December 14, 2017

Minds, Brains, Souls, and Gods: A Conversation of Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience – Part 5, Chapter 6: But Is It All in the Brain? – The Emergence of Social Neuroscience and Chapter 7: But What About the Soul?

Minds, Brains, Souls, and Gods: A Conversation of Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience – Part 5, Chapter 6: But Is It All in the Brain? – The Emergence of Social Neuroscience and Chapter 7: But What About the Soul?

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We continue the series on the book, Minds, Brains, Souls and Gods: A Conversation on Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience .  Today Part 6, Chapter 6: But Is It All in the Brain? – The Emergence of Social Neuroscience and Chapter 7: But What About the Soul?

Malcolm’s student raises the question of whether or not there has been an overemphasis on brain processes, at the expense of considering our social interactions.  Malcolm points out that in science you sometimes have to begin by reducing the uncontrolled variables as much as possible, hence the seeming overconcentration on the single individual in neuropsychological research.  That is a fair point.  The study of very complex systems has to begin by breaking them down into their component parts and examining the components one at a time.  There really is no other way to do “science”.  This is part of the explanation of why science in the popular view seems so “reductionist”.  Imonk commenter Stephen noted in Part 2:

Yes but you could say the same thing about spider webs or the Taj Mahal. I am impatient with the charge of “reductionism”.  “…scientists are picking off the relatively easy tasks of working out how little bits of the brain work molecularly and hoping that knowing about these nuts and bolts will eventually tell us how the complex system works as a whole.”  Ok so how else would one suggest they go about it?

Stephen raises the cogent point, there is no other way to go about it.  The facts have to be laid out, one at a time, and we have to make sure they are the facts i.e. have they been empirically verified.  But that is not the end of the scientific process (and please note I’m not saying Stephen said it was).  In my business, the cleaning up of contaminated sites, we always require the applicant to formulate the Conceptual Site Model (CSM).  The CSM then guides the process of determining when all exposure pathways are incomplete, that is, when there is no longer any threat to human health and the environment.  So facts alone, even when empirically verified, don’t “speak for themselves”.  The facts have to be interpreted, the narrative has to be compiled, the story has to be told.

So Malcolm notes that one of the fastest developing areas in neuroscience today is social neuroscience.  Researchers have demonstrated how specific parts of the brain are involved in social perception and cognition and decision making.  Researchers do this by use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).  FMRI works by measuring the oxygen consumed by active neurons in the brain.  When neurons are active they take oxygen from the bloodstream, and a magnetic property of the hemoglobin changes.  The powerful magnets in the machine line up the hemoglobin molecules and then cause them to spin and emit energy.  By measuring this energy the machine tells which areas are more active when, for example, we think or feel or plan specific actions.  But Malcolm notes that like phrenology in the past – when people felt the bumps on the outside of people’s heads to understand how their minds worked – there is a danger that the results of fMRI studies can be abused to the extent they become a sort of modern phrenology.  The facts are not being assembled into a coherent narrative.

In the book: Essays in Social Neuroscience there is an example of how social interaction depends, in part at least, on how we appraise other people from their faces, for example, whether we find them trustworthy.  Using fMRI, researchers studied the neural basis for making judgements of trustworthiness of faces.  They showed a part of the brain showed enhanced activity when judgements of trustworthiness were being made.  He quotes the authors in their essay titled, “Biological Does Not Mean Predetermined: Reciprocal Influences of Social and Biological Processes”:

In sum, all human behavior, at some level, is biological, but this is not to say that biological representation yields a simple, singular, or satisfactory explanation of complex behaviors, or that molecular forms of representation provide the only or best level of analysis for understanding human behavior.  Molar constructs such as those developed by social psychologist provide a means of understanding highly complex activity without needing to specify each individual action of the simplest components, thereby providing an efficient means of describing the behavior of a complex system.  Social and biological approaches to human behavior have traditionally been contrasted, as if the two were antagonistic or mutually exclusive.  The readings in this book demonstrate the fallacy of this reasoning and suggest that the mechanisms underlying mind and behavior may not be fully explainable by a biological or social approach alone, but, rather, that a multilevel integrative analysis may be required.

Malcolm’s student, in the next chapter, raises the question about the dominant biblical theme that we humans are unique because, according to Genesis, we alone possess an immortal soul.  Such a view Malcolm admits, has been a pervasive view in the history of the church.  Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  Since God is a spiritual being, he endowed us also with spirituality, giving us an immortal soul; so the tradition says.

He notes James Barr has five ways in which this “image of God” has been traditionally interpreted:

  1. First, we possess an immortal soul.
  2. Second, we alone can reason (argued by Augustine, Aquinas, and accepted by Luther and the Reformers.
  3. Third was based on our physical distinctiveness, bipedalism and so forth.
  4. Fourth is what Barr labels “functionality”, or our calling to have dominion over the whole world. In this sense the image of God is not what we are but what we are called to do.
  5. Fifth is our capacity for a relationship with God and with other creatures, an idea emphasized by Karl Barth, for whom the image of God becomes not just an ability for relationship, but the relationship itself: a relationship with God and with each other, most clearly exemplified in Jesus, who alone is fully the image of God.

