Here is a rather old excerpt. It's from Sam Harris's 2004 book. I came across this again, buried in an endnote, while skimming through the book for a paper. I find it interesting, but also think it's a nice, accessible sketch of the type of reasoning used in scientific and philosophical circles that so disproportionately purvey physicalist (and anti-spiritualist) convictions. (Mind you, there's much about Harris's thinking I don't agree with, so this isn't a promotion of the entirety of his worldview. But this, I think, is a nicely put excerpt. I hope it is judged for what it's worth and not its author.) -- What happens after death is surely a mystery, as is the relationship between consciousness and the physical world, but there is no longer any doubt whether the character of our minds is dependent upon the functioning of our brains - and dependent in ways that are profoundly counterintuitive. Consider one of the common features of the near-death experience: the nearly dying seem regularly to encounter their loved ones who have gone before them into the next world. See A. Kellehear, Experiences Near Death: Beyond Medicine and Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996). We know, however, that recognizing a person's face requires an intact fusiform cortex, primarily in the right hemisphere. Damage to this area of the brain definitely robs the mind of its powers of facial recognition (among other things), a condition we call prosopagnosia. People with this condition have nothing wrong with their primary vision. They can see color and shape perfectly well. They can recognize almost everything in their environment, but they cannot distinguish between the faces of even their closest friends and family members. Are we to imagine in such cases that a person possesses an intact soul, somewhere behind the mind, that retains his ability to recognize his loved ones? It would seem so. Indeed, unless the soul retains all of the normal and cognitive and perceptual capacities of the healthy brain, heaven would be populated by beings suffering from all manner of neurological deficit. But then, what are we to think of the condition of the neurologically impaired while alive? Does a person suffering from aphasia have a soul that can speak, read, and think flawlessly? Does a person whose motor skills have been degraded by cerebellar ataxia have a soul with preserved hand-eye coordination? This is rather like believing that inside every wrecked car lurks a new car just waiting to get out. The implausibility of a soul whose powers are independent of the brain only increases once we recognize that even normal brains can be placed somewhere on a continuum of pathology. I know my soul speaks English, because that is the language that comes out of me whenever I speak or write. I used to know a fair amount of French as well. It seems that I've forgotten most of it, though, since my attempts at communication while in France provoke little more than amusement and consternation in the natives. We know, however, that the differences between my remembering and not remembering something is a matter of physical differences in the neural circuits in my brain - specifically in the synaptic connections that are responsible for information encoding, information retrieval, or both. My loss of French, therefore, can be considered a form of neurological impairment. And any Frenchman who found his linguistic ability suddenly degraded to the level of my own would rush straight to the hospital. Would his soul retain his linguistic ability in any case? Has my soul retained its memory of how to conjugate the verb bruire? Where does this notion of soul-brain independence end? A native of speaker of one of the Bantu languages would find that the functioning of my language cortex leaves even more to be desired. Given that I was never exposed to Bantu sounds as a child, it is almost certain that I would find it difficult in the extreme, if not impossible, to distinguish between them, much less reproduce them in a way that would satisfy a native speaker. But perhaps my soul has mastered the Bantu languages as well. There are only five hundred of them.