disembodiedSome atheists claim that God cannot exist because unembodied minds are impossible; i.e. that persons must be physical beings.  I spoke to this in a 2008 post.  Prayson Daniel recently blogged on the subject as well.  I would encourage you to read his post.  I commented on his post, and wanted to share some points I made that supplement the points I made in my previous post. 

This argument begs the question in favor of materialism and atheism. It merely assumes that minds/persons are reducible to brains; that we have no immaterial mind that is capable of existing apart from our bodies. No reason is given for thinking that a mind/person needs a body other than the fact that we are not familiar with it. That’s a very poor reason.  It confuses common properties of persons with essential properties of persons. 

The atheist needs to prove that having a body is an essential property of persons.  To do so, he could show that an unembodied person is logically incoherent.  They have not done so.  Instead, they offer an inductive argument based on familiarity: all the persons we know have bodies, therefore persons require bodies.  Such arguments are much weaker than deductive arguments.  I could argue that all crows are black because all the crows I have seen are black, but it could always be the case that my sampling is too small and I am simply unaware of non-black crows.  To strengthen my case for all crows being black I would need a deductive proof demonstrating that crows cannot not be black.  Similarly, an inductive argument against unembodied persons is weak in that it could always be the case that we are simply ignorant of the existence of some unembodied person.  If the bodiless persons argument against theism is to rise to the level of a refutation of theism, atheists will need a deductive argument that proves an unembodied person is impossible, and thus the very concept of God is incoherent. They haven’t done so. 

While the notion of an unembodied person may be unfamiliar to us, it’s a mistake to confuse familiarity with plausibility. A person raised in the remote parts of the jungle has never seen ice, but his lack of familiarity with ice does not mean the existence of ice is implausible. Neither would it constitute good grounds on which for him to reject evidence being presented to him that ice exists. Likewise, just because we are not personally acquainted with the idea of an unembodied mind/person does not mean an unembodied mind/person does not, or cannot exist.

I would argue that the kalam argument actually provides us with a good reason for believing in the existence of at least one unembodied mind/person. One arrives at that conclusion by logical deduction and logical inference. So unless the atheist can provide a deductive argument to demonstrate that the concept of a disembodies mind/person is logically incoherent, or give us reason to believe that it is more plausible to believe the universe is uncaused, caused by abstract objects, or some other heretofore-unknown-entity, then we are rationally justified in believing not only that an unembodied mind/person is plausible, but actual. Such an argument trumps any “familiarity argument” offered by the atheist.

I think near death experiences involving remote viewing (cases in which people who are clinically dead are able to view things outside of their body that they would be incapable of viewing in their body) also argue strongly for the notion that minds are immaterial, and not dependent on a body. So while the atheist can only rely on inductive arguments that mistake common properties for essential properties, we have two good reasons to believe that unembodied minds/persons are both possible and real.