Sunday, 22 July 2007

Does a clone have a ‘soul’?

Does a clone have a ‘soul’? July 22, 2007 Sometimes people ask if a cloned human being would have a ‘soul’. If we as humans would go about to clone another human being, we don’t need to ‘give’ or create a ‘soul’ for that cloned individual. What you call a ‘soul’, is only the manifestation of the chemical reactions taking place in and between our brain cells (and possibly in some other cells in the body too). For this to happen there is no need for a God or any God or other ‘higher powers’ of the universe, for that matter. It works by itself. Therefore, a cloned individual will have as much ‘soul’ as you or me, or anybody else have. We are only what we make ourselves to. ......... ZenMaster

For more on stem cells and cloning, go to CellNEWS at


Phil Stolle said...

Wow, there is a lot of supposition in your post about cloning. You essentially are saying that there is no soul and no God. While cloning is a very controversial subject, I think it worth looking deeper at that subject with more analysis than a simple statement sweeping away the existence of God and the eternal soul. I appreciate honest exploration into scientific and spiritual matters, but I encourage you to take the time to do more research or explain your thought process with statements such as these.

ZenMaster said...

Phil, I have taken a deep look and also done my research!

The first question we really have to ask ourselves in this context is: What is consciousness? How does it happen and how does it work?

Many philosophers have over the years argued that consciousness is a phenomenon outside the horizon of the knowledge about matter.

The great molecular biologist Francis Crick dismissed this concept in an interview a few years before his death by saying: "The mechanism is the important part; the rest is just playing with words." (Francis Crick, was originally trained as a physicist, then became a molecular biologist, and in a final leap of his career a neuroscientist.)

So what do we know today about brain structures that makes us conscious about our surroundings and how they work? Working with modern techniques like MRI and fMRI, scientists are beginning to localise specific small areas in the brain regulating the phenomena consciousness. One such area is the anterior cingulate cortex. There are a lot more details done to this work, but it would take too much space to refer to it here. The conclusion though, is that only tens of thousands, or even a few thousand neurons, give rise to the feeling of conscious awareness, different for different perceptions like seeing, hearing or touching etc..

So where does it leave us with more ephemeral thoughts about philosophical nature? Well, the same techniques have recently been applied to try to answer these kinds of questions too. There are especially two situations that have been studied, and that give important clues in this respect.

One is the brain’s awakening system responsible for the transition between sleep and wake. People with near death experiences and ‘out-of-the-body’ experiences seem to have an arousal system predisposed to allowing mixing of the two states of sleep and wakefulness. This could explain these experiences on a neuronal basis.

The other situation recently studied is people in a meditative state saying they have had a direct contact with a ‘God’ higher level of existence, like catholic nuns or Buddhist monks; or during the charismatic (Christian) practice of glossolalia (speaking in tongues). In these circumstances you find an increased cerebral activity in the frontal and parietal lobes, while there is a dip in the activity of a region called left caudate. The caudate area is involved in motor and emotional control, so it may be that practitioners, while mindful of their circumstances, nonetheless cede some control over their bodies and emotions.

What can be said about these neural functions in Homo sapiens? First they should be seen in the greater context of our ability to create ‘fantasies’ in our brain, thoughts we can experience as ‘real’ but doesn’t happen in reality, at least not at that moment. This is one of the basic neurological capacities we have, and make us so efficient in planning, recreating previous events, interacting with others and all kinds of other evil things. This ability have given us, Homo sapiens, a great developmental advantage even to the point that we can destroy our own species! But still, that capacity is only based in out neural system.

As we will learn more about the details and intricacies of how our neurons plays a joke on our ‘consciousness’ " will lead to the death of the soul" as Francis Crick once bluntly said.

He continued: "The view of ourselves as ‘persons’ is just as erroneous as the view that the Sun goes around the Earth. This sort of language will disappear in a few hundred years."

"In the fullness of time, educated people will believe there is no soul independent of the body, and hence no life after death."

In my own words: we are just an assembly of molecules and cells, although sophisticated, performing chemical reactions. Nothing more, nothing less.

Phil Stolle said...

