Jane Goodall wins Templeton prize, says that all creatures are sentient must have a spirit or soul

We were already made in the image of God and it was already God’s will for us to become more like Him. But the serpent was lying when he said this would make them more like God. What the serpent was pushing was the superficiality of an authority to dictate good and evil and not any real understanding of them. Indeed we see no real understanding of good and evil, but only greater confusion on their part.

It is in fact one of the great memes of literature with scenario where someone is tempting the innocent into becoming an adult by indulging in sex, drugs, or illegal behavior – as if one has to indulge in a little evil before one can truly understand it. That is a lie and superficiality which I will never endorse. In their essence the two trees represented the choice between power (tree of knowledge) and wisdom (tree of life) – the power that could be grasped immediately and wisdom that comes slowly over time in a relationship with God.

It is one thing to say that the story wasn’t about obedience – something which is far too useful to those using religion as a tool of power. But it quite another to make God the deceiver and the snake into the savior, saying that God wanted us to rebel in order to become more. That is a devilish theology if there ever was one.

And I think that is nonsensical. If free will and the possibility of evil were not already there then the fall would be impossible. Free will is the essence of life itself and a gift of God, and the choice between good and evil is not its substance but an unfortunate side effect. The substance of free will is the creativity of life and that is its real purpose. It is only a sad unavoidable reality that this also allows us the perversity of acting contrary to life and creation choosing death and destruction instead.

I am all for sanitizing Christianity of things like the emphasis upon obedience which make Christianity dangerous but not for sanitizing Christianity of things like responsibility – doing the latter is only for itching ears.

It may or not be redundant. The soul is immaterial. How exactly it interacts with our physical being and to what extent is unknown. That we cannot explain how the soul could interact with the brain and being bewildered by that fact is not actually an argument. Bewilderment isn’t a set of premises and a conclusion. For those of us who believe in God and that He is capable of interacting with us and performing miracles, we do not view the world in such a way. We only accept the existence of the soul based on the magisterial teachings of the Church and the statements of Jesus and Paul in the New Testament. For many, Genesis might come into play as well indicating an “otherness” to humans. Typically those who try to argue there is no room for a soul assumes materialism and a casually closed system–that is atheism. Yes, we learned a lot about the brain and human emotions, memories etc. and for us, while brain seems necessary for our mental activity, it is not possible to conclude that the former is solely the latter. That again, is just assuming materialism.

Most of us think elementary particles are incapable of thinking. We also think the atoms they form are incapable of thinking. The molecules these atoms form are also incapable of thinking. The cells polymers form are also incapable of thinking. Its not clear or remotely certain how these particles can somehow come together to cause thinking and humans to be self-aware. Also, if everything is reducible to neurobiological processes that are casually reducible to other events then free will is out the window. Once free will is out the window, we no longer have any reason to even trust our thoughts.

I suggest we also consider Searle’s Chinese room thought experiment.

This is just assuming materialism. It’s not an argument against a soul. Only an attempt to make what Paul, Jesus and the Church teach superfluous. Dualists do not doubt the correlation between our brains and our mental activity. This does not require that the former is the same as the latter. Granted a soul is immaterial like God, it is impossible to determine how little or how much it would actually do or whether it acts tandem with our physical brain at all times. You are assuming we actually understand reality at such a deep level that our picture is clear enough to rule out the interaction of a spiritual realm. Again, this is just assuming materialism. This is the same as to assume atheism.

I’ve stated why I believe in the soul. You either accept the teachings of the Church, Jesus and Paul on the issue or you agree with philosophers of the mind and neuroscientists who assume physicalism/atheism from the start. Souls cannot be falsified or verified by science and the argument there is no room for them is an assertion, not a self evident truth. It is based on presuppositions of a worldview I do not share and certainty that overstates our knowledge of the full ontological nature of a being created in God’s image.




If I were to give you a definition of a soul it would be based on the Catechism of the Church.

But we can place limits on the interaction according to what we do know. Science does that a lot – standard procedure in fact.

We view the world in a variety of ways. It is kind of funny the way so many churches confuse their one church and its teachings with the whole of Christianity let alone all of theism.

Or… not. The Bible does not teach the rational soul of Greek philosophy which may have indeed been adopted by the church and taught by the magisterium. But others like myself just go with what actually is taught by Jesus and Paul such as in 1 Cor 15. No bodiless immaterial thing bouncing around but a spiritual body which when brought to life is imperishable, powerful, glorious, and not of the dust (matter) of the earth but of heaven.