Malcolm admits that in trying to answer such a question he faces the danger of falling into the trap of pretending there are simple answers to profound questions. He notes that it is an oversimplification that Hebrew thought was unitary and Greek though was dualistic – a separate soul and body.

He quotes Joel Green : “There was no singular conception of the soul among the Greeks, and the body-soul relationship was variously assessed among philosophers and physicians in the Hellenistic period.”

The relationship between Hellenism and Judaism in the centuries after Alexander the Great in the near East before Christ was a complex one.  The environment that the New Testament took shape in provided for a variety of views both within Roman Hellenism and Hellenistic Judaism.  For centuries the words soul and mind were used interchangeably.

He then notes various traditional interpretations of Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”  The word translated “soul” in the King James is nefesh, which occurs almost 800 times in the Old Testament.  He then quotes professor of Old Testament at Asbury seminary, Lawson Stone, who says:

  1. Regarding what happened when “God breathed into Adam” we are not to imagine Adam’s reception of some intangible personal essence that makes him distinct from the animals, and eligible for everlasting life. The nefesh here is not a possession nor a component of Adam’s nature.  The pile of dust, upon being inspirited by divine breath actually became a living nefesh.  The term “living nefesh” then denotes the totality of Adam’s being.  Adam does not have a nefesh, he is a living nefesh.
  2. The meaning of living nefesh is found in the immediate context. The term living soul appears four times in the preceding context and once shortly after.  This in Genesis 1:21,24,30 the term refers simply and clearly to animals.  In these passages the expression can be rendered “living creature”.  And later he goes on to say, referring to the animals, “that each one, like him, is a living nefesh and this clearly underscores the conclusion that a living nefesh is not a being separate from the rest of creation because possesses an intangible spiritual entity that determines its identity.
  3. Stone continues, “The linking of nefesh to physical existence and not to transcendence, to an immortal inward essence of personhood, fits well with the Old Testament’s overall disinterest in the afterlife… To summarize: the term nefesh in Genesis 2:7 refers not to a part of Adam’s nature, nor to some possession such as a transcendent personal spiritual hypostasis termed a “soul” that lives forever and distinguishes humanity from animals. Rather nefesh hayyah denotes Adam as a living creature like the animals created in Genesis 1 and 2.  It underscores Adam’s linkage with the animal creation, not his differences from it.”

The classic passage in the New Testament is 1 Thessalonians 5:23 “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Some people refer to it as the “troublesome trichotomy theory”, because close study shows the differences, if any, between soul and spirit are not easy to define.  Basically, the New Testament sees a person as consisting of a body (soma) and a soul (psyche).

The classic passage on the resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15:

35 But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come?

36 Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die:

37 And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain:

38 But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body.

39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

As many theologians now recognize, in particular N.T. Wright, the emphasis of the New Testament, in particular Paul, is resurrection of the body to a new life on an earth (and heavens) made new, not a dis-embodied existence in a “fluffy white cloud” heaven.  As Paul says in verse 44, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual BODY”.

To bring it back to neuroscience, Malcolm mentions the InterVarsity Press book, In Search of the Soul: Four Views of the Mind-Body Problem and says this:

Personally, I find the most convincing approach in this volume, in the sense of doing most justice both to the science and to Scripture, to be the one written by Nancey Murphy.  She labels her view “Nonreductive Physicalism”.  If we must have labels put on us, I prefer to call my view dual-aspect monism, as I’ve mentioned before.  By this I mean that there is only one reality to be understood and explained – this is what I would call the “mind-brain unity”, hence the word monism.  By saying “dual-aspect”, I am affirming that in order to do full justice to the nature of this reality we need to give at least two accounts of it an account in terms of its physical makeup and an account in terms of our mental or cognitive abilities.  You cannot reduce the one to the other.  This may seem like a linguistic quibble, but my concern is that the term physicalism as Nancey Murphy uses it, could be taken by some as giving precedence to the physical aspect of our makeup over the mental.  I think that would be to ignore that, as I said earlier, we can only know and talk about the mind-body problem by using language and the mental categories it employs.  So in this sense at least, not selecting out either the mental or the physical would avoid giving precedence to either.  If pressed, I would say that referring only to the physical, as in Nonreductive Physicalism, runs the risk of seeming to endorse a materialistic view which, in turn, implies that the mind is “nothing but” the chattering of the cells of the brain.

I’d like to repeat something I said last time in a reply to Robert F in the comments.  Flowing water, in a river or channel may exhibit subcritical or supercritical flow. Subcritical occurs when the actual water depth is greater than critical depth. Subcritical flow is dominated by gravitational forces and behaves in a slow or stable way. It is defined as having a Froude number less than one (The Froude number is a ratio of inertial and gravitational forces. · Gravity (numerator) – moves water downhill. · Inertia (denominator) – reflects its willingness to do so). Supercritical flow is dominated by inertial forces and behaves as rapid, turbulent, or unstable flow. Subcritical flow is laminar and is defined by relatively simple mathematical formulas. The relation between subcritical and supercritical flow is not a continuum. When the Froude number reaches 1, a nick point occurs where the flow jumps to supercritical. The flow is now chaotic and indeterminate. As commenter Klasie said, “Dynamical systems are deterministic. But they are non-linear in their determinism, i.e., they appear to be indeterminate because of their complexity, especially within certain parameters – at that point where the parameters of the system causes it to go chaotic.

