Tuesday, 7 June 2022

A coherent definition of "the soul" (whether or not it exists)?

This is an exchange of comments that took place last month in a thread about the existence/non-existence of "the soul" as a result of a post about abortion titled A biologist explains why ‘heartbeat laws’ are nonsensical by Dr. Abby Hafer at OnlySky. (I've included one comment by Anri for the sake of continuity — see the original post for the rest of the comments.)

In my initial comment I start by quoting a line from the post, and finish by querying whether there's ever been a coherent description of the soul:

  Paul S. Jenkins - May 6, 2022

"Once a divine soul is placed in an embryo, terminating that embryo is thought to constitute the murder of a divine soul."

Aren't souls supposed to be immortal? So where does a "murdered" divine soul go to? Maybe it just hangs around waiting for another embryo to come along and be ensouled. Because it can't die, apparently. There's probably a Law of Conservation of Souls, or something. So there's finite number of them, I suppose.

Has any religionist ever come up with what could pass for a coherent description of the soul? To me it sounds like made-up nonsense without a shred of evidence, and therefore without any justification for the basis of law-making.

  Inagadatostada

The soul is the substantial form of a being. It’s what makes a thing what it is. It is the unifying, life giving, organizing principle that causes everything within the being to act towards its intended ends or final cause.

 

Citation needed.

 

What is your preferred method for testing if a particular creature or thing has a soul?  

 

Watch this.

https://youtu.be/mTzNGUCJkm4
 
 

The referenced video defines the soul as the "form" of a living being — as what makes the being what it is. This is tautologically circular and no help whatever in determining whether a soul exists in such a way as to survive the death of the being of which it is the "form." It's tantamount to saying, "The soul is that essence of a living being which survives death." It's possible to define chakras, auras, and ley-lines in exactly the same fashion. Whether such things exist in reality is an entirely different matter.

In summary, Aquinas's nebulous definition of the soul as "substance" is devoid of substance.

 

Such things exist in reality because it’s evident in the nature of or the way the being in possession of the soul acts. If you deny the existence of the soul then the functions of the soul still have to be accounted for. Evidence for the immortality of the human rational soul is explained in another video I can provide a link for if you like.

 

You appear to be claiming that evidence for the existence of souls is that beings posited to possess souls act in ways they could not act if they didn't possess souls. If my understanding of your reply is correct, what are these actions?

"Evidence for the immortality of the human rational soul is explained in another video I can provide a link for if you like."

If it's in the same series as the last one, I'll pass thanks.

“If my understanding of your reply is correct, what are these actions?”

Any action that is consistent to what the being is like rationality for a human.

 

"Any action that is consistent to what the being is like rationality for a human."

I'm still not sure I understand this. Are you saying that without a soul a human could not be rational? If so, what's the evidence for this?

I’m saying that without a soul a human ceases to exist. The capacity for rationality is unique to the human race and it does not reduce to biology. If it did, why can’t any of the larger primates demonstrate the same capacity for rationality humans do given how we’re so genetically similar?

 

That's several unsubstantiated claims (unless you care to substantiate them, of course).

"I’m saying that without a soul a human ceases to exist."

Are you suggesting there's experimental evidence to show that removing a human being's soul causes that human to cease to exist, or is this just an assertion? (I doubt such an experiment would be deemed ethical, even if it were possible, which it clearly isn't.)

"The capacity for rationality is unique to the human race and it does not reduce to biology."

If the capacity for rationality were unique to the human race (something which has not been shown), that seems more likely to be an evolved trait rather than attributable to some insubstantial essence that's never been identified. And "rationality" as a process occurs in the brain, which is definitely biological. Your use of the word "reduce" suggests that you think there's more to rationality than what goes on in the brain. If you do think this, is it because of a feeling that "there must be more to me than my physical being" — more than flesh, blood, matter — or do you have actual evidence for something more? By all means speculate about a ghost in the machine, but without evidence it remains unsupported speculation.

"...why can’t any of the larger primates demonstrate the same capacity for rationality humans do..."

