From Steven Pinker, The Blank Slate:
“Until recently the intuitive concept of the soul served us pretty well. Living people had souls, which come into existence at the moment of conception and leave their bodies when they die. Animals, plants, and inanimate objects do not have souls at all. But science is showing that what we call the soul – the locus of sentience, reason, and will – consists of the information-processing activity of the brain, an organ governed by the laws of biology. In an individual person it comes into being gradually through the differentiation of tissues growing from a single cell. In species it came into existence gradually as the forces of evolution modified the brains of simpler animals. And though our concept of souls used to fit pretty well with natural phenomena – a woman was either pregnant or not, a person was either dead or alive – biomedical research is now presenting us with cases where the two are out of register. These cases are not just scientific curiosities but are intertwined with pressing issues such as contraception, abortion, infanticide, animal rights, cloning, euthanasia, and research involving human embryos, especially the harvesting of stem cells.”

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