Zenmaster, thanks for the very articulate explanation of your scientific research. While I would disagree with you extensively on a number of points, I'm very impressed that you can explain your position well. I'm sure you have looked at Intelligent design and are familiar with at least some of the latest astronomer findings regarding the expanding universe. This goes in some very different directions, but it is interesting to note that the number of aetheists in that community is shrinking significantly as they are finding little explanation of this controlled expansion outside of a higher power. Even with the assumption of the scientific method as the authority for understanding all existence (which is limited at best), there are many questions that scientists are finding hard to answer without the force of a higher power behind it. I'm going to do more reading in the near future, and not ready to speak to these issues just yet, but you have won over my ear to listen more to what you are finding and presenting. I'm not new to these topics and am fascinated by very honest dialog from different perspectives.

Back to the case of intelligent design and the big bang, what is being found is that the traditional scientific view of the big bang and the traditional Christian view of creation in 6 days are both being challenged.

Let's keep talking and do visit my site as well as I'll be delving into these topics down the line.

Glad to meet another truth-seeking honest "soul".

ZenMaster said...

I’m not a soul, I use my brain cells!

I don’t know where you get that statement from that astronomers are getting more religious and less atheistic from studying the Big Bang theory. From what I know, the expansion of the Universe have been a much debated issue the last decades: is it really expanding, static or even going to implode, giving rise to a cycling universe? Are there more (many) parallel Universes that we unfortunately never can observe? And what happened before the Big Bang?

The difference between science and Intelligent Design (ID) or other religious believes are the following. Science asks questions, put up hypothesis, and check facts to either prove or disprove a theory. So, it is never static but changes as we learn and observe more and more facts.

Religion (and ID) start with a set of ‘rules’ or dogmas (or call it what you like) that can’t and aren’t allowed to be questioned or changed with time and knowledge. This makes them false from the beginning.

Of course, science can’t answer all questions, and many questions are NOT scientific in nature, and are therefore un-answerable from a scientific point of view. It is important to make these distinctions; otherwise you can get wherever you like. And I am not into that business!

You say ‘there are many questions that scientists are finding hard to answer without the force of a higher power behind it’. I totally disagree with that notion. I have never met this kind of question in my more that 30 years of research! I guess you are instead referring to questions with no scientific answers (in the best cases) or you are trying to muddle the waters with propaganda about ID and similar things (in the worst case).

In my view, intelligent design is just an attempt to re-invent or modernise the classical Christian creationist story. It’s of no value from a scientific point of view, and bear very little resemblance to the real world.

kemibe said...

Phil, let's simplify this. You wrote:

"You essentially are saying that there is no soul and no God ... I encourage you to take the time to do more research or explain your thought process with statements such as these."

Until you or anyone can point toward the research supporting the idea that either gods or souls exist, there is, frankly, no more reason for scientifically minded people to give them credence than there is for them to believe in Santa Claus or little green men from Mars.

In fact, in recent years, neuroscientists have made substantial progress in elucidating the mechanisms underlying formerly ineffable concepts such as consciousness and thoughts themselves, which boil down to simple biochemical processes; in addition, embrology has rendered the old, simplistic religious idea of a soul inhabiting an embryo at the so-called moment of conception hazy at best, farcical at worst.

Those who believe in a soul do not do so for scientific reasons, period. They are taught to believe in souls and gods first and go looking for evidence second. This is not a method scientists would be advised to support. So, no offense, but your religious beliefs simply have no place in modern biology.

Phil Stolle said...

Thanks to both of you for the interesting and stimulating discussion.

Kemibe, Very interesting statement, "your religious beliefs simply have no place in modern biology". If that be true, then I would say that Zenmaster's statements about God and the soul have no place in modern biology either, which I agree that the physical and spiritual are very different. The spiritual world, whether you believe in it's existence or not, does not match with the scientific method which measures the material world. I think using science to try and disprove the existence of God is as faulty as a dogmatic pursuit to try and prove the existence of God with the scientific method. Contrary to what you may think, I am not a hard-nosed conservative Christian that leaves no room for scientific exploration. I have more questions than answers.

The reality is either that God exists or He doesn't and that people have a soul or they don't. The measure of that from a scientific pursuit is pointless if in fact the soul is not a material object to be measured. And certainly God is considered by Jews, Christians, Muslims and other people of faith is spiritual not physical except in the historical reality of Christ on earth.

