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Quantum mechanics puts human identity on trial?

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From Nautilus:

We want to believe that a thing is somehow more than the sum of its parts. That if we removed an electron’s charge, its mass, its spin, there would be something leftover, a bald electron, a haecceity, as the philosophers say, a primitive thisness. We want to believe that there is something that it means to be this electron rather than that, even if no observation, experiment, or statistic could ever reveal it. We want to believe in a primitive thisness because we want to believe in a primitive ourness—that should we one day meet our double, a perfect clone down to every detail, every dream, utterly indistinguishable to even the most discerning observer, that still there would be, here on the inside, something that it feels like to be us and not our double, a difference invisible and ineffable but true. That had there been no difference at all between the two Martin Guerres, one would still smile to himself in the secret knowledge that he was the real one.

We want to believe it, but quantum mechanics doesn’t let us. “We are fooled into thinking that our distinguishability inheres in our material substance, but that’s just a big misunderstanding on our part,” says Pesic. What becomes of the electron’s haecceity when it interferes with another’s, its primitive thisness muddled with thatness? Epistemology dictates ontology. And so it seems ever more likely that haecceity is a kind of philosopher’s rendition of the soul, a comfort, an illusion. In mythology, in religion, we seek oneness. Just not so much of it that we disappear.

So if the elementary particles of which we are made don’t really exist as objects, how do we exist?

One suggestion offered is

Our identity is a state, but if it’s not a state of matter—not a state of individual physical objects, like quarks and electrons—then a state of what?

A state, perhaps, of information. More.

Somehow we doubt the theorists will be very happy with the implications of it all coming down to information, once they think that one out.

See, for example, Information in everyday life

See also: What great physicists have said about immateriality and consciousness

and

Being as Communion

It’s hardly significant that quantum particles don’t have identity—if identity is something that happens to things that are more complex than quantum particles.

What if one person’s shadow is hard to distinguish from another’s? Does that mean that the person is not an individual?

Also, how is it that whatever rolls down the pike supposedly puts human identity on trial?

Have we ever thought of reversing the onus? That is, if a theory cannot account for human identity, then it is no good.

A friend used to cite a Jewish proverb: If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

See also: Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away

and

The human mind, the skinny

File under: Friday afternoon.

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6 Replies to “Quantum mechanics puts human identity on trial?

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    ‘A friend used to cite a Jewish proverb: If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

    Surely, only the Jewish people would have such an intellectual proverb ! Proverbs being proverbially folk-wisdom….

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?

    Who wants to know?

  3. 3
    bornagain says:

    as to:

    Quantum Mechanics Is Putting Human Identity on Trial
    – If our particles have no identity, how can we?
    By Amanda Gefter – November 19, 2015
    Excerpt: The early vitalist philosophers had a ready answer: Each of us is distinguished by a divine soul, our physical bodies mere puppets animated by our invisible selves. But science has eroded this answer, and sought identity in the physical body itself: At a microscopic level, promises the reductionist dream, there must be something to distinguish each one of us from another. A hard-nosed foundation for our identity, one made of molecules and atoms.,,,
    Consider a brain—with as many neurons as stars in the galaxy linked together through trillions of connections it’s the most complex object in the known universe. Try to compress it. Call it by just two words. Call it Martin Guerre. Push further. A single word, a single letter.

    Call it “I.”
    http://nautil.us/issue/30/iden.....y-on-trial

    But alas, “I” am not my brain either.

    Although atheists have the impossible task of trying to ‘explain away’ the hard problem of consciousness, i.e. explaining how consciousness can possibly ’emerge’ from a material basis, the Theist has the much easier task. The Theist merely has to show that the mind is not the same thing as the brain.

    In the following video and article, J. Warner Wallace, author of “Cold Case Christianity”, utilizes the ‘Law Of Identity’ to separate properties of mind from properties of the brain:

    How Consciousness Points to the Existence of God – J. Warner Wallace – video – Sept. 2015
    (5 attributes of mind that are distinct from brain therefore the mind is not the brain)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Ff1jiRpjko

    podcast – How Consciousness Points to the Existence of God – Sept. 2015
    http://coldcasechristianity.co.....adcast-42/

    Six reasons why you should believe in non-physical minds – 01/30/2014
    1) First-person access to mental properties
    2) Our experience of consciousness implies that we are not our bodies
    3) Persistent self-identity through time
    4) Mental properties cannot be measured like physical objects
    5) Intentionality or About-ness
    6) Free will and personal responsibility
    http://winteryknight.com/2014/.....cal-minds/

    Michael Egnor, professor of neurosurgery at SUNY, Stony Brook, list the ‘conditions of mind’ as such:

    The Mind and Materialist Superstition – Michael Egnor – 2008
    Six “conditions of mind” that are irreconcilable with materialism: –
    Excerpt: Intentionality,,, Qualia,,, Persistence of Self-Identity,,, Restricted Access,,, Incorrigibility,,, Free Will,,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....super.html

    Of related note, Alvin Plantinga humorously uses the fact that we can imagine that we have a ‘beetle body’ to highlight the fact, via the ‘law of identity’, that the mind is not the same thing as the brain/body.

