Seventeen Dollars Worth of Chemicals

Thu Oct 31 2002 09:50PM -0600

My high school biology teacher used to say something like this all the time, that if you broke down the human body into its component elements, you'd have seventeen dollars worth of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and some trace minerals.

And biology in general seems to always insinuate that we are nothing but the sum of a vast complexity of biochemistry, a coincidental conspiracy between probability and entropy.

And yet.

My question isn't so much, "Is there such a thing as a soul?" because, at this point, as far as I'm concerned, something is real if more than one person believes in it, and because the idea isn't necessarily incompatible with Scienceℤ. I don't even really care to ask "What is a soul?" because that is beside the point. What I want to know is this: "Why do human beings crave the existence of a soul?"

There is obviously the immortality angle to it, the reason why constructs such as the afterlife, resurrection, and reincarnation have proliferated. But at this hour, I feel like there is more to it. There is something important in believing in a single coherent, motivating, animating force. I would even say that there is something biologically adaptive in believing in such an idea. It is, to borrow more terminology, an empowering meme, one that grants a selective advantage.

But that's all I'll write for now. I'm telling you, my soul is stirring restlessly.

ADDENDUM: What in hell?! A site that specializes in the buying, selling, and trading of souls.

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