Your Lovely Android Spouse

Let’s try a thought experiment and see if we can tease out what it is we believe about the spirit-body connection. Previously, I asked the question about how we would know whether robots were conscious enough to baptize and if so, should they be. Here, I continue the theme.

The thought experiment (Adapted from one in consciousness philosophy)

Pretend you are living fifty years in the future. Your wife (if you are a female, replace all wife talk with husband talk if you wish) has had a tiny stroke and it destroyed a single neuron in the visual cortex of her brain. This single neuron has nixed her ability to detect horizontal lines. You live in a time when MRI’s have been refined to the point that they can detect the structure of a single cell. She is just missing the one neuron.

Now the doctor tells you not to worry. Cyberspace Sprockets Consolidated (CSC) as just developed an artificial neuron. It works just as well as a natural one although it is made of metal and silicon. It is the same size, weight, etc. as a natural one and wires up to the other neurons just like the real one and, in short, should work just like her old one. Your wife consents, you agree with her, and your dear wife has the neuron installed. “I can see perfectly again! The horizontal lines are back!” She says enthusiastically after the operation. Functionally, she sees just like she did before. She says she can’t tell the difference between her conscious phenomenal experience before the stroke and after the operation. It is a complete success. Cheers all around.

Pause for a couple of questions.

Is your wife dead?
Would your wife spirit’s still be in her body (whatever that ‘in’ means)?

I’m guessing most of us would say she is still the wonderful person she was before the operation.


Now, tiny strokes continue and, slowly, over time your wife has replaced 10% of her brain with the CSC’s neuroplus® IV neuronites. Each of these artificial neurons is functionally identical to the ones it replaced, meaning it does exactly what the original neuron did, but does so with constructed artificial technology. Your wife seems to be the same, she claims she thinks the same things. The world feels the same to her consciously she claims. You can detect no change in her personality, manner, and interests. She is the same person she’s always been.

Pause for a couple of questions.

Is your wife dead?
Would your wife’s spirit still be in her body (whatever that ‘in’ means)?


“Feeling forgetful? With neuroplus® IV you can restore all those memories that you’re losing with age! If you have had an MRI++ recording your original neural connections, you can have those deteriorating neurons replaced. Talk to your Doctor and ask her if neuroplus® IV is right for you.”


It’s been ten years and you know that many of your wife’s neuron’s have been replaced, but you haven’t been keeping track. One Tuesday morning you awake and your wife turns to you and says, ‘You know, snookums (as she calls you), today they are replacing my last biological neuron with a neuronite.’ She jokes that all of her old brain is completely gone, and with that comment she goes to take a shower.

And for the first time you wonder, ‘Is this still really my wife? Is her spirit still there? With nothing of her original brain left, in some ways she is an artificial being. But she has never seemed different in the long slow process of her neurons being replaced one by one. She still claims that she loves you and acts like it. She cares as much for your child as she did before. She at that moment pops her head out of the shower and reminds you, that you are going to the temple this evening.

Is your wife dead?
Could your wife’s spirit still be in her body (whatever that ‘in’ means)?

So let’s take the thought experiment home. Your wife happens to become a lion tamer (her childhood dream) and year-by-year due to the dangers of her profession she loses her arms, legs, etc. Science, in this future, has made it possible to replace limbs for which a normal human with a biological brain has a complete conscious physical sense (technology really is heading there—see the recent National Geographic on the growing science of artificial limbs). One day your wife walks in and there is not a cell of her biological self left. She looks just like your wife, talks like your wife and claims to be your loving, lifelong sweetheart. She has all of your wife’s memories, experiences, expressions and the same personality. You can’t tell her from your biological wife. She claims not to have ever noticed a change in the way her consciousness feels to her during her conversion from biological to artificial being.

Is this lovely android standing before you your wife? Could her spirit have survived this process? If not, when did she die?


Your wife is torn to little pieces by a raging lion. ‘Not to worry,’ says a CSC representative, “We’ve kept a record. We can construct her just as she was at her last MRI++ two weeks ago.

Bookmark Your Lovely Android Spouse


  1. StillConfused says:

    Interesting. We replace our own cells and neurons all of the time, so that didn’t seem that strange to me.

  2. SteveP, are you fixin’ to start a new MLM that sells fountain of youth neurons?

  3. I suppose what specific physical entity our spirits inhabit is somewhat meaningless. If someone’s physical body doesn’t have an arm or a leg, is their spirit missing the arm or leg? We talk about “getting our bodies back” in the resurrection, but what about bodies vaporized in atomic bombs? And finally, our bodies are just a collection of atoms anyway that are continually turning over. Statistically, it is likely that an oxygen atom that Netwon breathed is incorporated somewhere in your body.

