Thursday, February 09, 2006

The tickle in the ears

There is no irreducible secret of life. Our bodies are a mess of chemicals. Our minds are electro-chemical circuits firing like the chips of computers. Scientists have plumbed the human soul and found no ghost, no thing that lingers when the body's substance turns to dust.

Our genetic self is determined by a chemical code that can be read and amended. Consciousness can be turned on, turned off, altered chemically. Memories can be jogged electrically, deleted surgically.

Anyone who still thinks the soul can float free of the flesh hasn't been paying attention.

I look at the trillions of interacting cells that are my body, the webs of flickering neurons that are my consciousness, and I see a self vastly more majestic than the paltry soul illustrated in my grade-school catechism as a white circle besmirched with sin. The more I learn about the biochemistry of life and consciousness, the more I stand in awe of self.

The Judeo-Christian Scriptures tell us that God created the first man and woman out of the slime of the earth, breathed life into those creatures, and pronounced his creation good. The myth is consistent with our current understanding of the nature of life. We are literally animated slime. Now we must re-learn to think ourselves "good."