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Tyranny of the
Prefrontal Cortex

Requiem of the Human Soul, by Jeremy Lent
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After Julius Schumacher's assassination, the leadership of the Humanists was in the hands of three of Julius' most trusted followers, Brian Chang, Jason Hilgard and Jessica Goodrich.  

But Jason and Jessica disagreed violently over the fundamental question of the movement: should all genetic enhancement be avoided by Humanists because of the risk of destroying the soul?

The battle lines were drawn.   Here's how it went down.


Born into a wealthy Chicago family, Jason grew up in the rarefied atmosphere of corporate executives, private jets, country retreats and the philosophy of positive thinking.   Jason's professional life had always followed this philosophy, and had rewarded him for it.   Now in his mid-forties, he was a senior partner at a marketing consulting firm headquartered in his home town of Chicago. His wife was loving and beautiful; his three intelligent, attractive children had all been pre-natally optimized to ensure their future good health.


"See, Jessica, I had a number of long conversations with Julius about the topic.   You've met Rod and Charlotte, my two kids…They're so precious… and they're both PNO babies – no risk of diabetes, cancer, heart disease when they grow old.   What's wrong with that?   So they have healthier genes.   How can you hold that against them?   Look them in the eyes, see them smile at you, and try telling me they have no soul… The whole idea is ridiculous…

"OK, so we all agree that at some point, genetic engineering can destroy a soul.   And we don't know exactly where that point is.   But we do know that we're nowhere near that point yet.   So why destroy the growth of Humanism before it even begins, over a theoretical principle?   If people can follow Humanism and still give their children the chance of a healthier life, then in a few years our movement can begin to make a real impact on the world, we can affect the future course of humanity.   That's what Julius wanted."

brian chang

Finally, they turned to Brian Chang, who had been a silent witness to this disembowelment of Julius' vision.   Both Jessica and Jason agreed that, whomever Brian agreed with would be in the majority, and that this would become the official position of the Humanist movement.   Brian was not a visionary, not a leader of movements, not a marketing strategist.  

Brian was a scientific researcher, with a strong sense of integrity.   As he looked at his own analysis, he could only draw one conclusion.   From a strict scientific viewpoint, given the paucity of evidence and the need for further analysis, the only way to make absolutely sure that the human soul would remain intact was to follow Jessica's approach, and set a policy that banned all genetic engineering on the embryo until more rigorous scientific analysis had been completed.

[Click here to read more about how Brian understood Julius' theory of the soul]

Jessica was delighted.   She was victorious.   Jason felt the bitterest sense of disappointment in his life.   In his mind, Brian's narrow scientific approach to the issue was aborting a movement that could have defined human history.  


[Legal disclaimer: The association of the above celebrities with the characters of Requiem of the Human Soul is a creative fiction and in no way implies an endorsement of the book by any of the celebrities.  None of the above celebrities has, in actuality, any association with Requiem of the Human Soul , nor with the characters therein.]


Jessica, born in a wealthy Los Angeles suburb, had always pursued success in her own unique way. With A Stanford MBA in hand, she entered the booming marketplace of genetic-related business applications.   Within ten years, she had founded her own business called Applied Genomic Solutions, Inc. This chapter in Jessica's life came to an abrupt end when the industry giant, Nanogenic Inc., purchased her company.    Jessica poured her billions into a foundation helping to keep indigenous cultures alive. subsidizing artisan co-operatives, buying land that could enable a village to maintain its subsistence agriculture, investing in distributing potable water to communities that would otherwise have ceased to exist.

what jessica said...

"There's nothing to figure out, Jason.   We all know Julius' position.   It's clear in his book.   It's clear in everything he said.   It's what Humanism is all about.   Genetic engineering can destroy the soul.   Humanism is about nurturing the soul.   You can't be a humanist and alter the DNA of your offspring…

"You might do a great job with your firm back in Chicago, but this is not one of your plum marketing assignments.   This is real life.   It's got nothing to do with marketing.   I don't care if ninety-nine percent of Humanists leave the movement because they don't like hearing the truth.   What I care about is telling the truth, just like Julius did, and dealing with the consequences.   Not how many Humanists we have by the end of next year."


Back home on the California coast, Jessica reflects on the battle:

"Now I'm sitting on my deck at home, watching the sun begin its descent behind the distant Pacific Ocean as fingers of fog roll their way between the green hills.    A glass of chilled chardonnay in one hand and a joint in the other.

[Photograph: Charlie, The Double Cross blogspot]

"I think of Julius in one of his more lyrical moments.   He used to compare the soul to an ecosystem.   Every little part of the ecosystem, the vegetation and the rain, the mold and the bugs, the worms and the birds – they had all evolved together to maintain a harmonious whole.   Then mankind came along with its prefrontal cortex and blew away those ecosystems, turning the rainforests into soy farms, the tundra into marshland.   And now that prefrontal cortex is beginning to do the same thing with the ecosystem of the human soul.   Chopping down the trees, one at a time.  

"Julius and me.   We're going to save a little part of that ecosystem.   Like one of those nature reserves that Alison has spent her life fighting for.   Only this time, it will be a nature reserve for the human soul.   Brian and me.   We're going to build communities in different parts of the world for refugees from modern civilization to flee to.  We'll fill our communities with the finest artifacts from the indigenous tribes whose flames have not yet been snuffed out.   With Kalimantan masks from Borneo.  With carved Torajan doors.  With huipils from Guatemala.  With Sepik River bark paintings.  Future generations of our community will see and feel these things and know that they are not alone in trying to nurture their souls.  

Brian and me.   And Julius.   Together, the three of us will create a Humanist community.   And I won't be sitting on my deck alone." 

[Click here to find out how Jessica started building the Humanist community]

© 2010 Jeremy Lent. All Rights Reserved.

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