The Ghost in My Machine by Phillip E. Johnson

The Ghost in My Machine

David Lodge has been one of my favorite authors since I read his brilliant satires of academic life, Changing Places and Small World. His new novel, Thinks . . . , retains the bawdy humor and satiric range of these earlier works. Professor Ralph Messenger, a paradigmatic scientific reductionist and lifelong philanderer, has a romance with a lady novelist, carried on—or expressed—mainly in the parallel journals that they keep.

Messenger insists that the only reality is one that can be captured in the objective, third-person manner of scientific explanation. Helen, the novelist, exists in the world of first-person narrative. After all, she is a novelist, as is David Lodge. The result is a hilarious juxtaposition of opposing worldviews, linked by the reality of sexual desire and the constant experience of betrayal and deception.

I read the book with enjoyment, but just after I finished it, I had an experience that made me feel more like a character in the book than a reader. I had a mysterious, seemingly causeless right-brain stroke, which left me feeling that I was the “ghost in the machine” that Messenger insisted did not exist. Well, this ghost certainly did exist, with the powerful sense that the suddenly defective machine I inhabited was not “me.” My sense of being a soul in communication with other souls was only enhanced by the knowledge that I could no longer trust the machine, especially the brain, to do what it had always done.

THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:


Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law (emeritus) at the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of Darwin on Trial, The Wedge of Truth, The Right Questions (InterVarsity Press), and other books challenging the naturalistic assumptions that dominate modern culture. He is a contributing editor of Touchstone.

calling all readers

Please Donate

"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand

"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor

Support Touchstone

• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!


personal subscriptions

Purchase
Online Subscription

Get a one-year full-access subscription to the Touchstone online archives including pdf downloads for only $19.95. That's only $1.66 per month!


RENEW your online subscription

Purchase Print &
Online Subscription

Get six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for only $39.95. That's only $3.34 per month!


RENEW your print/online
subscription

gift subscriptions

GIVE Print &
Online Subscription

Give six issues (one year) of Touchstone PLUS full online access including pdf downloads for the reduced rate of $29.95. That's only $2.50 per month!


RENEW your gift subscription

Transactions will be processed on a secure server.

bulk subscriptions

Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.

kindle subscription

OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)

Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.


more from the online archives

14.6—July/August 2001

What Women Need

Three Bad Ideas for Women & What to Do About Them by Frederica Mathewes-Green

30.2—March/April 2017

Keep Them from Idols

The Education of Children Takes Generations of Fidelity by W. Ross Blackburn

24.5—Sept/Oct 2011

A Many-Storied Monastic

A Critical Memoir of Thomas Merton at Gethsemani Abbey by Patrick Henry Reardon