The Doctrine of Man (part 7)

March 30, 2009     Time: 00:56:34

[Opening remarks and prayer]

We’ve been talking about the nature of the soul. I argued that the biblical view of humanity is a dualistic view that we are not just material or physical beings, that we have an immaterial part to our nature called the soul. This connects in philosophy with the so-called mind-body problem. The word “mind” is simply a sort of secular synonym for the word “soul.” It means that immaterial self – that immaterial part of a person – in addition to the physical body that we have in common with other members of the animal kingdom.

In doing apologetics with respect to the Christian view of man as a body-soul composite, it is interesting and helpful to look a little bit at what contemporary philosophy has to say about the mind-body problem. As you can see on the diagram on your handout, there are two opposed views about the nature of the mind. One is physicalism and the other is dualism. Physicalism denies that there is any immaterial aspect – soul or mind – to human beings. We are just purely physical organisms – bags of water on bones as it were – where as dualism says that we are composite beings, we have a physical material body but we also have an immaterial part (a mind or a soul).

Physicalism comes in two varieties: reductive physicalism and non-reductive physicalism. Reductive physicalism says there are no mental or spiritual properties whatsoever that cannot be reduced to purely physical properties.[1] Thoughts are simply electro-chemical reactions in the brain. Ideas are just the firing of neurons in your brain cells. There isn’t any sort of mental property or life that can’t be reduced to a purely physical electro-chemical reaction that is studied by the physicist or the chemist. That would be reductive physicalism. It tries to reduce the mental to the physical.

Non-reductive physicalism would say we are just physical beings but nevertheless we have mental properties. There isn’t any mental substance or thing like a mind or a soul. There is just a brain or a nervous system. But nevertheless these complex physical arrangements can have non-physical properties. Maybe an analogy would be helpful to understand this. Take water, for example. If you analyze what water is made of, it is made out of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen – H2O. Two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. You put these together and you have water. Water has certain properties that neither hydrogen nor oxygen has individually. Most prominently of these would be wetness. Hydrogen isn’t wet, and oxygen isn’t wet. But water is wet. So wholes (whole entire things) can have properties that their individual parts don’t have. Sometimes these are called emergent properties because they don’t belong to the parts. They only emerge when you consider something as a whole or as a composite. Sometimes these are called supervenient properties. “Super” means “above” – something that comes above. “Venient” comes from the Latin veniret which means “to come” as in “advent” - comes to. Supervenient would mean that something that kind of comes above or beyond something. That is like wetness. Wetness is a supervenient property. Neither hydrogen nor oxygen brings this property to water, but the property of wetness supervenes on H2O. It is something that cannot exist apart from its physical base. Supervenient properties don’t have any reality apart from their physical base. If you didn’t have the hydrogen or the oxygen you wouldn’t have any wetness. You can see that this is still physicalism if you think of the mental life as a supervenient or emergent property on the physical nervous system. There isn’t any soul. There isn’t any mind. But there are these mental properties that supervene on brain states or physical states of the central nervous system. If the central nervous system and the brain didn’t exist then these mental properties wouldn’t exist. Therefore if a person dies – if he is brain dead or his body dies – the mental life goes, too. There is no soul that survives the death of the body. You can see on this non-reductive physicalism they don’t try to reduce mental properties to physical properties, but they do say that there really isn’t anything that exists apart from the physical. It is just that physical things can have these non-physical properties that emerge or that supervene on purely physical states.

Dualism, of course, would be the view that there is another thing in addition to your body (namely, a soul or a mind) that is quite distinct from the body.

Let’s look at some arguments against reductive physicalism.[2] Reductive physicalism, I have to say, used to be very popular. This was the idea that really your thoughts and your ideas are nothing but just neurons firing in your brain and there isn’t any mental property or mental life. This view has now really fallen out of favor among philosophers of mind. Why? Here are four arguments against reductive physicalism.

