Why does the soul need the brain?

Why does the soul need the brain seems like a logical question especially in the context of the belief held by the leading ID proponent of the Discovery Institute Michael Egnor. He has written extensively on the theme of the immaterial soul that, in his view, is an independent entity, separate of the human body. What Dr. Egnor consistently fails to acknowledge is the obvious connection or interdependence between a functioning brain and self-awareness or consciousness. I wrote about it here.

If certain parts of human brain are damaged or disabled, just like in case of general anesthesia, the human brain loses the sense of consciousness or self-awareness either permanently or temporarily. The immaterial soul fails to make up for the damaged or disabled brain…

Dr. Egnor’s personal experiences (and he has many) as a neurosurgeon convinced him that many people, including many of his patients, with the great majority of their brains missing have developed and function normally. Egnor is convinced that an immaterial soul makes up for the loss of brain mass that is responsible for normal brain function in people with normal brain size or no damage to any of the brain parts.

It appears Dr. Egnor believes that unlike a computer software that can’t function without the computer hardware, human brain has an ability to make up for the loss of the hardware with the computer software – the immaterial soul.

Is Dr. Egnor’s view consistent with the readily available facts?
I personally see Dr. Egnor building and supporting a strawman by his selective choice of facts…Hey! That’s my opinion and that’s why we have this blog full of experts to disagree with me or Dr. Egnor…(I kinda like the guy though).

Let’s see…First off, not all cases of patients with missing parts of their brains experience the supposed miraculous saving powers of the immaterial soul. It appears that the amount of the missing part of the brain mass doesn’t seem to matter… What seems to matter more is which part (s) of the brain is missing and not how much of the brain mass is actually missing. Some parts of the brain seem essential for consciousness and self-awareness and others do not.

However, the main point of this OP is:

<strong> Why does the soul need the brain? Or why would human body need a brain at all, if the immaterial soul has an ability to compensate for the brain losses?

If the software (the soul) can operate without the hardware (the brain) why do we even need the brain in the first place?</strong>

It seems like a faulty or at least a wasteful design to me…

628 thoughts on “Why does the soul need the brain?

  1. keiths: Be careful not to conflate fitness and function.

    You mean like this?

    keiths: The question is about fitness — how well a swamp tiger functions in its environment

  2. newton: Seems wise to test a design before putting into service.

    If you’re a designer, yes. If you’re doing evolution, then not so much.

  3. keiths: The designed species has no history before the test. It still has a fitness, however.

    There is no fitness without a history. This is why we write tests.

    Well, why some of us write tests. keiths doesn’t need tests.

  4. keiths: I don’t think that tigers, whether swamp or otherwise, have One True Function, any more than I think that bricks have one true function. A brick can fulfill multiple functions: as a construction material, a paperweight, or a weapon, for example. Likewise for tigers.

    That’s perspectivalism. The authors denounce that view.

  5. keiths: Fitness is important

    Agreed, but M&P make it the only determinant of function. As I’ve said, I think the way they do this is to sneak in selectionism. Based on your last post, I take it that you’re not on board with that either.

  6. Anyhow, I could be wrong in my assessment of that paper. If both keiths and Bruce think so, I’ll take that as a consensus and piss off.

    I don’t care too much about this issue.

    ETA: and if you add in mung–it may be a super-supermajority consensus.

  7. Let the grownups talk, Mung.

    ETA: Phoodoo moved away, but maybe Billy Cole would like to play. Why don’t you ask him?

  8. walto,

    That’s perspectivalism. The authors denounce that view.

    I’m not defending the paper, which I haven’t read. I’m just

    a) disputing the relevance of swamp tiger preservation by continual zapping; and

    b) disputing your characterization of fitness as dependent on causal history.

  9. keiths: Let the grownups talk, Mung.

    Sure. I’ll listen while you explain to walto how fitness is not a selectionist idea. Because I like to learn, and you are using it exactly that way when you’re not mangling it into something unrecognizable as fitness in order to hide what you’re doing by conflating fitness and function.

  10. KN:

    The worry is that the physicalist’s ontology is a world of what is the case, whereas values, meanings, and thoughts are involve what ought to be the case.

    Norms are themselves physical phenomena, so they fit quite easily into a physicalist ontology. The notion that abortion is immoral and ought not to be performed, for instance, is a reflection of the physical states of certain brains and the physical configurations of certain written texts. It has no independent existence apart from its physical manifestations.

    Let’s be clear: I’m a naturalist, too, and I do think that there’s plenty of room for a naturalistic explanation of normative phenomena.

    If they are not physical, then what are they? What is this other category that you include in your naturalist ontology?

  11. Mung,

    Sure. I’ll listen while you explain to walto how fitness is not a selectionist idea.

