Neuroscience and the Soul – Full Interview with J.P. Moreland

Neuroscience and the Soul – Full Interview with J.P. Moreland

[relaxing music]>>Hello, my name is J. P. Moreland. [relaxing music] Professor of philosophy at
Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. My research interests here at the Center for
Christian Thought involve the relationship between
the soul and the brain, and I want to evaluate
scientific arguments that seem to indicate that there really is no such thing as a soul. [relaxing music] For 2,000 years, the church has understood the Bible to teach that there’s a soul. This is what Jesus appears to have taught, it’s what Paul appears to have taught, and the idea was that there’s
a soul that when we die, it leaves the body, it enters an intermediate
state between death and the final resurrection, where we will get a body again
and forever be reembodied. Now, this teaching implies
that there’s more to us than our brains and our bodies, that we are, in fact,
souls that have bodies. I have been interested in
this question for some time, and in some of my previous writings, I was concerned to evaluate some of the philosophical
and theological issues that surround whether
or not there’s a soul, as well as some of the
ethical implications for abortion and things of that sort from believing in a soul. Currently, I’ve become interested in the implications of
contemporary neuroscience for whether or not there is a soul. Now, some people claim that
the findings of neuroscience in the last 10, 15, 20 years, have made it less and
less plausible to believe that we are anything more than our brains. And the idea here is that consciousness is generated by the brain, and that consciousness
actually resides in the brain, whereas a classic Christian
understanding would be that consciousness resides in the soul, but it is in very deep integration and causal connection with the brain. So that if the brain shuts down, consciousness shuts down, and so on. These questions are at the very root of Christianity’s
interfacing with culture. And so, it’s important for more
and more Christian thinkers to weigh in on this and
to try to understand how to integrate contemporary
findings of science with classic Christian
theology and doctrine. [relaxing music] Neuroscience and the soul
is very, very important to the Christian church for two reasons. First of all, Gallup polls have indicated that there has been a
steady loss of belief in life after death, as there has been an increase in the belief that we’re our brains. The idea that many people
have, and sensibly enough, is that if you’re a brain,
and your brain dies, that’s the end of you. And so, if there is a soul, this means that there is
more to us than our brains, and it tends to lend support to the idea that there’s life after death. So the neuro scientific findings, if they do, in fact,
undermine belief in a soul, has for many people undermined
belief in life after death, and made the gospel sort of pointless. What is the point of the gospel if this life is all there is? The second reason that this is important is because it appears
that the Bible teaches that there’s a soul. And if we are to revise
the Bible’s teachings in this area under the
pressure of neuroscience, what’s next? It’s important to ask the question has science undermined
traditional biblical teaching? There is actually another reason why this matters to the average person. Darwin admitted when he came
up with his theory of evolution that it could not explain
the origin of mind, that what his theory could
do was to explain the origin of animal bodies and brains, but it couldn’t explain
the origin of mind. And so Darwin was a materialist, and argued that his theory
should be understood as promoting a materialist
view of living things, that living things are strictly brains and central nervous systems. If, on the other hand,
there’s a reason to think that consciousness and
the soul aren’t physical, that provides reasons for thinking there are limits to Darwinian explanation and that there is the need
for a god to create the soul and to create consciousness. And so this lends support to
a theistic view of the world. The soul has historically been understood as an immaterial substance that contains consciousness
and animates the body, or makes the body enlivened. And the problem for the
atheist is to explain how you could get mind from matter if you start with a Big Bang and the history of the universe as a history where
matter simply rearranges to form increasingly larger or more complicated chunks of matter, for many thinkers, what you’re gonna end up with are rearranged chunks of matter. There will be no account
for how you could get mind coming into existence. The Christian theist
doesn’t have that problem, because for the Christian believer in God, the fundamental reality is
not particles or matter, it’s a conscious soul, God himself. If the universe begins with a soul or a spirit that’s conscious, there is not difficulty in
explaining where this comes from, because it’s part of
your fundamental reality. But if you say, instead of in
the beginning was the logos, in the beginning were the particles, then you have a difficulty accounting for where consciousness
