Workings of the Soul
The below item is part of my "Conversations" series.
A Christian and an atheist sitting on the grass of the campus quad.
Bethany: Here’s another good one.
Calvin: Wait — do you have to read it out loud? You’ve already read two and that’s more than double my limit.
Bethany: How can you not love Shakespearian poetry? I swear sometimes you have no soul at all.
Calvin: It’s not just Shakespeare; I’m dead bored by anything even mildly poetic. I’ll plead guilty to the "having no soul" part, though.
Bethany: Funny. You really don’t believe you have a soul though, do you?
Calvin: Of course not.
Bethany: Then where do you think your mind comes from?
Calvin: My brain.
Bethany: I mean, where is the thing that you call "you" — the part that reasons and dreams and loves things that aren’t poetry?
Calvin: It doesn’t matter how I think the mind works. It’s impossible for souls to exist.
Bethany: How can you say that? What evidence could there be?
Calvin: I don’t need evidence that souls don’t exist. They’re impossible on the face of it.
Calvin: Souls are immaterial, right?
Bethany: Right. If they weren’t, then they’d just be part of the brain and they wouldn’t survive after death.
Calvin: If souls are immaterial, then how do they interact with the brain, which is material? You do think souls interact with the brain, right?
Bethany: They’d have to. But what’s so impossible about an immaterial thing interacting with a material thing? Maybe the soul just wills it and it happens.
Calvin: That’s just ignoring the problem. No matter what the soul does, it has to make something material happen in order for it to impact the brain. It could be an electrical thing, it could be a chemical thing, it could be — I don’t know what, but it would have to be something physical. Only physical things cause physical events, so if the soul can do physical things it can’t be purely immaterial, and as you said if it isn’t immaterial it isn’t a soul.
Bethany: You’re wrong there. I was reading where a scientist said that a soul would only have to have a very small effect to control the brain. It could be on the quantum level, even. Nothing dramatic.
Calvin: If something’s immaterial, there’s no plausible way for it to cause a material effect. It doesn’t matter how small the effect is; it just can’t happen. Souls can’t exist.
Bethany: I was going to ask you how God could exist if immaterial things can’t effect matter, but that would be a mistake, wouldn’t it.
Calvin: Yeah, pretty much.
Bethany: Then I’m just going to keep reading you poetry until you grow a soul.
Calvin: Good luck with that.
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