    Who said fitness wasn’t a selectionist idea?

    This topic is over your head, Mung. Go play with Billy.

  12. The goals of this chapter are threefold: (a) to characterize selectionism as a general approach to understanding complex phenomena as products of relatively simple processes acting over time, (b) to identify conceptual impediments to the acceptance of selection by reinforcement as the central process by which complex behavior emerges, and ( c ) to outline a program for a new modern synthesis for the selection of complex behavior through reinforcement that parallels the early history of evolution through natural selection.

    here

  13. walto:
    Anyhow, I could be wrong in my assessment of that paper. If both keiths and Bruce think so, I’ll take that as a consensus and piss off.

    ETA: and if you add in mung–it may be a super-supermajority consensus.

    I would defend their reliance on causal powers as justified in the first place as being aligned with how science reliably infers function without using causal history. They bring in counterfeit coins and tigers after that main justification.

    OTOH, I think you may have a point about fitness. Their argument is that survival is part of being an organism, and there would not be any organisms without reproduction. They do consider immortal organisms as a counterexample, but reject those as non-biological.

    If spontaneous generation became a reliable way for tigers to survive, then you might not need to include fitness as part of defining a function, as long as you were willing to still call such tigers “organisms”. But if you stretched the thought experiment that far, I think it would call the science of biology itself into question, and not just a particular in this paper.

    But no need for fantastic thought experiments. Consider the case of dinosaurs created by us through genetic manipulation. If that was to be the way for them to continue to exist, then they would not need fitness and so it may be wrong to include fitness as a criterion for function.

    However, I would be tempted to say that if dinosaurs relied on humans for reproduction, they would be artifacts, not organisms.

    In fact, you can argue that (spoilers!) the whole plot of Blade Runner 2049 revolved around that point: if replicants could reproduce, were they now humans, not artifacts, and so eg deserving of same moral treatment as humans?

    I leave whether that extends to Westworld as an exercise for the reader.

    Anti-perspectivalism is also justified on scientific practice. But after that long post, you definitely deserve a bathroom break. I don’t plan anymore on it unless someone else thinks it is worth discussing.

  14. BruceS: Although looking at your list, I wonder if you are being sarcastic. At least, that is my impression.

    If you have to ask then I did not do a good job communicating or the gap is too wide.

    peace

  15. Kantian Naturalist:

    What’s promising (though perhaps problematic) about Millikan’s project is that she thinks she can get norms for free if the naturalism is rich enough to accommodate functions.

    I think Dretske/Neander and Papineau also rely on function. They differ in how they view correct function: Millikan based on the function of the consumer of the representation; Dretske/Neander on the function of the producer; and Papineau on successful action/functioning at the person level (which is sort of a top-down analog of Millikan).

    But they all depend on causal history to define “correct”.

    Another weakness is, although they may solve the correctness problem for representations by considering function, then do not solve the problem of how content, and not just the structure of the vehicle, has causal powers for the brain.
    The problem is their approaches separate vehicle and content from the start, and there does not seem a way to put them back together.

    That’s why I now prefer the structural/similarity approach. It avoids that separation. (It reminds me of identity theory to solve the general mental causation issue). The material I’ve read is able to recover an approach to “correct” function, but it involves treating correctness as a continuous variable, and not just a yes/no indicator.

  16. walto: Interesting to me that you make those philosophical questions. I mean, I agree they’re all both fascinating and difficult, but….

    The idea reminded me of the Wright paper Explanation and the Hard Problem regarding why we find the hard problem hard. He used various ideas of successful explanation from philosophy of science, along with some results from psychology about why we preferred certain types of explanation according to circumstance.

  17. Mung,

    You’re making my point for me. That quote doesn’t conflict with anything I’ve said, nor does it address the question at hand, which is whether fitness depends on causal history.

    It doesn’t.

    Now go ride your bicycle over to Billy’s. I put the training wheels on for you.

  18. walto: I get this insulting and idiotic non-sequitur in response:

    Come on walto, you had just called the Bible irrational and Christianity nonsense.

    Then you said that the music and setting was nice at the funeral but you did not like the talk that went along with it about the person that was obviously very important to the deceased’s community. Most likely Jesus was the very person they turned to for comfort in their time of grief and you were calling him Jeebuz or some such tripe.

    Was that supposed to be a concession of some kind?

    It struck me as the height of condescension. and frankly it pissed me off. I’ll bet it would have pissed off the folks at that church as well.

    I sorry if my response upset you. It was meant to get you to perhaps see your comment as others saw it.

    peace

  19. keiths:

    I am a physicalist — and a reductive physicalist, at that — yet I don’t reject the existence of values, meanings, or thoughts.

    newton:

    Could you thumbnail what a reductive physicalist holds?