and soul or self come from. [relaxing music] There are also real implications from what we are to how
we should live our lives and how we grow as Christians
and as human beings. If I’m just a body and a brain, then probably at the end of the day, drugs and antidepressant medication, which I believe in, by the way, but drugs and things of that sort will be the ultimate tools
to help change people, because we just turn out to
be our brains and our bodies. If, however, there’s more to
me than my brain and my body, if in addition to having a brain that can be treated with medication, I have a soul, then there may very well be distinctive principles
about how you grow souls, and these principles of
how you cultivate the soul have been enscripturated in the history of the church’s teaching
on spiritual formation. So that we look at the
spiritual formation literature, and at the field of
psychology, I might add, and these fields appear
to be focusing in on how do you grow a soul? How do you develop a self? How does the ego, or the I, become transformed through
the process of prayer or something of that sort? So if there’s more to me
than my brain and body, these extra scientific
practices seem to make sense. If, on the other hand,
I’m just a brain and body, eventually it’s likely
that these practices will be done away with, and it will all be chemistry and physics at the end of the day. [relaxing music] Consciousness is not physical, consciousness is spiritual,
it’s immaterial, you might say. Now, we all know you can’t really pull a rabbit out of a hat. When a magician claims to
pull a rabbit out of the hat, we know that there had to be a rabbit in the hat to begin with. Now, why is that? Well, because you can’t get
something out of nothing, you can’t have nothing
there, and all of a sudden, presto, a rabbit appears. By the same token, if you start with matter from the Big Bang and all you do is rearrange it according to the laws of
chemistry and physics, you’re not gonna be able
to get a conscious rabbit out of that material hat. You will end up with a
very complicated hat, but there won’t be a rabbit. What we wanna say as Christian theists, at least my own view, is that the reason consciousness exists is because we started
with a rabbit, that is, a great big rabbit, namely
God, who is himself conscious, and we don’t have to pull a
rabbit out of an empty hat and explain how you get
consciousness from matter, because there never was such
a thing as just pure matter. God always existed. [relaxing music] Ideas matter a great deal. It’s important, then, that
Christians are able to think very deeply and carefully about the ideas that are being taught in the universities, through the media, in the public schools, through the entertainment industry. It’s important that Christians be able to think about those ideas and learn to spot the implications
that follow from them. And this is why I’m so excited about the Center for Christian Thought. It is unique in the
Christian College Coalition, there’s really nothing like it. The Center for Christian
Thought provides a place where Christians can come together, read, think, discuss, strategize, and generate ideas that will be useful to
the spread of the gospel and the promotion of the kingdom of God. And so, the Center for Christian Thought is an idea whose time has come, and it’s absolutely crucial
to the health of the church and the propagation of the gospel at this point in the 21st century. One of the things I admire
about Jesus’ teachings is that they were conversation starters. He would tell a parable, a story, and it would spark a
conversation in the people that were around when he left. Over the years of ministry, I have discovered that one
of the best ways to minister is to start conversations. In evangelism, if I can get people to start talking about
things and to ponder them, that opens them up to the gospel in a way that nothing else can. In discipling, in preaching a sermon, in having a small group in the church, sparking conversations
is absolutely critical to personal growth. By the same token, the
Center for Christian Thought is designed to spark conversations. One of the main things
we do here at the center is we take life changing ideas, ideas that are at the very heart of what is going on in the
church and in the culture, and generate thoughtful, intelligent, Christ-honoring conversations
about those ideas for the good of the church
and the general culture. Paul said do good to all men, especially those of
the household of faith. That’s the purpose of the
Center for Christian Thought, but the way that we do that is through conversation starting. We generate ideas, discussions, literature, lectures, all kinds of communication that promote the kingdom of God and what we believe, but they start right
here with conversations. [relaxing music]

Was with you all the way to the rabbit, and then – A Rabbit pulled a rabbit out of the hat?
1. Rabbit cannot come from nothing! 2. Consciousness is immaterial (Capital letter R-abbit). 3. The hat is, I think material…? I suppose on investigation it may be a – necessary immaterial 'rabbitness' being explained to me by a magician (apologist) as the best explanation for nothing coming out of the hat. At sme point “rabbit” is not being used in the same way.

