Could this kind of Teleporter teach us if we have a soul?

On the howstuffworks website, this is a theory on how a teleporter device could work:*The laws of physics may even make it impossible to create a transporter that enables a person to be sent instantaneously to another location, which would require travel at the speed of light.

For a person to be transported, a machine would have to be built that can pinpoint and analyze all of the 10(28)atoms that make up the human body. That’s more than a trillion trillion atoms. This machine would then have to send this information to another location, where the person’s body would be reconstructed with exact precision. Molecules couldn’t be even a millimeter out of place, lest the person arrive with some severe neurological or physiological defect.*Walk with me through a thought exercise.

If this machine ever existed, and the person was reconstructed elsewhere in space, would it mean the person didn’t have a soul if he was still “animate” after reconstruction? (i.e. because the machine can only transport that which is physical)

Or would an “animate” reconstructed person tell us nothing about the soul because either A) the person could be reconstructed as a soul-less biological living animal; B) the soul, being incorporeal, could simply remain with the reconstructed “body” that is “him/her” because the soul remains “attached” to the molecules being duplicated; C) God, being the one who provides the soul, could facilitate transference of the soul to the reconstructed body; D) something else.

This is my kind of topic! You wouldn’t believe the debates Trekkies have had over this! :smiley:

One of the biggest issues here is that essentially, the teleporter (at least, this kind of teleporter; there are other types, but I won’t go into that) is killing someone and cloning them in another location.

Think about it. Your individual molecules are being ripped apart from each other. If that’s not being killed, I don’t know what is. Then, these molecules are essentially sent as data in the form of a “pattern” that tells the computer exactly how they were arranged. Finally, the particles are reassembled bit by bit in another location exactly as your original body was.

However, whether or not this new “clone” is “you” or not, we need to remember that essential Catholic teaching that the human person is a union of body and soul, that is, the soul and body are intimately intertwined. With that in mind, and also keeping in mind that transporter technology creates you exactly as you were in a different location, we would conclude that you would still retain your soul. Now, whether your mind is still the same is a different issue, but it would seem that given Catholic teaching and the method that transporters work, it would seem that you still have your soul.

Oh, thank goodness, a Trekkie expert!!! :smiley: Why do you say this above? Wouldn’t the counter argument be that body and soul are intertwined, therefore, the reassembled body is a “different” body, and thus the soul would not be attached to it?

If we go by St Thomas’ opinion that to be the same person (at the resurrection) you have to have the ‘self same body, united to the self same soul’, even if somehow your ‘self same soul’ reunited with your cloned body it would not be you as it would not be your ‘self same body’.

The only way for teleporters to work within this definition of a person would be through the use of ‘wormholes’ as the body is not destroyed.

Ok, so in hypothetical theory - what would happen in the “reconstruction transporter” if the body on the other side was “animate”? Would you say it was a soul-less being? Or would it be a being with a new soul?

Purely hypothetical

If the body was animate and was a Human being, we would have to assume the body had been ensouled. Therefore it is a completely new human being, but then the difficult question is asked…what about any marriage? If True Death has occurred the marriage vows are complete (‘till death do us part’) even though the new human being has the memories of the previous and remembers getting married. However Catholics are not Lockeans and memories do not constitute the human being :o

burps…pokes belly button…takes sip of beer……I’m going to enjoy reading what you vatos gotta say, this is an awesome thread:) …but I know about punching above my weight so I’ll just learn:)…hahaha.:D:thumbsup:

This question actually has a real life, not science fiction, counterpart that is a source of incredible debate within the metaphysics communities of philosophy. For those of you unfamiliar with the thought exercise of Theseus’ Ship, the question goes something like this:

Theseus has a ship made for him and goes off to sail the seas. Over the years, various pieces of wood are replaced. For the sake of the argument, assume that the wood is completely undamaged, and is merely replaced for aesthetic purposes… Anyway, after a period of 11 years, every single piece of wood that was originally used when Theseus commissioned the vessel has been replaced. Now, coincidentally, another captain has a ship made, and the architect uses all of the wood from the original ship of Theseus. Now, the questions asks, which is actually Theseus’ ship? Is it the one he currently sails, because the identity of the ship transcends its parts, or is this other captain now in command of Theseus’ own vessel?

Turned on humans… It is surmised that our atoms and molecules are completely replaced over the course of 11 years. Obviously, as Catholics, we hold that our identity is bound to the union of our soul and body. We are souls, we have bodies, but the two are inextricably intertwined, and the separation of one from another results in death. But my body is physically very different than it was 11 years ago. I’ve grown a foot, added 70+ pounds, had changes to my internal organs, etc. So what is my body, exactly, and how is my soul inextricably intertwined with an organism that so easily changes its parts? This ties into the original question here: if the machine can only perfectly reproduce physical elements, it cannot, hypothetically, reconstruct the soul. Indeed, the physical body that appears on the other end is completely new in terms of its composite parts. But if the machine DOESN’T work, then how does our soul remain integrated with our body over the course of our lifetime?

