The Myth of the Soul by Clarence Darrow

People have been thinking about what is expecting them after death for thousands of years. The animal fear of dieing made people think about the gods who ruled the netherworlds or the paradise and hell, that were awaiting for the recently dead. The fear of passing away made people create religions with the developed notion of the soul, that fills the body and is immortal.

Clarence Darrow in his essay The Myth of the Soul discusses the absurdity of the idea that the soul can exist after the person is physically dead and doubts whether there is such essence as the soul in reality. The author is trying to convince the readers that from the scientific point of view the existence of the soul is not proved, which automatically makes it unreal and claims that those who believe in the afterlife are never troubled by the metaphysical problems.

Perhaps, all those people, who believe in immortality of the soul have one common thing. They have a strong faith in it and as the result they do not doubt whether the soul exists or not, or what it is. Darrow makes an attempt to give various explanations in order to determine this essence. First of all, the soul is synonymous in the wide spread belief to the notion of identity, personality and individuality. It is supposed to have the memory and that is why people have initial knowledge even from the times when they were in their mother’s womb or sometimes even from their previous incarnations, depending upon the religion the person is practicing. Second, the notion of the soul implies its immortality and possibility to resurrect after physical death, preserving all personal traits of character.

In fact everything about the existence and the essence of human soul is pure mystic and can not have logical proofs. The author wonders how it is possible to believe in something that does not have evidences and no one knows for sure whether it exists or not. He illustrates it with the example of taking a train to New York and going to Timbiktu. He knows what New York is, his friends visited this city, he knows how it looks like from the pictures and he knows even when the train will arrive there. All these issues makes New York real for him. The situation with Timbuktu is more complicated. He had never been to that place and is not very good in geography, that is why he knows that there is such place in the world, it is the land surrounded by water, and in fact there are practical possibilities to go there. It is more difficult to imagine than the trip to New York, but it is still real.

Though, when someone asks him to go to Goofville, but only without his physical body, the situation becomes absurd. No one knows what is Goofville, no one has been there or at least no one returned from there, and no one understands how it is possible to leave the physical body behind. The trip to Goofville is very similar to the theory of resurrection that the world religions propose. The person with minimal logical point of view upon the reality will fail in trying to understand how an the soul exist without the physical body. A peculiar thing is that the majority of people prefer not to ask questions about the life after death. The darkness around the issue was created centuries ago and still people fear to look into that abyss.

Such logic seems quite strange to me, because it is similar to the desire of a small child to explain everything that surrounds him/her. The child is not able to think in abstractions and still has to learn how to do it, that is why all explanations about the surrounding reality have to be simple and direct. Though, the author is an adult person and such desire to make the picture of the world fit into his understanding of it is strange. The universe is too big and various, and the human brain is not that developed as the author claims. People even do not use all resources of their brains nowadays. Of course the science is actively developing during the last century, but it is nothing compared to the time of human existence in the world. The science still can not answer the basic questions about the functioning of the human brain and the appearance of homo sapience. It only proposes theories that can be criticized just like the religious ideas about the existence of the soul and life after death.

The author asks a question about the moment the soul is placed into the human body and how it is made. Darrow does not even suppose that there is something in the universe the science and he, as an adept of science, do not know and understand. Perhaps, there is a great universal brain that religious people call the god and he is responsible for placing the soul into the human body. It is a mystery, it is still unknown and in my opinion there is nothing bad to believe in it. Perhaps, narrowing the world view to the size of what is already known to the science, as Darrow does, is even more ridiculous than believing that the soul is immortal and there is the all knowing god who makes it all possible. In this case, those who believe in God are obviously more happy, because such search of the path without knowing where to go is meaningless.

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