Are We More Than Bodies?

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July 4, 2010 Tags: Brain, Mind & Soul

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

Are We More Than Bodies?

In much of his writing, C.S. Lewis explored the cultural consequences of scientific knowledge. In particular, as a scholar of the sixteenth century, he was acutely aware of the influence of the Copernican Revolution. Copernicus upended the notion that Earth was the center of the universe by showing that Earth and the other planets revolved around the Sun. Lewis felt the significance was not simply that new knowledge had been born, but that the new mechanical view of the Universe was supplanting the traditional spiritual view.

Lewis scholar Michael Ward explains, “Since the Copernican revolution, the heavenly bodies had been steadily evacuated of spiritual significance until they were regarded as no more than large aggregations of rock or gas.” Lewis, Ward argues, preferred the more imaginative, medieval view of the heavens, not because he believed astrology was literally true, but “because the pre-Copernican model of the cosmos viewed the planets as more than merely material it was a model worth keeping in mind. It was, in this sense, a more Christian model than the Newtonian or Einsteinian versions which have succeeded it.”

Lewis brought these ideas powerfully to life in his fiction. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace declares, “In our world a star is a huge ball of flaming gas.” The fallen star Ramandu replies, “Even in your world, my son, that is not what a star is but only what it is made of” (emphasis added).

Just like the heavens, some believe that living beings—especially humans—have become de-spiritualized in the wake of modern biological science. Because we now understand the inner workings of our bodies, and the progressive development of their structure, they seem to have less spiritual significance. But we are more than the molecules that make up our bodies! We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

If we as Christians are to continue worshiping God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, we must fight to retain the spiritual value of our bodies, even as we continue to understand them better through scientific discovery. What does that mean to be made in God’s image? Does it have anything to do with our bodily composition? Does it have anything to do with the physical process by which God made us?

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

--Psalm 8:3-5

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BenYachov - #22560

July 20th 2010

I lifted the following from the Straight Dope on prayer experiments.

QUOTE ”As Eric Stockton pointed out in a letter to the editor of Skeptical Inquirer (July/August 2000), if prayer works because of God’s intervention, and God is the omniscient deity of Christianity (or most any major religion), then He knows He is being tested. As such, He could accept or reject whatever prayer is offered, and either choose to give or not give evidence that it works. It would be impossible to properly blind such an experiment if it’s the deity we’re talking about. If it is supposed to be the prayer itself that heals, rather than God intervening, then we don’t have that issue, but we instead have to wonder how it might be that such prayer might work—if we ever get a decent study that shows it does, that is.”END QUOTE

This is proof the so called “prayer experiments”  (or demand experiments) are not tailored to test any specific recognized religious view of prayer & thus functionally their results are insignificant to the truth or falsehood of religion and prayer.  How is it Greg you can’t see what is obvious to even rational skeptics & Atheists?

BenYachov - #22564

July 20th 2010

> For you to suggest that someone can become both not sick, and yet that better health not be noticeable is ridiculous. 

I reply: Where have I ever made such a claim?  Of course that is silly just as it’s silly to claim it misses the point to ignore whether or not the Being or Force you are experimenting on is either a Being or a Force.

I would be happy to concede there is no scientific correlation between petitionary prayers (as you define them)and the suspension of previously observed regularities.  However I am still forced to conclude you can’t scientifically model any valid experiment that can test a correlation between petitionary prayers (as defined by Catholic Theology) and the suspension of previously observed regularities.  Thus I have no reason to find these experiments compelling arguments against the efficacy of prayer.  I would believe this even if I denied God tommorow.  The logic is undeniable.

Greg Myers - #22767

July 21st 2010

Ben, if your understanding of God is such that there is no way of knowing that the promise that prayers will be healed can be counted on, then sure, a prayer study can’t work (and then again, prayer would not be effective, not to mention that it seems a little peevish not to heal because someone is watching).  Not everyone shares your view however.  Not only does Catholic theology not speak with one voice, there are other sects of Christianity, and other religions as well - all with various theologies, none of whom can be shown to be the one that best communicates about God.

