People much smarter than I, and certainly smarter than JP, including the great philosophers, have long debated the mind/body problem. It is difficult for us to fathom that we are essentially just bags of organic material. The mind/body issue is parallel to the question of whether life itself is just a collection of chemical reactions, or is there some other non-physical essence that adds another layer to our existance.
JP claims that the soul exists based on 2 observations. First, our self-awareness. We feel ourselves to exist, as something inside us but separate from our bodies. This is a very compelling argument. Rene Descarte eloquently argued for dualism, that the mind and the brain were essentially separate entities. Most modern philosophers acknowledge that the mind is comprised only of the material physical brain. This self-awareness, although a non-physical concept, is simply a function of the brain.
JP's second claim is that our sense of "free will" proves the existence of a soul.
I think much depends on how one defines a soul, and herein lies the problem. If one asserts the existence of a soul, then he is required to define and describe what he is talking about. JP likens the soul to a radio transmitter, with the brain as a receiver. This is certainly an interesting analogy, but it is nonetheless a silly assertion for which there is no evidence. It is sort of what people who claim to have clairvoyance claim. In fact, the evidence would mitigate against such a "transmitter". Besides the obvious distinction from radio waves, which can be measured and observed indirectly, consider the following problems and contradictions inherent in this argument:
1. Where was the soul before the person was born? Did it always exist? Was it born when the person was born? If so, why doesn't it die when the person dies?
2. When a person is mentally ill, or incapacitated, is the soul similarly mentally ill? Since JP asserts that a person's free will and self-awareness are part of the soul, when a person doesn't have these things, does the soul continue to exist and have free will?
3. What about non-humans? Do they have souls, too? Although they don't have the same level of thought and self-awareness as we do, they certainly have feelings, desires, and fears.
Basically, the argument for a soul is like Bertrand Russell's celestial teapot. Its an authority-based assertion without evidence, that cannot be tested and is not falsifiable, and therefore the burden of proof is on he who claims the existence of a soul, not one who denies it. Before the advent of modern cell biology and biochemistry, man could not fathom many physiologic processes in animals. They seemed like magic. Now we understand them, and they can be readily explained on the basis of known physical laws. Morever, these explanations are specific and readily testable, and can be used to make predictions. We can posit a chemical explanation for a certain disease, then test the effect of a drug that we know affects this process and observe its effect on the disease. Similarly, neurobiology is steadily unlocking the biological and electrochemical basis of many cognitive functions, such as mental illness, memory, sensation, and emotions.
Interestingly, the biblical and rabbinic ancients, who claimed to be connected to the spiritual world and thus in possession of the knowledge that a "soul" exists, don't answer these questions. Why? For the very simple reason that they were ignorant. They simply didn't know. They were guessing, because they understood so little about the physical world around them.
If I can explain these phenomena on the basis of physical principles, what good does it do to add an additional "layer" to the explanation by adding a "soul"? This is Occam's Razor. A soul is simply unnecessary in order to explain things. JP will answer of course, that the Torah and rabbis tell us that there is a soul, an afterlife, and hell, because he has to. For without an afterlife, it is obvious that there is no justice on this earth, so justice must be served in the afterlife. It is also a good scare tactic which was used by the rabbis against ignorant ancient people, to coerce them into compliance. JP also likes to use it as a threat against us skeptics, who are condemned to burn in hell forever. Perhaps it helps as a consolation to him, thinking that there will be a heavenly reward for all of the sacrifices he has made in his own personal life on behalf of an imagined god.
Another claim that comes up repeatedly in JP's post is that without God or Torah, there is no morality, no conscience, leaving us to be just a brutal and viscious people. This assertion is blatantly wrong and ignores everything that we have learned in the past 100 years about psychology and sociology. Man has a conscience, and it has nothing to do with religion. I do not deny that people can have violent impulses, or that they do bad things. But as a social animal, he has evolved modes of thinking and behaviors that help the species survive as a group and perpetuate their genes. These traits include empathy and self-sacrifice for loved ones and close friends. Morality extends this natural empathy, by social agreement, to larger groups-- community, co-religionists, or a nation. The traits of conscience and morality give survival advantage and in fact support the theory or natural selection.
JP's claims about having no guilt or conscience without god, would suggest that he is a psychopath. Pyschopaths have a personality disorder, in which they have no natural empathy towards other people, and thus no conscience or guilt in regards to causing other people to suffer. Research has shown that these people suffer from defects in a specific parts of their brains. So I challenge JP to deny being a psychopath, by acknowledging that he, along with other normal people, have natural feelings of empathy, guilt and conscience, having nothing to do with God. For if Jacob Stein denies this, he is in fact a psychopath (as well as being woefully ignorant about psychology and many other things).