Clone and Punishment

Imagine that someone took some stem cells from your bone marrow and created a clone of you. Imagine, however, that you have never met this clone, that it lives in a different place. A few months later you learn that this twin of yours has been injured. What is the likely effect of learning about its injury? It is natural to feel sympathy for the clone’s pain, but probably you would not react as strongly as you would to the injury of a close friend or sibling, someone you knew and loved.

Imagine the news now comes that an enemy of yours has captured the clone and has begun to torture it, under the assumption that torturing your clone will have the effect of torturing you.

Undoubtedly you consider this behavior barbaric and evil. But you will probably also find it bizarre that your enemy honestly believes that inflicting pain on the clone will literally inflict pain on you—as if the clone was some kind of voodoo doll. You will consider the enemy’s behavior evil, certainly, but also stupid.

But what now if the clone is somehow downloaded with your memories, so that it becomes not just a duplicate of your body but also a duplicate of your mind. Would this new twist make a difference when the bad guy tortured the clone? Would it make it so that torturing the clone now had the literal effect of torturing you?

Quite obviously, it would not.

A clone—however careful an imitation of you it may be—is not you. It is a separate being, a different existence.

Let’s go a step further. Imagine that something unfortunate happened to you, and you died. Would the painful experiences your enemy inflicts on the clone suddenly become your experiences? Would you, because you are now dead, suddenly turn into the clone?

Again, not bloody likely.

That is the problem with punishment after death. When we die, our bodies rot in the ground, our minds cease to exist, our ability to experience is lost. If some god now tries to reassemble the body in order to punish us, it will be no different than creating a clone and loading it with our memories—it would not be us. It cannot be made into us.

This is why the threat of eternal punishment means nothing to an atheist. If death is real (that the body rots in the grounds proves it is), then it means the cessation of experience. All any god, however evil, can do is to create a replica of us—and punish the replica.

Evil on that god’s part, certainly. Unfortunate for the replica, certainly. But it’s not us.

Christians object to this, though. They say death is not real, that the body dies but the soul does not, the mental self survives. Therefore, they say, God can throw this soul or mental self into another body and make it feel pain, punish it. And it would be us feeling the pain, for we are the soul which survived, not the body which rotted.

But all the evidence is that the soul and body cannot be separated like that; all the evidence science has uncovered so far shows that the soul is a quality—a living quality—which the body has. Death means simply that this quality of aliveness is lost, and therefore we die.

All the evidence, in other words, is that life is bodily—that we cannot have a soul unless we have a body. And it is the body which is primary. We know this because things which affect the body affect the soul. If we drink alcohol we get drunk, if we take drugs we get zonked and out of touch with reality, if parts of our brain get damaged, we lose our memory, or our ability to speak or do certain kinds of thinking.

Even if the soul could survive the body’s death, it could not be punished without a body—indeed, it is the material or sensational, sensing, sensitive body which alone can feel. Which means that if the soul could somehow become attached to a different body, it would be the different body which then does the sensing and feeling. The soul disembodied can bring nothing to the table in that regard.

Nor is anyone capable of imagining the disembodied “soul” without imagining it with some fashion of body—”spiritual” or “astral” or whatnot, but in fact body. The reason we can’t picture life without a body of some kind or another is simple: life is a bodily enterprise.

We are bodies that have minds, not minds that have bodies. To have feeling and experience is to have spirit or soul, but to die is to lose the ability to feel or experience: that is the scientific reality of being a body.

Christians have to disagree, or else their religion falls apart. They have to disagree, because otherwise punishment in hell and reward in heaven become meaningless, even impossible. Christians have to disagree, otherwise it becomes evident that they worship death instead of life.

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13 Responses to Clone and Punishment

  1. Flint says:

    Do clones feel pain?

  2. Rastaban says:

    Flint, remember that identical twins are actually genetic clones. Twins feel pain, therefore clones feel pain — their own pain.

  3. Robert says:

    This is the worst pile of steaming crap I’ve heard in a while. Obviously you do not know a thing about compassion (breastfed). I feel sad for you, and for anyone that agrees – truly, you are losing your humanity. This is not about religion – it’s about right and wrong, it’s about taking everything you know from your sheltered life watching telivision – and your upholstered internet existance (cushy chair btw), and taking it all away. Throwing you into the sarlaac pit, and watching you squirm.

    In the end, it does not matter who or what you are, only that you give a damn, and your actions reflect that of a civilised and cultured individual. Learn it, because if you do not have it, you want it, and you wo’nt know what you want until your deathbed. Chilling revelations indeed – and I surmise you will not think about this until start going to sleep.


