Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Polkinghorne on the soul and where my comic fiction fits in

(See previous two posts for the context to this)
John Polkinghorne dismisses the idea of the soul as a late divine addition to the evolving human primate. I think he thinks that idea inelegant. He notes the psychosomatic unity of body and soul, and the way that changes in the physical brain seem to affect the soul. He prefers to see this psychosomatic nature as having evolved.

However he still thinks we can use the word 'soul' coherently as the 'information-bearing pattern' or in Greek terms the 'form' of the body. (Aquinas developed this idea of the soul as the 'form' of the person; cf. the body as the 'matter'. The Greek words are eidos (form) and hyle (matter).) This pattern remains and develops through life and gives our lives a unity, even though the atoms in our bodies are forever being exchanged for others. He claims this soul as such is not immortal but after death it is held and even nurtured in the mind of God, until such time as God brings about resurrection. Thus in Polkinghorne's thinking, immortality rests not on a supposed nature of the soul, but on the faithfulness of God.

It is an interesting idea in fiction to see what this 'information-bearing pattern' would look like if incarnated in a completely different body. What would I look like if my soul were given the body of, say, a computer, or a car, or a colony of ants, or a tree or a planet?

My book Paradise - a divine comedy
and its upcoming sequel of course illustrate the 'information-bearing pattern' as landscapes.

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