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Neuroscience and the Human Person

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Abstract

Neuroscience is discovering the areas of the brain correlated with many aspects of the human personality once attributed to the human soul, such as rationality, emotions, ethical decision-making, social behavior, and memory, that lead to a view of the human person as entirely physical. This view has challenged the conception of an immaterial soul often found within Christian theology, with some insisting that religion has been falsified by the failure to discover this immaterial entity. A strict dualism of soul and body in its current form, however, is more a legacy of the philosopher Descartes than a core Christian doctrine. Christianity posits a more holistic view, in which neuroscience does not falsify religion (a conclusion which goes beyond the data provided), but rather encourages an ongoing examination of various theological doctrines to determine how they may have been influenced by surrounding cultures in relation to Scripture. The main challenge of neuroscience, not just in regard to religion, but also in other fields that explore the human person, is that of explaining consciousness and how subjective experiences can arise from a physical substrate. Philosophical, neuroscientific, and religious views abound ranging from reductionist, materialist positions to monist, non-reductionist positions, and to dualistic positions. Regardless of the constitution of the human person, it is becoming apparent that an integrated view of the human person is gradually replacing the strict traditional divisions between aspects of personality, such as emotion and reason or nature and nurture.

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