Philosophy

Brian Cox Proves Why Scientists Should Never Be Asked Questions About The Soul

Celebrity physicist Brian Cox said he thinks science has shown men do not have souls. According to the Express, he said on the Joe Rogan show that there is “no measurable evidence of humans having souls that could live on after death.”

To prove this, Cox noticed his own arm (Joe Rogan brings out odd qualities in his guests) and announced, “It is made of electrons and protons and neutrons.” From this keen, but incomplete, observation, Cox deduced:

“If I have a soul in there, something we don’t understand but it’s a different kind of energy or whatever it is we don’t have in physics at the moment.

“It interacts with matter because I’m moving my hand around.

“So whatever it is, it is something that interacts very strongly with matter.”

Even though scientists strained their inferior rectus muscles to the snapping point, they have never seen a “fifth force of nature” that could account for the soul. Therefore, thinks Cox, “the human soul can be ruled out on the most fundamental level imaginable.”

“I would go as far as to say,” he continued, “it [the soul] is ruled out by experiments.”

The idea of experiments led to the suggestion that near death experiences might confirm the existence of life after death, therefore proving the existence of the soul.

You’ve heard of NDEs. The bright light, urge to travel through a tunnel, the feeling of being beckoned. That sort of thing.

The Express reminds us that NDEs are often reported by those “briefly declared clinically dead while on the operating table.”

Yet there is an infinite distance between clinically or mostly dead and all dead. A mostly dead person is still alive, because alive is not dead. Once a person is all dead, only a miracle can bring them back. Which has happened. Several times.

Because some all dead have returned to life, we know that men have souls. For the soul is the living essence of a man. It is the thing itself that separates the living and the dead. A surgeon can coax the mostly dead man back to health. But only God can restore the missing essence that is life itself.

An essence is not made of stuff. It is a pure form, an intangible thing. The soul, then, does not have weight. It is also not any kind of energy or force. This is why physicists haven’t found it with instruments. And why they never will.

Cox’s, and many other scientists’, difficulty is with empiricism and materialism, the ideas that to be considered real a thing must be measurable, and that only measurable things exist. These aren’t unnatural ideas for scientists trained in the modern way, where measurement is king. Particles exist, they say, because they can be measured, albeit indirectly. Force fields, like gravity and magnetism, can be measured.

Therefore, inverting the thought, a soul doesn’t exist because it can’t be measured.

Physicists are not consistent in their metaphysics, though. Not everything they declare real can or has been measured, and not everything in which they believe is material.

Strings, for example, which are not ordinary three-dimensional objects, but of smaller dimension, are made, it seems, mostly of math—and math is not real stuff. Maybe strings are wrong, and it’s something else that are “below” quarks. There isn’t unanimity on the point: and anyway, no strings have been observed. Yet many believe.

This debate is not important to us. The idea that as things get more basic or fundamental they become more like math, or thought, if you like, is of definite interest.

I don’t mean some kind of naive idealism, where everything, tangible and intangible, is said to be thought, but a more profound idea that all forms and essences originate, and are held, in the mind of God. The closer physical objects become like math, the more this must be so.

Here is something every physicist believes:

e^{i\pi} = -1

No mathematician, and no physicist, have ever observed any of the items in that formula, and none ever will. But the formula is held true—it is true. And being true, it is real, though it is not material.

None of the terms are subject to measurement, either. You can approximate the measurement of \pi, maybe, but you can never measure it totally. It would require infinite resources. Besides, we don’t have to measure it. We know its value (but only because we believe many other formulas like this).

If physicists were consistent in their materialism and empiricism, they’d have to toss out math and logic and other intangibles. Not just the soul.

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Categories: Philosophy

35 replies »

  1. Here’s a nice presentation by Gary Habermas on NDEs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ac9pF32gRxU – Gary is Chair of Philosophy at Liberty University – His main claim to fame is his wonderful historical proof for the Resurrection of Christ – using what he calls “The Minimal Fact Method” This proof is so tight he was able to get his PhD in History at Michigan State University using this technique – here is his website with all sorts of interesting things – God Bless https://garyhabermas.com/ NB – He is not a Catholic – but for those with trouble with that please look up the history of the British Sten Gun – chambered in 9mm so that the Brits could use ammo from the Germans own ammo dumps or off dead German soldiers to enable them to continue to kill the enemy – love that

  2. So logic is not real, something in which the ‘woke’ would rejoice in. But then I would retort, illogic is also not real. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  3. “science has shown men do not have souls” I thought science could not prove a negative. So this is NOT science?

