Do souls exist?
Is there a part of a human being that survives the death of the physical body? Is a human being fundamentally just meat, and that’s it? When a human being experiences death, is the experience the gradual reduction of all input and output, all thinking and feeling, to zero?
Certainly this appears to be the case at first glance. When a human being dies, he seems to just blink away and disappear, his existence zeroing out totally, never to be seen again. He seems to have become wiped out, as if he had never been. Because of this apparent total disappearance, there is on average an overwhelming fear of death among human beings. When a human being gets a diagnosis of a "terminal" illness (as if life itself wasn’t "terminal"), the general response is that the end of all things is about to occur to him personally.
The extent of this fear is overwhelming, mind-bending. People will do almost anything to put death off. They will kill others to avoid it, spend any amount of money, suffer the agonies of the damned for even the faintest chance of staving off death, of avoiding that apparent total erasure.
But is this fear correct?
Certainly there are many things that have been assumed to be a certain way because it looked that way at first glance, and have turned out to be absolutely dead wrong. The earth was once assumed to be flat by many because it looked flat. This was shown to be wrong by careful, unemotional, objective, scientific analysis and experiment. The Earth ain’t flat, it’s round. Diseases were once thought by many to be caused by evil spirits. This was shown to be wrong by careful, unemotional, objective, scientific analysis and experiment. Diseases are caused by many things, but they ain’t caused by evil spirits. It was once thought obviously impossible for rocks to fall out of a clear blue sky. But this, too, was shown to be wrong by careful, unemotional, objective, scientific analysis and experiment.
The gentle reader may guess at this point that I am a very big fan of the scientific approach to answering questions. The gentle reader is entirely correct. In all of our history, nothing has shown to be as useful to solving problems as the scientific approach. The scientific approach has helped us to cure disease and remove their causes entirely from this Earth. The human race is now able to turn night into day, move huge mountains, send messages across the world, make deserts bloom, all from the application of fundamental physical principles discovered and confirmed in science laboratories. (I must say my point here is not to argue whether or not it was always correct to do these things, but that it was the scientific approach that gave us the tools to do them with.)
I now propose to apply this approach to the question of whether or not people have souls. To coldly, carefully, unemotionally, rationally, logically explore the question of whether or not people have souls, without reference to any kind of religion or any kind of appeal to faith.
As an aside, I observe there is at present in society a completely unconscious assumption that the question of souls cannot be solved by rational analysis, and must be left to religion. I find this assumption to be truly incredible, given the fact the fear of death is arguably one of the central fears of the human race.
Why not do this? Can this question of what happens when people die be solved by careful, rational analysis and experiment?
The answer is simple: Do the analysis and see what you get.
First, it is necessary to define precisely what a soul is. The definition is trivially easy, but must be stated for reasons of rigor.
A soul is the part of a person that survives death. For a reason to be stated later, it must be the true essence of that person, a repository of his memories, and also some kind of consciousness, some kind of thinking and feeling, must also be continously present. Basically, the "person," whatever that might be, must continue on exactly the same, except without a physical body.
So now what? Where do we go from here?
Here is where the scientific approach comes in handy. If you think you’ve found a new physical principle, how do you go about confirming that it truly exists in nature?
One way is to make an educated guess as to what the effects of what this principle in action would be and see if these effects can actually be observed in the physical world.
Stated in a simpler fashion, you have to predict what the effects are on people’s actions if they have souls.
And there MUST be effects. This is a VERY important point to understand. There MUST be observable differences in behavior between having souls and not having souls. To say that people have souls but that they have zero effect on their behavior is a nonsensical thing. Saying that something has zero effect is the same thing as saying it doesn't exist.
So if people had souls, how would their actions be affected?
To answer this question, consider the following thought experiment: We take ten thousand people and seal them up together in an enclosed society for ten thousand years. To simulate the cannot-die property of souls, there will be one rule that will be true without exception for the entire ten thousand years.
At the conclusion of the ten thousand years, the very same people who were present at the beginning of the experiment are still there alive and breathing at its conclusion.
So what would be the effect of sealing a group of people together for ten thousand years? How would their time together have affected them?
I think there would be one rule that after ten thousand years would be pounded into their bones, so much a part of what they were they would be unconscious of it.
YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS.
Good or bad, whatever you did eventually would come back to you. And I don’t mean to imply that good actions would ALWAYS lead to good consequences for you or vice versa, either, just that whatever the consequences were, you could NOT escape them.
Note that you also MUST be the same person, the same personality with the same continuous existence for the entire ten thousand years, in order for this rule to appear. This is why I said above that souls had to have the property of continous thinking and feeling. If at any time it were possible for your memories, thoughts, and feelings to cease happening, for the continuity of your existence to be broken, this rule could no longer appear, because you wouldn't know it when the consequences of one of your actions returned to you.
In order for this rule to appear, it is not, rigorously speaking, the body that must always be present, but the personality. So not only death must be impossible in this theoretical society, but also personality-erasure.
So, if people in the real world actually have souls, a part of themselves that cannot die, we should be able to find the assumption that "YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS" buried in people, which will be expressed in a thousand different ways, in their individual actions and in their societal institutions.