  4. Rastaban says:

    Robert, I am trying to understand your comment but it is difficult. Evidently your are very upset about something I wrote in Clone and Punishment–what exactly, is not clear. You write “Obviously you do not know a thing about compassion (breastfed).” What are you referring to? And what does “(breastfed)” mean at the end of the sentence?

    And you write “This is not about religion – its about right and wrong…” Evidently you are upset about the hypothetical god who is torturing the clone. Yes, that is very evil. I specifically say it’s evil. I don’t endorse that sort of behavior by anyone, god or not. In fact I condemn it. I’m glad you consider it evil as well.

    Still I can’t make sense of the rest of your comment. You are hoping, I suppose, that some god will torture me. Or as you put it, “Throwing you into the sarlaac pit, and watching you squirm.” As I think I explained pretty clearly, that can’t happen after I die — only a replica or clone could be tortured, and it wouldn’t be me. You don’t need to worry either, for the same reason.

    I agree with you that we need to make sure that our actions are civilized and cultured. But I would add also, if we believe in God we need to make sure we believe that God is civilized and cultured, not one who tortures. To believe otherwise of God is to darken his name, sully his reputation. He might not like that.

  5. Robert says:

    What are we but flesh and memories, to believe we are more is to believe that we can omit our own faults and disreputable natures by default. I believe that by standing tall – accepting that we are fairly insignificant, we can progress much further — both in body and spirit. At the end of the day, if “God” were to look upon this, it would be with surprise. Improving ourselves mentally and physically is a great goal.

    Vanity we are all guilty of, but with less of it humility and justice become a much more attainable goal. If one were to say I had a clone with my memories, I would say that “I” had twice the chance to improve as an individual, and as a citizen of the universe, not of planets, not of countries, but of the whole.

    What greater goal is there than overcoming stereotypes, both of ourselves, and of others. To believe that “God” had a plan for someone is great, but I think in our small spectrum of existance – it is what we do and what we do not that allows us to find some meaning in our relatively short existance.

  6. javier says:

    can clones feel? so they have emotions? how could a clone and a real organism be told apart?

  7. Robert says:

    Well, technically cloning is a very natural stage of development in nature. It was only by scientists learning of the innate qualities of a cell’s ability to replicate that spurned this new technology. In nature, many crossbreeds and animals have developed different qualities by this very same method within their cell structures.

    Is a clone “exactly” the same.. probably not – but for all intensive purposes yes. In a religious aspect, a fetus begins from a cell – so I think there is little relevance or precedance to the question as to wether clones have souls or not. The souls we are “all” blessed with are a tool to be used for either good or evil. It is what we choose to do with this that spells out our fate. I would think in a sense that even a positronic robot may have some semblance of a soul if sentient.

    To be honest, I would not really care one way or the other if someone told me they were a clone — or even a robot. I think segregation went far enough throughout mankind’s existance. If we were not to learn, and accept one another in earth’s history — we simply never would have survived, and in the long run we would be much worse of. I was thinking today, what it would be to have a slave, I could not imagine such a thing — I’m glad to be living in this time, with so many oppurtunities to find tranquility and enlightenment amongst a great culmination of cultures. Society would have never progressed without accepting diversity.

    Compassion is a very logical initiative, being that it breeds positive and constructive thought, and heeds the cry of the forgotten, ultimately providing assets in the future.

    Without negative, their could not be positive – such is the way of all existance, and logic. No “one” is perfect, but perhaps “two” or many more could be, by accepting differences and making those differences their strengths.

    As far as telling them apart, hmm — I suppose you would need to study the nucleotide sequences of bone marrow.

  8. Michael says:

    You can not use science when arguing religion. You have to use philosophical reasoning. Religion goes against science, even though religion’s like to say that science and religion work together, and so when you argue that it isn’t possible for the mind+soul to be separated from the brain because science says so, it doesn’t affect a theist. But of course it doesn’t make since that our memory, that is physically attached to our brain, is stored in our soul which would affect how our souls would be treated in the afterlife in which we would experience mental and physical pain or joy. Which we only feels pain and joy because of our brains nervous system which is strung throughout our complex body.

  9. Robert says:

    Hmm, seems I used a lot of philosophical reasoning, but perhaps let’s take a step back – and look at some real world examples.

    In the dark ages, those of jewish origin were not allowed to make money from anything other than banking. This became a part of their lifestyle, and life philosophy – though of course dictated by those who would demean them. As we well know – this became a tool of beration in the latter 1600’s up until today even, a self-culminating stereotype that stood the test of time. But, was it neccessarily the jewish people’s fault that this was their fate ?

