Cloning

by Kieran Healy on March 29, 2006

Here’s an apposite comment from P.Z. Myers about someone who has had some cells from his late pet dog, Tito, cultured and frozen:

This is a personal decision, and I wouldn’t argue one way or the other about what Hank should do; it sounds like he’s wrestled over the issues already. All I can say is what I would do if I were in his sorrowful position.

I wouldn’t even try cloning.

… the essence of Tito isn’t reducible to a few million cells or a few billion nucleotides. While the genome is an influence and a constraint—a kind of broadly defined bottle to hold the essence of a dog—the stuff we care about, that makes an animal unique and special, is a product of its history. It’s the accumulation of events and experience and memory that generates the essentials of a personality and makes each of us unique.

Even if cloning were reliable and cheap, I wouldn’t go for it. It would produce an animal that looks like Tito, and would be good and worthy as an individual in its own right, but it wouldn’t be Tito.

I’ve half-joked before that, purely because of this basic point, sociologists should welcome human cloning with open arms. Technically achieving the sort of things many people imagine they could do with cloning —recreate a lost child or relative, produce a new version of themselves—would in fact have just the opposite effect. It would show just how important social structure, local environment and historical contingencies are to forming people. And that’s without even getting in to the metaphysical questions of what’s essential about people’s identity. Some people are going to be really upset when they realize that the genome is not some kind of magic essence of self. I hope public understanding catches up with the reality before actual cloned people are subject to the resentment of their creators.

{ 63 comments }

1

Paul Orwin 03.29.06 at 11:14 pm

This is what always drove me crazy about the cloning debate. People would say things like “will they have souls?” as if that were a serious question. (I wish I had time to look up where I saw that, because it sounds so silly, but I swear on a stack of “Origin of Species” it’s true). The technology of cloning may (or may not) be problematic, but the clone himself (or herself) is self-evidently a human just like any other, in terms of rights, morals, etc.
Interestingly (and completely off-topic), I just opened up a long forgotten A.C. Clarke book “Imperial Earth”, and cloning (along with other interesting issues) is front and center. Uncanny how he foresaw issues that have since come to light.

2

Yamamoto 03.30.06 at 12:01 am

“It would show just how important social structure, local environment and historical contingencies are to forming people. “

Or, it would show how little that really matters. We already know how much alike and how different two people with the same DNA can be because identical twins share their DNA.

3

DonBoy 03.30.06 at 12:29 am

You’d think these people had hever heard of twins.

4

jet 03.30.06 at 12:44 am

If you own an animal, do you own the rights to its DNA? Could someone take your dog’s shed hair and make a clone without your permission (Your champion stud dog worth its weight in gold)? {Not even close to on topic, but this is a post about a cloned dog named Tito}

As for DNA not being a what makes a person, I thought that one was still up in the air? Surely we are a product of our history. But also, to some extent, we are predisposed to that history by our DNA.

5

rilkefan 03.30.06 at 2:07 am

I rather suspect some people will be upset at how similiar clones would be – certainly I have known people to become upset when I talk about results from twin studies, e.g. the effect of genetics on religiosity. But anybody with even a sci-fi movie level familiarity with the issue knows that it’s important to raise one’s clone in one’s replicated environment (a great Gene Wolfe story springs to mind as an example of that, and the recent movie The Island presents iirc an example of the difference between original and clone), so I think “I hope public understanding catches up with the reality” is something of a nurturist strawman.

6

bad Jim 03.30.06 at 3:52 am

There ought to be more astrological criticism of this controversy. Of course some cloning techniques don’t bother to offer the original mitochondrial DNA, much less the same intrauterine environment, but nobody ever even attempts to present even a pretence of worry about the natal planetary alignment.

7

abb1 03.30.06 at 4:08 am

It would produce an animal that looks like Tito, and would be good and worthy as an individual in its own right, but it wouldn’t be Tito.

By the same logic, though, Tito you’ll meet when you come home from work tonight will be an animal that only looks like Tito, but it won’t be Tito you knew when you left in the morning. Bummer. Better get him taxidermied, man.

8

des von bladet, travelling 03.30.06 at 6:00 am

Is it not universally agreed that we have a binding moral duty to produce an Isle of Wight’s worth of clones of Derek Parfit, all called “Derek Parfit”?

