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. Robert Byers: Doc Egnor would say that loss of this mass makes no difference.

    You have not provided a citation. I’m guessing that you have misunderstood what Egnor was saying.

    There’s a huge difference between missing brain matter and removing (cutting out) existing brain matter. Egnor was probably talking of missing brain matter.

  2. 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.

    When one thing is next to another thing, why would they not affect each other?

    I am not a proponent of substance dualism, but the “interaction problem” objection to it is beyond ridiculous.

  3. Erik:

    I am not a proponent of substance dualism, but the “interaction problem” objection to it is beyond ridiculous.

    Your personal ignorance is a poor reason to dismiss the interaction problem. (You have a bad habit of dismissing what you don’t understand.) Why not learn about it so that you can offer an informed opinion?

  4. The ‘interaction problem’ is a fatal wound to the supernatural/immaterial nonsense. At least until an Xtian can explain to us how it can possibly work.

    If something is ‘immaterial’ it cant affect material matter, that’s by definition, assuming the supernatural can be defined at all (good luck there). If it does affect the material, then it can be detected (by observing the interaction) and its not supernatural any more.
    I feel embarrassed just writing this, sort of like a letter to Santa.

  5. newton: Genetics and practice.

    Lebron James has genes and he practices that is true whether he is a cavalier or a laker .

    The Cleveland team on the other hand is not Lebron James and does not cease to exist when Lebron changes jerseys .

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

    hahahaha!

    Do you actually think that fertilizer is the mechanism that meadows use to produce bouquets? Or are you just trying to avoid the question with empty mockery?

    peace

  6. graham2: The ‘interaction problem’ is a fatal wound to the supernatural/immaterial nonsense.

    An easier, more fundamental rebuttal of this so-called problem can be demonstrated this way: how does matter interact with matter? Nobody knows how matter interacts with matter. Physical forces and laws are not explanations of how; they are only descriptions (models) of the interactions. They occur, and we describe the interactions using models like gravity or force laws, but they are not explanations. For example, nobody knows what gravity is or how one object affects another; we use terms like “mass” and “curved space time” or “gravitons”, but these are just terms used in models as a means of describing the patterns of interaction we see.

    We already have some models that describe the interaction of consciousness and what we call the material world via various quantum experiments. It is hypocritical to ask “how” this interaction occurs as anything other than a description of the occurrence when that is all we have even for matter on matter interaction.

    So, “the interaction problem” is no more a fatal wound for immaterial causation than it is for material causation.

  7. William J. Murray: We already have some models that describe the interaction of consciousness and what we call the material world via various quantum experiments.

    The reason materialists have such difficulty is that their worldview is not equipped to handle successful models that do not include a materiel mechanism.

    They take it on faith that there must be something material hidden at the bottom of it all.

    peace

  8. fifthmonarchyman: The reason materialists have such difficulty is that their worldview is not equipped to handle successful models that do not include a materiel mechanism.

    They take it on faith that there must be something material hidden at the bottom of it all.

    peace

    Which doesn’t really make any sense, given what we now know about “matter” and “mechanism”. They describe these so-called “material” interactions as cause-and-effect mechanisms, but they actually have no idea what actually causes the effect because their “cause” is a model objectified as a “thing” – like gravity. These “forces” are abstract models of behavior objectified as if they are a real “thing” that can be observed and quantified beyond the effect pattern.”

    Gravity might as well be the actions of ghosts and spirits. We have absolutely no idea what produces it or why such interactions occur the way they do. The same is true of every other force or physical “law”‘; we categorize the behavior and call it a “thing” as if calling it a thing makes that thing “material” in nature.

    The height of hypocrisy is demanding a “how” for the interaction of the immaterial with the material when every single material interaction has absolutely no known material cause. Forces and physical laws are conceptual models of the behavior of phantoms as far as we can see. They can’t even point to what causes gravity nor explain how it does what it does other than with an objectified conceptual model, and yet want us to solve the problem of material/immaterial interaction by “explaining” how it occurs?

    When they can explain material-material interaction first, then we can talk about immaterial-material interaction.