They haven't evolved to do so because their ancestor populations responded to selection pressures differently from how human ancestors responded.

“Are you suggesting there's experimental evidence to show that removing a human being's soul causes that human to cease to exist, or is this just an assertion? (I doubt such an experiment would be deemed ethical, even if it were possible, which it clearly isn't.)”

When a human being dies all that gets left behind is the matter that the soul previously animated. With the source of its unifying, life-giving functions gone, the matter that’s left behind begins decaying back to its basic elements.

“If the capacity for rationality were unique to the human race (something which has not been shown), that seems more likely to be an evolved trait rather than attributable to some insubstantial essence that's never been identified.”

Do you have evidence of any other species that demonstrates the same rational capabilities humans do?

“And "rationality" as a process occurs in the brain, which is definitely biological.”

Once again, where’s your evidence? No one has ever proven the functions of the mind or intellect reduces to biology.

“Your use of the word "reduce" suggests that you think there's more to rationality than what goes on in the brain. If you do think this, is it because of a feeling that "there must be more to me than my physical being" — more than flesh, blood, matter — or do you have actual evidence for something more? "

Why is my assertion that there is more to me than my physical being unsupported speculation and your assertion that all we are is matter not? You’re making a claim about the nature of humanity and by extension the whole of reality so why should I be the one to meet your burden of proof while you skate on meeting mine? Where’s your evidence that we humans and the entire reality we occupy is comprised entirely of matter?

“By all means speculate about a ghost in the machine, but without evidence it remains unsupported speculation.”

If you think that’s what I’ve been explaining, then you’re not paying attention.

“They haven't evolved to do so because their ancestor populations responded to selection pressures differently from how human ancestors responded.’

I reject Darwinian evolution as an explanation of the cause of what it’s attempting to account for.

 

"When a human being dies all that gets left behind is the matter that the soul previously animated."

Before you attribute animation to "the soul" you need to show that the soul is actually something, and subsequently that it is the cause of animation.

"Do you have evidence of any other species that demonstrates the same rational capabilities humans do?"

I wasn't claiming that other species have the same rational capabilities as humans, just that rationality isn't unique to humans (though of a lesser degree in other species). Elsewhere in this thread Anri linked to the Wikipedia article on animal cognition, which looks like a good start on the subject.

"No one has ever proven the functions of the mind or intellect reduces to biology."

When the brain is damaged, "functions of the mind or intellect" change (or fail). Phineas Gage is the classic historical case of this. The obvious inference from his case and others is that the mind does indeed reduce to biology.

"Why is my assertion that there is more to me than my physical being unsupported speculation and your assertion that all we are is matter not?"

I have not asserted that all we are is matter. If you have evidence that we are more than matter, I'm interested to see it.

"You’re making a claim about the nature of humanity and by extension the whole of reality...."

I made no such claim.

"If you think that’s what I’ve been explaining, then you’re not paying attention."

I have indeed been paying attention, that's why I asked — several times — for further clarification, hoping for confirmation that I was understanding your claims correctly. If you're unwilling to explain further, or to provide evidence for the soul, so be it.

"I reject Darwinian evolution as an explanation of the cause of what it’s attempting to account for."

Evolution by random mutation and natural selection is a very successful "attempt" at accounting for the diversity of life on Earth, and it's a theory that's stood the test of time for over a century and a half. Do you reject it because you have a better explanation for the diversity of life on Earth? If so I'd be interested to see it, along with its supporting evidence.

“Before you attribute animation to "the soul" you need to show that the soul is actually something, and subsequently that it is the cause of animation.”

Are you requiring evidence that the soul is a “material” something?

“I wasn't claiming that other species have the same rational capabilities as humans, just that rationality isn't unique to humans (though of a lesser degree in other species).”

If rationality isn’t unique to humans, then there would be evidence of it manifesting itself in other species and there clearly isn’t.

“Elsewhere in this thread Anri linked to the Wikipedia article on animal cognition, which looks like a good start on the subject.”

Cognition is not anywhere near the same thing as rationality.