First of all, the mind and the brain have distinct properties so they can’t be identical. If two things are identical – if they are the same thing – then they have to have the same properties. But the mind and the brain don’t share all the same properties. For example, the brain has things like a certain weight, a certain size, a certain physical composition. But the mind doesn’t have any of those things. If you think of a thought, say, the thought of a beautiful sunset or the thought of a golden mountain or the thought of a unicorn – that thought doesn’t exist anywhere in the brain. You can find firings of neurons in the brain. You can find electro-chemical reactions in the brain, but those don’t have any mental content of being a unicorn or a beautiful sunset or a golden mountain. The content is not something that is a property of the brain like a physical property. It is a mental property that is quite different from the properties of the brain. So if you think about electrical firings or chemical reactions as purely physical entities or events I think you can see those don’t have any kind of content to them. The content has to be mental. It has to somehow be in addition to just the physical chemical reactions. That is not to say that all physical and chemical reactions are the same. The firings that are associated with a thought of a unicorn could be very different from the neural firings associated with the thought of a sunset. But that just shows you have different neural firings. There isn’t any thought that is identical with those firings. There may be a thought associated with them, but that is in addition to them. The thought is not the same as the neural firings because electro-chemical reactions don’t have content. They don’t have intellectual or mental content.

Second point is that mental properties unlike physical properties are private. They are essentially private. Any neurologist can explore the physical properties of the brain from a third-person perspective. He can go in there and conduct experiments and determine what are the brain properties. But no one has access to your thoughts except for you. That is why when you express your thoughts you say “I think that” and then you would follow the description of some thought you have. But if I were to express what you thought I would say “You thought that.” But if I were to have said “I think that” I wouldn’t be accessing your thoughts, I would be accessing my thoughts. So when you say, “Go tell Jan that I am going to be late” you don’t go to Jan and say, “Jan, I’m going to be late.” No, you say, “Bill says he is going to be late.” There is a kind of privacy to your own thoughts that no one has access to – this first-person perspective.

Moreover, you know your own thoughts incorrigibly. If you don’t know that word, that is a good one to learn. Incorrigible. It means that it cannot be corrected. Sometimes we speak of prisoners who are really bad as being incorrigible in the sense that they can’t be rehabilitated or can’t be corrected. But here when we say that your thought is incorrigible what we mean is you can’t be in error. No one can correct you when you are expressing the content of your own mental life. If I say, “I feel pain,” no one can tell me I don’t feel pain. I can’t be wrong about the fact that I feel pain. Even if I am just imagining my injury. Say I’ve got a phantom leg because I had an amputation but I feel pain in my phantom leg. That is an incorrigible expression of my mental life. I feel pain.[3] Or if I say, “That looks red to me” or “That appears to be white” no one can correct that because even if it is not white or not red and I’m having a hallucination, it still looks red to me. It looks white to me. That is the way it appears. So mental states or mental thoughts are not only private but expressions of them are incorrigible. Again, that is not the case with physical properties. If a scientist says this brain is firing a certain way, another scientist can say, no, you are wrong, the instruments read differently. The physical perspective is that third-person perspective that is public and corrigible whereas the mental life or mental properties are private and incorrigible.

Thirdly, subjective states are not physical. Imagine a scientist who is deaf but who studies acoustics, and he knows all about sound waves. He can tell you all about the acoustical properties of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. He understands all of the physical properties of sound. Then imagine he has an operation to restore his hearing. Suddenly he can hear for the first time Beethoven’s Fifth. He will now experience something that he has never known before because he will have this subjective awareness of how it sounds – how Beethoven’s Fifth actually sounds. Whereas before, in accessing just the physical properties of it, he knew nothing about this awareness of how it sounds. You could imagine other subjective states as well. How a watermelon tastes, for example. Or for a blind person, how a sunset looks or the face of his wife (how she looks). All of these will be subjective states of awareness that are clearly not reducible to mere physical properties.

