Ben White,, CC0 Licensing
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Evolution depends on the notion of divisibility. What this means is that any organism is made up of organelles and parts that are themselves divisible into other parts. The human eye didn’t evolve from nothing into human eye form in one step, it was a case of a part built upon a part built upon another part, and so on. New information gets added only in very small ways and incrementally, and always upon the foundations that already exist.

What this then entails is that there really isn’t a cohesive naturalistic explanation for the soul. Those (invariably) religionist thinkers who adhere to the soul must also struggle to believe in evolution. This much is evident from statistics about belief in God and in evolution! But, as we all know, there are a large number of theistic evolutionists in America, particularly. These people have to do some mental gerrymandering in order to maintain a belief in evolution but also a belief in the soul. God might be responsible for designing and creating the mechanism of evolution to arrive at humanity but that mechanism cannot also explain the soul. That can only be explained separately by God.

The soul isn’t divisible. It doesn’t have parts. It is one, rather nebulous, entity about which we know surprisingly little. Of course, it is hard to know about something that doesn’t exist! If you talk to ten people about what the soul is and does, you will get ten different answers. Humans have souls but other animals don’t. This is one thing that differentiates us from other species, as according to most theists.

Evolutionary theists must struggle with the idea of something as nebulous as the soul, which is also entire and whole and indivisible, emerging at some point in human evolution such that there would have been a mother and father hominid who didn’t have a soul giving birth to a hominid that did have a soul. Consciousness, on the other hand, can be coherently argued to emerge gradually over time such that different species have different levels of consciousness. The soul, on the other hand, doesn’t have this luxury.

We simply cannot account for the existence soul using evolution, and would really struggle under naturalism in general.

Indeed, as I have mentioned before, this is a massively important reason why evolution is discounted almost out of hand by a many theists. If you can’t have the soul, then you can’t have an eternal soul. If you can’t have an eternal soul, you can’t have eternal life. If you can’t have eternal life, you can’t have heaven (and hell). If you can’t have eternal life and heaven, then your religious belief is seriously challenged and, according to many, your meaning and purpose in life evaporate.

This is wrapped up in something known as Terror Management Theory. The challenge for atheists and those trying to convince theists of the truth of evolution is that if you are trying to convince someone to believe in evolution then, at the same time you are effectively convincing them out of eternal life and heaven will stop in other words, there is an awful lot more on the line for these people when it comes to rejecting creationism in favour of belief in evolution. It is pretty much the biggest carrot and stick in human conception.

This means that when we are trying to convince even regular commenters here on this blog of the truth and power of evolution, we are effectively convincing them out of a belief in eternal life in heaven. Rational arguments and evidence mean very little when up against the intuitive desire for eternal life.

Emotional bribery is pretty powerful stuff.



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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...