“When the brain is damaged, "functions of the mind or intellect" change (or fail). Phineas Gage is the classic historical case of this. The obvious inference from his case and others is that the mind does indeed reduce to biology.”

Neurosurgeons sometimes treat cases of epilepsy by cutting the nerve bundle between the left and right lobes of the brain and afterwards the patients do not exhibit two consciousnesses or two intellects or two wills. Whenever someone suffers an epileptic seizure, it involves a loss of physical motor control not intellectual control. No one has mental seizures that involve involuntary thinking or calculating. When the brain is damaged the whole purpose of repetitive motion therapy is to help the brain develop new neural pathways through undamaged tissue to restore lost motor function. This is also applies to how we learn to do things like play a musical instrument by engaging in repetitive practice over extended periods of time. This shows that the will and intellect have causal power to change the brain and not the other way around.

“I have not asserted that all we are is matter. If you have evidence that we are more than matter, I'm interested to see it.”

You’re the one claiming that rationality is a biological function, and that the soul doesn’t exist which also requires evidence. What else are we if we’re not all matter?

“I made no such claim.”

Yes, you are. You’re asserting by logical extension your belief in a materialistic account of reality.

“I have indeed been paying attention, that's why I asked — several times — for further clarification, hoping for confirmation that I was understanding your claims correctly. If you're unwilling to explain further, or to provide evidence for the soul, so be it.”

I have explained that human beings are a composite of matter and form which makes them one thing or being. The soul and the body are composited to define and make present to the intellect what the one being is like a cat, a dog, or a rabbit. Referring to the soul as a “ghost in the machine” indicates you’ve missed the basic concept.

“Evolution by random mutation and natural selection is a very successful "attempt" at accounting for the diversity of life on Earth, and it's a theory that's stood the test of time for over a century and a half. Do you reject it because you have a better explanation for the diversity of life on Earth? If so, I'd be interested to see it, along with its supporting evidence.”

You are positing the existence of an unintelligent, undirected, unorganized, blind, purposeless causal agent that can produce intelligible, goal directed, highly organized purpose driven life forms. So, unless you can show me some evidence for the existence of such a causal agent and demonstrate how it accomplishes this then natural selection violates the principle of sufficient cause and should be disregarded.

 

"Are you requiring evidence that the soul is a “material” something?"

I'm asking for evidence that the soul is a something of any kind (at least something beyond a neat idea).

"If rationality isn’t unique to humans, then there would be evidence of it manifesting itself in other species and there clearly isn’t."

There clearly is. It's not to the extent that other species of animals are forming discussion groups and calling themselves a university but there are clear signs of primitive rationality that could, given sufficient time and appropriate selection pressures, evolve to a less primitive form of rationality. Cephalopods, for instance, have shown this, as have corvids.

"Cognition is not anywhere near the same thing as rationality."

From Dictionary . com:

Cognition — the mental act or process by which knowledge is acquired, including perception, intuition, and reasoning

From Wordnik:

Cognition — The mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning, and judgment

From Lexico:

Cognition — The mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses

From Collins English Dictionary:

Cognition — the mental process involved in knowing, learning, and understanding things

I know that dictionaries only document usage and are not intended to dictate the exclusive meaning of any particular word, but there's a sufficient degree of agreement in the above definitions to suggest that your characterisation of "cognition" as "not anywhere near the same thing as rationality" is overly pedantic. Cognition encompasses rationality, at least as far as that Wikipedia article is concerned, as a perusal of its references will confirm.

"This shows that the will and intellect have causal power to change the brain and not the other way around."

The will and intellect, as you put it, is what the brain is doing. Your examples appear to be selected for brain damage that doesn't affect intellect or personality. The case of Phineas Gage, however, shows that brain damage can and does affect personality — and I assume you'll agree that personality is part of a person's identity, constituting at least some of what and who they are. As for intellect, many people are tragically aware that brain damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, identifiable with a brain scan, can be devastating to a person's rational faculties.

