Science, Medicine and Technology

Ways to Say Goodbye: Science and Soul, A Mystery of Divine Power


Amatul Shafee Sami, UK

The concept of the soul is well known to the faith groups. Abrahamic faith and Indus Valley religions place special emphasis on the soul; a non-physical entity, which survives after the death of the individual. The concept of a soul is the basis of life after death and provides the moral principles for spiritual development. Many people wonder if there is any scientific evidence for the existence of soul? In this article, we will look at the concept of soul from a scientific perspective.

Although the concept of soul has been a matter of interest for centuries, scientists have neither proven the existence of soul, nor is the phenomenon well understood by them. Recent advancements in the field of neuroscience and psychology have encouraged intuitive scientists to continue their search for the understanding of soul.

Robert Lanza, a leading scientist in neurogenerative medicine, agrees that life does not end when the body dies. Lanza suggests that complex phenomenon like dreams, imagination and memory indicate a vital life force, which exists independent of the body. He says that research suggests that a part of the mind – the soul – is immortal and exists outside of space and time [1]. Lanza claims that ‘Space and time are not objects or things, but rather tools of our animal understanding. Lanza says that we carry space and time around with us ‘like turtles with shells’ meaning that when the shell comes off (space and time), we still exist’. [2]

When scientists speak of the soul, they talk about mind and consciousness. It is widely accepted that the body has two parts, physical (body) and mental or psychological (mind or consciousness). The functioning of the physical body is well understood by scientists, but the origin and functioning of the mind is still being researched. It is thought that everything about the ‘soul’ can be learned by studying the functioning of the brain. [3] This mind-body dualism suggests the existence of a soul. Carl Jung, a well-renowned psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst relate the concept of the soul to the concept of the unconscious. He feels that, ‘The soul is of divine nature and therefore immortal; that there is a power inherent within it which builds up the body, sustains its life, heals its ills’. [4]

Ways to Say Goodbye: Science and Soul, A Mystery of Diving Power

With the growing development of neuroscience, the concept of mind-body dualism has received much interest. On the topic of neuroscience and soul, Dr Preston writes that, ‘The mind appears to arise from some extra-physical force. The concept of the soul is considered as the unexplainable expression of this force. It is thought that research in neuroscience can explain the existence of soul. Although neuroscience can explain mental processes, it is unable to explain precisely how activity in the brain creates the experience of these mental phenomena. This issue can have some important implications for belief in the soul’. [5]

Two world-renowned scientists, Psychologist Dr Stuart Hameroff and Nobel laureate for physics, Sir Roger Penrose developed a quantum theory of consciousness. ‘They claim that our souls are contained inside structures called microtubules within our brain cells. They argue that our experience of consciousness is the result of quantum gravity effects inside these microtubules. At the time of death, the microtubules lose their quantum state, but the information within them is not destroyed. It can’t be destroyed; it just is distributed and dissipates to the universe at large. In this way soul exists independent of the physical body after death. It was ‘possible that this quantum information can exist outside the body indefinitely – as a soul’.’ [6] However, this theory has not received universal acceptance by a wider body of scientists and psychologists, who believe that the concept of soul is merely an extrapolation we make based on the duality that we experience between body and consciousness. [7]

Explaining the limited, though improving understanding of the concept of soul by the scientists, the Fourth Caliph, Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh), said, ‘In case of human beings the word soul (rooh) is used, and this has developed to a degree that it has the capability of becoming independent entity in itself, a spiritual form which can live after the separation (from the body). What is the nature of that form? We don’t know much about it, but this much, at least, the scientists have discovered is that energy bundles can survive as energy bundles. Previously, they used to rubbish the belief in souls, but they now admit that what they have discovered leads us to the possibility of some sort of human energy living in an organised form as separated from the physical existence of man. That is what will happen in the first instance. The soul will have a consciousness of some sort‘. [8]

Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad (rh) also explains, ‘According to Islam, it is true that in the case of other animals when the body dies, life ends. In the case of humans, when life ends the body dies, not the soul. The soul is only mentioned in connection with human beings not in relation to animals…There is no such sense of nobility or evil actions and their consequences among the animal kingdom. God has specifically evolved man to such a degree that his acts would create a soul in him and his heaven and his hell would be born out his own actions‘. [9]

Answering a question in his recent interview for Review of Religion, the Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (aba) explained the concept of spirituality in human and animals. Huzoor said, ‘Animals have been given instincts relevant to their needs and actions they need to perform. Sometimes animals have been given heightened senses. Dogs for example have an excellent sense of smell. They can use it to hunt prey effectively and sniffer dogs are used for this reason in narcotics for detection. Other animals possess other types of attributes and characteristics for their needs …. Thus, God has granted animals instincts to perform their roles. Humans, however, have been given intellect as well. In terms of an outer form all animals including humans have been given one; however, humans have also been given the ability to worship and also intellect. Animals are limited in their purpose in terms of the functions their bodies can form, whereas humans in addition to their basic purpose, also have been given an additional purpose, which is referred to in the Holy Qur’an as, ‘And I have not created the Jinn and the men but that they may worship Me’. Therefore, humans and jinns have a purpose which is not found amongst other animals. (Jinn can refer to anything that has the connotation of concealment, invisibility remoteness or seclusion). Humans have a higher purpose and thus naturally the soul will encounter more communication with God as a result. Spiritual progress and the concept of heaven and hell only relate to human souls because they have been given a purpose in life, whereas animals have a specific function in life within nature and have been given a role which they enact in their life and they are unable to do anything outside of that sphere‘. [10]

In conclusion, the existence of the soul has been a matter of interest to scientists for centuries, but a clear understanding is yet to develop. The wonders of human experience and the theory of mind-body dualism imply the existence of sole. In view of the Islamic teachings, this does not surprise us, as the founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community and the Messiah of the time, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as) of Qadian has beautifully explained in his book Chashma-i-Ma’rifat, ‘It is only the power and wisdom of God which brings the soul into existence out of some matter. It was for this reason that when the Holy Prophet (saw) was asked What is the soul, he was commanded by God to respond: ‘And the unbelievers ask thee as to the reality of the soul and the manner of its creation; say the soul is created by the command of my Lord. (i.e. it is a mystery of divine power) and you have no knowledge concerning the soul save a little, ….’ [11]

Read about the religious perspective of the soul here.

About the Author: Dr Amatul Shafee Sami is a specialist surgeon. She has an interest in research and has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals. She is part of IBRANet, a national research group of breast surgeons. Dr Amatul Shafee Sami is a serving member of the editorial board of The Review of Religions. She also serves as the president of Ahmadiyya Women’s auxiliary organisation for the Yorkshire region branch of the UK.




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[11] Review of religions, November 2004, Vol.99, No.11