Book Notes The Battle for the Soul

The Battle for the Soul Hot

Do souls exist? Robert Crawford thinks so and explores the idea in his book The Battle for the Soul: A Comparative Analysis in an Age of Doubt.

It argues that there is life after death and that both soul and the resurrection of the body are linked. The claim is disputed that we must choose between the survival of the soul and the bodily resurrection and contends that there is need for both. Death is seen not as something final but the gateway to a new life that will be more wonderful than we can ever imagine.

Fortunately it's more than just an extended argument for the existence of souls; it's also a comparative analysis of belief about souls in different religions. That's the only thing that salvages the book at all, given the extremes Robert Crawford goes to misrepresent those who disagree with him:

Materialists, of course, have always denied any spiritual part of our nature saying that it is wishful thinking. Their position has been taken seriously in Christian circles and some theologians now think that the best defense of life after death is to dispense with the soul and stress the resurrection of the body. ...

Of course the materialist does not believe in anything that he cannot see but there are many forces in our world as we mentioned that the scientist cannot see such as currents, fields and subatomic particles. He knows that they are there by their effects and the theist can argue that God exists because of His effects on us.

This is a gross misrepresentation of materialism; if this description were even remotely accurate, it would make Christian theologians look like idiots for taking "seriously" such a simplistic, superficial position. But Christian theologians have had to take materialism seriously and that's because materialism involves a whole lot more than just idea that unless we can "see" something, then it must not exist.

Then again, misrepresenting materialism in this ways saves Robert Crawford from having to invest any serious effort in defending his claims. It's also consistent with his behavior elsewhere:

Functionalism is a philosophy that seeks to resolve some of the difficulties of materialism by using the computer analogy. Thoughts are like software and the brain processes them. Software does not have a spatial location and we can think of thoughts existing on a different level and having an impact on the brain.

Without the software the hardware will not function and the same applies to mind and body. The mental is an activity not a state or structure thus behaviorism has given way to functionalism that identifies mental states by the causal roles they play in behavior. But it like materialism can reduce thoughts to the firing of brain neurons so we are back with the physical. ...

The mind or soul is a functional part of the brain. It is a process like the program run on a computer. The use of process reminds us of Buddhism which insists that we are a changing bundle of characteristics. The software organizes the program and it could be transferred to some other system. Likewise the soul could be transferred to another body in the after life.

But someone is needed to operate the machine and the most likely candidate is the soul regarded as a person. It is possible to say that someone displays intellectual abilities without mentioning any nonphysical entity but the question persists: what kind of person has these abilities or capacities? Has she got some essence that shows itself in this way?

This is a popular argument in defense of the existence of an immaterial soul or mind; it's also a manifestly ridiculous argument. Of course software has a physical location — more than one, in fact. It exits physically on the storage device where it resides. It can even be printed out physically.

When activated, the instructions encoded on a physical storage device create physical changes in the computer system's electronics and further instructions also reside physically in the system. What's more, computer software can be copied and transferred, creating identical copies in more than one place.

Comparing the "soul" to software does not rescue dualism from materialism; it does not rescue the idea of a soul from naturalism and science. If there is a soul that is analogous to software, then it is also material, it needs some physical and material places to be stored, and it can be copied indefinitely. None of that describes what people actually believe about souls and this is why believers have to misrepresent reality in order to construct this analogy.

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