"You’re the one claiming that rationality is a biological function, and that the soul doesn’t exist which also requires evidence."

I have not claimed that the soul doesn't exist. I am waiting for the evidence that it does.

"You’re asserting by logical extension your belief in a materialistic account of reality."

I have not asserted any belief in any account of reality. I am asking for evidence that the soul is an actual something rather than a figment of imagination. Because it looks like a figment and it behaves like a figment. Can you present evidence that it's something more than a figment?

"I have explained that human beings are a composite of matter and form which makes them one thing or being. The soul and the body are composited to define and make present to the intellect what the one being is like a cat, a dog, or a rabbit. Referring to the soul as a “ghost in the machine” indicates you’ve missed the basic concept."

You say the soul and body are composited, but you haven't defined the soul, nor have you given any reason to believe that it's real. You haven't provided anything coherent to explain "the basic concept" so it's hardly surprising I'm missing it.

"You are positing the existence of an unintelligent, undirected, unorganized, blind, purposeless causal agent that can produce intelligible, goal directed, highly organized purpose driven life forms."

I'm not positing a causal agent — that's the point: when mutations occur in a population, the organisms may become more or less able to survive in their environment and to subsequently reproduce and pass on their mutated genes. There's no teleology — it just happens. That's why Darwin's simple and elegant idea is so powerful.

“I'm asking for evidence that the soul is a something of any kind (at least something beyond a neat idea)."

See further down in this reply.

“There clearly is. It's not to the extent that other species of animals are forming discussion groups and calling themselves a university but there are clear signs of primitive rationality that could, given sufficient time and appropriate selection pressures, evolve to a less primitive form of rationality. Cephalopods, for instance, have shown this, as have corvids.”

Sorry, but no other species has achieved anything even close to resembling everything humanity has, and they never will.

“I know that dictionaries only document usage and are not intended to dictate the exclusive meaning of any particular word, but there's a sufficient degree of agreement in the above definitions to suggest that your characterization of "cognition" as "not anywhere near the same thing as rationality" is overly pedantic. Cognition encompasses rationality, at least as far as that Wikipedia article is concerned, as a perusal of its references will confirm.”

Cognition may or may not encompass rationality depending on the species. While other species are cognizant, they are not rational. Rationality is unique to humanity.

“The will and intellect, as you put it, is what the brain is doing.”

No, it isn’t, and this has never been proven.

“Your examples appear to be selected for brain damage that doesn't affect intellect or personality.”

My examples are from the evidence provided by the physical changes to the brain that repetitive actions have been proven to cause and that are engaged in through the will and intellect.

“The case of Phineas Gage, however, shows that brain damage can and does affect personality — and I assume you'll agree that personality is part of a person's identity, constituting at least some of what and who they are.”

Show me the collection of carbon atoms that makes up one’s identity.

“As for intellect, many people are tragically aware that brain damage caused by Alzheimer's disease, identifiable with a brain scan, can be devastating to a person's rational faculties.”

Alzheimer’s effects one’s ability not one’s capacity to demonstrate rationality.

“I have not claimed that the soul doesn't exist. I am waiting for the evidence that it does.”

“I have not asserted any belief in any account of reality. I am asking for evidence that the soul is an actual something rather than a figment of imagination. Because it looks like a figment, and it behaves like a figment. Can you present evidence that it's something more than a figment?”

“You say the soul and body are composited, but you haven't defined the soul, nor have you given any reason to believe that it's real. You haven't provided anything coherent to explain "the basic concept" so it's hardly surprising I'm missing it.”

Definition: The soul is the immaterial, organizing, directing, unifying, life giving causal principle of a living being. It is what accounts for the observable presence of all the individual components and subcomponents acting together to enable the living being they are a part of to act as a unified whole to achieve its final cause or intended ends. The soul of a living being composited with the matter of a living being is perceived as a unified entity (one thing) by the intellect.

