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Soul Science

Speculations about the nature of the soul can be expressed in terms of hypotheses. The goal is to find objective methods to test those hypotheses. We can start with personal human experiences as relevant data, but our aim is to strive for scientific objectivity.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Out of body experiences and lucid dreaming

The Spiritual Experiences Consortium is exploring personal experiences that are sometimes taken as evidence of a non-material domain that might be present beyond the conventional understanding of existing science. These experiences are on many types including channeling, near death experiences (NDEs), multiple personalities and certain dreams.

The Out of Body Experience Research Foundation has a website where people can share their stories of Out of Body Experiences (OBEs). Jody and Jeffrey Long recognize that OBEs can be spiritually transformative events. The Out of Body Experience Research Foundation is a resource for consciousness studies with extensive information about different states of consciousness and a research program for the study of OBEs.

Lucid Dreaming is a state of sleep during which the dreamer is consciously aware that one is in a dream and able to have some conscious control over the content of the dream. Lucid dreams are sometimes interpreted as an experience of a non-physical domain.

The Lucidity Institute is developing an approach to the study of lucid dreaming that includes experiments aimed at increasing the human capacity for inducing lucid dreams. The Lucidity Institute is collecting descriptions of lucid dreaming experiences leading up to a September 15, 2005 deadline. The dream experiences will be analyzed and a report will be produced.

The Spiritual Experiences Consortium is interested in the systematic collection and study of all personal experiences that can be interpreted as evidence for a non-material spiritual domain. Feel free to contribute descriptions of you experiences at the Science of the Soul Wiki.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Science of the soul projects

The following projects are being developed at the science of the soul wiki:

Journal of Soul Science - we need to bring peer-reviewed publication to Soulistry.
Proposed Experiments - new ways to collect data about the soul.
Science questions - are we asking the right questions?
Soul Thesaurus - translating between the jargon of materialism and the jargon of spirituality.
Spiritual Experiences Consortium - The soul science blog is now part of the ring!

Spiritual Experiences

A new project at the Science of the Soul wiki is the collection of spiritual experiences in cooperation with the Spiritual Experiences Consortium.

Many people have had experiences that they interpret as involving contact with a non-material domain of spirit or soul. The Spiritual Experiences webring connects websites that are collecting accounts of such personal experiences.

The Spiritual Experiences Consortium is a group of websites that are collecting descriptions of personal experiences that are interpreted as contact with a spiritual domain or non-material entities (soul).

Spiritual Experiences
Spiritual Experiences by jwschmidt
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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Data: spiritual experiences

Another important source of data for a science of the soul is personal experiences of a spiritual nature. Many people feel that they have first-hand experience of a non-material spiritual world.

Contribute descriptions of your personal spiritual experiences.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Data Collection

A major source of data for Soul Science is accounts of personal conceptualizations of the soul. The Science of The Soul wiki now has a place to collect Personal Descriptions of the Soul. Everyone should take the time to contribute and record an account of what you think the soul is. Suggestion: try to provide references/links to sources that have had a major influence on your understanding of the nature of the soul.

Friday, April 29, 2005

New Wingmakers/Lyricus discussion forum

The old Wingmakers/Lyricus discussion forum was closed. There is a new forum based in the UK.

I (Memenen) tried starting a new Science of the Soul thread in the Lyricus Teaching Order Discourses section of the new forum.

Reminder: There is also a Yahoo discussion forum specifically for the Science of the Soul.

Hopefully the discussion forums can continue to function as places for brainstorming and then we can make a more coherent record of our ideas at the Science of the Soul wiki.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Scientific Search for the Soul

Francis Crick was one of the co-discoverers of the molecular structure of the genetic molecule, DNA. Crick served as an important theorist who helped guide the growth of molecular biology, the new science that makes it possible for modern medicine to understand and combat diseases such as AIDS. Crick later became a theorist for neurobiology and the study of the brain. In 1994, Crick published a book, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, which boldly announced to the public that the human soul is a subject of scientific investigation.

In his book, Crick presented an idea that has great potential to provoke wide-spread public discussion and opposition. Researchers are discovering mechanisms of brain function that may account for the human soul. Few researchers care to inform the public of the implications of such research for fear of offending those who believe in non-material or eternal souls.

Some observers nothing of value in Crick's book and conclude that it would only be astonished if someone would be willing to pay money to read the book. J. J. Hopfield (Science magazine, 4 February 1994) concluded that, "The book should be read by scientists for its eloquent attempt to put consciousness, which we so much equate with the essence of our humanity, into the realm of science." I am in agreement with Hopfield that Crick's book is a heroic attempt to wrest consciousness from the minds of philosophers and place it in the hands of scientists.