My point here is that our evolutionary brain development reached a “nick point” with regard to reason, self-awareness, ability to think about the past and the future, conceive of God, and so on. It’s not that our fellow animal kin have no ability to do these things, but that their development is of a rudimentary kind that is below the “Brain-Froude” number of 1. As Robert F said, “…a large enough magnitude of material cause-and-effect cascades into a qualitative change.” [Pure speculation here: at some point in human evolution, some group of hominins reached the “nick point” and suddenly (relatively speaking) their eyes were open and they knew as God knew; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but I digress.]

So I am with Jeeves here, a soul is something we are, not an immaterial something we have.  We are embodied beings.  That is why the New Testament emphasis was on resurrection of the body, not dying and going to fluffy white cloud heaven as a disembodied “soul”.

As Chaplain Mike said in Tuesday’s post:

As Moltmann says, “This means that we shall be redeemed with the world, not from it” (Location 1277, Kindle Edition). We look for the redemption of the body, not release from it. Our hope is not in the immortality of the soul, but the resurrection of the body. Our hope, our home is not in heaven “up there” or “out there.” We look for all creation to be set free from its bondage so that we may all share together in the freedom of a new heavens and earth.

But what about Paul and Philippians 1: 23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

What is it of us that survives death?  The empiricist would say nothing, and I have no empirical data to dispute that.  All I have is, like Paul, a trust in Christ, that where He is there I will be until the end when I am given the resurrection body.

To quote Chaplain Mike from Monday’s post:

For example, I find in the whole concept of quantum physics (of which I actually know very little, but I’m trying to learn) a useful metaphor for grasping the fact that there is much in this universe that exists and operates without me being aware of it and in ways that seem to contradict what we observe in the visible world. Perhaps one day I’ll have to find another metaphor as our knowledge grows, but for now I still believe in Mystery, even in a scientific and technological age.

Comments

  1. Again, this is a great series and worthy of much thought and discussion. Unfortunately, I must go to sleep soon. I have so many thoughts that I have to cherry pick a couple disjointed ones.

    One is about the uniqueness of man (as in “mankind”). While it is clear that the relation of man to God is unique, the simple idea, which I was raised with, that people have souls, animals do not, doesn’t seem to fit anymore. I look into my Saint Bernard’s eyes and I can see a soul. If you do the same fMRI experiments with animals, you see similar responses as humans. I don’t know the answer but I don’t think the answer is that we are spiritual beings and animals are robots clothed in meat. The excuse of animal cruelty is no longer there. Somehow, in the NT Wright’s new creation, new earth, I believe animals will be there, maybe even our old animal friends who had died before us. So maybe, and it is that great mystery, that as we were created in God’s image, the animals are in our image. They share some of our nature, but without the moral dilemmas that humans face.

    Speaking of mystery, I have been thinking about that a lot lately. I love astrophysics as a hobby. My mind is being completely blown every day by what we know and theorize about. There is a tremendous amount of mystery in the material universe. While we are used to the explanation of simple things, like magnetism or gravity, but really, they are magic as much as any magic in any fairytale. So, I think it is a shame that people, especially Christians, have to constantly seek fake mysteries for them to encounter God. For example fake healings, lighting bolts that look like a cross, the image of Mary on a piece of toast, deep emotional experiences. But again, that is just me. I can read a Scientific American story about the relationship of quantum mechanics on the micro level and the multi-universe concept on the macro level and sense God’s presence and mystery.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “””. I don’t know the answer but I don’t think the answer is that we are spiritual beings and animals are robots clothed in meat.”””

      Agree, 100%. [but if you mention this in many Christian circles the immediate hostility is shocking – the first few times, then you learn to keep quiet]. This is a very strange issue, IMO, to feel threatened by, I’em never understood it. As someone who was a shepherd, trained horses, etc..m the soul-lite of beasts is so obvious. And it grows, IMO, with human contact. A wild horse is an impusive dangerous thing [to itself and others] while a trained horse is a different kind of thing – it “learns” in some sense the ‘pause’ that is in some part “soul”.

      That has always felt quasi-religious to me.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        LEGAL systems require clean either/or breakpoints.
        (As in “X number of hairs define a beard” breakpoints.)
        Natural systems are normally on a spectrum with no clear breakpoints.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Mike,

      In the East, we can be hopeful – about many things. See this by the abbot of a monastery on Vashon Island:
      https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/morningoffering/?s=animals

      Personally, I long ago came to the conclusion that Paradise would not be complete without our pets (and other animals), and I believe God is good and will not withhold any good thing from those who walk with him (Ps 84.11).

      Consider paying Fr Tryphon a visit – I think you’d like him.

      Dana

  2. Robert F says:

    > All I have is, like Paul, a trust in Christ, that where He is there I will be until the end when I am given the resurrection body.

