Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature

Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature

Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature

Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature


As science crafts detailed accounts of human nature, what has become of the soul?

This collaborative project strives for greater consonance between contemporary science and Christian faith. Outstanding scholars in biology, genetics, neuroscience, cognitive science, philosophy, theology, biblical studies, and ethics join here to offer contemporary accounts of human nature consistent with Christian teaching. Their central theme is a nondualistic account of the human person that does not consider the "soul" an entity separable from the body; scientific statements about the physical nature of human beings are about exactly the same entity as are theological statements concerning the spiritual nature of human beings.

For all those interested in fundamental questions of human identity posed by the present context, this volume will provide a fascinating and authoritative resource.


In August of 1997 an article appeared in a leading American scientific journal that described a trend toward a warming of the relationship between science and faith. Thawing of a previously icy relationship was seen on the side of science in the promotion of a science/faith dialogue within the American Association for the Advancement of Science and in the formation of study centers such as the Center for Theology and Natural Science in Berkeley. Within religion, a warming of relationships was seen in a more liberal official view of evolution on the part of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the fact that this book was to be published out of work done at Fuller Theological Seminary, known for its conservative evangelicalism.

Indeed, Whatever Happened to the Soul? is an attempt to establish a perspective on human nature that would allow for greater resonance between science and faith. We have tried to describe the nature of humans from the perspective of disciplines ranging from biology to theology in a way that is reconcilable and congruent. Our attempt has been, in every case, to achieve descriptions that both represent the current state of knowledge in the discipline and harmonize with the descriptions from the other disciplines. In order to increase by a few degrees the warming relationship between science and faith, we have attempted to sound a multi-disciplinary resonant chord (to mix metaphors).

Our core theme—the key of the resonant chord—is a monistic, or holistic, view of humans. In order to avoid confusion with reductionistic or materialistic forms of monism, which we do not wish to espouse, as well as to denote a particular form of monism, we have chosen the label “nonreductive physicalism” to represent our common perspective. Thus, statements about the physical nature of human beings made from the perspective of biology or neuroscience are about exactly the same entity as statements made about the spiritual nature of persons from the point of view of theology or religious traditions. We would disavow the opinion that human science speaks about a physical being, while theology and religion speak about a spiritual essence or soul.

While some of the issues dealt with in this book have fostered acrimonious debate in the past, this book is not meant to be contentious. We have written from the perspective that views soul as a functional capacity of a complex physical organism, rather than a separate spiritual essence that somehow inhabits a body. We have adopted this position because we believe it is the best way to incorporate and reconcile all the various sources of available data. There is,

1. Gregg Easterbrook, “Science and God: A Warming Trend?” Science 277(1997): 890–

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