Letters


Little Souls

In his review of Soul Made Flesh, by Carl Zimmer, and The Birth of the Mind, by Gary Marcus ("The Fate of the Soul," 6/04), William H. Calvin seems to have little appreciation of the complex history of religious institutions or of theological dialogues. For example, he mentions that "The tortures imposed on dissenters by the inquisitions of the Roman Catholic Church attested to the dangers of thinking differently." That may be true, but in the context of his discussion of seventeenth-century English thinkers it would have made more sense to have mentioned the equivalent dangers imposed by the Church of England, which since 1563 had been the official church in that land.

Similarly, quoting Zimmer, Mr. Calvin refers to the bishops who in 1666 blamed London's fire and plague on Thomas Hobbes's atheism. I would assume these were the bishops of the Anglican Communion, not the Roman Catholic Church.

These may seem small points, but the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church toward science from the fifteenth through the seventeenth centuries is often seen to be wholly negative and obstructionist, whereas the attitude actually varied wildly from avidly pro scientific research to rabidly against it.

Mary Fain

Gaylord, Michigan

William Calvin's review is a welcome voice of reason over what amounts to a superstition-a belief in the "little soul," a vestige of pre-seventeenth-century thinking. If the concept of soul could be released from its archaic limitations, it would no longer be pertinent for us to labor over such silly questions as whether other animals "have" what we call "souls." All creatures vary in their awareness, as individuals and as species. A sign of higher consciousness is the ability to appreciate the variations on all levels.

Jeffrey Aaron

Highland Park, New Jersey

I found the view of humanity expressed by William Calvin in the last sentence of his review frightening. Mr. Calvin states that in the continuum of life from fertilized egg to maturity, there is some point where "one cell slowly becomes a real person, gradually able to comprehend life's great journey." The inference is that unless you are able to comprehend, then somehow you are not a real person. Thus, a retarded adult and a small child do not qualify as real persons, the dream of every despot who would stifle humanity.

Unable to precisely define when one cell becomes a person, I simply observe facts. The fertilized egg cannot exhibit a personality, but it is life, and its genetic makeup shows it to be human life. These facts stand, even if "nature seems rather careless with early embryos" or some women choose to abort.

Philip J. Lehpamer

Brooklyn, New York

WILLIAM H. CALVIN REPLIES: I mostly agree with Mary Fains points, and indeed gave, as briefly as I could, a Catholic and an Anglican example. That I did not elaborate my discussion of them hardly means that I "have little appreciation of the complex history of religious institutions or of theological dialogues."

Jeffrey Aaron has it about right, but note that we humans have added a new kind of level via the emergence (quite late in the hominid lineage) of structured thought-syntax, contingent planning, polyphonic music, chains of logic, games with rules. Ethics are possible only because of a human level of ability to speculate, judge quality, and modify our possible actions accordingly. The result is a big step up from whatever altruism and empathy might have existed earlier. It certainly is one of the modern connotations of "soul."

Philip J. Lehpamer is trying to put words in my mouth. To say that "The inference is that unless you are able to comprehend, then somehow you are not a real person" is hardly a fair inference from the rhetorical flourish at the end of my essay.

Artistic License

As a former high school track coach and biology teacher, I have been dismayed and somewhat amused by the trophies that often depict runners in motion with the right arm and right leg extended in the same direction. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Letters
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.