To the Best of Our Knowledge
Public Radio International

Science and the Search for Meaning: Five Questions

Part Three

Does the "Soul" Still Matter?

For centuries, we've been told the soul is what makes each of us unique. It's why we have moral responsibility. And it's the part of us that lives on after we die. But many scientists now say the soul is just an outdated myth, an idea that can be explained away by new insights from neuroscience and evolutionary biology. In this hour of To the Best of Our Knowledge, the question of whether the soul still matters is discussed with scientists and philosophers.

Original Air Date: December 5, 2010
Segment 1

Keith Ward is a prominent theologian and philosopher at Oxford University and the University of London. His books include In Defense of the Soul and The Big Questions in Science and Religion. Ward talks about the soul with Steve Paulson. Princeton neuroscientist Michael Graziano tells Steve Paulson that our ideas about spirits and the soul can be entirely explained by new insights from brain science. Graziano's book is God, Soul, Mind, Brain. Anne Strainchamps asks Columbia College philosopher Stephen Asma what his colleagues make of the soul these days.

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Segment 2

We hear a story from Elna Baker, author of The New York Regional, Mormon Singles Halloween Dance. And, Parker Palmer tells Jim Fleming why the soul still matters in an age of science. Palmer is an author, educator and founder of the Center for Courage and Renewal. His books include Teaching with Heart and Soul.

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Segment 3

Some ordinary people give us their takes on the soul, then Nancey Murphy talks with Steve Paulson. Murphy is a professor of Christian philosophy at Fuller Theological Seminary. She tells Steve Paulson Christians would be better off without the soul. Also, novelist Marilynne Robinson talks with Anne Strainchamps about the role of the soul in the age of modern science. Robinson's novels include Gilead and Home.

Press Play to Listen (Running Time 19:44)

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Science and the Search for Meaning: Five Questions
Perspectives on the Self: Conversations on Identity and Consciousness
What is Life?
November 21, 2010
What Does Evolution Want?
November 28, 2010
Can Science Be Sacred?
December 19, 2010


The Nour Foundation: Exploring Meaning & Commonality in Human Experience
The John Templeton Foundation
Promega Corporation