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

(Luca) #41

Do they transport the same molecules somehow or do they just create a whole new body?

Sorry i have never really watched star trek : s


More or less so…the real problem occurs when you think about multiple copies with the exact same pattern coexisting. For instance, if the teleporter just materialized the new body without destroying the original one, which one would be the real Spock? Would his consciousness be shared simultaneously by the two bodies, would one of the bodies be unconscious like in the series you mentioned? Somehow thoses kinds of hypothesis seem way mor far fetched than the concept of imortal souls in my view.


Near death experiences do have some curious features, but honestly, I have never seen any evidence that convinced me to take the idea that they are legitimate more seriously than the “dying brain hallucinating” hypothesis, I don’t completely discard the possibility that they might be something more than that, but I’m really not convinced so far, until we have some really robust, reproducible evidence that they are very unlikely to have physicalist explanations, the chances are fifty fifty at the very best.

(Luca) #44

I personally believe that if there is a soul that it needs a body to function. So not an immortal soul type thing. The hardware software kinda thing.

(George Brooks) #45

@BoltzmannBrain, I understand and respect your skepticism. But for anyone that believes in a soul or personality that can exist without a brain, “Near Death Experiences” (NDEs) become a literal trail of the divine.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who haven’t searched their thoughts well enough to notice a split interpretation of reality - - believing in a dying relative becoming a family’s “Guardian Angel” - - and yet at the same time thinking that all Near Death Experiences are frauds or misinterpretations.

The more I read about them, the more I am convinced they mean something. I’m still working on what they mean, other than random neural activity in a dying organ…

(Luca) #46

But most of the times NDE’s are just contradicting to scripture?

(George Brooks) #47


Ahhh… yes, I see. This is not surprising to a Unitarian Universalist! I confess, I am one.

If you can find comfort in a comment - - NDE’s are not too much in conflict with the ancient Essenes, or with modern Catholicism…depending on how literally you take various doctrines (as distinct from dogma).

(Luca) #48

Ooh you accept a bit of everything?

(George Brooks) #49


That’s a very polite way of saying it, yes… :smiley:

(Luca) #50

I have no problem with that at all! :slight_smile: It is a balanced way to look at everything.


I don’t think that “meaning something” and “being caused by the brain” are mutually exclusive, though. I really like the way Justin Barret puts it “just because we can find a neurological/evolutionary explanation for a belief, it doesn’t mean that it is not true”. If God does exist, it is only natural that he would make us in a such a way that we would perceive and naturally come to believe in him and his nature, whatever the mechanisms for that may be (Alvin Plantinga also discusses about that). I like to think the “transcendental experiences” people experience in NDE’s could mean something in that sense even if they come to be entirely physical in the end.


I think they’d both be the real Spock. Just like identical twins starting out from the same fertilized egg. Identical twins don’t share one consciousness. They diverge after the split. Even conjoined twins don’t seem to share a consciousness – But I can’t speak about any that might share their grey matter.


If you dismiss the hard problem of consciousness, yes, it is pretty straightfoward that they are both Spock. But considering that we do have a personal “stream of consciousness”, I personally think the most likely answer would be “the original Spock would be the real one, and the new one would be an exact copy, not only indistinguishable from the outside but honestly convinced that he always was the real Spock (since he would have perfect copies of the original memories)”, although I agree that a definite answer on this matter is out of reach for us. About twins, twins are not perfect molecule by molecule copies, they only share the same DNA. Sure, the pattern of their synapses are very likely waaay more similar to each other than when compared to other people, but distinct nonetheless…that is why I don’t think they are very helpful on thought experiments about consciousness (except maybe for the rare cases of conjoined twins sharing grey matter). Just for the sake of curiosity, what are your thoughts on Integrated Information Theory and panpsychism? Some of the things you said reminded me a lot of people I know who are enthusiasts of those, haha.

(George Brooks) #54


I have always enjoyed the conundrum below, that I developed when I was a teenager.

I shocked my audiences, back in 1978 or so, when I suggested that inevitably medical science would make it possible to take a skin cell from a human and clone it into a fully functioning human embryo.

I suppose we are not quite there … but I think we both agree it is coming.

So… here is the dillemma:

We take 3 skin cells… and we take 2 of them and “convert” or “clone” them into functioning embryos.

The Catholic Church and others (I am assuming) would suggest that at the moment of conversion, the two embryos became equipped with two different souls! Identical twins no less - - since each skin cell would have identical genes from the donor of the skin. The two embryos would be two different humans… with all the potential of a human embryo made the good old fashioned way - - with donor samples in a test tube!

But … what if you took both embryos and converted them back to being skin cells?!?!?!?

You would then have the following:

  1. one of the skin cells … still alive … that was never touched by any cloning process.

  2. one of the skin cells that had been an embryo, but was now back to being skin… and then “sterilized” with bleach (euthanized, if you will, if it had still been an embryo at the time).

  3. and the final skin cell that had been an embryo, but was now back to being skin … and kept alive along with first skin cell mentioned in (1).

So… have any human souls been killed this day? Skin cell (3) is still alive! Was a human soul lost when it was converted back to skin? Or is the human soul still in the skin tissue … trapped as in an adult living for decades in a vegetative state?

