Friday, December 2, 2016

Soul Survival

Usually when people talk about the soul and life beyond the death of the physical body they draw looks of incredulity and even scorn from fashionably skeptical materialists, but when a scientist as prominent as physicist Roger Penrose talks about it, well, then the skeptics should at least listen.

Penrose's theory is that the soul consists of information stored at the sub-atomic level in microtubules in the body's cells. At death this information somehow escapes the confines of the microtubules and drifts off into the universe. He claims to have evidence to support this hypothesis, and perhaps he does. I haven't seen the evidence, but I'd like to know how the information "knows" that the body has died and what mechanism controls it. I'd also like to know what the information is about, how it functions without a physical body, and what disembodied information leaking out into the universe "looks" like.

Anyway, I'm not altogether skeptical of Penrose's theory. I've long advocated the view that, if we do have a soul (as a substance that's neither physical nor mental - neither body nor mind), that it consists of information. In this I'm in agreement with Penrose.

Where I differ from him is that in my view the soul is the totality of true propositions about a person - an exhaustive description of the person at every moment of his or her existence. It's the essence of the person. But whereas Penrose locates the information in cellular microtubules I posit that the information is located in a vast database, i.e. the mind of God. In God's mind there is, so to speak, a "file" containing a complete description of every person who has ever lived. Since the information is located in the mind of God it's indestructible - immortal - unless God chooses to destroy it. Each of us is therefore potentially eternal.

To take this line of thinking one more step, perhaps when our physical bodies die our "file" is "downloaded," in whole or in part, into another body situated in a different world, or at least in a different set of dimensions than what we experience in this world. It would be a different kind of body, perhaps, but a body all the same.

On this view, the soul is not something wraith-like that's contained in us, but rather it's "in" God. As with a computer file, he could choose to delete it altogether or to express it in any "format" he sees fit.

In any case, if this hypothesis is at all close to describing the way things are, the death of our bodies is not the death of us, and if physical death is not the end of our existence, that changes everything.