- Paperback: 287 pages
- Publisher: Prometheus Books (January 6, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1616149620
- ISBN-13: 978-1616149628
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 47 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,261 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Gain from Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs
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"The bestseller list is crowded with books—some by naifs, others by charlatans—which announce that the existence of ghosts is a scientific fact and the key to a meaningful life. Thank goodness for The Soul Fallacy. With patience, good nature, and relentless rationality, Julien Musolino shows that we humans are a part of the natural world and subject to its comprehensible laws. Even better, he shows that this triumph over superstition and hocus-pocus is a cause for celebration, not despair."
—STEVEN PINKER, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate
“More than 60 percent of Americans believe that immortal souls exist. Despite the absence of any credible evidence, these twenty-first-century believers make the extraordinary claim that personalized phantoms contain the unique personality and memories of their temporary hosts. To the rescue comes The Soul Fallacy, Julien Musolino’s powerful, enjoyable, and well-researched book. This fresh, timely work exposes soul belief to be vacant and without form. Best of all, The Soul Fallacy is uplifting and inspirational. Musolino’s case for skepticism is constructive and positive. He shows that meaning and morality are within the reach of mere mortals and not dependent on soul belief. The Soul Fallacy does not attempt to force an unbearable view on people and cruelly rob them of a precious belief. It is, rather, an invaluable gift of science and reason designed to help them figure out such things on their own.”
—GUY P. HARRISON, author of Think: Why You Should Question Everything and 50 Simple Questions for Every Christian
“In the Middle Ages almost everyone believed in the witch theory of causality: that women cavorting with demons cause disease, disasters, accidents, crop failures, and assorted other maladies and calamities. Today no one in the Western world believes in witches because the witch theory of causality was replaced by scientific explanations for these assorted happenings. In The Soul Fallacy, Julien Musolino does for souls what earlier scientists did to witches: he explains why souls don’t exist, then shows that science offers a better explanation for the workings of the mind and other beliefs that souls supposedly explained, and finally offers a deeper, richer, and more fulfilling worldview grounded in science instead of superstition.”
—MICHAEL SHERMER, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Believing Brain and The Moral Arc
“A fascinating demonstration that souls, selves, inner essences—at least as they are traditionally conceived—are only compelling chimeras. In this vibrant book, Musolino offers a more scientific understanding of these common notions.”
—JOHN ALLEN PAULOS, professor of mathematics at Temple University, author of Innumeracy and Irreligion
“The soul is hard to let go of. The Soul Fallacy convinces us that we should—and more importantly, it shows us that what we have gained is much more than what we have lost. A challenging, informative, and wonderfully readable book.”
—SEAN CARROLL, theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, author of The Particle at the End of the Universe
“Know that you are a physical body with no soul; realize that self, free will, pain, and consciousness depend on your brain; and give up the delusion that there is something more, and—as Musolino brilliantly explains—you won’t find meaninglessness but freedom and truth. Musolino crushes the soul delusion with scientific evidence and meticulous argument. By the end of this wide-ranging book, the reader will surely know that individuals and whole societies can be freer, wiser, and more compassionate without it.”
—SUSAN BLACKMORE, visiting professor at the University of Plymouth, UK, author of Consciousness: An Introduction and The Meme Machine
“Musolino’s book is the first scientific treatment of a great, fundamental question—do we have souls? That is, do we have something more than a body that includes a conscious brain? His book is a witty, accessible, and yet rigorous treatment of the scientific evidence against that persistent belief. Musolino does not eschew the difficult questions—if we have no souls, is there no hope? Is there no morality? Is there any sense of human purpose? His book demonstrates how progress in our understanding of the brain and of human evolution can help us discard unnecessary and misleading beliefs and lead us toward a more enlightened view of human nature.”
—PASCAL BOYER, Henry Luce Professor of Individual and Collective Memory, Washington University in St. Louis, author of Religion Explained
About the Author
Julien Musolino is a Franco-American cognitive scientist and an Associate Professor at Rutgers University where he directs the Psycholinguistics Laboratory and holds a dual appointment in the Department of Psychology and the internationally renowned Center for Cognitive Science. He is the author of over 30 scientific articles and his research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.
Top customer reviews
"The Soul Fallacy" is a fantastic look at the immortal soul as a scientific hypothesis. Cognitive scientist and professor at Rutgers University, Julien Musolino takes the reader on an enlightening journey of the soul. With mastery of the subject and ease of explanation Musolino dissects this fascinating topic from multiple angles and reaches a sound and satisfactory conclusion. This excellent 287-page book includes the following nine chapters: 1. Lifting the Veil Chapter, 2. The Spirit of the Age, 3.The First Principle, 4. Dualism on Trial, 5. Requiem for the Soul, 6. La Mettrie's Revenge, 7. Descartes's Shadow, 8. The Sum of All Fears, and 9. Imagine.
1. A well-written, well-researched book that is a treat to read.
2. An excellent topic: soul as a scientific hypothesis.
3. Musolino has a great command of the topic. His writing style is clear and intelligible. His tone is respectful, his approach is sound and he has conviction behind his words.
