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What makes Us, Us?

 
 
Reply Wed 11 Aug, 2004 06:51 pm
Every year about 98% of the atoms in your body are replaced.

Thus, within a few years from now, all the current atoms in your body will have been replaced. Yet you will still be the same you.

Looking a few years into the past, none of the atoms that now make up your body were present.

Yet, you are still you. (or are you?)

What makes us, us? What keeps you the same person, in spite of all your atoms being replaced? If all the atoms in our bodies have been replaced, what is the common thread that keeps us, us? Is this "proof" of a soul-like entity?

If it doesn't prove that a soul exists, it appears to prove, at the very least, that "we are not our bodies." What is this common thread, this thing animating our bodies of ever-changing atoms? Discuss?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 4,588 • Replies: 70
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Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Aug, 2004 08:31 pm
Kipling:


If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on till there is nothing in you,
Except the will that says to them, "Hold On."...
0 Replies
 
bromeliad
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Aug, 2004 08:34 pm
You mean, are we ourselves?

Oh wait, that was the Fixx that asked that one.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Aug, 2004 09:22 pm
Re: What makes Us, Us?
extra medium wrote:
What makes us, us? What keeps you the same person, in spite of all your atoms being replaced? If all the atoms in our bodies have been replaced, what is the common thread that keeps us, us?


Memory. It is the intangible thread which transcends the exchange of atoms and the discharge of neurons. Our ability to remember what we thought we were, makes us what we are.
lainchance
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 10:54 am
Re: What makes Us, Us?
rosborne979 wrote:

Memory. It is the intangible thread which transcends the exchange of atoms and the discharge of neurons. Our ability to remember what we thought we were, makes us what we are.


I agree.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Aug, 2004 11:56 am
I feel we have had this discussion before.

I don't believe the original premise is correct.

There is no way that 98% of the atoms in our bodies are replaced each year. But then, 72% of all statistics are just numbers that were made up to prove a point.
0 Replies
 
BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Aug, 2004 12:05 pm
my understanding is that the entire cellular makeup of the human body is replaced every seven years (obviously a generality);

and i offer two interrelated hypotheses:

we are not ourselves, but a 'clonelike' version of the previous self, that existed seven years ago.

and as a sub hypothesis - the fact that at any time during the seven year cycle, the vast majority of cells making up our bodies is the same as it has been for the last < seven years; therefore the 'YOUness' of your being remains the same, and is altered only chemically each time a cell is replaced.

[no 'magic' here!]
0 Replies
 
BoGoWo
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Aug, 2004 12:09 pm
and to add a little 'evidence'; take a look at a picture of yourself, taken more than seven years ago, and tell me that that is the same physical person that you see in a mirror today!
0 Replies
 
Brandon9000
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Aug, 2004 12:14 pm
In a related question, if someone ever really invented the "transporter" from "Star Trek," would care have to be taken to implement it in such a manner that it did not kill the original person and replace him with a perfect duplicate? Would the designers have to be sure that it effected a move operation, rather than a copy and delete operation? What are the factors involved in this kind of consideration? It seems like it might be relevant whether it transferred atoms, or merely transmitted information used to reconstruct the object being transported.
0 Replies
 
Pantalones
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Aug, 2004 01:12 pm
This kind of questions are the ones that make even the soul sound logical.
0 Replies
 
Terry
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Aug, 2004 05:16 pm
In spite of what you may have read on the internet, it is not true that 98% of the atoms in your body are replaced each year. Some (such as oxygen) are replaced thousands of times each day, others are never replaced.

Even if they were all replaced atom-for-atom, the neurons that make up the network that stores your memories and the biochemical processes that control your emotions would not change.

So you are still "you," at least until significant new experiences/knowledge rewires your neurons, such that the thoughts and behavior produced by the network reflect a different person than the "you" of a few years ago. Disease, drugs or trauma can destroy enough brain cells that the previous "you" no longer exists.
0 Replies
 
neil
 
  1  
Reply Sun 29 Aug, 2004 07:36 pm
I agree with Terry
Ubuntu
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Sep, 2010 03:18 pm
@neil,
'You' are an illusion experienced by a bunch of atoms. In a few years, an entirely new set of atoms will experience that illusion. It will feel very strongly to them that they are a single, permanent being that has existed for as long as they can remember but this is just not reality.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Sep, 2010 03:35 pm
@Ubuntu,
Ubuntu wrote:
'You' are an illusion experienced by a bunch of atoms. In a few years, an entirely new set of atoms will experience that illusion. It will feel very strongly to them that they are a single, permanent being that has existed for as long as they can remember but this is just not reality.

So the illusion lives on while the atoms move around. Something about that explanation seems inadequate.
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Sep, 2010 05:21 pm
@Ubuntu,
Atoms have illusions. Awesome.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Sep, 2010 06:54 pm
@extra medium,
extra medium wrote:

Every year about 98% of the atoms in your body are replaced.

Thus, within a few years from now, all the current atoms in your body will have been replaced. Yet you will still be the same you.

Looking a few years into the past, none of the atoms that now make up your body were present.

Yet, you are still you. (or are you?)

What makes us, us? What keeps you the same person, in spite of all your atoms being replaced? If all the atoms in our bodies have been replaced, what is the common thread that keeps us, us? Is this "proof" of a soul-like entity?

If it doesn't prove that a soul exists, it appears to prove, at the very least, that "we are not our bodies." What is this common thread, this thing animating our bodies of ever-changing atoms? Discuss?

it appears to prove, at the very least, that "we are not our bodies." "Appears" is right!
Spatio-temporal continuity is the answer. Each stage of us is spatio-continuous with each other stage of us, so that whatever the differences, I am spatio-temporally continuous with the child shown in that photograph 60 years ago. And spatio-temporal continuity is the common thread that runs though all my stages.
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Sep, 2010 07:03 pm
@kennethamy,
Or it could be that we are not continuous at all. The appearance of continuity might just be a result of "memory".
0 Replies
 
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Thu 30 Sep, 2010 07:14 pm
@kennethamy,
Space continuity would imply that there is an infinite space between whatever constitutes you and that therefore the forces that bound your atoms together would need infinite energy to sustain you...are you sure you want to go down that road ? Or are you making up another concept of Space continuity ?
0 Replies
 
HexHammer
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 Oct, 2010 06:35 pm
@extra medium,
Humans does not function on atomic basis per se, they function by proteins, hormons ..etc, so by looking at the atoms has no meaning.
Fil Albuquerque
 
  1  
Reply Fri 1 Oct, 2010 06:49 pm
@HexHammer,
...I suppose those (proteins, hormones ..etc) need atoms donĀ“t they ?
 

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