My argument dealing with statistics, however, is somewhat different.  If we can detect better health (as you suggest we can), then we can tell if particular groups (for example, those who are prayed for) enjoy better health - specifically, faster recovery and fewer complications.  We can and they don’t.  What is more, over large numbers of studies, we do seem to need to control for the placebo effect, but not for a prayer effect.  Both of these observations would suggest that if god is answering prayers, folks do not obtain any discernible health benefit from those prayers - which is not what you would expect from most religious understandings of god.

BenYachov - #22771

July 21st 2010

>Ben, if your understanding of God is such that there is no way of knowing that the promise that prayers will be healed can be counted on, then sure, a prayer study can’t work (and then again, prayer would not be effective, not to mention that it seems a little peevish not to heal because someone is watching). 

I reply: There is no “promise that prayers will be heeded&can; be counted on” (as you understand it) taught in either the Bible or Tradition as found in the Church Fathers.The article from the Catholic Encylopedia makes that rather clear QUOTE Absolute though Christ’s assurances in regard to prayer would seem to be, they do not exclude certain conditions on which the efficacy of prayer depends. In the first place, its object must be worthy of God and good for the one who prays, spiritually or temporally. This condition is always implied in the prayer of one who is resigned to God’s will, ready to accept any spiritual favour God may be pleased to grant, and desirous of temporal ones only in so far as they may help to serve God…To be efficacious prayer should be humble. To ask as if one had a binding claim on God’s goodness,or title of whatever colour to obtain some favour, would not be prayer but demand.

BenYachov - #22772

July 21st 2010

Thus if we believe the Catholic Encyclopedia then you can’t ever in principle have a true prayer experiement.  You can only have “making a wish” experiments & or making “demands on God” experiments (which are in principle profane & would offend the God of Christian Tradition).  But not any prayer experiments.  No one has ever been done or could be done.

Question: In light of the historic definitions in the CE do prayer experimenters make sure they only use prayers “worthy of God”?  How is it scientifically determined any specific prayer for any specific individual is in fact “worth of God”?  If it can’t be done then one should simply admit prayer experiments cannot prove or disprove God and are not scientifically or religiously significant for or against the efficacy of prayer.  Like I said Bad Theology, Bad Philosophy, Bad Methodology mated with Bad Science.  I don’t know who I pity more Atheists who fall for “failed” “prayer” experiments or Theists who fail for “successful” ones?  Tough choice.

BenYachov - #22773

July 21st 2010

Question:  In light of the QUOTE in #22771 How do prayer experimenters know if they selected people to pray who are resigned to God’s will?  How is that determined scientifically when modeling the experiment?  If it is as it seems, purely a subjective phenomena, then per the views of the Atheist Philosopher Thomas Nagel, is it not beyond the testing of empirical science?  So doesn’t that in principle render any “results” of existing “prayer”(Demand) experiments worthless?

BTW I am consistent.  I would not accept the data from a “successful” prayer experiment either in principle for Theological & philosophical reasons.  I can provide an explaination upon request.


BenYachov - #22774

July 21st 2010

>Not everyone shares your view however. 

I reply:  Of course I know that.  A mere 900 million Catholics in principle share my view.  Non-Catholics not so much.  The question is do you know that?  Because to this day you keep insisting on using your one size fits all polemical style against religion and in spite of my obvious correct advice against it you keep doing it.  Not all religous concepts are the same.  Thus you need to taylor your polemics to fit specific concepts.  This prayer experiement nonsense is simply another example of this in action.

>not only does Catholic theology not speak with one voice,

I reply: Catholic Dogma does & the Universal & Ordinary teaching of the Church on prayer has no differing theology schools that I am aware of save for differing prayer techniques not theologies.

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