Monday, October 30, 2006

Do We Have Souls?

About 10 days ago, I was returning home from a business trip to the Bay Area, and spotted this article in U.S.News & World Report in the airport newsstand. I grabbed the magazine (paid for it, yes) and then hurried to my flight home, weary from a long day.

It was a breathtaking fall evening, as I flew home about 7PM. The sunset out the window seat was every color imaginable of orange, yellow, gray and blue. I was reminded of this verse, as I opened the article on "Science and the Soul", my eyes filled with tears of thankfulness for what God had created right outside my window at 41,000 feet.

After reading, I can only advise every pastor I know to spend some time, and look this article over. Warning: it is not an endorsement of Christian orthodoxy. However, this piece is wonderfully well done, and presents a number of interesting perspectives about developments in the science of consciousness.

I found reading about the competing ideas concerning present understanding of the human soul to be almost a form of a spiritual exercise. This article mentions quantum physics, Buddhism, Platonism, Augustine and Calvin, all together. Another resource mentioned is the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, at the University of Pennsylvania. I also remembered how a psychiatrist friend told me recently, "the things we know now about the human brain, were largely unknown even 10 years ago".

In retrospect, there are lots of new ideas here, and many different brilliant minds trying to grasp the inner workings of the mind, even at the microscopic level. For some more conservative Christian folk, all this thought and science might seem too theoretical and threatening. Not so for me; I love reading and learning. My favorite bit about Oxford physicist Roger Penrose:

"....Penrose proposed that consciousness was a quantum computation within the brain, and infinitesimal collapse of quantum information into classical information that takes place at the level of the neurons."

And people say there is no God.

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