for having had it, but the majority of the time was, in a word, unpleasant. I wouldn’t believe this type of stuff either if it hadn’t hit me over the head. This state of being just doesn’t fit into our modern world well. Anyhow, my main question for skeptics is how you explain remnants of our abilities like sensing that someone is looking at you? This happens to just about everyone, but I don’t see any logical, scientific explanation. Here are a couple articles that will hopefully enlighten you and get the discussion on track. one two

 
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I did a blog post about this topic pretty much. http://aetherpress.blogspot.com/2008/06/mind-body-and-soul.html

You’re absolutely right, and you have the Greeks and Descartes to blame. The ‘little me’ inside the ‘big me’ superstition is behind so much of our assumed belief systems. To be honest, the root of it all was giving people names. People die, names don’t. When a person with a name dies and their name is still in your head, you can’t accept that they are gone altogether, so we say that the body has died and the name, the bit inside the body, lives on, which gives birth to God, Ghosts, Souls and Spaghetti Monsters.

 
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Gage had an inch thick rod through his skull, so it wasn’t a disease. We can identify different parts of the brain which influence aspects of our personality, emotions, or control over bodily functions. Gage likely had some part of his brain that managed self control destroyed.

that’s kinda the point, innit? if you have a “little me”, call it soul, whatever, inside you that is seperate from your body, how come your personality can be changed by accidents or diseases? in the end, the question is: what was impaled and damaged, his brain or his brain and soul? if there is that little me, we have to assume that your soul can actually be impaled.

@Navarre: kind of ironic, isn’t it, that the fundaments of enlightenment also back up certain kinds of superstition…

 
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Navarre, you seem to agree with the atheistic concept of ignoring the soul because it can’t be quantified, but parts of your blog post actually sounds like an argument for a “spiritverse” or the interconnectedness of energy in all living things. The part about the rationalization of dead people with names may hold some water, but there is a lot more to the situation if you look at primitive religion. It isn’t so simple to explain these things, and what is deemed superstition is purely subjective.

>that’s kinda the point, innit? if you have a “little me”, call it soul, whatever, inside you that is seperate from your body, how come your personality can be changed by accidents or diseases? in the end, the question is: what was impaled and damaged, his brain or his brain and soul? if there is that little me, we have to assume that your soul can actually be impaled.

I don’t agree with labeling one little and one big. If anything, you would want to reverse the labels. Gage didn’t lose or have his soul impaled. He had his brain damaged. He lost his self control and his personality changed from the accident but surely he still had a soul if he ever did. The original article is wrong first and foremost for calling the brain and our consciousness our soul. If you read the second article I posted, you may see the simple ignorance in that line of thinking.

 
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Heaven and Hell fundamentally require the existence of a soul, and therefore, I think, deserve a mention. I was simply expounding on the scope of the topic under discussion.

My mention of “Heaven” was only to give a concrete example for those people who believe such things. If your behavior can be changed by purely physical effects, then what happens to your karma? Would the valkyries refuse to take you to Valhalla if getting stabbed in the face turns you into an inveterate coward?

Of course, if you’re not religious such a statement wouldn’t make you think.

If the article on Ebon Musings is full of misunderstandings and faulty analysis, it should be easy to pull out some particularly juicy ones for dissection.

Ever hear of the phrase “mind, body, and soul”?

There’s no such thing as a proof by cliche.

Anyhow, my main question for skeptics is how you explain remnants of our abilities like sensing that someone is looking at you?

Confirmation bias. Every time you feel that someone is looking at you, and someone is, you remember it. Every time you feel that someone is looking at you, but no one is, you forget it.

If anything, you would want to reverse the labels. Gage didn’t lose or have his soul impaled. He had his brain damaged. He lost his self control and his personality changed from the accident but surely he still had a soul if he ever did.

As far as I can tell, you just agreed that who you are fundamentally is controlled by the brain; if that is the case, then what is the purpose of the soul? Why is the soul responsible for who you are, if it has no control over that?

