It might just be because of the time I have spent at Fuller Seminary or maybe it’s the work that I have done with Templeton funded projects but, it seems to me, that the intersection of neuroscience and theology is a very rapidly growing field. Given neuroscience is not an easily accessible field, good introductions to the topic are welcome by anyone interested in the brain for theology’s sake. That is what I was expecting to get when I received Mark Cosgrove’s book, The Brain, the Mind, and the Person Within: The Enduring Mystery of the Soul. Now, I’m not going to lie, the subtitle is a bit deceptive. One wouldn’t be faulted for thinking this was going to be a book introducing neuroscience/psychology while making a particular argument about the mind-body problem. That is not what this book does, at all. At the end of the day its hard to tell where Cosgrove lands on the issue of the soul. While he certainly affirms there is a part of us that cannot be reduced to our material parts, this doesn’t say much – especially if you are aware of the numerous positions regarding the existence of the soul.
If, like me, you can get past the assumption that this book was going to say something about the soul, you will find an interesting and informative introduction to a number of topics related to the brain and personhood. For example, there are chapters on free will, cognitive science of religion, personhood, transhumanism, the hard problem of consciousness, etc. These chapters are full of fascinating case studies. Some of the more fascinating ones include a retelling of Patient HM’s story, brain scans of Buddhists while meditating, the Libet experiment. Each chapter also highlights one contemporary or historical figure that speaks into the topic of each chapter. For example, the chapter on free will introduces readers to John Polkinghorne and the chapter on CSR introduces Augustine.
Overall, this book provides a helpful overview of issues that psychologist and neuroscientists are working on these days. If you are looking for an introduction to these topics that is not too technical then this might be a good place to start. However, if you are looking for a more philosophical/theological introduction to theology and neuroscience I suggest that you look elsewhere.
Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.