Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Mind and Matter, Soul and Substance

After reading Uncommon Dissent for the second time and reviewing each article, I have this topic on my mind. I suppose my inquiry was particularly inspired by Christopher Michael Langan's essay, though I've wondered about this for some time now.

Without getting overly abstract, let me introduce this issue. As Langan points out, there has to exist some medium wherein causes are linked to their effects. Take a bat intersecting with a ball, for example. The bat swings with a certain degree of force and, upon hitting the ball, transfers a degree of that force. We can describe this medium in terms of physical forces: mass, matter, velocity, momentum, etc...

Causality can also exist in more than one plane of reality, however. An example of this is the intersection of mind and matter. How exactly does a mind intersect with a body? I'm not talking about a brain, I'm talking about the nonphysical consciousness that we call "mind". A person can decide to drive to work with their mind and somehow this is causally transferred into the brain which guides their body to complete the task. Mind connects with matter in this way, somehow.

An even better example is the intersection of soul (if you consider that separate from the mind) and matter. How does a soul, what makes a person who he or she is, reside within a body and mind? How does it causally interact with the body and mind?

These are all interesting questions, but I don't intend to answer them here. I'm not concerned with exactly how mind, soul, and body are causally connected as long as it can be acknowledged that mind and soul are nonphysical and yet they causually interact with the physical body somehow.

Along these lines, it seems only natural that when the mind or soul interacts with the body there is a physical manifestation of that causal relationship. In other words, emotions (which can take place within the mind and soul) are still physically manifested in the brain and body. Emotions exist, therefore, in both planes of reality. Not only this, but if these things are true the physical manifestations of the said reactions are the result of the relationship.

This boils down to my point: physical properties are not indicative of a lack of the nonphysical. Just because we have found that seratonin is involved in emotions does not mean that emotions are a purely physical quality. There is no evidence whatsoever to conclude that the discovery of a physical quality, such as seratonin levels, is necessarily a cause; it could just as easily be an effect.

Applying this over all of science, we see examples all around us of people finding new physical manifestations of things once thought nonphysical. This is espeically true in psychology and biology today, but was also true in other disciplines in the past. Meteorology, for example, took "God" out of lightning and thunder. It did this not because of evidence against God, but becuase a physical nature was discovered in weather events.

It strikes me as odd that people think a physical event must therefore lack a nonphysical cause; especially since we observe it constantly between our minds and bodies. How presumptuous of us to eliminate the cause by explaining the effect. This is one of science's favorite tricks and it is step-by-step eliminating every bit of nonphysical reality from our culture. Evidence for this? None, of course; only the charging assumption that nonphysical events are simply not yet "explained".

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