What makes a Person? Clues from Neuropsychology and Evolutionary Psychology and What about the Soul? Edinburgh - November 16 th 2013. A Very Timely Event Science Vol. 342 1 November 2013 Editorial Seize the Neuroscience Moment
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What makes a Person?
Clues from Neuropsychology and Evolutionary Psychology
What about the Soul?
Edinburgh - November 16th 2013
A Very Timely Event
Science Vol. 342 1 November 2013 Editorial
Seize the Neuroscience Moment
‘…the European Commission launched a Human Brain Project , and the U.S. government announced its Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies ( BRAIN) project.’
‘..neuroscience research has progressed at an explosive rate over the past three decades. Never before has the often quoted adage of having learned more about the brain in the past decade than in all of recorded history been more apt.’
Nature 503 - 7 November 2013 Editorial
Europe’s mega-project to simulate the human brain has much to offer neuroscience research-whether or not it delivers on its central promise .
“Viewed his theological interests and his work in natural philosophy as forming a seamless whole and constantly used results from the one to enlighten matters in the other”
Macintosh J.T.and Anstey P., 2007
TENSION AT THE SEAMS ?
LOCALISING MENTAL PROCESSES
Hippocrates 5th century BC - brain and intellect
heart and senses
Empedocles 5th century BC - heart and mental processes
2000 years of debate between “the brain hypothesis”
and “the cardiac hypothesis”
Galen 2nd century AD - supported “the brain hypothesis”
(entertains all the current options)
Portia in The Merchant of Venice ( Act 3 Scene 2)
Tell me where is fancy bred,
Or in the heart or in the head
Holofernes in Love’s Labour Lost (Act 4, scene 2)
This is a gift that I have,simple,simple,a foolish extravagant spirit, full of forms , figures, shapes, objects, ideas, apprehensions, emotions, revolutions.
These are begotten in the ventricle of memory, nourished in the womb of the pia mater,and delivered from the mellowing of the occasion. But the gift is good in those in whom it is acute, and I am thankful for it.
Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV , part 2 ( Act 4, Scene 2)
This apoplexy is , as I take it, a kind of lethargy , an’t please your lordship, a kind of sleeping in the blood,a whoreson tripling
What tell me of it? Be it as it is
It hath it original from much grief , from studyandperturbation of the brain. I have read the causes of its effects in Galen: it is a kind of deafness
Bottom –Up Approaches
Accidental Brain damage
Single cell recording
O’Craven and Kanwisher
Next slide shows activity when faces or houses are seen or
% signal change in Fusiform Face Area
% signal change in Parahippocampal Place Area
“Change the mind and you change the brain” :
effects of cognitive –behaviour therapy on the neural correlates of spider phobia
Vincent Paquette et al.,NeuroImage,18
Evidence for Plasticity
Use it or Lose it
% distance error
full-time drivers retired drivers
Theories which depict experience and its neural basis as
inseparable aspects of a single process may hold out
the greatest promise. But we do not have any clear
understanding of how a single process could have two
such different aspects.
Making sense of their relationship may require us to
rethink the nature of matter, mind, or both.
Adam Zeman , Consciousness, a user's guide, Yale
University Press 2002 p.341.
“ ..I believe …an understanding of how the brain gives rise to the mind …will require a change at least as radical as relativity theory , the introduction of electromagnetic fields into physics-or the original scientific revolution itself..”
Science and the Mind – Body Problem
Thomas Nagel 2006
A New trend -
The Elusive God-Spot
The temporal lobe is considered "the God
module”, the part of the brain that connects with the transcendent.
Willoughby Britton, 2004
Hypereligiosity may stem from increased
activity in the medial prefrontal cortex of the
brain... my theory is that the medial prefrontal
cortex plays the role of the conductor of an
orchestra in religiosity"
Osamu Muramoto, 2004
But what about the Soul?
“ The theologians of the early church began to use
ideas from Greek philosophy, and the conception
of immaterial and immortal soul found its way
into Christian thinking and has tended to stay
there ever since.”
Leslie Stevenson , Ten Theories of Human
Nature, 4th Edition ,2004
“the question of how the transcendental soul acted upon the physical body became replaced by the question of how the immaterial mind could arise out of fleshly matter. It still remains a central question for the science of mind”.
Kenan Malik, Man, Beast and Zombie, 2000
The Soul and its faculties
It would be foolish to seek a definition of “soul” from the philosophers, of them hardly one, except Plato, has rightly affirmed its immortal substance…….
Indeed from Scripture we have already taught that the soul is an incorporeal substance….”
John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion. Book 1 chapter XV section 6
"The idea that man has a disembodied soul is as unnecessary as the old idea that there was a Life Force. This is in head-on contradiction to the religious beliefs of billions of human beings alive today. How will such a radical change be received? "Francis Crick, The AstonishingHypothesis, 1994
Should we continue, then, to speak of 'souls' at all? I see no problem with the word in principle (as Lewis Carroll suggested, you can use words however you like as long as you pay them extra on Thursdays);
you can say 'soul', as long as you are committed to meaning by
that ‘a whole human being living in the presence of God’ Soul-language, within a Christian context, is a shorthand for telling
a story of that sort, a story about the way in which human beings
as wholes are irreducibly open to God. It is not, within Christian theology, a shorthand for a story in which a partitioned human being has a soul in one compartment, a body in another, and quite possibly all sorts of other bits and pieces equally divided up. We can then continue to use the word ‘soul’ with fully Christian meaning; but we should be careful, because the language has had a chequered history, and may betray us.
