Re: Dr. Dobson

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Tue Aug 09 2005 - 14:20:37 EDT

----- Original Message -----
From: "Carol or John Burgeson" <>
To: <>
Sent: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 10:58 AM
Subject: Re: Dr. Dobson

> George wrote: "Clearly not since "soul" isn't a concept in the natural
> sciences. Similarly for "person." & for the same reason there are no
> scientific arguments that
> support claims that John Burgeson or George Murphy have souls or are
> persons."
> That's far too easy an answer, George. There ARE scientific arguments
> which logically argue (persuasive, to me) that IF souls and personhood
> are real things, then an early embryo cannot possess either. I am
> unwilling to say that there are NO arguments on the other side.
> Perhaps I should reword the question. Making the assumption that at least
> some people, including Murphy, Burgeson and the people on this list,
> possess (or ARE) souls, is there any evidence that suggests when these
> souls came into existence -- in particular, is there any evidence that
> suggests they came into existence during the hour or so conception took
> place?

Yes, I was being a bit pedantic but sometimes that's helpful. ("Pedantry is
my profession.") The point is that, as you note in your last paragraph,
science can tell us something relevant to "souls" &/or "persons" only if we
1st know what we mean by those terms in non-scientific ways.

IMO the concept of "person" is less problematic than "soul" but we still
have to know what we mean by "person." Either of those terms conveys some
sense of individuality. E.g., the classical definition of "person" - from
Boethius - is "an individual substance of a rational nature." Because of
that there are difficulties in saying that an embryo (or pre-embryo if one
insists) is "a" person prior to the time when twinning &/or formation of a
chimera is no longer possible.

Some have proposed a concept of "brain birth" analogous to the concept of
"brain death" that's now used in dealing with end of life issues. & it
makes some sense to say that before a brain begins to form the conceptus
cannot be considered a "person" by the above definition since the element of
rationality is lacking. Of course if a rational mind can exist
independently of a physical brain - & the fact that we speak of mind of God
that doesn't require such a brain means that we can't rule out the
possibility - then this argument is weakened considerably.

Boethius definition of "person" assumes a substantialist metaphysics which
is, of course, frequently challenged today. A number of theologians would
want to define "person" in relational terms, in analogy with the relational
concept of "person" often found in discussions of trinitarian theology. &
of course the developing embryo is from its earliest existence related to
its mother &, more distantly, to the rest of the world. But just any old
relationship won't do - rocks & trees aren't persons. So a more precise
definition of a personalizing relationship is needed.

Received on Tue Aug 9 14:22:48 2005

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