Incorrect. Atheism is when you see no good reason for believing in a deity, and it happens to include Buddhism which believes in the bouncing soul. What you describe is naturalism. And then there are those who are both Christian and scientist like myself who reject both naturalism and puppet dualism, while accepting the existence of a non-physical spiritual reality even if they don’t buy into the rational soul of the Gnostics and Neoplatonism.

First, the word you want is naturalism, which equates the scientific world view with reality, but acknowledges that matter is no longer fundamental in science. Second, it doesn’t take naturalism or equating the mind to the brain (or to a function of the brain) in order to reject puppet dualism. One can also believe in a mind whose existence founded on the laws nature, but which is quite different than that of the brain. It can also include believing in spiritual reality quite apart from the mind. It comes from not letting rational arguments and proofs replace your primary beliefs in God and spirit with an idolatry of believing in the premises of these arguments.

They are very good at following rules, and from AI we are learning that this is apparently all that intelligence requires. This is why looking for God in ID (intelligent design) is misguided. It is looking too low.

The universe is filled with self-organizing processes. Life is one of these self-organizing processes which is also capable of learning and storing what it has learned in some way. Once you have that then you only need to wait (and possibly protect) for life to develop. But already with life you have self-awareness. It is a requirement for self-maintenance. In any case, organisms tend to build communities capable of greater organization. From prokaryotes, to eukaryotes, to multicellular organisms, to civilizations. Somewhere along the way God might find entities capable communication and share some crucial ideas with them.

This does not follow at all. Not when even the most basic physics refutes determinism completely.

Incorrect. Acknowledging that science provides sufficient explanations for the mind and life without any nonphysical entity or stuff is NOT the same as believing there is only matter let alone believing that there is nothing non-physical.

Correct. It is not an argument against anything non-physical. It is an acknowledgement that puppet dualism is no longer in agreement with the scientific evidence.

It only shows that it was a mistake for you and your church to write Neoplatonism and puppet dualism into the teachings of Paul and Jesus.

You are assuming you have an understand of reality at such a deep level and that your picture is clear enough to equate your puppet dualism with only alternative to materialism and atheism. I certainly would not be so terribly presumptuous as to equate my understanding of the relationship between the physical and the spiritual with the only alternative to naturalism and atheism.

Or… I accept the teachings of Jesus and Paul and reject the teachings of a medieval church who has resisted scientific discovery at every turn.

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You think you can place limits on the interaction of the concept of the soul. Being immaterial, we just don’t possess that level of knowledge. You are just asserting things without any evidence.

Souls are outside the realm of scientific investigation. They can neither be in agreement or disagreement with scientific evidence.

You actually have to demonstrate that this is a mistake. You cannot just assume it. Certainly not based off or Judaism before the Babylonian exile. Judaism evolved as did Christianity. The trinity is certainly not taught in the Bible. There are quite few passages that speak against it and it, like Calvinism, is based on an outdated and incorrect model of inspiration.

Once does not need the Bible to teach the rational soul of Greek philosophy. Only a sou/spirit that is distinct from the body, coincides with it and survives it after death.

1 Thess 5:23 mentions the spirit, soul and body all in one passage. In Matt 10:28 Jesus says don’t fear only those who can kill the body but those who can destroy both the body and soul.

1 Cor 14:13 clearly distinguishes between the mind and spirit in praising, praying and productivity. Romans 8:6 also distinguishing between the mind and spirit. Certainly this may be the Spirit of God but it looks like we have an immaterial substance, undetectable, indemonstrable and unfalsifiable guiding our lives. God’s Sprit is analogous to our soul, which you claim there is no room for in the world. Under your presupositions, I think we can rationalize and explain away religious experience, prayer and dismiss God just as easily as we do the should in line or neuroscience. So much for rational arguments claiming an immaterial soul is superfluous. For the Christian that is a meaningless argument. Claiming there is no room for a spiritual dimension of a soul is also meaningless.

Romans 8:16 also tells us “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Jesus told the man on the cross with him, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Was the man’s body snatched up into heaven off the cross? Was Jesus in heaven that day? Is there something immaterial that went into heaven that day? Was Jesus mistaken?

2 Cor 5:6-8 6 “Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

The Bible often uses soul and spirit interchangeably. It’s clear that there is some otherness to humans beyond the physical realm. I see a clear spiritual or immaterial dimension. These are all from the NT as well.

