Why Do Humans Still Believe in Souls?

Trying to understand our inner condition by noticing patterns in nature is nothing new. Even before Hippocrates designated his four humors, Greek, Roman, and Indian doctors speculated on what various “flows” of different liquids signified. Flow was generally considered beneficial while blockages often led to chronic ailments and even death. 

What was invisible could never be understood, so the theory went. Germ theory eventually disproved that notion, but in its wake the idea of a soul has persisted: an ethereal, mysterious, and ultimately unexplainable “other” that is somehow embedded within our biological processes while still existing outside of them. 

To follow this train of thought, since inner and outer worlds exist in a synchronous relationship, external actions must hold sway over inner processes, like disease.2 We witness this type of thinking broadly when, for example, preachers claim earthquakes, droughts, and storms are caused by federal endorsement of same-sex marriage. Just last week Alabama congressman Mo Brooks stated people who “lead good lives” are healthy and therefore should contribute less to insurance pools. There’s a touch of metaphysics in such an ambiguously stated belief.

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