    Well, that still means that you exist in some sense apart from what we call your body. And in Catholic and Orthodox belief, the life of the soul apart from the body is thought to be a very active and dynamic one, in which the deceased saint may be petitioned for their prayers, and themselves be agents of change in the world of the living through their prayers. I sometimes think we make too much of the distinction between our own resurrections bodies and the resurrected body of Christ. There is certainly a belief in Christian faith in the day when we shall all be resurrected in the renewed creation; to me, it seems entirely possible that this means that on that day the whole communion of saints will dwell together in the one resurrected body of Christ, enjoying the freedom and power inherent in it. This requires some reimagining, but I don’t think it contradicts the underlying faith of the church, it only denies to us the individualistic desire for having a body that belongs solely to us. But it makes the beleif that to God all are living right now deeper and more comprehensive.

    • Robert F says:

      Can it be said of us even now as we live that we possess our own discrete bodies, or is it the case that our whole being is so interlaced in the chain of cause-and-effect that the sense of our own separate existence is illusory? That is what we have been discussing in regard to mind over the last few weeks, really; why should we not also discuss it in regard to what we call “body”?

      • Especially when you consider our existence at the atomic or even sub-atomic level. We are one with the cosmos, a fact grasped by mystics long before the understanding of quantum particles and fields.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          “We are all made of Star Stuff.”
          — Carl Sagan, Cosmos (guy was said to be an arrogant jerk in person, but boy could he write!)

    • Stephen says:

      “Well, that still means that you exist in some sense apart from what we call your body.”

      One of my uncles was a proponent of what is called “soul sleep”, the idea that when you die you are unconscious (non-existent?) until the Resurrection. He got up in a Southern Baptist church class one Sunday and came out with that and scandalized everybody. There was much consternation. It was pretty funny actually (though probably not to the minister who had to scramble to reassure the congregation once the word spread).

      In my kid’s brain I couldn’t figure out what the scandal was. You wouldn’t be conscious of the intervening time between death and the resurrection so it would seem to happen almost instantaneously, right? It was only later that I found out this is a Jehovah’s Witness thing and there was some backstory I wasn’t privy to.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Soul-sleep is not just a JW thing; the SDAs and some other churches and groups also teach it. The JW version is pretty extreme, though — you actually cease to exist at death and God creates a new you at Resurrection. Most churches that teach “soul sleep” don’t go that far — more like you’re just dormant in the Intermediate State and not conscious of any passage of time.

  3. 1. What happened to chapter 4?

    2. Concerning the fact that believing in a life beyond our bodies means we believe that we exist apart from our bodies (c.f. Robert F above), I guess you could say yes/no. Think of a computer program on a CD. It’s not ‘alive’ but it can easily be brought back to life given the right hardware. Of course, this is a different kind of reductionism.

    3. In relation to this thread of thought (the existence of the mind as a transportable ‘program’, and life after death), this article I read just yesterday on Transhumanism and faith is very interesting: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/18/god-in-the-machine-my-strange-journey-into-transhumanism

    4. This is a bit trite, and will probably be shot down in flames, but to the question “What is the difference between humans and animals?” I’d answer that the question is its own answer. That is: we don’t currently have any reason to believe that animals are asking it 🙂

    • Lorraine says:

      Well, technically speaking, humans are animals–more specifically, a species of tropical African ape. As a species we are unusually intelligent and adaptable, as our geographic spread and social complexity illustrate. Of course science can have little to say about religious claims of a soul or spirit, unless these are translated into something testable and observable, but the philosophically speaking, the concepts are arbitrary and explain nothing. For instance, “souls” are usualy said to be possessed by all humans (even the severely retarded), but no other animals (even other apes). Why would we think that? I suppose some theologian wrote it down that way, as his way of distinguishing humans from other animals across the board. (Also angels, except that we hardly ever run into them, and we’re not sure whether aliens, if they exist, would have souls.) But what is to prevent another theologian from saying, for example, that only white people have souls? Sure it’s arbitrary, but no moreso than saying that humans evolved souls at a certain point in evolution, or that the soul emerges at a certain point in gestation. Somebody will probably bring up the story of Adam and Eve, but the Bible can be interpreted however you like, if not rejected altogether. Maybe blacks bear the Mark of Cain (or is it the Curse of Ham?). It makes more sense just to admit that language like “soul” and “spirit” reflects an archaic worldview, which we have no good reason other than religious conservatism to believe.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        For instance, “souls” are usualy said to be possessed by all humans (even the severely retarded), but no other animals (even other apes). Why would we think that?

        Much of the definition of “human” centers on things that only humans do or can do. Else “we’d have to include Chimpanzee ambassadors in the UN”. And several of these definitions have been superseded, so we’re always coming up with more.

        If I remember those commentaries on Aquinas, it’s not that only humans have “souls”, humans have specifically-human “rational souls”. Animals have species-specific “sensitive souls” able to respond to stimuli and act on those stimuli and plants have plant-specific “vegetative souls” that just grow and reproduce. Each “soul” is part of the creature and is suited to its purpose.

        It makes more sense just to admit that language like “soul” and “spirit” reflects an archaic worldview, which we have no good reason other than religious conservatism to believe.

