Star Trek, Transporter Machine & Souls
Sunday, May 25, 2014 at 8:41PM
Sean Wilson in Dualism, Physicalism, Star Trek, Transporter, e-mail discussion

(In response to the below podcast. A person asked me on Facebook if I agreed with the position).

QUESTION: Two Things: 1) This is a really neat podcast you might like; 2) at the 10:30 time marker they talk about the Star Trek Transporter and I wanted your reaction to the discussion.

The Podcast: Podcast


I don't agree that the captain would die or that the reconstituted captain would be a new person. The point seems to be based upon philosophy of soul. Remember when Gandalf was pushed back into his body after smiting the Balrog on top of the mountain (after falling to depths of hell)? Well, if he can be put back in his body, it seems imaginable that molecules can reform the physical shell at a new location, with the old soul dropping in. In Christian metaphysics, souls leave bodies at death and sometimes go back in them. So the beaming and reconstituting of molecules seems not to trouble anything, so long as, somehow, souls go along with the transport. If you don't believe in souls, that's another issue. But the ultimate issue is whether the thing is imaginable, since we are talking movies here. Also, the transporter machine is a theory about travel. We know your body could not be hurled down to the planet instantaneously. But in a world with phasers and such, molecules are "beamed." So long as the soul accompanied the travel in some way, it would be imaginable. How is this different from those who imagined being frozen and then re-awoken? Or those that could sleep hundreds of years in space travel (Kahn?, Planet of the Apes?).

Update on Monday, May 26, 2014 at 11:29PM by Registered CommenterSean Wilson

(Continued Discussion on the question of whether the transporter machine causes brain activity to cease and shuts down bodily functioning):

I guess I reject the premise that the brain activity ceases and the body stops functioning altogether. Instead, the molecular things that allow for those activities simply get put into a different physiological state inside a photon beam. You'd die if the beam had a leak or something, because the imagined physics of suspended animation would get messed up. That would be more like "chopping off the captain's head," as the podcast says. So I think the only way the thesis can be true is if the transporter is thought to be something that incinerates and then reconstitutes, the latter being like a cloning machine. The transporter is not a cloning machine on the back end. It's all about transportation.

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