We have conquered pain!


Many religions like to threaten people with hell-fire, because fire is thought to be one of the best means of torture (it still is — imagine burning to death! Ouuch!).  Nobody in his right mind would want to burn to death, much worse, burn after death.  That’s why the concept of hell-fire is so successful in scaring people sh*tless — “hell”, as opposed to the magical toy world called “heaven”.

Science has learnt a great deal about pain.  Pain is a signal from our body that tells us when something is not right — that something has been damaged.  To summarise, our body is equipped with neurons, and pain messages are sent from one neuron to another across synapses (like connecting bridges), helping localise pain.  These pain messages are then sent up the spinal cord to the brain, namely to the thalamus (the ventral posterior nucleus), wherefrom the message is distributed throughout the cerebrum.

In evolutionary terms, pain is useful and is therefore selected because an animal that knows that it is hurt is more likely to survive in nature than one that doesn’t.  Why is pain so painful?  Because nature doesn’t care.  Not because it is evil or anything — evolution simply favoured quick responses to pain. 

In 1846, William T.G. Morton demonstrated the use of the surgical anesthetic ether.  Following the discovery, it was written in the People’s Journal of London:

 “Oh, what delight for every feeling heart to find the new year ushered in with the announcement of this noble discovery of the power to still the sense of pain, and veil the eye and memory from all the horrors of an operation…  WE HAVE CONQUERED PAIN.”

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