You said, "no more reason for scientifically minded people to give them credence than there is for them to believe in Santa Claus or little green men from Mars." Which is interesting considered history is full of scientists who believed in God. Respected scientists like Blaise Pascal, Robert Boyle, Michael Faraday, Louis Pasteur, George Washington Carver, Wernher Von Braun, and last but not least Albert Einstein who said, "Before God we are all equally wise - and equally foolish."

Zenmaster, I am not about trying to "muddle the waters" in fact, I am just presenting ID and the big bang theory as references for discussion as a point of interest. I do not claim to be an authority on the subject of ID or the big bang, but rather am picking-up information from many sources and bring it forth and wondering your thoughts.

I am in no way trying to convince you of the existence of God and souls or see your statements as great logic against the existence of the spiritual realm, whether it exists or not. I just find the matter-of-fact statements that God and souls do not exist to be pointless in the discussion of cloning.

One day, after we are all dust, our chemical reactions in our brains and bodies cease, either we our souls will stand before God and give account for our lives and face an eternity, or we will simply be but dust. It bears careful consideration. You may have heard this before and it may seem trite, but if you are right, little matters, we will all be dust. If I am right, the ramifications are significant.

ZenMaster said...

It is time for us, Homo sapience, to understand how our brains ‘fictional’ capacity works. This is a great ability that has given us human beings an advantage to survive and adapt to an ever changing environment. But it is also time, in the 21st century, to understand and draw the line clearly between fiction and reality. Using the fictional part as reality create many problems, especially in the religious field. Just look at all wars and killings in historical times instigated by the various religions. Not to mention what is going on right now.

I don’t understand why people get so provoked by the idea that there is no need for a god or gods.

Haha, there was the ‘fear-factor’! “If you don’t think as I tell you to think, you will be condemned to hell for an eternity!” (slight travesty, I know.)

I see it in the complete opposite way!

You –religious people – can do whatever you like (morally and ethically) during your life. Then it is only for you to go and pay your penance or ask forgiveness in some other way, or wait until your death and see how your god will judge you (maybe he didn’t think it was so bad after all!).

We, the condemned in your eye’s, that doesn’t believe in any god(s), have to do what we can now while we are living! You know, people without religious believes are not without morals and ethics. Morals and ethics are not exclusively linked to religion! Maybe you have not noticed that yet.

Phil Stolle said...

Zenmaster, There is no measuring stick that I possess on who is more moral or ethical, you or I. You may have far more moral scruples than I. I have not gotten to know you and even then I'm not sure I would even begin to know how one would truly measure the level of morality or ethics, one against another. It sounds like a fruitless pursuit to me.

It is not a question of morality or belief systems. It is simply the reality that either God exists or He doesn't. That people have souls or they don't. I don't believe an endless study in science will ever prove or disprove that fact. It is outside the scientific method. You may not agree but that is the reality according to the generally accepted definition of spirituality, that which is not physical. gives one definition of spirituality as, "incorporeal or immaterial nature".

People can delude themselves for sure, but to state that all people who believe in God have deluded themselves would be to indict the greater part of mankind including many scientists, philosophers, mathematicians, statesman, teachers, etc. There may be a good number of agnostics, but I've met very few atheistic people in my life and I've lived in many places and several countries.

I don't condemn you. It is not my desire, responsibility or capability to bring condemnation. Just the opposite, I hope the very best for you.

Atheism, is a belief that there is no God. defines Aetheism as
1. Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods.
2. The doctrine that there is no God or gods.

It is accepted as a philosophical or doctrinal thought. This is not a result of the scientific method, but rather a philosophical conclusion.

I am not provoked by your statements against God or denying the existence of the soul to anger but rather challenge blanket statements. When you make the statement that there is no need for God, it would be similar to me making a statement that the world is flat or that the moon is made of cheese. That would sound proposterous to you and you would rightly want to say something.

Making a statement that you don't believe God exists or that souls don't exist explains your belief system and you certainly have the right to believe in that manner. I honor and respect you and your belief system.

Making a statement that science is proving that there is no soul or need for God in fact is a leap that I would ask you to reconsider.

You present some very interesting information and insight into the world at the microcosmic level which I find absolutely fascinating. I believe you will gain a broader readership by focusing on those topics.