    “Near death” is not death. Close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.

    Physicists “found” black holes and multiverses. Again, the soul is probably needed to fix math somewhere, as were black holes and multiverses.

    Things do not have to be measurable or there would be no Uncertainty Principle, no Schroedinger’s Cat, probably no theoretical physics at all. (Indirect measurements do NOT count. Indirect measurements are easily misinterpreted, much like circumstantial evidence in a trial.)

    Just a few more example of the inconsistency of physics and their “rules”. Physics at the theoretical level is far more philosophy than science and always was.

  4. Sheri,

    Not quite. If science can prove a positive, then it has also proved a negative, which is the contrary of the positive.

    The real question is the limits of what Science can predict.

  5. If the discussion were in Latin or Greek, it would be over. The Latin word we translate as “soul” is anima, which also means “life”. So the question habet homo animam means “has man soul?” also means “Is a man alive?” Ans. Yes. Next question. If a Late Modern scientist like Cox gets it screwed up, then an Early Modern Scientist like Descartes likely did, too; and his imagined distinction between the corporeal body and the “thinking body” (which engendered the whole Interaction Problem) is bogus from the get-go. But Moderns would have to be hip to a whole slew of concepts and terminology to see this. A close approximation (and it is only an approximation) is between a basketball and its sphere, with “sphere” playing the role of “soul”. If a basketball is deflated (dies), where does its sphere (soul) go? Ans. “sphere” did not exist independently of “basketball.” And “soul” is not a tiny, invisible man that goes walkabout.

  6. Cox is an idiot. In more ways than this.

    I first heard of him on a BBC radio programme in which he was introduced as a professor at Manchester University at CERN, but after which I was convinced that he didn’t know the meaning of “science”.

    Is it fortunate or unfortunate that I can’t actually remember what he said? But that first impression remains strong.

  7. Scientists like carpenters equipped with only hammers are eternally on the lookout for the unpounded nail. These days some astrophysicists (genuine scientists unlike sawbones and shrinks) are troubled by rare atomic elements of ephemeral half-lives (einsteineum for instance = 20.5 earth days) emanating from unusual stars in distant galaxies. This phenomenon has been observed through the magic of radio telescopes reading the electromagnetic spectrum of light. The presence of such elements on distant stars defies the current scientific consensus that stars cannot generate atomic elements which are not already stored within their core mass. (Even Stars Cannot Succeed At Alchemy). Therefore (so the theory goes) any brief half-life elements would be burned off over the expanse of cosmic time, and yet somehow it appears that they are presently unexhausted – although theoretically – they cannot still exist (except infinitesimally). Oh the paradox! Getting to the fun part now: Frustrated by this wondrous and seemingly inexplicable cosmic unknown, certain recently published journal papers have suggested that ALIENS must have chosen these odd stars as dumpsites for the NUCLEAR WASTE from their INTERGALACTIC STARSHIPS as they transitted our galaxy. This novel NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP THEORY is proffered as an explanation as to why einsteinium become part of the star (long after the star was born ~ as a star). Similarly, one might logically transpose (quite scientifically) in the manner that humans are a vessel for a soul – which we cannot make for ourselves “biologically” but carry about anyway. It’s all so difficult to prove even with the most sensitive instruments, and deeply confusing for these intellectual progeny of Aristotle and Galileo. Perhaps give them time. {VERY HARD SCIENCE HERE: Przybylski’s Star & The Total Denial of Reality – Aliens, Undiscovered Elements, and more! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AG6k4xDdbtc}

  8. So what if theologians, even saints, focused on some kind of Greek-flavored ‘soul’? The conflation of ‘immaterial’ with ‘spiritual’ may be venerable from use, but no less question-begging for that. Not to mention the question-begging latent in the assumption that the Fall had no effect on ‘immaterial’ things, which are (why?) safely apart from all that mess.

    The Catholic approach to such questions ought to focus on transubstantiation first and foremost. After all, what Brian Cox says about his arm holds double for a piece of bread that is the actual body of the Christ. But, for example, in an Aristotelian framework, it is impossible for accidents to lack an antecedent “subject of inherence,” but this must be possible if transubstantiation is real. To ‘resolve’ this contradiction, St. Thomas (for instance) must depart from systematic theological explanation; i.e., “Step 2: Then A Miracle Occurs.”

    To wave one’s hands and associate pi with the resurrected body of Jesus, WHICH HAS HOLES IN IT, is just silly.

