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Most Americans believe they possess an immaterial soul that will survive the death of the body. In sharp contrast, the current scientific consensus rejects the traditional soul, although this conclusion is rarely discussed publicly. In this book, a cognitive scientist breaks the taboo and explains why modern science leads to this controversial conclusion. In doing so, theMost Americans believe they possess an immaterial soul that will survive the death of the body. In sharp contrast, the current scientific consensus rejects the traditional soul, although this conclusion is rarely discussed publicly. In this book, a cognitive scientist breaks the taboo and explains why modern science leads to this controversial conclusion. In doing so, the book reveals the truly astonishing scope and power of scientific inquiry, drawing on ideas from biology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and the physical sciences. Much more than chronicling the demise of the traditional soul, the book explores where soul beliefs come from, why they are so widespread culturally and historically, how cognitive science offers a naturalistic alternative to religious conceptions of mind, and how postulating the existence of a soul amounts to making a scientific claim.Although the new scientific view of personhood departs radically from traditional religious conceptions, the author shows that a coherent, meaningful, and sensitive appreciation of what it means to be human remains intact. He argues that we do not lose anything by letting go of our soul beliefs and that we even have something to gain. Throughout, the book takes a passionate stand for science and reason. It also offers a timely rejoinder to recent claims that science supports the existence of the soul and the afterlife....

Title : The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain from Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs
Author :
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ISBN : 9781616149628
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 287 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain from Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs Reviews

