QR 1.2.2. Dualism

The western ideological war between science and religion grew, until Descartes proposed the truce of dualism, arguing that “I think, therefore I am”. Why not have mind and body, the spirit of religion and the objects of science? This divided scientists into atheists who believed only in the physical world, theists who believed in a world beyond it as well, and agnostics who couldn’t decide. This marriage of convenience worked for a while, but today science and religion barely speak to each other.

Yet how can the two distinct realities of dualism interact? If mind and body don’t interact, each is irrelevant to the other, as why have a mind that can’t affect the body? Or if they do interact, which was first? A mind that emerges from a physical brain is like the whistle of a locomotive, superfluous to the main action, but if a non-physical mind creates the world, why did it make evil? Either way, if one is real, the other isn’t, or at best irrelevant. If the two realities conflict, why hasn’t heaven purged earth already, or earth corrupted heaven? If mind and body are two sides of the same coin, what is the coin?

Facing these challenges, dualism is less popular than it was. One reality is simpler than two, so the main candidate is that there is only one reality and it is physical. Scientists say the physical world they describe now is real, while theologians say the spiritual future they describe is real, so do we prefer a theory of now or one of later?

Next