        Or reflects “Poem Truth” rather than “Math Truth”.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Although it was not a huge issue at the time, my understanding is that the Greek Fathers understood animals to have “souls” but differentiated them from human souls. Humans have the capability of being united with God in ways that animals can’t, and part of our task as humans (see N.T. Wright) is to be the mediator between God and the rest of creation, and the good steward of it. But God’s creation is good, even if presently awaiting the full redemption (Rom 8).

        Denying that animals have certain capabilities in the face of the obvious is cruel. If you’re not an animal person – or you hold the theology that “animals don’t have souls” – and someone expresses to you grief over the loss of their pet, just say you’re sorry; don’t try to negate a very real relationship.

        Dana

        • Dana, I totally agree with why would God hold good things from us. I have looked into the eyes of a animal who chewed his leg off to try and get out of a trap. Trapper is his name today. He was dragging the trap and chain and was down to 6 pounds. ( 12 to 14 would have been normal). He was going to run from me when I made a noise that stopped him. I looked right in his eyes and saw the depth of everything and experienced him in a way that connected us as one for a brief moment. Felt it all and with one swift movement gathered him into my arms and said no I have you now. Held him close to my heart and love showered out of me and he rested. I opened the jaws of the trap and a young man who was standing there and who had said I was just praying you would come had to pull the jaws out of the flesh as I only had 2 arms. I never go there at that time but had been working near by. I’m known on the mountain by some and had prayed with his wife before on something sad. Another day maybe…whole other story.

          The thing I see with animals is they are His….God’s…..They do exactly as they are meant to do. They react as they were made. There is not one we cannot domesticate. I heard that once in a quiet voice after hunting and killing a deer. Actually the last one I killed many years ago now. I was so sad and had cried so much and just kept asking why. Voice ” the animals are mine and they would die a million times for you to know me”. The saddest thing for me is when I fall they fall too. In a poem like manner when man fell so did they. I didn’t create it or rest from it nor would it ever be my choice as I could know it now but all things considered it might be the only way and best way possible. I can’t wait for things not to die for me so I can live.

          Anyways, Two weeks before in the hunting spot a butterfly wing landed between my feet as I took off my boots in 2 inches of snow. I had just told Him in a prayer I was disappointed. It’s in my wallet….treasure and all you know….two weeks forward my son was going to try and help me get a deer as I always was the one who helped him. He was going to push the brush. He grabbed my hand and prayed before entering the woods something I always did. Safety for all who enter. I just got done praying and had said I have mixed emotions about this anymore but if you send one out I will take it. The whole hillside became a herd of deer. More than I could count in the few seconds of having to make a choice. I picked one and shot my flintlock and it fell without suffering. I though my boy pushed them out. I cried a lot but put my mind to it because I didn’t want my boy to see me such a mess. Have to respect what you kill by using and cleaning as much as possible. He said upon arrival I knew it was you who shot. I said why’s that. He said I just got up from praying in the back there. He never started pushing. I thought maybe God is teaching him how to pray. It took one year for him to tell me he gave his life to Christ that day back there praying. He had a dream before we went that a raccoon came down the trail with it’s arms open where we hunt and that day after separating from me that happened to him. 1 year it took him to tell me. A butterfly wing from a Monarch butterfly. One deer dying and still I learn from it all. Every word of this from my heart and no exaggeration. I still cry for the deer.

          • Dana Ames says:

            w,

            He has granted you wisdom in your good heart. Grateful that you’re here.

            D.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Although it was not a huge issue at the time, my understanding is that the Greek Fathers understood animals to have “souls” but differentiated them from human souls.

          Either Aquinas was building on the Greek Fathers from before the Great Schism or he came up with the same idea independently.

      • Robert F says:

        “Man” cannot live by Math Truth alone, and that includes Lorraine.

        • Robert F says:

          This was meant to go below a HUG comment above; it was transported here, and I was not the transporter.

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      Ben: I skipped Chapter 4 because I thought we’d already talked that subject matter out. I am going to skip some future chapters as well because I think the subject matter redundant to what we have already discussed. Sorry, I will try to give you a heads up in the futurel

    • Rick Ro. says:

      –> “…to the question “What is the difference between humans and animals?” I’d answer that the question is its own answer. That is: we don’t currently have any reason to believe that animals are asking it.”

      I agree. I led a men’s study on Psalm 23 about a year ago using Phillip Keller’s “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23”. One of my epiphanies was this:

      We humans are blessed, or not so blessed, to have a fairly developed brain. When things go bad for sheep, all they know is that it’s really cold, or there’s suddenly flooding waters all around them, or there’s a wolf flying out of the shrubs at them. They never associate “bad things happening” with their shepherd. They never blame the bad on their shepherd. The shepherd works hard on their behalf, but they’re fairly oblivious to all the effort he puts in. They pretty much merely exist, not equating the good, or the bad, with their shepherd.

      We humans, on the other hand, possess a brain that is able to think beyond the immediate here and now. Thus, we sometimes equate the crappy things that happen to us with our shepherd, and suddenly it becomes either “our shepherd stinks” or “our shepherd doesn’t exist at all!”

      Thus, in my mind, the difference between human and animal.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        We humans, on the other hand, possess a brain that is able to think beyond the immediate here and now.

