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 thoughts on “Why does the soul need the brain?

  1. J-Mac: Are you able to propose a better idea other than speculations?
    At least Hameroff/Penrose’s quantum consciousness predictions have been confirmed by experiments…

    https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/why-a-genius-scientist-thinks-our-consciousness-originates-at-the-quantum-level

    What about you?

    Quantum mechanical actions typically operate on scales of 10^-9 metres. The smallest functional brain units are typically 10^-6 metres. Perhaps you could explain how the former scale to the latter.
    If you can provide a cogent explanation (or if Penrose can), I might take the idea of quantum consciousness seriously (hint: The Emporer’s New Clothes provides no such explanation).

  2. timothya: Quantum mechanical actions typically operate on scales of 10^-9 metres.The smallest functional brain units are typically 10^-6 metres. Perhaps you could explain how the former scale to the latter.
    If you can provide a cogent explanation (or if Penrose can), I might take the idea of quantum consciousness seriously (hint: The Emporer’s New Clothes provides no such explanation).

    If you are referring to Penrose’s “new” book The Emperor’s New Mind, it’s 20 years old… I guess the world of QM has been “frozen in time” since then waiting for people like you to explain that either distance doesn’t matter, or doesn’t exist on quantum level, or quantum entanglement violates relativity by breaking the speed of light…

    Which view would you like to defend, Einstein?

  3. keiths: As is so often the case, what Byers wrote makes no sense.

    Of course it doesn’t…but at least now you know how we feel while reading your comments…

  4. Mung: And keiths does not deny that he quote-mined Robert.

    Maybe keiths can go back (in time) and change the comment? Can he? keiths can do anything when he put his mind to it…

    If not, he could use QM with how the future events affect the past…He can do it…

    There is a distinct possibility that future lies can affect your past lies…or quote mining this case…

    Good catch Mung! 😉

  5. keiths:
    Looks like I’ve successfully wound up the J-Mac in the box again.

    In your case ketihs…you would have to have a brain in the first place to need anything beyond that… unfortunately… a wound up box could do it for you as replacement for your bizarre ideas…

  6. J-Mac: If you are referring to Penrose’s “new” book The Emperor’s New Mind, it’s 20 years old… I guess the world of QM has been “frozen in time” since then waiting for people like you to explain that either distance doesn’t matter, or doesn’t exist on quantum level, or quantum entanglement violates relativity by breaking the speed of light…

    Which view would you like to defend, Einstein?

    So that would be a No, you don’t have an explanation for how quantum mechanical actions “cause” consciousness (the facts of quantum mechanics are not in dispute here).

  7. timothya: So that would be a No, you don’t have an explanation for how quantum mechanical actions “cause” consciousness (the facts of quantum mechanics are not in dispute here).

    I do…and this comment tells me you neither read the thread nor have an idea what’s all about… Have you heard of borred retirees club? Join them…
    I’m here to learn not to waste my time…
    You come up with something worth while, I might consider reinstating you…

  8. Thanks… I’m partially training for my next gig…
    Defending “radical”ideas is not easy …. initially

  9. keiths,

    Yuck. Thats someones brain?
    its not denial of the stuff in a skull. its denialthat its a working mechanism on its own. in other words i would say the picture shows a great memory machine and its connections needed for the body.
    I mean the brain is a myth as part of human thinking.
    what they call a brain is just a practical machine to allow the interaction between the soul and memory. in fact Doc Egnor would say you could slice that mass in half or quarters and still not affect a normal thinking person.
    This because most of it is simple wiring for the memory and the body.
    Its not useless but the memory can get around it.
    In regards to human thought therte is no brain. None in animals either.

  10. Byers:

    in fact Doc Egnor would say you could slice that mass in half or quarters and still not affect a normal thinking person.

    Since he is a neurosurgeon, let’s hope he’s not incompetent enough to say any such thing.

    I mean the brain is a myth as part of human thinking.

    There are vast swathes of research that prove you wrong. Not to mention common sense.

  11. Acartia:
    Is this the same Egnor that said the following?

    Virtually all of the gun violence in America is committed by Democrats in municipalities governed by Democrats. “

    Canadians know thats true. it means gun violoence is done mostly be ethnic groups like Africans,to use that word, or Mexicans, and these always vote democratic .
    sometimes the left wing tries to say gun violence comes from NRA areas(republican). When actually those with great interest in guns and lots of them never do evil with guns.
    Same as in canada. i live in a more gun killing area, relative, due to foreign immigration from the last decades. We have oppresive gun rules but it never changes anything. tHey just repress the good guys with a heritage of canadian gun interest.
    Canada is a dictatorship , literally, since the court coup in the last decades.
    All rights and freedoms are null and void at the moment.
    Don’t tell anyone. its embarrassing.

