What if science proved the "soul" was nothing but brain waves?




And how would it do that?

In doing so, would it also prove that the experimenters who allegedly came up with this proof were not engaged in a free self-volitional inquiry, but rather that their entire reasoning process was the result of a predetermined set of brain waves? They would have thereby proved the deterministic nature of scientific inquiry itself, making it of no value whatsoever. For if everything we think or do is predetermined by the physics of neurology, why bother?


In other words, “what if science proved the human soul were material?”

It is not possible for science to prove that the human soul is material because the human soul is not material.

We can know that the human soul is not material because it has faculties that are spiritual rather than material: intellect and will. Humans have the ability to understand the relationships among abstract concepts, the ability to know ends precisely as ends, to choose freely to embrace or reject the means to an end known as an end, etc.

This is even readily visible in comparing humans to animals: there is a clear qualitative difference between the faculties of humans and the faculties of animals.


It depends how it proved it so. The works of Shakespeare are nothing but ink and paper, on one level. However that description isn’t a very interesting one.


“What if” questions always make me laugh…

“what if” inherently implies reality about the subject of the “what if”, don’t you think?


What if science proved the “soul” was nothing but brain waves?

Then I’d body surf them right into the Kingdom of God.

Of course as Dad used to tell us…

“If frogs had wings then they wouldn’t bump their backsides when they hop.”


Okay, I’ll stir the pot a bit…

Science can’t prove that humans don’t have an immaterial soul because the conjecture that humans have an immaterial soul is unfalsifiable.


correct. the human soul would have to be extra-natural by virtue of it’s essense and, as such, falls outside the realm of science which asserts authority only on natural phenomenon (even those who research the “supernatural” are only measuring natural effects on physical media)


To make this more productive, let me ask this question here (but of course, if the answers are no good I’ll start a completely new thread on it):



Look at lie detectors. They can associate certain behaviors (lying) with certain physiological indicators (pulse, respiration, skin conductivity, etc), but that doesn’t mean that lies are nothing more than those indicators.


It is not equipped to.

Created things can - or some of them can - be encountered, but only indirectly, that is, not a they are in themselves, but only by their manifestations. No one has ever seen a cat, & no one ever will - because cats are known, not in their essential “cat-hood”, but by their mewing, their being of such & such a colour, their appearance, & so on. But God alone knows cats as they are, in their generic cat-hood, & in their individual cat-hood.

So with the soul - it is known to God, & to some extent by the person ensouled: but otherwise, it is concealed; so it can be known only by its effects. This may help in thinking about transubstantiation…

What science can do, very powerfully & well, is examine the *manifestations, *the phenomena, by which the soul’s action is shown forth - but that is not a *coercive *reason to compel belief in its spirituality, because the phenomena which are its effects can be accounted for in other ways than by being ascribed to the soul. They may suggest, or be compatible with, the hypothesis that there is a spiritual soul in man - but they do not necessitate this conclusion.

Those accounts, however inadequate they may be, are not always self-evidently inadequate - which is why it is possible to regard human beings as no more than the sum of their parts: it’s a mistake, but on the data which the sciences are equipped to consider, it looks (& within its limits, it is) plausible. AFAICS, the sciences cannot use non-scientific data (such as those of metaphysics & theology), because that would be an unsound method: the sciences concern themselves with what can be tested, controlled, sensed directly.

BTW - the sciences cannot prove doctrines: that would be mad, because faith is not founded on the sciences: it is a Divine gift, so to try propping it up with something as weak as reason & the various applications of reason (including the sciences), makes no sense. The sciences are useful - but not for matters which derive their certainty from the gift of faith.

I’m not a scientist, so the above is probably riddled with errors about method in the sciences :o :slight_smile:


I put this back up for re-emphasis.


What do you even consider productive? The soul is a faculty of the human. It is what makes us- us. This we gather from revelation from God, to peoples throughout history. Call it spirit/soul/energy what-have-you, there is a dimension to us that cannot be seen; but is present.

There has been plenty of speculation as to what it is. I believe it is Saint Thomas who speaks of having three levels of soul (the mineral, animal, and human variety.) And though his answer may be lacking because of the science of his time, the answers we give will be no better as to what it is.

To put it into more modern terms, I would imagine that the soul is some type of energy that we have yet to recognize. Everything is energy in one form or another, so that is where I am going to place my hat.

As for science, the best science can do is observe how we function. It is not a tool to describe why we function- there will be plenty of philosophers and theologians fighting over that point for a long long long time.


I disagree. The soul is just a label applied to something that people centuries ago had no way of understanding. The faculties of what people called a soul is just how our brains operate. While science can’t fully explain how our brains work, we have a much better idea of how they work. More importantly, we know that there is a lot we don’t know but may someday understand.


The soul is the eternal nature of humanity that survives the death of our physical bodies and the reason for the importance and value of humans.

Without it we are of no greater value than animals.



I can now understand why Benedict XVI when talking to some seminarians in Rome was asked," Why can’t we pose questions in our theology classes until third year?" Benny’s answer,“Because before then you do not have sufficient knowledge to ask a rational question.”


I personally wouldn’t believe it.


The OP’s initial question, other posters’ replies, his counterreplies, and my current post are all a series of ones and zeroes, if you wish to look at it that way. However, looking at it that way isn’t particularly useful or enlightening–quite the contrary. Similarly, we are all assemblages of atomic particles, which are themselves manifestations of still smaller entities. But thinking of us as describable in “nothing but” these terms leaves us farther from knowledge than the tactic found us. Similarly with the OP’s original proposition.


Science doesn’t “prove” anything.

Newton “proved” that gravitational attraction was a function of mass and distance. He “proved” it and “proved” it so well, that nowadays we don’t believe gravitational attraction is a function of mass and distance…we just believe that mass and distance are the most important variables.

We believe that velocity is also involved, and that even massless particles like the neutrino and the proton can be influenced by gravity, something impossible under Newtonian gravity. (This is
what Einstein is famous for.)

And now we know that, lurking underneath the current range of data is something slightly different from what Einstein envisioned, because his theories don’t work very well for subatomic particles. (That’s why you keep hearing about ‘string theory’ in popular science books.)

Science says “within this range of data, this pattern holds true.” And then it tries to expand the range of data.

With gravity, we realized newtons pattern didn’t hold for certain special cases: mercury, the shifts of the light of distant stars.

So science can’t, even in principle, prove the nonexistance of the soul. There could always be the souls influence, lurking just beneath the range of data yet collected. Just like the influence of velocity and other factors was lurking just underneath Newton’s range of data, waiting to be worked out by Einstein.

Scientific knowledge doesn’t claim to be absolute. At no point should we allow a scientific opinion alter our faith.


According to Aquinas, past the level of simply living (vegetative soul) and sensing / moving (animal soul), there is the level of understanding (rational / human soul). “Understanding” is a level beyond any correlating brain activity—for example, cameras receive and record images, but cannot cognize or understand anything about those images, nor is the reception self-directed. The materialist position, in my view, reduces humans to complicated cameras, which is contrary to all our experience. The chief end of humans, up to and including the Beatific Vision, is understanding, which is not possible for matter alone.

The soul is the form of the human; the terminal boundaries of our human existence are reached because the soul is an inner principle directing our development toward those terminal boundaries. As such, the soul is the “first act” of the human; everything else follows from that act. (Which is also why, to open a different can of worms, the human soul is infused at conception. Nothing that happens after conception changes the substantial nature or form of the human; everything that develops follows directly from that innermost principle’s first act of existence. The creature that results from conception is an UNDERSTANDING / RATIONAL embodied creature. A human, in other words.)

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