        At least until the invention of the Smartphone and 24/7 Social Media.

        “The last invention in human history will be the Holodeck.”
        — Dilbert

    • Dana Ames says:

      Ben,

      WRT your #2, by Jesus’ time Jewish thought had come to the place that a being who had a “soul” without a body, or vice versa, was seen to be not human – hence the theological need for the Resurrection. According to N.T. Wright, there was a lot of discussion about just who would be resurrected, but resurrection ALWAYS had to do with the reuniting of the “soul” with a physical body.

      Yesterday I watched a video by Fr Stephen Freeman, wherein he discusses becoming human, and that the question of our time is, “What does it mean to be a human being?” He mentioned in passing that Transhumanism is a discussion taking place only among the upper classes of the first world – educated, wealthy people untouched by war, famine, disease, etc. and that the people concerned about that ought to be putting their energies toward getting clean water for everyone. I think he’s right. I think transhumanism is navel-gazing of a very refined type.

      Dana

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    He notes that it is an oversimplification that Hebrew thought was unitary and Greek though was dualistic – a separate soul and body.

    This could be explained by a spectrum instead of an either/or. Hebrew thought was more towards the Monisitc part of the spectrum and Greek thought was farther towards the Dualistic end.

    [Pure speculation here: at some point in human evolution, some group of hominins reached the “nick point” and suddenly (relatively speaking) their eyes were open and they knew as God knew; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but I digress.]

    “Pure speculation” that makes a lot of sense.

    Thing is, humans are fully past the “nick point”/critical mass and no other life form we know of is near it. We have no examples of a species that is right at the “nick point”; if we had, it would help clarify & vet that hypothesis.

    So I am with Jeeves here, a soul is something we are, not an immaterial something we have.  We are embodied beings.  That is why the New Testament emphasis was on resurrection of the body, not dying and going to fluffy white cloud heaven as a disembodied “soul”.

    And the current dominiation of The Disembodied Soul(TM) has caused a LOT of trouble. By its fruits ye shall know it…

    Thing is, in early Medieval theology, the idea of a disembodied souls in an Intermediate State between Death and Resurrection was necessary to preserve the continuity of the individual at Resurrection. This is similar to the SF fan back-and-forth about how the Star Trek Transporter works — does it actually teleport the individual or is it an exact Replicator that destroys the original to recreate a quantum-level exact copy at the destination? SF author Philip Jose Farmer had to introduce something analogous to a “soul” in the eternally-resurrecting inhabitants of Riverworld series (see Wikipedia: Riverworld) to preserve continuity between resurrections/reincarnations. Several SF horror stories have also taken this up, and there is a My Little Pony fanfic that treats the subject in a humorous manner: https://www.fimfiction.net/story/273539/dying-to-get-there

  5. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    There is a lot of comment here on this thread etc on what the limits are to animal cognition – without any evidence. I would encourage anyone interested to actually read a bit about the subject matter first: Frans de Waal’s “Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?” (2016) is a very good place to start.

    • There is a lot of comment here on this thread etc on what the limits are to animal cognition – without any evidence.

      Well I imagine there’s rather less comment on animal threads as to the limits of human cognition, so that’s a start. 😉

      But I agree about the value of Frans de Waal’s work in stimulating our thinking about the fuzzy dividing line between animals and humans as it relates to cognition and moral behavior. I’ve heard him speak and have been impressed with what looks like–at the level of face validity, at least–non-human examples of altruism, sense of fairness, and certain abstract cognitive abilities. de Waal also comes across as gracious and humble, including regarding the limits of his own work in completely eliminating all qualitative differences between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.

      Speaking of chimpanzees, de Wall says “Do they have a concept about fairness between others, or do they only care about fairness for themselves? That kind of distance that you see in human moral reasoning. I’m not sure you’ll find that in a chimpanzee.” (http://www.believermag.com/issues/200709/?read=interview_dewaal)

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      Klasie: there was a wonderful article in the New Atlantis (http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/do-elephants-have-souls) about cognition in elephants. It really left me wondering how close these magnificent creatures are to us.

      • Stephen says:

        Do elephants have souls? Don’t know but I do think that someone who would kill one of these magnificent beasts simply to harvest tusks is in fearful danger of losing theirs.

  6. Dana Ames says:

    Mike the G,

    Classical Christian theology holds that only God has life in himself. Our soul is not intrinsically immortal. When I first read that in Wright, as the Jewish view as well, I was really taken aback, because I had been taught and always believed that the immaterial part of my person was created immortal. But nowhere in Scripture is it written that anyone or anything except God is immortal. There are some prominent prayers in Orthodoxy that assert this: the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us) and the memorial prayers for the dead (Thou only art immortal, who has made and fashioned man). We have been created in such a way that we are able to be in communion with God, and it is that communion is what gives us life, whether temporal or immortal – it is all and always God’s life that sustains ours. Our existence is all Gift.

    Wright says that the sense of the Greek of 1Cor 15.44 is lost in translation. The adjectives “natural” and “spiritual” describe what is animating the body, not that the body in question belongs to a “material world” on one hand or a “spiritual world” on the other. One Reality!

