What is memory? What happens to our memories when we die? Is memory merely stored in our brain?

Question:
Dear Sir, what about human memory?  Scientists tells us our memory is stored in Brain. Word of God tells us it is the soul that has memory. Lamentations 3:20. what about our memory when we die? our memories stored in our brains will be transported into disembodied souls at the time of our Death? what about our forgetfulness in our daily lives? Hope you will help me.
Answer:
I am so sorry to take so long to answer your question.  This is a very interesting question with profound implications both for our understanding of what a human being is and for theology.   You are asking one of the most profound questions that can be asked.  What is a person?   Is a person simply chemicals and electrical signals?  Or, on the other hand, is a person something else which occupies a body.  The first view is known as monism.  The second is known as dualism.  This idea was made famous by Rene Descartes.  Most philosophers (including Christian philosophers) no longer take a strictly dualist point of view any more.  However, Christian and many other philosophers take a mixed view.  They see that mind and body cannot be completely separated–that there is a physical reality which corresponds with a non-physical rational soul.
You should be aware that, although a large percentage of scientists are not strict monists/scientific materialists, the scientists who work in the area of neuroscience are almost without exception philosophical monists.   This is due to a process of self-selection.  Those who believe that a person has a body, rather than being a body are not welcomed into this club.  Nearly all working neruoscientists ASSUME that all mental processes are mere movements of chemicals and electical signals.  Memory, by definition (not by experiment) is known to be a purely physical process.  Their goal is, not to discover whether this is true, but to examine how it happens.  Such presuppositional bias has a profound influence on what they claim to discover.
The question of memory–its meaning and mechanism is a good case in point.  What is a memory?  Is it simply latent chemical signals or mere neuron connections?  Does this even make sense?  Where are the uncounted quintillions of memories stored?
Let me say that I believe I HAVE a body.  I am not a mere collection of chemicals.  Neuroscientist who rule this out without even considering the possibility are not fair arbiters or investigaters of the nature of mind.  I will have to say that I cannot give scientific proof that a person is not just chemicals.  However, I believe that we cannot explain what a person is–with free will, consciousness, creativity, memories with so much detail that it is beyond belief that they are mere physically stored neural connections and so forth.  Love is not just chemicals moving around.  God is love.  Truth is a real thing, not just an epiphenomenon based on physical things.  Justice is not just a meaningless word.  We have a soul.
Those who assume there is no life after death will not be helpful for you to know what happens to our memories after we die.   I will have to admit I cannot give you a hard answer to this.  Besides, I believe that our memories do work through our physical brains.  My understanding is that our brain is a well-designed God-experiencing machine.  I cannot prove this.  I will admit that I cannot give a scientific definition of soul and cannot explain exactly how a disembodied soul has memories.  However, given the reality that people are not just chemicals and given what I believe is true because of the inspired Word of God, I believe is soul, spirit, live, truth, justice, and memory separate from mere chemicals stored in a human brain.
What about forgetfulness?   I have already said that mind and memory do work through a physical brain.  While I am not a monist, I am also not a strict dualist.   If we have brain injuries or if we are tired, our conscious mind is affected by this.  I believe that even if we cannot access many memories, the memories are nevertheless still there.  Where, you might ask is the “there” where these memories are stored?  I do not know.  I am afraid that some things will have to remain as mysteries for now.
I hope this can get you started.
John Oakes

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