1. Silver Fox says

    Life after death is one of those subjects that always frustrates the hell out of me when I discuss it with my Catholic relatives. The most maddening response I ever got when I pointed out that the soul has never been measured in any scientific manner was this one: Well, we know there is a soul. But the fact that it’s never been measured means that it is neither matter or energy. It must be something else. What could it be, I asked? We’ll leave that up to the scientists to figure out. Arrrggghhh!

  2. says

    even if a problem is not even known till yesterday
    you can expect some religious people would claim today that they knew what the answer is all along

  3. congenital cynic says

    Soul, IMHO, is a very fuzzy concept. I know what a head is. I know what a brain is. I think we can go one level of abstraction from the wetware to the software and say we know what a “mind” is. But that next step to “soul”, that’s getting pretty slippery. The OED says “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal.”, but this doesn’t help, because “spiritual” seems to be just as fuzzy a notion as soul. Looking up spiritual just circles back on “human spirit” and “soul”. Seems to me that on a Venn diagram that the “soul” would just be some subset of attributes of the mind, which are heavily weighted on the emotional side of things. But I’m not a neuropsychologist. As soon as we tread into religious terminology, it all gets very vague. That “Sophisticated Theology™” kicks in and it’s all a lot of mumbo jumbo.

    No matter how you define it, I don’t think there is anything “immaterial” that forms a “soul” that leaves your body when you die. I think it’s just over. Plus I’d hate to think that I was destined to face immortality in any form. When I’m in my 90s, I’ll have had enough.

  4. Mark Jacobson says

    congenital cynic

    Of course religious terminology is vague. If it was clearly defined it would be clearly disproved. Can’t have that.

  5. asclepias says

    His final statement: “”Which of these two theories fits the data?”

    I would have substituted “hypotheses.’

  6. dick says

    Silver Fox @ 2, scientists have figured out the answer. It is, nothing. Despite your Catholic relatives wishful thinking, there is no evidence for a soul. Unless someone comes up with evidence, then it doesn’t exist.

    Everything that we know about brain function, e.g. emotion, memory, sensory perceptions, & thought processes, requires a physical & live brain.

  7. tcmc says

    “Soul” is something you don’t want to be referred to as when you’re a passenger on an airplane–as in “How many souls on board?”

  8. says

    Silver Fox@#2:
    Just hit them with a pyrrhonian skeptical inquiry based on infinite regress. “We know there’s a soul” falls apart really quickly when you ask “how do you know that?” because inevitably they will have to rely on sense data or experience, which is much more likely to be a mistake than anything else.

  9. says

    @10, Marcus

    inevitably they will have to rely on sense data or experience, which is much more likely to be a mistake than anything else.

    Or at least their interpretation is likely to be mistaken.

  10. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I chalk it up to a case of “infinite regression”. We know the “mechanism” of the body is driven by the mechanism of the brain, which consists of neurons which are composed of cells which are chemicals, which are atoms, which are particles, which are quarks which are energy packets, which are… which are… uh, !spirit! Spirit is the driving force behind all the mechanical implementation of the spirit. so death is just mechanical failure, from which the spirit departs to find a new place to reside. Asian Indians think those spirits inhabit new bodies to be recycled until they can free themselves to live throughout the cosmos unrestrained by any physical barriers. Reality is just common opinion, man. Zen knew how to leave his opinion behind, by killing Zen when he found him on the less traveled road.
    ummm I interrupted myself. ?Where was I? oh “infinite regression”.
    Seems many refuse to stop at the smallest detectable details, in order to assert ‘there is always something smaller’.
    So uh, wandering around again. *shrug*
    “Is there something for me after death?” is like asking, “Do I have a house north of the north pole?”

  11. F.O. says

    Religious people don’t have answers to everything.
    They say “God works in mysterious ways”.
    I guess they try.

  12. jrkrideau says

    Of course there is a soul. It’s composed of Dark Matter; that’s why scientists have not found it yet. But intrepid physicists are tracking it down.