9

Jeremy 03.30.06 at 7:39 am

The question is, does the “P.Z. Meyers” you link to, Kieran, have the same DNA as the P.Z. Myers you link to?

10

Kieran Healy 03.30.06 at 7:56 am

Whoops, fixed now.

11

Michael Kremer 03.30.06 at 7:57 am

Yamamoto, Rilkefan:

Twin studies don’t really show that environment has no influence on character traits, because identical twins, even if separated at birth, have shared a common environment for a very important first nine months of their coming to be who they are.

12

Steve LaBonne 03.30.06 at 8:22 am

I agree completely with Kieran. The usual result of allowing bluenoses to ban things is to lend those things an artifical attraction. Encountering this particular reality might well pop some unhealthy fantasy bubbles.

13

soru 03.30.06 at 8:39 am

Yes, once you understand what human cloning is, it is hard to see many productive uses for it.

Is there a technical term, like monarchy, for a society ruled by a sequence of clones? It does seem perfectly possible for a society like that to exist, although how different it would be from North Korea or Syria isn’t all that clear.

Along the same lines, what’s the medical feasibility of brain transplant into cloned 17 year old body? Does the cloning make that easier?

In which countries could the elites plausibly get away with holding a child prisoner for 17 years and then murdering them?

14

Steve LaBonne 03.30.06 at 8:43 am

In which countries could the elites plausibly get away with holding a child prisoner for 17 years and then murdering them?

Must…resist…urge…to…mention…Iraq…war…

15

really pedantic 03.30.06 at 9:35 am

“Technically achieving the sort of things many people imagine they could do with cloning —recreate a lost child or relative, produce a new version of themselves—would in fact have just the opposite effect.”

Just at the level of syntax, I think this sentence goes astray in an almost but not quite self-contradictory fashion.

What are “the sorts of things many people imagine they could do with cloning”? Answer: recreating a lost child or relative **who would have the personality, memories, outlook, etc. of the original**. You want to say “cloning can’t do that”, and you are right.

But the frame around that clause says “Technically achieving [that] would have the opposite effect,” i.e. would show people that clones don’t have the same personality, memories, etc.

But the “[that]” has switched reference: the thing that we can “technically achieve” is not the thing that “many people imagine”.

‘Cause, look, if we really **could** technically achieve the kind of mental carbon-copying that “many people imagine” would result from cloning, then it would **not** have the opposite effect from what they imagine.

So how about e.g. “Technically achieving the sort of things many people imagine they could do with cloning —recreate a lost child or relative, produce a new version of themselves—may be impossible, and is at any rate something that cloning by itself could never produce. Real cloning–i.e. DNA copying–would make this patently evident.”

16

KCinDC 03.30.06 at 9:38 am

In which countries could sufficiently elite elites not plausibly get away with holding a child prisoner for 17 years and then murdering them?

17

paul 03.30.06 at 9:46 am

Given the resentment that some people display toward their non-cloned offspring for not turning out exactly the same way that they remember themselves to have done, I can’t imagine that the notion of clones as separate beings is going to penetrate all that far into the public consciousness. (Or rather, it will penetrate perfectly well in some populations and not at all in others.)

For pets, I’m not sure that the fact you come up with a similar but not identical animal is really an objection to cloning. Breeders of cats and dogs already select for traits that appear to include baseline personality, so you’d just be doing the same kind of thing with a little more specificity. And the cost might well be comparable to getting a pet from a fancy breeder. Indeed, similar but not identical would probably be a good thing, since you will not be the person who brought up the first version. (There are a lot of objections on a resource-allocation basis, but that’s another matter.)

18

James Wimberley 03.30.06 at 9:58 am

If you want to clone Ruby rather than Fido, there’s the extra problem that mammalian females are genetic mosaics. Because the X chromosome is duplicated in females, half of it has to be shut off in every cell. This doesn’t happen immediately on fertilisation, but randomly after a few cell divisions. So different parts of the body inherit different X-linked genes, as is visible in tortoiseshell cats, which are all female. So “identical” female twins are different genetic mosaics. I read somewhere that they are less alike on several dimensions than male twins. (Insert sexist remark here about female changeability, inability to get act together, etc; and rejoinder that men are all alike, etc.).

