January 16, 2007

"A cloned human would be imbued with the same immaterial presence that binds us all, even Antonin Scalia, to the Godhead."

Esquire answers the question: Would a cloned human being have a soul?

28 comments:

Revenant said...

The question of whether or not a clone would have a soul is pointless and subjective. There's no evidence souls exist in the first place, so obviously we're free to arbitrarily say what does and doesn't have them.

vbspurs said...

Yes.

The trillion dollar question, however, is -- would it have the SAME soul?

Cheers,
Victoria

Anonymous said...

If you believe that an identical twin has a soul, then you should believe that a clone would have a soul.

Cedarford said...

It's sort of a silly argument since from time immemorial it has been debated and answered with respect to natural clones, identical sins. Where a fertilized egg or early embryo splits.

That this is some ponderous, awesome theologocal or philosophical debate pressed on us by new high technology is false.

No people believing in souls think an identical twin has half of one.

Even back in the 19th century when it was learned unfertilized frog eggs can be shocked by electricity into becoming fertile, or notation of regular "virgin births" happening in certain species debate was done and largely settled. There were no discernable differences in the nature and behavior of the outcomes from naturally fertilized offspring.

The current debate is only interesting for Right to Life people ignorant of science arguing that "life, and ensoulment" happens at the moment of conception as sperm and egg join to create a unique being..
It really throws them off the rails of their argument.

It was especially delicious to point that out to a RTL person who was "one half" of an identical twinhood.

On Scalia, the snotty crack by the writer would be better applied to a Souter. Or a typical ACLU member.

altoids1306 said...

What blogjam2020 said. Sorry to disappoint the atheists, but cloning doesn't present any real problems theologically.

Daryl Herbert said...

cloning doesn't present any real problems theologically.

I love it when snooty religious people denigrate the dumb religious people.

1 - Atheists point out how dumb petitionary prayer is (God, please heal me, because I deserve it more than those other schmucks)

2 - Snooty religious believers say "no one really believes that junk, atheists made it up to make fun of us"

3 - Dumb religious believers say "hey wait a minute, I go to a prayer group website to pray for stuff all the time"

4 - Atheist chuckles to himself as once again, snooty religious people do our work for us

And Ann thinks it's the fundamentalists who are doing our bidding. The truth is, we play both sides.

Of course there are religious people for whom cloning presents a problem (that's one reason some religious people are against all human cloning!). We bait you snooty believers into saying they don't exist (implicitly insulting them), saving us atheists the trouble.

And even if you think "all people" have souls, that doesn't inform us at all with regard to persons who are half human/half monkey. Barring nuclear war, there's a 99% chance Human-animal chimeras will be created within the next 20 years. What then? Soul or no soul? What about 75/25? 90/10? Don't look to religion for answers.

Revenant said...

What blogjam2020 said. Sorry to disappoint the atheists, but cloning doesn't present any real problems theologically

That's a bizarre thing to say -- firstly because atheists aren't notably anti-cloning, and secondly because all the major world religions have ostensibly theological objections to cloning.

Now, it may be that the major world religions are deluded and prone to invalid theological reasoning... but I don't see why that particular bit of news would either surprise or disappoint an atheist.

altoids1306 said...

(Assuming Althouse lets this somewhat off-topice comment through)

Daryl Herbert: Atheists point out how dumb petitionary prayer is (God, please heal me, because I deserve it more than those other schmucks)

It is called intercessory prayer, and yes, that objection has been pointed out and discussed in detail by none other than Calvin himself, centuries ago. If you Google the term, you'll find more than want to know.

Snooty religious people, dumb religous people, baiting, doing work for us, et cetera...

It happens. There are competing schools of thought.

Cloning, etc..

I should have been more clear. The existence of a clone does not cause theological problems. Whether or not cloning is moral is a different question.

As to chimeras and such, this is not a problem for Calvinists, you're either part of the Elect or you're not. For Armenians, I think the litmus test would be moral agency. (Real theologists, please correct me if I'm wrong.)

My expertise is in solid-state physics, and theology is just a hobby, but I suspect theology is far more resilent and robust then most expect. Christianity survived the Roman Empire, and it will certainly survive the liberal media.

Mortimer Brezny said...

What kinds of clones are we talking here? Headless bodies made for organ harvesting or low-IQ sex slaves? Those are the only kinds, right?

bearing said...

Altoids made the point for me. (Once again with the sloppy terminology...) The theological questions regarding clones are long settled by most religious groups that have a developed theology. The moral status of cloning is under debate because people who hold to different theological beliefs, or who emphasize different aspects of the same theology, draw different moral conclusions.