Finally, fourth, the mind has intentionality which no physical object has. Intentionality is a very important property. If you are not familiar with it, this would be another one to add to your vocabulary. By intentionality one means that one’s thoughts have a kind of directedness to them. They are about things. They are of things. I can think of my job at work that I need to do. I can have a thought about Bryant Wright or about the sermon that we heard preached last week. Thoughts are intentional in the sense that they have about-ness or of-ness. No physical object has intentionality. If you take a bunch of material particles and put them together, these particles don’t have any sort of of-ness or about-ness with respect to something else. Even if you assemble them into a form of a complex structure, there still isn’t any of-ness or about-ness that purely physical objects have. Intentionality is something that is mental and belongs to the realm of the mental. It is not something that is a physical properties, and therefore, again, this shows that the property of intentionality cannot be reduced to just a brain state. It is not just a physical property. This is an irreducibly mental property.

These arguments don’t necessarily prove dualism, but I think they would show that if you are going to be a physicalist at least you have to be a non-reductive physicalist. These mental properties that we’ve talked about aren’t reducible to just electrochemical reactions in the brain. Some of them, I think, actually go farther than that and may well incline us to dualism or to say even non-reductive physicalism won’t do the trick.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Excellent question. He says, “Isn’t it the case that by either manipulating the brain or by the use of drugs, we can produce different states of subjective awareness?”[4] Feelings of euphoria for example. Doesn’t this show or support reductive physicalism? This argument – we will bring it up when we get to an argument against dualism – the problem of mental states being affected by brain states. Let me just say here: I don’t think this argument at all shows that the mental states that you’ve described are reducible to the physical states. All it shows at best is that there is a correlation between the two. Of course, that is true. We all know that if you press on your eyeballs a certain way you can see stars. You can induce all kinds of subjective states by affecting the brain. But that doesn’t mean that the mental states are the same as the brain states. Again, think of the brain state – it doesn’t have any content to it. The brain state doesn’t have a feeling of euphoria. In fact the brain state isn’t a feeling at all. It is just an electrochemical reaction. The feeling is a subjective mental state. You are absolutely right that these are correlated with brain states in many cases. So the dualist doesn’t want to deny that at all. But I hope you can see that the feeling of euphoria that is induced by drugs isn’t the same thing as chemical reactions in the brain even if it is caused by the chemical reactions.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: That is right. He says that consciousness isn’t explained by the reactions going on in the brain. I want to be a little more careful than that. What I want to say is consciousness is not identical with the reactions going on in the brain. In one sense, you could explain the conscious state by drugs or some electrodes that a mad scientist is using to stimulate your brain to think you are wandering in the desert or something when you are not. In that sense you can explain why you are having these subjective states of awareness. But the argument here is that the subjective state of awareness isn’t identical to an electro-chemical reaction. It is a question here of reductive physicalism – can you reduce these subjective mental states to just physical states?

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Yeah. I think that is not a bad analogy. You could look on a monitor and see the oscillations and the sound waves of the conversation, but those oscillations have no intellectual or mental content to them. Those aren’t thoughts, even if they are correlated with a word or a thought.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: Right. They look at the signals and hope that that would indicate some kind of a conscious intelligence. But the signals themselves are not conscious or intelligent. They are just physical traces behind which or correlated with which might be a mental awareness.


I think these are pretty good arguments against reductive physicalism. As I say, this has become fairly standard among even secular materialistic philosophers – physicalists. But that doesn’t mean they are ready to embrace dualism. Rather they tend to opt for non-reductive physicalism on the pattern of water having emergent or supervenient properties. They would say that in the same way that wetness supervenes on H2O so consciousness and awareness supervenes on certain brain states.

What arguments might be given against this kind of non-reductive physicalism?

First of all, I think we have to say that we do have a direct awareness of ourself as a self. Therefore, prima facie at least, we are aware of ourselves as immaterial agents, as persons, as beings.[5] Therefore, the burden of proof really lies on the non-reductive physicalist. The starting point is that I have an awareness of myself as a self whom I call “I.” When I think of things, I say, “I think that” and there is a person there that I am immediately aware of that is myself. I am not just mental properties on some brain state. I have an awareness of myself as a self. While that is not a knockdown argument, I think that is a beginning point at least in saying that prima facie we ought to be dualists, that is to say at face value – unless we have overwhelming evidence to reject as illusory my apprehension of myself as a self.

