The existence of a soul from a logical and scientific perspective
The soul is something simple – it is what makes a person themself. Their emotions, consciousness, memories, reasoning skills, and more that encompass a person's mental abilities. However, it is a widespread religious belief that a soul is more, that it doesn't just live in your mind and carries on after death and is immortal. Some go further, believing in reincarnation and that a single soul can live a thousand lives. There is nothing inherently wrong with believing in a soul and doing so can provide great psychological value to many people. However, deep belief does open some individuals up to manipulation, particularly from those who would claim abilities to communicate with the souls of the dead.
Modern understanding of science and the universe we live in does not support the existence of souls after death. Nothing can exist in our universe without matter and energy. While it's fun to imagine that your soul floats off and continues to exist in our world, that is not how the universe works. So, for a soul to exist outside the body, at least a part of our physical body must transform into a gaseous state to leave our bodies and continue to exist. Even if that were possible, it raises several other logical inconsistencies that cannot be explained and have never been supported.
It can be fun to talk about the soul, and one very interesting analysis of split-brain personality suggests that everyone has two souls – one for each side of the brain. Scientists studied the effects on people's brains when their left half no longer communicated with the right. In situations where one side needed to provide information it didn't have, that side would simply fabricate some answer (CGP Grey, 2016). Not only did they argue this represents two souls, but it also inherently argues that the souls live directly in the brain rather than somewhere else in the body. But is this evidence of two souls working together or just an attempt to make people think about something? Logically, it makes more sense that a single soul is just using a broken piece of equipment. One half of the brain is receiving important information, but when the person wants to utilize that information in another way, it's not reaching the other half to do so and it makes something up. That process isn't all that different from computer algorithms that attempt to generate random text or suggest the next video to watch.
However, it brings up the point that if a soul were to be located anywhere in our bodies, why wouldn't it be in our brains? Souls make up who we are, which would namely consist of memories and the ability to continue interacting with the world, which is all stored in or spearheaded from different parts of the brain. It doesn't make a lot of sense for the brain to send information down to, say, our stomach so that the soul can decide what it wants to do and then send those signals back up to the brain for final processing, and we can scientifically prove that doesn't happen either.
We can measure this because our brains operate using electrical impulses from the billions of neurons that exist in them (Freudenrich, 2001). These electrical impulses are necessary for a lot of bodily functions but are also necessary for storing and accessing memory in the future. It's arguable that without these memories, we don't have a soul. If you've never experienced anything in life, then there isn't anything that makes you a person other than a physical body of flesh.
In that regard, a soul really cannot exist without your memories. So, for your soul to continue existing after your death, those memories would need to be taken too, which means your existence after death would need some form of energy to continue accessing those memories. Without that energy, even if you had the memories somehow, they'd just be stored on some odd matter in the same way that information is stored on a hard drive. Not being able to ever access the information makes it useless to have the information, as does existing become pointless if you cannot experience the world or remember your life.
As our understanding of the universe has expanded, we've learned that nothing can exist without matter – not even energy. Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, and energy can only be attached or converted in connection to matter (Bagley, 2016). The idea that we could exist outside our physical forms as pure energy is just that, an idea. It's not something that could happen because all energy needs to remain connected to matter, usually as either potential or kinetic energy. That means for all of this existing after death to be possible, our bodies at the time of death would need to be able to trigger some sort of conversion of existing matter into a gaseous state that could move around freely in the air, which consists of some sort of minimalist brain structure that can access the memories we take with us, with a consistent amount of energy attached to that matter. But all of that would be measurable – we'd be able to detect these amounts of matter and energy rising from a dead body, or simply continuing to exist around us.
A common claim is that the souls of the dead are still here with us, living all around us, and watching over us. Psychics and other spiritualists constantly use this as a reason that they can communicate with the dead, see those souls, and relay their thoughts and wishes to those who desire them. Sometimes they appear to come up with some pretty incredible information that they couldn't possibly have known, and it seems like there's no other explanation than they did talk to the dead. But we must consider the logical evidence for those claims, which cannot possibly be true in a materialistic universe. But for the souls of every person who has ever died in our past to still be living here among us, there would be great amounts of matter and energy floating all around us at all times. When you consider that good estimates put the number of people ever born over the 100 billion mark (Kaneda & Haub, 2018), that's an excessively high number of dead souls, and the matter that makes them, taking up space on our planet. Even if only a fraction of those souls existed, it would still be measurable by scientific instruments – we'd be able to tell the souls were there very easily – and yet, no evidence has ever turned up despite countless efforts to do so.
What makes all this interesting is that the idea of the soul was not even a universal idea that existed from the beginning of religion. Even during the 17th century in England, the Church was split into two camps of mortalists and immortalists who believed different things about the soul. Mortalists believed that the soul was a part of the mortal being and not separate or immaterial, whereas immortalists believed the soul was spiritual and immortal and would continue to exist after death (Thomson, 2008). Even from a non-scientific standpoint, there were plenty of people who simply did not believe in an immortal soul – that was just the one that won out and was frequently taught as part of religion. But even the pinnacle of religion can have its flaws and be interpreted in different ways. We act like the soul has been a part of religion since its inception when the interpretations we follow today are not necessarily based on anything other than a disagreement held only a few hundred years ago.
The science against the existence of a soul after death is sound – there's just no possible way it could exist in a materialistic universe. For there to be a point in existence after death, a soul would need enough matter and energy to continue having some sort of brain function and not just be innate matter floating around. That would be measurable, and we'd be seeing a lot of it at this point as the amount continues to increase exponentially.
Why people believe in a soul can vary from person to person. But even without the verifiable presence of a soul that can exist after death, it still holds its value. The soul is a powerful idea. Believing that there is something else after this life encourages people to continue this existence and see that there is a purpose to live. The possibility that life is meaningless, and you go through all of this for no real gain in the end, is scary and depressing for a lot of people. If a belief will make people happy and causes no real harm to others, why not continue believing it?
Those beliefs can help comfort a great many people. People who act as psychic mediums between the dead and the living provide a lot of value to those who are incapable of handling loss in any other way. Being able to hear that your loved ones have made it safely across the threshold, even if you know it's not real, is a very comforting feeling. Some psychics who are good at what they do can even provide guidance and advice that a grieving person can utilize in their life to improve themselves. Everyone just needs to be careful about the practice and utilize psychics only for comfort and not for practical applications such as determining whether a person is dead or alive or tracking a missing child.
Bagley, M. (2016, April 11). Matter: Definition & the Five States of Matter. Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/46506-states-of-matter.html. CGP Grey. (2016, May 31). You Are Two [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wfYbgdo8e-8. Freudenrich, C., & Boyd, R. (2001, June 6). How Your Brain Works. Retrieved from https://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/brain.htm. Kaneda, T., & Haub, C. (2018, March 9). How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth? Population Reference Bureau. Retrieved from https://www.prb.org/howmanypeoplehaveeverlivedonearth/. Thomson, A. (2008). Bodies of Thought: Science, Religion, and the Soul in the Early Enlightenment. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199236190.001.0001