What If There Were TransRays?

What If There Were TransRays?

Anon writes:

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.

Yours sincerely,


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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  1. Ye Olde Statistician

    or, as Thomas himself wrote, “My soul is not I.” IOW, we are not machines with a ‘ghost’ inside, but like any other physical body, a compound of matter and form, i.e., of body and soul. While the two may be considered separately by the intellect, they are inseparable as a substantia [or ousia, if you prefer Greek].
    One minor gloss. All living beings have souls [or animae], petunias and puppies, as well as people. They are what the Stagirite called the ‘digestive,’ ‘sensitive,’ and ‘rational’ soul, resp. The Intellect and Will do not so much ‘depend’ upon the soul as they are ‘powers’ of the [rational] soul.

    Quibble aside, a nice analysis.

  2. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Identity subversion is a perpetual vice. In the 1980s I had a job parking cars. Chrysler was making models that would admonish, should a door not be fully closed, that, a door is a jar! No! — I would shout back at the vicious car — a door is a door! Thus doing my part for God and Western Civilization. Fat lot of good it did, now a door is a tranny.

  3. Briggs

    Thanks, YOS!

  4. Dixon Craig

    Today we have the technology- through plastic surgery and hormone therapy to almost give male children the ‘appearance’ of female children.

    What happens a few centuries from now and we DO have a ‘Trans-Ray’ that not only makes girls, but makes baboons or eels, or giraffes and Hippos?
    I don’t remember wanting to ever being a girl, but I definitely would have gone for Irish Setter or Hippopotamus when I was a little kid.
    Sure glad my woke mom did’nt have the technology to push me to Hippotamusdom just to virtue signal!!

  5. JohnK

    Not that I can answer the hypothetical myself, but this ‘answer’? Fish in a barrel. Thomists are carefully trained. To ignore inconvenient things. If any one cares, a little more at this link.

    The Aristotelian “Man” self-generates a conundrum that appears to be radically incompatible with the worship of the Church (a conundrum that ‘fundamental moral theology’ has traditionally ‘resolved’ by means of expedient oscillation between the two horns of the dilemma).

    (a) Within the Substance/Accident paradigm the unity in being of a Substance is “in itself and not in anything else”. Thus it is impossible to discuss the ‘essence’ of any ‘material singular’ (individual) Aristotelian man. His meaning does exist, but it does not inhere in him, it exists only as that particular Accident is a member/instance/Accident of the Substance/species “Man”.

    (Exactly as YOS would say an individual dog is an member/instance/Accident of the Substance/species “Dog”).

    Viz., the doctrine of the existence and infinite worth of each individual soul is silently draped over a philosophical characterization in which the ‘essence’ or meaning of any individual man cannot be — is entirely unable to be — inherent in him.

    Which would seem to strongly imply that an individual man would not — could not — have an immortal soul in and of himself, but (we’re guessing) his ‘soul’ would somehow be — could only be — an Accident or instance of the single Immortal Oversoul of the Substance/species “Man”.

    Thus it would seem to require torturous logic ad extra to make the firm doctrine of the existence and infinite worth of each individual soul an implication of the Aristotelian Substance/Accident paradigm, whereas that paradigm could readily be taken to be antagonistic to the doctrine or to rule it out entirely.

    (b) (Although this is not in accord with the general Aristotelian Substance/Accident analysis, the following is the only other possibility within that paradigm). Each “Man” is in himself a Substance, each “Man” is the sole member of its own species. This appears to be the analysis commonly deployed in discussions of an individual soul.

    This solves the problem of the existence and worth of the individual soul generated by (a) above, but it introduces the (unasked and unanswered) problem of “intra-species” communication, solidarity, union. (As each man is now his own Substance/species, there exists no analytic commonality between the atom who is “Man1” vs. the atom who is “Man2”, etc.)

    CONCLUSION: if we were serving as advocatus diaboli in the case, the above discussion prompts the question: Why deploy such a plainly incomplete or even actively antagonistic philosophy of “Man” within Catholic theology in the first place?

  6. 1 – it is odd, isn’t it, that modern democrats who deny the existence of souls are quite happy to claim that a woman can be born into a man’s body and vice versa.

    2 – I think that almost everyone studying the human microbiome now agrees (but can’t say out loud) that women could be easily vacinated to ensure that their babies are sexually normal – i.e. that abnormality is the result of a biochemical process taking place during gestation. Assuming so, isn’t that process a transray?

  7. Incitadus

    I think the whole purpose of the trans movement is to occupy the
    mind and break it down to the consistency of Jell-O.

  8. Cary D Cotterman

    Breakfast? Sorry, ya lost me there.

  9. Johnno

    It’s the Ship of Theseus as per usual.

    But a ship remains a ship and shall never be an airplane, no matter how many parts you swap out for a precise replacement. And even exchanging the sailors for a pilots only means you have a more incompetent dysfunctional crew sailing around in a circle.

    Rare is the one licensed for both. But they can only operate one vehicle at a time. Though there are biplanes that float on the water. But so what? I can drive a commercial airline on a highway like a car, but that is highly suboptimal in function, and other drivers will be rightly pissed off and honking hate crimes at me to only used my specific facilities to take off from.

  10. 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.

    I believe the Romans were pretty sure that 1 + 1 = 11. Perhaps that just proves the point.

  11. C-Marie

    And God says “No way … You are My creation.

    God bless, C-Marie

  12. C-Marie

    And there is also, 1 Thessalonians 5: 23-24 :

    “23And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things: that your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He is faithful who hath called you, who also will do it.”

    God bless, C-Marie

  13. JH

    If St. Thomas lived in an era where TransRay or Mystique exists, St Thomas would have been a prominent scientist (not a theologian) who may not believe in a so-called soul.

  14. John B()


    Careful …

    would it be a case of a man in a woman’s body?

    That’s kinda how this all started culturally (at least for me)

    In 1975, Robert Reed (aka Mike Brady) played a man trapped in a woman’s body on the two part episode of TV’s Medical Center.

    That was the character’s contention, “he was a woman trapped in a man’s body”

  15. The True Nolan

    I remember a story about a woman who claimed to be a man. “I am a man trapped in a woman’s body!” Of course she wasn’t a man, she really WAS a woman. They proved it by showing that only a woman would come up with something that stupid to believe in.

    (Feel free to swap genders if you want to make fun of men. You’re welcome.)

  16. Stephen J.

    “Nobody does know, and probably cannot know, how to (artificially) form a life.”

    While I understand the overall philosophical point of the argument, I’d be wary of hinging it on this particular assertion. Predictions of what will “always” be beyond human reason and technology to figure out have been wrong far too often in the past. (I would previously have relied on what I consider the normal practical bulwark against transhumanism of any kind — i.e., the failure rate of the necessary human experimentation would be both ethically unconscionable and far too frightening to the potential market base — but the past few years have disabused me of much of my belief in most people’s basic medical caution.)

    And I think to some extent arguing on this basis — that a subject of the TransRay would no longer be the same person afterwards — is pointless anyway; the entire desire for sexual “transition” rests on the psychotic (i.e., psychological certainty observably false to facts) conviction that one already isn’t the “person” one “really” is. The “transition” treatments are not seen as mutilation, they’re seen as restoration — they are the frog turning back into the prince, never vice versa. If the TransRay could do that with a biological effectiveness unavailable to mere surgical simulation — allowing not just the preservation of sexual function and fertility, but (as could be logically inferred in principle) the ability to reverse the decision at any point — I think if anything that would only encourage the movement.

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