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…

1,372 Replies to “Why does the soul need the brain?”

  1. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: If it doesn’t exist there can be no correspondence with it.

    Exactly, correspondence necessarily entails existence.

    Keith’s problem I assume is that his worldview equates existence with physical instantiation. That position is untenable at it’s face.

    Neil Rickert: Most other folk look at it in ways that are deeply tied to dualistic thinking, though they may deny that.

    We can’t help it we are wired that way.

    When you affirm and deny something at the same time it’s a sure sign you might need to examine your presuppositions.

    peace

  2. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: Exactly, correspondence necessarily entails existence.

    Waiting for keiths to point out that children correspond with Santa.

  3. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Waiting for keiths to point out that children correspond with Santa.

    That sort of insightful comment is why you need to be a moderator 😉

    peace

  4. Erik
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths: Sure I can, because it doesn’t. This is trivial and obvious, Erik.

    Plumbers — members of the plumbing profession — can nevertheless be underinformed and make mistakes. Ditto for dentists and philosophers.

    Of course they can, in abstract. But try to tell to a specific plumber (or dentist or philosopher) who actually happens to know his job very well: “Plumbers can be underinformed and make mistakes.” — “Before you pull my teeth, let me tell you what happened to my friend when he went to a dentist…” etc.

    You see, we are talking about a specific philosopher here, and this is the test to reveal that the fallacy from authority is inapplicable, and that’s why it’s called an informal fallacy. Anyway, whatever.

  5. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    According to the series of articles by neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Egnor, it’s a gamble for which parts of the surgically removed brain the soul will be able compensate…

    “After the surgery, doctors and researchers weren’t sure exactly how UD’s brain would handle losing such key visual and recognition regions. Of the two extreme possibilities, one was that his brain’s networks wouldn’t reorganize at all to compensate for the loss, and UD would have severe visual and sensory processing disabilities. The other extreme hypothesis was that UD’s brain would completely compensate, with other regions taking over the roles of the right sides of the occipital and temporal lobes, leading UD to function completely normally.”

    https://mindmatters.today/2018/08/boy-loses-large-hunk-of-brain/

    The conclusion seems obvious: the soul needs the essential parts of the brain to maintain consciousness and the main body functions…

    However, the soul doesn’t need any parts of the brain to maintain consciousness and any mechanical soul functions….after death….
    No evidence is yet available to support this notion but speculations will do for now….

  6. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    For those who believe in souls, it would seem that the answer to the OP’s question is that the soul doesn’t need the brain, thus explaining the absence of brain use among believers.

  7. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    The soul needs the brain if it is to have any expectation of moving the body around.

  8. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung,

    Oh yeah! That!

  9. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Entropy:
    For those who believe in souls, it would seem that the answer to the OP’s question is that the soul doesn’t need the brain, thus explaining the absence of brain use among believers.

    I’m glad we agree on that very issue…

    But if consciousness is quantum, as it appears to be, it needs the quantum supercomputer-the brain-to function. When the “flow” of quantum information is disrupted by general anaesthesia, full unconscious state occurs….

  10. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: When the “flow” of quantum information is disrupted by general anaesthesia, full unconscious state occurs

    What cells are involved in the reception of this information? Or are all cells involved?

    Is it possible to see this information arrive?

    Given there are various causes of unconsciousness, general anaesthesia being just one of them, is the “flow” of quantum information always disrupted? How does a blow to the head cause such a disruption?

    Why have you put “flow” in quotes? Is that because you don’t believe it’s possible to see the information arrive and then move around the brain (i.e. flow) and as such it’s an untestable assumption? If not, what are the quotes for?

    J-Mac: But if consciousness is quantum, as it appears to be

    So say “if”, are you not sure? Appearances can be deceptive. How do you know you are correct?

    J-Mac: it needs the quantum supercomputer-the brain-to function.

    So what is the soul on it’s own capable of specifically?

    Also why don’t we remember being unconscious then? If consciousness needs the brain to function how does it remember things prior to life and post death?

    Do you believe in reincarnation J-Mac?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HstmAnXY5r8

  11. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: The soul needs the brain if it is to have any expectation of moving the body around.

    If the soul can cause neurons to change behaviour why can’t it directly control nerves to make the body move?

  12. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain: If the soul can cause neurons to change behaviour why can’t it directly control nerves to make the body move?

