Body: Spirit or Machine?

Body: Spirit or Machine?

Govinda stated: “However what you name factor, is it one thing actual, one thing intrinsic? Is it not solely the phantasm of Maya, solely picture and look? Your stone, your tree, are they actual?”
“This doesn’t bother me a lot,” stated Siddhartha. “If they’re phantasm, then I additionally am phantasm and so they’re at all times of the identical nature as myself.”

Herman Hesse, Siddhartha

The physique is a machine, proper? Richard Dawkins tells us we’re nothing however survival machines, robotic automobiles blindly programmed to breed our genes. He have to be proper.

Fashionable science says the bodily world can finally be lowered to tiny particles, which should imply our our bodies as properly. Who’re we to query science?

Fashionable medication is predicated upon the notion that sick inner emotions consequence from some disarrangement or damage to bodily components, whether or not limbs, bones, organs, cells, or genes. The one solution to remedy illness is to deal with the body wave weave. Who argues with a health care provider?

Within the human genome mission, biologists have uncovered the human genetic map, the components diagram for this grand machine we name the physique. Why spend all that point on this $three billion science mission whether it is based mostly upon the flawed principle? Proper?

However there are issues with this body-as-machine mannequin that should be examined. To start with, many people could not consider we’re “nothing however a machine,” or “robotic automobiles.” We have now seen machines and robots; they give the impression of being totally different than we do. Is not there one thing about feelings − reminiscent of love, inspiration, hope, and worry − that can not be lowered to molecules? So, as occupiers of those our bodies, many people could dispute the notion that we’re nothing however “survival machines.”

Then we flip to the issue with reductionism, the thought that the pure world and our our bodies may be lowered to a fancy interaction of fabric particles. Curiously, opposite to this conclusion, trendy science has recognized for nearly a century now that on the root of what we name matter should not particles, however slightly quantum waves, vitality packets, chance equations; in brief, one thing that isn’t truly a “factor.” As Werner Heisenberg, one of many founders of quantum principle, stated, “atoms are issues.” Famous astrophysicist, Sir James Denims, famously noticed within the early 20th century that, in mild of the findings of physics, the universe was starting to look “extra like a terrific thought than a terrific machine.” Because the DNA molecules that make up genes are essentially composed of “quantum waves,” the reality of the matter is that reductionism at greatest can cut back the human physique all the way down to quantum waves, not issues. Moreover, many scientists decoding the theoretical implications of quantum principle have concluded quantum world, which implies our world manufactured from quantum waves, can not exist and not using a consciousness to “collapse the wave perform.” (See Bernard Haisch’s ebook, The Objective-Guided Universe, and references therein.) So if the DNA molecule is finally composed of quantum waves (which can’t be disputed) and human consciousness is important for the quantum world to exist, then consciousness should essentially have some function to play with the physique. Unusual? Presumably, however that is the place scientific principle is heading.

Transferring to trendy medication we discover one other significant issue with the body-as-machine mannequin. When trendy medication seeks to remedy a bodily ailment, reminiscent of a pores and skin rash, it instantly appears to deal with the ailment from the exterior physique inward to the sensation of discomfort. It believes the supply of the ailment outcomes from some damage to bodily components, very similar to the lack of braking energy in a automotive outcomes from worn brake pads

Fashionable medication thus try to change or restore a deficiency or imbalance of bodily features by way of the ingestion of a chemical tablet. If, certainly, the physique have been nothing however a machine, then certainly this mechanical methodology of constructing repairs can be the remedy of selection. We restore machines by discovering the damaged half and fixing it.

Now the issue right here is that although trendy medication states wholesome thoughts can not heal the physique, its personal medical findings reveal the alternative: the thoughts performs a big function in how properly a therapeutic methodology works. Maybe one of the best instance is the “highly effective placebo.”(H.Ok. Beecher, “The Highly effective Placebo,” Journal of the American Medical Affiliation, 1602 (1955))

Placebos, in distinction to medication of contemporary medication, are “make-believe” or sham medical remedies with no scientific foundation. In tablet kind, they don’t have any energetic ingredient; though they could have the looks of a prescription drug, they’re normally nothing greater than milk sugar. (See Adolf Grunbaum, “Explication and Implications of the Placebo Idea,” in Placebo: Idea, Analysis, and Mechanisms ed. Leonard White, Bernard Tursky, and Gary Schwartz at 9 (Guilford Press 1985)).

This faux medication, nevertheless, has been discovered not solely to heal the physique, however to work at occasions almost as successfully as scientific remedies. One sequence of research overlaying over 1000 sufferers confirmed 35% reported important reduction from a wide range of illnesses after remedy with a placebo. (H. Beecher, “Surgical procedure as Placebo.”) In one other research of over 14,000 sufferers with sicknesses from complications to a number of sclerosis, 40% reported reduction from placebo remedy. And there are all kinds of different research reaching the identical conclusions.

For the placebo impact to work the affected person should consider it’s going to work. And, the optimistic results of placebos are heightened the place the “beliefs and expectations of each medical doctors and sufferers [are] maximized.” (F. Evans, “Expectancy, Therapeutic Directions and the Placebo Response” in Placebo: Idea, Analysis & Mechanism).

So the placebo impact exhibits that robust perception itself can have a helpful impact on the bodily physique. This, in fact, isn’t a characteristic of synthetic machines. We are able to hope our automotive doesn’t run out of gasoline earlier than the following freeway oasis, or that the damaged fan belt fixes itself, however these inner feelings don’t have any impact on this kind of machine. Thus, the placebo impact casts additional doubt over the body-as-machine strategy.

