The interface of the physical and the spiritual

Those who believe in a spiritual world where god and the human soul reside presumably have in mind some process by which this world interacts with the physical world where our bodies exist and where we apply scientific method.  

When we have discussed free will it is clear that believers envisage the soul as the vehicle for exercising free will. Presumably physical brain activity plays some part in our behaviour but how does the soul exert control? How does the soul contend with physical influences such as brain damage, drugs and electro stimulation?

Similarly god acts upon the world. How does he influence physical processes? Again presumably the spirit world can presumably override the usual physical laws. In order to accomplish miracles god would have to subvert simple conservation laws and generate measurable energy. How does this mechanism work? Obviously I don't expect believers to be able to explain the ineffable workings of god in detail but the spirit world is not detectable by physical means and yet it can change the physical, believers must have some view as to how this happens. 

The problem for me is that we have tools to investigate the physical world, these tools are not much use when it comes to the spiritual world. It seems as if the spiritual world must 'trump' the physical world in that it can subvert the usual physical laws. When this happens there must be a clear boundary that can be observed. Obviously miracles resulting from the direct intervention of god are not that common and if they are I am sure that god would not tolerate being measured. However the exercise of freewill is a daily occurrence. As neuroscience becomes more sophisticated will we be able to detect where the physical leaves off and the soul takes over?

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

Why modern men are losing their testosterone

Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?

Flickr user Tom Simpson
Sex & Relationships
  • Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
  • While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
  • The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less