Monday, August 06, 2007

Are Souls Really Necessary?

Lately, I have been polling my conspecifics about the concept of the soul and what they mean by it. Almost everyone I have talked to about it thinks that they have a soul and that it persists beyond the life of the body. Details about the soul are sketchy but it is generally supposed to have no material properties such as mass or charge. It is not detectable by scientific instruments. How it interacts with the body is a complete mystery. It seems to contain a copy of all the information in the brain such as memories and a sense of personal identity. Accordingly, it carries consciousness and identity to the afterlife. It is the true essence of the person.

Most folks who had an opinion about the immortality of the soul (there were a couple of agnostics on this issue) reckoned that the soul leaves the body at death and goes on to its eternal reward in heaven, purgatory, hell, or as a rootless haint. A couple of folks allowed as how the soul could be reincarnated in another person or animal (but not plants for some reason). I was surprised to learn that a number of my Roman Catholic conspecifics did not have any notion of a bodily resurrection at the end of days. On the contrary, they reckoned their afterlives would be in an incorporeal, spiritual state as souls with no need for bodies.

I always believed that the person dies and “sleeps in the Lord” until the bodily resurrection at the end of days. The soul, as something distinct and apart from the mind and body, is not necessary in this scenario since the patterns of the brain will be restored. The soul for me has always been just a figure of speech denoting the totality of who we are.

One of my conspecifics expressed concern about my conception of the afterlife since it contained no mechanism for preserving the information of the mind and body. There is no need for such a mechanism since the information resides for all eternity in the mind of God or stored in the physical universe which is accessible by God at any moment in time.

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