IF I SEEK US
"Awareness of self is the essence of what being alive means to us. If through some accident, you remained able to talk and reason but could not realize that you were doing so, would you not be as dead, from your own viewpoint, as if your brain had been destroyed? - Morton Hunt, The Universe Within, Simon and Schuster, Rockefeller Center, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. 1982. p. 356.
Soul Science Abuse
Wolfe guilty of criminal abuse of science
I found the article about neuroscience extremely annoying. Truly from the talk show school of journalism, it used the most sensational headline possible to attract attention ‑ "Your soul just died" ‑ then dealt with the subject in a facile, foolish way. "Science is a court from which there is no appeal," the author says.
To the contrary, science is not a court that has anything at all to say about the meaning of life, free will and other philosophical subjects. Science is a reductionist lens through which we see the mechanical underpinnings of the universe. Scientists should stick to statements of fact involving numbers and theorems and to manipulating streams of data.
Philosophy requires subtlety of reasoning, yet here the author has forgotten even that preschool subtlety of the "Whole being more than the sum of its parts."
As the physicist Richard Feynman said once, science tells us nothing about truth, about why we are here; the only court where science holds sway is in collecting data and in developing theories to be proved or disproved.
Free will, which this article indicates is nonexistent, is merely a consequence of intelligence. An intelligent being is capable of seeing the myriad possibilities in the world; awareness of these possibilities leads to the possibility of action.
Though we are constrained by instincts, humans have broken all those constraints at one time or another. Suicide goes against the survival instinct; incest breaks the incest taboo; celibacy against the instinct to procreate. But we don't have to transgress against instinct to be free: Seeing the possibilities for action, then acting rightly, is true freedom.
The article mocks Descartes' concept of a "ghost in the machine," to describe the soul.
How foolish. Descartes was not a wishful New Age thinker, but a rational man trying to reconcile the seeming mechanical nature of animals with the sense of self and divinity that most humans share.
Because the brain has mechanical, chemical underpinnings, the article says that the idea of self, of the individual, is a delusion.
This is utterly wrong; there is no idea that man has ever had that doesn't have some basis in truth. All ideas spring from experience, from reality, though they may jumble it about. It is not that an illusion is not there, but that it is not what we thought it was.
When the people in Plato's cave took the shadows cast by firelight to be reality, they were not wrong, the firelight and shadows were real and quantifiable, but there was a greater light outside the cave, which came from seeing more clearly the many facets of reality.
That there are different parts of the brain does not mean that there is not an individual "I," but only that "I" is formed by the various parts working together, as a nation is formed by its individual citizens.
Philosophy requires subtlety of reasoning, yet here the author has forgotten even that preschool subtlety of the "whole being more than the sum of its parts." Intelligence adds another dimension to being.
As to his idea that our behavior is genetically determined so that we have no individual identities, the idea is a laughable half‑truth.
Yes, our genes provide structure to our beings, yet what we choose to do with who we are is up to us.
Scientists often remind me of the character played by Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman" who has the uncanny ability to calculate large numbers of toothpicks at a glance, but who is lacking in self‑awareness, in completeness of being. Scientists claim to study the world out of a rational dispassionate search for knowledge, yet nothing could be less rational. They heap scorn on each theory that differs from their own. They remind me of chimps battling for dominance.
Being a scientist, or a camp follower of one, does not qualify one to be a philosopher. It would be a blessing if scientists could stick to matters of fact and refrain from making nebulous, half-baked theories about the world. Just as being rich does not qualify one as an expert in economics, collecting data about the world does not qualify one to philosophize about it.
If you think or feel something, then it is so, though what you think or feel is only part of the truth and may be jumbled up and need sorting out.
If you feel you are an individual, that is concrete evidence that you are. Leonardo da Vinci was never genetically programmed to paint the Mona Lisa. To the extent that we are intelligent and creative, we also possess freedom and individuality.