Daryl Herbert, your comments on petitionary prayer are very interesting. Am I right in suggesting that you think that no theologian ever considered the "problem" of the utility of petitionary prayer before all the smart atheists showed up to "point it out" to them?

Along with a host of other theological questions. Too bad you weren't around a few centuries ago... you could have saved that Aquinas guy (I'll save you the trouble of looking it up --- he was one of the "snooty" ones) a whole lot of trouble.

rhodeymark1 said...

Gee Daryl - no wonder Scripture actually says highly enlightened things about poor dumb believer. Dumb believer petitions not because he/she is superior or deserving, but because Scripture unequivocally directs them to freely do so.
We play both sides
That's no surprise. Like taqqiya, it's a sign of your lack of moral foundation.

hdhouse said...

Frankly the idea of spare parts or worse yet a clone of Scalia gives me the willies.

Molon_Labe_Lamp said...

Eh, bringing religion into this debate needlessly polarizes a simple issue.

The critical question here is use. If we technologically were able to create clones today why should we? It's bound to be a lot more expensive than natural procreation.

Furthermore I've yet to hear a viable ethical reason to create a clone. The nightmare scenarios that Mort B. comically alludes to are the only reasons that come too mind. Those are disgusting and you don't need religion to tell you creating a living organ bank or a class of retard sex slaves is evil.

Relgion does not need to be invoked to find thc idea of cloning mildly disturbing to flat out disgusting.

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Ariminians, not Armenians.

The former are Protestant; the latter are mostly (non-Calcedonian) Eastern Orthodox.

Revenant said...

Altoids made the point for me. (Once again with the sloppy terminology...) The theological questions regarding clones are long settled by most religious groups that have a developed theology.

Altoids claimed that cloning posed no theological problems. That is not the same as your claim that the theological issues surrounding cloning are settled.

The Catholic Church, for example, has "settled" the question of human cloning by saying that it is absolutely forbidden. That directly contradicts the claim that there's no theological problem with cloning -- there is a HUGE theological problem with cloning, if you're a Catholic.

Daryl Herbert said...

Am I right in suggesting that you think that no theologian ever considered the "problem" of the utility of petitionary prayer before all the smart atheists showed up to "point it out" to them?

No, you obviously misread my comment.

My entire point was that there are at least two types of believers, the dumb ones (who never try to grapple with any logical problems of faith) and the snooty ones (who do struggle to reconcile faith with the world around them). My point was that snooty ones look down on dummies and often try to deny their existence.

That's entirely consistent with the existence of a small number--or even a majority--of theologians who have faced up to this problem.

altoids1306 said...

Revenant:

By "not a theological problem", I mean (and I assume bearing does also) that it is not an issue that cannot be analyzed consistently through the machinery of theology. It is not an issue that calls into question the validity of theology.

A imperfect God or a completely moral human would be a theological problem - theologically, these are self-contradictions. The existence of meaningless human suffering is a theological problem. Murder is immoral (ususally), but it is not a theological problem. The same is true for cloning, whether it is moral or not.

The point is, if atheists want to discredit theology, cloning isn't going to help them.

Revenant said...

By "not a theological problem", I mean (and I assume bearing does also) that it is not an issue that cannot be analyzed consistently through the machinery of theology..

Ah, that makes more sense, then.

Murder is immoral (ususally), but it is not a theological problem.

This is true only inasmuch as "murder" is by definition "unacceptable homicide" -- saying "murder is not a theological problem" is like saying "crime is not a legal problem". The question of what homicides are allowable is very much a theological problem.

The point is, if atheists want to discredit theology, cloning isn't going to help them.

I'm not sure how you're drawing that conclusion -- demonstrating that a belief system can reach a consistent answer on a topic does nothing to establish that it can reach a *correct* answer on *any* topic. If a system consistently says that 1+1=3 it is obviously silly to defend the validity of the system on the grounds of consistency. Ok, so theologians are largely in agreement that accidental cloning (twins) is both moral and desirable, but deliberate cloning is immoral and evil. Bravo for their consistency, but that still doesn't actually make any sense to a rational observer.

In any case -- regarding "proving that theology is invalid" -- the very fact that Christian theology centers around the study of an undetectable being defined as being beyond human comprehension -- i.e., that it is quite literally the study of the unstudiable and the analysis of the unknowable -- is sufficient to discredit it as an intellectually serious enterprise. It is by definition impossible for it to produce any testable preditions, verifiable knowledge, or other information that might help a human being understand what he or she needs to do. This is a big reason why, after two thousand years of theologizing, Christians are less united in their beliefs than they've been since at least the pre-Nicean era.

altoids1306 said...

