Yesterday, I was a bystander to a conversation about whether or not animals have souls but I couldn’t remain a bystander for long.
“Of course animals don’t have souls,” my friend said.
“Define a soul,” I said jumping in.
“It’s the other part of a person after you take out the corporeal of the body and the mind. You can’t see it.”
“So, how can you prove that animals don’t have souls?”
“I can’t. It’s just what I believe. Only people have souls.”
This guy, in almost all other ways, is a scientist except for a few areas where religion takes over and logic no longer applies. We once had a conversation regarding the age of the Earth. It was, well, interesting.
“How do you know that animals do have souls, then?” he asked. Ooh. That was a good question.
“Well, if my old dog were to appear in front of me in any form, I would recognize her.”
“But that comes from its actions, from its mind,” he said.
“Yeah, like in the book, A Dog’s Purpose,” someone else said. I guess I wasn’t so original as I thought.
“And if there’s a heaven and dogs and cats are excluded, I have no interest in being there,” I added.
And that was my second unoriginal thought for the day. I forget where I first heard this one. It wasn’t scientific. How could a person be scientific with concepts like this one?
Ultimately, I can’t prove that animals have souls. I can’t actually prove that I have one. What I think of as my soul could be a result of a chemical stew inside my brain. Serotonin, dopamine, and other enzymes facilitate chemical reactions that produce an electrical spark that travels through my synapses to give me thought and action. The concept of a soul is old, permeates all cultures. But can I prove that I have one?
In fact, all of you could be a figment of my imagination. I remember reading about solipsism late in the the night back when I was a teenager. It felt bizarre. High school wasn’t real. None of my friends were real. My house, my bedroom, my bed, the cat, none of them were real. Wouldn’t that be a sad state of being? It felt like an episode of The Twilight Zone.
“Ultimately, I can’t prove that animals or anyone has a soul,” I told my friend.
Do you ever continue a conversation long after it has ended? Is that just me?
Now, I want to tell him more. I want to tell my friend that when I add other souls to the mix, when I add my dog’s soul to my equation of how the universe works, when I add souls for whales and finches and trees and even the Earth herself, it becomes a richer and more interesting place for me, not a poorer one. And that makes it worth believing even if I can’t prove a single thing.
Thank you for being real, jules