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I speak two languages: Body and English. Mae West
‘The dramatic advances of the past few decades have led to the discovery of DNA, and to the decipherment of the universal hereditary code, the age-old language of the living cell. And with this understanding will come the control of processes that have known only the mindless discipline of natural selection for two billion years … We will surely come to the time when man will have the power to alter specifically and consciously his very genes. This will be a new event in the universe. The prospect is to me awesome in its potential for deliverance or equally for disaster.’ Robert Sinsheimer, California Institute of Technology, 1966, cited Storyville: The Gene Revolution: Changing Human Nature, BBC 2020
My body? – Oh! – If I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce,
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow
Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again. Joe Hill
Our bodies are survival machines for genes. Richard Dawkins, Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life II, Channel 4 2012
It is the lesson of trade-offs ... Nothing is free, everything comes with a price tag ... A body is a patchwork of compromises. Richard Dawkins, Evolution: The Greatest Show on Earth p69
‘The body is the instrument on which imagination plays.’ Joseph Duemer, cited After the Last Round, 2009
It’s been suspected for a long time that the effectiveness of medical treatment depends partly on the patient’s faith in it. This power of belief – the Placebo Effect – offers hope that the mind can heal the body or at least reduce pain. The Mind Machine: Pain and Healing, 1988
The knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on earth – the atoms that make up the human body – are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars – the high mass ones among them – went unstable in their later years – they collapsed and then exploded – scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy – guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas clouds that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems – stars with orbiting planets. And those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky, and I know that yes we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small, ’cause they’re small and the universe is big. But I feel big because my atoms came from those stars. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us. Neil deGrasse Tyson
My creation story is the story of how we were made by the universe. It explains how every atom in our bodies was formed not on earth but was formed in the depths of space. Brian Cox, Wonders of the Universe 2/4: Stardust, BBC 2011
The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star-stuff. Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan, Cosmos: One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue series, PBS 1980
We are about to enter the living cell. A realm in its own way as complex and beautiful as the realm of galaxies and stars. Among the many red blood cells we encounter a white blood cell – a lymphocyte – whose job it is to protect me against invading microbes. ibid.
Every cell is a triumph of Natural Selection. And we’re made of trillions of cells. We are each of us a multitude. Within us is a little universe. ibid.
The cause of Full Moon Fever here on Earth may be even harder to diagnose. What impact if any does the Full Moon have on our bodies and our minds? The Universe s4e1: Mysteries of the Moon, History 2009
Almost 99% of the human body is a mixture of air, water, coal and chalk, with traces of more exotic elements. Jim Al-Khalili, The Secret Life of Chaos, BBC 2010
Morphogenesis ... The cells begin to clump together and become different from each other. How does this happen with no thought, no central coordination? How do cells that start off identical know to become say skin while others become part of the eye? ibid.
Already from your own cells scientists can grow skin, cartilage, noses, blood vessels, bladders and windpipes. In the future, scientists will grow more complex organs, like livers and kidneys. The phrase ‘organ failure’ will disappear. Michio Kaku
A woman watches her body uneasily, as though it were an unreliable ally in the battle for love. Leonard Cohen, Canadian singer & writer
No sensible person would have ever left the body the way it is ... We have an appendix, wisdom teeth, birth is difficult, many people get near-sightedness, and the combination of some things being so perfect and other things being such botch jobs is what should make us sit up and take notice that this is something that has been shaped by Natural Selection that has a lot of vulnerabilities built in that can be explained only by how Natural Selection works. Randolph Nesse
We spend more grey matter in the brain manipulating the thumb than in the total control of the chest and the abdomen. Jacob Bronowski, The Ascent of Man 13/13: The Long Childhood, BBC 1973
Our bodies are amazing machines honed over millions of years of evolution. But our basic flesh and bones aren’t that different from our closest ape relatives – chimpanzees ... The striking difference between us and any other species on Earth ... we are creatures of the mind. Dr Alice Roberts, Origins of Us 3/3: Brains BBC 2011
The human body is fantastic but it’s far from perfect … The human body is long overdue a makeover … We’ve got useful adaptations but we’ve also inherited plenty of flaws … What if we could shed that evolutionary baggage? Alice Roberts, Can Science Make Me Perfect? BBC 2018
Bad backs are everywhere … The ageing process exacerbates a fundamental problem in our spines. ibid.
Dig deeper and you discovery more of evolution’s oversights. ibid.
On the one hand I have a clear and distinct idea of myself, in so far as I am a thinking, non-extended thing; and on the other hand I have a distinct idea of body, in so far this is simply an extended, non-thinking thing. And, accordingly, it is certain that I am really distinct from my body, and exist without it. Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy, 1641
And the first problem with having a mind, Montaigne thought, is that it makes for awkward relations with our bodies. Alain de Botton, Philosophy: Montaigne on Self-Esteem, Channel 4 2011
Montaigne was inviting us not to be humiliated by aspects of ourselves. ibid.
I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind. Albert Einstein
As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery. Martin Luther King, speech 16th August 1967