    Dana

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      Dana; Yes, I have read that in Wright as well. On the site “Rethinking Hell” (http://rethinkinghell.com/) they make the case for conditional immortality i.e. as you are saying it is a gift given not an intrinsic property of the human soul. They, in parallel, make the case that hell is ceasing to exist. I’m not entirely persuaded, but I seriously consider the postiion.

      • flatrocker says:

        A profound perspective on hell that keeps it simple…

        I know there’s a hell and I pray that it’s empty.

        (and it’s not a bad way to begin a prayer of reconciliation and intercession as well)

        • Robert F says:

          I don’t know it’s there and I pray that if it is, those in it will be liberated from their torment…

      • Dana Ames says:

        Mike, I can’t go for annihilationism, because it seems to me that God spent himself beyond measure to rescue humanity from phthora/corruption – disintegration, decomposition, decay. God is out to redeem his creation, not annihilate it – may it never be! If he hadn’t rescued us, that’s where we’d be: in the grave, our bodies rotting away, and our souls without life. Christ did all he did so that we would NOT be annihilated, but rather that we could become the human being each of us was created to be – an ensouled body/embodied soul, and never the twain shall be forever parted, or else we wouldn’t be Human Beings (vide supra on the Jewish view that came into Christianity). In the Incarnation we are united to God forever, and in that union we are saved from phthora because of the Resurrection. Such a view is rational and allows for the goodness of God. The Eastern Fathers had this all pretty well laid out before AD 500; it’s right there in Paul, in 1Cor 15 and in Ephesians 1, esp vss 9-10. Do please re-read all the sections in the NT on baptism, and their contexts.

        The theology built around annihilationism is very tempting; it tries to posit an alternative to Hell-as-a-torture-chamber so that Scripture can still be respected when it talks about what we understand as the holiness and justice of God. In EO, there never has been such a Hell, because God could never be such a God – not the God who went to the Cross. The only torture of “Hell” will happen inside of us, when we come face to face with Love Himself and see the whole truth about our lives.

        Please do read Fr Stephen’s post, including his comments:
        https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2017/04/09/the-bridegroom-and-judgment-2/

        Dana

        • D, I’m not EO or raised that way and at 57 I doubt very much i want to apply myself to another tradition. The only hell that could ever be is a place without God and just me to worship.(how sad that would be in an never ending battle to fulfill myself). I was made and created to be in light and communion with my creator why else would he make me. What is love if forced upon me. By it’s very defining self love can’t be forced it has to be freely given. It also in the same measure must be as much forgiving…for giving…You make sense to me a lot and the few EO people I have met are very kind to me. The son of light who wanted to be God and a third of the angels( which still means 2 to 1 to me) turned away. God created them as He did me. Differences I see are I have 57 years and they had who knows but I would think maybe longer. He tilted everything possible in the creation to be on my side and rested. Oh Job be a teacher and build an alter for intercession for us and may God be merciful to all our souls.

          • Dana Ames says:

            “He tilted everything possible in the creation to be on my side and rested.”

            Yes, yes, yes.

            D.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The only hell that could ever be is a place without God and just me to worship.

            I keep thinking “Would a Social Media addict who wound up in such a place even notice?”

        • Dana: I’ve read Fr Freeman. He and the Orthodox make a compelling case. If I’ve got to come down on a position, it would be the Orthodox right now.

        • Robert F says:

          Dana,
          I like the idea that God is not actively torturing anybody in a hell built for such tortures. But I still wonder: Why would God allow those who refuse him, and who he knows will always refuse him, to torture themselves forever? Is this much different in effect than any other version of hell? He keeps his hands clean in this set-up, but at what price? He allows his love to be thwarted forever; insofar as this is true, for all eternity his kingdom, the kingdom of love, does not have complete dominion, because he allows hate and suffering to continue without end. If the EO picture you draw is correct, a shadow kingdom of suffering and hate continues to exist forever within God’s kingdom of love. It’s hard for me to see this as a victory of love.

          If the door is always open, not just to God but to the self-tormented, that’s a different story. But if you then go on to say that the self-tormented have the ability to shut the door forever, I have to wonder why a good God would give them that ability; I don’t see it as loving, especially not if they suffer for all eternity as a result. That is pointless and meaningless suffering, and I have to question the goodness of a God who would allow such pointless and meaningless suffering to shut itself up inside an eternal enclave.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I’ve heard it expressed similar to C.S.Lewis’s The Great Divorce.

            If you outgrow it, it WAS Purgatory.
            If you NEVER outgrow it, it IS Hell.

        • Robert F says:

          Actually, I don’t think the EO understanding keeps God’s hands clean, either. It leads me almost as much as extreme Calvinism to question the mercy and love of a God who would create a world that he knew would lead to the eternal, never-ending conscious suffering of some of his creatures. It doesn’t matter if that suffering is self-inflicted or not; the point is, that suffering is pointless, meaningless and has the appearance of a kind of divine passive sadism to me, as opposed to the seemingly active divine sadism of extreme Calvinism. I actually think the differentiation between active and passive is academic, and a distinction without difference. In both cases, God has the power to end that never-ending, meaningless suffering, and doesn’t. If you say that he doesn’t have that power, then I have to question if he is really God, since the world he chose to create ends in an absolute and eternal bifurcation, and the frustration of his love by hate and meaninglessness, setting up an eternal and irredeemable kingdom alongside his own. In that case, he is really not Lord of all things.

