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Quantum Physics Experiment Searches for the Soul
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by John Beiswenger
Link (Haverford, Pennsylvania:  Infinity Publishing Co, 2003.  365p)

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This Sci-Fi novel looks at the link between quantum physics concepts of time and space and the unseen world of spirit and Divinity.  I started it then laid it aside for some other readings before resuming it.  The plot moves pretty well, but I found my interest flagged at points due to the heavy didactic tone at points.

Said more simply, the book gets boring at pionts, and I bogged down.

The approach seems to be to lay a theoretical foundation for digitizing the Divine.  To put it another way, the story proposes that we can document through empirical science the non-empirical, non-physical nature of human consciousness and its connection to the core of the universe in the Divine.  The story posits the origin and seat of human consciousness in the metaphysical consciousness of the Divine, or the existence of the human soul.

As the Link team's experiments develop it seems to me the researchers draw an invalid conclusion from their experiments concluding that their tests of former memories prove the existence of a human soul. This is determined on the basis of the actual recovery and experience by a descendant of specific memories of the experiences of known ancestors.

It would seem to me the best this would prove in empirical science is that there is a physical mechanism that captures personal experiences of any particular individual and transfers this memory somehow in the genes. The researchers posit a universal single "particle" that resides in all cells of a single person's body simultaneously (supportable, they suggest, on the basis of Quantum Physics).

They then draw the logically unsupported conclusion that this physical - quantum - particle is equivalent to the traditional pre-Christian Greek-Western idea of the individual "soul."

Empirical or Metaphysical
The existence of such previous ancestor-life memories in a genetic descendant would still be only a physical phenomenon, since the detection and transmission mechanisms are empirical and physical. Memory itself is a process of secretion of proteins that constitute "engrams" of that experience.

It is still an invalid leap of logic to conclude - from the experimental data - that there is some non-corporeal entity or core beyond the physical entity in which such memories were recovered, detected, reported and verified.  The novel refers to actual data the may indicate transgenerational memory.  How does memory from an ancestor come to us?

The scientific line of investigation envisioned in this novel may provide a strong intuitive support for the idea of some non-physical essence inside a human individual that is not time-bound,  metaphysical.

Inductive
But in the procedures of experimental science, I don't see how it can yield a valid metaphysical conclusion. It is still a leap of faith in the conclusion.  The process may provide what qualifies as anecdotal, but not scientific or forensic, evidence.  The reasoning here requires a final doctrinaire deductive conclusion.

Scientific investigation uses an inductive logical process, drawing a conclusion at any one point that can account for the data observed up to that point.  In the procedures of scientific evidence and logical process, the idea of "soul" is not proven by the physical evidence.

An argument to that end could be constructed through deductive reason.  This would be a philosophical justification for such a belief, drawn from such experimental data. The scientific grounds for it, however, seem slim, if supported at all.  In the end, the idea here draws a non-physical idea from physical evidence.

Matter and Method
The engineer-author makes a good effort, however, and there are things to think about in his construction of the possible mechanisms.  He supports the possibility by having the team analyze the amount of storage necessary to store and recall the memories of any human, not to mention the ancestor memories the team discovers in the experiment.

The story focuses on the storage volume as one theoretical basis for the positing of a non-physical repository that must account for the sheer volume of data.  The team determines that a single human brain does not contain the amount of physical tissue and biological storage mechanisms to necessary to retain the amount of data for not only an individual's accumulated memories but those of previous generations also.

The team members also use mathematics to account for what they are finding and theoretically explore possibilities, in the same way theoretical Quantum Physics theorists process and theorize.

Culture and Scripture
The characters seem to feel that their findings support the Christian view of the spirit or soul and the idea of an afterlife.  But the novel's conclusions seem to conflict with the biblical view of life and individual identity, and the goal of physical restoration of individual bodies on a new earth.

The line of focus and development follows the traditional western culture view of a non-physical existence continuing after death as the true identity of the individual.

Most people ignore the conflict of this view with the biblical perspective focused on resurrection and new existence bodily.  The biblical texts don't focus on a disembodied state as the ultimate goal of the human identity or even the "believer."

Westerners of whatever ilk of faith or culture, other than full materialists who deny the spirit as a separate entity, think in terms of the culturally traditional disembodied existence in some sort of existence popularly called "heaven" (metaphorical usage of the underlying meaning of "sky").  This traditional cultural concept is tenacious.

Popular Culture Dominates
People amazingly collapse and resolve the biblical view that into this cultural concept which has been so dominant in popular European cultural and philosophical history since before the time of Christ.

As a metaphysical reflection, the concept this novel presents is fascinating, and may be an explanation congenial to a large number of modern-minded people with Christian beliefs.  And the idea of a spirit-identity that persists beyond the confines of physical life on earth is widespread among human cultures.

The demonstration of the scientific method as applied to this type of question is superb.  We are treated to the inner discussions and even personal musings and thought-struggles of team members investigating the Link concepts.  Written by an engineer, the portrayal covers aspects and details a non-scientific writer might miss.

Intriguing
This is a captivating story and while there are some contrived or superficial points in the discussion, for the most part the story and the team's scientific investigations are credible.  It was very entertaining and stimulating.  And I think it provides credible foundations for a materialist defense of a non-material something at the core of each individual human.

It troubles me, however, that the book rather pedantically presents this affirmation of the "soul" as somehow affirming biblical claims.  The characters seem to think that whatever they find will be a confirmation of the biblical view.  It is very interesting that religious westerners commonly want to blame the Bible for their beliefs.  That seems to be what happens in this novel.

But I can't see that this is even a focus in the biblical texts.  There are some reflections of such a view indirectly in a few passages focusing on other questions.  I can't find this perspective of traditional western cultural ideas of the spirit as a focus in the biblical texts.

Spiritual Beings in Physical Existence
The worldview reflected in the Bible assumes and discusses that humans are spiritual beings, able to with to the divine power.  But the idea that the human essence is non-physical does not come through, unless one already has that in mind when reading certain passages.

The basic focus to the New Testament perspective is future-looking, not to "heaven," which is always a term for God's realm of existence, but to the physical resurrection of the human body to a physical existence.

Syncretized View
The author of this novel does pretty well represent the common syncretized view of popular western cultural Christianity of a non-physical core existence persisting after the death of the body.  But this is certainly not a topic of any direct teaching on the subject in the New Testament.  It appears to be of no consequence in the primary New Testament focus on the resurrection and the concept of the final Rule of God as Jesus discusses it.

The perspective found in the biblical texts is a whole different question from whether scientific "proof" for non-materialist realities like a "soul" or "spirit" may be reasoned out from empirical data.  One does not prove nor require the other.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] God, Heaven and Human Knowledge
Mystical Insights (Julian of Norwich)
[review] Souls from Science
Related Scenario from a Hindu Worldview Perspective

South African Spirituality

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OBJ

Review notes first written 21 May 2013
Reviewed on Amazon 23 May 2013
Article finalized and posted on Thoughts and Resources 31 December 2013
Last edited 4 January 2014

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2013 Orville Boyd Jenkins
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