There is no credible evidence for 'souls,' or a 'ghost in the machine,' at least on the level JP Moreland is talking about. Christianity could work without the idea of a 'soul' in our body, matter of fact it would make Christianity better off. With the nature of physicalism in the human body, God could still resurrect a person, as with a similar method to advanced technology, not by supernaturalism, but by naturalistic methods.

Christianity is compatible with the idea that we do not have an afterlife, as it could give a person a standard of morals, such as Jews do with the OT. Given the nature of God no longer doing miracles, due to the fact that each, and every person is naturally created by evolution, and physical, to make God incomparably of intervening, which explains the lack of scientific evidence for them. 'Spirits/Supernaturalism' are no longer necessary, as God is just a natural being, as we are.

J.P. Moreland is not a Neuroscientists, though no loss of respect for the man, why does this say Neuroscience and the Soul?

Shouldn't it say quest for the soul?

Some old problem: starting with a conclusion and emphasizing the "grave implications" then working backwards to create a "just so" story.

+GreatVomitto  Why do you atheists regularly insist on strawman tactics? Perhaps you could point to where in the video you saw Dr. Moreland reasoning along those God-Of-The-Gaps lines? Oh yeah you can't because that only happened in your immaterial mind. <3 Ciao

So what exactly is a soul? Is it the awareness of the awareness? You make it sound like its a secondary thing not "you". I would ask if we are the being (spirit) with in the machine then why is it that we are so completely manipulated by just tampering with the brain? We can now upload memory and scan dreams now and actually print them out on a screen so it doesn't appear that a soul has any explanation it's a useless additive that doesn't help us understand our minds. 

Well you're not just a brain you're a complex organism with many different parts and functions. Defining who you really are is very complicated we could one day map out your entire brain and possible upload your patterns and this data probably is "you" it is what makes your personality. This information doesn't require any theological answers to explain. 

Funding should be cut to neuroscience experiments….
Neuroscience is barking down the wrong hole. The mind is not the brain. Stop appropriations to this pseudoscience.

I would have to disagree with J.P. Moreland. We could have strictly physical and still have life after death. There's a decent argument for this in Moreland's Debating Christian Theism, which is a fantastic compendium of theological and philosophical arguments. I don't think that's correct, but it's still an interesting question.

Ever doubt how religion is corrosive to rational thought? This way of thinking is long dead outside the US. Sad to see how religion stifles the mind and limits its potential. This is just embarrassing.

J. P. Moreland is indeed a presupositionalist that relays on the acceptance that soul has to exist. There is no demonstrable soul and sadly this is a pathetically weak argument for the existence of his claim. He is so ignorant of the current findings and evidence along with their implications from the most recent scientific studies. Sam Harris has so much better explanations based of real empirical evidence. Philosophy was the founding great grandfather of science, but it often lacks the ability to demonstrate empirical truth. It most often relies on logic and reason which are a great way to come up with a hypothesis, but the scientific method out performs it every time.

Too bad this creature was made in a lab. No soul! Just a demon (transgender), and his GOD (Satan) is very happy with him/her.




This is a very inspirational interview and good explanations about souls in the science realm. Very interesting to, I was wanting more. thanks J.P. Moreland. You a re great.

I'm a Christian, and I truly respect professor J.P. Moreland, but I didn't really hear him go into the evidence from neuroscience. He offered definitions and beliefs in this video and that's about it.

Soul is not matter , our body is.soul don't reside inside the body soul control's our body through our brain, like we operate TV through a remote.May be !!!