        • Robert F says:

          Perhaps I’m misunderstanding the picture you are presenting. I know that some in the EO church believe in ultimate universal reconciliation, such a David Bentley Hart. I prefer that, but what I categorically cannot believe is that God made a world which could end in eternal, unrelenting, conscious suffering for some of his creatures, or a world in which the eternal felicity of many was only possible if a few, even one, could possibly end up in eternal,conscious suffering. And yes, I’m aware of what C.S. Lewis says about it in The Great Divorce, but I don’t find that convincing. There could be no moral reason for God letting any of his creatures exist in a state of eternal, everlasting, conscious suffering, even it it’s completely self-inflicted. He would have to willfully sustain the power of creatures in such a state to remain there eternally, since finite creatures do not posses infinite power to continue their own self-torment forever; why would he do such a thing? I don’t believe it.

          • Dana Ames says:

            Robert,

            Orthodoxy is quit silent **dogmatically** about what happens after the “final judgment.” Some Fathers thought that everything that was going to happen (whatever that was) would be over in a split second. Others were content to let it remain unknown until they experienced it themselves. Others, like St Gregory of Nyssa, St Isaac of Nineveh and probably St Maximos the Confessor believed that all would ultimately be reconciled to God, because he is good, and he has an eternity of patience to never give up on us, and to wait, without forcing us, to finally turn to him. But there has never been an official dogmatic utterance about this from any Council. Hell, we don’t even read anything from the book of Revelation publicly in our services – the Greek Fathers knew that they were too far away from the context in which the figurative language therein arose to be able to have a good handle on interpreting it, and we don’t point to it for back-up for any dogma.

            You’ll find lots of opinions among Orthodox about this – from very hard-core “Let ’em all burn” to “Love would not allow that,” and everything in between. As long as we don’t go around teaching what has not been dogmatically defined by the Church, we are free to have an unconquerable hope in the ultimate goodness of God in this matter. One of our 3 very long prayers during the vespers of every Pentecost Sunday (written by St Basil in the 300s) is a very bold request for God to bring all the dead into the place where the righteous repose.

            The Catholic scholar Ilaria Ramelli has written a nearly 1000-page tome wherein she posits that apokatastasis, the final restoration of all, was actually the default view of the vast majority of the early Fathers, including the young Augustine. She plans on writing a couple of follow-up books, not so big, one of which will trace how that dominant view became superseded by what we now call the “classic view” of Hell & the afterlife. An abridged edition of her huge (and expensive, being an academic publication) first book, meant for a wider audience, is scheduled to be out some time this year. I am anxiously awaiting this (as well as D.B. Hart’s translation of the NT, coming in Oct.). There are some audio interviews with her out there in the Internet world. Her English is very good; her accent is very thick, but you get used to it. Give her a listen.

            Dana

            • I never bothered with Rev. because it says anyone who adds to or takes away from in the beginning. Good enough for me.

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

              The Catholic scholar Ilaria Ramelli has written a nearly 1000-page tome wherein she posits that apokatastasis, the final restoration of all, was actually the default view of the vast majority of the early Fathers, including the young Augustine. She plans on writing a couple of follow-up books, not so big, one of which will trace how that dominant view became superseded by what we now call the “classic view” of Hell & the afterlife.

              Now THAT I’d like to read, so long as it’s for the non-Academic audience.

              It’s the flip side of my question about how Fluffy Cloud Heaven superseded Resurrecton of the Body/Olam-Ha-Ba.

              • Dana Ames says:

                HUG,

                I think the 2 follow-up books will be more academically inclined, but hopefully they won’t weigh in at 912 pages – and $350. If you want to peruse that big daddy without buying, check your local university library – maybe they have it, or can get it through interlibrary loan. Do listen to her interviews, esp the ones with Robin Parry.

                Dana

                • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

                  912 pages isn’t a book, it’s a murder weapon!
                  “Colonel Mustard, in the foyer, with Ramelli’s book.”

  7. Christiane says:

    “What is it of us that survives death? ”

    whatever it is, I would guess that it is that part of us that is capable of love that is self-giving, the part of us that grieves when a loved one passes, and the part of us that is capable of harboring joy

    will ‘we’ know who ‘we’ are in the world-to-come? I think so. Tears get wiped away in that world. For this to happen, we would need to be conscious of much

    we lost a loved one who adored and cared for animals ……. a family member said ‘whereever she is now, I hope there will be puppies’ …….
    yeah, I would bet on it 🙂

  8. Bye, Lorraine.

  9. Lorraine, you sure are one angry lady. Try engaging with the discussion rather than giving us a continual lecture. The views here are many and various and conducted with courtesy. If you can’t join in the same way then please stay away.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      There are way too many Christians whose default mode is “giving a continual lecture”. Seems to be a common trait of True Believers and Righteous Ones of every kind.

      • What one sees……..There are many snares in this world. I’m surprised I have any appendages. Still chewing even though I hate the taste. You actually grow on me one without head.