Could this belief have been put on steroids in the early church? Sure. The Magisterial teachings of the Church are sober however:

<<<<<In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: “soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.>>>>>>

<<<<<The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body:234 i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature.>>>>>>>

The natural world doesn’t have free will. Particles don’t choose to behave the way they want. You just said they are good at following rules. If they weren’t science would be out of a job. Sure, there are probabilities at the quantum level but translating that to freedom in brain chemistry is another matter altogether and quantum randomness is not free will. Much of the macro-world is still viewed largely as deterministic and scientists treat it as such. Future states are predicted by an adequate knowledge of the current state of a system. As Richard Feynman wrote: “If we have an atom that is in an excited state and so is going to emit a photon, we cannot say when it will emit the photon. It has a certain amplitude to emit the photon at any time, and we can predict only a probability for emission; we cannot predict the future exactly. This has given rise to all kinds of nonsense and questions on the meanings of freedom of will, and of the idea that the world is uncertain.” Neuroscientists operate under the principle of casual determinism as do most scientists. The world is clearly consistent and ordered. You are also assuming quantum mechanics is a final or complete description of reality. This assumes we will not come to a deeper understanding of our world that may or may not have hidden variables. Or that there is a more complete understanding of reality that we will just never be capable of uncovering. We still have the problem of gravity in GR and QM. What we can be certain of is that both GR and QM are absolutely amazing approximations of reality with predictive and explanatory power.

How did you determine the AI have real intelligence if following rules is all they do? You can follow rules and give the appearance of intelligence without actually having it. That is the crux of Searle’s Chinese Room Experiment.

<<<Searle imagines himself alone in a room following a computer program for responding to Chinese characters slipped under the door. Searle understands nothing of Chinese, and yet, by following the program for manipulating symbols and numerals just as a computer does, he sends appropriate strings of Chinese characters back out under the door, and this leads those outside to mistakenly suppose there is a Chinese speaker in the room.

The narrow conclusion of the argument is that programming a digital computer may make it appear to understand language but could not produce real understanding. Hence the “Turing Test” is inadequate. Searle argues that the thought experiment underscores the fact that computers merely use syntactic rules to manipulate symbol strings, but have no understanding of meaning or semantics.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/chinese-room/ >>>

I don’t agree that all life is self-aware or intelligent. Responding to your environment doesn’t make something self-aware anymore than does a rolling ball changing its path after it strikes an object. Self-awareness requires consciousness in my view. Cells don’t have that. Mechanobiology is not free will, self-awareness or consciousness.


You can place limits on the causal interactions with something nonphysical, yes. Causality is something which science studies and understands well.

Correct, as long as you do not claim constant causal connections with measurable events. You don’t have to see or measure the proposed cause directly. After all, there is a great number of things which science does not see or measure directly. But once you claim a constant reliable causal connection with something which is measurable then you make it indirectly measurable, like so many other things which science studies. In fact, it should not even be called non-physical any longer. That is the problem with this puppet dualism idea. You don’t have to see or measure what is controlling a puppet, because the puppet becomes your means of measuring it.

I think it has been demonstrated, just as evolution and the shape of the earth has been demonstrated. But there will likely be people demanding proof for all these things from now till end of the world.

1 Corinthians 15 is Christianity not Judaism.

1 Thess 5:23 mentions pneuma, psyche, and soma. Pneuma is used for spirit talking about God so the translation as spirit is believable. But psyche is translated as life including talking of creatures in the sea, so the translation as the soul of Greek philosophy is not believable.

I have no problem with the use of the word “spirit” in the Bible, but only with equating this with the rational soul of the Gnostics and Greek philosophers, which is not in the Bible at all – no more than the idea of transmigration (reincarnation) or other notions of something independent of the body bouncing around. And however much Catholicism may treat the words interchangeably, or how much Catholic teaching may be authoritative for you, these have no weight with me whatsoever.

I disagree. I think that free will is why the natural world exists, and without it there would be no free will (which by definition is a will apart from God).

I determine it by some of our most common convincing measures of intelligence. AIs are not only beating us at intelligent design and games of strategy, but they even literally teaching us how to do these better than before.

They may just follow rules but we can give them rules for learning. And THEN the learn better and faster than we do.

All living organisms have to maintain themselves. That would simply be impossible without an awareness of self.

I never claimed that all life is intelligent. I am not even sure what that would mean, because as far as I can tell, intelligence (in general and apart from such measures above) seems to refer to a very large collection of abilities, and yes other living organisms have many of them. But I am dubious now that intelligence should be our measure of human uniqueness let alone where we ought to be looking for God. It is just not as special of a thing as we previously thought.