  4. StillConfused, the “every cell in the body is replaced every X years” is largely an urban myth. Cells are replaced on different schedules depending on their type. Some of your neurons and heart muscle cells have been with you since birth.

  5. anothernonymous says:

    #3 During the Nauvoo period Joseph Smith is recorded as saying (as documented in Cook’s and Ehat’s The Words of Joseph Smith) that along with the substance or the spirit, the physical body (at least some portion of it), never becomes part of another body, hence that specific element is reserved for you in the resurrection.

    Truman Madsen states it this way in his book Eternal Man (1966):

    “Regarding the ultimate identity of man, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that man as a primal intelligence is eternal. Likewise the spirit-elements that compose his Divinely-sired spirit and the matter-elements that compose his physically-sired body are eternal. Except in procreation, these elements of the total self never become an essential part of any other self. Once united, their destiny is to be glorified and “inseparably connected” throughout all eternity. …

    “The Prophet taught that our identity is not simply a thread of memory or a bundle of impressions. None of the eternal elements of our person (even during the temporary disorganization of the body) becomes an essential part of another body.

    “This statement was made in response to a question by Orson Pratt. Recent biology suggests that it is almost as if our own “identification tag” is on each constituent cell of our bodies.”

    So presumably the doctrine of the Prophet is that regardless of the transfer of element during the earth’s “telestial” state, in the resurrection each man and woman that ever lived on the earth will be restored to the actual elements that their physical bodies consisted of, even those that were annihilated by an atomic blast, etc.

    Like you. I didn’t see the necessity in this but upon further reflection there is a beauty in the concept of element that is reserved eternally to be your immortal physical body. I find this a fascinating and bold concept.

  6. Sadly, science has yet to detect (or even find a way to detect) the spirit within the body and where it differs from the rest of the body. Clearly, as we see quadriplegics and those permanently disabled by diseases such as MS (my wife’s mother is paralyzed completely from the neck down—essentially her entire body is dead except for her internal organs which still work normally), they are still alive and still the exact same “souls” we have always known.

    It is my belief that the soul is attached to the heart in some fashion or another, but I am starting to lean on the possibility that our souls are only attached to these physical bodies in some Matrix/Avatar like fashion, and that the souls actually physically reside somewhere else.

  7. Tripartite existentialism (#5). Awesome. And mostly superfluous. Folk interpretations generally overlook just how much our physiology is indistinguishable from who we are.

  8. StillConfused says:

    I personally don’t believe that we have physical bodies in the afterlife but rather are just energy so I don’t get too worried about the physical body.

  9. #5: Granted, some “cells” don’t turn over very much (ie. neurons, oocytes, etc.) However, even something as seemingly inert as bone is continually being broken down and recreated. We ingest food, we breathe air, we take in molecules and atoms. Our cells build proteins. Our cells break substances down. There is A LOT of turn over.

    Some studies were done in the 1950s and 1960s where people were given radioactively tagged atoms to study “turnover”. Based on the studies, it is estimated that 98% of our “atoms” in the cells turn over each year – ie. the “cell” may still be there, but all of the atoms have been replaced. So, I’m not really sure what is meant as to some specific group of atoms still being “ours” in the resurrection.

    So, while Joseph Smith may have said something along that line, my attitude is similar to President Hinckley’s when asked about the “…God now is, man may become…” couplet that also came from JS in a similar fashion – “I don’t really know what that means, and I’m not sure we teach that”.

  10. Mike, while that’s true (and I find Joseph’s statement dubious unless he’s referring to the physical spirit – remember most of these sermons are fragmentary) I think that neurons, as I recall, turn over the matter in them much more slowly.

  11. Interesting idea…. a few points to add to the discussion. For the most part neurons do not turn over. There are a few regions of the brain where new neurons are born. When you are around the age of one or two you have the maximal number of neurons that you are going to have. Until late adolescence the neurons start dieing at very fast rates.

    While the question raised by this article is very interesting I find more interesting the question “After a major stroke your wife who was gentile, kind, and patient has become aggressive, compulsive, mean, and dishonest. Has you’re wife’s soul changed” This question is more interesting because it is actually plausible. If you don’t believe me look up the case of Phineas Gage, one of the greatest neurological case studies ever. He had a metal rod shot through his head and underwent the personality shift I proposed above.

    I tend to feel that the idea of a spirit living in and controlling our bodies like a puppet is incorrect. I’ve met many people that believe our spirits are who we are and that we are simply drive our bodies. They would argue that if we have mean spirits then we act mean and if we have nice spirits we act nice.

