Soul - Science


Science and medicine seek naturalistic accounts of the observable natural world. This stance is known as methodological naturalism. Much of the scientific study relating to the soul has involved investigating the soul as an object of human belief, or as a concept that shapes cognition and an understanding of the world, rather than as an entity in and of itself.

When modern scientists speak of the soul outside of this cultural and psychological context, they generally treat soul as a poetic synonym for mind. Francis Crick's book, The Astonishing Hypothesis, for example, has the subtitle, "The scientific search for the soul". Crick held the position that one can learn everything knowable about the human soul by studying the workings of the human brain. Depending on one's belief regarding the relationship between the soul and the mind, then, the findings of neuroscience may be relevant to one's understanding of the soul. Skeptic Robert T. Carroll suggests that the concept of a non-substantial substance is an oxymoron, and that the scholarship done by philosophers and psychologists based on the assumption of a non-physical entity has not furthered scientific understanding of the working of the mind.

Daniel Dennett has championed the idea that the human survival strategy depends heavily on adoption of the intentional stance, a behavioral strategy that predicts the actions of others based on the expectation that they have a mind like one's own (see theory of mind). Mirror neurons in brain regions such as Broca's area may facilitate this behavioral strategy. The intentional stance, Dennett suggests, has proven so successful that people tend to apply it to all aspects of human experience, thus leading to animism and to other conceptualizations of soul.

Jeremy Griffith has defined soul as the human species' instinctive memory of a time when modern human ancestors lived in a cooperative, selfless state, suggesting this occurred in pre-Homo (i.e. Australopithecus) hominins.

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