Our Socrates Cafe question was “Does the Earth a have a soul?” This was voted upon as a reasonable question because it had a lot of inherent fuzzy assumptions that could probably be defined and some reasonable discussion would ensue. We had at it for well over an hour, and we all had a good time.
In some sense the Earth does care, because it does respond in a consistent way to our behavior, but this is simply physical reality responding to us, and there is no discernible intentionality preceding the Earth’s actions. All of its actions would be responsive to inputs from some other source that had no intentionality unless there was some level of living mind making a nonreactive action. An atheist scientist would say that if there isn’t a testable repeatable experiment that comes up with results that are consistent, at least on a statistical level, then there should be no actions based on the belief.
One person was arguing that there was a human soul that existed independently from the body, and that it survived death of the body. That opinion was listened to, but several others spoke of reasons why they couldn’t accept that belief, because the proofs offered were too random and weird.
The question was asked, “What would be acceptable proofs that the Earth had a soul?” One asserted that when he felt defeated by his worldly woes, the Earth itself gave him hope in the face of his hopelessness, and that was proof enough for him.
If we don’t have souls would we recognize soul if the Earth possessed it, and if we did have souls would that help us recognize it in other humans, in animals, or in the Earth? Perhaps the Earth has no soul, but it brings us into life, and in that sense it has a soul.
Or, is soul a construction of language, and without language we would have no conception of a spirit that is independent of our present moment of perception? In that sense our dogs would have no souls even though they have personal behavior that can clearly display a loving being and a concern for their friends.
Is there an inner essence to humans beyond the physical workings within our skins?
It seems easier to state big ideas as questions rather than observations.