    The data suggests quite the opposite. Our personality, our behavior, our identity is an actual physical thing that can be measured, quantified and destroyed.

  12. “We ingest food, we breathe air, we take in molecules and atoms. Our cells build proteins. Our cells break substances down. There is A LOT of turn over.”

    Hmmm… if we retain all the matter that has ever made up parts of our body, people in the afterlife are going to be really, really, really fat. Awesome.

    Great thought experiment! I tend to think that our bodies are made up of atoms/elements, and so are whatever “artificial” pieces we are made of – they still come from the same basic building blocks, even if they aren’t ones we typically find in the human body.

    I really like where slayton has gone with this. Not even something as traumatic as a stroke or a metal rod through the brain would be required. Especially in geriatric patients, conditions ranging from diabetes to UTIs can cause significant, sudden personality changes… Is the spirit changing, too? Or is it somewhere else wondering what’s going on with my body?

    I tend to think that our body and our spirit are inseparable to such an extent that they are the same. What happens to our body happens to our spirit. I’m not sure the idea that at some point during development or birth God puts a spirit in a previously inert physical shell is quite right – it makes more sense to me that our spirit grows and develops with our physical body from conception through eternity…

    Of course 3 Nephi 1 would argue otherwise if we want to be literal about it. Christ does speak to Nephi the day before his physical birth…

  13. My own theory is a bit more complex. A short version: in string theory there are 10 dimensions, most of which are “wrapped up” leaving us with our 3 dimensions and time. According to the theory, the matter we experience in the physical world is made up of vibrations (resonances) in the other dimensions. Different resonances correspond to different building blocks of atoms.

    Things going along with this:
    – There is a reasonable chance that string theory is a good description, although not proven and not the only one
    – The matter we see in our dimensions is “coarse matter”
    – Our spirits (and God) could exist in 10-dimensional world that we can’t comprehend
    – Our spirits are “wrapped up” in the 6 hidden dimensions – ie. “finer matter”
    – We can’t see “finer matter” with our natural eye
    – Spirits are intelligence, etc. This is essentially information. If physical matter (our dimensions) is made up of resonances in the spirit matter (the other 6 dimensions), this could be the correlation

    Just random thoughts.

  14. Mike S,


    Here is a question for you?
    The glory of god is intelligence, and satan has been stripped of all his glory. If spirits are intelligence and b/c satan has no glory he has no intelligence does this mean he has no spirit?

    The only reason I raise this, somewhat stupid, question is because I feel it illustrates the shortcomings in these discussions.

    The terms spirit, intellegence, glory, etc… are thrown around in so many ways without any clear definitions its hard to use them in logical arguments.

  15. The question that really interests me here is if a humanly constructed android could be considered worthy of the ordinances of salvation. Do we have warrant that she is worthy, because we are forced to assume she as a spirit, to be fully considered for the status of what we as LDS mean by a son or daughter of God.

    If you agree this woman can go to the temple for ordinances, then her after-the-lion-attack replacement self is too, and there are no in principle arguments against artificial beings being fully human in a Mormon sense.

    Not just ‘how’ our body hooks up with a spirit, but can we allow for other artificial consciousness to be included in what we allow to join the church?

  16. We could get all our proxy work done in a jiffy with a bunch of androids. Kewl.

  17. StillConfused says:

    Once I was quite ill. I told my dad. He and his wife went to the temple to put my name in the prayer roll. Well, their dog was also missing. My dad’s wife, bless her heart, put the dog’s name in the prayer roll too. And the dog came home safe.

    My point is, isn’t it God rather than man who determines who is worthy of salvation? #15 makes it sound like man controls the church.

  18. #17 yes, but sometimes God is slowed down by what ‘man’ is willing to open his mind to accepting and recognizing what God is willing to allow. There are several cases in point, but one can see this in the early church in the reluctance of some members recently converted to Christ right after the crucifixion not allowing gentiles to be Christians without being Jews first.

  19. Carl Youngblood says:

    In my opinion, any intelligence that is capable of advancing in knowledge should be given all possible opportunities to do so. “God himself, finding he was in the midst of spirits and glory, because he was more intelligent, saw proper to institute laws whereby the rest could have a privilege to advance like himself.” We shouldn’t treat any sentient being with contempt just because it inhabits a different kind of body than we do.

  20. I’ve always envisioned the each person’s body parts return to them as organs flying around during the resurrection from organ donation..or maybe we’ll have to return them personally and I’ll get to thank the ligament donor and pig for my knee ligaments.

