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Neuroscience & the Soul: Topic Index

In these topics we will examine the history of conceptions of the human makeup as they arose in ancient philosophy and religion -- primarily in Christianity, but also with a few notes about Jewish developments. We also examine new issues that arose in the modern period, especially as a result of scientific and philosophical developments. Whereas body-soul dualism had become the majority view by the end of the middle ages, in the modern period there has been growing interest in physicalist accounts. Currently, localization studies by contemporary neuroscientists--that is, finding specific regions or distributed systems in the brain associated with particular cognitive and emotional functions--provide some of the most compelling evidence that it is the brain, rather than a mind or soul, that is responsible for these capacities. In other words, the current trend in neuroscience is pointing us towards a reductive physicalist account of the human.

In addition, we will consider whether a nonreductive physicalist account of the person is in conflict with essential Christian (and Jewish) teachings. To this end, we will examine recent developments in biblical studies and consider some of the implications of a physicalist account of the person for theology.

Other sections will investigate the philosophical question of reductionism. If mental events are essentially products of the brain, and if we assume that brain events are determined by natural laws, then how can we maintain views of human freedom and responsibility? This is still an open question, but it will be valuable to consider some of the resources available for addressing the problem.

Finally, we will consider some of the practical implications of the intellectual changes we have surveyed.For a delightful account of developments in neuroscience, see Paul M. Churchland, The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul (Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1995).

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Nancey Murphy

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.