Sunday, 23 November 2014

Do dogs have souls? (Part twenty-four)

Interesting article today about how dogs brains are hard wired to respond to humans. The evidence is based around stuff like neuroimaging and the way the  caudate nucleus lights up when they see, or more importantly smell, humans.There's nothing like a few scientific terms to baffle and impress, of course, more convincing to me was that dogs apparently are the only species to seek out eye contact. So your dog sees you as its family and it really does care...awww...but then didn't we know that anyway?

NB: I do keep planning to blog on something with more gravitas than how lovely dogs are or what I've done over half term but am just really busy still and spent a weekend recently wiped out with nasty winter vomiting bug. Just be glad I didn't blog that one.


  1. Do dogs have souls? Presumes the existence of a ‘soul’. The notion of a spiritual part of ourselves that survives death and which contains our essential ‘selves’ is what I find contentious. In my most recent entry on my blog I mention the work I am doing at present with someone who has had a brain injury. What is curious about brain injuries is that they can result in a marked change of character and personality. Sadly many marriages don’t survive when one partner has a brain injury. Sometimes the person can make a full physical recovery, but their personality is changed. Even whiplash injuries can result in personality changes; the head is jolted forwards and backwards in a whiplash incident, and sometimes the frontal lobes of the brain receive tiny injuries because of the bony projections on the inside of the skull. This minor and slight ‘bruising’ to the brain can result in major personality changes – often emphasising selfish behaviour and diminishing or removing the ability to empathise with others.

    Even the most pious individual, after suffering a relatively small injury to the frontal lobe of the brain, can become the reverse. There are other somatic insults and injuries that can, similarly, result in personal changes. My father opted for an orchiectomy (cutting his knackers off) twelve years ago as part of his cancer treatment. It isn’t a treatment for prostate cancer often used nowadays – oncologists tend to opt for hormonal treatment to counteract the testosterone that fuels prostate cancer (all men, if they live long enough, will have some degree of prostate cancer!). I mentioned my father’s orchiectomy to one of the oncologists I worked with who specialised in prostate cancer. He noted that an orchiectomy was a bit of an archaic treatment today; but then added ‘Is your father a nicer person now?’. And I replied in the affirmative. My rather is a much nicer person – though I will concede, he is certainly not my father.

    It is the very fact that so much of our character and mood is dictated by the physiological structure of the brain – change that and you can change an individual’s character – and chemicals in our body, that rather lessens my belief in the soul.

    Dogs have characters and their characters can be altered in the same way, so we can conclude (tongue firmly in cheek) that if there is such a thing as a ‘soul’ then a dog has one...

  2. Well, these dog post are rather tongue in cheek, so I suppose that a tongue in cheek conclusion is appropriate:) I once read an interview with a Christian brain surgeon where he averred something along the lines that the soul, if it has a location, is found in the brain. Really we are our brains.I think it may even be true that negative events, such as abuse in life, can alter brain chemistry and thus affect our "personality" and possibly our behaviour in later life. However, if the brain is damaged or altered, is the "self" that is then lost still lost to God (presuming one believes in a God.) Or does everyone have an "ideal" soul, the "self" that they would be if they were wholly themselves without accidental damages or negative chemical changes that life experiences bring about ( a kind of Platonic ideal self?) Does God see that abstract and "best-sort-of-self -possible" (soul) rather than, or alongside, the one we experience through the medium of human life? After all, given a presumption of the divine, he or she has a knowledge of all possibilities.However, I'm going to have to decline to comment on whether the best sort of self men can achieve comes with or without the influence of their testicles...:)