    I’ve wondered if we’ll actually be resurrected a old and all those people wishing for perfect looking 20yo will be disappointed…

    I’ve also assumed that our bodies are a a very thick and powerful shell which do dictate a lot of our personality and choices…and it is up to us to partially break through and be US. I know that spirits do have personality and can be recognized as specific people.

  21. Slayton begins to take this in the much more interesting and relevant direction. The geriatrics comment a little further. Allow me to take it even further.

    A lot of people, including my wife, have mental disorders such as clinical depression and bipolar disorder. What happens when the person you love is suddenly and thoroughly transformed into literally a raving lunatic (as in severe mania from bipolar)? And then a few weeks later when the right medical cocktail is concoted and she returns to herself, and she claims that it was always her, just “amplified” or “enhanced” or “too much for my body” and very firmly believes the whole thing was a deeply profound and spiritual experience.

    What then is the role of spirit, mind, and physical brain in this severe and yet thoroughly true and not uncommon experience?

    (I do like the thought experiment even if I am trying to threadjack it :-)

  22. You are never going to collect life insurance this way.

  23. “Not to worry,… We can construct her just as she was.”

    Steve, in this imaginary super biotech world, would we still need Resurrection?

  24. I just shared this with my dad by phone. He said, “That’s interesting. What’s the answer?” I said that I didn’t know the answer. He said, “Well, I can tell you what Joseph F.Smith would say the answer is.” what’s that? “That Satan made you ask the question.”

  25. #14: slayton

    I postulate that “intelligence” is raw material, much like our atoms. It has therefore always existed and always will exist in the “10-D” world. When we became children of our Father, the intelligence was organized into spirits, much like we organize atoms into bodies for our children. Satan still exists as a spirit – ie. organized intelligence. It can’t be argued that he is still cunning and devious, etc. Outer darkness, in this sense, is a destruction of the “spirit” back into the raw “intelligence”, thus the person’s entity or essence no longer exists.

    We needed to learn how to exist in a physical world. Going through the veil essentially forced our higher dimensional body into our 3-D world (ie. a sphere “forced” into a 2-D plane is a circle like in Flatland – great book). Our spirit still influences us and essentially defines us. Satan also exists in the “spirit” world and tries to have influence over our bodies. In fact, it can be argued that the spirit world exists right here amongst us, just wrapped up in a dimension so small that we can’t perceive it.

    In the resurrection, our bodies/spirits can be complete. We can once again become inhabitants of God’s world in all its multidimensional glory.

  26. #25: Should be “it CAN be argued…”

  27. Bogolubov says:

    #24 – It appears your Father has confused a law school hypothetical with Satan. It’s an easy mistake to make.

  28. #23 Gary, don’t forget resurrection is more than super good body, it’s also the fusing of element and spirit. I’d think that would still be necessary.

    #24 GST, tell your dad it’s questions Satan hates (Put long list of prophets who asked though questions wherein revelation followed here).

  29. I personally feel that an interactionist dualist position is very convincing, after reading a bit by this brilliant physicist named Avshalom Elitzur:

    So the spirit does have some sort of causal influence on matter. However, I think that our body of matter makes up the majority of who and what we are. The spirit seems mostly to be an observer… who ties the brain together. This is how you can have thoughts and processes in different parts of the brain, yet you still have a “self” who possesses all those thoughts.

    I also think that your spirit is the “observer” that collapses wave functions. But that’s just me.

  30. Steve, “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). The LDS interpretation is that “”the physical body cannot live without the spirit.” (Guide to the Scriptures: Spirit.) Now, are you suggesting (imaginatively speaking) that a person previously “torn to little pieces by a raging lion” (i.e. a dead person) could be made alive by CSC such that it is the same person he or she has always been, and do this without reuniting the reconstructed biotech physical body with its spirit body counterpart? Or are you saying the reuniting of physical body and spirit body isn’t necessary in this case? If not, why not? Just exactly how would this work in your imaginary super biotech world?

  31. Gary those are the questions!

  32. To be clear, my dad does not subscribe to that view.

  33. I don’t think there would be a difference. This of course depends on the quality of the installations. If they are able to install them and it successfully integrates itself with the rest of the brain, I think that it would then be a part of the brain. Full and actual. And so, the next time one is added it will go through the same process, becoming part of the brain. If all of the actual brain is gone, replaced with the neutron, I feel it would be the same brain as each time they were successfully integrated.

    As for the replacing of body parts . . . I don’t think the vessel in which a spirit is “contained” matters much. The android (because of successful integration) is the same person, just made out of different parts. I don’t think a persons spirit is necessarily gone, just got a new home.