And what about (2) ? If the soul wasn’t destroyed during the conversion back to skin … was it finally destroyed when it was sterilized with a bleach solution?


They’re ‘OK’ insofar as metaphysical speculations go at the time when we have little definite information. I’m not a proponent of either Actually, I don’t have any terribly strong opinions beyond the musing that philosophers of consciousness, and even many neurobiologists who are engaging in philosophical musings, are probably going to be very surprised as we delve deeper. Which it to say that the empirical sciences are probably going to forge the path ultimately, with philosophers updating their thoughts afterward. Nature does what it wants, independent of what philosophers want it to do*. If there’s anything I tend to favor as a complete amateur to the subject, it would be something like Occam’s Razor. That’s why I’m less enamored with ideas like ‘the hard problem’, ‘panpsychism’, and other metaphysical ‘-isms’ that, IMO, seem to add explanatory mechanisms (or remove the possibility if explanations) that we’re not sure are actually necessary at this point. So, I’ll tend to favor physical mechanisms and fields for now.

If we’re going to crack the problem, I believe we need to think beyond human experience and consider animals with brains as well. There seem to be animals with some level of consciousness. So, is there a definitive line between those animals with consciousness and those without? I think so. If there is a gradient or transition, what were the step-wise changes that enabled those traits? Or, what particular capabilities/structures are required to support a particular aspect of consciousness?

About twins, twins are not perfect molecule by molecule copies, they only share the same DNA. Sure, the pattern of their synapses are very likely waaay more similar to each other than when compared to other people, but distinct nonetheless…that is why I don’t think they are very helpful on thought experiments about consciousness (except maybe for the rare cases of conjoined twins sharing grey matter).

Hmm. Yes that’s right. I guess I was thinking about ‘souls’ with that example in the sense, pace Christianity, that there is some immaterial essence granted by God to people. The essence would return with resurrection. The question there would relate to the timing of the ‘ensoulment process’. Souls tend to be described as binary state: Either there is a soul present or not. There is no ‘partial’ or ‘limited’ soul. If we propose that the Biblical concept of the soul is related to some degree with consciousness, then the timing of ensoulment would likely happen after the period when embryos can twin.

* That won’t prevent philosophers from writing books and earning a living until then, like the philosophers who had to complete with the super computer ‘Deep Thought’ in the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series by Douglas Adams.


Well, I think many problems faced here really stem from the notion that the soul would be some kind of ectoplasmic substance “glued” to the cells in your body, which of course cause several kinds of conundrums as well. It really need not to be, the “pattern” hypothesis for instance states more or less that the soul is more of an “state” which is turned on/off by the presence of a specific pattern of information processing occuring in reality. Of course, I have no idea to what the answer to “how does a soul operate” question could be, all I’m saying is that we don’t need to be so restricted to the notion that it is some kind of ghostly substance floating around in space with a precise position (and which could be trapped inside the skin cell in G Brooks conundrum or physically divided between twins in Argon’s case).

(Luca) #57

If there would be a soul. I would say it is me. Lile literally me.


I agree with you about metaphysical interpretations, but not about “criticisms” like the hard problem of consciousness. I’m really not much into metaphysical hypothesis, since they usually have dozens of other competing metaphysical interpretations which could be right as well, and we have no real way of testing them and knowing which one is the real one. Criticisms on the other hand are very interesting, and a theory which ultimately explains the subject necessarily need to encompass the answers to them or it is not complete at all. Take Inteligent Design as an example, evolutionary theory does provide satisfactory answers to all of their criticisms, and the fact that it does only serves to make the theory evolution even more robust and reliable. If the theory of evolution did not encompass the answers to their criticisms, it would at the very least be an interesting starting point we could use to discover new things about it (how can we account for that specific critique?). Unlike ID, however, I think that the “hard problem of consciousness” critique is pretty solid. Another example, that time not silly as ID, would be Einstein’s “spooky action at distance” critique of quantum mechanics, it was initially used as a way to show that QM could not possibly be right, but later investigations at this paradox ended up bringing very interesting and unexpected results and were no waste of time at all. That is not to say that in the future, as our knowledge expands, we cannot end up finding answers to “the hard problem of consciousness” that will make it obsolete, but as for the time being, I think we do have to take it seriously while discussing about the nature of consciousness instead of dismissing it as some kind of silly metaphysical copout. That is basically why I really like Chalmer’s work when he is raising the problems for physicalist explanations of consciousness, but not when he is trying to solve them (by proposing panpsychism, for instance) I find the criticisms intriguing and worth thinking about, while the solutions, well…they could be right, but I don’t see any reason to favor them over the tons of other possible metaphysical interpretations we could use.

(George Brooks) #59


Well, we do have to fish or cut bait.

If an embryo is a human… what makes the death of a human different from the death of any other creature? If adults have souls … is it in the brain? Or is it in some rack of souls… communicating with its body via inter-dimensional connection? The Silver Cord ?

Does anyone remember this episode of Star Trek? “Return to Tomorrow” ?


(Luca) #60

But guys then still. God can remember our memories etc. But there will be no continuity? At best the resurrection is a perfect clone but i am gone? I can’t shake this?
I mean how do you answer this @BoltzmannBrain?