In a book published this year, The Brain and the Meaning of Life (Princeton University Press), he argues that evidence-based thinking leads us to believe that the mind and the brain are the same entity and that this realization, as it catches on, will revolutionize the way we think about the meaning of life. He writes:
Suppose physics is right that our universe began about fourteen billion years ago in a big bang that produced billions of stars; and suppose biology is right that human beings are just a kind of highly evolved ape. Then our lives cannot have the special, central place in the universe promised by religion based on faith, and by philosophy based on a priori reasoning. Hence it is unsurprising that the Brain Revolution encounters opposition from those who fear its practical as well as its intellectual consequences.While most religious people and many nonreligious people hold that the mind (or soul) and the brain are different entities,
This book aims to show that neural naturalism can serve to satisfy wonder about the nature of mind and reality, and also to alleviate anxiety about the difficulty of life in a vast and apparently purposeless universe. Philosophy and neuropsychology can do little to remove the hardships that people face as their lives develop, with inevitable bouts of failure, rejection, disease, and eventually death. But together philosophy and science can paint a plausible picture of how minds, even ones that are merely brains, can apprehend reality, decide effectively, act morally, and lead meaningful lives enriched by worthwhile goals in the realms of love, work, and play (p. 12).
most psychologists and neuroscientists are materialists and believe that minds are brains: the mind is what the brain does. General acceptance of this view would amount to the most radical conceptual revolution in the history of human thinking (emphasis mine). Previously, the two most sweeping scientific revolutions were Copernicus's rejection of Ptolemy's view that the earth is the center of the universe, and Darwin's rejection of the religious view that humans were specially created by God. . . . The Brain Revolution now in progress is even more threatening to human's natural desire to think of ourselves as special, for it implies that our treasured thoughts and feelings are just another biological process. Unsurprisingly, even some nonreligious thinkers find disturbing the view that minds are brains, despite the mounting evidence for such identification. Not only immortality but also the highly compelling doctrines of free will and moral responsibility have been tied to the idea of minds as souls. The lure of dualism is powerful (p. 42).Religion, and especially conservative religion such as Evangelical Christianity, will no doubt oppose the findings of neuroscience on this point as they are still opposing the current findings of geology, physics, and biology as it relates to the age of the earth and the evolution of species. Eventually, though, they will have to surrender and then readjust their theology to deal with the evidence. And the evidence is mounting. Thagard states:
Mind-brain identification follows a long line of theoretical identifications that have marked scientific progress: sounds are waves; combustion is chemical combination with oxygen; water is H2O; heat is motion of molecules; lightning is electrical discharge; light is electromagnetic energy; influenza is a viral infection; and so on (p. 43).The clever maneuvering, reinterpretation of biblical texts, and adjusting of doctrine by evangelicals to deal with the findings of neuroscience will be interesting to watch.