(Although I seriously doubt anyone is still reading this...)

Revenant: Maybe if I rephrased it. Try replacing "Not a theological problem" with "doesn't make me doubt the validity of theology (any more or less than I already did)." Murder is not a theological problem. And yes, it is exactly like saying "murder is not a legal problem" - "the existence of murder does not make me question the validity of our laws." Our laws have decided that murder is illegal. We're still debating if cloning should be. Now, replace "laws" with "theology" and "legal/illegal" with "moral/immoral" and you about have it.

I don't think we substantially different on this point, but we're just talking past each other because we're using the same words to mean different things.

demonstrating that a belief system can reach a consistent answer on a topic does nothing to establish that it can reach a *correct* answer on *any* topic. If a system consistently says that 1+1=3 it is obviously silly to defend the validity of the system on the grounds of consistency.

Off-topic, but I couldn't resist. Have you ever taken modern algebra? Is a self-consistent system that declares 1+1=3 any different than one that declares 1+1=2, except that you've replaced the symbol '2' for '3'?

Self-consistency is the most important indicator of validity in a system of logic.

Ok, so theologians are largely in agreement that accidental cloning (twins) is both moral and desirable, but deliberate cloning is immoral and evil. Bravo for their consistency, but that still doesn't actually make any sense to a rational observer.

Why not? The difference is positive action. We rely on this difference all the time. Miscarrage vs. abortion.

In any case...

Wow, that's a nice airtight case you've constructed for yourself. Would you consider art or literature a serious intellectual enterprise?

Revenant said...

Murder is not a theological problem. And yes, it is exactly like saying "murder is not a legal problem"

The point I was getting at is that while theology has offered up a definite "murder is wrong" answer, it has not offered a coherent answer to the question "when is killing justified". Saying "murder is unjustified" is nothing more than saying "unjustified killing is unjustified"; it is a tautology.

Off-topic, but I couldn't resist. Have you ever taken modern algebra? Is a self-consistent system that declares 1+1=3 any different than one that declares 1+1=2, except that you've replaced the symbol '2' for '3'?

I think it is fairly obvious that I was referring to a system in which '2' stands for 'two' and three does not. :)

Self-consistency is the most important indicator of validity in a system of logic.

If by "valid" you merely mean "logically valid" then sure, consistency is all that matters. If you mean "valid" in the sense of "effective" and "producing the desired result" then consistency isn't nearly enough. And if theology isn't valid in the second sense then it is worthless to religious and nonreligious people alike; it is mere intellectual masturbation.

Of course, I would say that the insistence that all three of the axioms "God is all-powerful", "God is all-loving", and "pain and suffering exist" are true is sufficient to demonstrate that at least Christian theology is logically invalid.

The difference is positive action. We rely on this difference all the time. Miscarrage vs. abortion.

That example doesn't hold, because miscarriage is viewed as bad while the birth of twins is viewed as even better than the birth of a single child (assuming that both children can be cared for).

Obviously one can coherently argue that positively causing something bad to happen is morally worse than something bad happening accidentally. But the anti-cloning argument is that deliberately causing something good to happen is worse than having it happen by accident, which is a morally ridiculous position to hold. Especially since the cloned twin is acknowledged to be a full human being with a soul!

Would you consider art or literature a serious intellectual enterprise?

Not in the sense that serious intellectual enterprises concern themselves with discovering the truth. Art conveys information; it does not discover it.

altoids1306 said...

Revenant:

The point I was getting at is that while theology has offered up a definite "murder is wrong" answer, it has not offered a coherent answer to the question "when is killing justified".

Sure. That doesn't conflict with what I said.

I think it is fairly obvious that I was referring to a system in which '2' stands for 'two' and three does not. :)

Haha, way ahead of you.

If 1+1=3, that what does 1+1+1 equal? 1+1+1 cannot equal 3, for otherwise 1=0, which is a self-contradicting statement. If you want an algebra system that is self-consistent, that retains all the properties of our standard algebra, then 1+1='some symbol', and it doesn't matter what you call it. We happen to call it 2. Again: self-consistency is the most important measure of validity in a system of logic.

If by "valid" you merely mean "logically valid" then sure, consistency is all that matters. If you mean "valid" in the sense of "effective" and "producing the desired result" then consistency isn't nearly enough. And if theology isn't valid in the second sense then it is worthless to religious and nonreligious people alike; it is mere intellectual masturbation.

"Producing the desired result." Are you telling me that there is some external measure we can use to judge whether a system of morality is right or not? And not only does it have to seem valid to me, but to religous and nonreligious people? Are you telling me that theology can't just be self-consistent but that it also must agree with some objective morality that everyone believes in?