I have no problem with that. LOL All living organisms are conscious and yes they have free will also. It is a part of the very meaning of “life” in the first place. We call something alive because it is doing things for its own reasons rather than being controlled by external conditions. The only real difference with human beings is that we give our reasons words to describe them.

BUT… HOW conscious are they? HOW much free will do they have? Compared to human beings, most do not have very much at all (especially as individuals). And the difference is not found in the brain or our biology. It is the human mind which makes such a radical difference – the completely physical human mind which exists because of language. This I believe is where the scientific evidence will take you, once you leave all the “theology of the gaps” nonsense behind you.

Why? What do they know? The circular unexaminable impenetrable invincibly ignorant fallacies, mere assertions, are legion. It’s not even poetry.

So as a recap connecting back to the OP…

I take something of a median position here

  1. All living organisms are conscious and have free will but there is still a huge gulf and difference between us and other living things though it is a quantitative one.
  2. All living things have a spirit as well, but I don’t believe in the rational souls of Gnostics and the Greeks so that is not a difference either.
  3. The process of life is generally an image of God, infinite potentiality to reflect God’s infinite actuality. But individually the potentiality of most living organisms is rather limited. So there is a difference in human beings for even our potential individually is unlimited, but only in a relationship with God and when we are without the self-destructive habits of sin.
  4. The difference in us is not to be found in our biology or genetics but in our use of language which is the substance of the human mind.

Our commonalities with other living organisms are demonstrable and it is unreasonable not to acknowledge them. But to make too little of the differences is nearly as unreasonable. A big part of the difficulty with the latter is that a lot of those differences are clouded by the reality of sin and by considerable difference between individuals. But this only means that the differences from other living organisms can be difficult to see at times – though it has given us cause to wonder if the negative things about us do not overwhelm the positive. Some even wonder if we a disease infesting and ruining this planet. But the very fact that we would wonder such a thing points to the significant differences from other living organisms. That at least is a type of self-awareness that other living organisms do not have.

Is the spirit material?

It depends on what you mean by material.

If you mean this stuff called matter which has its existence from the laws of nature then no, the spirit is not material in that way.

But if you mean to ask whether the spirit has a form like a body then I refer you to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 who says that it does when resurrected from the dead. He also says that it is more powerful which I take to mean that it can do more than the physical body rather than less.

So is it visible and tangible? As slave to the laws of nature, it is not. The resurrected Jesus was not confined by the laws of nature. He appeared in a room without coming in through the door. But as far as being capable of presenting a visible form and interacting with other things, yes the resurrected sprit can do such things. So the resurrected Jesus had Thomas touch Him, and He even ate and drank with them.

But how about another question…

One of the things often attributed to the word “soul” is that of the true self. That is definitely how I see the spirit. I see the spirit as 100% a product of our own choices. That means there is nothing circumstantial about it. This really is who we are.

So you believe in an immaterial spirit but not a soul? I’m a little bemused but anyways, as noted, scripture uses the terms soul and spirit interchangeably at times. This is not mere Catholic teaching that you can just hand wave and dismiss. This is pretty basic when consulting and engaging with any systematic theology text. You have failed to dialogue with the majority of the scripture I posted. There is also a lot more.

If you believe humans have an immaterial spirit then you cannot believe a human is 100% material. It strikes me as odd how opposed you are to the notion of souls despite generally believing in the same thing as me. Biblical verses touching on soul/spirit are quite extensive. It is even a mistake to claim there is absolutely no conception of souls in the Old Testament. Consult a Systematic Theology volume like Wayne Grudem’s. Chapter 23 is all about what scripture says about soul and spirit.

The only reason to assume there is no room for an immaterial soul/spirit is to assume reality is casually closed. It certainly works great as a conditional operating principle of science, but to affirm it whole cloth as a universal statement true in every possible scenario is to rule out God, spirit and soul. Don’t dump the baby with the bath water. There is an immaterial side to humans that works in conjunction with our material side producing a unified being. There is a separation after death.

You also assume science has demonstrated more than it actually has on several fronts.


Correct, I am a Christian and believer in the Bible, not a Gnostic, Neoplatonist, Zoroastrian, Hindu, or Buddhist or believer in any of their scriptures or teachings. I do not believe in reincarnation, transmigration of souls, or pre-existence. Nor do I believe in something inserted into or added to the body in order to make it alive or rational.

