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December 08, 2014

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Identical twins are completely 100 percent identical at a DNA level. If you've ever met twins, though, you'll realize that they usually have completely different psychological personalities. This is despite the exact same upbringing, same schools, etc. This is more evidence that we are more than just DNA and that human beings have a metaphysical component.

Cloning basically is just like in vitro fertilization, but with the same DNA as a person that already exists. You are just creating a twin. But human beings are unable to duplicate the metaphysical component that is in a human being. Since we are not primarily metaphysical beings, but physical, we will never be able to do this.

Hmm... It occurs to me that cloning as described by Alan doesn't result in a completely identical reproduction, because the mitochodral DNA would be different (unless taken from the same woman who was the mother of the original copy).

What evidence do I actually have that anyone other than myself has a soul?

If it's not the fact that I can observe them speaking about their internal states and acting with purpose and principle (or I would be able, eventually, to observe them behaving so, if nature is allowed to take its course) and because of that I am naturally inclined to believe that they have a soul, I don't know what it is.

God didn't give me any way to correct my error about that natural inclination, so I'm bound to conclude that other humans do have a soul.

It seems likely to me that the same thing would be going on with clones. It seems likely that I would be able to observe their behavior and it would be more-or-less like the behavior of other human beings. So, it seems likely that I'd have exactly the same evidence that a clone has a soul as that any other human being does.

Of course, if it turns out that clones just slobber and chant "BRAINS!" as they lumber about and bump into things, that's another story.

As Mike pointed out, there is one complication with the "it's just a twin" claim. A human clone of me is not likely to have the same mitochondrial DNA as me. So there would be that difference. Whether that might prevent ensoulment, I don't know.

This was a great video, I always love it when Mr. Shlemon gets behind the camera! Identifying cloning as simply another method of reproduction really clears things up. Regardless of the method, the result is identical (in nature, that is) in each case.

I love that word "ensoulment." Am I correct in thinking that God gives a person their soul? The soul doesn't arise from the chromosomes or anything physical like that, but God must endow a body with its soul - right?

And in that case, I suppose God could put a soul into any body he chooses, whether it be a twin, an in-vitro baby or a clone.

So why not a very sophisticated robot? What does Christian doctrine say about machines with souls? Couldn't God perform "ensoulment" on a machine that was capable of speaking about its internal states and acting with purpose and principle?

John, there are two different views about how a soul comes to be. One view is called "traducianism," which is the view that the soul emerges through biological reproduction. The other view is called "creationism," which is the view that God creates each soul directly and implants it in the human body.

If creationism is true, then yes, God could put a soul in a machine.

OK, great. Today I learned about traducianism for the first time. Thanks! Now I'm reading about it on Wikipedia. I wonder how many Christians in the USA believe in traducianism versus creationism (of the soul), and how many just never thought about it.

I suspect most Christians have never thought about it.

John-

I would say that I have to find out about whether HAL or Lieutenant Data or Tweaky (how's that for a cheesy sci-fi reference?) have souls the same way as I do anything else.

Why do I think you have a soul?

If I see Tweaky struggling with a moral problem and he's telling me all about the troubles he's having while working things through, I'm probably going to conclude that he has a soul.

The interesting thing about HAL is that he didn't have a body in the same sense as we do or like a robot. Can you have a soul without having a single, unified body?

It's the old question about how the soul inhabits the body. Like Descartes with the pineal gland. A machine like HAL wouldn't have any particular body at all. He could theoretically jump from one set of hardware to another through the network. Could he still have a soul?

Does God have a single unified body without which He would not exist?

This is, at least, a difficult question of Incarnational theology. It's not something to be settled offhand by some metaphysical axiom about how souls must be related to bodies.

I believe that the Second Person of the Trinity is essential to God, and I believe that it is an eternal fact about this Person that He is Incarnate. I think it is possible that when Jesus shows up in the Old Testament as the Angel of the LORD, that it is with nail-pierced hands. So I go quite far with my beliefs about the embodiment of God.

But for all that, I do not think that it is essential to the Second Person that He is incarnate. The Son of God would exists even if that nail, spear and thorn pierced body did not.

So I do not think that God has a single unified body without which He would not exist.

For all that, God has a soul.

This is a very intriguing topic. I would imagine or believe that they would have to be "ensouled" to be a "normal" person. I'm not sure of the parameters of variations within that normality but until it happens it would just be speculation. God will ultimately do as He pleases. It reminds me of another topic I've pondered wherein our brains are an interface for our minds which bridges the consciousness gap between physical and metaphysical. That kinda hurts a little.

BTW, I don't think traducianism makes sense...the natural process of reproduction doesn't have the metaphysical oomph to cause a soul to exist. It has to be created by God. I was mostly discussing how you would come to know that God had done this.

Then again, I don't think any natural process has the metaphysical oomph to get from one stage in the process to the next without a direct creative act by God. "A causes B" just means "God always creates B whenever A occurs". So, in my book, "Biological reproduction by human parents causes the existence of the soul in the offspring" just means "When human parents reproduce, God always creates a soul in the offspring".

WL:

If I see Tweaky struggling with a moral problem and he's telling me all about the troubles he's having while working things through, I'm probably going to conclude that he has a soul.

But you know how people are always trying to create computer programs that mimic intelligence, like Siri, or those programs that you can actually have a conversation with? What if those programs get better and better to the point that they mimic intelligence so well, we can't tell the difference. Given that possibility, shouldn't we be skeptical that anything like a computer/robot that appears to be struggling with a moral dilemma really has a soul or is really thinking at all? Why wouldn't you suspect Tweaky was just mimicking human behavior?

BTW, I don't think traducianism makes sense...the natural process of reproduction doesn't have the metaphysical oomph to cause a soul to exist.

I don't have an opinion on traducianism vs. creationism, but I don't think traducianism is problematic. Given the fact that there's an intimate connection between the soul and the body it inhabits, it doesn't seem unreasonable to think that when something is going on biologically, that something is happening to the soul as well. So I don't see any difficulty in supposing that when biological reproduction happens, a new soul comes into existence as a result.

So I don't see any difficulty in supposing that when biological reproduction happens, a new soul comes into existence as a result.
I agree with everything in this quote up to "as a result". I can't make any sense of that. Not anymore than I can make sense of a mental state being the same thing as or caused by a brain state.

I guess that's part of the reason I'm an immaterialist.

What if those programs get better and better to the point that they mimic intelligence so well, we can't tell the difference. Given that possibility, shouldn't we be skeptical that anything like a computer/robot that appears to be struggling with a moral dilemma really has a soul or is really thinking at all? Why wouldn't you suspect Tweaky was just mimicking human behavior?
The first part of this quote answers the second part. The reason I wouldn't suspect Tweaky was just mimicking human behavior is that, by supposition, I can't tell the difference. In short, it's exactly the same reason I have for supposing that other human beings aren't simply mimicking my behavior, but are sufficiently like me to count as persons (and thus ensouled).

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