Lewis Thomas Essays

Lewis Thomas Essays-26
They farm fungi, raise aphids as livestock, launch armies into wars, use chemical sprays to alarm and confuse enemies, capture slaves. Being so young, we can be excused all sorts of folly and can permit ourselves the hope that someday, as a species, we will begin to grow up.Cells are required to stick precisely to the point.But the mouse dangling tail-down from the teeth of a gray cat is something else again, with pain beyond bearing, you’d think, all over his small body.

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The information in a poem is, by definition, not reproducible. He becomes an equivalent of scientist, in the act of examining and sorting the things popping in [to his head], finding the marks of remote similarity, points of distant relationship, tiny irregularities that indicate that this one is really the same as that one over there only more important.

Gauging the fit, he can meticulously place pieces of the universe together, in geometric configurations that are as beautiful and balanced as crystals.

There are so many new books about dying that there are now special shelves set aside for them in bookshops, along with the health-diet and home-repair paperbacks and the sex manuals.

Some of them are so packed with detailed information and step-by-step instructions for performing the function that you’d think this was a new sort of skill which all of us are now required to learn.

I believe that this is the same state in which people find themselves whom we see fainting in the agony of death, and I maintain that we pity them without cause. Inside were two young MPs, trapped in bent steel, both mortally hurt, with only their heads and shoulders visible.

We had a conversation while people with the right tools were prying them free.

I am entitled to say, if I like, that awareness exists in all the individual creatures on the planetworms, sea urchins, gnats, whales, subhuman primates, superprimate humans, the lot.

I can say this because we do not know what we are talking about: consciousness is so much a total mystery for our own species that we cannot begin to guess about its existence in others.

Any ambiguity, any tendency to wander from the matter at hand, will introduce grave hazards for the cells, and even more for the host in which they live.

There is a theory that the process of aging may be due to the cumulative effect of imprecision, a gradual degrading of information. Good applied science in medicine, as in physics, requires a high degree of certainty about the basic facts at hand, and especially about their meaning, and we have not yet reached this point for most of medicine.


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