19

abb1 03.30.06 at 10:01 am

In despotic countries the child will be held prisoner and then murdered.

In the free countries the child will be held protected and then evicted out of the body according to the legally binding contract.

20

Kieran Healy 03.30.06 at 10:11 am

pedantic — Yeah, bad sentence. More like, “Technically achieving a human clone would not bring about the things people imagine it would — like recreate a lost child or relative, or produce a new version of themselves.”

21

jw 03.30.06 at 10:13 am

The best science fiction I’ve read on attempting to make a clone turn out exactly like the original person was C.J. Cherryh’s Cyteen. In the book, the society of Cyteen believes that they need the political and scientific leadership of Ariane Emory, so when she dies, they clone her and do everything they can to replicate the original’s rather troubled childhood. She’s not the first scientific genius her society attempted to replicate, but even though the previous one was a complete failure, they think they can get it right this time. It’s a disturbing and well written story, examining the plausibility and ethics of personal replication.

22

soru 03.30.06 at 10:34 am

Trying to reproduce a genius sounds like a lot more trouble than simply finding a new one.

What might just work, at least to a would-not-self-destruct level, is cloning an average leader, an individual born into wealth and power who never went psychotic, became a drug addict or alcoholic, was able to understand and talk to his advisors, deliver a speach but not spellbind a crowd, and who died suddenly of a genetically triggered disease at the age of 65.

23

Yamamoto 03.30.06 at 10:39 am

Dogs, more so than humans, behave very much according to their low level instincts. The way in which a dog might prefer squirrels over birds, points instead of chases, lays its head on your lap or barks at the mailman, has jack shit to do with their experiences or environment. Cloning a dog will very much give you a close replica of a previous dog.

With humans we already know the range of plasticity. Exact clones are mostly a fear of Hollywood and scifi. The anti-cloners prefer a moral argument, albeit a nonsensical one.

Re comment 17: genetic mosaicism produces a random distribution of 2 sets of genes. Among the trillions of cells in a human body, for example, it is trivial to see that the mosaic will tend toward a representation of exactly half those genes for all cariers. In other words, identical female twins will have the same aggregate genetic phenotype.

24

KCinDC 03.30.06 at 10:59 am

So training and abuse are irrelevant to dog behavior? Let’s have some fraud prosecutions for obedience schools.

25

Tim R 03.30.06 at 11:00 am

Cloning would offer a REAL solution to the nature versus nurture debate. We wouldn’t have a few examples, we could literelly create thousands, have them adopted by different people and study their devopmental behavious.
the thing is ,will people accept the results? If nurture seems more important, will tha nature people just scream about the bias of the sociologists overseeing the study? If the inverse is true, will the Nurturists ajust say, like they do with twin studies, that it somehow doesn’t count? The bottom line is that Science is about finding out truth, not being proved right or having your political beliefs reinforced.

26

Michael Kremer 03.30.06 at 11:06 am

tim r:

First we have to figure out who’s going to carry them to term (or where we’re going to raise them outside the human body) and as I pointed out above this is an important part of “nurture” as well. Genetically identical clones created at the same time and implanted in different surrogate mothers, one of whom drinks heavily while the other does not, will have different outcomes.

27

pdf23ds 03.30.06 at 11:14 am

Re 23: Are you sure that’s what genetic mosiacism does? I figure if the X chromosome suppresion happens very early in development, the final distrubution would be sort of marbled throughout the body, so that the kind of expression an individual cell has would be highly correlated with the expression of other cells in its immediate vicinity, and not completely random. This means there are potential substantial effects (though perhaps not large effects).

28

pdf23ds 03.30.06 at 11:18 am

I believe the effect is illustrated in calico cats, who have quite large patches of fur of one color and other patches of another color. Those different colors are X linked traits and thus directly illustrate which cell populations have which expression. The contiguous populations are very large. I imagine that often whole organs in two cloned females would have different gene expression.

29

soru 03.30.06 at 11:19 am

Genetically identical clones, one of whom is shot in the head, will have significantly different subsequent behaviours, starting with rigor mortis and decomposition.