Secondly, we have personal identity over time. If the self is not a thing – if the self is just mental properties of brain states – then there isn’t any self that endures over time. There is no enduring person. There is just a succession of mental states, but there isn’t any person that endures over time. This is one of the contrasts between the Christian view of the self (or the soul) and what Buddhists believe about the self. In Buddhism, they have the view that really is a kind of non-reductive physicalism. They don’t believe that there is any enduring self that lasts over time so that there isn’t any person who is you that walked into this room this morning and sat down. Rather there is just a physical body with mental states that succeed one another in time. The analogy that the Buddhist uses for the self, and I think is a very good one, is that it is like the flame of a candle. Think of the flame of a candle over time. As the candle burns, the flame continues to exist but it is clearly not the same flame that was there from one second to the next. The flame is just glowing gas. It is just a succession of states, but there isn’t any thing which is the flame that endures from one moment to another. That would be the way the mind is on this non-reductive physicalism. Yet, that surely seems absurd. Surely if I know anything I know that I am the same person who walked in here a few minutes ago and began to give this lesson. So we have, I think, a strong sense of personal identity over time which is really impossible on this non-reductive physicalism. You could have the body endure over time. That can be possible. But you see that is because the body is a thing – the body is a substance. But if there is no thing called the soul or the mind then all you do is just have a series of states but no personal identity of your self over time. It is just like the flame on a candle. Again, I think that is just highly implausible.

Number three – we have freedom of the will. I have freedom to choose A or not-A. Certain things are up to me, and I freely make various choices. But on non-reductive physicalism there is no self to choose anything. There is just a series of mental states that supervene on these various brain states. And the brain states are determined physically, right? Brain states are just determined by genetic and environmental input. So the brain states are not free. They are just physically determined, and the mental states just kind of float on these brain states and therefore there is no freedom of the will on this view. That surely is incompatible with Christianity if not in a sense incoherent because if there isn’t any freedom of the will then even the decision to believe in non-reductive physicalism isn’t a rational decision. It is just determined by your brain states. Someone who believes in non-reductive physicalism just has brain states that happened to be determined to produce those mental conscious awarenesses. There is no rationality.[6] So the whole denial of freedom of the will, I think, is ultimately self-destructive and incoherent.

Finally, number four, our minds are causally efficacious in bringing about physical events. I can will to lift my arm, and so my arm goes up. I can will to take a step and walk across the dais, and so I move about. By willing things my mind can produce physical effects, particularly in my body and through my body elsewhere in the physical world. But on non-reductive physicalism there isn’t any self. The causality is a one-way street between the brain states and the mental states that float above them to speak metaphorically. But there isn’t any reverse causality from the mental states back to the brain states because there isn’t anything called the mind or the soul. So on non-reductive physicalism the only causal relation that exists is between the brain states and the mental states. But there isn’t any reverse causation where the mental states can produce brain states or do anything. Yet, this contradicts my experience that I am causally efficacious in producing physical states of affairs.