A lot of people think comments don’t matter but I’m a real person asking All viewers who believe to please pray for me in my desperate situation. I’m am weakened and unable to fix this. I believe in the power of prayer and need your faith, please, help me. Thank you for caring.

It’s hard to rap my head around he idea that something material can be come aware of itself.. like a rocks or minerals, I think back to a seminar Dr James tour gave at Waterloo, where he goes on to say no matter how much money you get funded or how many intelligent people you have, you cannot create a cell without DNA , and yet this happened by pure luck and chance. Regardless of how much time is given rocks and minerals never become self aware.

The extensive scientific studies of near death experiences give great evidence of a soul separate from the body. So many reports with so many similarities and so often the dead or comatose person gives minute details of the going ons in the room and outside the room that is impossible for them to know. People who deny this data live in a cocoon of materialistic hyper skepticism unwarranted in truth seeking.

Hardware is of a different category than software, even a computer cannot be reduced to materialism since information is not physical. Information can be mathematically quantitated, it can be represented by arrangements in matter, but it is not matter nor reducible to matter. What is a physical law? What is mathematics? All these are real, quantifiable, interact with the physical but are not physical. Information exists, but is not matter. Thus materialism is inadequate to explain nature, let alone the spiritual.

Thanks for this short clip! I thank God for your approach, your willingness to dialogue and to learn. Sorry for my poor English! It is not my first language. I am a pastor of a small church and love the Lord and try to serve Him as much as He gives me strength and I strive for truth.
My question: As a Christian How far am I ready to listen and learn. How eager am I to search for truth? Are my convictions the limit? Is my understanding of the Bible the limit? What if some scientific discoveries totally contradict and challenge my belief system? Am I ready to test and try to understand even the things that might shatter my faith? Isn't Truth/God bigger than my understanding of the Bible?
Should I reject "truth" (new discoveries) because they may impact my culture, values system, lifestyle? The good thing about science is that, hopefully, the scientists are always open for challenges and are willing to adjust their theories and learn. Am I as a Christians as much eager to learn the truth about God and His creation, about different things? Am I really willing to know the truth to be set free?

Logos is the God.

If we start with the definition of Logos as "The Rational principle which governs all possible reality".

Now we can see that the Logos is Almighty, but we have not yet established it as a person.

I have a mind. You have a mind. Both of our minds are governed by Logos. Logos transcends all possible realities, and it orders our minds, so Logos must have the properties of a mind.

If Logos has the properties of a mind and Logos is Almighty, then Logos has the properties of an Almighty God.

According to J.P. Moreland, the soul is an “immaterial substance that contains consciousness and animates the body.”

immaterial – spiritual rather than physical
substance – the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists and which has a tangible, solid presence
matter – physical substance in general, as distinct from mind and spirit; (in physics) that which occupies space and possesses rest mass, especially as distinct from energy
New Oxford American Dictionary

The soul then, is a spiritual rather than physical kind of real physical matter which has a tangible, solid presence and is distinct from mind and spirit. In other words, the soul cannot even be defined or described without resorting to contradictory nonsense.

There is a conscientiousness outside the brain, and God. There was no Jesus though. Christianity is astrological theology fabricated from ancient Egypt and beyond. There is nothing original about Christianity, every aspect can be traced back thousands of years prior in the ancient occult mystery schools that understood this stuff much better, and got hijacked for manipulation for social political control. The catholic church burned down the library of Alexandria to hold back the knowledge to keep for themselves.

Modern science actually shows the soul exists. We know from advanced medical resuscitation technology. A lot of people being resuscitated are claiming to exist outside their bodies. "Consciousness Beyond Life," by Lommel. Shows this. He was a cardiologist.

But he has an unshakable faith that there is such a thing as a soul. Not sure how much science you can really do when you are precommitted to an unproven assumption.

We are souls that have bodies, or spirits that have bodies and souls? Interested to hear if and how Moreland distinguishes a person's soul and spirit.

pointing out there are problems with Darwin in order to argue against brain science and for the soul is a convoluted gobbledygook of illogical thought that does not hold together


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