Interesting food for thought… However, as a philosopher, if anyone has any answers to this - preferably answers that come from accepted doctrine - I’d really appreciate it myself!

Assuming the recondensed body is alive, there would be no issue, as there can be no life without soul.

Life is not material; and does not reside in body’s molecules, as the dead human body is materially identical to the live human being who drew its last breath. So the transporter cannot transmit life per se. If body is alive, then somehow, he/she has remained ensouled.


Agreed. Thomistic theology teaches us that this cloned body is completely different from our original body. Thus, the original soul is absent.

I would conclude that a completely new human being has been produced and thus a completely new soul.

It occurs to me that there is a way to prove this theory. Let’s look back at the original wording:

This machine would then have to send this information to another location, where the person’s body would be reconstructed with exact precision.

Now consider this: Let’s imagine that the machine works exactly as intended. The information about you and your memories and body is reconstructed at the intended landing spot. There’s only one difference: The original body has not been destroyed!

This means that there are now two different people. It would be the equivalent of having an identical twin whose mind was wiped and replaced with your memories. It’s not you.

Thus we can rule out the idea that our “teleported” person has actually been teleported at all. He has merely been cloned.

Two different people. Two different souls. One has just died while another’s been born.

Interesting. Are memories all physical “things”?


So the reconstructed person would be a new person with a new soul, and be a newborn infant with an adult body. :slight_smile:

Or rather, an “Adam” or “Eve” type human being. Not an infant, as they would have a nonempty mind.


Depends who you ask. Thomists hold that izthey are; but Augustine held that memory was a faculty of the human soul ie, spiritual.


Sort of. It would be a clone with artificially implanted fake memories. I guess an “Adam and Eve” type of being is as good a description as any.

If Augustine was correct, this pretty simply wraps up the discussion. As Descartes held (implicitly… obviously discussion of this technology never came up in his day), the creature that came through on the other side would be alive only in the sense that it had functioning organs, but that the soul - which could not be reconstructed, as it is immaterial - and the memories/thoughts with it would be absent, and we would have essentially a brain dead individual.

However, if Aquinas is correct, the issue becomes much murkier. It raises some rather interesting hypotheticals:

Suppose that the person goes into the teleporter in the state of mortal sin. As you said, Marc, this person dies and a new person with a new soul comes out on the other end, but one with ALL of the memories of the old one. I believe in this case we can obviously agree that the original person dies and goes to hell. But is the new person still in the state of mortal sin?

Or is his new soul - which believes it is in the state of mortal sin - pure and unblemished? Is this new person baptized? He will certainly believe so… What if he is married? Is his marriage null and void? If he goes home to the woman he believes is his wife and engages in the marital act, is it a mortal sin as well?

Because this new soul, in theory, has never received the Eucharist - or any Sacrament! - if he goes to Mass, does he commit some sort of sacrilege, despite believing - and having the memories to verify - that he has received them all?

Interesting stuff here… Makes me all the more thrilled I have a degree in this subject :extrahappy:

I think in the above scenario, the person isn’t in mortal sin and if he has relations with the person he believes to be his spouse he’s not committing mortal sin because he is acting in invincible ignorance. That is, unless he knows how the “teleporter” works and that he’s a new clone.

Anyone see the movie The Prestige? :rolleyes:

In some of the more non-canonical Star Trek material, it gets even more philosophically and morally tangled.

For instance, in the novel Spock Must Die, Scotty finds a way to create an exact duplicate and project it to a point thousands of light-years away, where it performs its mission, with the original never leaving the transporter chamber, fully intact and fully conscious. He had been inspired to do it after hearing McCoy ruminating about the spiritual condition of every person who has ever entered a transporter chamber and been de-materialized. Scotty thought it might circumvent the moral question—not stopping to consider, what about the duplicate? Does it have a soul?

The whole thing backfires, with the duplicate coming back and materializing in the chamber, and now the Enterprise has two Spocks.

Probably a good thing, since a long-distance transporter would render ships obsolete, and turn Star Trek into something more like Stargate. :wink:

The one about the magicians in conflict? Yes. The duplicate question comes up there, too.

On the earlier topic, if the person knows how the teleporter works and that he’s a “new clone,” he would have a moral obligation to go through CCD or RCIA again, receive baptism and confirmation again, and would probably be called upon to join a campaign against the teleporter being used anymore, inasmuch as it was prematurely ending individual existences and possibly sending people to perdition who otherwise might not have gone there.

Catholics would have some weighty issues to deal with in such a future!

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