I was having a discussion earlier about the clown world we find ourselves in, specifically “transgender” stuff, and along the way an interesting question came up.
Suppose some bright spark develops a TransRay. Step inside and push the button, and your entire material self is rebuilt to the opposite sex, down to any arbitrary level, but at the very least DNA and related sex-specific cellular machinery must be rebuilt.
Now that’s all well and good for the dear old materialists out there – male meat robot walks in, female meat robot walks out – but what of (a) the mind, and (b) the soul? We know that immaterial things like the mind and soul can be influenced by material things (a nice gin & tonic springs to mind) even if they are not created by material things. So, supposing our inventor of Things Man Was Not Meant To Build succeeds, would St Thomas agree that a man has become a woman, or would it be a case of a man in a woman’s body?
And with that question hanging I think I’ll wish you a very merry Christmas, and all the best for the rest of this year, and the year to come.
First, I was hoping Anon meant this coming Christmas, 2023, and not 2022, because that would mean that I am about four months behind on emails. Alas, I get so many emails I’ll never be able to answer them all. Until I get rich enough for a secretary.
Second, lest I be accused of insisting that I did eat breakfast—let him who readeth understand—let me ask you all another hypothetical question: what if 1 + 1 did not equal 2?
How would you go about answering that? You could dispute the symbols, perhaps, and say “No, what 1 + 1 really equals is ⊰”. But investigation would reveal, in the end, that ⊰ was another way of saying 2.
You could try, à la Russell and Whitehead, to begin at the very beginning, and show the world that basic arithmetic has these many millennia been misinterpreted, and that, after all, 1 + 1 really equals 3. But to do that, you’d have to show the axioms upon which ordinary arithmetic rests, which everybody (who considers them) believes, are false.
Best you could say is something like that if 1 + 1 does not equal 2, then you can’t be sure of anything, include the proposition that you can’t be sure of anything. That being so, there’s no use arguing about anything, because everybody in the end is free to believe whatever they like for no reason other than “I want”.
So the right answer to Anon’s question today is not that I did not eat breakfast, but that breakfasts in situations like our question can never be ate. Which, of course, Anon himself sees.
The intellect and will are not material, and are unique, both depending on the form of the body, which is the soul. The soul is not some wispy cheesecloth-like substance, but the very form of a living man. And man is a rational animal, which means something special about our minds.
Assuming the TransRay can function to transform not just the body, but the immaterial aspects of our beings, then it would create an entirely new being, who is no longer the old one. We are not mind plus meat, but mind-body.
That means the transformation would be a creation. It would have to first destroy and then create human life, remolding the available material in some way nobody knows. And since the mind, the intellect and will, are dependent on the body, they cannot remain the same after the created body takes on a new essence. They would have to be created anew. You would no longer be you.
Which means the TransRay is impossible.
Now you could swap your hip for a plastic one, and you’d still be you. You could lose an eye, or a limb, and still be you. You could put in a fake heart for the real one and still be you.
How far can we go along this route, swapping out meat for plastic and metal, before you are no longer you? Can we do it for neurons?
Since our minds are not our brains, though our minds are married to the form of the living body and brains are part of this living body, maybe it’s possible to replace every living part with a simulacrum. But I don’t believe it.
For one, because we’re not machines. We’re living beings, different in our very essence from brute machine. Nobody does know, and probably cannot know, how to stitch together bits and pieces and form a life. Anybody who claims this is bluffing.
For two, because our intellect and wills are not material, it would require the cooperation of God himself.
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