    As far as the body being dead. It is dead, because it is gone, but the wife . . . as long as her mind is in tact, (in some sort of body) I don’t feel she is dead.

  34. gustav375 says:

    you could also ask assuming in this scenario mentioned her spirit was still within her, if your wife died early on could Technology rebuild her the way she was and still have her spirit in her.

  35. I think a body without a spirit is like those people technically alive but with no conscious activity going on or possible. To me that’s dead regardless of whether the organs are working and parts of the brain are working.

  36. SteveP #15

    We could just “baptize’m all and let God sort it out”

  37. I love the historical perspective that Caroline Walker Bynum offers on these questions. Joseph’s views on material continuity are interesting and probably complex. Minor nitpicking–the brief sermon was in response to an Orson Pratt sermon, rather than a question he had posed.

  38. @ anon 21…

    Thank you so much for sharing this. FYI I’m actually getting my PhD in neuroscience now from MIT.

    For a while I’ve been posing these sorts of thought experiments to my family and have been laughed at. We have however had a family member who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and they are all starting to understand the implications of my “thought experiments”

    The idea that our spirits/personalities/souls whatever you want to call them are independent of the body is completely incorrect. Who we are, what we are capable of doing and even the reality we experience is entirely a function of our bodies.

    One of the problems with major mood disorders is the individual begins to perceive a skewed reality. There is no way for them to know their senses are lying to them their senses have always told the truth. One someone who hallucinates they are usually un-aware that what they are seeing isn’t real.

    Going back to me earlier post #14. We use terms like spirit without really being able to define them. For the most part we I think Mormon’s assume a spirit is night unto a ghost when we have really no data to support that.

    I know it may be hard to comprehend if you have no experience with people who are suffering from real psychological disorders but they are very real and demonstrate that who we are is a function of what we are, not some ephemeral “ghost”/spirit.

  39. The persistence of material existence is an illusion. Schroedinger, Heisenberg and Bohr taught us that, but we still persist in our ante-quantum-diluvian mistakes because we’ve yet to learn from last century’s seers.

  40. #38: Skewed reality

    I agree. What we perceive to be real through our sense is “real” to us. It makes it difficult to define what “reality” is, and perhaps it’s different for each of us. It also makes it hard to define spiritual experiences.

  41. Also, perhaps the Buddhists were on to something 2500 years ago with their mind “experiments” and their investigation of reality.

  42. #38 several years ago I went completely insane due to a brain infection caused by a bacteria. For about a week I saw, heard and believed things things about the world that were not there. I agree our bodies, minds and spirits are intimately connected. Here is the full write-up.

  43. Personally I believe that much of the discussion here–that of whether the physical body controls the spirit, personality, etc…or vice versa–is ignoring a major data point: Anakin Skywalker.

    It is clear that, after becoming “more machine now than man,” he was the same person he was before. While it is tempting to ascribe his cruelty as a Sith Lord to his physical body being artifically recreated and, consquently, forced into an arranged marriage with his spirit, it is key to recall that Anakin became a minion of the Dark Side before he became an android. Although the comparison appears to be thinned by the minor issue of Anakin’s neurons all being unharmed when his body was mutilated in molten lava, but it is plain to see that, when he learned Padme was dead, his heart was indeed broken, so I think the analogy works still.

    That his spirit and body were still functioning in harmony is further demonstrated by the fact that he chucked Palpatine over the ledge to his apparent death, and reconciled with his son before dying. Indeed, because we see the same newly repented Anakin standing in Jedi spirit form next to his old friends Yoda and Obi-Wan after the Death Star is destroyed and the rebels are partying with the Ewoks, it is undeniable that the same spirit existed in Anakin the whole time. There is simply no way spirit Anakin is allowed to attend that party if the choice to repent was actually made by an “artificial” spirit or body.

  44. Scott, you hit the nail on the head. However, I will never judge Anakin. Few of us have had to spend more than a few hours with Jar Jar Binks. Imagine what it would do to both mind and spirit to spend days with him. It would drive the most stable of us over the edge. A few of us believe that it was in fact that interaction that drove Anakin to the dark side. Who among us could survive being exposed to that gungan for any length of time and not fry every neuron in our head?

  45. SteveP,
    I admit to having not considered the very real impact of spending the developmental years of life with Jar-Jar Binks. Ugh.

    Nevertheless, the overarching point for me remains the same: the Atonement is about making bad men good, good men better, and robots into people. Consider Pinocchio: through the prayers of Geppetto, a wooden boy was a) brought to life in a wooden (Android) form, and, after making numerous choices that caused him to experience life and repent, b) transformed into a real boy.