  • Book
    2018-12-30 01:49

    The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain From Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs by Julien Musolino"The Soul Fallacy" is a fantastic look at the immortal soul as a scientific hypothesis. Cognitive scientist and professor at Rutgers University, Julien Musolino takes the reader on an enlightening journey of the soul. With mastery of the subject and ease of explanation Musolino dissects this fascinating topic from multiple angles and reaches a sound and satisfactory conclusion. This excellent 287-page book includes the following nine chapters: 1. Lifting the Veil Chapter, 2. The Spirit of the Age, 3.The First Principle, 4. Dualism on Trial, 5. Requiem for the Soul, 6. La Mettrie's Revenge, 7. Descartes's Shadow, 8. The Sum of All Fears, and 9. Imagine.Positives:1. A well-written, well-researched book that is a treat to read.2. An excellent topic: soul as a scientific hypothesis.3. Musolino has a great command of the topic. His writing style is clear and intelligible. His tone is respectful, his approach is sound and he has conviction behind his words.4. Book’s format is logical and easy to follow. Each chapter builds from the previous as the author masterly builds his case for the nonexistence of the soul.5. Makes great use of the current scientific consensus of subject matter experts to build his strong case. I love how the author also doesn’t shy away from debunking the strongest arguments from apologists like D’Souza.6. The book revolves around four conclusions: a. The soul can be treated as a scientific hypothesis, b. there is no credible evidence supporting the existence of the soul, c. modern science gives us every reason to believe that people do not have souls, and d. we do not lose anything morally by giving up soul beliefs.7. Provides an excellent tour of history, philosophy and science to show that the soul is a figment of our imagination. “Scientists have abandoned the soul because reason and evidence—the tools of their trade—compelled them to do so.”8. Does a great job of explaining the traditional notion of the soul. “History teaches us that soul beliefs are timeless, close to universal, and that they have been associated with the phenomena of life, mind, and death. Along the way, we will discover that the soul began its life as a plurality of entities that have undergone important transformations in the course of history to give rise to the kind of soul that most people are familiar with today.”9. Makes great use of polls to help gage where the belief in souls currently stand and what they believe in. “According to a 2009 Harris poll, 71 percent of Americans believe in the survival of the soul after death. Harris ran a follow up in 2013 and found that a solid majority of Americans, 64 percent, continue to believe in the immortality of the soul.”10. Differentiates dualism from the materialistic hypothesis. “In sharp contrast, dualism is defined negatively. When dualists tell us that the soul is nonphysical or immaterial, they do not tell us what it is, they tell us what it is not.”11. Explains ways how scientists evaluate evidence. “In English, the word evidence is often used with different meanings in ordinary parlance and in scientific discourse. All decisive evidence is evidence, but not everything that people call evidence counts as decisive evidence. And if we want to avoid fooling ourselves, decisive evidence is what we need to learn to recognize.”12. Provides many interesting examples of soul advocates pushing their dualistic beliefs. Examines four families of soul claims: a. introspection, b. near-death experiences, c. appeal to recalcitrant phenomena like free will and consciousness, and d. attempts to argue that modern physics can be interpreted as lending support to the soul hypothesis. Great stuff!13. The concept of a soul in a nutshell. “There is no scientifically credible evidence for the detachability of body and mind… Worse, the concept of an immaterial soul substance has no useful formulation, if it even has a coherent one, and it is therefore utterly devoid of any explanatory power.”14. Some statements are resounding. “If the term soul is simply a name that we give to our ignorance, it is no wonder that dualism still hasn't gotten off the ground as an explanatory framework more than two thousand years after it was proposed by philosophers like Plato.” “What they really want to say is that the mind is separate from the body and can operate independently from it. This is what we called the detachability of mind and body. But calling the mind immaterial because it is an abstraction is not the same as showing that it can operate independently from the body. In the end, this last option also leads to an impasse for the dualist because it reduces the mental to the physical.”15. In defense of materialism. “The materialistic alternative to these soul claims is that our moral sense is the result of biological evolution, and that, like every other human capacity, it has a physical basis in the brain.”16. The hard problem, consciousness…discussed. “In asserting that consciousness is independent from matter, Dinesh D’Souza, like Will Ferrell in his parody of George W. Bush, is asking us to believe that facts are neither real nor relevant. We may not know how consciousness arises from neural computation, but there is little doubt that consciousness is intimately related to what goes on in the brain.”17. Exposes the science deniers. “In 1999, these sentiments were expressed in a controversial manifesto that surfaced on the Internet. According to the Wedge Document, issued by the Discovery Institute, the goal of a new generation of cultural warriors in America was to “defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies” and “to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”18. The problem of free will.19. Provides meaning in life through scientific materialism.20. Debunks the notion that societies need “God” to flourish. “In sum, the claim that strong theistic beliefs lead to healthier societies is not supported by the data.”21. Well-cited book, and formal bibliography.Negatives:1. There is some redundancy. The author does take glee in obliterating D’Souza…oh who am I kidding? I enjoyed that immensely.2. What took him so long to write this book?In summary, I loved this book. It’s a treat to read a well-written book that covers a fascinating topic by asking the right questions (philosophy) and by providing the best answers (science) and does so to my satisfaction (logical conclusions). Musolino objectively dismantles the soul hypothesis by making reference to great science, sound reasoning and compelling storytelling. The book is immersed with anecdotes, references to great books and reaches sound conclusions. A hidden gem, a high recommendation!Further suggestions: “Immortality” by Stephen Cave, “Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain” Michael S. Gazzaniga, “The Myth of Free Will” by Cris Evatt, “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature” by Steven Pinker, “The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths” by Michael Shermer, “Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality” by Laurence Tancredi, “Think” and “The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life” by Jesse Bering, “50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True” by Guy P. Harrison, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts" by Carol Tavris. For the record, I have reviewed all the aforementioned books.

