The soul is the spiritual nature of humankind. It is the incorporeal essence of humankind, and it is thought to be separable from the body at death. In life, it is credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion.
In religions like Hinduism, every living being has a soul. The body is just the external entity which has been designed to complete the task for this life. It is believed that the soul is immortal and takes a different form in every life.
The concept of soul is also been spoken about in ancient Egyptians texts. It was a common practice that the dead were accompanied by everything they owned when they were buried. This was done to take care of the soul in after life.
Traditionally, science has dismissed the soul as an object of human belief, or reduced it to a psychological concept that shapes our cognition of the observable natural world. The terms “life” and “death” are thus nothing more than the common concepts of “biological life” and “biological death.” The animating principle is simply the laws of chemistry and physics. You (and all the poets and philosophers that ever lived) are just dust orbiting the core of the Milky Way galaxy.
But these scientific concepts has been challenged by a new wave of thinking called Biocentrism.
Life and consciousness are central to this new view of being, reality and the cosmos. Although the current scientific paradigm is based on the belief that the world has an objective observer-independent existence, real experiments suggest just the opposite. We think life is just the activity of atoms and particles, which spin around for a while and then dissipate into nothingness. But if we add life to the equation, we can explain some of the major puzzles of modern science, including the uncertainty principle, entanglement, and the fine-tuning of the laws that shape the universe.
Consider the famous two-slit experiment. When you watch a particle go through the holes, it behaves like a bullet, passing through one slit or the other. But if no one observes the particle, it exhibits the behavior of a wave and can pass through both slits at the same time. This and other experiments tell us that unobserved particles exist only as ‘waves of probability’ as the great Nobel laureate Max Born demonstrated in 1926. They’re statistical predictions – nothing but a likely outcome. Until observed, they have no real existence; only when the mind sets the scaffolding in place, can they be thought of as having duration or a position in space. Experiments make it increasingly clear that even mere knowledge in the experimenter’s mind is sufficient to convert possibility to reality.
Many scientists dismiss the implications of these experiments, because until recently, this observer-dependent behavior was thought to be confined to the subatomic world. However, this is being challenged by researchers around the world. In fact, just this year a team of physicists (Gerlich et al, Nature Communications 2:263, 2011) showed that quantum weirdness also occurs in the human-scale world. They studied huge compounds composed of up to 430 atoms, and confirmed that this strange quantum behavior extends into the larger world we live in.
Importantly, this has a direct bearing on the question of whether humans and other living creatures have souls. As Kant pointed out over 200 years ago, everything we experience – including all the colors, sensations and objects we perceive – are nothing but representations in our mind. Space and time are simply the mind’s tools for putting it all together. Now, to the amusement of idealists, scientists are beginning dimly to recognize that those rules make existence itself possible. Indeed, the experiments above suggest that objects only exist with real properties if they are observed. The results not only defy our classical intuition, but suggest that a part of the mind – the soul – is immortal and exists outside of space and time.
“The hope of another life” wrote Will Durant “gives us courage to meet our own death, and to bear with the death of our loved ones; we are twice armed if we fight with faith.”
And we are thrice armed if we fight with science.