Christian physicalism, What if the resurrection is just another me, but like a clone?

Oh yeah, I totally agree with you. When I say “consciousness”, I’m really talking about first person individual conscious experience (qualia). I do think most of what makes us who we are can be completely reduced to the brain (I.E. memories, reasoning, etc), and that is why I believe that bodily ressurection (plus restoration of the original person’s consciousness) would indeed be the only way in which we could be “truly ourselves” again after death. and it is indeed very clear that chemical changes in the brain are correlated to conscious experience. When I say “we have absolutely no clue about how the brain could possibly generate conscious experience” what I am really talking about is something like the concept of the “explanatory gap”

The real problem I see with completely atributing conscious experience to the brain is the “duplication problem”. If you could make a exact atom-by-atom copy of my brain after I died, would I regain my first person conscious experience? If the answer is “yes”, it really begs the question: What would happen if you made that copy while I’m still alive? What about two, three, four copies? So yeah, scientists are certainly not shooting in the dark when they say that the brain is strongly related to consciousness, but even if we assume that the brain is completely responsible for generating conscious experience, it is still fair to say that we have absolutely no clue on how or why that happens. We could very well just be Chalmers “philosophical zombies”, and that would actually be a much more reasonable hypothesis if we used Occam’s razor as a criteria, but it completely contradicts the data we have from experiencing consciousness ourselves.

EDIT: Indeed, it is perfectly possible for a Christian to share the materialist view, but what I meant by “weird consequence” was really something like “an weird accident with no real meaning”. A Christian can totally believe that consciousness is a product of brain processing, but not as an “weird accident”, but rather as something that was meant to be that way because of the will of God. That is why I associated this view with atheism, but I do agree that I wasn’t very clear, my bad.

1 Like

Well, these are only my personal thoughts on that, but I see it the following way: If you lose your eyes or have brain damage in the areas of the brain responsible for vision, you go blind. You are still alive and conscious, but lacking the sense of vision, we can extend the same principle to every other sense and even for reasoning, sensing the passage of time, etc, since they are all correlated with brain function. So for all practical purposes, losing your brain would be basically the same as ceasing to exist, since you would have no conscious experience at all, even if you still had the “potential” to have it given that your “soul” (whatever the thing that remains is) gets the right stimulli (which was previously provided by your brain). If a bodily resurrection indeed occur, and your “soul” is now attached to a new brain, you can actually have conscious experience again (instead of just the “potential” to have it). You could think of it as transfering your “soul” to a “clone body”, pretty much like reverting the damage to your eyes would make you able to see again. But then again, these are just my personal guesses on that subject, the truth is that no one really knows these things for sure, haha.

This is my problem. But i suppose God is able to put me in the resurrection body. I just dont know how/if thats even possible(but God can do things many people view as impossible). And that bothers me a little.

1 Like

@Totti (and @BoltzmannBrain)

Clearly the Egyptians and the Essenes did not share this belief. Since nobody really had much insight into the Brain at all, let’s substitute the reference to “brain” with the more generic term “the body”!

The body’s influence, if any, was limited to the time when the “mind” was in contact with the body.
And any ancient person who believed in spirits, ghosts and reincarnation would have to share the
same belief - - that the body influenced the “Self” only while the “Self” was in contact with the Body.

Well, like I said, we do know that “something” is responsible for our personal identity, if it is the “pattern”, then simply restoring the pattern by creating a new body would be enough, if it is “the soul”, then transfering it to the new body would be enough, basically anything that you postulate as being the cause of consciousness could be restored at least in principle. The only scenario in which it would impossible to do so would be if consciousness is caused by the continuity of experience itself…but I think this possibility is really weird, in this scenario, shutting down your brain and then turning it on again a few seconds later would erase your consciousness (continuity was broken). In fact I actually like the “pattern” hypothesis, but the problems it raises (like the duplication problem) is what makes me favor the “soul” hypothesis a little more (though I’m also agnostic about that).

1 Like

So the body is the piano and I am the pianist?
If the piano isnt tuned well then the music i compose will sound off.
If the piano is broken, the strings are cut or the piano is just gone. I wont be able to play the piano/ make music. But that doesnt mean i am gone and that my composition is gone?

Is this the concept you mean? ( making analogies is harder than i thought :smiley: )

Yes i understand what you are saying. I have to say i love talking about this.

I personally think that the person is the sum of these two, too much of our personality and identity is related to the brain/body for us to claim that we can be ourselves as disembodied souls. However, without the soul, a perfect replica of my body would merely be a clone (and probably a philosophical zombie if it had no soul other than mine as well). I’m very skeptic about how much the soul can actually influence the body, I’m very inclined to think it is merely an expectator (experiencing qualia is its only function), but I could be wrong. I’m new to theological issues since I was an atheist for most of my life, but I think this is actually very close to the Christian view (at least as portrayed by people like N.T. Wright) that you can’t really separate the body and the soul (thus the need for a bodily resurrection). David Chalmers did make an argument which made me a little bit more open to the idea that the soul (or consciousness, since he doesn’t really use the word “soul” a lot, probably because he is an atheist) could influence the body to some extent which was: Isn’t the mere fact that we are talking about conscious experience a proof that consciousness influences the brain? I still remain skeptic, though.

