Religion, Science, and the Conscious Self: Bio-Psychological Explanation and the Debate Between Dualism and Naturalism
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This dissertation approaches metaphysical and metaethical questions concerning the nature of the human person, the existence and nature of God, and the nature of moral judgment through contemporary neuroscience, cognitive science, scientific moral psychology, and analytic philosophy of mind. Contrary to proposals that seek a harmonious integration of "religion and science" this dissertation argues that contemporary bio-psychological sciences give one ample reason to be skeptical of many of the metaphysical and metaethical claims embedded in religious traditions like Christianity and Buddhism. The first three chapters of the dissertation focus on the metaphysical issue of mind-body dualism while the fourth chapter addresses closely related metaethical issues regarding the nature and origin of moral judgment.
Chapter One calls into question the truth of dualism and defends a version of psychoneural identity theory as the most adequate solution to the mind-body problem. If dualism is not true, why is it so ubiquitous across cultures? Drawing on research in both neuroscience and cognitive science, Chapter Two offers a naturalistic, bio-psychological explanation of dualism. Chapter Three applies the conclusions of the first two chapters to religious and theological concerns. The link between mind-body dualism and theism is highlighted, and it is argued that the collapse of mind-body dualism renders many versions of theism problematic. Philip Clayton's attempt to integrate an emergentist doctrine of the human person with a dualist doctrine of God is critiqued, as is B. Alan Wallace's more experiential defense of religious dualism from a Buddhist perspective. Along with a commitment to dualism, many religious traditions understand moral judgment as something objectively grounded in divine commands and/or reason. Chapter Four argues that research in scientific moral psychology implicating the emotions in moral judgment raises significant questions for theological and reason based accounts of moral judgment.
Voelker, Paul J., "Religion, Science, and the Conscious Self: Bio-Psychological Explanation and the Debate Between Dualism and Naturalism" (2011). Dissertations. 242.
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Copyright © 2011 Paul J. Voelker