30

pdf23ds 03.30.06 at 11:27 am

I think that it’s important not to underestimate the fragility of people’s life path. Many important life decisions are made with very little information, things like which job offer to accept, which major to choose, which university to choose. Consequently, the decisions are much more fragile, more sensitive to minor factors in the environment. For example, in the extreme case, a coin flip. In a more realistic case, visiting a campus or workplace and getting a basically random employee to do the interview or campus tour, which can make big differences on the impression one receives.

Also, meeting friends is basically a random walk. In a hypothetical world where meeting new friends had no cost, we would expect people to form very similar social networks no matter their starting point. But the overhead costs introduce a lot of friction in the process, causing people to settle in social groups that are “good enough”. Add in a little conformism, and you have a recipe for substantial differences in character based on random differences in who one meets.

31

sburnap 03.30.06 at 12:08 pm

The issue of genetic mosiacism in cloning is a great example of how humans fixate on appearance. A clone of a calico cat will indeed have a completely different fur pattern from the original, however, this does not mean that the cats are somehow not as “identical” as identical twins.

Another way that clones are apt to differ more in experience than twins is in time. Most of my childhood was spent before computers were in the home. A clone of me made now would have access to the Internet from birth. I can’t believe that differing experiences like this would have no effect.

32

lemuel pitkin 03.30.06 at 1:10 pm

R.C. Lewontin had a great essay on cloning in the October, 1997 NYRB that developed the point, made by a couple commenters here, that a clone is essentially (modulo mitochondiral DNA, etc.) a delayed identical twin. No one wonders if twins have souls (well, except for those of us who wonder if anyone does). As for not being treated as independent human beings, parents of identical twins already deny their kids individuality by dressing them identically and so on.

33

Bro. Bartleby 03.30.06 at 1:16 pm

I would think that cloning would be a very high priority for those who are atheist and hold to some sort of meaning to life. That meaning, to survive as a species (talking long term survival of humans). For a time will come when jolly old sun will peter out, but not before a grand plume that will incinerate mother Earth. But before then those striving to survive will need an escape (and destination), and by then genetic modifications will have produced the ideal human for survival on the forever long star trek. Those ‘fittest’ for such a journey would be cloned, not for their unique nurture character traits, but for their nature traits. These trekkers will fulfill the driving force of a godless universe, using their wherewithal to simple survive — the Triumph of the Will!

Now, where is Leni Riefenstahl? We need someone to document this affair.

Bro. Bartleby

34

Steve LaBonne 03.30.06 at 1:24 pm

Stop trying to think about atheists, bro, because you’re really bad at it.

35

Bro. Bartleby 03.30.06 at 1:49 pm

#34
Why? Should I ask an anthropologist to stop thinking about ethnicity? Yes, ethnicity may be an uncomfortable subject to some, but if one wants to cast a wider net in this quest for knowledge, then one should be able to handle even some unsightly squid that the net brings up. I do think that cloning would pose fundamentally different questions to one, depending upon their belief in theism or atheism. What do you think?

36

Steve LaBonne 03.30.06 at 1:55 pm

I’m just saying you’re wasting your time, because you manifestly have zero capacity to understand what atheists think- you’re trapped in a perspective which limits you to seeing the world from a certain angle, and leaves you unble to understand that others don’t even feel the needs that seem so urgent to you- for example, your apparent delusion that only belief in some form of personal immortality can enable one to feel that one’s life has meaning. But hey, it’s a free country, at least for a little while yet. Knock yourself out.

37

pdf23ds 03.30.06 at 2:00 pm

“I would think that cloning would be a very high priority for those who are atheist and hold to some sort of meaning to life. That meaning, to survive as a species (talking long term survival of humans).”

It’s a failure of imagination to assume that huge numbers of atheists wouldn’t hold to other sorts of meanings.

38

Dale 03.30.06 at 2:03 pm

It seems to me that whether or not one has an instrumental attitude towards a clone would be of more significance than whether one was a theist or atheist.

But God can be used as a metaphorical stand in for chance in the sense that a cloned person would come to understand that she was not a creature of chance but that her genetic makeup was a conscious choice of another person.

But then, one could use God as a critical concept inplying the persons shouldn’t have that sort of power over other persons.

