The Resurrection Body, by Eric Steinhart
Metanexus Sophia. 2004.10.11. 5,150 Words.
ﾓPersons have an ultimate destination ﾖ a kind of union with the Absolute,ﾔ writes Eric Steinhart, Professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University. Steinhart offers a theory of immortality through bodily resurrection. In his words, ﾓI develop a theory of the resurrection body. I start with Hickﾒs theory that the resurrection body is a replica (of the last living stage of the earthly body). But Hickﾒs replica theory is not adequate. Persons are resurrected in functionally but not materially equivalent bodies. Resurrection bodies become functionally perfected. There is an endless progression of resurrection bodies that converges to an infinitely complex body. An infinitely complex body performs perceptual, motor, and cognitive supertasks.ﾔ
Eric Steinhart works primarily on metaphysics using contemporary analytical and logical methods and tools. He is also interested in historical metaphysical systems (particularly Plotinus, Neoplatonism, and Leibniz). Steinhart was originally trained as a computer scientist and mathematician: he received his BS in Computer Science from Penn State University in 1983, after which he worked as a software designer for several years. Some of his algorithms have been patented. He earned an MA in Philosophy from Boston College, focusing on the history of philosophy. He was awarded the Ph.D. in Philosophy from SUNY at Stony Brook in 1996, winning the first “Distinguished Dissertation” award given to any Humanities student in the history of the University. His past work has concerned Nietzsche, as well as metaphor (analyzed using possible worlds semantics). He has written extensively on the metaphysics and computation. He is featured in the film Chronotrip, a documentary about time travel. He is increasingly interested in the philosophy of religion, focusing on the intersection of mathematics and theology, non-theistic conceptions of God, and naturalized versions of classical resurrection theories. A relentless pythagorean, his metaphysical projects aim to use mathematical insights to reconcile science and theology: set theory as formal theology! He believes that all that ultimately exists are classes and their properties. He believes in the existence of more things than you do. He also likes New York City, New England, mountain hiking, all sorts of biking, chess, and microscopy.
The Resurrection Body
As a theory of immortality, the resurrection of the body is both religiously and scientifically attractive. It is religiously attractive because it is the doctrine of immortality in the main Western faiths. It is affirmed in the New Testament and in the major Christian creeds. It is scientifically attractive because it does not involve an immaterial soul. It is coherent with modern scientific theories of persons ﾖ persons are wholly material things. I develop a resurrection theory that focuses on the resurrection body. The resurrection body is a ﾓglorified bodyﾔ. It is a functionally perfected version of the earthly body. Iﾒve developed an extensive resurrection theory. I give a brief overview of this theory here. Itﾒs presented in detail on a web site:
2. The Replication Theory
I start with Hickﾒs replication theory of resurrection (1976: chs. 15, 20, 22). According to Hick, our actual universe is composed of many space-time volumes. These are known in current cosmology as Hubble volumes (Tegmark, 2003). One of these volumes surrounds the earth (call it the ﾓearthly volumeﾔ). These volumes are spatially disconnected ﾖ there is no travel or communication from one to the other. These volumes all share the same time. Despite their spatial separateness, they can be connected by natural laws. For example: is a law of nature that when a body dies in the earthly volume, an exact atom-for-atom replica of that body appears in another volume (call it the ﾓresurrection volumeﾔ). The natural laws within the resurrection volume are especially friendly to human bodies. Any human body appearing in the resurrection volume is immediately healed and rejuvenated. It returns to a youthful and perfectly healthy form.
Suppose you die and are resurrected as Hick describes. Your replicaﾒs body (including its brain) has exactly the same structure as your earthly body. Our best science implies that all psychological properties and relations depend entirely on the structure of the brain and body. If that is right, then your earthly psychology continues without any interruption in your resurrection replica. You would ﾓwake upﾔ in your new body with all your memories, beliefs, desires, dispositions, and character and personality traits.
