Faith science interface

A great neuroscientist who believed in the soul

2 May marked the twentieth anniversary of the death of renowned Australian scientist and Nobel Prize winner Sir John Eccles, who believed that human beings are both material and spiritual beings with souls which cannot be explained by or reduced to neuronal activity. Colin Goodwin reflects.

May 11 2017In an Eddington Memorial Lecture at Cambridge University in 1961 the distinguished British ethologist and zoologist, WHThorpe, made a challenging declaration: “I see science as a supremely religious activity but clearly incomplete in itself. I see also the absolute necessity for belief in a spiritual world which is interpenetrating with and yet transcending what we see as the material world… Similarly I believe that anyone who denies the validity of the scientific approach within its sphere is denying the great revelation of God to this day and age. To my mind, then, any rational system of belief involves the conviction that the creative and sustaining spirit of God may be everywhere present and active; indeed I believe that all aspects of the universe, all kinds of experience, may be sacramental in the true meaning of the term.” At the conclusion of his own Eddington Memorial Lecture at Cambridge University in 1965, the great Australian neurophysiologist and philosopher, John Carew Eccles, described these words of Thorpe as “a final statement of my belief” about science.

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