39

Bro. Bartleby 03.30.06 at 2:34 pm

I think that a cloned person is no more or no less than a twin. Most theists, I would think, would consider cloning of humans to be man playing God. For the atheist, I would think, they would need a very good reason before considering cloning. In my example, the only good reason would be to produce humans with attributes that would benefit their survival in an extreme hostile environment.

40

radek 03.30.06 at 2:59 pm

“… the essence of Tito isn’t reducible to a few million cells or a few billion nucleotides.”

I was just quickly skimming the post and didn’t quite register immediately what the topic was. And then the sentence above just jumped out. WTF? They’re gonna clone Tito? Marshall Tito?

…oh, it’s just the guy’s dog.

41

Yamamoto 03.30.06 at 3:56 pm

pdf23ds: you might want to read up on x-linked early developmental pathways and regulatory systems and developmental timing of x-inactivation. That should answer your question about whole organs being skewed toward one chromosome vs another. They aren’t, excepting unusual disorders. (Because the only unchanging law in biology is that there are exceptions to every rule.)

42

Steve LaBonne 03.30.06 at 4:06 pm

Of course, there are also people who are genetic chimeras because of fusion of two early embryos. I wonder it they have two souls? Bro. Bartleby: discuss. ;)

43

Yamamoto 03.30.06 at 4:09 pm

From the P.Z. Myers quote in the post above:

“Even if cloning were reliable and cheap, I wouldn’t go for it. It would produce an animal that looks like Tito, and would be good and worthy as an individual in its own right, but it wouldn’t be Tito.”

I’m sympathetic to this position. I also understand when people like to switch breeds after favorite dog has died. But many people would stick with a near replacement rather than something completely different. They stay with the breed they like. Cloning would present an opportunity to find a very near replacement and most people would jump at such an opportunity.

What the personal and ethical positions of people like P.Z. Myers or K. Healy are in regard to cloning is, of course, not descriptive of the science underlying cloning and resultant phenotypes.

K.

44

Steve LaBonne 03.30.06 at 4:10 pm

Come to think of it, perhaps Faust was a data point in favor of a “yes” answer to that question. ;)

45

Bro. Bartleby 03.30.06 at 4:38 pm

Perhaps Tito’s ‘personality’ and attributes are all in the mind of Tito’s manservant, hence, a cloned Tito will be the same dear old lovable Tito. And too, the cloned Tito will have the manservant trained in short order.

46

Bro. Bartleby 03.30.06 at 5:15 pm

Two souls? Hmmm … interesting … perhaps a sort of tessellating soul? I think certainly a topic for discussion tonight around the monastery dining table.

47

pdf23ds 03.30.06 at 5:23 pm

“That should answer your question about whole organs being skewed toward one chromosome vs another. They aren’t, excepting unusual disorders.”

I don’t pretend to know anything about biology, nor to be terribly interested in patterns of gene expression. But if the patches of fur on a calico, which can measure in the tens of square inches, are representative of X chromosome suppresion, I don’t see why internal organs would be much more evenly divided. But I’d happily accept a correction from someone more knowledgable.

48

Bro. Bartleby 03.30.06 at 6:08 pm

“It’s a failure of imagination to assume that huge numbers of atheists wouldn’t hold to other sorts of meanings.”

Like what? In my ‘imagination’ of a Godless universe, I would first laugh at the cosmic joke, second I would search the animal kingdom for how survival is actually accomplished, then third I would put those techniques into practice. And if I were not comfortable, happy, and loving every minute of it, then I would have to make adjustments until my bliss was achieved. Seems logical to me. And further, I’d listen to John Lennon’s “Imagine” anytime my bliss sagged.

49

pdf23ds 03.30.06 at 7:24 pm

OK, I’ll help your imagination out a bit. I’m an atheist, and I don’t give a damn what happens to the human race. I don’t give a damn when or how I die. All I care about is making my living moments as fulfilling as I can. To that end, I try to overcome various mental problems I was burdened with by my parents, keep myself busy and accomplishing things and interested in things, and try to take care of my social needs. Accomplishing all this, as I expect I may eventually do, would leave me with a quite meaningful life, in my own eyes. So, you could say, the meaning of my life is my own personal happiness.