Evidence: When the soul is present, the living being is alive and carrying out activities proper to its kind. When the soul is absent, the components and subcomponents of the former living being they were a part of cease functioning as a unified whole and begin to break down into their basic elements because they are no longer unified or directed by anything. If this is insufficient, the onus is on you to submit a more plausible explanation as to why a living being is unified and directed towards intelligible ends proper to its kind when it’s alive and decays when it’s dead.

“I'm not positing a causal agent — that's the point: when mutations occur in a population, the organisms may become more or less able to survive in their environment and to subsequently reproduce and pass on their mutated genes. There's no teleology — it just happens. That's why Darwin's simple and elegant idea is so powerful.”

Survival and reproduction are intelligible ends and anything that achieves these ends must have an intelligent causal agent behind them directing them towards those ends. Claiming that “It just happens” violates the principle of sufficient causality. If you really do believe that “it just happens” you’re then left with explaining things like how the intelligible instructional information our DNA is encoded with “just happened” absent an intellect that intelligibility can only be a product of.

 

"Sorry, but no other species has achieved anything even close to resembling everything humanity has..."

I don't think anyone is claiming that another species has achieved something even close to everything humanity has, only that what humanity has (in terms of rationality) is on a scale that includes the manifest intelligence of species such as cephalopods and corvids, and that therefore there's nothing particularly 'special' about human intelligence or rationality.

"....and they never will."

This looks like a statement of faith rather than an appeal to evidence.

"Cognition may or may not encompass rationality depending on the species."

Or in other words cognition encompasses rationality except when it doesn't. This is special pleading. There's nothing in the definition of cognition that excludes non-human rationality.

"While other species are cognizant, they are not rational. Rationality is unique to humanity."

This appears to be another statement of faith in the face of evidence.

"No, it isn’t, and this has never been proven."

It may not have been proven definitively that the mind is what the brain does, but given the evidence from neuroscience, studies of brain damage, etc., it's currently the leading hypothesis.

"My examples are from the evidence provided by the physical changes to the brain that repetitive actions have been proven to cause and that are engaged in through the will and intellect."

I'm not questioning the validity of your examples, but they are not the whole story. You appear to be ignoring other examples that show the bigger picture, which is that brain damage can affect intellect and personality.

"Show me the collection of carbon atoms that makes up one’s identity."

The brain is a 'collection of carbon atoms' and others. Given the abundant evidence from incidences of brain damage, the brain would seem to be the best place to start if we're looking for the seat of identity.

"Alzheimer’s effects one’s ability not one’s capacity to demonstrate rationality."

This is incorrect. Your statement suggests you have limited experience of people afflicted with Alzheimer's.

"Definition: The soul is the immaterial, organizing, directing, unifying, life giving causal principle of a living being. It is what accounts for the observable presence of all the individual components and subcomponents acting together to enable the living being they are a part of to act as a unified whole to achieve its final cause or intended ends. The soul of a living being composited with the matter of a living being is perceived as a unified entity (one thing) by the intellect."

This is fine as a definition, if a bit nebulous. It's possible to define chakras and auras in a similar fashion.

"Evidence: When the soul is present, the living being is alive and carrying out activities proper to its kind. When the soul is absent, the components and subcomponents of the former living being they were a part of cease functioning as a unified whole and begin to break down into their basic elements because they are no longer unified or directed by anything."

This isn't evidence, it's a hypothesis. It fits the data, but so could a number of other hypotheses. In order to confirm that a particular hypothesis is the correct one among many that fit the same data you need evidence, which so far you have yet to provide. (In your 'evidence' quoted above, you're attempting to provide evidence of the soul by reference to the soul. This is circular.)

"If this is insufficient, the onus is on you to submit a more plausible explanation as to why a living being is unified and directed towards intelligible ends proper to its kind when it’s alive and decays when it’s dead."

I'm not claiming to have an explanation, I'm simply asking why I should accept yours, because yours isn't the only one available.

"Survival and reproduction are intelligible ends and anything that achieves these ends must have an intelligent causal agent behind them directing them towards those ends. Claiming that “It just happens” violates the principle of sufficient causality. If you really do believe that “it just happens” you’re then left with explaining things like how the intelligible instructional information our DNA is encoded with “just happened” absent an intellect that intelligibility can only be a product of."