    The Atonement is transforming in nature. Thus, even if my lovely wife contains artificial neurons, I don’t see any reason that these cannot be “transformed” just as completely as if they were her own from the start, just as Anakin and Pinocchio’s decisions made while in the circuit/wooden state rose with them in the resurrection.

  46. I have always thought of the spirit/physical body connection as somewhat similiar to the software/hardware connection on a computer. How a computer works and behaves is a combination of the two components. There are some here who say behavior and personality all physical and some who say it is mostly the spirit. I think it is both. Using the computer analogy, you can have the best software in the world, but if you have crappy hardware, it will appear that that software is buggy and defective. Likewise, if you have awesome hardware but crappy software it will appear that your hardware is defective. I think that is one of the many reasons we should not judge others. We don’t always now what the root cause of their behavior is.

  47. Ignorant Sage says:

    Great questions, Steve, and ones we really should be asking ourselves now. First, because I don’t think there is any reason to assume such a thing is fundamentally impossible (given the advances already made). Second, because I believe the questioning before it becomes a reality (assuming it can/will) will help us answer the questions with both reason and wisdom rather than with fear.

    I don’t think we should/would deny such a person baptism. We certainly don’t for people with artificial legs, hands, eyes, etc. So even if the being gets to the point that the whole body is “man-made”, if the being has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and desires to repent andis asking for baptism (the first principles), I can think of no reason why we would deny them the ordinances.

    As for R. Gary’s question on whether we would still need a resurrection – it seems to me that the wise thing would be to do everything in our power to sustain and improve life. Ours is a religion to prepare for life, not for death. Even in if we find ourselves in this “imaginary super biotech world” (which may turn out to be not too imaginary), replacing our minds and bodies and living for eons, I’ll still take any resurrection God offers.

    To think otherwise seems to me to be looking modern medicine two hundred years ago and asking “and in this imaginary future of hip replacements, laser eye surgery, heart transplants, etc., etc., will there still be a need for God’s healing power?” While I’m still both deeply greatful for, and a believer in, God’s healing powers, I’ll still go to the doctor when I’m sick.

    If in our future, doctors can make the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and blind to see – as they are already doing and will do better in the future – I will praise the Lord for his mercies upon us his children. And if we “raise the dead” into labratory raised or silicon-crafted bodies, I’ll pray in thanks while still worshipping my Father and my Lord and, to use Paul’s words, continue to hope for “a better resurrection”.

    Maybe we never will see a world like Steve describes.

    But if we do, should we not be greatful?

    And if we do, is there any reason we should lose our faith in God, Christ, or eternal salvation?

  48. Moniker Challenged says:

    #42- Yowza, Scott. Thanks for sharing that.

  49. Moniker Challenged says:

    Er- Steve. Sorry.

  50. Eons ago, I heard the great scientist, Brother Eyring, speak. It was in the 1970s, when there was a big hubbub about cloning a human.
    It did not bother him. He believed that all that was necessary for resurrection was a strand of DNA, in order to rebuild the human body. Made sense to me back then, and makes sense now.
    Now, when the spirit remains or leaves the body is an interesting thing to ponder. Just not for very long, as there is no real way to know it now. If a person is basically brain dead, but the heart and other organs still function to keep the body alive and cells regenerating, is the spirit still inside? What if half of the brain is dead, and only minimal function to keep essential life support going is working, what then? We just don’t know. And the argument continues everytime a family fights over pulling the plug on a loved one.

  51. Very interesting thread!

    Assuming we can indefinitely replace failing body parts so that a person can live forever, does a person with a healthy artificial body still need to be resurrected? If so, what happens if the artificial body is still functioning at the time of the resurrection? Does it somehow lose its spirit to the resurrected body? Or does the “person” now have two bodies and two spirits?

  52. Bogolubov says:

    Slayton (#38) –

    You may find the following video by V.S. Ramachandran of UCSD interesting. He spends a few minutes on a three different patients with various kinds of brain damage which in turn illuminates some unique aspects of brain function.

    Schizophrenia presents a whole host of problems for the faithful since it strikes at the very heart of our notions concerning free agency and the usual platitudes about someone being given trials for the own benefit absolutely fail. My heart goes out to your family member.

  53. I’m married to a schizophrenic. I’ve often wondered how much of his personality is due to the chemical imbalances in his brain, and how much of it is from his natural characteristics. Is he any less of an android spouse because his body is controlled by the powerful chemicals in his medications, as opposed to whirring, silicone machines? And will I even recognize him upon resurrection if his natural personality is being suppressed by his damaged brain?

