Don’t neuronal correlates of consciousness disprove the soul theory?

by Chaitanya Charan dasJanuary 19, 2011

Question: Researchers have found precise correlations between specific areas of the brain and particular emotions. Doesn’t this make the idea of soul as the source of emotions redundant?

Answer: No, because correlation doesn’t imply causality.

Here’s an example to understand the difference. Suppose a tragedy novel leads to a spate of suicides. A researcher investigating the cause of the suicides, makes a detailed study of the number of times the letter “A” occurs in the book and then proposes a thesis correlating the frequency of “A” in the book with suicides among its readers. Would the correlations, even if accurately and exhaustively documented, explain the cause of the suicides? Obviously not. To claim that it does would amount to a precise absurdity: an idea that is precise in its documentation, but is absurd in its content.

The arrangement of alphabets in the book correlates with certain higher-dimensional properties, properties that arouse certain emotions (sorrow in the case of a tragedy novel) in a conscious observer who is different from those alphabets and their arrangement and properties. If the alphabets are not arranged in that particular way, they will not arouse the earlier emotions; so the correlation is important, but is it the full explanation? No, because even when the alphabets are appropriately arranged, they won’t arouse emotions if there were no distinct conscious observer to experience the emotions as happens when nobody is reading the book.

Similarly, the correlations between particular parts of the brain and the specific emotions aroused thereof may be documentable after laborious observations and experiments, but to claim that this correlation is a causal explanation amounts to a precise absurdity. Why? Because no matter how precise the documentation, it’s absurd to overlook the pre-existence of a distinct experient (the person who experiences) of those emotions. Without the experient, the stimulation of the brain – even if done accurately – won’t arouse any emotions, as happens with a dead person even when his brain is still chemically intact. Dr Benito Reyes explains this succinctly in his classic book, Scientific Evidence for the Existence of the Soul,

“Who sits at the brain switchboard to turn it off and on, as it were? Who starts thought? Who perceives phenomena or sensations and transforms them into noumena or ideas? …[He is] the soul, the personality, the consciousness. All mental, emotional and physical life emanates from him, but it courses through the brain and the entire nervous system for expression and manifestation.”

Dr Reyes words’ echo those of Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (13.34), who explained thousands of years ago that the soul who illuminates the body with consciousness just as the sun illuminates the world with light.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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