  9. J-Mac: 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!

    From Wikipedia: “The backwards-in-time point of view is nowadays accepted as completely equivalent to other pictures,[18] but it doesn’t have anything to do with the macroscopic terms “cause” and “effect”, which do not appear in a microscopic physical description.”

    Since “brains” and “consciousness” are most definitely phenomena of condensed matter, it would seem that your speculations about quantum consciousness are, perhaps, a waste of time.

  10. fifthmonarchyman: 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

    It is very material, contracts and salaries.

  11. J-Mac: Deep down everything is quantum…
    Is there another layer of reality that has notbeen detected yet? How about dark energy? Who knows…

    Then the soul is of the same substance as the brain.

  12. J-Mac: 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…

    Maybe, maybe not.

  13. Erik: When one thing is next to another thing, why would they not affect each other?

    If one of those things is immaterial, can it be said to have a position, to be “next to something”? How can you tell it has that property?

  14. Erik: When one thing is next to another thing, why would they not affect each other?

    I am not a proponent of substance dualism, but the “interaction problem” objection to it is beyond ridiculous.

    If you’d actually read any of the 17th Century rationalists you might (MIGHT) come to realize how far off base this post is. Mental entities, on their view, can’t be “next” to anything in space. They’re not in space at all.

  15. newton: Maybe, maybe not.

    No, not even maybe. Utterly confused about the difference between X being something and X being caused by something. It’s just babble.

  16. Neil Rickert: You have not provided a citation.I’m guessing that you have misunderstood what Egnor was saying.

    There’s a huge difference between missing brain matter and removing (cutting out) existing brain matter.Egnor was probably talking of missing brain matter.

    It depends on what part of the brain is missing; either undeveloped or removed…
    While Egnor doesn’t it mention it the any of his articles I have read, he alludes to it in the article about conjured twins… That’s one of the reasons the twins can’t be separated because they would either become vegetables-they would lose their consciousness-or they would even die…

    VJ’s OP can be helpful…
    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/craniopagus-twins-revisited-a-response-to-professor-egnor/comment-page-1/

  17. newton: Then the soul is of the same substance as the brain.

    Is quantum information “made” of the same substance as the brain?
    Is information held in the state of a quantum system the same as an arrangement of subparticles of a quantum system?

  18. walto: If you’d actually read any of the 17th Century rationalists you might (MIGHT) come to realize how far off base this post is. Mental entities, on their view, can’t be “next” to anything in space. They’re not in space at all.

    Exactly. The immaterial is omnipresent without being confined anywhere in particular. Moreover, the immaterial has no need to interact with anything, because from its point of view, there’s no other thing to interact with. Yet the “interaction problem” supposes that it needs to interact with something else.

    In actuality, things interact because they derive causal powers from the immaterial. The “interaction problem” construes everything as upside down as the question “why does the soul need the brain?”

  19. Erik: The immaterial is omnipresent without being confined anywhere in particular.

    No. It’s not everywhere–it’s nowhere.

  20. Erik: Exactly. The immaterial is omnipresent without being confined anywhere in particular. Moreover, the immaterial has no need to interact with anything, because from its point of view, there’s no other thing to interact with. Yet the “interaction problem” supposes that it needs to interact with something else.

    In actuality, things interact because they derive causal powers from the immaterial. The “interaction problem” construes everything as upside down as the question “why does the soul need the brain?”

    Then the question of how things derive causal powers from the immaterial without the immaterial interacting with them comes to mind.

  21. J-Mac: Is quantum information “made” of the same substance as the brain?

    If everything is quantum then of course it is the same, there is nothing else.

    Is information held in the state of a quantum system the same as an arrangement of subparticles of a quantum system?

    If the arrangement is the information and the information is arrangement, yes.

  22. newton: If everything is quantum then of course it is the same, there is nothing else.

    If the arrangement is the information and the information is arrangement, yes.

    Then, the soul and the brain are made of the same substance on the subatomic level…Unless something is missing…
    Something that makes immaterial matter animate…alive…

  23. J-Mac: Then, the soul and the brain are made of the same substance on the subatomic level

    If the soul exists on any level, of course. We have good evidence the brain exists.

