X-Message-Number: 10624
From: Ralph Merkle <>
Subject: Religion and the soul
Date: Wed, 21 Oct 1998 19:08:52 PDT

The modern information theoretic concept of the soul seems to be
consistent with the Bible's view of the subject.  This is certainly
the view adopted at http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/burial/immortal.htm,
a web page in the Shema Yisrael Torah Network, which discusses the
subject, and which includes the following statements:

     The real you is not your body or brain, but the information
     contained in your brain-your memories, personality traits and
     thought patterns.


     What happens then when a person dies?

     We know that the body ceases to function.  The brain becomes
     inert and the physical man is dead.

     But what happens to the real you-the human personality?  What
     happens to all this information-the memories, thought patterns
     and personality traits?  When a book is burned its contents are
     no longer available.  When a computer is smashed, the information
     within it is also destroyed.  Does the same thing happen when a
     man dies?  Is the mind and personality irretrievably lost?

     We know that God is omniscient.  He knows all and does not forget.
     God knows every thought and memory that exists within our brains.
     There is no bit of information that escapes His knowledge.

     What, then, happens when a man dies?  God does not forget, and
     therefore all of his information continues to exist, at least in
     God's memory.

David Ross (a Christian) gave a talk at Eros which tied together cryonics,
uploading, the soul, and several other concepts.  The basic view, again,
was that we are information and that the information which defines us as
individuals can reasonably be called our "soul."  He was also interviewed
by Extropy (#12, Vol 6 No. 1 & 2, 1st & 3rd Quarters 1994): "Souls,
Cyberspace, Sins, and Singularity: A Conversation with David Ross."

The Christian belief in a soul, coupled with the very reasonable hypothesis
that the "soul" can be defined as the information which defines us as
individuals, would (in my admittedly naive view) make the idea of
preserving that information by cryonic suspension more reasonable.
David told me that his own views were readily accepted among his
Christian friends.

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