  12. keiths:
    Byers:

    Since he is a neurosurgeon, let’s hope he’s not incompetent enough to say any such thing.

    There are vast swathes of research that prove you wrong.Not to mention common sense.

    It looks like ketihs vs byers are a good match… we can all retire…literally… 🙂 Good whatever! Life possibly… lol

  13. Robert Byers: Canadians know thats true. it means gun violoence is done mostly be ethnic groups like Africans,to use that word, or Mexicans, and these always vote democratic .
    sometimes the left wing tries to say gun violence comes from NRA areas(republican). When actually those with great interest in guns and lots of them never do evil with guns.
    Same as in canada. i live in a more gun killing area, relative, due to foreign immigration from the last decades. We have oppresive gun rules but it never changes anything. tHey just repress the good guys with a heritage of canadian gun interest.
    Canada is a dictatorship , literally, since the court coup in the last decades.
    All rights and freedoms are null and void at the moment.
    Don’t tell anyone. its embarrassing.

    Byers,
    How can I find you to revoke your Canadian citizenship? That is, if you have one…
    Any leads how to locate spangebath?

  14. Byers, to Acartia:

    Canadians know thats true.

    If I recall correctly, Acartia is a Canadian, Robert.

  15. Completely unrelated, but I notice the Biosemiosis website of Upright Biped (from Uncommondescent) has sort of died.

  16. graham2:

    Completely unrelated, but I notice the Biosemiosis website of Upright Biped (from Uncommondescent) has sort of died.

    Did he ever revive it after this?

  17. J-Mac: Are you able to propose a better idea other than speculations?
    At least Hameroff/Penrose’s quantum consciousness predictions have been confirmed by experiments…

    https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/why-a-genius-scientist-thinks-our-consciousness-originates-at-the-quantum-level

    What about you?

    You demand that Egnor acknowledge your pet theory of consciousness, instead of entertaining a pet theory of his own. Your link says nobody except Penrose is impressed with the experiment, so your quantum theory is as much speculation as any other theory.

    I like quantum theories, by the way. I just don’t like when they are incompetently assumed to subvert common sense, such as the law of excluded middle or the concept of the soul. You are doing it particularly incompetently. Your version of quantum woo seems to be emergentism, but quantum mechanics doesn’t necessitate emergentism at all.

    Edit: Okay, I clicked further to the study (experiment as you called it) and it’s interesting. But it does nothing to affect the concept of the soul. How do you think it does?

  18. walto: J-Mac: I’m here to learn not to waste my time…

    Good luck with that.

    I thought J-Mac was here to tell others not to waste his time.

  19. keiths: Sure I do.

    Here’s what Robert also said about the brain:

    Our soul needs a brain/mind because the immaterial must be connected to the material. We must touch the material world with a immaterial soul. SO the mind/brain is simply the go between.

    He says we need a brain, and that the brain is “the go between.”

    You left that part out of your quote-mine.

  20. timothya: Quantum mechanical actions typically operate on scales of 10^-9 metres. The smallest functional brain units are typically 10^-6 metres. Perhaps you could explain how the former scale to the latter.

    This is a really important point, and I’d be astonished if the “quantum consciousness” people had a response to it (though it’s fairly obvious what they should say).

    I have to say, I don’t understand what the problem is to which “quantum mechanics!” is supposed to the answer. Is it “what is the metaphysics of consciousness?” or something like that? Is it “how is free will possible?” or an answer to the free will/determinism debate?

    I’ll admit my knowledge of quantum physics is slight and second-hand, but I have a first-class understanding of the philosophical problems and their history, and I really don’t see how “quantum mechanics!” is supposed to solve anything.

  21. For the substance dualists here: any ideas on how an immaterial substance can causally affect a material substance? The brightest minds of 17th century Europe wrestled with that for over a hundred years before giving up in frustration, but maybe y’all can do better.

  22. Kantian Naturalist: I have to say, I don’t understand what the problem is to which “quantum mechanics!” is supposed to the answer. Is it “what is the metaphysics of consciousness?” or something like that? Is it “how is free will possible?” or an answer to the free will/determinism debate?

    It sometimes seems to be:

    QM is a bit mysterious; consciousness is a bit mysterious. Ergo, QM must be connected to consciousness.