 
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>Heaven and Hell fundamentally require the existence of a soul Maybe, but a belief in souls doesn't necessitate a belief in that sort of afterlife, so christianity can safely be left out of the discussion for the most part. >My mention of “Heaven” was only to give a concrete example for those people who believe such things. The way you wrote this kind of makes me reluctant to even discuss at all. Christians seem to vary wildly in their ability to be rational, but I think many would find a way to excuse Gage's bad behavior unto the lord because of his injury. Again, this subject goes beyond mistaken, organized religions. I won't answer to anything but the laws of nature personally. You are incorporating the concept of a soul into that of the mind and body because nobody has any tangible evidence of the soul's existence either way. Unlike many christians, I won't fault you for disbelieving something for a lack of evidence. I know that atheists have a set of rationalizations for everything as evidenced in this article. If someone here can keep an open mind and spend the time to read the long articles I posted, I will discuss that sort of thing, but not christianity unless it is truly relevant. >If your behavior can be changed by purely physical effects, then what happens to your karma? I am not sure that I believe in karma, so maybe you would have to ask someone else. Also, I don't understand this question. I think that you are still viewing evil people as not having souls or something. All of the flawed arguments I am seeing so far are equating mind to soul. They are connected for sure, but completely separate entities. >There’s no such thing as a proof by cliche. I was just pointing out how the whole atheist article is misguided by using medical examples of the body having an effect on the mind at the same time as calling the mind a soul. Hopefully this is the last time I have to say this, but I guess I will try to ignore it. Don't use attacks on christianity against me. I had found this site from the transcript of the "how to convince an atheist" video and told you that I largely agreed with what it said, but it didn't apply to me at all since I am not christian. The original questions are based on the other article, and I have pretty much said all that I have to say about it unless you want to quote specific parts. >Confirmation bias. Every time you feel that someone is looking at you, and someone is, you remember it. Every time you feel that someone is looking at you, but no one is, you forget it. Nope, maybe you have more difficulty with this sense than others. I can't think of a time where I sensed someone was looking at me and didn't immediately move my eyes to theirs. This isn't selectively remembering only positive outcomes because I am an aware student of this type of phenomena. You can accuse me of bias from the beliefs I espouse, but this situation happens to everyone. If you have some negative outcomes of what you sense, there are other explanations. You may confuse some paranoia or guilt with the same language in your brain because all 3 things are connected. Also, my mode of thinking allows for other causes of a person to sense someone is thinking about them or some such thing. It may be as difficult for you to discern these two senses but they are the same thing, just over a greater distance. It may be similar to not being able to make out a distant sound or it may be as impossible for you to determine the color of a piece of fabric from the texture. I know that we talked here once about how dog's can sense and imagine smells as easily as we can read and infer from context. I posted Ingo Swann's writings before but I doubt anyone will care to spend the time to read it; although it could get you started in how to relearn your natural abilities, or maybe unlearn the barriers of thousands of years. Part of the reason I decided to return to normalcy was that was that trying to understand or control nature is probably impossible. To make progress, one needs to be able to drop preconceptions about everything and find a way to make sense of the absurd contradictions in the information you receive best you can. From the free library link: >We will observe and discover the ways in which the soul is created from, and longs to return to, both realms. We shall see that ancient wisdom holds creation to be a two-fold process involving explosive emergence outward from the packed density of darkest chaos, the Big-Bang, and an expansiveness out toward the vast openness of endless possibilities. Destruction, entropy, and defeat at the hands of trauma is the same journey in the opposite direction. The soul descends into the under-the-ground realm, becoming lost in despair and hopelessness, or it becomes distracted and lost in the beyond-the-horizon realm in spiritual bypass. >There is a wonderful paradoxical Talmudic saying, "Serve G-d both with your bad impulses and with your good impulses." --------------------------------------- >As far as I can tell, you just agreed that who you are fundamentally is controlled by the brain; if that is the case, then what is the purpose of the soul? I think that I already covered this enough already. "Who you are" certainly has more factors than your brain's natural processes. I don't know if I can satisfy your question for the purpose of your soul. My soul-brain is telling me that I am hungry and should go grab a beer and start the grill, but maybe I will feel like trying later. >Why is the soul responsible for who you are, if it has no control over that? I never said that the soul has no influence. You may find it in the unconscious mind or you may rationalize it by psychology. It does still exhibit itself in our everyday lives, whether you want to accept that or not. Unlike brain trauma, there is no scientific explanation for why we sense someone looking at us.
 
