@ On What is soul? and What is free will? 'The Astonishing Hypothesis'. A great book on the scientific search for the Soul by Dr.Francis Crick
'You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.'
The 'astonishing hypothesis' was a concept developed by Dr. Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA. He expounded that the experiences of sentient self aware beings are nothing more than the result of electrical-chemical reactions in the brain. Under his amazing theory, all basic emotions are chemically derived and may combine and comingle to form more complex feelings.
Soul and Spirit in Scriptures:
"Soul" in Scripture is really the person as human being, who has been created by God. Old Testament uses the word nephesh, or "soul." A human being becomes alive (that is, "a living being" or "soul") only when the "breath of God" is breathed into him (Genesis 2:7). Nephesh can be applied to animals as well as human beings, and thus, either are "souls" (Genesis 1:20, 24, 30; Ezekiel 47:9). This simply means that animals, as well as humans, are living beings or creatures.
Matthew 16:26: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul [psuche]? The death or disappearance of the "soul" is described as the breath ceasing from an individual (Genesis 35:18). The "soul," then, is seen as the life possessing quality of humans and animals, and it is that which makes them living beings.
Allah creates each human being with certain program, purpose, fate, and destination—which are predetermined by Him (Allah) and no power on earth and heaven except Allah can change that program, period. Hayaat (longevity), Mowutt (death), and Rizik (fate) are well fixed (in louhe Mahfuz) by Allah at the time of creation of that soul. A true believer do believe that—all the souls of human beings have been created by Allah at the same day and souls are locked up or stored in a cell (LouheMahfuz) in the heaven. It is by only Allah’s wish, a particular soul is sent to this mortal earth with a fixed program.
Sahi Muslim: Narrated by: Abdullah Bin Mashwood , and Hujaifa Bin Achid from the saying of Prophet Muhammad: Prophet Muhammad said-every human remains as semen inside the mother’s womb for 40 days. After 40 days semen becomes blood-clot and mother is conceived. Then immediately after mother is conceived, Allah appoints one Farestha (Angel) right near the women’s genital (Vagina) to oversee the continuous development of the whole scenario of birth. That particular Farestha records and informs every bit of development and progress of the embryo-to-baby’s birth. This robotic Angel even tells Allah the movement-paths such as embryo is moved from vagina to uterus, settled there, growing alright etc. etc. And, after 120 days, when baby is full grown, Allah orders that particular selected soul (from the louh-e-Mahfuz) to be taken their to the womb and fix the soul to the fetus only when life starts. After putting that soul this robotic Farestha (Angel) ask Allah to give His decree, as to, what would be the longevity/fate/rizik and also ask Allah’s permission to fix the destiny of the future baby whether this human being will be a Mumeen Banda or Bandi (true believer) or Nafr (Kafir)
Soul scientifically is the sum total of our chemical imbalances or balances and neural activity, that what defines our soul. Comprehension of the behaviour of humans hinges on the understanding of the behaviour of neurons and their connectivity, few billion less and we would be mentally closer to chimps, both individually and in groups. It is Neural connections and chemical releases that defines our cerebral emotional quotient and capacities.
Crick's snubbed the philosophical approach of consciousness. His argument stood absolutely opposite to McGinn's who suggests that 'while the materialist view of the mind-body problem is fine, yet, our very cognitive structures will prevent us from ever explaining consciousness.'
Crick's focused on neurons he promoted the view that consciousness arises when sets of neurons fire in a co-ordinated way, at frequencies around 40 Hertz. Crick claimed that 'the best way to begin our exploration of consciousness is first to understand how we interpret visual information. We must determine where the cells responsible for determining consciousness are located. While the idea that consciousness may be clustered within either one or multiple areas of the brain may seem preposterous, this conjecture is certainly much more efficient than each cell carrying within itself the instructions for consciousness.