You might object that your resurrection body isnﾒt made of the same atomic parts as your earthly body. Since it isnﾒt made of the same atoms, it canﾒt be your body. The reply is that bodies change their atomic parts constantly over time. An old body is not likely to contain any atoms from its younger self. Since the gradual replacement of all your atoms doesnﾒt disrupt your persistence, the instantaneous replacement of all your atoms shouldnﾒt disrupt your persistence either (see Dilley, 1983). You might still object that your resurrection body isnﾒt identical to your earthly body. It is merely a copy. And a copy is never identical to its original (Flew, 1976: ch. 8). The reply is that identity is irrelevant. Any time your body changes one of its parts or properties, it ceases to be identical to what it was. Only things that never change have any identity through time. But your body is always changing. Your body now isnﾒt identical to your body a minute ago.
A full response to the non-identity objection requires a discussion of how things persist. Our best science treats time as a 4th dimension (Davies, 2002). Accordingly, a persisting thing is a 4-dimensional (4D) series of instantaneous thing-stages (Quine, 1950). The stages of a thing are not identical. They are distinct objects with different parts and different properties. The body an instant ago is not identical to the body now; nor is the body now identical to the body an instant later. The body has many stages just like a book has many pages. This page and that page may be in the same book; but they are certainly not identical. Non-identity is a non-problem. What matters is that you psychologically continue into or survive into your resurrection body (Parfit, 1971a, 1971b).
We can make these ideas clearer by giving a precise definition of what it means to be a persistent person. Following Lewis (1976) and Hudson (2001), let us say that an object is a persistent person iff (1) it is a series of body-stages; (2) all the stages are properly psychologically connected to one another; and (3) each later stage is causally dependent on the earlier stages. All person-stages are body-stages. But the definition allows one person to have stages from distinct bodies. For instance: you can take your earlier stages from your earthly body and your later stages from your resurrection body.
Hickﾒs replication theory satisfies the Lewis-Hudson requirements for personal persistence. All psychological properties and relations that depend on bodily structure are preserved in the resurrection. Causal chains pass from your dying earthly body to your resurrection replica. The causal chains that connect the last stage of the earthly body to the first stage of the resurrection body are natural, lawful, and reliable. So all psychological properties and relations that depend on causal links are preserved in the resurrection. The earthly body psychologically continues into the resurrection replica. According to Hudsonﾒs definition of persons, the person-stages in an earthly body, and the person-stages in a resurrection body, are all stages of one and the same person.
The resurrection environment is biologically friendly. Its laws entail the rejuvenation and repair of the replicas that appear in it. One way to do this is through cellular restoration (Hershenov, 2003). As the earthly body lives, it replaces its dying cells with new cells (cloned from stem cells). But as the earthly body ages, these replacements are increasingly defective. Life in the resurrection environment replaces each cell with a youthful version of itself. The body thus grows towards a functionally perfected stage.
3. The Improved Replication Theory
Our improved version of Hickﾒs replica theory says that (1) a 4D person takes stages from both earthly and resurrection bodies and (2) the resurrection body is healed by cellular restoration. There are three problems with the improved replica theory.
The first problem concerns the limits of rejuvenation via cellular restoration. Cellular restoration cannot undo all the damage of aging. If an aged brain has lost either cells or synaptic connections, then replacing its remaining damaged nerve cells with good copies wonﾒt restore the lost information. Suppose Old John has advanced Alzheimers. The replication and cellular restoration of Old John makes a youthful body with a senile mind. The kind of healing we want in the resurrection should restore the full psychology of the earthly body ﾖ it should restore all earthly memories.
The second problem concerns the last living stage of the body. Although death appears to be a sudden change for the whole body, it is not. The last living stage of the body is the last living stage of the last living cell in the body. But if thatﾒs true, then the first stage of the resurrection body is a single cell. An attractive feature of this idea is that the development of the resurrection body now parallels that of the earthly body. Just as the earthly body begins with one cell (the zygote), so the resurrection body begins with one cell. Although cellular restoration can repair this one cell (e.g. it fixes any genetic defects and badly folded proteins), such restoration hardly regenerates the body.