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Ever hear of the phrase “mind, body, and soul”? I don’t deny that our brain plays a role, but I haven’t really seen any good arguments against the existence of a soul here yet, so refute it if you can.

The fact that the “soul” addition is entirely superfluous.

Memory, personality, the sense of self, all of it is a part of the “mind”, the physical brain. What is left to characterise as “soul”?

 
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>The fact that the “soul” addition is entirely superfluous.

To you it may be, but not to others.

>Memory, personality, the sense of self, all of it is a part of the “mind”, the physical brain. What is left to characterise as “soul”?

I gave answers to this already and I am not going to spoonfeed you.

 
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ee80, you haven’t really said anything in defense of the position that souls exist. Indeed, after re-reading your posts, it seems to me that you’re arguing from the position that souls are assumed to exist, and the idea must be disproven.

However, this is as logically infeasible as disproving the existence of God; therefore, we must examine the evidence that souls do exist.

There really isn’t any as far as I can tell, I can’t find any in what you’ve said in this thread. I will admit that I haven’t done more than skim those two links you provided, but one of seems to be talking about a drug that induces euphoric spiritual effects (the titular spirit vine), and the other is talking about changes to the soul caused by trauma – which implicitly assumes that the soul exists in the first place. It also starts talking about stuff like the collective unconscious, “that vast storehouse of historical and potential experience”, as if it were an accepted fact, which leads me to doubt its validity.

 
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>ee80, you haven’t really said anything in defense of the position that souls exist. Indeed, after re-reading your posts, it seems to me that you’re arguing from the position that souls are assumed to exist, and the idea must be disproven.

I explained to you why you can’t just dismiss one sensing that another is looking at them by confirmation bias. It is pretty commonly accepted still, by people of any faith, that this event occurs many times every day. If you accept the fact that it occurs, and I expect you to, we must seek to explain it. I don’t see how you are going to put up a better argument for confirmation bias and scientific research seems to be lacking. I put my faith into projects like the LHC in the far distant future to maybe solve the problem.

>However, this is as logically infeasible as disproving the existence of God; therefore, we must examine the evidence that souls do exist.

Please examine this evidence. It is about as scientific as I can find.

If you can’t do better than skim an article or talk in soundbytes, why even make the thread? You just dismissed the whole of shamanism as the ayahuasca vine. Drugs are not necessary to enter shamanic trances.

 
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Navarre, you seem to agree with the atheistic concept of ignoring the soul because it can’t be quantified, but parts of your blog post actually sounds like an argument for a “spiritverse” or the interconnectedness of energy in all living things. The part about the rationalization of dead people with names may hold some water, but there is a lot more to the situation if you look at primitive religion. It isn’t so simple to explain these things, and what is deemed superstition is purely subjective.

There need be nothing spiritual about thinking about the universe as one single entity. Pure quantum science has destroyed the idea of distinct physical entities and replaced it with the idea of the universe as an incredibly complex pattern of probability. There is no real physical distinction between anything. My point was more than the divisiveness of our western world breeds apathy for the suffering of others and that if we thought of humanity or the world as a single entity, we would care more for it.

 
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I explained to you why you can’t just dismiss one sensing that another is looking at them by confirmation bias.

You can, if you include the fact that when you jerk your head around to look, chances are good that someone ill look over due to the sudden movement in their eye. from the pov of the person with the feeling, they will look around as see someone looking at them, when in fact the act of looking around caused that to happen to begin with.

