J. P. Moreland: Brains, Minds and the Soul

Dr. Swamidass and Dr. Lents are live streaming an interview with philosopher J.P. Moreland on Brains, Minds and the Soul.


Looking forward to it watching the video! Unfortunately, work prevents me from watching live.

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I’ve been reading his work on substance dualism so I’ll give this a watch as well.

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Are we going to have any kind of post-event discussion on this? I suspect many folks are like me and somewhat disappointed by how little we were able to cover. Other folks may wonder why I insisted on a question about the Nashville statement which had nothing to do with the topic at hand.

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A post was split to a new topic: Alister McGrath on the Soul

I’m only part way thru the discussion, so this may have been covered later.

I found Moreland’s argument in favour of dualism not very convincing, though he was very clear and meticulous in his description and explanation of the position.

In particular, I found his analogy to someone driving a car rather weak when taken in context with his other arguments from OOBE’s. To apply the car analogy to those: It would be as if, when the brakes fail on a car, you are no longer able to stop it even if you are pumping the pedal with your right leg. However, when an out of body experience occurs, supposedly people are still seeing and hearing things just as if their body was still intact and operating. So, in the car analogy, this means if your car is completely demolished and melted for scrap, you can now operate the brakes by pumping your right leg.

Which is obviously nonsense.


I agree. It was a bit challenging to interview a philosopher! Though I do think we made some progress in understanding him. Maybe next time we need to slot more time in cases like this.

That does bear some explanation.

I don’t understand why he didn’t say that “the Vanderbilt statement was about his own beliefs, and was not intended to (and does not) legally or politically threaten your family.” Seems that would have been true and gotten him off the hook entirely.

Yes, don’t get me started on so-called “out of body” experiences. People report being able to see and hear things around them, but from a perspective outside of their body. But then why does their body even need eyes and ears, if these aren’t actually required to see light and hear sound? What’s all that flesh for, if you have immaterial senses that work perfectly fine on their own?


The productive part was this.

  1. Philosophers mean something different than scientists when they use the word “substance.”

  2. He was arguing against reductive materialism, but I’m not sure I see his argument against emergent materialism.

  3. He surprisingly made a very positive comment about theistic evolution.

  4. He is convinced that AI can’t possibly have a mind, by which I think he means a unified personal experience.

  5. Both @Nlents and JP saw legitimacy to the idea of seeing the soul as software and the body as hardware. Of course this has limits, but it raises a question about whether or not we can consider “information” as the second substance. I want to take that idea further.


Must’ve missed this?

You’re assuming he feels that way.

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Well, before the show, he did seem to agree with me. I did assume he agrees with me, and it was unfortunate he did not clarify on air. Honestly, it seems most like he fumbled the ball there. Rather than answering your question, he trying to explain why he believed what he believed.

For the record, I think there are going to be moral disagreements about homosexuality for the foreseeable future. I’d hope we can all come agreement, nonetheless, that no one should try to legally invalidate your family.

I think you are very generous in assuming the best about your fellow Christians. My experiences have made me less optimistic.



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Marriage between people of different races was illegal in the parts of the US until 1967, and polling did not show majority acceptance of it until - you’ll never guess - 1997.

So be optimistic, but also patient.


FYI, statements like this are not as heartening as you think they are.


To clarify, my agreement with the analogy was with the the mind as software. Further, while I can agree that information and mental programs (thoughts, emotions, memories, sensations, beliefs, etc.) may be another form of philosophical substance (meaning they exist), I don’t see how they can exist without the hardware. So the hardware/software analogy fits my position more than JP and yours, because, as he made very clear, he thinks that software can exist, as a substance, totally independent of the hardware. My position would be that, like with actual software, the stuff of the mind has to be housed in something physical, the brain.


Yes, the analogy breaks down in exactly the point of contention, which is whether the software can exist without a physical storage medium. Ultimately the hardware is the software. It is the particular connections and arrangements in the hardware, that make it capable of doing certain actions.


My sarcasm obviously did not translate into writing.

In 1997 I was 32 years old and already had two mixed race children with my wife who is of a different race than myself.

At that point, a majority of Americans had only just decided that we should not have been thrown into prison for this.

I find that shocking and disgusting. I don’t know if the situation was much different here rin Canada,


Ah, ok… my apologies, I didn’t pick up on that. Rather than repeating the so-helpful refrain of “just be patient,” you were spoofing it.

On a serious note, the folks who really DO preach at us to be patient fail to recognize that change only happens when we become IMPATIENT and make people uncomfortable with the status quo (important parallels to the moment we are now living). Even I fell victim to the allure of the polite, peaceful, patient forms of activism. When Olson and Boies were pushing for all-out universal marriage equality at the federal level and all states, many of us were leery and scared that it would force the SCOTUS to write an opinion that would be hard to reverse. We were wrong. When your legal argument is correct and equal rights are on the line, patience is not a virtue.