We can solve these two problems by carefully considering the structure of the body. For each stage of the earthly body, there is a blueprint of that stage at the atomic level. You can think of the blueprint of each body-stage as recorded on a page. These pages are arranged in temporal order to make a book. This Life Book is the blueprint of the whole 4D body. All the information about the life of the body is recorded in its Life Book (Augustine, The City of God, bk. 20, ch. 14). Since persons are entirely material, all the psychological properties of the body are recorded in its Life Book. A Life Book is a Platonic form ﾖ an abstract pattern that exists eternally as part of the logical structure of reality.
The resurrection body grows from a single cell by re-tracing the growth as it is recorded in the Life Book. The growth of the resurrection body is a kind of therapeutic cloning. As it grows by re-tracing the events encoded in the Life Book, the resurrection body records (in its nervous and immune systems) all the experiences of the earthly body. But the growing resurrection body does not suffer from illness or injury as it re-traces that growth. It records the experience of an injury or illness without undergoing it and being damaged from it. It grows from a single cell into an athletically and cognitively perfected body. This perfected body has a perfect memory of the whole life of the earthly body.
According to the improved replication theory, there are possible planets (in other Hubble volumes) on which all earthly bodies are resurrected together (standing in space-time relations that parallel those on earth). Shorter (1962: 81 ﾖ 84) describes a possible planet that is populated by resurrection bodies grown by therapeutic cloning:
There is in the universe a planet on which people live. Let us call the planet Juno. . . . The Junonians come into being in rather a peculiar fashion. In a certain part of the planet bodies of the normal human sort grow to maturity. While they grow they are in a state similar to a person in a coma. Periodically these ﾑcome to lifeﾒ and start to walk about and talk in a normal sort of way. . . . they are able to talk English and sometimes other languages too as soon as they ﾑcome to lifeﾒ. It also seems to them that they remember doing certain deeds, thinking certain thoughts and witnessing certain events, although these events and deeds they seem to remember certainly did not occur on Juno. . . . Now it is a fact that the occasion when each of these Junonians ﾑcame to lifeﾒ corresponds to the time when someone died in Britain. . . . each Junonian is in appearance, character, and personality very like his [counterpart in Britain] was before he died. (Shorter, 1962: 82)
Resurrection planets (like Juno) are certainly physically possible. If all physical possibilities exist, then such resurrection planets exist. The hypothesis that all physical possibilities exist is a brand of moderate modal realism (Miller, 2001). Moderate modal realism can be scientifically justified (Tegmark, 2003). Every earthly zygote has a plurality of possible futures (call them its destinies). Each destiny of each earthly zygote is represented in a Life Book. For every earthly body, and for every Life Book that represents one of its destinies, it is possible that there is a resurrection body that begins with a replica of that earthly zygote and grows (via therapeutic cloning) in accordance with that Life Book. If all possibilities exist, then every possible resurrection body exists.
4. The Functional Replication Theory
A final problem with the improved replica theory concerns the reliability of the replica. Suppose a replica is grown from a Life Book to an athletically and cognitively perfected stage. The replica is a carbon-based life-form. The pattern in the Life Book is realized in organic chemistry. But now the resurrection body is no more reliable than the earthly body. It can suffer all the damages that the earthly body can suffer. Its cellular machinery will suffer from excess oxidization and will be damaged. It will age and die.
The solution to the reliability problem requires us to move to a more abstract level of continuity for the body. It is medically possible for a body to be gradually (organ by organ) converted into a robot (Lycan, 1998). For instance: the natural eye is replaced with a bionic camera; the heart with a bionic pump; the brain with a bionic computer; the arms and legs with bionic manipulators; the respiratory and digestive systems are replaced with a bionic energy-generation system. The bionic organs in the robotic body can perform their functions more reliably, more efficiently, and more powerfully than their natural originals. A bionic heart is functionally equivalent to a natural heart iff it performs the same kind of pumping action. It can be made of different materials and can perform its pumping function more reliably, efficiently, and powerfully. So long as functions are preserved, the life of the body continues through this organ by organ replacement.
