Neuroscience, the Person, and God: An Emergentist Account
Author: Clayton, Philip
Source: Zygon, Volume 35, Number 3, September 2000 , pp. 613-652(40)
Abstract:Strong forms of dualism and eliminative materialism block any significant dialogue between the neurosciences and theology. The present article thus challenges the Sufficiency Thesis, according to which neuroscientific explanations will finally be sufficient to fully explain human behavior. It then explores the various ways in which neuroscientific results and theological interpretations contribute to an overall theory of the person. Supervenience theories, which hold that mental events are dependent on their physical substrata but not reducible to them, are explained. Challenging the determinism of “strong” supervenience, I defend a version of “soft” supervenience that allows for genuine mental causation. This view gives rise in turn to an emergentist theory of the person. Still, I remain a monist: there are many types of properties encountered in the world, although it is only the one nature that bears all these properties. The resulting position, emergentist monism, allows for diversity within the context of the one world. This view is open at the top for theological applications and interpretations while retaining the close link to neuroscientific study and its results. Theology offers an interpretation of the whole world based on a yet higher order of emergence, although the notion of God moves beyond the natural order as a whole. It therefore supplements the natural scientific study of the world without negating it.
Keywords: Arbib Credo; anti-reductionism; cognitive psychology; emergentist monism; information biology; mind/body problem; neurosciences; panentheism; physicalism; supervenience and emergence; theories of personhood
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: California State University
Publication date: 2000-09-01