While we can speak of the mind and the soul as distinct entities, we are often talking about the same thing. It is the opposite of what we mean by the brain, or the physical processes of intelligence. The nonmaterial aspect of who we are seems to defy reduction to physical processes. A case could be made that consciousness resides within the soul and that the soul itself is really the “I” or “ego” of what I am. But there is a slight distinction between mind and soul.
MIT-trained scientist Gerald Schroeder writes of this distinction. “Consciousness has all the trappings of another nonreducible element of our universe. The conscious mind is not mystical, but it may be metaphysical–meaning out of the physical.”¹ In other words, consciousness is not explainable in natural terms and has the transcendent characteristics of a totally different dimension. Perhaps this is why materialists are so baffled by the enigma of consciousness.
While our “mind” seems to refer to all of the mechanisms of consciousness, the “soul” seems to speak of a spiritual or religious impulse that resides within humanity. This spiritual instinct, perhaps the clearest of all indicators of intelligent design, can be seen in some of the following phenomena.
Innately religious. Since the dawn of recorded time, and in every place on the globe, people have been religious. Belief in God, some say, is something that people are taught to believe, but both archeology and sociology would tell us otherwise. People are innately religious, with over 90% of the world’s population believing in some divine power. Wherever you go, people instinctively bow to the heavens. It would seem that religious belief is not something people are reasoned into but something they are persuaded out of.
Oughtness. Have you ever seen a cow that seems disillusioned with life and who thinks she was made for something better? (OK, besides the Chick-fil-A cows.) Unlike cows in the pasture, most humans have a sense that things are not as they should be. A longing for heaven, it has been called. We struggle with circumstances, resent death, complain of evil, and have a general sense that we were made for something better, that things “ought” to be different. Why do we have these thoughts? Why shouldn’t we simply accept life on its own terms?
Morality. When someone commits a terrible crime, doesn’t something inside us scream for justice? Think of the Holocaust or September 11th when terrorists flew airplanes into the World Trade Center buildings, killing nearly 3,000 innocent people. We all share a common sense of horrible injustice and desire for retribution.
Materialists believe morals come from society, but are unable to explain a moral reformer such as Martin Luther King who appied Christian principles to promote black Americans’ civil rights.
Materialists also struggle to explain how the German culture could justify the genocide of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust of World War 2. Hitler convinced many Germans that eliminating the Jews was a worthy act since he deemed them an inferior race. The butchery, torture, and medical experimentation during this period originated from a culture that for the most part justified such behavior. Yet we intuitively know it was wrong, But why? This inner moral sense of right and wrong cannot be attributed merely to society or culture, but seems to point to something beyond ourselves.
If the elements of consciousness, spirituality, oughtness, and morality are not primarily physical, then materialism will never be able to account for them. But what are they? Could they be imprints from a transcendent designer who has programmed us with an image of his own DNA?
¹Gerald L. Schroeder, The Hidden Face of God: How Science Reveals the Ultimate Truth (New York, NY: The Free Press, 2001), 159.