Thursday, March 1, 2007

PZ Meyers is AWESOME!

There. A shameless plug for a like-minded fellow scientist. Pharyngula is a daily read for me, and thanks to PZ for including me on his blogroll. Maybe such unabashed praise will keep me on said blogroll for a while...? Only time will tell.

I am definitely looking forward to tearing down the next webcast at The Things That Matter Most. Here is the abstract:

Guest: Ewrin R. McManus
Erwin McManus makes the case that we can find evidence for God and eternity within our own souls and persistent desires for love, destiny and meaning. And this evidence is even more compelling than the empirical evidence from textual criticism, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy and the hard sciences.

It should be an easy tear-down. Not that I just like tearing down weak arguments (I do), but.... Well, no buts. The religious speak of souls as if they are self-evidently true. The existence of the soul is an illusion, without any evidence. How can non-empirical evidence (as if there is such a thing) be more compelling? I thought gnosticism was heretical. If the existence of the soul is unproven, or even supported by any evidence whatsoever, the whole house of cards comes down. Fruit of the poison tree, to quote Law & Order.

The null hypothesis is that there is no soul. For me to even agree that there is even a chance that something exists there must be some evidence pointing to existence. Otherwise, you are left with Bertrand Russell's tea pot.

To suggest that non-empirical evidence has any value (human perceptions are utterly fallible) smacks of surrender to the obvious that there is no empirical evidence to support theistic positions.

Evolution provides a perfectly good explanation for love and all other emotions for that matter. Destiny and meaning, in the absence of a soul or gods, comes from within. I happen to think that it is absolutely wonderful that we as humans are the only animal with the power to shape our own lives. Why can't the religious see that a god that has given us a purpose is demeaning?

I do intend on giving the webcast a fair hearing, despite what I've written. The above rant is more about the abstract. If compelling evidence for the existence of the soul can be given I would change my position in a heart beat, but 2000 years of trying has failed, and I greatly doubt that Sunday's show will add anything.


Sophia Sadek said...

Thanks for the posting.

When you say that you deny the existence of "soul," you reveal a misunderstanding of the word. I believe that you wish to deny the eternity of consciousness, rather than its existence. When people use the word "soul," they refer to the aspect of life than experiences.

It is easier to establish the non-eternal nature of this entity, than to establish its non-existence. Evidence for the non-eternal nature of individual consciousness can be experienced by everyone. The fact that we sleep and dream is enough to show that consciousness varies, is not uniform, and is subject to growth and decay. Anything that grows and decays is not eternal.

If someone says that the soul remains uniform during variations in consciousness, then they are using the word "soul" to mean some life attribute other than consciousness. In such a case, their supposedly eternal entity will experience neither beatitude nor suffering after the demise of the body.

Shamelessly Atheist said...

I think I'm defining the soul in the purely Judeo-Christian sense, where it is a metaphysical entity that makes us who we are, what separates us from being merely animals, and somehow survives the death of our physical selves to be judged by god. The soul can be defined in any manner you see fit, but the Judeo-Christian version is quite specific. Indeed I should have specified which definition I was using. It is reflexive to think in terms of the religious dogmatic version rather than a spiritual one due to the massive exposure to Christianity that exists on this continent. I am a self-professed methodological naturalist, so I find it necessary to have empirical evidence for everything, and there simply hasn't been any forthcoming. Couple that with ongoing scientific study of the mind, with reasonable explanations for consciousness and its origins coming forth, I think the Judeo-Christian version of the soul will be relegated to the scrap heap.