  23. Kantian Naturalist: This is a really important point, and I’d be astonished if the “quantum consciousness” people had a response to it (though it’s fairly obvious what they should say).

    According to Wiki article Orchestrated objective reduction, the Penrose-Hameroff theory involves Godel, QM, coherent brain states (which is related to the distance issue you are concerned with), and the measurement problem. Most of it is due to Penrose:

    Godel: because humans are capable of knowing the truth of Gödel-unprovable statements, human thought is necessarily non-computable.

    Quantum: wave function collapse is non-computable and hence provides a way for us to think non-computably.

    Coherent brain states: for quantum states to persist in the brain, decoherence must be avoided. Hameroff claimed microtubules allowed that and Penrose adopted his idea.

    Collapse of the wave function: To avoid the randomness in the QM formalism, Penrose proposes his own solution of to the measurement problem (ie “collapse of the wave function”); he says it involves gravity.

    None of these ideas taken separately has any degree of support in the relevant scientific community. Plus, as you say, taken as a whole it does seem to be a ramshackle collection of ideas rather than a coherent scientific theory.

    Also, it seems more about explaining the supposed special nature of human cognition and not phenomenality, even though it is proposed as a theory of consciousness. At least other theories like GWS have experimental evidence of correlation of the neural processes that they postulate to underlie consciousness. I am not aware of any research program like that for Penrose-Hameroff (though I believe Hameroff theorizes a relation to anesthesia).

    Here’s a fun article on a Hameroff’s “Science of Consciousness” conference. Chalmers used to co-run it, but he is no longer doing that, although he does attend.

  24. BruceS: According to Wiki article Orchestrated objective reduction, the Penrose-Hameroff theory involves Godel, QM, coherent brain states (which is related to the distance issue you are concerned with), and the measurement problem. Most of it is due to Penrose:

    Godel: because humans are capable of knowing the truth of Gödel-unprovable statements, human thought is necessarily non-computable.

    Quantum: wave function collapse is non-computable and hence provides a way for us to think non-computably.

    Coherent brain states: for quantum states to persist in the brain, decoherence must be avoided. Hameroff claimed microtubules allowed that and Penrose adopted his idea.

    Collapse of the wave function: To avoid the randomness in the QM formalism, Penrose proposes his own solution of to the measurement problem (ie “collapse of the wave function”); he says it involves gravity.

    What a cute little choo-choo train they’ve got going there!

  25. KN,

    I have to say, I don’t understand what the problem is to which “quantum mechanics!” is supposed to [be] the answer. Is it “what is the metaphysics of consciousness?” or something like that? Is it “how is free will possible?” or an answer to the free will/determinism debate?

    As Bruce explained, Penrose invokes it to explain humans’ supposed ability to think in ways that are non-computable.

    In the minds of certain incompatibilists, quantum indeterminism is their last hope for rescuing free will. Ken Miller, for instance.

    They don’t recognize that determinism is not the problem, and that substituting quantum randomness for determinism doesn’t magically make libertarian free will a viable proposition.

  26. Kantian Naturalist: For the substance dualists here: any ideas on how an immaterial substance can causally affect a material substance? The brightest minds of 17th century Europe wrestled with that for over a hundred years before giving up in frustration, but maybe y’all can do better.

    Were the brightest minds of 17th century Europe informed about quantum theory and were they aware of the results of all the various forms of the two-slit experiment? Were they aware of what “matter” was at the quantum level, how it behaved, what the “movement” of matter consisted of, at that level?

    I think the problem for our 17th century friends was a meaningful understanding of what “matter” is.

  27. William J. Murray: Were the brightest minds of 17th century Europe informed about quantum theory and were they aware of the results of all the various forms of the two-slit experiment? Were they aware of what “matter” was at the quantum level, how it behaved, what the “movement” of matter consisted of, at that level?

    What is the mechanism which allows the immaterial soul to manipulate material world at the quantum level?

  28. William J. Murray:

    I think the problem for our 17th century friends was a meaningful understanding of what “matter” is.

    What is a meaningful understanding of the relationship material and the immaterial?

    If I understand your hypothesis about whether we are automatons , there has to be a separation between the material and the immaterial, if everything interacts in the at the quantum level would that not breach that separation?

  29. Mung: He says we need a brain, and that the brain is “the go between.”

    Then question becomes how the brain is a go between.