I’m sure other individual atheists could give you a hundred different answers as to what they find meaningful.

“The survival of the human race” is a basically arbitrary goal. It’s one that happens to be more amenable to human psychology than many others, but it’s not priveleged, and it’s not implied by atheism any more than it’s implied by monotheism or pantheism.

50

Bro. Bartleby 03.30.06 at 8:55 pm

“I’m an atheist, and I don’t give a damn what happens to the human race. I don’t give a damn when or how I die.”

Almost what I said I would do if I were an atheist. Seek self fulfillment, or as I would call it, comfort. Okay, I’m still imagining to be an atheist, so I would say that “The survival of the human race” is the underlying ‘goal’ of evolution, and so far, we are the survivors (along with all other current life forms). From the Big Bang (or any other starting point you wish to imagine), you are the results of a chain of a billion events, and here you are, with that backpack of ‘all time’ on your back, every breath you take is that which moves you into the ever present. And now what? With a Godless universe, you make the rules. Well, that is about as much as I can imagine at the moment, for as I said before, if I believed in a Godless universe, I would call all this a cosmic joke. And if I thought that, I’m afraid I’d go mad.

51

pdf23ds 03.30.06 at 9:20 pm

I prefer to content myself with a certain degree of ignorance, so as to avoid madness. I don’t think this is incompatible with living a meaningful life, though.

Also, I can’t agree with the sentiment that evolution has any sort of goal. The tides and waters happen to sometimes produce whirlpools and tornados. Evolution happens to sometimes produce sentience. There’s nothing more to it.

52

James Wimberley 03.30.06 at 10:37 pm

I introduced the side-issue of genetic mosaicism in 18 so can I respond to the lively sub-thread? First, the fact of female mosaicism is entertaining because of the gender link. Second, the differences so introduced in the phenotype are probably not very significant, unless Ruby is a tortoiseshell cat, and if they are significant, so what. The main point however is that X-linked mosaicism elegantly punctures the fantasy that cloning could ever be spooky total replication.

53

(different) dale 03.31.06 at 2:50 am

abb1 (7): that’s actually one of the sound buddhist arguments against the existence of a self as one normally understands it. the answer usually is that in all respects, the abb1 of the evening is different from the abb1 of the morning, and that since the self cannot therefore be demonstrated to reside in any given part, the assumed continuity of selfhood is an illusion arising from mistaken agglomeration of experience. or something. update it for the abb1 of 1999 and the abb1 of 2006.

my clone at 38 also has some good points.

54

Michael Kremer 03.31.06 at 8:28 am

“I don’t give a damn when or how I die.”

I think there must be some bad faith in this statement, bad faith that would come out as soon as you were confronted with a cancer diagnosis, or someone with a gun.

That’s not to say that you should be a Christian or even a theist. But the claim above is surely exaggerated.

55

abb1 03.31.06 at 9:01 am

…selfhood is an illusion arising from mistaken agglomeration of experience

Yes, but this misfortune of continually changing personhood can be offset somewhat by having no life and very bad memory. That’s how I manage.

56

Steve LaBonne 03.31.06 at 9:10 am

I like to enjoy my life, and I find great meaning in trying to do what I can to make the lives of those around me a bit more enjoyable. Those are amply sufficient reasons for wanting to live as long and as healthily as I can. On the other hand, if I knew I were going to die soon, I could face that prospect with equanimity. (The idea of personal immortality nauseates me- just forget the angels and harps and try and really get your mind around the idea that you will never ever get a break from the burdens, as well as the pleasures, of consciousness, and it will begin to nauseate you, too.) And given the propensity of the human species for self-destructive behavior and needless suffering, the thought of its eventual extinction can be a rather soothing one, at least in certain moods.

57

Bro. Bartleby 03.31.06 at 10:01 am

Can you imagine jogging on a road paved with gold, not only would it be hard on the feet, but very cold. I think the secret for an atheist to live a fulfilling life is to keep as busy and comfortable as possible. I can see that the life of science would be an ideal environment for this, because one could fill one’s life as a materialistic reductionalist, contently probing the ‘what, when, and how’ questions of the universe, and forever excluding or simply ignoring the ‘why’ questions. Alas, theologians find themselves with the ‘why’ question on their plate, and wrestle with it, even when ‘what/when/how’ folks point their collective fingers and laugh at the sorry sight. But, what can I say, free will made us do it.