    Many ideas of people or places can be jaded – by looking to the past with with contempt – by not learning of the lessons that are so readily available to us now.

    It was Adolph Hitler who began a regime against these people – by emphasising the latter half society that had overcome financial issues in a period of civil unrest and depression after the first world war. It was believed through the self perpetuating cycle mentioned above that they were “tight” with their money, and cared little of the country itself. It was by utilising this hate – both of foreign powers taking advantage of them after occupation by the west, and those “investors” who were often assumed to be jewish, he was able to seize power slowly by enigmatic retort – and proclaiming himself a man of the people.

    In other parts of europe, and even in the americas – jews were looked down upon, not let into gentleman’s clubs, or societies such as the mason’s. It was commonly accepted that they were lesser, and I believe “commonly accepted” is a key phrase here.

    It’s a formulae is it not ? Create a problem for a people, make them adjust their way of thinking – and then once that is complete; Degrade and chastise them for the product of the protaganist’s society and ancestory.

    This teaches us the folly of not thinking for ourselves – not looking above the very examples which our ancestors have set. Is it not odd to you that world war 2 was seen as the greatest holocaust of the 20’th century when before and afterwards african slavery was still in practise to some degree in many parts of the world ? Furthermore – by death and starvation, black slaves had to fight for equal rights up until the 60’s long after the first world war. Prior to this, many suffering starvation or death. Such an interesting face we see even in ourselves when it comes to facing the social impacts of such revelations and comparisons to anthropological review.

    Would society accept a clone, probably not – they would probably use the same formulae to degrade their existance, they would enforce rules and taxes to control such a person, or people(s) – so that in the time to come there was a reason to manifest hatred.

    It is only via mass media, and what is commonly accepted that we see one thing or another regarding people or peoples of certain descent. This is the brooding of war – something for those of higher intelligence to see with apathy for those infected with the seeds of hatred.

    Perhaps in many instances religion has been a tool to do great evil, but – with forward thinking individuals, the negative impact of religion can be kept to a minimum – with the comprimise of the two arts science and mysticism, a means of maintaining the balance for peace between cultures, and an attempt to foregoe possibly the largest world war ever conceived.

    Here in our day and time – we see new bias emerging into the arguments of both science and religion, homosexuality. Is it not strange that many of our concepts and philosophies derive from cultures who at one time practised homosexuality quite acceptedly. In many parts of rome and greece this was not uncommon, strange how we look to these times with such romanticism, without seeing the significant cultural lessons provided by much earlier civilisations.

    What was, what was accepted, what is, and what is accepted are the very things that are shaping our culture(s). So, will cloning be the next religious and scientific divide ? We will have to wait and see.

    Wether you are religious or an atheist – if you ignore the lessons of the past you are denying yourself the wisdom of the ages which provides great insight into the problems which we face today. Soulless ?
    Well if made of cell structure – I doubt it.

  10. Michael says:

    I am afraid that cloning will have a bad affect on society. The Roman Catholic church teaches against safe sex and yet millions of Catholics use a condom or birth control, that causes divide. But when the Church teaches against cloning, seen in the new 7 deadly sins, and yet Catholics and all religious denominations will still have followers that will take part in genetic modification and human experimentation. The Church will see this as a greater evil than sex, they will see it as trying to become more like God. Other radicals from other religions will see this too. Which will provoke terrorism and maybe war. If we had less irrational religious ideals then this would probably not happen. Hopefully there will be a rise in atheism and more atheist will come out to reason with religious groups.

  11. Kathleen says:

    Well, Rastaban assumes near the end of his argument “we are bodies that have minds, not minds that have bodies” but how is this true/proven. He portrays the religious people as narrow minded, but I believe it is the atheist that cannot see beyond himself. I seriously doubt the validity of your views on the ‘soul’ because in truth noone can truly understand it, in fact, I was not even aware atheists acknowledged a ‘soul’ (forgive my naiveness) much less its connection to the body.

    And, Michael, catholicism is not the right representation of religion.

  12. Michael says:

    Yes i know that Catholicism was probably not the best choice.
    I do not acknowledge the soul. I find the soul an illogical explanation of emotions, the brain naturally evolved to show emotions for what feels good/bad physically and then mentally. Emotions help us communicate and i explained what i think of the soul on my first comment.
    Religious people are usually narrow minded, they don’t think for themselves. I was a Catholic when i was young, but since i was so open minded, independent, and curious i started to disagree with Catholicism so i started to research religion. I came to the conclusion that there was no god. Even if there was, i would not worship an upper deity and hope for eternal happiness.

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