    I hold that

    a) there is nothing other than the physical;

    b) all phenomena can in principle be reduced to fundamental physics; and

    c) strong emergence and downward causation do not exist.

    Like any scientific position, it’s tentative. I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s incorrect, however.

  20. BruceS: That’s why I now prefer the structural/similarity approach. It avoids that separation. (It reminds me of identity theory to solve the general mental causation issue). The material I’ve read is able to recover an approach to “correct” function, but it involves treating correctness as a continuous variable, and not just a yes/no indicator.

    I really like the recent work that’s come out of Boone and Piccinini (“The cognitive neuroscience revolution“) and Williams and Colling (“From Symbols to Icons: The Return of Resemblance In the Cognitive Neuroscience Revolution“), together with that Morgan and Piccinini paper, that focuses on structural resemblances or functional homomorphisms as the key to representations.

    I like that a lot!

    But how different is that from a teleosemantic story? Is it because there’s no appeal to causal history for the explanatory work?

  21. fifth,

    It struck me as the height of condescension. and frankly it pissed me off. I’ll bet it would have pissed off the folks at that church as well.

    What are you pissed off about? The fact that their beliefs might be important to them doesn’t obligate walto to share in those beliefs.

  22. fifthmonarchyman: God does not need logic.

    Agreed.

    In a very real sense God is Logic.Logic is God’s way of thinking…. And God thinks about himself.

    In what sense is it not, if God is Logic?

    It’s not presumptuous if the omniscient, eternal being’s has infallibly revealed it to be so. In that case it’s presumptuous not to believe it

    If you don’t mind assuming your conclusion, a logical fallacy.

    Again, it’s not about what’s useful or necessary it’s about who God is.

    Or it is what you need God to be to justify your presuppostionism. Hard to say.

    Before the creation God’s nature is necessary in so much as he would not be God with out it.

    God is thought to be unchanging and eternal, not sure there was a before from God’s view.

    After the creation God’s nature is necessary in so much that nothing would exist if he did not exist.

    The question is does characterization of divine nature as Logic limit the infinite nature.

    There are no truly illogical occurrences only illogical arguments and illogical persons. That one is simple. The premise is God

    Exactly my point, you need the premise to make sense of the world. Your argument is dependent on it. And so far you only have an assertion that it is in fact the case. Something about too good to be true makes me skeptical.

    I think we have previously discussed the vital and necessary role of the incarnation for forming any kind of understanding of God.

    The Christian God.

    I suggest this book if you want to go deeper
    It addresses exactly your argument about divine emotion from my perspective. Check it out I promise it will be worth your while

    Not a fan of attributing human emotions to a deity either.

    peace

  23. keiths:
    keiths:

    newton:

    I hold that

    a) there is nothing other than the physical;

    b) all phenomena can in principle be reduced to fundamental physics; and

    c) strong emergence and downward causation do not exist.

    Like any scientific position, it’s tentative. I haven’t seen any evidence that it’s incorrect, however.

    Thanks

  24. Whatever, keiths. I appreciate your defense and FMM’s semi-apology–regardless of any reluctance that may have been involved in the posting of either.

    And while I’m here, let me also thank mung for his support of my remarks on selectionism, dazz and Neil for their comments on my funeral experience/report, and Bruce, for his awesome final post on the m&p paper–a lot to think about there.

    Ok, I think I’ve now sent all my thank-you notes. (Wish my daughter would send hers!!)

  25. walto,

    Whatever, keiths. I appreciate your defense and FMM’s semi-apology–regardless of any reluctance that may have been involved in the posting of either.

    No reluctance on my part. What you wrote was perfectly fine: you expressed an appreciation for the ritualistic richness of the Greek Orthodox funeral service while rejecting the theology.

    In Fifth World, evidently, one is not allowed to attend (or appreciate) a funeral service without mindlessly adopting the theology being preached. That’s just silly.

  26. fifthmonarchyman: Come on walto, you had just called the Bible irrational and Christianity nonsense.

    Most churches welcome unbelievers as potential believers. Seemed they got him hooked on the ambiance at least.

    Was that supposed to be a concession of some kind?

    Is it a concession for you to attend a funeral where there is no talk about Jesus?

    It struck me as the height of condescension. and frankly it pissed me off. I’ll bet it would have pissed off the folks at that church as well.

    I bet the folks at the church would say the ceremony was to honor the departed and provide comfort to his family and friends, not to be a litmus test of Christian belief. Knowing some Orthodox Christians ,I would also bet they would be welcoming to all faiths and to those who had none. And the food.

    I sorry if my response upset you. It was meant to get you to perhaps see your comment as others saw it.

    That is a Trumpian turn of phrase, defecting responsibility of a comment on unnamed others.

    peace

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