  13. latsot says

    I’ve never understood why so many people want there to be an afterlife. I’ve always been perfectly happy with the idea that I’ll die one day and there’ll be nothing of me left. It doesn’t scare me or bother me in the slightest. I just think of it as an impetus to leave my financial affairs in such a shocking state that it will greatly inconvenience whoever has to clear them up, serves them right for being alive. Life-having bastards.

  14. Trickster Goddess says

    My sister, an evolution denier, had trouble accepting transgenderism as a real thing because “science can’t explain it”.

  15. CHARLES says

    An excellent presentation by an informed and educated man …

    … my only problem is that, a few times, Prof. Carroll had an intonation that made him sound like Emo Phillips. This is not just my opinion but also that of my Best Beloved.

  16. mostlymarvelous says

    all we are is dust in the wind, dude

    I much prefer to think we’re all made of stardust. And I like the idea that the other living beings on the earth are also made of stardust.

    We’re all very small parts of the fringes, embroideries, spangles and sequins that make up the tiny, fragile organic film adorning the surface of our rare, rocky home. We should count ourselves extremely lucky to have been born at all and to have shared our time with all the other people, plants and animals that also lucked into existence to share part or all of our time here.

    It’s just plain greedy to claim more of what was pure serendipity in the first place.

  17. Curt Cameron says

    Sean has a recent book, The Big Picture. I got two copies for my birthday. I highly recommend it.

    He makes the point that there are things we don’t know about physics, but those things are at the fringes, like near extremely high gravity. Everything in our day-to-day world uses physics that’s completely understood, and goes to some length to demonstrate how we know it’s completely understood. And what we know we know, precludes pretty much all the superstitious stuff in the world.

  18. JohnnieCanuck says

    Marcus @ 11.
    Correct? Of course. However, the question will typically only be asked by ATC after a MAYDAY has been declared. It is a part of both pilot and traffic controller training and the number reported will correspond to the number of passengers and crew on the distressed aircraft. I don’t know, but I would expect most airlines to have a policy that the flight crew will have the SOB number in written form before take-off. To answer ‘correctly’ in an emergency would be a breach of protocol and counterproductive.

    The term originated centuries ago in maritime usage when religion was so pervasive that there was no doubt what was meant.

  19. Rob Grigjanis says

    Curt Cameron @24:

    Everything in our day-to-day world uses physics that’s completely understood

    Urgh. Anything that contains “completely understood” makes my hackles rise. I remember when Carroll posted this on his blog a few years ago. He got a lot of push-back, and wrote at least two more posts attempting to clarify what he meant. But hey, when you have a catchy phrase that might sell a few books, stick with it. It turned out what he actually meant was something like;

    There is no reason to believe that explaining any of the phenomena we see in daily life will require physics beyond that which we now use, even if those phenomena are not yet fully understood.

    I agree with this, but how you get from this to the quoted sentence is a mystery that modern science may not be able to explain, but modern marketing surely can.

  20. Owlmirror says

    @Rob Grigjanis:

    Actually, for the The Big Picture, he’s modified the statement to: “The laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely known”.

    I don’t think he meant for the statement to sell anything except confidence in naturalism as a philosophical stance. It’s not used as a blurb for his recent books, so far as I can tell, so I have no idea how you get the idea that he was trying to sell books with it.

    There’s a tension between phrasing things cautiously and with qualifications, and between phrasing things more boldly. Carroll starts with that bold statement — which draws attention — and then adds the qualifiers and cautions.

  21. says

    When I was in college, I had a friend who was a few years ahead of me. I could ask him just about anything and he always had the answer. After a while I realized that his answers weren’t always correct, however. I then realized that it wasn’t worth asking him any questions because, yes, you would get an answer, but you wouldn’t know if it was correct or not! So what was the point of asking him questions and getting answers if you still knew no more than you did to begin with? At that point I stopped asking him questions.

    Later, the same thing happened with religion.