Science Can’t Find Your Soul

The most compelling aspect of Ryle’s article was his “Ghost in the Machine” argument, which attacks Descartes’ belief that the only definite evidence for our existence can be determined by thought and thinking – which only requires an immaterial mind, and not necessarily a material body, so the two must be separate. Ryle attacks this idea that the mind deserves its own category separate from the body on the basis that there is no proof of such an existence. The mind can be explained by the physical electrochemical activity found in the brain and is therefore not a “ghost” in a machine, but part of the machine itself.

If Ryle believes that the body and mind are of the same “category” and therefore that the mind deserves no recognition that the body does not receive, does he believe in people having “souls”? Descartes, and subsequently Cartesians, believe that the world is divided into three areas of existence: that which is inhabited by the physical body, that which is inhabited by the mind, and that which is inhabited by God. (Encyclopedia Britannica) They believe that the mind and body interact, but they are separate entities.

Previously, in class we talked about the mind and free will in terms of the brain and mind and the governing tool of the body. Yet, under Ryle’s argument, the mind is merely another part of the body, not an actual separate entity. There is no soul or mind to the body and therefore, there is no free will because if the body acts due to physiological and biological factors, then so, too, does the mind (as a facet of the body) and all decisions are made based on bodily process and free will does not exist and if free will does not exist how can the presence of a personality or soul?

In order to further understand these points, I found myself reading an Atheist blog, written by Adam Lee, who has written articles for many publications. His argument, in support of Ryle, is that there is no possible way that the mind can be considered separate from the body. Lee states that there is no aspect of the mind that does not correspond with an aspect of the brain (as determined by PET, CAT and MRI scans). The most compelling aspect of his argument was a few paragraphs in which he broke down the parts of the brain and explained how they do what for the body in terms of movement, sense and emotion.

Because this is true, there is no possible way a soul could exist because it has not been found. “Area after area of the brain has yielded up its secrets to the probing of neuroscience, and not a trace of it [the soul] has been found. […]All the evidence we currently possess suggests that there is nothing inside our skulls that does not obey the ordinary laws of physics.” (Lee, Patheos). With this in mind, I find myself having to agree – despite my own beliefs up to this point – somewhat. The evidence is all there, how can it be refuted? I am not sure how wholly I agree with either camp, but it is something to consider and ponder. If a soul can’t be found does it exist?

So, what do you think? Do we have souls?

I found this video that explores Ryle vs. Descartes and it helped me better understand the argument. It’s a little long but helpful!

-Watson, Richard A. “Cartesianism.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 08 Nov.2014. (
-Lee, Adam. “A Ghost in the Machine.” Patheos | Hosting the Conversation on Faith. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.



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