  • Frank Jude
    2019-01-06 21:44

    Julien Musolino is a Franco-American cognitive scientist who directs the Pscyholinguistics Laboratory at Rutgers University, while holding a dual appointment in the Department of Psychology and the Center for Cognitive Science. He also writes clearly, and accessibly about a topic of great importance in this wonderful book that should be read by both those who have already jettisoned the notion of an immortal, incorporeal soul as well as by those who believe or on the fence about the whole issue. Those who have left the belief in a soul behind should read this in order to understand the significance of the soul theory and become more clear about why it is best renounced. Those who believe -- or are questioning it -- should read this in order to at the very least become clearer in understanding what a blind act of faith it truly is. More importantly, Musolino convincingly shows how -- contrary to the mainstream, unquestioned assumption of how fundamental a belief in a soul is for giving meaning to life -- believing in the soul actually diminishes us as human beings and that without the belief in a soul, we gain so much more than we imagine we will lose.I will let Musolino describe his project as he here elucidates it in his Preface, making particular note that as he shows in his first chapters, the proposition that we have (or are) souls is a scientific hypothesis and not merely a religious claim, and thus can be investigated scientifically:"There are four important conclusions that I would like to share with you in this book. The first is that the traditional idea of an immortal soul is as much a scientific hypothesis as it is a metaphysical or religious claim. Consequently, deciding whether we have a soul is an objective endeavor that falls squarely within the scope of scientific inquiry. The second conclusion is that in spite of well-publicized claims to the contrary, there is in fact no credible evidence supporting the existence of the soul. The third conclusion is that modern science gives us every reason to believe that people do not have souls. My final, and perhaps most important conclusion, echoing the words of Charles Darwin, is that there is grandeur in this view of life -- and death -- and that we lose nothing, morally, spiritually, or aesthetically by giving up our soul beliefs. In fact, I will show you that we even have something to gain..."Musolino looks to history, science, and philosophy to argue his case, and as I said, does so while using accessible language and not assuming any specialized knowledge.

  • Justin Powell
    2019-01-06 01:42

    This is a phenomenal book that I hope many read. Musolino wrote a well researched, and well written book, but could have been far bigger in scope. I highly recommend reading the numerous works cited within this book such as those by; Steven Pinker, Pascal Boyer, Victor Stenger, Phil Zuckerman, Paul Bloom, Joshua Greene, Daniel Dennett, Pat and Paul Churchland, and many more. It is not within this book alone that a believer in a soul or immorality will be convinced, but only with further exploration into the works sourced here. Of course one may say, well it sounds like the author used the work of others and wrote a book about it. What exactly did he contribute? Well, he does a good bit, in my opinion given the small size of the book. Such as putting forth his opinions as to what is to come of a soulless world, or how does one live without a soul? In opposition to what Rick Warren would tell you, life only becomes more meaningful when the soul hypothesis is dumped. He could have clearly tripled or quadrupled the length and still not hit upon everything. So I won't hold that against him. But I do believe that he did a good job at collecting the more influential minds and works on the topic discussed, and using them to address a very specific question, or "fallacy".Musolino considers the soul as a hypothesis. He considers the evidence put forth by the many names mentioned in the book and finds the hypothesis wanting. While also throwing an endless spree of blows towards D’Souza that I very much enjoyed!

  • Karel Baloun
    2019-01-14 22:57

    Musolino's lucidly written book reminds readers how deeply soul belief is engrained in society, showing many examples which we maybe missed as fish in water. Many interesting famous quotations and psych experiments together craft a reasonable story of humans and AIs not needing souls to operate.Debunking can't deeply satisfy, since it doesn't create new knowledge. We may be less misled, but we don't know anything new.Assigning the burden of proof, or saying the gaps in knowledge don't prove something unusual exists in the gap, these are not constructive, useful positions.I read it to stay scientifically grounded, and that's fine. But it was in no way inspiring or full of clever ideas or questions that would lead to new concepts or usable ideas. I'd rather see writing energy spent on shining whatever truly scientific light possible on places where gaps in knowledge do exist. Rupert sheldrake for one has aimed at this.