I think you're misusing or misinterpreting the principle of sufficient reason (or causality), or at least attempting to apply it beyond its legitimate scope. The cause of something doesn't necessarily have to be an agent — intelligent or otherwise. I may wonder why the cornflakes in the cereal box always seem to be large flakes at the top of the packet with little bits only down at the bottom, and it's reasonable to assume there's a cause for this. But that cause doesn't have to be a deliberate effort on the part of Kelloggs to arrange the flakes into graduated strata. There's no agent specifying that this is the way the flakes are to be arranged — it just happens. Evolution happens in the same way — there's no need for an external agent to be involved.

“I don't think anyone is claiming that another species has achieved something even close to everything humanity has, only that what humanity has (in terms of rationality) is on a scale that includes the manifest intelligence of species such as cephalopods and corvids, and that therefore there's nothing particularly 'special' about human intelligence or rationality.”

Take a quick look around you and then show me any other species that does more to ensure the well being and flourishing of its members to the same degree humans do. Can you come up with any examples of any other species that has achieved what humanity has in such a relatively short period of time? You claim is preposterous.

“This looks like a statement of faith rather than an appeal to evidence.”

It’s a statement of fact.

“Or in other words cognition encompasses rationality except when it doesn't. This is special pleading. There's nothing in the definition of cognition that excludes non-human rationality.”

Cognition encompasses rationality in the species that are capable of demonstrating it of which there is only one.

“This appears to be another statement of faith in the face of evidence.”

This is another statement of fact.

“It may not have been proven definitively that the mind is what the brain does, but given the evidence from neuroscience, studies of brain damage, etc., it's currently the leading hypothesis.”

That is meaningless. The evidence has never supported your claim.

“I'm not questioning the validity of your examples, but they are not the whole story. You appear to be ignoring other examples that show the bigger picture, which is that brain damage can affect intellect and personality.”

Brain damage can only effect the capability to manifest intellect as my example of the frenchman who authored a book while suffering from locked-in syndrome.

“The brain is a 'collection of carbon atoms' and others. Given the abundant evidence from incidences of brain damage, the brain would seem to be the best place to start if we're looking for the seat of identity.”

Then show me the collection of carbon atoms that makes up one’s identity or personality.

“This is incorrect. Your statement suggests you have limited experience of people afflicted with Alzheimer's.”

I’ve had two family members succumb to Alzheimer’s in the last decade. One of whom could still play the piano up until a short time before his death.

“This is fine as a definition, if a bit nebulous. It's possible to define chakras and auras in a similar fashion.”

There’s nothing nebulous about it. It is the logically necessary life giving causal agent .

“This isn't evidence, it's a hypothesis. It fits the data, but so could a number of other hypotheses. In order to confirm that a particular hypothesis is the correct one among many that fit the same data you need evidence, which so far you have yet to provide. (In your 'evidence' quoted above, you're attempting to provide evidence of the soul by reference to the soul. This is circular.)”

I’m providing evidence of the soul by referring to how the soul functions in living beings. Is providing evidence of electricity by referring to an illuminated light or an operating electric motor circular?

“I'm not claiming to have an explanation, I'm simply asking why I should accept yours, because yours isn't the only one available.”

If there are others that have been posited then it’s up to you to present one.

“I think you're misusing or misinterpreting the principle of sufficient reason (or causality), or at least attempting to apply it beyond its legitimate scope. The cause of something doesn't necessarily have to be an agent — intelligent or otherwise.”

It most certainly does if the effect possesses the characteristics of intelligibility and biology is crammed with intelligibility on steroids. If your assertion is true then show me evidence of a cause that can pass on to an effect something that is not contained in the cause.

“Evolution happens in the same way — there's no need for an external agent to be involved.”

Sorry, but I’m not buying it. Your pointing to very specific, goal directed purposes that you expect me to believe just happen. That may be good enough for you but not for me. If “it just happens” is all you’ve got then I’ll happily accept that as vindication of my deeply held skepticism of Darwinian evolution.

