[Advaita-l] Concept of soul

Murali Karamchedu murali_m_k at msn.com
Fri Aug 24 13:57:26 CDT 2007

Dear List Members,

Here are some things to consider when we ponder on the question of life, 
synthetic life, soul and philosophy.

1.	The contemporary definition of science is that it is a system of 
acquiring knowledge ( and a body of knowledge) based on the ‘scientific 
method’ that is based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable 
evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning [ 1]

2.	Life as such is more difficult to define, however scientists currently 
working on understanding information and processes related to life systems 
have a working definition somewhat as follows [2]:

a) To delineate itself from its environment through the production and 
maintenance of a membrane equivalent, most probably a rudimentary or 
quasi-active-transport membrane necessary for selective absorption of 
nutrients, excretion of wastes, and  overcoming osmotic and toxic gradients,

b) To capture, transduce, store, and call up energy for utilization [do 
c) To [be able to] actively replicate, not just passively polymerize or 
d) To write, store, and pass along seemingly conceptual information that 
“gives orders”for what is to be manufactured in the future, and to actually 
bring to pass those processes and “factory products” out of linguistic-like 
coded (codon) messages (‘recipes’) into physical biochemical, biological, 
and thermodynamic reality.” [This includes the ability to respond to the 
environment and evolve].

These are scientists from institutes like the Santafe Institue 
(http://www.santafe.edu ) that try to model information, biochemical and 
physical processes of life systems - popularly known as Alife 
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artificial_life ) - as self organizing, self 
perpetuating, complex adaptive systems. When scientists working on 
recreating life-processes talk about their work - either as simulations, or 
synthetically - it is some variant of the above that they are trying to 

3.	Distinct from life is the notion of a ‘soul’. There are wide ranging 
definitions for this depending on ones philosophical and religious leanings. 
However, as a distinct non-empirical entity, one cannot either prove or 
disprove the existence or non-existence of a soul based on empirical or 
observable evidence or based on inferential methods that are based on 
empirical evidence. This is not a problem of lack of scientific tools or 
insight, but one of domain. An analogy is no amount of physical evidence or 
inference can prove or disprove the existence of things like mathematical 
formula independent of the existence of a thinking individual. This problem 
itself has been considered by many scientists and philosophers of science in 
different ways.

4.	Because of the above inadequacy, one can speculate about the soul in the 
following ways:

a.	There is no soul
b.	The soul is a result of life. i.e sufficiently complex adaptive systems 
can interact and behave to create the existence of an entity that has a 
distinct but dependent existence on the components that create it. In this 
model, the sould ceases to exist when the body does. a) and b) are 
effectively the position taken by materialists or cArvAkAs.
c.	Life is an occasion for the soul express itself and experience the 
phenomenal world.

Given the above issues, the notion of a synthetic life inherently does 
nothing to the theory of the existence or non-existence of the soul, and as 
such will continue to be a speculation; unless one admits a different means 
of knowing such as sruti or revelation.

Best Regards,

Murali Manohar

1.	Isaac Newton (1687, 1713, 1726). "Rules for the study of natural 
philosophy", Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, Third edition. 
The General Scholium containing the 4 rules follows Book 3, The System of 
the World. Reprinted on pages 794-796 of I. Bernard Cohen and Anne Whitman's 
1999 translation, University of California Press ISBN 0-520-08817-4, 974 
2.	Self-organization, Autocatalysis and Models of the Origin of Life by  
Regina Monaco & Fatima Rateb de Montozon, Published by the Santafe Institute 

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