A self fulfilling prophecy.

There is no property of a person that cannot be explained in terms of a physical mind, what is left for the idea of a “soul” then?

 
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In direct response to the OP, without regard to the ongoing discussion below it because I am too lazy to digest it:

I believe that you are making a fundamental assumption about the nature of souls, and specifically attempting to question the possibility of a specific type of soul: a soul that is intrinsically tied to one’s personality. While my own thoughts on souls are pretty much muddled and undecided, at least part of me thinks that ‘the soul’ is an image of what one should be. Such a soul would not change due to changes in one’s personality, but at the same time, there’s nothing that would necessarily make such a soul supernatural at all.

What I’m getting at is: If there is such a thing as a soul, does it actually change due to physical effects?

 
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Navarre, I understand what you are saying. I had just meant to say that I could plagiarize it and change a few key words and it sounds like an argument for a connected spirit world or something. I think what you are talking about is way more important than proving yetis exist.

Einar, sorry if I seem harsh but I really feel that that article has a lot of misunderstandings. I read it through at least 2 times already and it comes back to the same fault of ignoring man’s natural state. Civilization has changed us a lot over time but many people still believe in this stuff, even if just casually.

>A self fulfilling prophecy.

Not at all.

>You can, if you include the fact that when you jerk your head around to look, chances are good that someone ill look over due to the sudden movement in their eye. from the pov of the person with the feeling, they will look around as see someone looking at them, when in fact the act of looking around caused that to happen to begin with.

Nice try but no. There need be no specific sound or other stimuli directed towards the original “sender” except maybe the movement of a person’s eye half a centimeter. Most people have no reason to think they are being looked at at these random moments. It is likely that we receive this type of information much more often than we realize. Your example is really not what I am talking about. Sure, if someone panics and makes a scene, people are going to look at you. Haven’t you ever been walking down the street innocently, you get this sense and you look over a bit and see a cute girl, then she tries not to smile and you know she had been looking at you? My example isn’t perfect so I hope you aren’t screaming confirmation bias because of the smile part. It is normal for people to look at one another in passing, but I really hope you can understand what I am talking about.

>There is no property of a person that cannot be explained in terms of a physical mind, what is left for the idea of a “soul” then?

You already asked me this and I told you the question had been answered. Scientists do not understand our brain fully. I know that you like to argue with me just for the sake of it and never make any effort to read articles I post but here are more. I really don’t give a damn what people believe, only want to help people understand things they aren’t aware of. If you have some other belief, fine, but at least make an effort to understand what you are arguing against. link

 
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Err, I’ve never got the feeling of being observed by someone. Does it mean I haven’t got a soul? Hmm, whatever. I don’t want one anyway.

 
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There need be no specific sound or other stimuli directed towards the original “sender” except maybe the movement of a person’s eye half a centimeter.

It may not explain all examples, but it adds to the confirmation bias hypothesis.

Haven’t you ever been walking down the street innocently, you get this sense and you look over a bit and see a cute girl, then she tries not to smile and you know she had been looking at you?

I’ve never “had a sense” that anyone was watching me, no.

Scientists do not understand our brain fully.

They may not understand all of it, but they do know in principle how most things work, or where they work, in the brain.

If you have some other belief, fine, but at least make an effort to understand what you are arguing against. link

Scanning the article you linked, this popped out at me.

The first paragraph reads: “Neuroscientists in Italy listened in on monkeys’ brain cells that they say may lie at the root of empathy, the ability to discern others’ thoughts and intentions.”

This author’s eyes bugged out upon scanning this first paragraph – because “sensing the thoughts and intentions of others” is the formal definition not of EMPATHY but of TELEPATHY.

This kind of thing prejudices me against the whole thing. The article in question is speaking of the “mirror neuron” idea. That parts of our brain emulate what we believe other people to be going through, that we may predict their future actions. Nothing supernatural about it, nothing “telepathic” about it. Yet he runs with it as if it is significantly in favour of his idea, when really it would explain why some people are so easily convinced that telepathy is real, by mistaking their intuitive emulation of another person for “reading” their thoughts.