 

"You claim is preposterous."

You're misreading what I wrote (either accidentally or as a deliberate straw man). In the paragraph you're responding to I made it clear that I'm not suggesting that other species demonstrate rationality on a par with humans, let alone more rationality than humans.

"It’s a statement of fact."

You've made a claim of exclusivity, which only takes one counter-example to disprove. I provided the examples of cephalopods and corvids.

"Cognition encompasses rationality in the species that are capable of demonstrating it of which there is only one."

This is another statement of exclusivity. The examples I provided already disprove it.

"That is meaningless. The evidence has never supported your claim."

Now you're simply ignoring the evidence.

"Brain damage can only effect the capability to manifest intellect as my example of the frenchman who authored a book while suffering from locked-in syndrome."

But your examples aren't the only ones. By excluding examples that contradict your hypothesis you're cherry-picking the data.

"Then show me the collection of carbon atoms that makes up one’s identity or personality."

I'm disinclined to attempt this because a) I'm not a neuroscientist — I don't know how to read an MRI scan, and b) I suspect you'll just continue repeating the same question.

"I’ve had two family members succumb to Alzheimer’s in the last decade. One of whom could still play the piano up until a short time before his death."

I'm surprised you persist in your claim that damage to the brain can't affect identity or personality, when incidences of Alzheimer's demonstrate the opposite (as they did in the cases I'm very familiar with). If you maintain that identity or personality were not affected in the cases you know about, be aware that other experience does not correlate with yours, and to ignore others' experience is cherry-picking the data.

"There’s nothing nebulous about it. It is the logically necessary life giving causal agent ."

Fair enough. One person's nebulosity is another's laser-like precision, I suppose.

"I’m providing evidence of the soul by referring to how the soul functions in living beings. Is providing evidence of electricity by referring to an illuminated light or an operating electric motor circular?"

Is it circular? Yes it is. There's a light, and there's a motor rotating — how do those work? Is it magic? Is the light on fire? Is the wind turning the motor? No, it's electricity. This is as far as your "evidence" goes. If you want to provide actual evidence of electricity you need to have some other way of detecting it, such as a meter of some kind. Or you could turn off the electricity and see if the light stays on and the motor continues to rotate. If they do, that would go some way towards disproving the hypothesis that the light and the motor are powered by electricity. If you want to prove that the soul is real, you need to provide evidence of a similar calibre.

"If there are others that have been posited then it’s up to you to present one."

Why should I? I'm not the one making claims here. You are claiming that the soul is real and has certain properties or capabilities, but you seem unable or unwilling to provide evidence to back up these claims. At the top of this thread I asked, "Has any religionist ever come up with what could pass for a coherent description of the soul? To me it sounds like made-up nonsense without a shred of evidence, and therefore without any justification for the basis of law-making." (I'll admit I wasn't expecting great evidence.)

"If your assertion is true then show me evidence of a cause that can pass on to an effect something that is not contained in the cause."

My Kelloggs cornflakes example is one such. The cause of the graduated strata is mild shaking of the box in the presence of gravity. (But you knew that didn't you?)

"Sorry, but I’m not buying it. Your pointing to very specific, goal directed purposes that you expect me to believe just happen. That may be good enough for you but not for me. If “it just happens” is all you’ve got then I’ll happily accept that as vindication of my deeply held skepticism of Darwinian evolution."

I think your skepticism of Darwinian evolution stems from a profound (or possibly wilful) misunderstanding of it. As I've stated before, there's no teleology. There are no goal-directed purposes in the mechanics of evolution. Evolution is not goal directed — it's the result of environmental selection pressures on populations whose inherited genetic mutations lead to differential survival and reproduction. Populations survive or go extinct depending on how suited they are to the environment they find themselves in. It's a simple concept that explains so much.

That last response was two weeks ago, and to date it has received no further reply from Inagadatostada.

2022-06-26: Edited to add highlighting to Inagadatostada's responses.