We need to think of the body (and its Life Book) more abstractly. We need to move from the concrete materiality of the body to the abstract functionality of the body. We need to move from hardware to software. We need to talk about programs. Every body starts with a single cell (the zygote). The DNA in the zygote implies a cell-program. As the body grows, the cell-program repeats itself in every cell in the body (with certain genes switched on and others off). At any time, the body is a network of computers all running the same cell-program. So the DNA in the zygote implies a body-program. The body-program can be thought of as the program for a Turing machine. It is the functionality of the body. According to Aristotle, the form of the body at the functional level is the soul (De Anima, 412a5-412b21). Consequently: the body-program is the Aristotelian soul.
Since all person-stages are body-stages, the body-program is a person-program. Adams (1992: 47) says: ﾓx is the same person over time if and only if x is the same Turing machine running the same program.ﾔ He says ﾓa person is just a token run of a person-profile-program on a token Turing machine (or its equivalent)ﾔ (1992: 54). But token Turing machines and their token runs are abstract particulars. A token run of a token body-program is a series of abstract body-stages. These abstract body-stages are defined in terms of functional relationships. A series of abstract body-stages generated by a body-program is a destiny of that program. A body-program has many possible destinies. Different inputs to the body-program determine different destinies. At the abstract level, a Life Book consists of a body-program plus one of the destinies of that body-program. A career is a concrete realization of a destiny in some specific materials ﾖ organic chemistry or silicon-metal composites. At the concrete level, a Life Book records a career. Although the body-program is a genetic program, there is no genetic determinism. For example: while monozygotic twins share the same DNA (hence the same body-program), they do not share the same inputs; hence they have different careers.
Hickﾒs conception of persons is explicitly computational (1976: 281 ﾖ 283). Other theologically-minded thinkers have used computational theories of persons to support the resurrection of the body (Polkinghorne, 1985: 180-181; Mackay, 1997). Various futurists have also used computational theories of persons to motivate technological resurrection theories (Moravec, 1988, ch. 4; Fredkin, 1990; Tipler, 1995). These futurists describe (for instance) the transference of human psychologies from natural bodies to robotic bodies. Their robotic bodies are super-human bodies ﾖ much like the ﾓglorified bodiesﾔ in traditional theology. The technological speculations of these futurists are at best rough images of the resurrection. The resurrection is biological. Nevertheless: the speculations of these futurists demonstrate that functional resurrection is plausible.
5. The Perfection of the Resurrection Body
Our refinements to Hickﾒs replica theory have changed it into a theory of resurrection via functional replication. The theory of resurrection as functional replication has many advantages. Its first advantage is that it allows the resurrection body to recover all the functionality of the earthly body. Its second advantage is that it allows the resurrection body to realize its earthly functionality more effectively. The resurrection body is more reliable, more efficient, and more powerful than the earthly body. Its third advantage is that it allows the resurrection body to surpass the functionality of the earthly body. According to St. Paul, the resurrection body is a “glorified body” (1 Corinthians 15:3-49). Augustine describes the super-powers of the resurrection body in The City of God.
The full development of Hickﾒs replica theory implies an endless series of resurrections for every earthly body. We could try to let the endless series of resurrections run across an endless series of Hubble volumes. However: since these Hubble volumes all run the same physical laws (our actual physical laws), the power of these resurrections is limited. It is better to allow the endless series of resurrections to cross an endless series of universes ﾖ with laws that permit bodies of increasing complexity. At this point, our resurrection theory really does depend on full-blown modal realism (Lewis, 1986).
An earthly body is just the first segment of an infinitely long ideal career. An ideal career is mathematically endless. It is therefore defined by transfinite recursion. It is therefore defined by three rules: an initial rule, a successor rule, and a limit rule. An initial rule associates the initial ordinal number 0 with an initial body B(0). A successor rule shows how to define a successor body B(n+1) in terms of its predecessor B(n). The limit rule depends on the notion of the limit of a series. The limit of the series 1/2, 3/4, 7/8, . . . is 1. Analogously, the limit of the series 0, 1, 2, 3, . . . is the first infinite number w. So a limit rule defines a limit body B(w) in terms of the series B(0), B(1), B(2) and so on.
