Neuroscience is a combat zone. It is here, in the human brain, that the final conflict between materialism and, to invent a word, soulism is being fought. For materialists, the outcome is not in doubt. Our minds, our selves, our awareness are merely the outcome of the electrical activity of the few pounds of hyperconnected matter between our ears. All claims to the contrary are wishful thinking or superstitious remnants. But the materialists have two problems. Their certainty of victory is, for the moment, a leap of faith. There is no clear scientific consensus on how the brain produces the higher functions we call being human. And, second, the great mystery, the ultimate hard question, remains: How does matter produce mind, how can it? Irrespective of religious belief, immaterialism cannot easily be dismissed. What is the nature of what I am thinking and feeling now? To tell me that it is all a by-product of my brain is to tell me nothing. What I am is at least as real as the chair I am sitting on, and what I am seems to be immaterial.
I’ve been reading The Spiritual Brain and intend to blog on various parts of it in the near future. For now I’ll just say that I highly recommend the book. Oh, and Appleyard’s full review of the book can be read here.