It seems to me that these are increasingly powerful arguments for thinking that my self is not just some sort of a supervenient mental property on physical states. I sense myself as a self. I have an immediate awareness of myself as myself. I have personal identity over time as a self. I have freedom of the will. And I am causally efficacious through my mental life. All of these, I think, require dualism, not simply non-reductive physicalism.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I don’t know enough about the neurology of this to comment on this. His question concerns experiments that were done in which researchers I assume electrochemically stimulated the brain in such a way to make the person’s finger move even though the person was willing not to move them. “I am going to hold my finger still; I won’t move them, I won’t move them.” But they induced through these electrical stimuli I suppose the firings of neurons that would make the hand move. The question was if non-reductive physicalism were true then by firing those states to make the fingers move wouldn’t that also produce the will to make the fingers move? Do those experiments falsify non-reductive physicalism because it shows that there is a self that is fighting against this purely physical reaction. As I say, my response is I do not know enough about neurology to answer that. My suspicion would be that different parts of the brain would be involved. That if they stimulate certain parts you can make their fingers move in the same way, actually, (if you’ve ever had electronic acupuncture) you can just stimulate your arm and make your fingers move and contract. All you have to do is just stimulate the nerves. I suppose doing it further back in the brain is just a little further back in the source of the nervous system. But maybe there is another part of the brain that is not being stimulated and is willing not to move the fingers and it is simply overpowered by this artificial stimulus. But I don’t know. That would be the kind of question I would want to ask in a case like this.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: He suggested that there are cases of brain damage where the brain will actually be healed over time and find different routes to express these thoughts. Maybe that would be evidence for some sort of a self that is beyond the brain. Again, I don’t know. It is an intriguing possibility. Just this week I read an article about a man who had been in a near-coma state for nineteen years and suddenly began to speak and open his eyes. They said when they did scans of his brain exactly what you described had happened.[7] Over those nineteen years the brain was reconfiguring itself to send the thoughts and the stimuli in different undamaged ways and healing itself so that after nineteen years this comatose man was able to wake up and think and begin to speak and so forth. It really is an incredible mechanism. We still have very little understanding of the relationship between the mind and the brain and how they function together. But at most I think what these experiments will show would be correlations between brain states and mind states as I said a moment ago. There would be a correlation. This is what dualism-interactionism would lead us to think – the mind and the brain cooperate in thought. I will say something more about that in a minute.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: This is an interesting question, too. He says, “Suppose I think about willing my arm. I can ponder that. But my arm doesn’t move until I actually do it.” That is very true. In order for an action to occur, there seems to be what one might call an undertaking on the part of the agent. I need to do more than think about my arm moving. I need to undertake to move my arm then I can do it; I can move it. Again, I think you are right. That undertaking is a subjective state of the mind that then somehow produces the firings in the brain to cause it to send the electronic stimuli to move my muscles in my arm and make it move. But in the absence of undertaking, it doesn’t do anything.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think that these are really synonyms – the mind and the soul. It is just the soul is more theological vocabulary and mind is more philosophical or secular vocabulary. It is talking about the same thing – that immaterial aspect of human being that differentiates us from primates.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think it is involved in being in the image of God. Because when you think of what God is – God is an unembodied mind or soul. He is an infinite mind without a body.


Let me look at a couple of arguments against dualism-interactionism because obviously people who are materialists and physicalists and atheists don’t want to believe in something called the soul or the mind that is distinct from the body. If you believe in such a thing you’ve got some explaining to do as to how such a thing exists. This is obviously a very emotionally loaded topic in philosophy. There are arguments against dualism-interactionism.

The main one would be the problem of interaction. That is to say, how can an immaterial entity interact with material entities like the brain? If the soul or the mind is an immaterial thing, how in the world can it interact with a material thing like the brain? The way material things interact with each other is by coming into contact with each other – pushing against each other or sending out signals to each other like photons for example that would cause reactions in the other physical thing. But obviously a mental substance can’t do that because it doesn’t have any physical properties. So it can’t produce physical effects by pushing on things or sending physical signals to them. The argument here is that dualism is just incomprehensible. There is this ghost in the machine as Gilbert Ryle called it. There is no way to explain how the mind can interact with the body.

Notice that this argument is really an argument for atheism because if that were true there can’t exist a God because God is, as I say, an immaterial mind who has created the world and interacts with the physical world.[8] So this argument should not be found on the lips of any Christian. Remember we are here looking at different alternatives for Christian anthropology. So I don’t understand Christian thinkers who adopt materialism and especially any who would propound this argument based on the impossibility of interaction because that really would be an argument for atheism. God couldn’t exist if mental substances can’t interact with physical substances.

