Navigating the soul – what is the soul and where is it.
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Navigating the Soul - what is the soul and where is it.

The question of whether or not the soul exists cannot be answered by science, but we can study the causes and consequences of people's various beliefs about the soul, and that is the area in which we are beginning to make progress," says Daniel Ogilvie.

Throughout history, the fate of the soul has been an underlying theme in religious debates. Nearly every religion postulates that something survives after the death of the physical, and that something is called the soul. Centuries have been spent arguing over this entity's ultimate fate, yet there remains a deeper issue: What exactly is the soul and where is it? Is it really God's gift to humans, designed to distinguish us from the base animalistic nature of other species, or is it something that we have invented on our own, to soothe our consciences?
Daniel Ogilvie, a Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University, has dedicated the last few years to exploring these questions and in 2009 he initiated the Rutgers University "Soul Searching Project" and taught a course on the human soul titled "Soul Beliefs: Causes and Consequences." During this Sunday Morning Conversation he is opening the discussion to us.
Pulling from psychology, evolutionary theory, history and more, Ogilvie will address the following questions:

  • What is the soul?
  • Why are soul and afterlife beliefs so common in human history?
  • Are there adaptive advantages to assuming souls exist?
  • How do these beliefs shape the worldviews of different cultures and our collective lives?
  • What is the role of competing afterlife beliefs in religion, science, politics, and war?
Ogilvie will explore how gaining a better understanding of the soul and beliefs regarding its final destination, will lead to a better understanding of religion, faith and human nature. So come and join us as we all embark on our own "soul searching" journey.
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Daniel Ogilvie, Ph.D. is a professor of Psychology at Rutgers University. He received BA and Ph.D. degrees at Harvard and also taught there before moving to Rutgers. Known primarily for his contributions to the field of personality psychology, Ogilvie recently turned his attention to understanding the human propensity to believe we have souls that survive the death of our bodies. This interest took shape after the publication of Fantasies of Flight in 2004, a book that features the value of intensive studies of individual lives. In 2009, he launched his “Soul Searching Project” (now called The Center for Research in Soul Beliefs) and his work in this area formed the foundation of a popular course at Rutgers that deals with the causes and consequences of soul beliefs. He presented some of his ideas about the durability of early-formed afterlife beliefs and related worldviews at TED2013 in a session devoted to the topic of ‘Who Are We?’

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