The Reader will have noticed the progression of thinking in this new series of articles in Catholic Today : instead of dealing with various topics rather randomly, the section consists of a series of articles in a course lessons format. So, the first topic was the most basic one, that is, Truth is objective and not subjective; the second topic was the existence of God; the third the human spiritual soul.
As the latter is less easy to prove then the previous one, I would like to answer some common objection that agnostics raise against the existence of the human soul as a substance distinct from, but united with, the material body.
First objection: when you think you use your brain, which is nothing but a sophisticated organ inside your skull. However, if you suffer a concoction stronger than usual, and your brain is damaged, you enter into a coma and no longer think. Conclusion: thinking is just a secretion from the brain, because your brain and your mind and one and the same thing.
Answer: Not really. A happy Scotsman plays his bagpipe during the night. The next door neighbor, unable to sleep, gets inside his apartment with a knife and makes a big hole in the bag and break the chanter. The formerly happy Scotsman can no longer play his pipe. Conclusion: the Scotsman and the pipe are one and the same thing…
Evidently, the brain is made of organic matter, and anything it may secrete is also material. But your ideas, your choices, your opinions, your dreams, are not material things, they have no extension outside of your mind. They are completely different, distinct from the organic matter that makes your brain, and cannot be identified with any of its parts, or states, whether at rest or in motion.
The soul and the body are most intimately united in a living person. That is why there are electronic equipment today that identifies certain movements in the brain related to certain states of mind or reactions to outside stimuli. Conversely, an act of the mind can have a corresponding reaction in the body. That is why a person becomes unable to think if the means of communication – the brain – becomes injured and unable to function properly.
Just as the Scotsman’s musical knowledge and his talent to play his pipe are not found in the pipe. But the Scotsman needs the pipe in good order to play – and the next door neighbor will give him another instrument, under condition that he stops playing during the night.
Second Objection: In the first article on this issue you stated, and I quote, that “every living being has within itself its own the source of its own activity, its own power, and its own vital principle. That source, or power, that makes every living being tick, is called the soul, in the wider sense of the term. But strictly speaking, we only call soul the vital principle of human beings, because of its intrinsically superior power of thinking. The Latin word for life is anima, which also means, soul” – end of quote.
Now, since animals are living and endowed with senses, and have souls, why do you assume that their souls are not spiritual? Why should they have only ‘material souls’ as their principle of life? Their souls may be unknown to us, as we cannot see or touch them, but don’t they have souls, just as we do?
Answer: Let us clarify our terminology in the first place: the animal life principle, or ‘soul’ in its wider meaning of life, purely and simply, is not ‘material’ in the sense of its brain, ears or nose. You cannot see or feel it as you do to its ears or nose. It is a certain kind of activity, not spiritual, and as such has no extension in material terms. And yet it is called material because it does not exist in itself outside of animal matter, and cease to exist with the death of the animal. It acts exclusively with material activity, its senses have no power of abstraction, dealing as they do exclusively with material realities.
If one looks for ‘possibilities’ of the genre of animals having spiritual souls without our knowing it, it is like saying with the agnostic, that “pebbles are alive with a life of their own but we do not know it”… or that “there may be living creatures in the sun, of a special kind unknown to us here in on earth”, or that “there are still mermaids in the shore of Southern Madagascar”, and the like. But this is just shared ignorance, not proper reasoning, let alone science.
Besides, if animals had spiritual souls like us, they would be persons, thinking and making free choices, not enslaved by the instincts, with the same right to life as we have, and to kill them, even for food, would be murder.
But there is no evidence whatsoever to even suggest that animals can reason, let alone make moral choices, which is the prerogative of persons. So, there is no reason whatsoever to attribute personality to animals, contrary to the evidence of the facts. It is just wishful thinking, motivated by the radical members of the A.S.S. – the “Animal Scientific Society”.
Third objection: I read in a Hindu book that the soul is the size of the head of a pin, and is placed in a specific spot in the brain, and from there it sends its vibes to animate the whole body. Isn’t this supposition more like to be true, as opposed to the Christian idea that the spiritual soul is present in the whole body to animate it?
Answer: No, it is not. This supposition is just… a supposition, with no evidence in reality. First of all, there is no such a pin head in the brain, otherwise it would be detected by a brain scanner. Secondly, the brain has length, breadth and depth, as well as any of its parts, regardless of the number of parts you may divide it. Since the soul can be present in all of these parts, it can also be present in the whole body. No problem at all here.
Next article: Why be a Christian? Why not Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu?
Raymond de Souza KM is available to speak at Catholic events anywhere in the free world in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. Please email SacredHertMedia@Outlook.com or visit http://www.RaymonddeSouza.com or phone 507-450-4196 in the United States.