  30. William:

    Were the brightest minds of 17th century Europe informed about quantum theory and were they aware of the results of all the various forms of the two-slit experiment? Were they aware of what “matter” was at the quantum level, how it behaved, what the “movement” of matter consisted of, at that level?

    No, but so what? None of those things supports the existence of an immaterial soul.

  31. keiths: No, but so what? None of those things supports the existence of an immaterial soul.

    Souls must live in the difference between waves and particles? Yeah, I’m not seeing the connection there either William. Photons are waves or particles depending on how you measure them, therefore heaven bound souls are real because….

    William J. Murray: I think the problem for our 17th century friends was a meaningful understanding of what “matter” is.

    Now that we know what “matter” is I’m still awaiting something profound from you regarding it. Take your time.

  32. newton: What is the mechanism which allows the immaterial soul to manipulate material world at the quantum level?

    I think this is a category error.

    It’s like asking what mechanism the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team uses to manipulate the ball so well.

    The short answer is that the connection between the team as a whole and the ball is bridged by the individual players.

    The connection between the individual players and the team is what’s immaterial.

    get it??

    peace

  33. fifth:

    It’s like asking what mechanism the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team uses to manipulate the ball so well.

    The short answer is that the connection between the team as a whole and the ball is bridged by the individual players.

    The connection between the individual players and the team is what’s immaterial.

    get it??

    That made me laugh.

    Fifth, tell us how your analogy maps onto a person and his or her immaterial soul.

  34. walto: No.

    Oh well. I gave it a shot.

    What mechanism do you think that the Cleveland cavaliers basketball team uses to manipulate the basket ball?

    peace

  35. Kantian Naturalist: timothya: Quantum mechanical actions typically operate on scales of 10^-9 metres. The smallest functional brain units are typically 10^-6 metres. Perhaps you could explain how the former scale to the latter.
    This is a really important point, and I’d be astonished if the “quantum consciousness” people had a response to it (though it’s fairly obvious what they should say).

    Why are you so naïve, Kantian?

    Tymothya read somewhere some relativistic non-sense and the first time I challenged him for explanation of his own non-sense, he moved the goalposts…
    He has not clue what he had written. If he did, he’d provide some sources at least…

    I don’t know about “quantum consciousness people” but to me it seems obvious that on the level of measurements of properties of entangled units, quantum physics is ignorant to space and time…

    What does that mean?

    It means that Einstein’s space-time based relativity needs a major overhaul…There is a lot of resistance, just like I mentioned it in my previous OPs, but it can’t last forever…

    That’s why when I read tymothya’s confident statement about “WHEN Einstein’s relativity is unified with QM”…I knew he had no clue what he was talking about…
    I would expect more from you though…

    BTW: I’m not saying consciousness is quantum…
    I think quantum consciousness is a very good explanation of many problems with self-awareness with some experimental evidence coming up, but I’m not married to it…

    If someone proposes a better theory, I’d consider it…

  36. How about some more just for fun.

    What mechanism does a spring rain-shower use to produce a rainbow?

    What mechanism does a prairie meadow use to produce a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers?

    What mechanism does the supreme court use to produce a judicial precedent?

    peace

  37. newton: What is a meaningful understanding of the relationship material and the immaterial?

    If I understand your hypothesis about whether we areautomatons , therehas to be a separation between the material and the immaterial, if everything interacts in the at the quantum level would that not breach that separation?

    Deep down everything is quantum…
    Is there another layer of reality that has not been detected yet? How about dark energy? Who knows…

  38. fifth:

    How about some more just for fun.

    What mechanism does a spring rain-shower use to produce a rainbow?

    Why, the immaterial Jebus, of course!

    What mechanism does a prairie meadow use to produce a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers?

    The material Jebus. Dead bodies make good fertilizer.

    What mechanism does the supreme court use to produce a judicial precedent?

    A mechanism similar to that employed by the sausage-making legislature.

  39. newton: What is the mechanism which allows the immaterial soulto manipulate material world at the quantum level?

    If quantum soul = quantum information then the mechanism used by the microtubules in brain neurons would be quantum vibrations that generate consciousness and quantum entanglement to process the quantum information instantaneously…Faster than speed of light…

    Since the core of consciousness would have to be quantum information, it would explain why people with 75% of their brain missing or removed remain conscious…
    And, it would also explain why people become vegetables when a small but essential part of the brain for consciousness is damaged or removed…
    Egnor should know these facts first hand…

    The immaterial soul can’t save them…The “soul” needs a properly functioning quantum processor for conscious NOW experience…

  40. newton: What is a meaningful understanding of the relationship material and the immaterial?