Crick's Astonishing Hypothesis is that, "a person's mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them." What Crick was saying in his book was that scientific study of the brain has brought us to the point that scientists can now accept consciousness, free will, and the human soul as subjects for scientific investigation.

There are many who feel threatened by the idea (to quote Crick) that, "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cell and their associated molecules." Crick confronts these fears directly by using an unscientific word, soul. Crick is confrontational in his approach and challenges religious believers with the idea that there is a scientific view of the soul as being just one more manifestation of brain physiology.

Anyone with an interest in how their brain works should let Crick take them on a guided tour. In coming decades, science may reveal the mechanisms of mind and provide humans with powerful means to control their brains. Crick's book is an invitation to understand this brave new world.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Astonishing Hypothesis

Soul Concepts

Sociologists have studied the hundreds of human cultures and produced
a catalog of their features. Trapped within a single social system, people assume that the arbitrary conventions of their society are "natural".....how else could it be? The science of sociology grew up in the excitement of revealing just how diverse the various modes of human social organization can be. However, within all the diversity that is possible between human societies, there are several dozen common features found in all human societies, as first compiled by George P. Murdock. Many of these "universals" are derived from the common human struggle for survival which leads us all to seek to understand and control our existence.

One of these universal human memes is rituals for the control of weather. This is a great example of the persistence of memes even when they are totally useless in accomplishing their objective. In some sense, it is important for people to at least think about the possibility of controlling the weather.

Another universal meme is belief in some conception of a soul. In some sense,humans have been designed to naturally imagine that they have a spiritual part that is beyond their physical existence. There are many variations on the basic concept of a soul. In some traditions, each individual human is linked into a unitary soul that pervades all of physical reality. In the dominant Western tradition of our society, each individual is imagined to have a personal soul. A popular "new age" soul concept adds the idea of reincarnation so that people can fantasize about past or future lives.

Many concepts of soul have their origins in pre-literate and pre-scientific history. They are linked to particular religions and tribes. An interesting exception to the universality of belief in non-physical souls has its origins in the scientific world view. Once you become aware of the arbitrary nature of traditional belief systems, how they are contradictory guesses, and once you begin to learn some details about physical reality, the great mysteries like weather begin to seem less mysterious. Is there a non-material spirit in the wind or just law-governed molecules? It becomes impossible
to avoid the scientific hypothesis that the universal cultural element "soul" must have a material basis.

Of course, "good" scientific hypotheses have associated with them tools for investigating their validity. Where do we turn for a scientific investigation of the human soul? Francis Crick has outlined a scientific research program for investigation of the material basis of "soul" in terms of the functioning of the human brain. According to Crick's astonishing hypothesis, we should be able to account for our conceptualizations of the soul in terms of human brain activity.

Given the many views of "soul" that various people have, an important issue becomes: How can we all talk about this? Unfortunately most people refuse to talk about "soul" or refuse to talk in an adult manner. In the interests of promoting constructive interactions between different people who view "soul" in different ways, should established a play ground where "soul" can be explored. Come and play.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Lyricus Teaching Order

One of the major parts of the Science of the Soul wiki is the section dealing with the Lyricus Teaching Order.

The Lyricus Teaching Order concerns a scientific investigation of the soul that is based on a multidisciplinary approach that has its roots in the Wingmakers and Lyricus websites. Currently, the Wingmakers/Lyricus community is served by a discussion forum that can be accessed from the Wingmakers website. There is a science of the soul thread in that forum.

According to the Lyricus approach to scientific study of the soul, sciences such as genetics and the study of cultural evolution are going to be central to the development of a viable science of the soul. These are two of the seven areas of research identified as critical by the Lyricus Teaching Order.

Mind, Brain, Soul

Most conceptualizations of the soul involve the idea that souls are not composed of ordinary matter. In contract, our brains are understood as collections of atoms arranged in the form of complex biological molecules, cells, and intricate neuronal networks.

Within neuroscience, attempts are made to understand mind as the functional product of brain activity. Many conceptualizations of the soul involve the idea that souls have minds independent of any dependence on physical brains.

Within the current century, we may realize Alan Turring's dream of producing mechanical devices with human-like minds. So, are there biological brains, machine brains and non-physical souls that can all have minds?

Visit the Science of the Soul wiki

For many people "science and soul" sounds like "oil and water".
This blog will chronicle a new attempt to mix science and the soul,
science of the soul wiki.

A wiki is an online community where people with a common interest can
cooperate to produce webpages that explore a particular subject. In
this case, the wiki is devoted to an attempt to understand the human
soul by way of science. If you are interested in the nature of the
soul, join in and help explore!