Science of ‘soul’ could reduce our ills

There are two important areas of science that I think apply directly to a thorough understanding of human nature?neuroscience and evolution.

As the human species grows in its understanding of both of these, I believe we?ll find ways to combat a number of the societal ills with which we are currently beset. Not necessarily all, just some.

Not long ago I finished reading an excellent book by science writer Carl Zimmer, called ?The Soul Made Flesh.? Zimmer writes about the history of the study of the brain and mind and he covers a fair amount of English history that is intertwined with that medical history.

It really made me wonder how far along science?and particularly medicine?would be if it hadn?t been hindered by the fear of being persecuted for saying something heretical.

Some of Thomas Hobbes? ideas?his materialistic view of the body and mind, in particular?might have been more widely-accepted sooner. Now, they are commonplace in science, but for a long time, they were heretical and dangerous to those who professed them.

As we learn more about the workings of the brain, it?s building an interesting picture of what it means to be human. The suggestion that our brains are biological machines, and that what we call a soul or a mind is simply the function of the brain?just as pumping blood is the function of the heart or filtering toxins the function of the liver?is not something that many people feel comfortable accepting.

Instead of fearing what we learn about ourselves though, we should welcome it because it may just give us the ability to correct problems we simply don?t know how to fix yet.

One possibility is that someday we may be able to fix the broken machines we call psycho?paths before they actually harm anyone.

I detest the government handout system FDR helped create, but the one point on which I would have to agree with him is that ?The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.? When we let fear?or other emotions, for that matter?rule us, instead of reason, we inevitably create problems for ourselves, as one look around the world should tell us right away.

That?s not to say we should try to eliminate emotions altogether. They appear to have evolved in our ancestors as a useful mechanism for interacting with one another and for escaping predators.

The field known as evolutionary development is growing quickly as the genomes of an increasing number of creatures are sequenced.

Scientists now know how to compare DNA between species and also compare genes. An article I read online recently discussed how some of the genes that are master genes to make hearts in various creatures closely resemble a gene that creates part of the throat in a nematode worm.

Scientists have also compared the DNA for part of a mammalian nerve cell to DNA found in much more primitive ocean creatures and found striking similarities that indicate a reltionship.

As genetic evidence? unavailable in Darwin?s time? grows with each passing year, I wonder how much longer people will continue to reject the conclusion to which it leads.

Understanding more about how things in nature are put together takes us a long way toward understanding why they are put together, if ?why? is even a valid question.

I think part of the problem people have with evolution is that they desperately want the universe to have a goal, to be headed somewhere. I think that?s also the source of religious end-times prophesies. The desire for purpose causes them to believe that evolution has to have a purpose.

The problem with that premise is that there?s no evidence that it?s anything but a blind natural process of life responding and adapting to its environment.

I find all the meaning I need for my life in the fact that I am lucky enough to be alive, mostly healthy, and in all the other things for which I have to be thankful. I will save my thoughts on the subject of thankfulness when Thanksgiving time rolls around.

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