    Unless something is missing…

    Like the soul?

    Something that makes immaterial matter animate…alive…

    As opposed to material matter?

  24. J-Mac,

    I like Sean Carroll, but I didn’t like the suggestion here that the “bigness” or “smallness” of an event in comparison with its successor or predecessor is significant in whether it can be deemed a “cause.”

  25. walto:
    J-Mac,

    I like Sean Carroll, but I didn’t like the suggestion here that the “bigness” or “smallness” of an event in comparison with its successor or predecessor is significant in whether it can be deemed a “cause.”

    Sean has a new podcast Mindscape. The first episode is about cognitive dissonance and error, topics which some may consider apropos to TSZ discussions.

    The second is with Rovelli whose take on time came up in that thread with the weird theory of eternal awareness.

    The Carroll video is, of course, about the reversibility of the basic equations of mechanics (both Newton and Schrodinger). The emergence stuff alludes to emergence of, among other things, 2LT/entropy although like you I was not sure what philosophical ideas he had in mind for explaining causation. I’ll have to go back and check his latest book.

    Message me if you want it or either of Rovelli’s.

    As far as I could tell, the video had nothing to do with entanglement, SR, and how retrocausality applies there. Timothya points out J-Macs confusion about that situation above..

  26. BruceS,

    The video is about cause and effect. Read my comment again why I provided the link…
    I’m not going to explain timothya’s confusion again…neither your total lack of comprehension of the thread…as you just proven it by this comment…

  27. J-Mac:
    BruceS,

    The video is about cause and effect. Read my comment again why I provided the link…
    I’m not going to explain timothya’s confusion again…neither your total lack of comprehension of the thread…as you just proven it by this comment…

    Your are right about me finding the logic of your posts involving QM to be incomprehensible.

  28. newton: It is very material, contracts and salaries.

    Exactly how does the Cleveland Cavaliers handle that bit of capitalism?

    Remember the argument against “citizens united” corporations are not people.

    That sort of thing is typically done by a general manager and not a team. And teams don’t have money to pay salaries even if they wanted to, team owners do that.

    peace

  29. William J. Murray: Gravity might as well be the actions of ghosts and spirits. We have absolutely no idea what produces it or why such interactions occur the way they do.

    exactly, The materialist simply presupposes that there is nothing but matter behind it all.

    He has no evidence whatsoever to support his belief. It’s just blind faith.

    peace

  30. Note to onlookers:

    You might suspect that we’ve invented William, fifth, Mung, colewd, Byers, Erik, etc., in order to make theism look bad. But we haven’t.

    Those guys are real.

  31. fifth, to William:

    exactly, The materialist simply presupposes that there is nothing but matter behind it all.

    He has no evidence whatsoever to support his belief. It’s just blind faith.

    I see. So the dualist — who insists on the reality of something for which he has no evidence and which would be superfluous even if it existed — is the rational one, while the physicalist is exercising blind faith in doubting it.

    Behold fifthmonarchyman. This is your mind on God, folks.

  32. fifthmonarchyman: Lebron James has genes and he practices that is true whether he is a cavalier or a laker .

    Yes, the same mechanisms are at play whether you play for the Cavs or Lakers.

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

    The Cleveland team on the other hand is not Lebron James and does not cease to exist when Lebron changes jerseys .

    The Cleveland Cavaliers is a trademark of the corporation ,majority owned by Dan Gilbert, LeBron was an employee.

    Is your point the Clevand Cavaliers have an immaterial aspect like the soul?

    Do you actually think that fertilizer is the mechanism that meadows use to produce bouquets?

    No I don’t ,fertilizer is the part of the mechanism which plants use to produce flowers whether in meadows or pots.Flowers which could be used in the production of bouquets.

    Or are you just trying to avoid the question with empty mockery?

    Not adverse to mockery if it seems warranted but I do not really understand your point.

    William seemed to assert the immaterial ,the soul or libertarian free will can have causal effects at the quantum level with regard to the material world. I wondered how that works, can you clarify your point?

    peace

  33. newton: Yes, the same mechanisms are at play whether you play for the Cavs or Lakers.

