Jerome W. Elbert, Ph.D. (Tacoma, WA), now a self-employed researcher and writer, worked for many years as a research professor of physics at the University of Utah.
Are Souls Real?by Jerome W. Elbert
Physicist Jerome W. Elbert reviews the ancient origins of the soul concept, looks at Christian beliefs and pagan parallels, and then considers how the advance of science has changed our fundamental understanding of the brain and consciousness. These new scientific insights, he points out, inevitably affect our traditional ideas about the soul. Moreover, many contemporary dilemmas have much to do with whether or not we posit the existence of a soul--for example, the question of free will and the debate over abortion. Taking into consideration the views of many recognized experts, he moves to the inescapable conclusion that we can account for the nature of life, the mind, and the human decision-making process without any need for the now obsolete idea of a soul.
Insightful and absorbing, Are Souls Real? is popular science writing at its best.
- Prometheus Books
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- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.36(h) x 1.25(d)
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It is a shame that the people who are most likely to read (and finish) this book are people who probably don't really need to read it. The book raises numerous issues that are sure to make soul-believers uncomfortable, and will surely lead many simply to discount Elbert's points without giving them the serious consideration they deserve. In my opinion, the best parts of this book are those that address the growing understanding neuroscience has of the brain, leaving less-and-less for the soul to explain. If all mentality (including consciousness) can be explained satisfactorily without appealing to a soul, there is no longer much in the way of compelling reason to think souls exist at all.
I am writing this review in hopes of strongly encouraging others to try Jerome Elbert's book. 'Are Souls Real?' is an intellectual journey sure to be enjoyed by both the generalist and specialist alike; the former will love its broad scope and survey of various fields of inquiry, while the latter will appreciate Elbert's ability to explain the details and nitty-gritty through it all. When you think of the concept of a soul, do you think of your own or others' religious beliefs? Elbert offers such readers much to chew on here, providing a lucid and engrossing introduction to the world of Biblical scholarship and criticism. Do you equate the idea of soul with that of 'mind'? Do you ever wonder what it is that wonders, this thing called mind? Is the mind the brain? Any and all of these questions are tackled by Elbert in the book, and I cannot conceive of a thoughtful reader who will not find much to ponder on these pages. Do you ever wonder just what someone means when they talk of free will? Is there such a thing, and does it require a soul? Does the last question seem, for whatever reason, preposterous to even ask? Elbert does ask these questions, and provides some rather convincing answers, drawing on the latest and best information we have gleaned from science to lead the way. If any of the above questions piqued your interest, you will probably find Are Souls Real? a very worthwhile read. In the process of investigating the notion of soul, Elbert catches the reader up on the latest in the physical and life sciences, allowing one a degree of literacy perfect for acting as a springboard to further reading in the world of popular science writing. Elbert's coverage of the latest in New Testament scholarship seems particularly well-suited to 'breaking in' those never before exposed to such ideas, as he is quite adept at summarizing the ideas and work of some of the biggest scholars in the field. Are Souls Real? Why don't you read the book and decide for yourself?
I am the author of Are Souls Real? Not surprisingly, I rate the book as outstanding. I thank Barnes and Noble for offering my book at such an outstanding price. If you have any interest in souls, science and religion, human immortality, consciousness, or free will, you are likely to be interested in Are Souls Real? The following are my comments about my own book.---------------------------------------------------------------- Do you believe your soul will survive after you die? Do you even believe you have a soul? Many people devote their lives to caring for their souls, while others doubt souls exist. Given the explosion in scientific knowledge about the brain, mind, and body chemistry, anyone who is even slightly skeptical may wonder whether the ancient concept of the soul holds any meaning in the modern world. In Are Souls Real?, I review the ancient origins of the soul concept, look at Christian beliefs and pagan parallels, and consider how scientific progress has changed our understanding of the brain and consciousness. As a physicist with a life-long interest in religious and philosophical questions, I have developed my own insights and have gathered information from various experts, ranging from biblical scholars to neuroscientists and philosophers. The results allow me to make a thorough, but easily readable, evaluation of soul-beliefs. I come to a strong conclusion that a wide range of readers will find convincing. That supernatural souls may not exist can have an enormous impact on our thinking about our basic nature and how we should live our lives. Does a soul impart consciousness to our bodies, or is consciousness a natural result of the functioning of our brains? I present an easily understood picture of how consciousness arises as a result of natural processes in biological organisms. I discuss how the possible non-existence of supernatural souls affects our ideas about practical issues such as free will, responsibility, crime and punishment, and abortion. As the first book devoted to taking a primarily scientific stance in discussing the question of the soul's existence, Are Souls Real? is bound to be somewhat controversial. It does not treat soul-beliefs as primarily a matter of faith and tradition, but as questionable statements about reality. I expect a wide range of reactions. Although some may find the book disturbing since it challenges certain cherished beliefs, I think that most readers will find that it gives a persuasive and enlightening description of what we are, and what we are not.