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Health Sciences

Understanding the Mind and Breaking the Stigma of Mental Illness

When: June 10, 2021, 9:00 am - Thursday

Where: Ezell 234

Session 3

Session Abstract

What is the nature of the mind? How do people of faith examine and understand the mind and brain? How can people of faith help de-stigmatize mental illness and promote healing? These are some of the questions at the heart of this session.


Paper Abstracts

Michael Egnor, Stony Brook University, “What can neuroscience help us understand about the soul?”

Contemporary neuroscience is generally interpreted in materialistic terms, but a careful look at the science and logical assumptions underlying it strongly suggests the existence of an immaterial soul. The research of leading neuroscientists Wilder Penfield, Benjamin Libet, Roger Sperry, Adrian Owen, and others affirms that the mind is immaterial in the intellect and will, metaphysically simple, and free rather than deterministic. Moreover, Thomistic dualism provides the best structure for understanding the mind. Recognizing the reality of the soul is essential if we are to live with dignity and joy, and fulfill our responsibilities to each other and God.


Robert F. Shedinger, Luther College, “Broken Brain or Fractured Soul? The Medicalization of Mental Illness and the Rise of Mental Health Stigma”

Over the last forty years, the American Psychiatric Association has reframed the experience of emotional suffering as a medical disorder with a primarily biological cause. This reframing was expected to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, but unexpectedly, the opposite has occurred. Self-stigma, in particular, has increased as sufferers develop a self-image as individuals with biologically defective brains consigned to a lifetime of struggle and psychiatric treatment. It may be time, then, to reconsider the materialist view of mind at the foundation of this reframing in service to a broader, life-promoting, understanding of the experience of mental and emotional disturbance.


Joseph E. Deweese, Lipscomb University, Convener

  • Michael Egnor, Stony Brook University, “What Can Neuroscience Help us Understand about the Soul?”
  • Robert F. Shedinger, Luther College, “Broken Brain or Fractured Soul? The Medicalization of Mental Illness and the Rise of Mental Health Stigma”
  • Lindsey N. Miller, Lipscomb University, Respondent
  • Hunter Stanfield, Lipscomb University, Respondent

Join us in 2024!

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James Cone with conferee at the CSC in 2017

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Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson delivering the CSC plenary address

3 / 5

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), delivering the CSC plenary address.

4 / 5

US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivering the CSC plenary address

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David Brooks engaging conferees during breakfast at the CSC

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