    We are not looking for Lebron’s mechanisms but those of the team. Any idea what those are?

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

    And as I pointed out the question contains a category error just like asking for the mechanism that the Cleveland Cavaliers use to manipulate the basket ball

    newton: Is your point the Clevand Cavaliers have an immaterial aspect like the soul?

    No my point is that a team is not a material substance but an immaterial one.

    newton: The Cleveland Cavaliers is a trademark of the corporation ,majority owned by Dan Gilbert, LeBron was an employee.

    The corporation and it’s owner is not the team.

    newton: No I don’t ,fertilizer is the part of the mechanism which plants use to produce flowers whether in meadows or pots.Flowers which could be used in the production of bouquets.

    Flowers are not the meadow. You could replace all the flowers in the meadow and the meadow will remain.

    newton: William seemed to assert the immaterial ,the soul or libertarian free will can have causal effects at the quantum level with regard to the material world. I wondered how that works , can you clarify your point?

    With out warrant you presuppose that the only way that it can work is if there is a mechanism connecting the immaterial with the material.

    It’s so bad that you assume that a meadow is flowers and the Cleveland Cavaliers is LeBron James

    That is the point. Need more clarification?

    peace

  34. fifthmonarchyman: No my point is that a team is not a material substance but an immaterial one.

    A team is not a substance, so it is neither immaterial nor material.

  35. KN,

    A team is not a substance, so it is neither immaterial nor material.

    A team is not a substance, but any team that actually exists is instantiated physically.

  36. keiths: A team is not a substance, but any team that actually exists is instantiated physically.

    Oh, sure. I just pointing out FMM’s mistake.

  37. Kantian Naturalist: A team is not a substance, so it is neither immaterial nor material.

    Newton thinks the team is LeBron James and you think it does not exist.

    I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

    This sort of hopeless worldview influenced confusion makes me smile and feel sorry for you at the same time.

    peace

  38. Kantian Naturalist: but any team that actually exists is instantiated physically.

    In 1996 the physical instantiation of the Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens.

    Yet the genuine team still existed in the hearts of the community until it was physically “resurrected” in 1999.

    Now each year the genuine “resurrected” Cleveland Browns play the phony “physical instantiation” that is not the Cleveland Browns.

    check it out
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Browns_relocation_controversy

    peace

  39. That quote is from me and not KN, fifth.

    Besides hiding behind your Ignore button, are you afraid to even mention my name?

    (And this isn’t the first time, either. You did the same thing with PeterP, repeatedly misattributing my comments to him.)

  40. Fearful fifth:

    In 1996 the physical instantiation of the Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens.

    At that point, the Cleveland Browns ceased to exist and the Baltimore Ravens came into being. This isn’t difficult, O Brave One.

    Yet the genuine team still existed in the hearts of the community until it was physically “resurrected” in 1999.

    No. They remembered the team, but it no longer existed.

  41. Neil Rickert: You have not provided a citation.I’m guessing that you have misunderstood what Egnor was saying.

    There’s a huge difference between missing brain matter and removing (cutting out) existing brain matter.Egnor was probably talking of missing brain matter.

    When I rerad Egnors stuff on Discovery blog, many articles, he and others brought uo about people missing parts of the brain. Accidents, surgery, birth defects. its very often brought up and a case was made it showed how the thinking being is separate from the BRAIN MASS. So a soul implied.
    anyways it changes none of my assertion.
    The “brain’ mass is surely just to connect our thinking to the operations of the body, and all operations of the body9without our thinking involved.
    yet its just a machine acting as a go between of soul and memory. Only the memory is what we use to think with, besides the soul, I suggest.
    The brain does not exist as understood by people as the place of thinking.
    As in a car its only the engine. The person is soul plus memory/mind.
    On youtube there is lots of stories of peoople having had parts of the brain removed and no problem.

  42. Byers,

    On youtube there is lots of stories of peoople having had parts of the brain removed and no problem.

    And in the scientific literature there are scores of studies describing the problems — including problems with thinking — caused by damage to the brain.

