Is there Real Evidence for a Soul, “Life after Death”?
Can Either Science or Religion Give Us a Reliable Answer to the “Soul” question?
In a nutshell, both science and religion have valid inputs toward the idea of a soul and of continuation of the consciousness it holds. That’s my not-entirely-humble opinion…. It’s a fairly educated opinion, and I’m about to give you a handful of the better sources that give me confidence to state it.
Oh, and my personal conclusion: Yes, we have something along the lines of what we call “soul” or “consciousness” within a personal “identity” (the “I” or “me” in “I did that” or “that’s not me!”) (Don’t ask me about animals… I’ve not settled on that one yet.)
True confession, and to excuse the lack of my better blogging style:
What follows in the next paragraph is actually my comment to a conversation partner on another blog when the matter of evidence for continuation of consciousness came up. The person asked what evidences I felt there were for life after death. That created an occasion to answer in the larger context that I think is required for any decent discussion of the subject. And in that larger context (actually quite complex, unfortunately for our largely lazy minds), our data comes mainly through two biased and largely antagonistic (to one another) “institutions”: organized religion and science as a relatively coordinated endeavor. Given that state of affairs, I look especially to the small number of good scholars and researchers who can sort out the good and valid from both and, in the case of consciousness studies here, give us some truly helpful glimpses into our own souls, as it were… glimpses that are not purely our own subjective interpretation of our limited experiences. Those are the kinds of people represented in the short list and explanation that now follows:
“Actually, I CAN point you to ‘scientific evidence of life after death’ in more than one form. Issues of consciousness and the ‘mind-body problem’ are interlinked, so actually it is tough to isolate just ‘soul’ existence or continuation of consciousness. So the following resources tend to be broad or varied and cover various aspects or combos of the related issues involved. Most of them are not real recent, as I encountered them around 5-12 or so years ago while I was looking into these areas particularly. (I still do a bit, but am not up on what may be the better sources that are more recent.) There are several things I could say to introduce them individually, but in the interest of time/brevity, I will let you explore about the authors/titles mainly on your own, via Amazon, the direct website (in 1 case), etc.
The main comment I’ll make is about David Ray Griffin, as he is a remarkable scholar and one of the key recent developers of Process theology. I’ve heard him and briefly met him on a couple occasions, as I have his comparably talented and caring, ‘relatable’ mentor (originally as an academic) and colleague, John B. Cobb, Jr. (Both are still writing, last I knew, while retired, at ages 73 and 88 or so.)
I’m citing 2 of Griffin’s many books as especially pertinent to our conversation: First, Parapsychology, Philosophy and Spirituality (’97). This is addressed more toward a skeptical scientific audience than a religious one and gives a good summary of the key issues pertinent to the idea of a ‘mind’ and/or ‘spirit’ distinct from physical bodies. While it touches on NDE’s as one aspect, it is far from as detailed as some works re. them (some of which have taken on the skeptics you seem to refer to, and the alternate explanations, of which there naturally are many). Nor does it reflect, of course, the significant research in the 15 yrs. since its publication.
The other by Griffin is, I think, a classic, and more readable as a ‘summary’ type book of short length (just 114 pp. of text): Two Great Truths: A New Synthesis of Scientific Naturalism and Christian Faith (2004). It lays out what I consider a very clear and accurate picture of how and why we’ve gotten to the silly stand-off between ‘religion’ and ‘science’, as to any meaningful collaboration and cooperation (or even mutual respect in many cases).
A few other great sources on various aspects of consciousness, the soul, etc., all from people either with scientific credentials or a self-taught scientific mindset:
1. Miracles of Mind by Russell Targ and Jane Katra
2. The Way of the Explorer by Astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell
3. The Soul Genome by Paul Von Ward and the related and more up-to-date website: http://reincarnationexperiment.org/ . On this website, if you read the Eliz. Barrett-Browning case, it gives examples and some summary info on the methodology of Von Ward and his collaborators. The book, though from an earlier stage, develops it further also… This is a quite different approach than earlier (or current) mere examples/stories of even supposedly corroborated cases of reincarnation (as I believe some have been, but not to rigorous standards of typical science).
I wouldn’t say refutation of this kind of work is impossible, but I’ve not seen it done… and the work is still evolving and the data being further compiled under relatively new standards and approaches, as Von Ward readily admits… you’ll note he repeatedly is careful to say real PROOF is a high standard not yet reached. However, to me, his work, combined with others like Dr. Ian Stevenson and his successor, already reaches ‘beyond reasonable doubt.'”
What do you see as evidence for our continuation in some kind of coherent consciousness we might call a “soul”? Any particularly impressive sources to share that have influenced your view? We’d love to hear any personal experiences that have also… many people have them, but they are always fun to hear more of.