Today I revisited Killing the Buddha and saw that "The Struggle for the (Possible) Soul of David Eagleman," by Robert Jensen, was featured. Interesting article. It starts off:
There’s a struggle inside the brain of David Eagleman for the soul of David Eagleman.
That is, there might be such a struggle if Eagleman’s brain believed that Eagleman had a soul, which he is not sure about. In fact, Eagleman’s brain is not completely sure that there is an Eagleman-beyond-Eagleman’s-brain at all—with or without a soul, whatever that term might mean.
Welcome to the world of “possibilian” neuroscientist-writer David Eagleman, to life in the space between what-is and what-if, between the facts we think we know and the fictions that illuminate what we don’t know.
Eagleman-the-scientist would love to rev up his high-tech neuroimaging machines to answer the enduring questions about the brain and the mind, the body and the soul. But Eagleman-the-writer knows that those machines aren’t going to answer those questions.
Eagleman rejects not only conventional religion but also the labels of agnostic and atheist. In their place, he has coined the term possibilian: a word to describe those who “celebrate the vastness of our ignorance, are unwilling to commit to any particular made-up story, and take pleasure in entertaining multiple hypotheses.”
Nice term, possibilian. Count me in.
This doesn't mean embracing via blind faith any sort of wacky religious, mystical, spiritual, New Age, or other sort of notion that we come across. Rather...
Though Eagleman’s scientific and literary lives seem radically different on the surface, they are part of the same creative endeavor: to deepen our understanding of a complex world we can never fully grasp. Since scientists mostly talk about what they know, Eagleman’s emphasis on our ignorance may seem out of character.
Eagleman offers an analogy: The work of science is like building a pier out into the ocean. We excitedly add on to the pier little by little, but then we look around and say, “Wait a minute, I’m at the end of the pier, but there’s a lot more out there.” The ocean of what we don’t know always dwarfs what we do know, he says. “During our lifetimes, we will get further on that pier. We’ll understand more at the end of our lives than we do now, but it ain’t going to cover the ocean.”
...Eagleman makes clear that he is a possibilian, not a mysterian (one who believes that there are things humans can’t understand, problems we can’t solve). Eagleman acknowledges that in his lifetime we won’t come up with the theories to explain everything and that some of science’s stories may turn out to be wrong, but they usually are better than any alternative stories.