  9. The bit about mathematics is conflating concepts with reality. The equation with pi is true only in the universe of mathematics. It has no physical reality. While you may be able to model reality with mathematics, you shouldn’t start thinking your models ARE reality.

    No true circles exist in reality. Every real “circle” deviates from the ideal circle described by C=pi*R. The ideal circle exists only in the mind.

  10. I am not sure if Scientists should never ask questions about the Soul (I guess it depends on the definition of Scientist and the Soul. But Roger Penrose has two books on his new science of consciousness (Emperor’s New Mind and Shadows of the Mind), which strongly argue against the assertion that consciousness emerges from the physical process of the brain. I am still reading the book and have not fully grasped his idea. But one metaphor uses is that our brain is like a TV, and it interacts with something outside to produce consciousness. He actually suggests that his theory could provide an explanation for NDE. There are actually people conducting experiments to try to prove his theory. Good thing tho is that his theory did leave room for God. My point maybe we could still ask questions about the Soul in a scientific way. But again, maybe I misunderstood the definite of the Soul here.

  11. Oooh!, Brian Cox…Cocky, unprofound, soulless (no pun intended) thinker. Phrases like “no measurable evidence” or “souls that live after death”, speak of, on the one hand, scientific arrogance, and of an unsofisticated, literal interpretation of the mystical experience on the other.

    Contrary to what modern society implies, being a gifted ultraexpert in an area does not turn you into a good thinker. Good thinking takes into account as many variables as possible, tries to find a conclusion that is even richer than the sum of those variables, but moreover, it brings insights that are not an obvious aftermath of those premises, because deepness requires a certain amount of self annihilation. To go further, being vessels for superior knowledge is needed. Most scientist still get trapped in an oversimplistic kind of nervous, hyperactive thought that only has THEM as thinkers, and only ONE variable as its basis.

    The kind of insights you can have under certain altered states of consciousness, by whatever you can name, meditation, prayer, certaing psychedelics, anomalous and extreme situations, NDE´s, etc., are completely above classical scientific scope. The fact that most scientists still believe that which is the absolute basis of all human error, that is, that physical matter, brains, creates consciousness, is a signal of tremendous immaturity (more on that later…).

    When you get to experience Absolute Subjectivity with no object, there is no room there for science, no matter how sofisticated. Or for individuality whatsoever. And this kind of phycisists still use the literal interpretation of the words of the mystics, dumb their experience down, and then fight them with straw man fallacies.

    There is a nice refutal from one of the most gifted writers on NDE´s, strange enough a scientist himself, John Wren Lewis, (his accounts of his own NDE are among the best ever) of a previous critique from a scientist, Susan Blackmore, where he incides in the previously commented absurdity of her claiming that a 3-dimensional object, the brain, can create, the Consciousness in which it appears, in which it is only one more object: https://www.capacitie.org/wren/JWL%20on%20Susan%20Blackmore.pdf

  12. This as is mentioned leads me back to theoretical physics and other theoretical sciences. Any science that extrapolates data to get their result or only “proves” their theory with math are no better than theologians talking about our souls. I believe in souls not because of what my preacher tells me or what I read in the Bible but my own life experiences. I feel that my life is the ultimate experiment into the discovery of my soul. I feel something in me that seems to guide me in my life and it has always been there. If it not my soul then what is it? The human brain is where we should look not in molecules of our arms. I choose to believe but I do not begrudge those that choose not to. I tell them my personal feelings and listen to theirs. I know that it is very unlikely that I can change their mind despite the “mission” of the Christian Church. I do my “duty” by sharing my belief but I am not ever going to get into an argument to try to change someone. If all I do is give them a second to pause and think it is enough for me.

  13. Measuring a soul is like measuring faith. Both are unexplainable mysteries and will always be so.

    I feel sorry for people who must always be able to measure anything they believe exists, and who believe that there is nothing more then the life they tenuously hold at the moment. Always standing at the abyss.

  14. So true! It has to be a miserable existence to be that way. Even before I was “saved” I believed I just did not have the true faith that I now have. It was always there it just had to be awaken.

    I believe that much can be measured but like I intimated at what point should you stop looking for smaller particles in the Universe and instead just accept that there are things that just cannot be explained. What these scientist do not realize is that their theories are exactly the same as faith.

  15. Briggs:
    “Not quite. If science can prove a positive, then it has also proved a negative, which is the contrary of the positive.” It works in limited cases, but how can it apply to statement like “There are no unicorns.” (Or there is no soul…) In the generally understood “prove a negative”, I cannot see how science can actually do that.

