From my point of vieuw the most basic question a materialistic atheist should be asked is: “Do you believe in a soul?”
In this very forum a lot of arguments have been discussed, but not once I felt like we touched the origin of atheism, rather people go back and forth with subjective arguments. (No offence to anybody specific here , I’m speaking generally ;) )
So do you believe in a soul?
Perhaps we should first define the word soul before answering. There is Aristotle's notion of soul, which is a kind of principle of organization of the body. Others refer to soul when just talking about the mind. But there's another definition of soul--which we get from Descartes, and dualists, and so on--which says that there's this thing attached to your body, and when your brain and body are destroyed this thing is going to cut loose and have a life of its own.
Why is this question so important?
Well wether or not the soul is present can be a major influence in the recognition of free will. Some materialistic atheists would come to conclude the human brain functions only by causalistic proceses. Therefore people simply follow a strict road. This way of thinking totally dismisses any form of responsability over actions, since any action would then be the fysical consequence of an action. This chain of action and reaction could be trased back as far as the big bang. Putting all responsibility of everything to this event.
Is this lack of human responsibility proven by science?
No. Far from it. It is correct that most events we witness follow a very strict path layed down by the scientific laws. An apple falls down because of gravity, I drink coffee the caffeine makes me ”jumpy”, I’m cold therefor I start shivering. I said most events, but not all events! When one looks at quantumfysics, this causality is no longer a fact. There we witness “probabilitys” and “chance”. Now some people swear to the idea that chaos is a word we invented to define an order we fail to understand. And that the only reason we’r not able to fit certain processes in laws is due to a lack of knowledge. While this is a perfect logical thought I do object. What I object to is science always being an open-ended process--always saying, "Let's keep looking at the data," "Here's what we make of it," "This is our best guess at the time." What I object to is when these "best guesses" turn into a religion. Consider a situation where someone has a spiritual experience and he or she mentions the experience in front of someone who's "scientific," and the listener says, "That's impossible! You must be crazy!" That attitude I don't like. That dismissal of people's actual experiences is not good science. It's arrogance in the guise of science. That's scientism. Like the man in the story by H. G. Wells, I thought that in the country of the scientifically blind, the one-eyed man would be king. In fact, I was the one who was blind. I was intellectually incapacitated. As long as I held on to my scientific view, I couldn't see. I thought I saw everything; I didn't see anything. So I had to give up much of what I previously held as real, in order to see what these people saw. And when I was finally able to attain this new vision, it totally changed my view of science. And I began seeing science as a tool--not the be-all and end-all of the universe, but a tool to help us begin to dig deeper into the nature of what it means to be a human being.
So does this "chance" factor actualy occur in the processes of the human brain?
Absolutely, for example every electron that bounces of another uses this probability factor. No all-existing-outcome can be premenised with absolete certainty.
So basicly no one knows, and all we can do is speculate?
Well yes and no.
Lets get back to defining a soul. If it enables us free will, it is beyond the laws of science. This insinuates it isn’t even materialistic. So since it’s not material, we can’t have any material indication proving it’s existance. So basicly to assume a soul exist, one has to assume it’s also indetectable. That takes faith I agdmit, but then again, so does believing the opposite.
Well it’s not because it can’t be scientificly proven, one can’t search for an indication of it. Because if it does exist, it’s present must be obvious in some way wright? This isn't a philosophical position, it's experimental science; the mind can do things that the brain can't do. Here’s three out of many:
The assumption that only the physical is real is false. Consider we have 7 dimensions (according to string theory, the universe consists out of 11 dimensions rather then 3 spacial and one time) in this universe that we don’t even feel, see hear, winess.... It's now clear that what's physical can't even be contained in the physical. For example, a magnetic field exists in space and time, and there's no physicality to a magnetic field. It's not mass and it's not energy, in that sense, yet we describe it and construct metaphors for it--it's wavy, it has lines of force, and so on--because description and metaphor is what we do. So we have a metaphor for the body--that it's a massive thing--and everything else has to be contained within it. But there's clear evidence of a subjective nature, of a spiritual essence, which indicates that people have memories feelings of things that they could not possibly have from their life experiences. How come every human being has te same “instinctive” notion of things to be “wrong” and “wright”?
The way we think of therapeutic problems is already corrupted by our philosophical, religious, and scientific tradition. For example, we think that there's a mind and a body and therefore there are diseases of the mind and diseases of the body--and that's already a massive confusion. And it does an enormous amount of harm. For example, consider the placebo effect. You give a patient a sugar tablet, and if the patient gets better then the assumption is that there was nothing wrong in the first place. It doesn't follow. You can have some very serious illnesses that are helped by placebo effects, and the assumption that therefore "there was nothing wrong with you" is based on the mind-body dualism that we should be militant against.
Lets get back to scientific dimensions. Einstein teached us how time should be considered a dimension. It’s not something absolete, not the speed by wich processes/changes occur, but rather a space. Envision that....
Hard isn’t it? Because we humans do not have the ability to change the way time passes. We cannot go backwards, make jumps, fast foreward through time, so we feel it passifly. This however does not mean that it is in fact an active dimension. Try picturing it like a film. A film consist of many pictures.
This film is the universe, and every picture represents a second in that universe. Now this means that two consecutive seconds of this universe actually exist simultaniously next to eachother. Try invisioning it without time. Thousands of universes laying next to eachother, each one frozen in time. The only way any motion or any feeling of time can be witnessed is by moving from one universe to another over the dimension of time. Just like the only way to watch a movie is to let the film be played by a projector. Visualised it? Ok, now tell me, what’s missing in the picture?....
Exactly, something that alows us to move trough those dimensions without interacting with them. I don’t know about you, but if this would exist, I’d call it a “soul”
About 50% of this text is a copy of a discussion between scientist that I found on.
I do however stand behind every claim I made here and invite everyone to discus them with me. Basicly I just used their words to comment on thoughts I already had but failed to decribe in sush an elegant way.