The body of a letter I sent to the West Australian, published 01/07/09:
Geoff Doust (Letters, 30/06) pertly asserts: "We are not just animals - we are spiritual beings with a soul and our bodies are merely our 'earth suits'."
It really must be about time we started to base our laws on observable reality rather than mere assertion, no matter how vociferously said assertion may be made. Accordingly, I would like to ask Mr Doust (and his fellow believers) to present the evidence that supports this claim. It's an old claim, to be sure, and has in the past been the basis for many laws and other social conventions, but that does not qualify as evidence for the factuality of the claim. Faith, too, falls far short of qualifying as evidence. As does the number of people who believe - popularity does not reflect truth.
For time out of mind, laws have been made based on nothing other than the assertions of those who wield political or social power, often with the aim of maintaining their grasp on that power. One of the greatest of these assertions is that humans are somehow special, the pinncle of creation, different to other animals and possessed of souls. It is a wonderful assertion, of course, and allows us to behave in morally repugnant ways with a clear conscience. You can even use it against other people: witness the history of slavery, all too readily maintained through the assertion that they were less than entirely human, or somehow spiritually impure.
It has become abundantly clear that this bald, unsupported assertion is not something upon which to base our laws. If there is no evidence for something, it cannot be taken into account. It may be that we do have souls (I highly doubt it) but until their existence becomes evidentially demonstrated as anything other than fanciful nonsense, they have no place in legislation, just as fairies have no place in legislation without there being evidence of their existence.
Your alleged soul, Mr Doust, is your own business. Kindly keep it out of public business.