4. Book's format is logical and easy to follow. Each chapter builds from the previous as the author masterly builds his case for the nonexistence of the soul.
5. Makes great use of the current scientific consensus of subject matter experts to build his strong case. I love how the author also doesn't shy away from debunking the strongest arguments from apologists like D'Souza.
6. The book revolves around four conclusions: a. The soul can be treated as a scientific hypothesis, b. there is no credible evidence supporting the existence of the soul, c. modern science gives us every reason to believe that people do not have souls, and d. we do not lose anything morally by giving up soul beliefs.
7. Provides an excellent tour of history, philosophy and science to show that the soul is a figment of our imagination. "Scientists have abandoned the soul because reason and evidence--the tools of their trade--compelled them to do so."
8. Does a great job of explaining the traditional notion of the soul. "History teaches us that soul beliefs are timeless, close to universal, and that they have been associated with the phenomena of life, mind, and death. Along the way, we will discover that the soul began its life as a plurality of entities that have undergone important transformations in the course of history to give rise to the kind of soul that most people are familiar with today."
9. Makes great use of polls to help gage where the belief in souls currently stand and what they believe in. "According to a 2009 Harris poll, 71 percent of Americans believe in the survival of the soul after death. Harris ran a follow up in 2013 and found that a solid majority of Americans, 64 percent, continue to believe in the immortality of the soul."
10. Differentiates dualism from the materialistic hypothesis. "In sharp contrast, dualism is defined negatively. When dualists tell us that the soul is nonphysical or immaterial, they do not tell us what it is, they tell us what it is not."
11. Explains ways how scientists evaluate evidence. "In English, the word evidence is often used with different meanings in ordinary parlance and in scientific discourse. All decisive evidence is evidence, but not everything that people call evidence counts as decisive evidence. And if we want to avoid fooling ourselves, decisive evidence is what we need to learn to recognize."
12. Provides many interesting examples of soul advocates pushing their dualistic beliefs. Examines four families of soul claims: a. introspection, b. near-death experiences, c. appeal to recalcitrant phenomena like free will and consciousness, and d. attempts to argue that modern physics can be interpreted as lending support to the soul hypothesis. Great stuff!
13. The concept of a soul in a nutshell. "There is no scientifically credible evidence for the detachability of body and mind... Worse, the concept of an immaterial soul substance has no useful formulation, if it even has a coherent one, and it is therefore utterly devoid of any explanatory power."
14. Some statements are resounding. "If the term soul is simply a name that we give to our ignorance, it is no wonder that dualism still hasn't gotten off the ground as an explanatory framework more than two thousand years after it was proposed by philosophers like Plato." "What they really want to say is that the mind is separate from the body and can operate independently from it. This is what we called the detachability of mind and body. But calling the mind immaterial because it is an abstraction is not the same as showing that it can operate independently from the body. In the end, this last option also leads to an impasse for the dualist because it reduces the mental to the physical."
15. In defense of materialism. "The materialistic alternative to these soul claims is that our moral sense is the result of biological evolution, and that, like every other human capacity, it has a physical basis in the brain."
16. The hard problem, consciousness...discussed. "In asserting that consciousness is independent from matter, Dinesh D'Souza, like Will Ferrell in his parody of George W. Bush, is asking us to believe that facts are neither real nor relevant. We may not know how consciousness arises from neural computation, but there is little doubt that consciousness is intimately related to what goes on in the brain."
17. Exposes the science deniers. "In 1999, these sentiments were expressed in a controversial manifesto that surfaced on the Internet. According to the Wedge Document, issued by the Discovery Institute, the goal of a new generation of cultural warriors in America was to "defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies" and "to replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God."
18. The problem of free will.
19. Provides meaning in life through scientific materialism.
20. Debunks the notion that societies need "God" to flourish. "In sum, the claim that strong theistic beliefs lead to healthier societies is not supported by the data."
21. Well-cited book, and formal bibliography.
1. There is some redundancy. The author does take glee in obliterating D'Souza...oh who am I kidding? I enjoyed that immensely.
2. What took him so long to write this book?
In summary, I loved this book. It's a treat to read a well-written book that covers a fascinating topic by asking the right questions (philosophy) and by providing the best answers (science) and does so to my satisfaction (logical conclusions). Musolino objectively dismantles the soul hypothesis by making reference to great science, sound reasoning and compelling storytelling. The book is immersed with anecdotes, references to great books and reaches sound conclusions. A hidden gem, a high recommendation!
Further suggestions: "Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization" by Stephen Cave, "Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain" Michael S. Gazzaniga, "The Myth of Free Will, Revised & Expanded Edition" by Cris Evatt, "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" by Steven Pinker, "The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths by Shermer, Michael unknown Edition [Hardcover(2011)]" by Michael Shermer, "Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality" by Laurence Tancredi,"The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life" by Jesse Bering, "50 Popular Beliefs That People Think Are True" by Guy P. Harrison, "Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts" by Carol Tavris. For the record, I have reviewed all the aforementioned books.
Most recent customer reviews
I just finished reading a long article on how we have no soul, by a Rutgers professor of cognitive science, and his explanation avoids the very proof...Read more