    I think Mung was just being humorous.

  13. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain: What cells are involved in the reception of this information? Or are all cells involved?

    Thank you for asking great questions and in a civilized way OMagain!

    It seems to me we are a part of the very few here who share a passion about consciousness… Neil is one of us too…

    The microtubules of neurons are involved… there may be other parts of neurons or other cells involved…
    Whenever neuronal microtubules are damaged, there maybe a disturbance of consciousness…

  14. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain: Is it possible to see this information arrive?
    Given there are various causes of unconsciousness, general anaesthesia being just one of them, is the “flow” of quantum information always disrupted? How does a blow to the head cause such a disruption?
    Why have you put “flow” in quotes? Is that because you don’t believe it’s possible to see the information arrive and then move around the brain (i.e. flow) and as such it’s an untestable assumption? If not, what are the quotes for?

    The information “flows” via quantum entanglement, which is instantaneous that’s why I put “flow” in quotes… there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as distance on subatomic level… If there is relativity is clearly violated…

    The quantum entanglement in the brain neurons has been tested in many different ways… Dean Radin’s experiment being one them, which I did the OP on…

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/2-cosmic-consciousness-the-experimental-evidence/

    More

    https://www.quantumconsciousness.org/

  15. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi everyone,

    I’m a bit busy at the moment, but FWIW, the following paper by A. K. Seth, B. J. Baars and D. B. Edelman, entitled, Criteria for consciousness in humans and other mammals (Consciousness and Cognition, 14 (2005), 119–139) may be of interest. According to Seth, Baars and Edelman, primary consciousness has three distinguishing features at the neurological level:

    Physiologically, three basic facts stand out about consciousness.

    2.1. Irregular, low-amplitude brain activity

    Hans Berger discovered in 1929 that waking consciousness is associated with low-level, irregular activity in the raw EEG, ranging from about 20–70 Hz (Berger, 1929). Conversely, a number of unconscious states—deep sleep, vegetative states after brain damage, anesthesia, and epileptic absence seizures—show a predominance of slow, high-amplitude, and more regular waves at less than 4 Hz (Baars, Ramsoy, & Laureys, 2003). Virtually all mammals studied thus far exhibit the range of neural activity patterns diagnostic of both conscious states…

    2.2. Involvement of the thalamocortical system

    In mammals, consciousness seems to be specifically associated with the thalamus and cortex (Baars, Banks, & Newman, 2003)… To a first approximation, the lower brainstem is involved in maintaining the state of consciousness, while the cortex (interacting with thalamus) sustains conscious contents. No other brain regions have been shown to possess these properties… Regions such as the hippocampal system and cerebellum can be damaged without a loss of consciousness per se.

    2.3. Widespread brain activity

    Recently, it has become apparent that conscious scenes are distinctively associated with widespread brain activation (Srinivasan, Russell, Edelman, & Tononi, 1999; Tononi, Srinivasan, Russell, & Edelman, 1998c). Perhaps two dozen experiments to date show that conscious sensory input evokes brain activity that spreads from sensory cortex to parietal, prefrontal, and medial-temporal regions; closely matched unconscious input activates mainly sensory areas locally (Dehaene et al., 2001). Similar findings show that novel tasks, which tend to be conscious and reportable, recruit widespread regions of cortex; these tasks become much more limited in cortical representation as they become routine, automatic and unconscious (Baars, 2002)…

    Together, these first three properties indicate that consciousness involves widespread, relatively fast, low-amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical core of the brain, driven by current tasks and conditions. Unconscious states are markedly different and much less responsive to sensory input or endogenous activity.

    Dr. James Rose, in his article, The Neurobehavioral Nature of Fishes and the Question of Awareness and Pain (Reviews in Fisheries Science 10(1):1-38 · January 2002), writes:

    Primary consciousness appears to depend greatly on the functional integrity of several cortical regions of the cerebral hemispheres especially the “association areas” of the frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes (Laureys et al., 1999, 2000a-c). Primary consciousness also requires the operation of subcortical support systems such as the brainstem reticular formation and the thalamus that enable a working condition of the cortex. However, in the absence of cortical operations, activity limited to these subcortical systems cannot generate consciousness (Kandel et al., 2000; Laureys et al., 1999, 2000a; Young et al., 1998).

    OMagain asks:

    If the soul can cause neurons to change behaviour why can’t it directly control nerves to make the body move?

