Teleportation and Religion

By Deane Barker on April 7, 2008

10 impossibilities conquered by science: This article is about a lot of things that science has done, but the last one is something we’ve discussed at least twice before: teleportation.

What’s interesting are the comments. The commentors are a highly educated bunch, and they’re fixated on the teleportation angle, and they returned to the same point we’ve discussed: are you (1) transported whole, or (2) destroyed and recreated?

This is important, because if you’re destroyed and recreated, what happens to your soul? What happens to any non-physical aspects of your…being?

Without an assumption that thoughts are not bult on a physical base, we are still left with the problem of how to transport this no physical entity (someones soul?), something that I am not aware has been tackled by science.

The real question is …. Would you be happy to destroy yourself on the understanding that some new entity will be recreated at some time in the future that thinks it is you, and thinks exactly like you do?

Read the comments — it’s interesting how something straight out of science fiction like teleportation brings up some solidly religious and spiritual questions.

This is from a comment I made on my own post in 2005:

Being a Christian, I believe we have a spirit apart from the body and the physical brain. So I guess there’s a religious aspect. I don’t think you can “create” life, so you can’t just duplicate me in another spot. I may be a correct biological creature, but I would never be Deane.

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Comments

  1. The most recent sci-fi book (that I’m aware of) to tackle teleportation was Timeline by Michael Crichton, and the basic idea was on the order of destroy and simultaneous re-creation. Not long after I’d read the book (a few years ago now), I read where scientists in Australia had successfully conducted experiments in teleportation, and their results were duplicated in another lab. Their work did not involve destruction/re-creation, but was fascinating nonetheless.

    Some of the comments referred to “The Jaunt” by Stephen King; the original use of the term came from Alfred Bester’s work The Stars My Destination. No one has successfully answered – or, in my opinion, even dealt with properly – the idea of whether or not the soul would (or could) be affected. I’m inclined to believe it would not be affected regardless of the mode of transport.

  2. Until the questions of what a soul is comprised of and whether the soul is somehow tethered to our corporeal bodies are answered, I think researchers will have a tough time finding volunteers for human trials.

    I read an interesting post on this subject elsewhere a while ago, asking whether the real person would be the original at the source or the duplicate at the destination. In a successful teleportation that involves destroying the original, what I wonder is whether there would be moral implications to destroying the original… If the original and the teleported copy are identical down to the memories of stepping into the machine at the source, who is to decide whether one is less “you” than the other, and would/could destroying either be considered murder? Sticky.

    There was an episode of The Twilight Zone a while back (Think Like A Dinosaur) that dealt with teleportation… An alien race showed up on earth, and loaned their teleportation system to the humans. It worked by creating an exact duplicate at the destination, and when that process was done and error-checked, the original at the source was destroyed. Something went wrong in verifying and confirming that the duplicate had been successfully created; when it was later determined that the copy did make it, the original had to be eliminated, messily.

  3. the Think Like a Dinosaur episode of Outer Limits is a must-watch when dealing with the ethical aspects of teleportation via destruction and recreation

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