    Sorry, Dr. P, no answers, just more questions.

  54. It’s all in the information. The brain actually stores learned information in its wiring, as it continually rewires itself according to the patterns of neuronal firing. So the spirit = the information (including learned and genetically programmed wiring patterns, along with the somewhat haphazard phenotype that results from the genotype… i.e. identical twins aren’t 100% identical, as some happenstance during development can affect the actual bodies that grow from the same genetic program).

    It matters not at all what hardware a spirit is implemented on, so long as the implementation is true to the original. This is indeed why we can’t judge each other but only God can judge us. Nobody knows what predispositions were there for reasons beyond the person’s control. So we’re all tempted in totally different ways. So only God can say how well we did given what we had to work with.

    So yes, do baptize those androids! Their spirits are just as real as ours. What is a regular human body but a vast biochemical machine upon which our spirits are implemented, anyway? The spirit is all contained in the information.

    There’s no need to worry about what happens at the resurrection, since the resurrection consists of just this! Our descendants ages and ages hence, or, say, not before next Wednesday at the earliest, will learn how to build immortal bodies, and then with The Lord’s help will learn how to restore their ancestors into those perfect bodies. The Lord has the “tapes” that contain all the information in our brains at the time of death, or actually at any point in our lives. The information is not being destroyed. It’s saved. I’m not sure why temple work is required, but maybe it’s just the huge database of people and their relationships that we will need to be able to reconstruct who is whom. I’m sure there’s a good reason for it, anyway. A real reason, I mean, not just a made up reason.

    Incidentally, my son is dealing with mental illness now and he’s completely convinced that many bad things that are happening and have happened all over in the world are due to him. The lady professor who shot some people in Huntsville, AL the other day he feels did it because of him, which he knows because she wore a pink shirt. To him this clearly refers to some former villainy or bad thoughts he committed while also wearing a pink shirt. That’s how he’s sure it’s actually his fault. When I talk to him I just accept these things. I don’t try to contradict him or talk him out of them, because that doesn’t work and just makes him distrust me, that I’m trying to put one over on him. So I just go along. I ask him to explain his reasoning to me and then I accept that he knows these things.

    So I want to ask SteveP, how do you know that the things you know now are realer somehow than the things you knew then when you had the brain bacteria? (My son has Lyme disease of the central nervous system, so his problems are possibly entirely due to bacteria as well.)

    When I bear testimony to my son, and I describe how I just know that God exists because I can feel it when I pray, I know He answers me, I directly perceive someone there, etc. That knowledge, that testimony, sounds to me exactly like my son’s knowledge of all the meaning that he’s recently learned how to read into everything around him that tells him all these things that he believes now, all his various psychoses. How do you know after that experience of being so sure of the truth of all the crazy things you believed then, that the things you believe now, that we all agree with each other in believing, aren’t just as illusory or insane? I really have no answer to that question except the answer by Darwinian fitness, that I am happier and more successful and my life works so much better for me now than it did before I knew God.

    The truth is something that is very slippery. I’m sure different species see our same world in very different ways, depending on their particular brain wiring, and sensory inputs. Who is to say a dog’s reality is less real than a human’s? Even different human cultures hold very different views of the world from each other. Which reality is realer? I’m not sure there’s any answer to that question other than the answer produced by natural selection. Whatever views survive and propagate are somehow best, even though survival is very contingent on the random happenstance of history, as the fossils of the Burgess Shale teach us, right?

    Maybe the whole world is intimately connected, I’m postulating, and my son’s current view is more correct than our “standard model” that we call sanity in our culture. I really don’t know for sure how to judge that. How do you judge between worldviews of different cultures? How do you know for sure that your worldview now is actually truer than the view you held when you were technically insane? Do you have a solid test that would let you know for sure? I’m sure you must have thought about it. Please let me know, if it’s not too much of a threadjack. If it is then please email me and let me know. Is it just a majority rule sort of thing? I need to know so I don’t go totally off the rails and follow my son into his paranoia and various psychoses, okay?

    The thing is, because of what I know of science, of the magical realism of Jorge Luis Borges which is true to quantum mechanics, of all the science fiction I’ve read in my life, and the fantasy and speculative fiction, I find I can quite easily slip into the mode of seeing the world through his point of view. I just have to hypothesize previously unknown laws of physics that extend the “spooky action at a distance” that we know is true because of non-locality. We’ve got all the 11 dimensions of string theory (counting time, of course) to play with. There’s dark matter and dark energy, inflation, and the interaction of stuff going on in all those other curled up dimensions. There’s the cosmological constant and all that. It’s really quite easy to imagine some vastly advanced version of physics that could explain all these things, including the pink shirts, and probably your aliens as well. I mean it’s barely even a stretch for me to imagine.