58

Steve LaBonne 03.31.06 at 10:23 am

Bro. Bartleby- I think the Buddha taught us the healthy attitude towards those theologians’ questions:

“It’s just as if a man were wounded with an arrow thickly smeared with poison. His friends & companions, kinsmen & relatives would provide him with a surgeon, and the man would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the man who wounded me was a noble warrior, a priest, a merchant, or a worker.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know the given name & clan name of the man who wounded me… until I know whether he was tall, medium, or short… until I know whether he was dark, ruddy-brown, or golden-colored… until I know his home village, town, or city… until I know whether the bow with which I was wounded was a long bow or a crossbow… until I know whether the bowstring with which I was wounded was fiber, bamboo threads, sinew, hemp, or bark… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was wild or cultivated… until I know whether the feathers of the shaft with which I was wounded were those of a vulture, a stork, a hawk, a peacock, or another bird… until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was bound with the sinew of an ox, a water buffalo, a langur, or a monkey.’ He would say, ‘I won’t have this arrow removed until I know whether the shaft with which I was wounded was that of a common arrow, a curved arrow, a barbed, a calf-toothed, or an oleander arrow.’ The man would die and those things would still remain unknown to him.”

59

dale 03.31.06 at 11:59 am

bartleby (50):

“From the Big Bang (or any other starting point you wish to imagine), you are the results of a chain of a billion events, and here you are, with that backpack of ‘all time’ on your back, every breath you take is that which moves you into the ever present. And now what? With a Godless universe, you make the rules.”

this is exactly wrong. you just described a chain of events that imposes constraints (‘rules’). in a godless universe you have to discover the rules, and you have no say about what they are, reality being a harsh task-master. that includes the rules for interacting successfully (and into your old age) with other chimpanzees, hence the endless variety of social organisation schemas. it’s in a god-filled universe that you get to make the rules, or defer to those who claim to be speaking on behalf a Big Feller. and if you don’t like their big feller, you get to make your own. rule-creation. at its finest.

60

Bro. Bartleby 03.31.06 at 2:17 pm

re: 59

Sorry I didn’t clarify my use of “you make the rules.” I am thinking of rule making in the micro sense, as in those free will decisions that we make daily. Certainly didn’t mean that we humans are making the evolutionary rules. Yes, we are constrained by the impositions of the macro world, yet within these constraints, we have a little wiggle room for our free will to fool around with. Believing in a God-created universe does not automatically mean one acknowledges or follows an organized religion. Those are questions for another day or another discussion.

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Bro. Bartleby 03.31.06 at 2:37 pm

re: 58
“Buddha said …”

To acknowledge one will never know the unknown does not negate the innate quest seeking urge that one finds oneself harboring. I know that for me it would be an impossible quest to climb Mr. Everest, yet the effort and all that one would experience trekking up the foothills of that mount would be of great value to me. Yet also, to sit where one finds oneself and to meditate upon one’s present, would also be of great value to me.

“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” –Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD)

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pdf23ds 03.31.06 at 6:46 pm

““I don’t give a damn when or how I die.”

I think there must be some bad faith in this statement, bad faith that would come out as soon as you were confronted with a cancer diagnosis, or someone with a gun.”

Not exaggerated, no, but somewhat misleading. You see, it would be very unpleasurable for me to have to go through cancer, or any great prolonged period of pain. I would greatly prefer to avoid these situations. The prospect of getting killed by a mugger, by comparison, invokes only a bit of regret about lost potential for further fulfillment. But the death itself has no import in these situations, it’s the quality or length of life that bother me.

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Bro. Bartleby 03.31.06 at 8:04 pm

“…it’s the quality or length of life that bother me.”

Save your money and then cash in, sell all, then travel to India, a place where all the blurring of theism and atheism disappears, there you will find either bliss, or you’ll quickly purchase a ticket back home. Either way, you will change, and I suspect for you, change would be very, very good. (and a bonus, you won’t have to learn a new language)

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