ZenMaster said...

You say: ‘There is no measuring stick that I possess on who is more moral or ethical.’ Well, that’s exactly what you did, with your previous statement I referred to!

That’s exactly what I have said all along: There is no need for any god(s) for our universe to function, including us Homo sapiens! And spirituality has nothing to do with science, and shouldn’t be mixed!

I have never said science has disproved the existence of a god, I have said and tried to explain how our brain have developed functions that can give us such impressions as ‘out-of-the-body’ existence or presence of god during meditation or prayer. These psychological events can perfectly well be described by modern techniques how neurological processes and how our brain cells are wired and work on a molecular scale. This, at least aught to make people think once more about their ‘believes’.

You are very fast to judge, give advice, tell what you think I should or shouldn’t do or think, which I have found very common among christian religious people. Call it what you like. THAT is a problem, that so many do, instead of keeping an open mind and be prepared to think outside your private ‘little box’ you have at some point learned to live with.

About delusion, yes, it is a harsh statement, but sometimes you have to tell it straight. And you can as well make a long list of great thinkers that have been atheists if you have studied history. So, that’s not an argument. Einstein said many things about religion and the possibility of a god. Even more have been said about what he might have meant.

Uri Kalish said...

In house #1: A father is at home watching his kids and they’re not painting animals on the living room walls.

In house #2: The kids are alone in the house and they’re not painting animals on the living room walls.

Unlike religious people, atheists don’t have the fear factor - it’s all morale.

Phil Stolle said...

Zenmaster, You are contradicting yourself in this statement, "There is no need for any god(s) for our universe to function, including us Homo sapiens!" which has spiritual overtones "And spirituality has nothing to do with science, and shouldn’t be mixed!" Is that not odd to you?

So it's okay for you to make spiritual statements about God, which is what you did in your original post. You can state that science shows that there is no need for God, but I cannot disagree with you without being labeled a close-minded religious person.

It is unfortunate that you seem to think that I have somehow personally judged you. It is apparent that you have projected onto my discourse with you attitudes from others.

You have placed me in a box of those close-minded religious people. You can think that about me along with other people of faith who you interact with, but you will likely turn away a significant portion of your audience and likely discredit yourself as an objective source for information.

If you are going to open-up the subject of God in the context of science, be ready to discuss, respond to inquiries and questions about what you mean because they will come. It is likely that you will spend more time explaining yourself than focusing on the scientific topics.

Best of luck.

kemibe said...


Albert Einstein didn't believe in a personal god. His words concerning religion have been misrepresented more often than perhaps any scientist's in history. As for the others, note what they have in common -- they all lived long ago. It's no accident taht most of today's scientists do not believe in gods and certainly not in souls. The simple truth is that we know far more about the world than we did inthe 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, leaving fewer places for gods to hide.

That said, it doesn't matter how smart someone who believes something is if no evidence is adduced in support of that belief.

You cannot simply define something in the universe as "immaterial" and therefore beyond scrutiny while simultaneously arguing for existence. At a very minimum, as you noted, yourself the scientific method doesn't admit of such shaky concepts. So there is no reason whatsoever for bioethicists and biologists to concern themselves in any way with "souls" as they go about their work, because "souls," by your own definition, can simply have no impact on the work of scientists and vice versa.

I remind you that if you continue to claim that biologists are obligated to pretend a soul exists while also asserting that there's no way to verify if such things are there or even what they are, you are trying to have it both ways and should understand why your position cannot be taken seriously by anyone objective.

"It is simply the reality that either God exists or He doesn't. That people have souls or they don't."

Correct. You can say the same about unicorns and dragons. And as time passes the evidence increasingly points away from gods and souls. The Bible is wrong about a great many things. It contains a slew of internal inconsistencies. Its tenets are largely coopted from pre-existing faiths. It's understandable that religion rose in the first place, but as something that should be incorporated into public policy it has long since expired.

Scientists aren't out to "disprove" god. Atheists don't arrive at their beliefs because of a "system." It's merely that there are those of us -- happily, a growing number -- who simply refuse to accept irrational claimsabout the universe on their face.

ZenMaster said...

Thank you, kemibe, for these comments!