    Alvin Plantinga and the Modal Argument (for the existence of the mind/soul) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOTn_wRwDE0

    As to physical evidence for the mind. One piece of evidence that I find particularly compelling is that it is now shown that the mind is able to modify the brain through ‘focused attention’:

    The Case for the Soul – InspiringPhilosophy video – (4:03 minute mark, Brain Plasticity including Jeffrey Schwartz’s work) – Oct. 2014 –
    The Mind is able to physically modify the brain.
    Moreover, Idealism explains all anomalous evidence of personality changes due to brain injury, whereas physicalism cannot possibly explain mind.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBsI_ay8K70

    Moreover, completely contrary to materialistic thought, mind has been now been shown to be able to reach all the way down and have pronounced effects on the gene expression of our bodies:

    Scientists Finally Show How Your Thoughts Can Cause Specific Molecular Changes To Your Genes, – December 10, 2013
    Excerpt: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first paper that shows rapid alterations in gene expression within subjects associated with mindfulness meditation practice,” says study author Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds and the William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
    “Most interestingly, the changes were observed in genes that are the current targets of anti-inflammatory and analgesic drugs,” says Perla Kaliman, first author of the article and a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Research of Barcelona, Spain (IIBB-CSIC-IDIBAPS), where the molecular analyses were conducted.,,,
    the researchers say, there was no difference in the tested genes between the two groups of people at the start of the study. The observed effects were seen only in the meditators following mindfulness practice. In addition, several other DNA-modifying genes showed no differences between groups, suggesting that the mindfulness practice specifically affected certain regulatory pathways.
    http://www.tunedbody.com/scien.....ges-genes/

    That is certainly not a comfortable finding for those who prefer to believe they are merely genetically determined robots.

    Thus, the death of ‘mind’, or even the soul, by modern science has been, much like Twain’s death, greatly exaggerated.

  4. 4
    bornagain says:

    A few related notes:

    Meet The Healthy, Functioning Man Who Survived With Almost No Brain – October 7, 2015 | by Aamna Mohdin
    http://www.iflscience.com/brai.....ormal-life

    If the mind of a person were merely the brain, as materialists hold, then if half of a brain were removed then a ‘person’ should only be ‘half the person’, or at least somewhat less of a ‘person’, as they were before, but that is not the case. The ‘whole person’ stays intact even though the brain suffers severe impairment:

    Miracle Of Mind-Brain Recovery Following Hemispherectomies – Dr. Ben Carson – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zBrY77mBNg

    Dr. Gary Mathern – What Can You Do With Half A Brain? – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrKijBx_hAw

    Removing Half of Brain Improves Young Epileptics’ Lives: – 1997
    Excerpt: “We are awed by the apparent retention of memory and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor,” Dr. Eileen P. G. Vining,,
    Dr. John Freeman, the director of the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Epilepsy Center, said he was dumbfounded at the ability of children to regain speech after losing the half of the brain that is supposedly central to language processing.
    ”It’s fascinating,” Dr. Freeman said. ”The classic lore is that you can’t change language after the age of 2 or 3.”
    But Dr. Freeman’s group has now removed diseased left hemispheres in more than 20 patients, including three 13-year-olds whose ability to speak transferred to the right side of the brain in much the way that Alex’s did.,,,
    http://www.nytimes.com/1997/08.....lives.html

    In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study:

    “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.”

    Strange but True: When Half a Brain Is Better than a Whole One – May 2007
    Excerpt: Most Hopkins hemispherectomy patients are five to 10 years old. Neurosurgeons have performed the operation on children as young as three months old. Astonishingly, memory and personality develop normally. ,,,
    Another study found that children that underwent hemispherectomies often improved academically once their seizures stopped. “One was champion bowler of her class, one was chess champion of his state, and others are in college doing very nicely,” Freeman says.
    Of course, the operation has its downside: “You can walk, run—some dance or skip—but you lose use of the hand opposite of the hemisphere that was removed. You have little function in that arm and vision on that side is lost,” Freeman says. Remarkably, few other impacts are seen. ,,,
    http://www.scientificamerican......than-whole

  5. 5
    Robert Byers says:

    If they say it all comes down to particles and then nothing then if there was a soul one would not know there is nothing. For the soul is immaterial. Any materical breakdown would never disprove the soul.
    Therefore a option is there for the soul to be connected to the material world and so there is another connection besides just the material.
    Before that its possible information is still another element in the universe.

  6. 6
    mahuna says:

    All of this cheap sci-fi clone stuff assumes that it is not only possible but practical to duplicate ALL of an individual’s experiences and private thoughts FOR A LIFETIME in a lab over the weekend. Sorry, ain’t ever gonna happen.

    Our perceptions of the world today are filtered through our individual conclusions about how life works and why. And most of the “why” is about interpersonal relationships: I didn’t get the promotion because Johnny is a brown nose.

    Now in a hundred ways known to psychologists and used car salesmen, people are generally the same. After all, we’re the same kind of animals, so we’d better be REALLY similar. But then there are the specific strings of individual choices and personal experiences that make each of us different.

    And that difference CANNOT be copied, and postulating a theory that starts by assuming an impossible thing (a perfect clone) is one of the stupider and more pointless exercises in throwing words around for the sole purpose of hearing one’s self talk.

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