Evolutionary psychology refers to the study of the evolution of behaviour and of the mind using principles of natural selection.
The presumption is that natural selection has favoured genes that designed both behavioural tendencies and information processing systems that solved problems faced by our ancestors, thus contributing to their survival and the spread of their genes.
"It is dangerous to show a man too clearly how much he
resembles the beast, without at the same time showing him
his greatness, it is also dangerous to allow him too clear
vision of his greatness without his baseness. It is even more
dangerous to leave him in ignorance of both.”
Blaise Pascal, 17th century
Even if animals other than ourselves act in ways tantamount to moral behaviour, their behaviour does not necessarily rest on deliberations of the kind we engage in. It is hard to believe that animals weigh their own interests against the rights of others, that they develop a vision of the greater good of society, or that they feel lifelong guilt about something they should not have done'
Evolutionary Psychology and Human Uniqueness
The trap of unthinking reductionism
1. Because two behaviors are similar, the mechanisms underlying them are necessarily similar or identical.
2. “Even if animals other than ourselves act in ways tantamount to moral behavior, their behavior does not necessarily rest on deliberations of the kind we engage in. (de Waal)
3. “To communicate intentions and feelings is one thing; to clarify what is right, and why, and what is wrong, and why, is quite something else. Animals are no moral philosophers.” (de Waal)
4. “The fact that the human moral sense goes so far back in evolutionary history that other species show signs of it, plants morality firmly near the center of our much-maligned nature.”(de Waal)
5. The repeated take-home message :
There is nothing remotely scientific about oversimplifying complex scientific issues in the interests of an ideological agenda. Unthinking reductionism can at times be a lazy response to avoid facing up to challenging scientific problems.
Lessons here for us all.
1. Avoid make sweeping statements about similarities between animals and humans that are not
only misleading but simply untrue. There are important issues here concerning the benefits for medical advances using animal subjects . Both similarities and differences are important in properly interpreting research findings.
For example , a 2006 report of a working group of the Academy of Medical Sciences in Britain, “On the Use of Nonhuman Primates in Research.” Notes that:
“Primates, both human and non-human, embody a major evolutionary step-change in vertebrate brain architecture with the massive expansion of the neocortex. . . . Only the non-human primate brain has a cellular composition of divisions that is in any way directly analogous to that found in humans.”
“A recent review of the evolution of intelligence places more emphasis on the continuity of humans with other primates: ‘The outstanding intelligence of humans appears to result from a combination and enhancement of properties found in non-human primates, such as theory of mind, imitation and language, rather than from “unique” properties.’”
2. As evolutionary psychologists we must be prepared to be agnostic or silent on metaphysical issues, and as Christians we should try to rid ourselves of the fear of naturalistic explanations of treasured aspects of our behavior. Both perspectives—the evolutionary psychological and that of Christian ethics—should keep their focus on the common ground between them without slipping into the error of inappropriately mixing their languages.
3. Searching for ‘unique ‘ properties to underpin a belief in human distinctiveness thought to be necessary to help define ‘the Imago dei’ is to misunderstand what it means to be made in the image of God.
The Imago Dei
The imago Dei as the capacity to reason
111. The Knowledge of God according to the Church
36. “God…can be known…by the natural light of reason”.
“Man has this capacity because he is created ‘in the image
From a Catechism of the Catholic Church
For Descartes" the human mind, by virtue of its rationality,
provides evidence both ofa kind ofimage of Godand at the
same time a criterion of radical discontinuity from the rest of
creation. The animals are merely machines, and it is said that
some of the enlightened believe that their cries of pain were no
more than the squeaks of unlubricated machinery.”
(Colin Gunton,The Promise of Trinitarian Theology.
2nd.ed. 1997) page 101
THE IMAGE AND THE LIKENESS OF GOD:
A THEOLOGICAL APPROACH
Anthony C. Thiselton
1. Humankind was originally called to represent God to the world.
2. This explains how in the New Testament Christ is said to be the true image and likeness of God, whereas humankind failed in this vocation. Hebrews 2:6-9 makes this explicit.
3. Many identify the image and likeness of God with specific qualities or dispositions which they see in humankind and also in God. The favourite candidates down the centuries have been rationality (or wisdom); kingship or dominion over the earth; freedom, or ability to make decisions in self-determination; ability to communicate, to address, or to use language: and a capacity to enjoy relationships with others, or relationality.
4.The Biblical narrative gives no precise account of the nature of the image
( Anthony Thiselton Chapter in The Emergence of Personhood:A Quantum Leap? Ed . Malcolm Jeeves , Eerdmans 2014)
......to be in the image of God is at once to be
created as a particular kind of being - a
person - and to be called to realise a certain
Colin Gunton, The Promise of Trinitarian
Theology, 2nd edition, T.and T. Clark, 1997
FOR FURTHER REFLECTION
1.Recognising the rapidly accumulating evidence of the tightness of links between brain and mind, how can we best think about and model the complexity and diversity of personhood without embracing substance dualisms or substance pluralisms?
2.How can we integrate the profound insights of theologians and philosophers about spirituality with the neuropsychological evidence that spirituality is firmly embedded and embodied in our physical make-up?
3.Which aspects of our complex personhood are key to a proper understanding of the imago dei?