But obviously I am not Roman Catholic. I have read the Bible for myself without a guide telling me what it says or means, but making my own decisions with regards to all the theological issues. The result is that I am a 5 solas protestant evangelical but not fundamentalist or Calvinist (rejecting all 5 points of TULIP Calvinism) with a preference for some Orthodox positions on a few issues like atonement. I am not hostile to Roman Catholicism and even have a catechism on my shelf so I can look up their position on things. I like the RC better than the Eastern Orthodox because the latter are too conservative, though I would take their side in the Great Schism, not because of the filioque clause which I have no interest in, but because the Roman patriarch didn’t follow tradition and defer to an ecumenical council. One of the best things about RC in my view is its attempt to be an umbrella church embracing a wide diversity of thought… though not all of its membership seems to embrace this. One of the worst things about it is its opposition to birth control.

I am not a naturalist equating the scientific worldview with reality itself. I believe in a non-physical reality, including a spiritual God who created the physical universe. I do not believe a human is 100% physical, i.e. of the laws of nature. There is a spiritual dimension to our existence – to all living things. Paul said in 1 Cor 15, if there is a physical body then there is a spiritual body, describing the latter as growing from the former like a plant growing from a seed – but also says it doesn’t come to life until the physical body dies. This is certainly not puppet dualism.

Incorrect. It is demonstrable that the measurable reality studied by science is not causally closed. It is scientific procedure to accept what can be demonstrated.

God, Jesus, spirit, and the Bible are the baby. The premises adopted by Gnostics and the Neoplatonists are the bathwater, whether some church has bought into these things or not. Too often in their effort to justify their beliefs they have adopted premises to support arguments which have effectively replaced their faith in God with a faith in things which are false. That seems like idolatry to me. All done so that they can justify forcing their beliefs onto other people – that is a pursuit of power not faith.

This is a claim I frequently hear from creationists and others who refuse to give up religious beliefs which contradict the findings of science.

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You claim to be a Bible based Christian and not a Gnostic, Neoplatonist, Zoroastrian, Hindu, or Buddhist. Yet you keep regurgitating one chapter of the Bible (1 Cor 15) without addressing the several dozen other passages and statements which do not seem to agree with you. This is hardly good exegesis or theology. You need to examine all the relevant passages (see the Systematic Theology text referenced earlier).

This is a red herring. Nothing about an immaterial soul/spirit, as clearly taught in sculpture, contradicts science. Even if it was entirely superfluous to those assuming materialism, that is not a contradiction. We have difficulty defining humanity, what it means to be in God’s image, consciousness, self awareness, intelligence, etc., let alone exactly mapping how unconscious and unaware particles can somehow produce genuine thought, freedom and morality. Most of us who don’t assume materialism or a casually closed world aren’t even certain that it can. We may need to resort to an immaterial realm for that.

You overstate what science has actually demonstrated and accomplished on this front and understate what scripture actually teaches. But we are now spinning in circles so I’ll bow out barring any new developments.


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This is not true, you simply ignored me when I did so. So why waste my time?

Of course not. Never said anything of the sort. Puppet dualism is not taught in scripture. And just like with evolution the evidence is simply overwhelming. If you had any real interest in the scientific evidence you would google it. Just like creationists, only interested in rhetoric, you simply replace what I say with lies and strawmen of this sort.

I never ignored you. You asserted the OT had no conception of a soul. This is a widely held view but the OT was composed over a long time and this is probably not completely true. There are some passages where an immaterial aspect of man seems to be referenced even in the Old Testament.

I also went beyond your interpretation of NT scriptures where “soul” could mean “life” to numerous cases where that meaning makes absolutely no sense. You did not respond but only referenced the portrayal in 1 Cor 15 at least 3 times. There is a lot more on this issue than that one chapter which seems to tells you what you want to believe.

I always read the evidence. Just read a lengthy paper arguing against a soul and dualism. Now reading Plantinga’s defense of dualism in Against Materialism. Read the the treatment of spirit/soul in a systematic theology text as well. You may need to reassess what science has actually accomplished here see what scripture actually teaches from a systematic perspective.


No. I never said anything of the sort. I examined the word used in the NT passage you quoted and explained why I saw no merit in the translation of the Greek word as “soul.” If you had actually quoted an OT passage then I likely would have looked at the Hebrew words instead. But you did not, so I said nothing about the OT. And I will continue to ignore your unsubstantiated claims about the OT.

1 Cor 15 is the only place the Bible gets specific on the topic. That is why I keep going back to it.

I didn’t see any such thing and couldn’t find such a thing looking for it now. All I remember is constant accusations that I was a materialist and an atheist because I don’t agree with your theology. And then there were your strange reference to Judaism before the Babylonian exile. Perhaps if you took out such nonsense then the meaningful content would be easier to find.

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