Those who've been following the on-and-off dialogue between Telford Work and me may have noticed that my last post directed at him did not get answered. This is not because he hasn't wanted to, but because he's been so busy. (I think if I want prompt responses I'll have to wait till he gets tenure!) This week he's at a theology convention in the Great Frozen North, but before he left he told me he was planning to respond along the lines of a chapter by Nancey Murphy in a multivolume theology textbook he uses, and I was welcome to check it out.
I didn't expect to find this thing even in L.A.'s vast library system, and indeed I didn't. But I found another book by Murphy and some collaborators, called Whatever Happened to the Soul? Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature. This looks at scientific work related to the mind, such as Darwinism, genetics and neuroscience, and attempts to reconcile it with the Christian view of the soul. I've only started the first chapter, but Murphy sets out the endgame:
The goal of the book is to demonstrate the possibility of an account of human nature that satisfies the demands of these many disciplines -- to show that the portraits sketched from these various disciplinary perspectives may all in fact be of the same "person." Each chapter in its own way points toward a view of the person that we call "non-reductive physicalism." "Physicalism" signals our agreement with the scientists and philosophers who hold it is not necessary to postulate a second metaphysical entity, the soul or mind, to account for human capacities and distinctiveness. "Non-reductive" indicates our rejection of contemporary philosophical views that say the person is "nothing but" a body...So the difficult issue is to explain how we can claim that we are our bodies, yet without denying the "higher" capacities that we think of as being essential for our humanness: rationality, emotion, morality, free will, and, most important, the capacity to be in relationship with God.
This isn't exactly what I asked -- my original argument with Telford was about the origin of evil. But there's enough of an overlap in the subject matter that I think the book could be productive. Minute Particulars has also been exploring this subject here and here, so look out for future posts as I read the book.
I already have one question though. Murphy starts out with a quick review of historic Western thinking about the soul, which is very interesting, but she evidently expects her readers to already know more than I do. So what the frick is the difference between an eternal soul and an immortal soul? This was apparently Augustine's idea, but she never explains what it means.