I will now list a few random things that I believe carry this hidden assumption. It is left to the gentle reader to judge for himself whether I am correct.
The "Cold-Case" phenomenon
As exemplified by "cold-case" detectives, a new phenomenon arising from advances in technology in general and advances in DNA fingerprinting in particular. "Cold-case" detectives apply new technology to solve old unsolved cases. This is, in my opinion, the single most glaring evidence of the consequences assumption being present in our society. Here, the iceberg is ninety per cent ABOVE water instead of ninety per cent below. I mean, it’s not like crime has been declining to the point where cops are running out of things to do and are turning to cold cases just to keep themselves busy. No, as busy as the cops are, when the new DNA technology came out, they immediately added to their case load by going back and re-opening old cases.
The assumption goes much deeper than it looks, because all that old evidence was locked and stored away in hopes of later solving a case even before the new DNA technology came out.
"Cold-Case" television shows
The consequences assumption shows up again in the popularity of "cold-case"television shows. Also in the popularity of "justice" shows in general. Not only do people track down bad guys regardless of how much time has passed, but the rest of us ENJOY watching this happen.
The consequences assumption is buried---MUST be buried---in everybody, or it would be impossible for these shows to be popular.
(As an aside, in reference to my very first blog, if you combine the rule that "God loves everybody forever" with "You cannot escape the consequences of your actions," you know what rule you get?
NOBODY ESCAPES JUSTICE.
This is a rule that is consciously stated in our society. Hopefully at this point the reader can see that "You cannot escape the consequences of your actions" is one of the assumptions behind this rule.)
The hunt for Nazi war criminals after World War II
I'm not going to say much about this. Either the reader will see it, or he won't.
They had murdered so many people it was hard to see what use it was bringing them to trial. But as far as these criminals ran, they were hunted. And it didn't stop, and it hasn't stopped, even today, after more than sixty years. Even if they are dead, they are still hunted.
Arguing over old history
Have you ever wondered why people spend so much time and passion arguing over history that happened so long ago that everybody involved is dead now?
The genocide of the Armenians by the Turks in the First World War. The massacre of the Polish officers in the Katyn Forest by the Soviets during World War II. The sale and transport of slaves into the United States. The history of slavery in general. The assassination of the American Presidents Kennedy, Garfield, and Lincoln.
I'm sure the reader can think of his own historical examples. I'm sure many of you have your own historical events you're passionate about, some of which happened centuries ago.
Of course, it's for more than one reason. But certainly one of the primary reasons is to find and nail down the guilty parties, exactly the same impulse behind the cold-case phenomenon. Looked at in this light, it becomes clear the cold-case phenomenon is just a highly specialized case of arguing over old history. And therefore, arguing over old history also contains the assumption that "You cannot escape the consequences of your actions."
I am going to quit here and leave the reader to see if he can find his own examples. Which I am sure he can, it really isn't that hard. What might make it difficult is that it can be like fish detecting water, so much a part of your environment it's hard to separate out.
And so it is clear at this point that "YOU CANNOT ESCAPE THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS" is buried very, very deeply in human beings and therefore, there is a very high probability that souls exist. The signal is off the chart, to say the least.
So now what? A thought experiment has indicated the souls are there in all likelihood. What is the next step?
You take it to the lab, of course. There is more than enough justification to spend time and resources on physical experiments.
You detect souls in the laboratory, is what you do next. Nothing is as convincing as direct detection in a scientific laboratory. This would nail it down beyond all doubt.
I propose the following experiment off the top of my head.
Take an animal, a cat, say, and surround it with a sphere of SQUIDs, Superconducting QUantum Interference Detectors, little widgets that can detect very small electromagnetic fields, kill the cat and see if you can detect its soul separating from its body.
Of course, this particular experiment assumes that souls have electromagnetic fields associated with them. Everything else does if you look at a small enough scale, I see no reason why souls should not also. I also have strong reason to suspect that they do; this is not quite a pure guess on my part.
To those who don't think animals have souls, I can only say again I have very, very strong reason to suspect they do. Which is a good thing, as it avoids having to carry this experiment out on human beings, which would carry with it a host of ethical issues and be a thousand times harder to set up.
This is a physics experiment, and I am NOT a physicist. I am a chemist. It is possible some physics-type person out there can think of a better way to do this.
By way of motivating any physics-type person out there reading this to consider doing this experiment: You wanna be famous forever? You wanna have people building statues to you? You wanna have people pointing at you in public places, saying your name in hushed tones, and fainting dead away? YOU WANNA HAVE GRANT MONEY POURING OUT YOUR EARS?
Then you be the scientist that detects souls first.
I say this flatly: The experiment to detect souls will be the most significant experiment that has been done, or ever will be done, in the history of the human race.
Remember the fear of death is the central fear of the human race. If this fear is removed, the human race, the ENTIRE human race, will be transformed in fundamental ways.
But that's another blog, and I am done. (See story below to see what the transformation will be like.)
Any and all comments welcome.
Y'all have a good one.