But is this a good objection? Notice that the objection just assumes that a spiritual entity cannot stand in an immediate causal relationship with a physical entity. It just takes that for granted that some sort of a mental entity cannot stand in an immediate relation. It assumes that in order for the soul to affect the body there has to be some kind of intermediate linkage between the two – some kind of intermediate thing that the soul affects like sort of a stick that then pushes the ball or something. It has got to have an intermediate linkage between the soul and a brain. But why is that the case? Why can’t the soul just immediately produce effects in the brain by the process of acting or willing? Indeed, if dualism is true there cannot be any such intermediate linkage because if there were the same problem would arise all over again between the linkage and the soul. You would have to ask then how does the soul affect the intermediate link to produce the effect in the brain? And you’ve got the same problem all over again. You’d have to posit a link between the link and the soul in order to affect the link. But then the question arises again – how does it affect the link between the link and the brain? And you’ve got to have another link. And you have this infinite regress. If dualism is true the whole question is just misconceived. There can’t be any intermediate linkage between the soul and the brain. This has to simply be an immediate causal relationship between the soul and the brain that is akin to God’s relationship to the world and his ability to affect things in the world. It is simply by the sheer mental power that these affects are produced. Beyond that you can’t give any explanation because to do so would be to try to provide some kind of linkage which is excluded by the very nature of the case. So I think the argument is really demanding something from dualism which the very nature of dualism says cannot exist. Therefore the dualist’s inability to explain how this happens isn’t really a deficit of the view. There can’t be any intermediate linkage to explain it.

I am also toying in response to this objection with the idea that it does seem that in some cases we can produce certain things by thinking about them. For example, an author can create a story or create a fictional character. By that I don’t mean the words on paper. Say, he never writes it down – he just thinks about it. Or a musician can compose a song or a symphony. In that case simply by the power of thinking you have something produced. Now maybe that is a poor analogy to the idea that there is a kind of inherent causal power in the mind to produce things, and why can’t it produce physical things as well as mental things like ideas? Obviously the mind can produce ideas. Why can’t it just produce effects in physical things as well without any kind of linkage? That is just some additional thoughts that I have about this, but nothing really worked out.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think that what you are emphasizing here is . . . the very practical application of this is if there is a soul that is so central to our personality as the verses you quoted from Hebrews says where it speaks of the thoughts and intentions of the heart . . . there is that intentionality again as well as the subjective states of awareness. The Bible talks about these things. Obviously the heart there is not the physical organ that beats in your breast.[9] The heart is the spiritual center of a person in Hebrew thinking. It is in a sense another word for that immaterial aspect of your being, and if that is corrupted, if that is sinful, as you say, this is going to affect your physical life in the world as well. It is going to work itself out. So this is important to guard the soul and protect it.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I am going to say something more about the difference between trichotomous and dichotomous views of human beings later on. Whether or not the soul and the spirit are different things – different substances – or just different aspects of the same thing. But clearly the author’s intention in Hebrews is to pick a couple of things – joints and marrow, soul and spirit – that are so closely connected that if the word of God can discern the difference between these then it is penetrating and deep indeed. But we will say something more about that later on.


Let me make my last point, and that is the second objection is this problem of mental states being affected by brain states. This is a problem that someone earlier raised. The objection here is that if dualism is true then why is it that a knock on the head or brain damage would affect the soul? Why shouldn’t the soul or the mind just go on thinking fine even though the brain is damaged? Why is it that you can chemically affect the brain and thereby affect what the soul is doing if the soul is something distinct from the brain?

I think that the answer to that is that this shows at best a correlation but not an identity between mental states and brain states. It shows that the mind and the brain work together to produce thought. Therefore if the instrument of thought is impaired (the brain) then the soul will be impaired in its ability to think, at least in this life as long as it is connected with the body. I think I used this illustration last time from Sir John Eccles who was a prize-winning neurologist who co-wrote a book with Sir Karl Popper (one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century). When I heard Sir John Eccles speak on this subject, he gave a striking illustration of the brain’s relationship to the mind by saying that it is similar to the relationship between a pianist and a piano. The pianist uses the piano as an instrument to produce music. If the piano is out of tune or otherwise impaired, the pianist will not be able to produce beautiful music. It is going to be distorted and impaired. He said in the same way, in Eccles’ view, the brain is the instrument that the mind uses to think in the same way that the piano is the instrument that the pianist uses to produce music. The brain is the instrument that the mind uses to think. Therefore if the instrument is impaired or influenced it is going to affect the soul’s ability for thought.