  16. A dialogue:

    Thomas: “An argument is not evidence for a God. Every single one of them end with an unsubstantiated claim.”

    John: “If I may, what would constitute evidence in your mind?

    Thomas: “Empirical evidence. Testable predictions. Like I said, every philosophical argument for the existence of a God ends with an unsubstantiated claim. All of the arguments are God of the gaps arguments.”

    John: “So then all evidence must be empirical to be valid, and if not empirically verifiable, then not to be believed?”

    Thomas: “Yes. Testimonial evidence is the worst evidence. The Bible is just another work of fiction.”

    John: “If only empirical evidence constitutes evidence, and if not empirical then not to be believed, you have created a paradox for yourself as the basis for the category of empirical evidence is non-empirical and rather logical. Mathematics and Logical proofs are the axiomatic basis upon which Empiricism rests, as a consequence discounting Logical proofs as having conclusive force or validity undermines the conclusive nature of Empirical evidence.

    In essence, Empiricism becomes an unsubstantiated claim as it is not empirically verifiable, but only logically verifiable.”

    Thomas: “Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation. The term comes from the Greek word for experience, ???????? (empeiría).”

    John: “I believe your claim that only empirical evidence constitutes proof is illogical as the category of empirical evidence itself needs to be subject to the same skepticism requiring a proof, except you have already discounted any possibility of such a thing as the category of empirical evidence, “…information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation.” is itself refuted by your claim; Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem, no system can contain/explain itself.

    In order for empirical evidence to be valid, logic must be valid, as logic is what validates empiricism. Empiricism cannot validate itself. Thus, if you discount logical evidence and proofs, prima facie, you can’t accept Empiricism which depends upon the validity of a logical proof, unless you take it’s validity on faith.”

    Thomas: “Oh.”

  17. So what if theologians, even saints, focused on some kind of Greek-flavored ‘soul’?

    Because you cannot take what people wrote, create your own definition for their terms, and then claim you have falsified what they wrote. If you do, you are only arguing with yourself, and you will always win (and lose) such an argument. If you wish to dispute what Aristotle, Aquinas, ibn Rushd, Maimonides, and others put down, it behooves us to come to grips with what they actually put down and not with a straw man of our own devising.

  18. I’d recommend Wolfgang Smith, especially his most recent book – “Physics and Vertical Causation: The End of Quantum Reality” – to anyone who wants to delve into the writings of a trained physicist who also has a deep understanding of metaphysics and mysticism (For more of which see his earlier book, “Christian Gnosis: From St. Paul to Meister Eckhart”).

  19. Genesis 2:7 (NIV) Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

    That is God breathing eternality into man – the soul, which will live on in eternity, either in heaven or hell.

  20. 1. You cannot disprove the existence of bigfoot, the Lochness Monster, unicorns, fairies, Chupacabra’s, the Jersey Devil, gnomes, elves, golems, leprechauns (I keep trying to find the end of rainbows. I was so close that one time), goblins, mermaids, werewolf’s, chimera, or vampires but one day someone might be able to prove one or more do exist. You are so right Sheri!
    2. As I said before so much of current science is based on their own form of faith. From climate science where they take evidence from rocks and ice cores and then because it cannot provide 100% proof the extrapolate (i.e. guess… does not matter if it is educated or not) to come up with their conclusion. This happens like I said for physics as well because there is no way to possibly see particles like quarks but they see evidence that some force is acting on the microscopic so they invent things that are smaller. The theory of dark energy because they cannot explain all of the forces in the cosmos. As us with faith like to say why can’t it just be the hand of God making it happen. There is just as much evidence. I swear sometimes that it is going to cause that scene from Scanners lol.

  21. The existence of Dark Matter has been postulated to make gravitationally bound systems at the galaxy scale work properly without modifying the Newtonian gravity theory. But nobody has measured Dark Matter particles themselves. Does Dark Matter exists or not?

    Humans are alive, or not, but you don’t see this by examining the electrons in some muscle.

  22. Ye Olde Statistician I can too lol. I laugh when instead of studying what people wrote instead they attempt to disprove it. It is not unlike when I watch the ancient alien theorist. I cannot and do not attempt to disprove them but I like to also point out how what they look at could be taken so many other ways but they swear that it could only be aliens. I accept that could be one possibility but I also accept that maybe the Egyptians were just really good at building pyramids. The simple fact is I was not there to see.

