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Who Owns This Body?
Sep 1, 2013

“There are numerous perfect mechanisms put to work by our Creator in a fashion that is impossible for us to know; it is equally impossible for us to control each of them.”

“This body is mine! Thus, I have a right to use it as I like!”

How do we own our body? How much of it belongs to us? Can we still stand behind the phrase “this body is mine!” when we explain “scientifically” that it is not? To what extent does that statement meet the truth?

First paragraphs of human biology textbooks strongly mention the phenomenon that the sustenance of life takes place outside our will. Does our first creation in our mother’s womb, when we become existent out of nowhere, happen by our will? Do we have a say in the creation of our body, which is the dress of our soul? Of course we don’t. Even our senses, which are involved in eating and drinking, exist outside of our will. The feeling of hunger, for instance, does not come forth from our control; it is dependent on the emptiness of the stomach, and low blood sugar. Hunger is not only a sense of alarm or warning, but also a feeling that forces one to eat; it disappears when one is full. If it was only a sense of alarm, one could get away with it. This situation shows that the human is not a machine composed of flesh only. If we refuse to respond to this feeling of hunger, it may eventually lead to serious, even fatal, consequences, such as patients suffering from Anorexia nervosa, a severe psychological disorder that can lead to self starvation.

If there were no such thing as hunger or appetite, humans would not be interested in working. The feeling of hunger is a remembrance to the One who provides. As a matter of fact, all our emotions are temporary belongings that provide for the sustenance of life, and for the continuation of generations. Sexual desires are provided so that we can have families and can continue the human race; an appetite for food is given so that we can maintain our lives, and the sense of cold is given so that we dress.

In our village, one of our neighbors suffered from a stroke. All of the senses of pain, hot or cold, and touch disappeared from his legs. A pathological sense urged the patient to ask care takers to warm the stroked leg. Upon the patient’s strong request, care takers tried to warm the underside of the foot with a hot iron over a piece of cloth. As a result, the patient suffered severe foot burns all the way to the bone, since neither the patient nor the care takers noticed the damage. The nerve endings embedded in our skin are in charge of sensing hot or cold; and nerves that are buried deep in our legs and arms are tasked with relaying those senses to our brain.

Despite feelings of cold or excess heat being connected to certain areas of the brain and nerve cells, these senses are not completely delivered to brain. That is to say that we are not simply machines made out of elements found in the earth. We do have emotions and a soul in charge of controlling those emotions, and a spiritual world connected to it. It is such that even senses of hot and cold do not belong to us and we cannot even generate or control them.

We cannot start our body just like we start a washing machine. We do not have a button to restart our heart in case it stops. How does a heart work? Have we ever thought about the number of nerves employed in sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomous nerve networks that make the heart work? All of the muscle cells of the heart contract with perfect timing. Do you know that special channels called “gap junctions” in between neighbor muscle cells are put to work wondrously in order to let electric signals pass from one cell to another? If millions of muscle cells in a heart did not have to work like that, how could all our cells get their nourishment, necessary substances, and oxygen in time? All of these processes happen outside our will.

How many red blood cells or white blood cells do you have, and how are they working? When the hemoglobin molecule reaches cells, it releases the oxygen molecule that is bound in lungs. Does the hemoglobin do this act of binding and releasing by its own discretion? Red blood cells get accelerated with proper speed so that cells get their nourishment on time. Is this something we do on our own? Our body is protected from diseases as white blood cells recognize and attack foreign microorganisms and substances. How can a white blood cell separate normal cells from harmful bacteria? There are numerous perfect mechanisms put to work by our Creator in a fashion that is impossible for us to know; it is equally impossible for us to control each of them. We do profit-loss calculations in every business of ours. Our body employs a great principle of economy; do we know how that is put to life or who makes that work?

Neurons, axons, dendrites, synapses, and neuro-transmitters exist and function in amazing numbers in our brains. Countless connections between neurons, and electric currents through synapses, happen without us even noticing them. How do neurotransmitters only bind with their own receptors and open ion channels? How does this relay of information occur in our brain when Na and Ca ions, existing in soil, rocks, and salt – which we use as a condiment – pass through these electrically controlled ion channels? Even if we know about these intricate works, it is still not up to our will to enable or control them.

How do nerve networks function? How many types of neuron circuitries exist, and how do they work? How does membrane potential form in nerve and muscle cells? How is action potential generated? When we touch a substance, which nerve tracks are utilized to transport the information? Do we have the option to pull the plug of pain and feel free of it? If this machine-like body belonged to us, then we could control and regulate it.

When we are purchasing a computer, we get the hardware according to our budget. We ask and order for the processing speed, memory, and the capacity of a computer to meet our needs. Do we get to arrange the capacity of our brain that we think we own?

Do we know that more than 75% of chewing is a reflex and happens outside our control and will? How good is it that we realize that only one of the three phases of swallowing is actually under our control and the rest of the process happens by our reflexes during eating and drinking? If swallowing was to be in our control, it would be highly likely that pieces of food and fluid droplets would easily choke our lungs and might cause death. How do our stomach and intestines work? At what speeds do secretions and movements take place? The content and amount of oral, gastro-intestinal, and pancreatic secretions are regulated according to the amount and type of food we intake. These regulations continue through our lifespan without any cessation.

Are we able to stop our heart beat when we are just a baby in our mother’s womb even for a minute? How does our heart work? How much blood is pumped in a minute? Approximately how long after the conception of egg and sperm does the heart start to beat: weeks, days? Do we know that our heart starts beating when we are as small as a tiny piece of flesh around week four?

How can we assert that we control our body, even when, to this day, scientists do not have a solid comprehension other than some assumptions of the rhythmic continuation of respiration during sleep or coma?

Since we own this heart and lungs, therefore can we manage to die whenever we want to stop them? Never!

We can conclude that the assertion of “this body is ours” is a deceptive, misleading perception. This body is given to us as a temporary belonging. It is very clear scientifically that all of the works, acts, and wondrous arts of the body do not belong to us, but to the One who created them. Our responsibility is to keep that in mind and be thankful for all the bountiful blessings.

Omer Arifagaoglu is a professor of medicine in Turkey.