Celebrating the gift of the Inner Lizard
Jon Steele

Very interesting stuff, Mr. Steele. I am one of the lab-coated persons who could be but usually isn’t addressed as “Doctor” or “Professor.” I study the most unlike-us animals that you could imagine — the marine invertebrates. In my more spiritual and less scientific musings I’ve wondered about the nature of the soul; more specifically, which animals have one and where would I draw the line between the haves and the havenots.

Most people would probably agree that in addition to humans, the other great apes at the very least have souls. It’s impossible not to look into the eyes of a chimpanzee or gorilla and not see the soul behind them. Other mammals? Yeah, probably. I think my cats do. My snakes and fish? Eh, there’s where, for me, it gets harder to say. I’m convinced that the inability to blink gives both snakes and fish a certain soulless appearance, regardless of whether or not they actually possess a soul. Your lizard, on the other hand, can and does blink, a trait that it shares with us and therefore makes it seem more like us. If the eyes are indeed the gateway to the soul, then the possession of eyes would seem to be a prerequisite for having a soul, or at least make it a lot easier to communicate with the soul of another being.

Is a soul a thing that is created when certain neurons synapse? Or is it more basic than that, going back to the unique genome that is formed when egg meets sperm? If it’s a neuron thing, then how sophisticated does an animal’s neural system need to be to generate a soul? If it’s merely a DNA thing, then any living thing — plant, animal, fungus, alga, and microbe — could have a soul. This notion makes many people uncomfortable, as it disrupts the humans-are-better-than-everything-else view of the world that most of us walk around in. I, however, find it comforting to know that I am part of a greater whole, a product of hundreds of millions of years of evolution on a tiny rock hurtling through space, sharing the experience of life with the other inhabitants of said tiny rock.

Your Angelus Trilogy has made me think a lot about the nature of human existence. Thank you for that.