In what Crick called 'his Processing Postulate, he argues in the book 'that each level of visual processing is coordinated by a single thalamic region, thus making the thalamus a key player in consciousness. Since consciousness and short term memory need the activity of reverbratory circuits to maintain them. In the case of the primary visual cortex (V1) there are 5 to 10 times more fibres going back to the thalamus from layer 6 of the cortex than those coming to the entire visual cortex from the thalamus.'
Crick argues that it is these interconnections which provide the basis for the reverbratory circuits. Crick suggested that the Pulvinar nucleus might be a site.
Dr. Crick stands vindicated today, take for example 'Dopamine' a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine, is a chemical with a key role in setting up people's moods, the level of Dopamine have a much wider-ranging impact on their everyday lives, research suggests. Dopamine is known to have a "reward" function in the brain. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. Dopamine deficiency results in Parkinson's Disease, and people with low dopamine activity may be more prone to addiction. Tali Sharot of Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuro-imaging says that 'Dopamine has a role in signalling the expected pleasure from those possible future events.'
Now next lets deal with Neural Connectivity define us a human sentient beings, despite sharing 98 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees, humans have much bigger brains and are, as a species, much more intelligent. Unlike chimps, humans undergo a massive explosion in white matter growth, or the connections between brain cells, in the first two years of life. The new results, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, partly explain why humans are so much brainier than our nearest living relatives. But they also reveal why the first two years of life play such a key role in human development.
"What's really unique about us is that our brains experience rapid establishment of connectivity in the first two years of life," said Chet Sherwood, an evolutionary neuroscientist at George Washington University, who was not involved in the study. "That probably helps to explain why those first few years of human life are so critical to set us on the course to language acquisition, cultural knowledge and all those things that make us human.''
Effectively, if humans are a fundamentally precocial species, our gestation is (or should be) 21 months. However, no mother could possibly pass a year old baby's head through the birth canal. Thus, human babies are born "early" to avoid the death of the mother.
Walker and Shipman (1996, p. 222) write:"Humans are simply born too early in their development, at the time when their heads will still fit through their mothers' birth canals. As babies' brains grow, during this extrauterine year of fetal life, so do their bodies. About the time of the infant's first birthday, the period of fetal brain growth terminates, coinciding with the beginnings of speech and the mastery of erect posture and bipedal walking.This pattern of growth has huge implications. Every other primate doubles their brain weight from birth to adulthood. But due to the early birth of humans,we triple our brain's birth rate. Our last 12 month of fetal growth rate of the brain occurs outside the sensorially deprived womb.
The vast quantities of sensory input during the first year of life affects the rate and nature of the neural connections. Because of this year of helplessness, parents must provide close physical and emotional support for the infant. Unlike chimp babies who can cling to their mother's fur, human infants cannot even hang on to mother in spite of having the hand reflex. The mother has no fur because she sweats and she sweats because of a big brain which is why she gives birth to her child early. This early birth then requires the mother to care for the infant and increases the bond between mother and child which partially makes us human."
And even more recently researchers found that about 80% of the proteins in the human and chimpanzee genomes are different. This comparison is very significant because proteins are ultimately responsible for an organism’s anatomical, physiological, and behavioral characteristics. Therefore, a high degree of genetic similarity doesn't necessarily mean that humans and chimpanzees are closely related organisms. (reference: Galina Glazko, Vamsi Veeramachaneni, Masatoshi Nei and Wojciech Makalowski, "Eighty Percent of Proteins are Different between Humans and Chimpanzees," Gene volume 346 14 February 2005, Pages 215-219 )
What is free will?
Crick idea was that 'there is an unconscious part of the brain which makes the plans for what we are going to do: these plans then pop into the conscious mind as if from nowhere, giving an impression of free will. The conscious mind may be able to guess the factors behind the plans, or it may get them wrong: either way, it feels there is some mystery about the process.' Crick, drawing on some research by Damasio, goes so far as to suggest 'that this unconscious planning facility (the 'seat of the will') is probably located in or near the anterior cingulate sulcus.'