Some people are exceptionally good at this kind of thing. You may be familiar with Derren Brown , an english “psychological illusionist”. In his shows he discusses these things a lot.

 
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ee80, I’m not sure if that is more about a “sixth sense” as it is your sight and subconcious working better than you can conciously. For example, I couldn’t conciously recall the controls for all the games I can play fairly decently (OK, maybe I can) or even the games I haven’t played in years (Yeah, I can’t remember those) but I could remember the controls for every game I’ve ever played subconciously. Likewise, you probably couldn’t conciously look at somebody and say “they were trying to pretend they weren’t looking at the person who they are now looking at and were looking at before,” but when you actually see somebody in the act of doing it, your subconcious registers… something that tips you off.

 
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Einar, sorry if I seem harsh but I really feel that that article has a lot of misunderstandings. I read it through at least 2 times already and it comes back to the same fault of ignoring man’s natural state. Civilization has changed us a lot over time but many people still believe in this stuff, even if just casually.

If there are a lot of misunderstandings, it should be easy for you to pull out the most glaring ones and critique them.

As to your three links: I had hoped to start a discussion about whether or not souls exist. The first two of those links presuppose the existence of souls, and from there go on to describe things that happen to souls. The last one, about Ingo Swann’s remote viewing of Jupiter, has nothing to do with souls as far as I can tell. Just because Ingo Swann may be able to view something remotely does not necessarily imply that souls exist, and furthermore his ability to view things remotely is not necessarily true.

Your current argument is based in part on anecdotal evidence of being able to tell when someone is looking at you. You have not explained how this implies the existence of a soul, but honestly that’s not necessary because I doubt anyone really has this ability. Consider a simple test: You sit in a room, away from a one-way mirror. Behind the mirror is someone who, for a minute at a time, either looks at you or does not look at you. On the wall in front of you there is a clock. Every minute, you mark whether or not you’re being watched.

Do you think you could do well at this? I’ve just described an actual test run at the University of Kentucky. None of the forty-ish people so tested performed better than chance.

 
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In my opinion the soul could be effected indirectly by physical things by non-physical things such as thought and emotions. These non-physical things occur in reaction to a physical thing and could possibly effect how “pure” the soul is. Depending on how the soul reacts and changes in these situations determines weather or not the sould is worthy/unworthy to move on to a greater existence. Just a thought of course.

 
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I don’t agree with labeling one little and one big. If anything, you would want to reverse the labels.

why? if it exists inside my body without its rims showing, it must be of smaller or equal size. anyway, that’s not important.

Gage didn’t lose or have his soul impaled. He had his brain damaged. He lost his self control and his personality changed from the accident but surely he still had a soul if he ever did. The original article is wrong first and foremost for calling the brain and our consciousness our soul. If you read the second article I posted, you may see the simple ignorance in that line of thinking.

that is my point, actually. if your soul is seperate from your body and is the trait that determines your personality and actions, how come it changes when the body is affected? on a side note, i never said he had lost his soul.

 
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Hmm, this reminds me of something I once read about the Egyptian soul. For the ancient Egyptians, a soul was made of five parts (forgot the names for them): your heart (emotions and will), your shadow (which contained “part” of you), your name (I think this idea was already introduced in this thread), your personality, and your life force. For instance, the traditional view of a mind would be the part of the soul related to “personality”, and when people die, they loose the “life force” aspect of their soul. And the “name” aspect continually exists on Earth as long as it is remembered and spoken.

 
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>And the “name” aspect continually exists on Earth as long as it is remembered and spoken.

Can you guys cite any reference for your idea that souls and spirits come mainly or solely from trying to keep the deceased alive? I don’t even feel like responding to all of the same junk again when you have such bad understandings of primitive man. Maybe I will get to it later.