No Ghost in the Machine: Modern science and the brain, the mind and the soul, by Rodney Cotterill, Heinemann, London, 1989, 344 ff.
Rodney Cotterill was educated at University College, London, Yale and Cambridge (UK) Universities but spent much of his university teaching career in Denmark. He died in 2007 but during his research career he wrote very many scientific papers and books in the fields of physics, biology and medicine: so his qualifications and standing as a thoroughgoing materialist orthodox scientist are beyond question. Therefore, when it comes to interpreting the function of mind or the existence of soul, he adopts the Establishment viewpoint.
The opening sentences of the first chapter tell us precisely what we are in for: `There is no scientific evidence of an immortal soul, in either our own species or any other species. There is, on the other hand, a growing body of scientific data which indicates that all animals, including ourselves . . . be regarded as organic machines, devoid of anything mystical.'
That is an incredible statement from such an eminent scientist who is himself a physicist and biologist. As I have said elsewhere, how scientists interpret data depends largely on their beliefs: whether they are theists or atheists, materialists or mystics, this will determine how they read the data.
The rest of Chapter 1 of Cotterill's book gives what he calls `A natural history of the soul', which surveys earlier historical views of mind and soul - interesting, but not really relevant to how these entities are viewed today. Basically, Cotterill regards mind and soul simply as natural attributes of the body. Chapters 2 and 3 then work to this end with accounts of the anatomy and physiology of the brain.
The rest of the book has a similarly physiological approach with occasional dips into the historical perspective. Phenomena such as near-death experiences are interpreted as `probably caused by perturbations of the nervous system as its normal functioning breaks down'. There is no suggested explanation however as to why it should then resume its normal functioning when the patient is revived. The book makes a good textbook of the physiology of the brain. It ends with some useful Notes and Bibliography and a detailed Index. This is one for those committed to scientism! I was not convinced. It starts with a conclusion and then tries to justify this by ignoring all the contradictory evidence.
The Mind and the Brain
Howard Jones is the author of The World as Spirit