Haha, me too. Philosophy of mind is one of my favorite subjects. Have you already read David Chalmers work? Funny thing is he is an atheist, but highly skeptic of physicalism, though we usually think of these views as completely unseparable. His “solutions” to the problems he points are a little bit to “woo woo” for me, but the objections themselves are very solid.

I havent yet. That will be book 5 on my list haha. I do really love watching the videos from closer to truth though. They feature interviews with people from all sides. I just love thinking about how the universe started, what my brain does, and the stuff like this. I am actually not very well read into consciousness and stuff but i want to learn more about it all.

John Horgan’s column on scientific american also has some really cool interviews about these themes. He really likes to write about the “limits of science” subject.

1 Like

Thanks! I will look at it as soon as i get home from school tomorrow :smiley:


Only as long as you have a piano strapped to your body.

Once you are released from the piano… you can sing the notes by whatever voice God gives your soul.

1 Like

Behold… the Pharisees still live… and we have one here.

What kind of bodies do you think angels have? This was exactly the point of the conflict about how many angels could stand on the head of a pin!

If an angel had a “material body” in the same way that humans have, then only one could fit.

If an angel has some other kind of body … a “spiritual body” (unlike mortal humans), then an infinite number could fit there.

I presume you prefer the former view…

That is an interesting point. My initial guess would be to say that angels experience existence in a way that is completely distinct from our experience, the same way as I believe that God does (I don’t believe God has a material body, although I do believe he has a mind, so the same could be possible for angels), but God’s mind would have to be at such an imensurably higher level than ours that it would be hard to draw any parallels to our own personal experience. Like I said before, though, I’m not really well versed in these theological issues, I have always approached them from a philosophical “secular” standpoint, which made me go from atheist to deist and them only recently theist. If you could suggest me some material on these discussions I would be grateful, though.

Just curious, under your view, why would we need to physically store memories in the brain if our spiritual self could do the same just fine? Wouldn’t that be redundant?

“qualia” … “explanatory gap” … “first person conscious experience”

Thank you for giving us a vocabulary for talking about these things. Very helpful! (I suppose this is the kind of thing I might have learned if I’d ever formally studied philosophy. :slight_smile: )


1 Like


Do you think it has to be an either/or proposition?

If angels can store memories without a physical body … I would think we could as well. This is META-physics, not Physics.

However, as long as our non-material mind is held captive by our biological brain, I would think the brain’s “strong force” (an analogy to the strong force that holds protons together tightly in the nucleus, despite all those positives repelling each other) would trump the spiritual operations of the spiritual components.

If you are looking for relevant material to read, I would read the latest books on “Near Death” and “After Death” experiences. I’m afraid I am not widely read in what has to be the most important literature in human civilization.

A sample?

No to the first. Maybe, to the second. I do know Christians who are OK with the notion of a physical explanation. Mechanistically, how we are conscious is probably a lot less important for them than the fact that we are conscious.

This is the Star Trek transporter conundrum. When the transporter rips apart every atom and quantum state in a person’s body during scanning and then creates a copy out of energy at a distant location, is the transported person the same? Are they killing a person each time they’re transported? Kirk, Spock and Scott don’t seem worried, but Bones is never comfortable with transporters.

I think the answer is, 'We don’t know they’re the ‘same’ people". But then, we don’t know if we’re actually the same thing day to day. We have the feeling of continuity but is it real or just a memory of past states?

I tend to favor physicality, that what we perceive as consciousness is the result of patterns and processes. If you’d freeze the process and duplicate conditions exactly in another substrate, you’d have effectively the same going forward. With duplication, you’d initially have two of the same before later events & experiences produce divergence. Whether the consciousness that is reproduced is the same ‘metaphysically’ is not something I think we can resolve. Best we can do is ‘try it and see’.

On a somewhat related line, we can ask the same of what happens with identical twins. In that case we have two clones split off the same individual egg. If a ‘soul’ is related in some way to the continuation of consciousness, then was one soul divided into two? We assume each twin has a distinct soul/ ‘kernel of consciousness’. Or is one a zombie-brain?

There is another science fiction series related to the notion of indivisible, unreplicable (is that a word?) souls. In that story, ‘souls’ can be induced to enter a body that is sufficiently similar to the body it used to inhabit. People can be resurrected ‘totally’ in this story and souls can only bind to one body at a time. Cloned bodies remain unconscious until an ensouled body dies and the initial connection releases the soul to bind to a new body (“To Your Scattered Bodies Go”, by Philip José Farmer).

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.