The other night Lindsey and I had our new friends Dietrich and Rebekah over for dinner. Lindsey made something kind of cool and really tasty, but I don’t remember what it was! They introduced us to a game called “Nerts” and we partook in some chocolate ice cream. Lindsey goaded me for eating mine too fast.
I explained, "But that’s how I like to eat my ice cream!". And it was all down hill from there.
Lindsey, all with her 4 college degrees and years of experience and obsessive research in human psychology, mounted this rigorous case for why it is actually more pleasurable (DCIT) to enjoy ice cream slowly. And then Dietrich got an idea.
He said "There is a way we can settle this", though probably not in those words. (Why put them in quotes (DCTT) then?). He went on to describe the way we could go about settling the issue scientifically. We could setup a double-blind study with huge random samples, controlling for gender, race, blood type, ethnic background, every indicator of physical and psychological health, and even things like SES and other issues that just might affect an individual’s senses. Then we could monitor every biochemical indicator of pleasure (dopamine and serotonin, sure, but the more subtle indicators, too—oxytocin, and even certain higher-order relations between various nervous system functions—not just the neuromodulators) while some groups eat ice cream slowly, and some eat it quickly. We could even have control groups for different flavors just in case peppermint makes the American boys go crazy or peach just doesn’t do it for the Jamaican gals.
Aside from funding issues, I raised questions about how we would tally up the pleasure score to see who’s right between Lindsey and me. Surely the group eating ice cream faster would enjoy a spike in biochemical indicators of pleasure, and surely the group eating it slowly would enjoy longer lasting pleasure, right? So which group enjoys it “more”?
One way to answer that question, Lindsey suggested, is to measure the net. When you add up the amount of pleasure enjoyed by those whose indicators spike, is it more or less in total than those whose indicators linger a long time? Or perhaps our research would drive us to control for timing as well—perhaps there is a pace at which one could enjoy ice cream that would maximize pleasure, and maybe this optimum pace would be different depending on your biological and cultural makeup.
And then it dawned on me. What if I simply prefer the spike in pleasure more than I enjoy the longer lasting pleasure consistent with taking my dessert slowly, even if the net gain in biochemical pleasure indicators is greater at the slower pace?
Think about that. No matter what physical, measurable indicator of pleasure you could possibly track says, it is impossible to empirically determine what my ultimate preferences are with any certainty. I might just prefer to gobble down my Chocolate Malted Crunch, plain and simple.
Regardless of what my dopamine levels supposedly tell you.
So what does that say about me? It says that even after you’ve finished describing everything physical about me, you are not finished describing me. There are some things about me that you can only learn from my self-disclosure, no matter how sophisticated your instruments or how much funding you have.
Which means part of me is not physical. Let’s call that part my “soul”.