Over the past few years as campus minister in the Texas Medical Center I have spoken with several medical students and physicians about their scientific understanding of the relationship of the soul to the body, and specifically of the relationship of the mind to the brain. I often wonder more generally how their Christian and Catholic commitments to an spiritual soul, free will and rational intellect are affected, if at all, by scientific materialism that seems to under gird modern medicine. I think this is a fundamentally philosophical issue, but it affects our understanding of science and medicine, and it should certainly be informed by scientific findings and medical research. This is an ongoing interest of mine as I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the views of Aristotle as found in his work De Anima (On the Soul), and as incorporated and elaborated by St. Thomas Aquinas.
I was intrigued, therefore, when I found the video below of neurologist and neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor, MD, laying out some of the scientific and medical evidence that he believes shows materialism to be false, evidence that militate instead for some form of dualism — that mind/soul are not to be identified with the brain and its observable processes, but operate prior to, and in some sense independently of the brain, though the brain is undoubtedly necessary for normal human behavior.
The video is produced by the Discovery Institute, which also endorses Intelligent Design (as articulated by the microbiologist Michael Behe, PhD) as an alternative to naturalistic evolution. While I have problems with some of the Discovery Institute’s methods and conclusions, I found Egnor’s insights and conclusions compelling and consistent with my own philosophical research.
I would be interested to hear the reaction of researchers and practitioners in fields of medical science to what are admittedly philosophical topics.