Engineers vs. Philosophers

Engineers vs. Philosophers September 20, 2013

My religion and science fiction class will be discussing clones next time. If this SMBC comic is anything to go by, it shouldn't take too long…


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  • David Evans

    Point 1: biological cloning does not produce an atom-for-atom duplicate.

    Point 2: to make it harder (even for engineers?) ask: if the Enterprise’s transporter produces 2 identical copies of me at the destination, which one is the original?

  • T. Webb

    David Evans, you’re right, I think the cartoon assumes a “human photocopier” type of device like a hypothetical Star Trek transporter, or the one shown once in Farscape.

    As for point #2, neither are original. The transporter (theoretically) rips apart the original and reassembles it at the destination. How this would affect the resulting recreated being is terrifying to consider (at least I think); even more to think how it would affect the mind (all other philosophical issues of the mind/body problem put aside). And all of that is despite the fact in Star Trek II people are shown having a conversation while being transported (and similarly I think in the recent JJ Abrams films).

    • Jakeithus

      I think a better treatment of the idea probably exists in The Prestige, where *SPOILER ALERT* Hugh Jackman’s character clones himself and kills the subsequent copies as part of his magic trick. His line about never knowing if he is the one who will end up on the stage, or in the tank at the end of the trick speaks to the terrifying consequences.