Reading The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan reinforced in my mind the power of scientific thinking. Moreover, the need to remain open to all possibilities but not to blindly assume that something we don't understand is the result of a mysterious, incomprehensible force. History has proved our greatest thinkers wrong time and time again as our technology and knowledge unwrapped more of Nature.
I've always been a scientist by that definition, basing my opinions on the evidence available but never ruling anything out; I don't believe in ghosts but I can still get freaked out if the conditions are right. However, I've always remained bemused by the principle of the 'soul.' To me, this was a large chunk of evidence that there was perhaps a meaning or a spiritual element which could not be defined by a series of equations.
But then, today, walking up the stairs of the metro I had an epihany. I was thinking about fate, and whether our futures are predestined. Is there some one person out there? To me, the answer is no. Then I was thinking about what it feels like to be in love and realised all may not be as it seems. Love is the strongest motivator for humans, we got to incredible lengths in its name. But what is it?
So I started to think; the parent-offspring relationship is probably the strongest bond around and it is repeated throughout nature. We are not unique in the feeling of love. So what does it do? It makes us protect the people around us that we care for, most importantly it allows us to willingly sacrifice ourselves for our children. Does this not seem like evolution at work? To me it follows that whilst we were still in the trees, the most successful groups would have been those that were best at protecting their young - thus, the stronger the bond, the more likely to survive, until after countless generations love is born.
But then, if love is just a result of evolution, what actually is it when we feel it? Well, from a physical point of view it's just going to be a cocktail of chemicals produced by our brain to bypass other functions such as reason and survival. This is backed up by the fact that the feeling can be reproduced through various mind-altering substances, both natural and man-made, even towards total strangers!
However, love is only one of the many facets our soul has, what of all the other emotions: comapssion, guilt, remorse, sympathy, selflessness? It stands to reason that if love evolved, so would all the others, and it makes sense. As we lived in caves the most successful groups will have been those that got on well together. Those that functioned as a group, as a community. And the emotions described above are necessary for that. Necessary to overcome the survival instinct.
So there you have it, we're being tricked by our brains. This is of course a very dry and scientific appraisal of things, but it makes sense to me. This does not mean that I don't believe in love - I think being in love is the most amazing experience in the world. To me, this negates the argument of our bodies being a sort of vehicle for our soul which is everlasting.
In 60 seconds on a Tuesday morning, whilst going to work, I nailed shut the door to the belief in the soul being evidence of God. That said, there's always a crowbar lying next to it just in case it needs to be reopened.
To be continued...
I've just realised I haven't addressed the issue of love in relationships and choice of partners etc. I need to think about it first. Stay tuned!