Subsequent we come to the human genome mission, the profitable mapping of the genes making up the inner directions for the bodily physique. Genes, in flip, are composed of strands of DNA, the final word constructing blocks of dwelling creatures. One of many objectives of the human genome mission is to affiliate variations in DNA sequences with illnesses. If these with the identical illness have the identical genetic dysfunction, then trendy medication or medical remedies could also be devised to restore the genetic error and thus remedy the illness, if not now then maybe in future generations. See Revolution Postponed, Scientific American 60 (Oct. 2010).

The human genome mission breaks the human physique all the way down to its important parts. With vehicles, mechanics have been profitable at fixing breakdowns by changing, adjusting, or manipulating the basic components of the automotive. If the physique can be a machine, then it will make sense that after bodily sicknesses are linked to widespread variations in DNA sequences, the restore of those genetic errors will remedy the illness.

However all isn’t properly with this strategy. In a current article in Scientific American, Revolution Postponed, Stephen Corridor highlights the failure of the human genome mission to attain this aim. He quotes, amongst others, Walter Bodmer, one of many pioneers of the mission, as saying, “It’s nearly unimaginable to seek out what the organic results of those variant genes are, and that is completely key. The overwhelming majority of [common] variants have shed no mild on the biology of illness.” In fact with all of the money and time invested within the human genome mission, trendy biology is way from dropping out.

We are able to now put the items collectively:


  • First, although scientists inform us we’re machines, many people, based mostly upon inner experiences, don’t really feel like machines or settle for the premise that we’re “robotic automobiles.”
  • Second, biology’s notion that the human physique may be lowered to tiny particles conflicts with the findings of quantum physics, which concludes that on the core of matter are quantum waves, bits of nothing, not issues.
  • Third, the placebo impact demonstrates that inner beliefs, beneath the precise situations, can personal produce optimistic results within the human physique, on par with trendy medication’s medical remedies, that are based mostly on the machine mannequin.
  • The failure of the human genome mission to tie DNA variations to human illness suggests there may be another supply to bodily sicknesses.


Now earlier than we ask whether or not it’s attainable the physique is definitely spirit, or mind-created, we have to face the query whether or not it’s attainable the physique is one thing between machine and spirit; does it should be one or the opposite? This query raises the mind-body dualism drawback; particularly, if we include each an immaterial, ephemeral thoughts and a fabric, matter-infused physique, then how does the thoughts act on the physique? That is the well-known “ghost within the machine” drawback attacked by Gilbert Ryle in his ebook, The Idea of Thoughts. I agree that mind-body dualism of this type is unworkable. It ends in half from looking for a spot for conflicting conceptions of thoughts and physique in a single worldview. However the spirit/matter conceptions contradict one another. Subsequently, on this author’s view, the thoughts is both an epiphenomenon (i.e., some form of rising property) of the fabric mind, or the fabric physique is an emergent picture of the thoughts. One of many conceptions have to be flawed.

So, lastly, is it attainable the physique is an emergent property or picture of the thoughts? Despite the fact that this thought flies within the face of standard scientific knowledge, the reply have to be, in fact it’s attainable. We all know that in lucid desires and highly effective hallucinations the thoughts is able to conjuring up a real-seeming world from nothing. Fashionable philosophy, which is to say trendy considering, has its roots in Rene Descartes’ Mediations on First Philosophy. In his meditations, Descartes discovered that the “actual” world he skilled, in addition to his personal physique, would possibly very properly be a dream, however that there was one reality he couldn’t doubt: his personal existence as a considering being, a thoughts, an understanding. (In the long run, Descartes concluded that God wouldn’t deceive him into believing an actual world existed exterior his thoughts until one actually did, and subsequently introduced himself to just accept the pure world as one thing aside from a dream.) The notion that the pure world is spirit additionally pervades Japanese philosophy and faith.

The thought that physique is spirit is anathema to the western scientific thoughts, which at this level of the dialogue usually resorts to name-calling or label-throwing (reminiscent of calling any such concept “new-age quackery”) slightly than think about the strategy scientifically, or with an open thoughts. Why scientists want to think about the body-as-spirit strategy is strongly urged by their very own experimental findings. Particularly, if the physique is spirit, or an emergent picture of the thoughts, then all of their experimental findings may be defined:


  • We do not really feel like machines as a result of we’re not machines.
  • The insubstantiality of quantum waves represents simply what one would anticipate finding on the core of a dream-image, specifically, dream-stuff.
  • The placebo impact works as a result of when the thoughts believes in a remedy, it’s going to positively affect the physique, which is an emergent property of the thoughts. Pharmaceuticals work by way of the identical mechanism, besides in that case all the scientific group stands behind the remedy.
  • The human genome mission will finally fail in its quest to uncover the supply of illness in genes as a result of, once more, the physique, along with its genes, is an emergent property of the thoughts. The advocates of the human genome mission have it backwards: they’re results, not causes.


Does this all seem to be some radical, new-age flight of fancy? Perhaps so. However it could appear radical as a result of our present materialistic, body-as-machine paradigm is radically flawed. The distinction bothers us. Maybe it is time for the “new-age” rationalization to interchange the “old-age” rationalization. When a brand new theoretical framework higher explains experimental outcomes than the present mannequin, the historical past of science says we should always look nearer on the principle, not reject it by way of the easy machine of names and labels.


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