We can function in every way as if we had supernatural souls, because with our limited ability to interpret the data in our heads, that’s precisely what it feels like we have. In fact we don’t have the ability to feel any other way. Our only way of reading out the data in our minds is to filter it through the subjective experience of being ourselves. We can’t ‘see’ the physical workings that make us ourselves, the programming language that defines us, so it may be forgotten and ignored. Knowing how the mind and it’s memories work may be an interesting subject for scientists, but all we have to worry about is the pain or pleasure that the whole process provides us with.
“Yeah, we have souls. But they’re made of neurons.” -Dan Dennet
Brains may be manifestations of the physical Universe, and souls may be manifestations of brains, but who we see ourselves as need not be informed by those facts. Our memories, least of all the precious ones, should not be thought of as data on a hard disk. Rather they are living and breathing records of the magic in our lives.
So instead of wondering why the memory of dancing toddlers is enjoyable, I’ll just go on and enjoy it. I know the memory will last only as long as I live, but I’m more than happy with that which nature has provided me. I’m grateful for this mind, my children, and our time on this earth. For mankind it’s taken billions of years of tortuous evolution to develop a brain powerful enough to feel like a soul, and for each person a lifetime to collect those memories that feel like magic. We should treasure them both.