Initial Rule: For the initial ordinal 0, an ideal career contains an initial body B(0) in initial universe U(0). This initial body is an earthly body in the actual universe. The initial body is a series of stages. It starts with a zygote. The zygote grows through divisions. Each division doubles the number of cells in the body. The complexity of B(0) grows in parallel with the series 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, and so on. It rises exponentially. Although the exponential growth of the earthy body does not go on forever, it defines the ideal upper bound of the growth of the body. Ideally: each body-stage is followed by a body-stage that is twice as powerful (twice as fast, efficient, and reliable). Of course, the body does not live up to its ideal. Its later stages are increasingly corrupted by noise (disease and injury). They drift away from the ideal. They accumulate defects and eventually die.
Successor Rule: For any ordinal number n, if an ideal career contains a body B(n) in U(n), then it also contains a successor body B(n+1) in a successor universe U(n+1). A successor universe has laws that permit machines twice as powerful as those in its predecessor. B(n) is resurrected into B(n+1). Each successor body begins with a replica of the predecessorﾒs zygote and grows by therapeutic cloning through as many stages as its predecessor. It records but does not suffer from the experiences of its predecessor. Its growth is more perfect since it is realized in more perfect materials. The recapitulation of B(n) in B(n+1) ensures computational and thus psychological continuity. B(n+1) grows to a mature stage ﾖ the stage to which its predecessor would have lived if (and only if) it had been realized in the more perfect materials of U(n+1). The successor body then develops and lives an adult life as far as the laws of its universe permit. During its adult life, each stage of B(n+1) upgrades its functionality as far as possible. Each organ in B(n+1) doubles in power ﾖ it doubles in speed, precision, efficiency, and reliablity. Each sense organ doubles its powers of discrimination and resolution (its acuity). Each sense organ doubles its range of perception. Each motor organ doubles its dexterity, strength, and endurance. The computational power of the nervous system doubles. The functions of the bodyﾒs energy-processing systems (its respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems) become universalized. Each successor body is able to extract energy from a larger range of sources. Each B(n+1) is like one of Moravecﾒs ﾓbush robotsﾔ (1988: 102 – 108; 2000: 150 – 154). So each B(n+1) lives through a series of upgrades. Although each B(n+1) is more reliable than its predecessor, its reliability is not perfect. It stays closer to the series of ideal body-stages for longer than its predecessor. Nevertheless: as it lives, it too accumulates defects. It drifts away from the ideal. It eventually dies.
Limit Rule: For any limit ordinal L, if an ideal career contains a body B(n) in universe U(n) for every n less than L, then that ideal career contains a body B(L) in U(L). The body B(L) is a limit body and U(L) is a limit universe. The whole series of B(n) is resurrected into B(L). The initial stage of B(L) is a replica of the initial zygote. The limit body grows by therapeutic cloning through the whole series of lesser bodies. It records (but does not suffer) the experiences of the whole series of B(n) for all n less than L. So also the first limit body B(w) records all the computations of the endless series of B(n) for all finite n. The recapitulation of each B(n) in its successor and the recapitulation of the whole series of B(n) in its limit ensures computational and therefore psychological continuity. Each B(L) can represent any object that is represented by any B(n) for n less than n. Its memory includes all the memories of its entire series of B(n). The mature form of the first limit body B(w) is thus an infinitely complex phenotype. Each organ in B(w) is infinitely complex and functionally universalized. Its sense organs are infinitely sensitive detectors. Its motor organs operate with infinite precision. Its nervous system is a super-Turing machine (Copeland, 1998; Steinhart, 2002). So B(w) begins its adult life as an infinitary human animal (Steinhart, 2003). The infinitary body B(</SP