The Dualist’s Dilemma: The High Cost of Reconciling Neuroscience with a Soul

In Keith Augustine & Michael Martin (eds.), The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 203-292 (2015)
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Abstract

Tight correlations between mental states and brain states have been observed time and again within the ethology of biologically ingrained animal behaviors, the comparative psychology of animal minds, the evolutionary psychology of mental adaptations, the behavioral genetics of inherited mental traits, the developmental psychology of the maturing mind, the psychopharmacology of mind-altering substances, and cognitive neuroscience more generally. They imply that our mental lives are only made possible because of brain activity—that having a functioning brain is a necessary condition for having conscious experiences. This mind-brain dependence thesis yields predictions that have been spectacularly confirmed by the evidence, whereas its antithesis has been massively disconfirmed—at least so long as it is not formulated so vaguely as to yield no specific empirical consequences at all. Dualists are thus forced to make a difficult choice: either retain a belief in personal survival at the expense of ignoring or dismissing the implications of our best evidence, or accept those implications at the expense of acknowledging that the prospects for personal survival are extremely dim. 1. Introduction: A Probabilistic Argument -- 2. Scientific Reasoning I: Mill’s Methods and Modern Epidemiological Principles - 2.1 When Correlation Indicates Causation -- 3. Scientific Reasoning II: Inference to the Best Explanation, Testability, and Predictive Success - 3.1 Parsimony: Tempering Explanations to Minimize False Beliefs - 3.2 Plausibility: Harmonizing Explanations with Background Knowledge - 3.3 Testability and Confirmation: Checking Hypotheses Against the Data - 3.3.1 Confirmation of the Dependence Thesis from Failed Attempts to Falsify It - 3.3.2 Confirmation of the Dependence Thesis from the Falsification of its Rival - 3.4 Scope: Bringing Disparate Facts Together - 3.5 Fertility: Generating New Lines of Research - 3.6 Overview -- 4. Scientific Reasoning III: Bayesian and Information-Theoretic Approaches - 4.1 Bayesian Probability - 4.2 Bayesian Confirmation Theory - 4.3 A Bayesian Approach to the Dependence and Independence Theses - 4.4 The Probabilistic Price of Ad Hoc Accommodation: Simplicity vs. Goodness of Fit - 4.4.1 Simplicity Reflected in the Likelihood - 4.4.2 Simplicity Reflected in the Prior Probability - 4.5 Prediction vs. Accommodation - 4.6 Bayesian Analysis of the Dependence and Independence Theses -- 5. The Dualist’s Dilemma: Reject Science, or Reject Personal Survival? - 5.1 What’s Left for a Soul to Do? -- 6. Conclusion

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Citations of this work

When Will Survival Researchers Move Past Defending the Indefensible?Keith Augustine - 2022 - Journal of Scientific Exploration 36 (2):412-435.
Answering More of the Same: A Reply to Nahm.Keith Augustine - 2022 - Journal of Scientific Exploration 36 (4):794-808.
Evidence or Prejudice? A Reply to Matlock. [REVIEW]Keith Augustine - 2016 - Journal of Parapsychology 80:203-231.

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References found in this work

The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex.Charles Darwin - 1898 - New York: Plume. Edited by Carl Zimmer.
Inference to the Best Explanation.Peter Lipton - 1991 - London and New York: Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group.
Scientific reasoning: the Bayesian approach.Peter Urbach & Colin Howson - 1993 - Chicago: Open Court. Edited by Peter Urbach.

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