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Souls from Science
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Narong Sinsawasdi
Souls and the Universe:  A Scientific Enquiry (Bangkok, Thailand:  Oriental Scholar Promotion Ltd, 2001. 270p.)

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This book appears not to be available in the West, though it was written in English, and I find other books by this author online.  I bought it in Chaing Mai, Thailand, in September 2001, a week before the 911 tragedy, which I learned about on CNN in the airport as I was leaving the Bangkok airport.

The author is a Thai scientist.  He begins with a summary of the stock scientific cosmology, then proceeds to draw rational deductions from observations about the human state which will provide a rationale for the existence of individual souls.

Empirical Foundation?
While his attempts are valiant, I found little connection between the "empirical evidence" of his observations and the declarations he makes about "souls."  The "evidences" were just jumping off points for him to express his metaphysic.  There are also great inconsistencies in the logic of his spiritual concepts.

Hindu Metaphysics
He explains how, in his view, the first soul developed in the process of evolution, then explains some details.  In the process he leaves many questions unaddressed.  He revelas some assumptions as he discusses his subject, but never overtly states them or explains his sources.

He presents considerable details about souls, all from a Hindu reincarnational framework.  He seems to leave off his empirical science and jump across a chasm of religious mysticism.  I can't see where he makes any connection that would lead us to accept his initial claim that there is some empirical basis for what he is saying.  

The Great Leap
One minute we are still in the scientific review section, and then suddenly we are reading Hindu cosmology.  I couldn't see how any transition was made.  Sinsawasdi comes up with such details as the waiting place for souls until a new body is ready.  He seems to just make these up, though it is lucid and fascinating to read his ideas.  I just saw no modern scientific basis as he claimed.

Metaphysical Details
For instance, he explains that a soul shrinks to the size of a pinhead when the body dies, and then waits in the ionosphere till a suitable new body becomes available.  How does he know this?  He gives absolutely no evidence for such metaphysical details, but he explains such details confidently, earnestly and with seeming authority.

It appears his authority comes from some backgrounds in his Hinduism.  He never explains or reviews these assumptions, nor does he overtly explain his eastern cosmology.  Maybe he assumes the link is clear to the general western cosmology he lays out that all this is somehow compatible.

I couldn't see it.  I did not see any rational deduction from any other evidence, for any of this metaphysical detail, only a declaration.  

Where Souls Stay
One claim really amazed me.  He first maintains that souls developed on earth, in relation to the growing intelligence of humans.  He develops a logical scenario that attempts to explain how a non-corporeal "soul" could have developed from the original animal beings that gradually became intelligent humans.  

He suggests that humans got gradually more and more intelligent through their growing communal experience, and then one day when a couple had a child, that child was evolved enough that it was not only a physical being form the genes of the parents, but now also had a spiritual component.  The child would then have a soul, but the parents did not.

OK, if we grant him this, then the questions over details arise.  What if no other humans in that generation, close enough by, had another child with a soul?  The child with the soul would have to marry one of the children that did not have a soul.  OK, he has though of that.  He declares that because the one parent had a soul, then all the children of that soul-soulless couple would then have souls.  How do we get that!?

Where Souls Stay
But this gets even better!  He then proceeds to deduce that souls are confined to earth.  He explains that at the death of a person the soul that had inhabited that body goes into the upper atmosphere of the earth, a sort of waiting room for disembodied souls.  Wow!  I hope our space ships have not disturbed them as they shoot through the atmosphere from various launching points all around the earth on their way to the moon, the stars or orbital missions.

I wondered how we would ever get any extra souls, since only so few would develop souls.  Surely a body would then be ready for the old soul.  But wait a minute!  If the original soul(s) developed only at some certain point in history, then after than all the children of those people had souls, what new bodies would be left over for the waiting souls of the dead to recycle into?  He did not deal with that.

But let's not get hung up on niggling details.  His scenario holds too many other fascinations!

It Gets Better
But that was not really the amazing part.  Here is the most fascinating part of this bit about souls being confined to earth.  Are you ready for this?  Let me lay this out in stages.  Souls developed on earth, as the animals that humans originally were gradually gained intelligence.  The first soul-people were born gradually.  When they died, the souls of the dead went up into the upper atmosphere to await another body at some future time.

Here is the big surprise!  Because these souls were developed on earth, out of the physical development of the race (I think this is the "empirical basis"), human parents ** BOLD could not conceive if they went to Mars. BOLD  **  This is obvious, because all the souls are waiting in the earth's atmosphere.

He does not explain why the generation of souls is tied to a hovering place physically limited to the earth:  Since he maintains that souls are incorporeal, it does not seem logically necessary that they would be limited to a defined physical space in the universe.

He also does not explain this question:  if the soul originally arose from the genetic bonding of two intelligent "almost arrived" humans in the first place, and all their children then have souls, why could they not produce soul-children from their material genes wherever they were?  Another declaration of fiat that he does not explain.

So What Happens?
So do the souls of the adults go with them to Mars?  Do the Mars-born humans then revert back to being animals since they have no soul?  Are they still intelligent, and do they still have speech, even though they have no "souls?"

Why does Sinsawasdi think it is it necessary to believe in "souls" anyway?  You know, I don't think he ever expliained why he thought it was important to defend such a concept, assumed from his Hindu background.  And how would this relate to the western or African concept of a "soul."  They don't all agree.  And most don't have a concept of reincarnation, either.  Hmmmnnnn.

I must say this author does include some good, interesting scientific and historical information.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[Review]      Biological Evidence for the Human Spirit
Quantum Physics Experiment Searches for the Soul

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Original notes written in May 2004.
This review written and posted on Thoughts and Resources 27 December 2006

Copyright © 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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