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The Table Video

Keith Ward

Does Neuroscience Support Materialism?

Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford / Fellow of the British Academy / Priest of the Church of England
July 24, 2013

Keith Ward sat down with the Biola University Center for Christian Thought in San Diego, California in July of 2013. In this clip, Ward characterizes the contributions of contemporary neuroscience, suggesting they do not support a materialist view of human persons.


I’d wanna say that human beings really are embodied, they are flesh and blood. But they’re more than flesh and blood, they’re also responsible, intelligent agents, and that agency, that intelligent agency, could, and I believe will, exist in a different form.

But I don’t want to deny that of course in this world, in which we are, a lot of our mental activity and capacity depends upon whether our brain is functioning properly and whether our bodies are functioning properly. Obviously, if we fall very ill, our capacities are limited. And so I don’t think neuroscience, although it’s done amazing things, I don’t think it’s revealed anything especially new about the mind-body problem at all.

It just says the obvious like if you cut bits of your body off, you can’t use them anymore, your capacities are changed. But so would the brain, if you cut bits of the brain out, there are things you can’t do anymore, I’m not very surprised by that, really. So although I think it’s wonderful what neuroscience has done, I myself don’t think it’s made materialism one jot more reasonable. It just says, well, your body and brain must be working for you to be thinking. Well we’ve always known that. [calming music]