    I find this so amazing to be able to actually have intelligent conversations without arguements.

  23. Sander van der Wal that is why I have said to a few people that I ponder my own existence. There have been many strange occurrences that would make just as much sense living in a simulation or other imaginary existence. Some dreams are also very odd like I am just going to wake up one day from a coma and find myself in a whole different reality. I just don’t know that is why I live each day the same way.

  24. Dear Dav,

    “The equation with pi” (I can’t type it, either, on my phone) really is true, in real reality, not least the real reality of electrical engineering.

  25. Dennis: Thanks for the recommendation. I am aware of interesting, non-“New Agey”, talented scientists with interesting approaches to metaphysics, but I had never heard of Wolfgang Smith. Morever, it just takes a simple mention to “Meister Eckhart”, and there I go…One of the most profound mystics of all time, and a true light in my way since I discovered him, many years ago.

  26. There are two ways of verifying truth claims. In both techniques, one makes a model of some pertinent part of the universe and attempts to validate that model.

    The scientific method is one. Scientific models (aka theories) are largely mathematical and attempt to predict the behavior of some facet of the universe. It depends upon repetitive tests and a lot of statistical analysis and a scientist is successful if his/her model makes successful predictions when given previously unknown data AND does not fail to account for all known data.

    The other method is the legal/historical method. You cannot bring Napoleon and Wellington into the lab and examine Waterloo from all angles; you cannot examine a murder or robbery from all points of view and see inside of a perpetrator’s head to find out why. Statistical analysis is useless on singular events. So, historians and lawyers have developed a stable of techniques for examining and validating eyewitness testimony and documents and determining whether they should or should not be trusted. (For a good synopsis of this, see “Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels” by J. Warner Wallace).

    In both methods, “proof” consists of the preponderance of the evidence. A scientific theory is considered proven when it successfully predicts events from unknown data and there are no unexplained events. For a historian or lawyer, a case is considered proven when all points of view are accounted for and have been reconciled.

    It is, in fact, then possible to demonstrate the existence of a soul, but one must rely on the historical/legal method and not the scientific. Like black matter, one may not see it directly (yet) but may observe its effects on other things. In this case, we have the accounts in Scripture to go by. Other accounts may also be analyzed, but should be (as always) analyzed in context.

    Of course, also, it would help if we could first come to some agreement on what a soul is in the first place and what its function is. One’s view of that determines where one looks for evidence as to its nature and what evidence one will accept as valid. Is it the motivating core, separate from the body – as the Gnostics hold? Or is it essentially one’s backup file, which retains your existence through death in anticipation of the Resurrection, as the Christians hold?

  27. Rogelio: Yes, Wolfgang Smith is definitely not one with a “new-agey” take on things. A very distinguished scientist (got his BA from Cornell at just 18, physics MA from Purdue, then Math PhD from Columbia; back in the ’50s and early ’60s – he’s 91 now – he worked on the re-entry problem for spaceflight, i.e. how to keep them from burning up), but also a very traditionalist Catholic. There are some new-agey takes around on people like Eckhart and Hildegard von Bingen (clowns like “Fr.” Matthew Fox, etc.), but Smith’s is definitely rooted in Tradition.

    I can’t follow all the physics in depth, but Smith basically rejects the basis for most of modern quantum physics and relativity theory, and even makes a case for a geocentric universe. There are a couple of interesting film collaborations with him that look into all of these subjects as well (“The Principle” – the Cosmic Background Radiation info and how it relates to the argument for a geocentric universe is particularly interesting in this film – and “The End of Quantum Reality”).

  28. @Simon Platt

    Sorry but no. A mathematical model is not reality regardless of how well it can be used to predict or describe reality. Try making an ideal circle. You can’t. The best you can do is make it “close enough” (whatever that means) to your model.

  29. There is a film somewhere of Cox trying to explain an eclipse and getting it completely wrong. Which is funny.

    I know people who know him and he is described as ‘ an adequate physicist’.

  30. The soul is the mental-emotional part of you. You have a body, a soul and a spirit. When you are born again your spirit is new. Your soul, the mental-emotional part changes as you seek God and grow. Read “Spirit, Soul and Body” it explains a lot. …Bill

  31. Well, we are spirit, soul, and body, and one can accept the following story’s explanation of those who willingly accept the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, or not … the last sentence especially, strikes deeply into one’s heart.

    “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

    And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.

    And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

    But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.

    And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.

    Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house: For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.

    Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

    And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

    And Abraham said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16: 19-31.

    God bless, C-Marie

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