TED Conversations

David Roemer

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

Evolution only applies to the bodies of humans, not their souls. Natural selection only explains the adaptation of species.

The science of biology includes the metaphysical concepts of form (soul) and matter (body) because it is necessary to exclude free will and other functions of the human mind from evolutionary biology. Materialists think that the soul is just an idea, but religious people think the human soul is spiritual.

Many laymen think that natural selection explains common descent, but PhDs in biology know the limits of Darwinism. In my narrated YouTube video/slideshow (“The Truth About Evolution and Religion” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKaF8vX6HXQ) I give quotes from peer-reviewed articles to prove my point.

0
Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Jan 7 2012: I'm a biologist (and a PhD). What is a soul? I've never seen one or seen any evidence that we have one. I'm pretty sure that dead people have influence - e.g. Socrates, Darwin, Jesus, Mohammed but when you are dead, you are dead.

    What is free will? Organisms (such as we are) move through life being faced with choices. What they choose is infuenced by their internal state, the options available, advice from, or actions of, those around them and societal norms. Christianity is just one big norm, one of many that influence the way in which people behave. Christianity is a product of humanity and the codes of behaviour that it espouses are common to many other civilizations across the world.

    There are no gods, no life after death and no such thing as a soul. Get over it and get on with your wonderful life.
    • thumb
      Jan 7 2012: Body (matter) and soul (form) are correlative metaphysical principles that explain why humans are equal to each other, but superior to animals.

      Free will can't be defined. It is not a scientific concept. We know we have free will because we can make ourselves the subject of our own knowledge. Hence, humans are embodied spirits and the human soul is spiritual.

      Humans are also finite beings because other humans exist. Finite beings need a cause. If every being in the universe needed a cause, the universe would not be intelligible. Hence, an infinite being exists. In the West, we call the infinite being God.
      • thumb
        Jan 7 2012: . . and so it starts. Step 1) We are superior to animals because of some fairy-tale and a book of stories chosen by politicians a long time ago. Step 2) We (theists) are superior to other people who don't think like we do or believe in our fairy tales. Step 3) Righteous war (or Jihad).

        If it can't be defined to all intents and purposes, it doesn't exist. Science is the fundamental language of explanation of facts. You like to think you have free will. You have options. The last sentence isn't a logical progression. The problem is that science is hard and that when you use it to define concepts such as love or beauty you have to go back to first principles (it gets a bit boring if you try to do that for everything - our cultural shorthand for these things is easier). I love Bach and Leo Kottke but while I'm aware that there will be a scientific explanation, I don't feel the need to delve that deep. I'm happy just to sit back and enjoy the music.

        Your cause is to survive and reproduce. The rest of paragraph three is gobbledegook. My advice, not based on any fairy tales - give your kids a good start in life and be nice to people so that your kids have a chance of growing up in a nice world.


        George Carlin has a great take on this stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSSwKffj9o
      • thumb
        Jan 7 2012: Wow, so animals don't have souls and you feel your superior to a non-discrimatory, non-egoic animal ,like a dolphin or an amoeba or that squirrel outside your window shaking his head....
        • thumb
          Jan 11 2012: Do animals or humans have free will? I guess there has been plenty written on the former.

          At the outset I would suggest free will (or not) in no way implies there are souls or spirits (or not). Although there are perhaps some contradictions with religious type beliefs if there is not free will.
          :
          Humans make apparently conscious choices at a practical level. Are they predetermined. If we had a great enough understanding of the brain, biology, physics, chemistry, behaviour, psychology etc could we predict every decision and action an individual would make. Perhaps. But this may require understanding every relevant experience a person has had that has shaped their brain or consciousness and unconsciousness involved in the decision, their current state etc. These experiences may involve other conscious beings. Suggest we are a long way from being able to identify and predict every conscious and unconscious action/decision.

          We can already make gross predictions. Mock a prophet - predict a response.

          On a simple human scale I make choices and have practical free will. It really doesn't matter that much to me if which enough knowledge down to a quantum level my decisions are predictable.

          If we photocopied the universe as it is today a 1000 times, would the human copies all make the same choices? Would the physical environment, every blade of grass, every atom, every electron, every subatomic particle or string, be exactly the same in a years time in every copy?

          I don't know but at a quantum level, chaos and all that make me lean towards divergence.

          Suggest there is a continuum of animal free will. A single cell organism is probably incapable of making conscious decisions and choices. But suggest different individual dogs of the same species will make different decisions in the same situation, again dependent in part of their experience and current state etc.

          Of course our brain/intellect opens up more choices to us. A wider world of free choice
      • thumb
        Jan 10 2012: Metaphysics looks like the remnants of a pre scientific time to me.

        My opinion, we are animals, just with a more developed brain than the others on this planet, no such thing as a soul or spirit. When our brain stops working and our body dies, no more consciousness, no more us, oblivion, just like other animals.

        Suggest if we somehow had only current scientific and no left over religious concepts floating around society from our more ignorant past we wouldn't develop such widely held belief in immortal, non matter, non energy, spirits.

        Agree, that no one knows anything for sure on this topic but souls/spirits, just in humans, seems more speculative than a biological approach.

        David, if they did exist, how would you know that souls don't evolve. Without relying on a particular religious dogma, how do you know the soul creator didn't create the first souls and all the others are derivative with a soul DNA.

        Suggest some belief systems indicate souls can learn and develop in repeating carnations. How do you know the some souls aren't living many times.

        Are the souls sitting around in a waiting room waiting for our birth or do they come into being on conception. Do souls only exist while we live or do they go on.

        How do you know we have souls. How do you know other animals don't. How do you know how souls work other than fitting your metaphysical world view.