    So how do you decide what’s real and what’s mental illness? I’m beginning to wonder if we actually can know. Thinking about it is sort of running me off the rails into other dimensions myself. =) So my question is really quite urgent. Please tell me if you have come up with an answer to that, will you?

  55. Okay, I just went back and reread your paper about going insane, and what I remembered as aliens in fact was the evil Satan WalMart Organization (SRO). I noted three important things.

    One, is God disappeared to you when you were insane. That is quite interesting to me because my son also cycles in and out of belief in God. When he’s otherwise sane he believes in God, and when he’s insane he is positive that God doesn’t exist. Which is odd because my feeling of powerful belief in God is the thing that most resembles in me the powerful beliefs he professes of these paranoid delusions or psychoses. In other words, he just knows them without being able to clearly say how it is he knows them. He can’t give evidence, he’s just positive. I guess my experience of complete faith in God causes me to give more credence to his complete faith in these bizarre truths he propounds, and to just accept them as things he knows without knowing how he knows them. I mean *I* don’t believe them, but I don’t try to talk him out of them or refute them to him. I just take them as his articles of faith and accept them as such, as I would accept another’s religious faith that contradicted mine.

    Two is that I can totally understand and tentatively accept the possible existence of a shadow organization along the lines of the SWO. I mean, everyone knows WalMart is satanic! That’s a no-brainer. And as powerful as WalMart is in the world, if you hypothesize that they might team up with Satan, then I can certainly understand why such an organization might be even more powerful, able to conceal itself, and visible only to the otherwise mad. There’s a whole folklore to build on the topic of holy fools and wise madmen, of course. For instance, in Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell it was George VI who could see the gentleman with the thistledown hair long before Strange was able to espy him.

    It only stands to reason that evil stand-ins have to be cloned and trained to perpetrate so much evil as we see in the world today, since otherwise nice people like our children wouldn’t do such horrible things as we sometimes observe in them. In short, it’s not all that much of a stretch to find a framework in which your whole SWO scenario makes perfect sense as well. My son and I tonight were discussing, for instance, that he thought I was possessed the night he went mad and shoved me to the ground and escaped into the night barefooted to knock urgently on neighbors’ doors begging a ride to the airport. He was reacting rationally, he said, to the fact that I was possessed. I hypothesized that it was my father who was possessing me (his parenting style, anyway) and countered that my son seemed possessed by HIS father that same night. So we agreed to schedule a double-exorcism with whatever ecclesiastical leaders would agree to the same, (we’re thinking of asking the African Catholic priest who practices nearby) and then hugged and made up.

    Thirdly, I’m dismayed to read at the end of your account that you’re still not sure what it means about truth and the nature of madness and sanity, for I was hoping, sir, that you could give me some real answers. When I read your account the first time, it was with great interest in what it showed us about the fabric of our reality that our brains are just as much constructing as revealing, about how creative our brains are in weaving this texture of waking life around us from the raw sensory impressions it receives. But until my son’s recent madness I didn’t feel it to be so very vital to know for sure what is really real as opposed to only seemingly real. And I still feel myself to be very much at sea on that point.

    I’ve always wanted to be the first human ambassador to the aliens, when we contact other intelligent species in the galaxy. I have this teeming bubbling xenophilia that consumes me and delights me when bumping up against any strangeness of foreignness. I feel such joy at letting my mind dance among the bizarre possibilities that are likely to be commonplace in extraterrestrial thought. The aliens in science fiction who are the most alien of aliens, such as the star-intelligences in Frank Herbert’s Whipping Star, or other really bizarre inconceivable otherminds, are the ones that I feel are most realistic. I think that not only are aliens stranger than we imagine but they’re most likely stranger than we CAN imagine. So perhaps human madness is a close analog to that, a first approximation to the true oddness that will be the other ways of being, other ways of thinking, that other intelligent species will display.

    I wonder, in fact, if my son’s madness, and your former madness, aren’t just as valid in some sense as this shared madness that we in our culture call sanity?

  56. I fear this future world where we replace our dying neurons with living ones. Not because I fear change and androids frighten me, but because if I double my life span, then I need to pay for the medical treatments, which means I will have to work longer to pay the health insurance to pay for the treatments. By the time I reach “retirement age” it’ll probably be 70 assuming we continue current trends. Add in fundamental changes like these (artificial neurons) to a normal life span and I’ll have to work at my crappy job until I’m 120. Screw that!!!! I say let me die young.

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