It was easier, in some ways, when we were immortal souls temporally housed in material bodies, endowed with radical free will, and awaiting transmigration to some other plane of existence after death. Modern science has dramatically winnowed the possibilities for any autonomous space of the mind that could be independent of the body; indeed, we sometimes struggle in the other direction, with too many material explanations (evolutionary pressures, behaviorist impulses, physiological and psychological trauma, DNA transcription errors, gut bacterial depletion or overgrowth, and so on) to ever satisfactorily explain ourselves to ourselves. In the contemporary moment, the philosophers and the cognitive scientists aren’t entirely certain we even exist at all, having found too many neurological processes that operate too quickly to be the result of conscious choice; what we once thought was the soul seems perhaps to be the accidental byproduct of an overgrown memory-encoding process, not the driver of...
Human Programming: Brainwashing, Automatons, and American Unfreedom
Editing the Soul: Science and Fiction in the Genome Age
Gerry Canavan is an associate professor in the English Department at Marquette University, specializing in twentieth- and twenty-first-century literature. An editor at Extrapolation and Science Fiction Film and Television, he has also coedited Green Planets: Ecology and Science Fiction (2014), The Cambridge Companion to American Science Fiction (2015), and The Cambridge History of Science Fiction (2019). His first monograph, Octavia E. Butler, appeared in 2016 in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series at University of Illinois Press.
Gerry Canavan; Human Programming: Brainwashing, Automatons, and American Unfreedom
Editing the Soul: Science and Fiction in the Genome Age. American Literature 1 December 2019; 91 (4): 911–913. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-7917502
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