        Curious where/how you think the concept of souls originated? I mean we can see our bodies, play around and understand our our brains work, emotions, personality, perceptions etc. We can detect energy. Again the whole concept of a soul and most of metaphysics seems to relate back to old belief systems developed in relative ignorance and never with any evidence. A whole framework related to imaginary concepts that can not be proven, measured etc just ideas.
        • thumb
          Jan 10 2012: I wouldn't call Dave's proposals metaphysics anymore than I would call any tinkering physics.
        • thumb
          Jan 10 2012: Do animals have free will? If yes, how do you know? If no, what is free will? Rational people judge that we have free will because of three bits of evidence:
          1) It is clear we have it when we do something that takes a lot of will power, like sticking to a diet.
          2) People who say it is an illusion, live their lives as if they had free will.
          3) People who say it is an illusion have poor reasoning skills. They are like a person who is collecting minerals and arranging them according to their color. He builds a chest of drawers and labels the drawers one of the colors of the rainbow. He puts a red mineral in the red drawer, the green mineral in the green drawer, etc. One day he finds a white mineral, and he says, "White minerals don't exist."
    • Jan 7 2012: Magnus, " I'm a biologist (and a PhD). What is a soul?" Your degrees are proof of knowledge, not wisdom..

      The soul is the psyche. The mind. It can be seen as the electromagnetic field; it has been seen as the aura and photographed via Kirlian methods. Though it is not tangible, you experience it nonetheless. Emotions aren't tangible, yet we experience them, do we not?
      • thumb
        Jan 7 2012: I'm not sure that letters before or after your name prove anything except (in the case of a Phd) perhaps tenacity - I was merely making a point in response to Davids initial note.

        You contradict yourself Ethan - you tell me that we can see the electromagnetic field of the brain and then tell me its not tangible. Is the soul an electromagnetic field then? Can we detect how much of a sinner someone is using a magnet? Could be useful at airports I guess.

        Emotions are tangible - biochemically and made obvious via our bodily and facial expressions. Guilt for example is a chemical response to deviation from a norm.

        Using your implicit definition of tangible, a vacuum is not tangible (nor an electron, proton, atom etc) but we can prove its existence using science. If anyone proves the existence of some all powerful deity that gives a jot about humanity using logic and science I'll start saving for an asbestos coffin.
      • thumb
        Jan 7 2012: QUOTE: "The soul is the psyche."

        The etymology may coincide but, in common parlance, the soul and the psyche are no longer considered the same thing. Of course, they CAN mean the same thing but often do not.

        The psyche refers to the mind (conscious and unconscious) and the soul has come to mean that part of a being, human or not, that would be "immaterial" and is often considered to be eternal.
        • Jan 10 2012: The soul is the psyche.

          Common parlance be damned.
      • thumb
        Jan 10 2012: QUOTE: "The soul is the psyche."

        As long as you clarify your terms.

        I suppose it depends on how precise you need your communication to be.

        I know that when I use the word "psyche" I am not referring to the soul.
      • Comment deleted

      • Comment deleted

    • thumb
      Jan 7 2012: Hi Magnus,

      You say, "There are no gods, no life after death and no such thing as a soul. Get over it and get on with your wonderful life."

      There is no way you can know what happens after we die, unless you have died and come back [this is exactly what I say to people who say there is life after death.]

      We cannot prove there is no God.

      Nor can we prove there is no soul.

      I'm not quite sure why we tend to "need" certainty. The religious/spiritual/metaphysical folks, for the most part, think they know there is life after death. They don't.

      Rationalist, in large part, think they know there is no life after death. They don't.

      You also say, "If it can't be defined to all intents and purposes, it doesn't exist." This is not valid. There are things that cannot be defined and yet exist; and there are things that can be defined and do not exist.

      Does consciousness exist? Can it be defined?

      Does a thought exist?

      God and soul have both been defined. Do they exist?

      Why is it we have such a hard time saying, "I don't know?"

      This is good advise: "Get over it and get on with your wonderful life."
      • thumb
        Jan 7 2012: Hi Thomas,

        I completely agree, "Why do we have such a problem with ""I don't know"" . Trying to explain "I don't knows" with mythology is what irritates me.

        I watched our living-room fire go out tonight, while my wife and I chatted. It went out. The fire is dead. Do you have a problem understanding that? So why have a problem with an organism dying? Chemically, its a pretty similar process.

        cheers and peace, Magnus
        • thumb
          Jan 8 2012: QUOTE: "Trying to explain "I don't knows" with mythology is what irritates me."

          Hi Magnus,

          It irritates me too. Maybe "irritates" is too strong a word but, for example, I do tend to respond to assertions that the Bible is inerrant, or that we know what happens after we die, and so on.

          I have no problem when people say they believe this or that; but when they say this or that is absolutely true, then I often take exception and challenge the belief.

          When it comes to the "I don't knows" ... I accept anything as at least possible. Even the "weird stuff" like the possibility I could walk through a wall.

          It IS possible (according to the laws of quantum mechanics) but the probability of it happening is so remote that to have any real chance of it happening once, we would have to wait for much, much longer than the universe has existed.

          So is it possible there is something that survives death?

          Sure.

          Does anyone know?

          It's possible. But extremely unlikely.

          When questioned, anyone I have ever asked has ultimately said they believe they know. However, some have elevated their belief to the realm of "knowing."

          They might base their belief on a near death experience, or on some interpretation of religious doctrine, or on remembered past lives, and so on.

          There are much better, and more plausible, explanations for all of these than having to postulate a life after death.

          But, no matter ...

          We simply do not know one way or the other.

          [Unless we do, and as I have said, I hold that open as a possibility too.]

          Cheers.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.