  • Bruce Mackenzie
    2018-12-28 04:45

    I really wanted to like this book. On the surface, I felt it closely resembled my own views on the subject of the soul. Sadly, I found the author, Julien Musolino, to be pompous and condescending. And repetitive. Not content with stating something once or twice, the author appears to have settled on 5 as a good number.There is far too much of the 'I am a scientist, so what I say is true', and not nearly enough of the science itself or the philosophical underpinnings. The writing does get somewhat better toward the end of the book, and the final 3 chapters are probably the best written. But I couln't escape the feeling that this was a university professor suddenly finding himself addressing a high school class, without the social skills or training to handle it.In the end, this book offered me nothing new, and did absolutly nothing to change my current viewpoint. That's sad.

  • Dragonlady
    2019-01-08 03:52

    Thoughtfully written and researched, this controversial book demonstrates why our persistent belief in the existence of souls is not only wrong but potentially damaging to society. Drawing extensively on the work of other authors doesn’t mean Musolino is afraid to put froth his own insights gained from a lifetime of careful observation and study. Musolino raises four main points starting with how proving or disproving the existence of souls is an objective endeavor and therefore subject to examination using scientific principle. Secondly, there is no sound credible evidence for the existence of souls, thirdly, science provides ample reasons for disbelieving such claims and fourth, we have nothing to lose and plenty to gain by giving up this persistent if erroneous belief. While on the surface of things, this topic is one that would cause most readers with strong religious beliefs a great deal of discomfort, Musolino is generally most respectful though there are a few infamous televangelists he enjoys ripping on. Although Musolino has a strong scientific background, he does not talk down to his readers yet lays out his arguments in a logical, easy to follow manner that holds ones interest. Thought provoking and likely unpopular among the religious community, this should be read by anyone with the curiosity and willingness to challenge or confront their beliefs.

  • Anthony McKay
    2019-01-04 02:01

    I did not like itI read it to allow it to challenge my own beliefs. It did not sway me. The author is obviously intelligent and well versed in the subject matter. I would have found his arguments more compelling if he had avoided the numerous statements of conclusion that seemed to declare things "case closed" when in fact I still had reservations. I believe in a courtroom this style is known as leading the witness. There are also many references that sure read to me as argument from authority. A professor ought know better. I am still a firm believer in mind, body, and soul. While I agree with the author that if I am going to make such an assertion then the burden of proof should fall on me. I cannot prove it. An empirical, corporeal demonstration of something metaphysical just isn't going to happen. So what happens to us after we die? I don't know. We will find out soon enough. Stepping back to observe our opposing viewpoints I can take comfort in knowing that I am the only one that will get the opportunity to say "I told you so."

  • Abner Huertas
    2018-12-27 03:59

    This is an interesting subject. The author delivers different point of views from religion, philosophy and science. The point of all is for you, the reader, to make your own desition of believing in the soul, or accepting the fact that people might no have a soul. The author never attacks people who believe in the soul, even declares that sometimes might be comfortaiting. Read this book with an open mind, specially if you believe in the soul, and after make you own judgement.

  • Vegantrav
    2019-01-17 02:51

    The premise of the book--the idea that souls do not exist--is one with which I fully agree. The author makes good arguments in this book, but there really isn't a lot of new information (e.g. I would have been interested to see some new cases from neuroscience that shed light on this issue) here. This is a good introduction for anyone unfamiliar with the arguments against the soul from philosophy and neuroscience.

  • Andrew
    2018-12-23 00:41

    Julien rams a giant nail into the coffin of the belief in an immaterial soul by skimming the evidence provided by neurobiology and psychology and then uses logic and rational thought to tie everything in together. There are many other actual treatises that have destroyed cartesian dualism (most notably existential philosophy) but this book is not merely philosophical but a real scientific refutation of one of the oldest held beliefs that man has. Time for a paradigm shift.

  • Heather Pagano
    2019-01-03 02:44

    Musolino was willing to get into the nitty gritty of the reasoning behind why it makes sense not to postulate the soul. He didn't back away from difficult explanations, and walked readers step by step through the reasoning process.

  • William Sharpe
    2019-01-05 01:46

    Nice framework to build on for a rational approach to one of the most difficult aspects of religion & spirituality (for me at least).