Three axioms, invalid...

I'm not going to actually discuss theology on an internet forum, it's a fool's task. But if you cared, you would have googled already.

[WRT cloning] That example doesn't hold...

I wasn't defending the Vatican's decision to consider cloning immoral. I was pointing out that it is reasonable to have a different position between the birth of identical twins and cloning, since there is a substantive difference between the two situations. (And if you want an example of a situation where the accidental is good and the deliberate bad - forest fires. A trivial example, I admit.)

Revenant said...

Are you telling me that theology can't just be self-consistent but that it also must agree with some objective morality that everyone believes in?

I am telling you that since *Christianity* has an objective morality that is external to human theology -- specifically, the will of God -- the validity of Christian theology requires that its moral theories reflect the will of God. Mere self-consistency is not enough.

But if you cared, you would have googled already

I'm intimately familiar with the various theological rationalizations for the logical contradiction I cited. None of them hold water, which is why theologians are still arguing over this problem a good couple of millennia after it was first posed.

Hint: when you can't figure out, after billions of man-hours of collective effort, how a set of axioms don't contradict one another, give serious thought to the possibility that they do. Especially when you've just been taking peoples' word for it that they don't.

I wasn't defending the Vatican's decision to consider cloning immoral.

Unless there is a logical inconsistency in their theological reasoning, it seems to me that you *are* defending it -- you're saying that logical consistency is all theology needs. If the results of theology aren't de facto defensible, what's the point of theology?

And if you want an example of a situation where the accidental is good and the deliberate bad - forest fires. A trivial example, I admit.)

Accidental forest fires are not necessarily "good" (e.g. a lightning strike starts a fire and kills six people) and deliberate forest fires are not necessarily "bad" (controlled fires are used to clear land or make firebreaks all the time). The goodness or badness of a fire is completely divorced from whether or not it was deliberately set.

bearing said...

Yes, Altoids is correctly representing my point of view...

Naturally conceived twins and cloning are not different *only* in that the one is accidental and the other is deliberate. They are different in that they are obtained by two different means. Thus, potential differentiation between them includes not only the "accidental/deliberate" dichotomy, but the question of whether the available means of obtaining clones is as moral as the available means of naturally conceiving twins.

Different theologies will come to different conclusions about whether it is ever moral to perform the acts necessary to naturally conceive twins and whether it is ever moral to perform the acts necessary to obtain clones, and if so, under what circumstances each set of acts is moral and under what circumstances each set of acts is immoral.

(The primary *theological* problem raised by cloning is the ensoulment issue, and that has been largely settled by theologies that have dealt with it, which is not to say that all those theologies agree, only that each has come to a conclusion consistent with itself.)

P. Froward said...

What is a soul? Where does it come from? How, why, and by whom (or by what) is it associated with, or attached to, a given organism?

If you don't have objectively verifiable answers to those questions, the very best you can do is reach logically valid conclusions based on assumptions which are a matter of faith. But you probably screwed up your logic, too. A room full of people starting with their own personal private beliefs (or their own personal private misunderstanding of sombody else's), and then screwing their logic up, is pointless.

Anything you can't repeatably measure is b******t. If we had a physical means of detecting souls, it would be easy: Clone somebody, plug in the Soul Meter, and read the dial. Buck Mulligan demonstrated the technique:

--Thanks, old chap, he cried briskly. That will do nicely. Switch off the current, will you?

We can't do that. But it's nice that you're all getting some typing practice.

bearing said...

Anything you can't repeatably measure is b******t.

"I love my husband."

Bullshit?

P. Froward said...

bearing,

Ha! Fair enough. I may have gone a bit flamboyant with the rhetoric there.

But even about that, you and your husband can make meaningful observations. Love has effects. Over a period of years, it'd be hard to fake, I think.

bearing said...

Thanks, Froward. I agree about the observations; but such observations are necessarily subjective, subject to our interpretations. One year my husband brought me Nyquil for Valentine's day. You'd have to be me, or know us both really well, to predict whether I interpreted that as evidence of love or not.

Because it's so subjective, it's not repeatable or demonstrable, in any way that meets a standard of proof. And yet *we* feel it as a reality.

People's experiences of the divine may be similar.

Revenant said...

"I love my husband."

Bullshit?

Hard to say, since we haven't quite gotten a handle on what "love" is. There's been a lot of interesting work in neurobiology and neurochemistry along those lines.

I'd guess we're about twenty or thirty years away from being able to test for love, hate, etc.