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While tradition holds that the soul is an immaterial essence which can survive bodily death and choose independently of physical causes, science reveals that we are wholly physical beings. Jettisoning a "philosophically diseased" dualism inherited from Descartes, The Problem of the Soul notes that our neuroscientific understanding of cognition leaves little room for an immaterial self inhabiting the body, and that philosophical reflection demonstrates that contra-causal free will is conceptually incoherent. By naturalizing the soul, Flanagan argues, we secure what matters to us most--our individuality, rationality, genuine freedom, and moral responsibility--on a much surer footing.
Although science and religion have long been in collision, it is fashionable (and politically correct) to portray this ongoing battle as a mutual accommodation, but in reality, religion is doing most of the accommodating, as the gaps in understanding that nourish God grow ever smaller. For many seeking religious consolation, the advance of science has forced a retreat to the easy fix of New Age nostrums; but in Skeptics and True Believers, Chet Raymo shows that there is a better way.