Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Neuroscience, Andrew Sullivan and the "Christianists"

I don't think that advances in neuroscience are as threatening to the idea of the human soul as the materialists think they are. After all, even if there is a material aspect to our consciousness, it does not negate the possiblity of an additional amaterial dimension (I think that an analogy to the Trinity can be made here). In fact, I would argue that tactual subjective consciousness requires a material dimension.

Why? Because to have actual consciousness requires identity. And if consciousness is a purely material process, it is simply fungible information, without an identity.

It's like the old question, when Captain Kirk teleports, is he being transported, or is he killed and replaced with an exact copy? When "transhumanists" talk about downloading a person's consciousness into machines, are they really moving his consciousness, or are they killing him and creating a copy? If they can copy his consciousness into a computer without erasing it from his head, then how is "downloading" his consciousness any different from copying it and then killing him.

Take this a step further, and the question becomes, what keeps us us when all of our bodies' materials are constantly being removed and replaced? How can we have continuous consciousness, as opposed to having instantaneous consciosness that is constantly being destroyed and replaced by an exact copy? There has to be some source of identity that keeps us us, unless you are going to argue that consciousness and the self are purely an illusion (which is what some argue).

In any case, it seems to me that consciousness can have an amaterial (even a supernatural) element and still express itself materially and have its amaterial experience affected by the material world (after all, how is infiltrating one's brain with a psychiatric drug different in principle from experiencing material phenomena such as touch and sight? If the existence of senses that see the material world does not logically require one to be a materialist, why should the fact that we can alter our perceptions more directly through chemical stimulation of neurons?)

That being said, Andrew Sullivan's piece on "Neuroscience And The Christianists" seems to quote approvingly the idea that we are nothing but matter, with no attempt whatsoever to qualify that.

The obvious implication is that to believe in a soul is "Christianist" rather than Christian.

Althogether, one starts to wonder what exactly does the non-"Christianist" Christianity in which Andrew Sullivan wishes for Christians to believe consist of?

That is all.

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