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Archive for the ‘Science and Religion’ Category

In his post ‘Is it all in the mind?’ on the Iona Institute blog David Quinn discusses a scientific paper that claims scientists can switch on and off our moral sense, and the implication that morality is ‘all in the mind’. Check it out.

I’ve always wondered by why humanists, atheists and others feel that finding areas of the brain that relate to emotions, moral sense, religious experience etc is a sign that we are entirely physical beings and hence that there is no soul, and no God.

I think it comes from a misunderstanding of the relationship between body and soul. We are not ‘souls’ being carried around in ‘bodies’ – like water being carried around in a bucket or even like a hand in a glove, fitting very well together but actually two separate things.  Each of us is a single unified being with both physical and spiritual aspects: a physical body animated by a spiritual soul.  And we express our spirituality through our physicality.

So what’s my point? My point is that since both physical and spiritual aspects of our nature are completely integrated with each other, we should expect that every expression of our nature has both a physical and a spiritual aspect.  So we should expect to find a part of our brain that relates to love, reason, spirituality, choice etc, just as parts of our brain relate to physical powers such as speech, motion, smell etc.

If a part of our brain that relates to one of these spiritual aspects is damaged, we no longer have a way to express that aspect of our being, just as if the part of the brain that controls, for example speech, is damaged, we still have the capacity for speech but no means of expressing it.  Finding a part of our brain that relates to moral reasoning, and that if damaged, limits or stops our ability to make moral decisions, is simply another illustration of the unity of body and soul in our nature.

Did that make sense? Well – if it didn’t, at least go and read David’s post which definitely does! 😀

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One of the things I find most attractive about the Catholic faith is its ‘reasonableness’ – it makes sense. When the blueprint it offers is genuinely followed, it does indeed bring us to be the best we can be – as individuals and as a society. So I get really frustrated when Catholic principles are presented in the media as a set of almost arbitrary rules and regulation that don’t make any sense unless you’ve been brain-washed and certainly don’t connect with the real world. (Hence this blog – it’s a kind of therapy really!)

I’m the first to accuse media of bias and of not giving Catholic speakers a fair run – so credit where credit is due: Pat Kenny has just hosted a very cordial interview with Professor Robert George of Princeton University. Professor George outlined a rational and well thought out rationale for why he is not in favour of embryonic stem cell research; he also argues that the same-sex marriage debate should properly be seen as a debate on sexual morality and not on basic rights. Again he argues his case in a way that makes sense and recognises real world problems.

If we really believe that there is only one Truth – then what we believe should ‘work’ in the real world. There should be no mismatch between what we believe and our real experience as people living here and now in this society. (Challenge, yes – but not a disconnect)

If there appears to a mismatch then maybe we need to see if we really understand our faith – or the argument against it. If you can’t get to the Davenport Hotel in Dublin this evening to hear Professor George, have a listen to his interview with Pat.

(If you’re reading this before 12 noon on Fri 5th March, today’s programme won’t be up yet. If you’re reading more than a week from 5th Mar, the programme is likely to be gone – so don’t delay 😀 )

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