|One of many articles on|
|The main players|
The soul is the name given to the supposed immaterial part of an individual, which some believe can exist separately from the body in the afterlife. Though the term itself largely comes from Christian traditions, most religions have some concept of a "part" of the person that is separate and distinct from the body. It's considered by those who believe in it to be a self-evident and intrinsic part of humanity (hence why things like philosophical zombies can exist in some peoples' minds). It is an important aspect of much religious belief—particularly when concerning the afterlife.
The term is often invoked in a metaphorical sense (such as a poetic statement "my soul was moved by his words") without implying the actual existence of a separate "magical" part of a person that exists after the person dies.
 Scientific view
The concept of the soul it is not recognised by science because it is a supernatural explanation of the phenomenon of human consciousness, and as such non-falsifiable. The soul is postulated by believers to be completely immaterial. Scientists who attempt, and without exception fail, to find evidence of the soul will usually be told that they can't measure or characterise it anyway. Like most other spiritual beliefs, this makes the idea of the soul somewhat immune to scrutiny. Those who logically and scientifically argue against a "soul" would state that if something can't be measured or tested -directly or indirectly- in any way, then it can't affect the material world and therefore is, in all practicality and in all actuality, non-existent.
The soul is usually described as an immaterial "thing" in a way that implies that it "contains" someone's consciousness, emotions, personality, and memories.
Neuroscience suggests that these various aspects of the mind are almost exclusively dependent on the brain. Changes to the brain from injury or illness directly effect memories, emotions and in fact their overall character. If those changes in actual personality can be identified within the working brain, how can the "soul" which is generally described as these aspects in collective, exist? An immaterial entity would not be expected to be affected by a giant rod ploughing right through its owner's skull.
In an effort to put the soul onto a more scientific footing, Dr. Duncan MacDougall of Haverhill, Massachusetts tried, in 1901, to weigh the soul (even though a soul is thought of as immaterial, as as such having no mass). He took a dying man and weighed him until the "moment" of death, at which point he apparently noticed a reduction in weight of three-fourths of an ounce. He subsequently repeated the experiment with fifteen unfortunate dogs and found no such reduction. Over time he repeated the experiment with five other dying humans - and got a variety of differing results which rather invalidated his premise. The human weight loss he arrived at, about 21 grams, lived on in the urban legend stating we all lose this upon death, referenced in the title (and briefly in the plot) of a movie with the same name starring Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts.
Harry La Verne Twining also attempted to weigh the soul of animals in a set of experiments and obtained some interesting differences in weight loss. However scientists including Twining himself later on in his life claimed that the experiments turned out to be the result of the natural cause of moisture loss.
The physicist R. A. Watters in the 1930's carried out some experiments with a Wilson cloud chamber and claimed to have observed the soul of insects and animals leaving their bodies at death. His results have not been replicated by other scientists and skeptics believe his photographs depict dust.
Some parapsychologists have also reported cases of "soul mist" being seen after people have died however these reports are based on personal stories or testimonials and are not considered evidence for the soul by the scientific community.
 History of the Judeo-Christian concept
Before the influence of the Greek concept of the psyche on Hebrew thought, the Bible's authors only spoke of a man having breath (spirit), and any living creature was called a "soul". In fact, the belief in consciousness after death was explicitly denied in the Old Testament:
“”For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
|—Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, KJV|
Even the New Testament speaks only of a promised resurrection of the dead at the end of time, with two notable exceptions: Jesus relates a parable of a rich man burning in hell, and later on the cross Jesus says to the Good Thief, "I say to you, this day you will be with me in Paradise".
The former was a parable which was intended to convey what Christians consider a truth about the need to convert before death and judgment, not necessarily to convey actual conditions in the afterlife. The latter can be explained by the fact that the original Greek text did not use commas, so the insertion of the comma after the word "you" was an arbitrary choice of the translators. If the comma is moved, the passage then reads "I say to you this day, you will be with me in Paradise" which allows for the traditional understanding of a bodily resurrection at the end of time rather than a disembodied state immediately after death. Such actions are ultimately little more than exploiting grammatical loopholes, e.g. the differences between "Woman without her man is an animal." and "Woman; without her, man is an animal." You insert the punctuation that best suits your agenda and whistle as grammar Nazis and
you're your detractors notice.
 See also
- ↑ "Brain tumour causes uncontrollable paedophilia"
- ↑ Eagleman, Philosophy Bites Podcast, "David Eagleman on Morality and the Brain"
- ↑ Kennedy, DP; Gläscher, J; Tyszka, JM; Adolphs, R. "Personal space regulation by the human amygdala." (2009). Nat Neuroscince. 12 pmid=19718035
- ↑ Bucher, K.; Myersn, R.; Southwick, C. "Anterior temporal cortex and maternal behaviour in monkey." (1970). Neurology. 20 pmid = 4998075
- ↑ snopes: Soul Man
- ↑ Len Fisher Weighing The Soul: Scientific Discovery From the Brilliant to the Bizarre 2004, p. 14-15
- ↑ More Witnesses to “Soul Mist” by Michael Tymn