So this problem of mental states being affected by brain states is really something that we should expect on dualism-interactionism if the mind and the brain work together to produce thinking.


Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: This is a very, very good question. Let me say a couple of things about it. First of all, my colleague, J. P. Moreland who works in this area as a specialist (whereas for me I have a layman’s interest in it) believes that animals do have souls. He thinks that apes and dolphins and whales and things do have souls. And he says this is, in fact, the traditional view. If you look at Aristotle, Plato, and even the church fathers, they all thought that animals have souls. Does that mean animals are persons? No. Because they are not rational souls. These souls are more primitive souls that are not equipped with the same faculties for rationality and self-consciousness that human beings have.[10] If you think of souls as equipped with a variety of faculties and abilities, there wouldn’t be any problem in ascribing to animals more primitive, less endowed souls than souls that are created with faculties of rationality and therefore are in the image of God. We would still be distinct from the animal kingdom in virtue of being in God’s image.

That leads then to the second question: don’t apes exhibit rationality in the way you described, like sign language and so forth. I wish I had with me a review – I can bring it next time – of a book that has recently been written on this where the author just explodes this idea that apes have been demonstrated to have linguistic ability and to be able to think. What he shows is that the researchers in this field are, frankly, very agenda-driven to try to prove that apes are not qualitatively distinct from human beings and therefore they have not been as critical and objective in their experiments that they perform in demonstrating that apes have this kind of ability. He cites all of this experimental evidence that, in fact, shows that this kind of learned behavior like using the rod to knock down the banana and even what looks like primitive sign language or the ability to push a button and get a response really isn’t language acquisition at all. It turns out that these animals have nothing like human rational capacity whatsoever. I think that does give good reason to think that we need to be quite skeptical of some of the claims on the part of primate researchers that they’ve demonstrated rationality or self-consciousness in these higher primates. I’ll try to remember to bring that review in case you are interested in seeing more about it.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: You are right. Elephants are like this, too, aren’t they? Apparently elephants, when one dies, will go and stroke the carcass of the dead with their trunks and they won’t leave it. I think they will even try to bury the dead sometimes.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: I think every pet owner who has a higher type animal for a pet does sense there is an intelligence there, and, as you say, an empathy or something – a connection. It does lead one to think that J. P. and the classical philosophers might be right that these animals do have souls or minds – a kind of mental substance conjoined with their body – that is more primitively endowed than our soul is. I don’t see why there is anything inherently objectionable about saying that – that souls come in a variety of capacities and endowments. But if these arguments are right it would suggest that certain animals would have some kind of soul.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: This was initially my problem, too. Isn’t the soul immortal? But that may be a gift of God that makes the soul immortal. The Scripture does say in certain places that God alone is immortal and he may bestow upon human souls immortality beyond death.

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: But what I am saying is it may not be because of a natural disposition of the soul.[11] It may be because that God preserves it or it may be something that God gives to human souls or minds to survive. You are raising the right kind of questions. These are good questions. If you do say, though, that the soul is something distinct from the mind, as you did, then I guess I would want to know is the soul self-conscious? If it is then am I two persons? Have I got a mind and a soul and both of these are self-conscious? That seems crazy. But if you say the soul is not self-conscious then what in the world is a soul if it is not a self-conscious thing?

Student: [inaudible]

Dr. Craig: It sounds to me that you are using the word “mind” as a synonym for consciousness and you are saying that the soul is conscious and therefore the mind is the consciousness of the soul. If you want to say that, that is all right but then just interpret all of these arguments that I’ve given would be arguments for the reality of a soul that has consciousness.


We are out of time. Next time we will look a little bit at trichotomy versus dichotomy and so forth.[12]



[1] 5:03

[2] 10:10

[3] 15:05

[4] 20:04

[5] 25:09

[6] 30:06

[7] 35:00

[8] 40:01

[9] 45:05

[10] 50:08

[11] 55.03

[12] Total Running Time: 56:34 (Copyright © 2009 William Lane Craig)