    You are hopelessly unfamiliar with the evidence, Robert.

  43. Erik,

    Moreover, the immaterial has no need to interact with anything, because from its point of view, there’s no other thing to interact with.

    So your immaterial soul is actually dumb enough not to believe in the existence of matter and energy?

  44. Robert Byers: When I rerad Egnors stuff on Discovery blog, many articles, he and others brought uo about people missing parts of the brain.

    As I thought, his comment was about missing parts of the brain rather than removal. This is actually well known.

    a case was made it showed how the thinking being is separate from the BRAIN MASS

    A person is not the same as a brain. That seems trivially true.

    So a soul implied.

    I’m not seeing any basis for such an implication.

    The brain does not exist as understood by people as the place of thinking.

    I’m not entirely sure what you are saying. The wording is a bit awkward.

    I sometimes say “Brains do not think; people think and use their brains while thinking.” Perhaps that’s all that you are saying. In any case, that just says that thinking should be attributed to the person as a whole, rather than to the brain. And I guess I should note that this is contentious. Some folk do want to attribute thinking to just the brain.

    On youtube there is lots of stories of peoople having had parts of the brain removed and no problem.

    I think you will find that it depends on which parts of the brain, and at what stage in a person’s life.

  45. BruceS: Your are right about me finding the logic of your posts involving QM to be incomprehensible.

    Okay! I give up!
    Which part of the OP or QM don’t you understand? I will gladly repeat or provide you with the link…Make sure though that you have read the OP, all my comments, the linked OP as well as links to Dr. Egnor’s articles…

    After that, please bring up your concerns…

    I’m all ears…

  46. fifthmonarchyman: Exactly how does the Cleveland Cavaliers handle that bit of capitalism?

    Same way every other corporation’s physical manifestation handles It, I expect.

    Sorry it took so long to understand your argument. You are drawing an analogy between the legal fiction of incorporation and the immortal soul.

    “Incorporation def :Method by which individuals are voluntarily united into a new entity through the creation of an artificial, intangible, and legal person called corporation.”

    You sure you want to compare the soul to a fictional construct?

    Remember the argument against “citizens united” corporations are not people.

    Actually no, the question was do corporations have the constitutional right to use company funds to finance political speech of a fictional legal entity. The court created a new right. The opponents opposed granting this new right to corporations.

    That sort of thing is typically done by a general manager and not a team. And teams don’t have money to pay salaries even if they wanted to, team owners do that.

    That is his job, he is part of physical structure of the team/ corporation. He provides the environment so the mechanisms for winning games can be optimized which makes money for the physical manifestation of the corporation , the legal fiction only gets immaterial dollars.

    peace

  47. Neil Rickert: As I thought, his comment was about missing parts of the brain rather than removal. This is actually well known.

    Neil,
    Egnor talks about both including his favorite about the talking lady while her tumor is being removed…

    https://evolutionnews.org/2017/07/neuroscientist-michael-egnor-on-a-map-of-the-soul/
    Again, whether the brain is undeveloped or major parts of it are removed, it doesn’t seem to matter as much as long as the parts of the brain responsible for “maintaining” consciousness are intact…
    I’m sure Dr. Egnor can be more specific about it and so can Stuart Hameroff…Both with different experiences of consciousness loss and retention…

  48. newton: Same way every other corporation’s physical manifestation handles It, I expect.

    Sorry it took so long to understand your argument. You are drawing an analogy between the legal fiction of incorporation andthe immortal soul.

    “Incorporation def :Method by which individuals are voluntarily united into a new entity through the creation of an artificial, intangible, and legal person called corporation.”

    You sure you want to compare the soul to a fictional construct?

    Actually no, the question was do corporationshave the constitutional right to use company funds to finance political speech of a fictional legal entity. The court created a new right. The opponents opposed granting this new right to corporations.

    That is his job, he is part of physical structure of the team/ corporation. He provides the environment so the mechanisms for winning games can be optimized which makes money for the physical manifestation of the corporation , the legal fiction only getsimmaterial dollars.

    peace

    fifth is not a stupid guy…He can’t seem to express his thoughts sometimes…

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