[3rd Place] - Beyond our Flesh & Bones: We are just encapsulated inside a Meaty & Bloody Physiology

“Mind and soul of man are entirely different from the body,” said René Descartes, a lay

Catholic philosopher from France


For centuries, humanity debated the existence of the soul inside the human flesh. Which

is sometimes known as the spirit, or immaterial component of people, which is the source of their

identity, intellect, volition, and emotions. Although the book “The Soul Hypothesis” claims that

there is a component of human nature that cannot be boiled down to the physical components of

our bodies. Other authorities disagree with the concept that humans are more than just walking

physical flesh. We might never know the “True” answer to this problem but after all the years of

research done by scientists and doctors, the human body is fascinating and there are medical

phenomena that are currently beyond the explanation of science while it seems like the

component, we called the “mind” can affect our physical body or vice versa. In this essay, we

will be digging into some of the phenomena that are more than just the physical body.


Most of us are aware of the Placebo effect or at least had heard of it somewhere before, it

is an effect where a placebo or "dummy" therapy appears to have a positive effect on a person's

physical or mental wellbeing. Now is more commonly known as a positive outcome brought on

by a placebo medicine or therapy that cannot be traced to the placebo's inherent qualities and

must instead be the result of the patient's faith in the treatment. In addition, the treatment

received by the patients will affect their faith or belief in the effectiveness of the treatment

ranking from, inert tablets, inert injections, and sham surgery. Placebos include placebos surgery

as mentioned earlier, one of the examples includes cutting someone's skin to make it look as


though they underwent a procedure without really finishing it. When this kind of operation

results in similar improvements in pain and mobility to specific kinds of genuine knee surgery.

Placebos cannot reduce tumor size or your cholesterol. Contrarily, placebos act on symptoms that

the brain controls, such as the impression of pain. "Placebos could improve your symptoms, but

they won't heal you," says Kaptchuk. They have been proven to work well for illnesses including

pain management, stress-related sleeplessness, and nausea and exhaustion associated with cancer

treatments the reason behind this effect is still not really understood yet, but humanity had

studied thousands and thousands of Placebo effects hoping to understand it one day one thing

can be sure is that there is something beyond our flesh and bones that are interfering with our

physical body. On the other hand, there is the opposite of the Placebo Effect. The Nocebo Effect,

negative patient expectations about therapy are said to have a nocebo impact when they lead the

treatment to have a more adverse outcome than it otherwise would. For instance, even if the

"medicine" is essentially an inactive chemical, a patient might suffer a negative effect when they

expect it.


Enough with both the Placebo and Nocebo effects, we will discuss the next medical

phenomena that are beyond just the human physical body, developmental disabilities in humans.

If a child is found to have developmental disabilities a few centuries ago or just a few decades

ago, they might be killed or burned alive for being suspected as a devil’s child. Even after we

have entered this modern digital era, infants, babies, and children that are diagnosed with autism,

down syndrome, or any other disorders are very likely to be disregarded, abandoned, or removed

through abortion because they could not contribute to society and be viewed as a burden in life

or in the society. Even after they grow up, they will have a hard time blending into society. They

are usually referred to as “children with special gifts” and have issues with confined or repetitive

habits or interests, as well as social communication and interaction issues. Additionally, they

could learn differently or struggle to move, pay attention, or communicate with others. But are

they that different from normal people, just an extra pair of chromosomes in their DNA, wrong

positioning of nucleobases, or some postnatal injuries that must be called abnormal in the current

society? They are genetically different, but they are not a different species, some of them are

geniuses that are moving humanity forward. How about them? So, are the “normal” humans the

“abnormal” ones? Why is everyone so different just because of the different arrangements of our

genetic information, something that is so small, smaller than any tissue or human cell that is

governing the composition of all organisms?


The last phenomena that are beyond just flesh and bones are mental health issues that are

receiving quite a lot of attention lately. For a long period of time, humanity classifies people with

mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are people that have weak mental states, lack

willpower, or are just too naive. It is just a situation where weak-minded people are unable to

handle stress in life, it was never taken seriously that it is even viewed as a normal thing even

though there are people committing suicide suffering from these mental health conditions. Every

time a similar event happens, society will just conclude it with that person being under a lot of

stress and could not handle it. Therefore, he chose an easy path, death. He could have just gotten

over it and moved on, but now we know mental health issues like anxiety or depression aren’t

that simple. Yes, stress is one of the key components that cause these mental health issues but

that’s not all of it. It also involves some chemical reactions inside the body or neurotransmitters

that are affecting the thinking process or the behaviour of the patients. It wasn’t very clear what

really caused the mental health conditions that are affecting almost 1 billion of the current world

population.


All the phenomena mentioned above like “fake” treatment that works or makes things

worse, genetically cause human disorders or “abnormality” or even some very personal thinking

problem that only occurs in one’s own mind. All of this is beyond just some human flesh and

bones. This all shows that there is something humans are not sure about under all this meat and

blood and bones. Something more that is encapsulated inside us that is affecting us from the

inside. Hope that one day, all will be discovered and made clear. For now, these will remain

mysteries.

 

Reference

Baker, M. C., & Goetz, S. (Eds.). (2011). The soul hypothesis: Investigations into the existence of

the soul. A&C Black.


Colloca, L., & Barsky, A. J. (2020). Placebo and nocebo effects. New England Journal of

Medicine, 382(6), 554-561.


Dobson, K. S. (1985). The relationship between anxiety and depression. Clinical Psychology

Review, 5(4), 307-324.


Epstein, C. J. (1989). Down syndrome. In Abnormal States of Brain and Mind (pp. 43-44).

Birkhäuser, Boston, MA.


Gorham, G. (1994). Mind-body dualism and the Harvey-Descartes controversy. Journal of the

History of Ideas, 55(2), 211-234.


Harrington, A. (Ed.). (1999). The placebo effect: An interdisciplinary exploration (Vol. 8).

Harvard University Press.


Hatfield, G. (2017). René descartes. The Blackwell Guide to the Modern Philosophers: From

Descartes to Nietzsche, 1-27.


Prince, M., Patel, V., Saxena, S., Maj, M., Maselko, J., Phillips, M. R., & Rahman, A. (2007). No

health without mental health. The lancet, 370(9590), 859-877.


Silverman, C. (2011). Understanding autism. In Understanding Autism. Princeton University

Press.


Vollmer, T. R. (1994). The concept of automatic reinforcement: Implications for behavioral

research in developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 15(3),

187-207.

 

This article which won 3rd Place in our MBIOSymposium Article Writing Competition was prepared by Cheng Xiang Wen

 

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