    If I understand your hypothesis about whether we areautomatons , therehas to be a separation between the material and the immaterial, if everything interacts in the at the quantum level would that not breach that separation?

    I’m not sure my view meets the standard of “substance dualism”. The problem with the premise that there is a problem of causation between what we call the material and the immaterial lies in the nature of what “matter” is.

    The presumption of disconnect between “matter” and the “immaterial” lies in a Victorian understanding of what “matter” is, and thus by comparison to that what “immaterial” means. This is a pre-quantum theory philosophical quandary based on pre-quantum understanding of matter and energy.

    If we accept what many quantum theorists (including the originators of the theory) have said, consciousness is fundamental when it comes to the actual, physical nature of experience – that physicality itself is a construct of the mind, and that matter is an interpretation of information. Some physicists are coming around to the idea of “information” as the basic unit of “matter” and “energy” – that what actually exists outside of mind is information/data (quantum field of potential), and it is the mind that organizes or collapses it into forms and patterns upon observation/interaction.

    Asking “how” this happens is like asking “how” gravity attracts; we don’t know how, all we can do is create a model that describes the behavior. Quantum experiments such as the two-slit and quantum eraser produce results that are best modeled as the observer effect. They show clearly that the results are not the same if a photon simply interacts with a physical system rather than when they interact in a system where their location **can be** identified by a conscious observer.

    IN that scenario, an automaton could be a data/information set that is not directed by a conscious entity, much like NPC in a video game. Some characters are being operated by conscious players, others are just machine-generated automatons with no deliberate agency of their own.

  41. William J. Murray,

    Congrats on the quintessential crackpot word salad, it ticks all the quackery boxes with references to quantum mechanics, “information”, and a couple stupid analogies to wrap it up.

  42. keiths:

    fmm: What mechanism does a prairie meadow use to produce a beautiful bouquet of wildflowers?

    keiths: The material Jebus. Dead bodies make good fertilizer.

    hahahaha!

  43. J-Mac: Why are you so naïve, Kantian?

    Tymothya read somewhere some relativistic non-sense and the first time I challenged him for explanation of his own non-sense, he moved the goalposts…
    He has not clue what he had written. If he did, he’d provide some sources at least…

    I don’t know about “quantum consciousness people” but to me it seems obvious that on the level of measurements of properties of entangled units, quantum physics is ignorant to space and time…

    What does that mean?

    It means that Einstein’s space-time based relativity needs a major overhaul…There is a lot of resistance, just like I mentioned it in my previous OPs, but it can’t last forever…

    That’s why when I read tymothya’s confident statement about “WHEN Einstein’s relativity is unified with QM”…I knew he had no clue what he was talking about…
    I would expect more from you though…

    BTW: I’m not saying consciousness is quantum…
    I think quantum consciousness is a very good explanation of many problems with self-awareness with some experimental evidence coming up, but I’m not married to it…

    If someone proposes a better theory, I’d consider it…

    A truly bizarre version of reality. By the way, you attribute to me a statement that I did not make. And you still haven’t provided an explanation of how quantum actions bridge the gap between QM scales and neurone scales. An explanation requires you to provide an observable mechanism of how you get from cause to effect. Arm waving doesn’t cut it.

  44. keiths:
    Byers:

    Since he is a neurosurgeon, let’s hope he’s not incompetent enough to say any such thing.

    There are vast swathes of research that prove you wrong.Not to mention common sense.

    I think not but provide the swathes and sense.
    Doc Egnor would say that loss of this mass makes no difference. that was his great point .

  45. timothya: A truly bizarre version of reality. By the way, you attribute to me a statement that I did not make. And you still haven’t provided an explanation of how quantum actions bridge the gap between QM scales and neurone scales. An explanation requires you to provide an observable mechanism of how you get from cause to effect. Arm waving doesn’t cut it.

    Just in case you have forgotten, again, on quantum level, effect can precede the cause…So, I’m not really sure what you would like me to bridge…
    Your comment confirms again that you are clueless and a waste of time…ciao!

  46. newton: Thenquestion becomes how the brain is a go between.

    God created a go between. The soul is touching the memory.
    The memory is the exclusive organ of the brain except where its connected to body functions.
    Like in the ear or eye there is a translation.
    The soul must touch the material world. It touches the memory. The memory touches the soul.
    Thus jesus Soul was interfered by a human memory. so he could not remember any GOD stuff or most of it. he had to figure things out mostly.

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