    On a Cartesian view of the soul, that is what one might expect. However, if the soul’s action on the body works by way of top-down causation, then we would expect its voluntary activity to be confined to areas where inter-connectivity is strongest. I’ve sketched how the mechanism might work in my 2012 Uncommon Descent article, Is free will dead? Cheers.

  16. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain: So what is the soul on it’s own capable of specifically?
    Also why don’t we remember being unconscious then? If consciousness needs the brain to function how does it remember things prior to life and post death?
    Do you believe in reincarnation J-Mac?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HstmAnXY5r8

    I have become sceptical of the existence of an immoral soul long time ago…
    I have challenged many experts in the field, including many scholars…

    That’s why Barry Arrington banned me at UD, as many people there tried to persuade me to change my mind as they thought that no soul teaching was bad for ID…

    Dr. Egnor has been working hard to marry the soul with free will and I can see him heading toward quantum mechanics and possibly quantum soul…

  17. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Entropy: I think Mung was just being humorous.

    Oh, so am I, so am I.

    ;P

  18. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley: However, if the soul’s action on the body works by way of top-down causation, then we would expect its voluntary activity to be confined to areas where inter-connectivity is strongest.

    We should still see that souls able to tap out messages from, say, freshly severed frogs legs however?

    Or is there some schema that limits a souls interaction to a particular blob of atoms? What is the rule set regarding what particular atoms a particular soul can affect?

    Furthermore, isolated neurons in a lab setting kept alive from the body of a cadaver should still be able to receive “signals” from the soul of that body? If not why not? That sounds emmiently testable to me. We should see some sort of activity that we would not expect from a “disconnected” neuron (i.e. one that never had a soul directing it) right?

    Also I noted that you say “if the soul’s action” as if there is some doubt. Is there some doubt? What other candidates are you considering for how the soul affects the body? What is the evidence that has led you to this particular understanding and how is it superior to the evidences for the other possibilities?

  19. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac: The quantum entanglement in the brain neurons has been tested in many different ways

    Currently that’s like saying that because heat is present in the brain it must be relevant to consciousness. While it’s perfectly possible quantum effects play a significant role in consciousness this is still a subject of considerable debate and I am not aware of any research that definitely shows this to be the case.

    It seems you are unable to actually address any of the specific questions I asked, but thanks for noting how nicely I asked them.

  20. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain: While it’s perfectly possible quantum effects play a significant role in consciousness this is still a subject of considerable debate and I am not aware of any research that definitely shows this to be the case.
    It seems you are unable to actually address any of the specific questions I asked, but thanks for noting how nicely I asked them.

    Of course it’s being debated but recent experiments have confirmed the quantum vibrations in microtubules of neurons that had been predicted by Hamaroff and Penrose…

    https://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/research-and-journals/discovery-of-quantum-vibrations-in-microtubules-inside-brain-neurons-corroborates-controversial-20-year-old-theory-of-consciousness

    Which of your questions would you like me to address again?

  21. Kantian Naturalist Kantian Naturalist
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley: On a Cartesian view of the soul, that is what one might expect. However, if the soul’s action on the body works by way of top-down causation, then we would expect its voluntary activity to be confined to areas where inter-connectivity is strongest

    On a hylomorphic view of the soul/body relation, how can the soul’s influence on the body be stronger at some parts of the body and weaker at other parts of the body? The function of the soul as the substantial form of the body is to make the body an integrated unity and not just an aggregate or bunch of parts. Are some parts of the body more unified than other parts?

    I worry that if you’re going to be a hylomorphist, then it doesn’t make sense to say that some parts of the body are more ensouled than other parts, since the function of the soul is to turn all of those parts into a single functionally integrated whole.

  22. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Kantian Naturalist: On a hylomorphic view of the soul/body relation, how can the soul’s influence on the body be stronger at some parts of the body and weaker at other parts of the body? The function of the soul as the substantial form of the body is to make the body an integrated unity and not just an aggregate or bunch of parts. Are some parts of the body more unified than other parts?

    I worry that if you’re going to be a hylomorphist, then it doesn’t make sense to say that some parts of the body are more ensouled than other parts, since the function of the soul is to turn all of those parts into a single functionally integrated whole.

    Didn’t we agree in the past that Thomas Aquinas was converted to Aristotelianism and, along with him, so was the church?

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