X-Message-Number: 11327
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: more replies, to Mike Perry and Jan Coetzee
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 23:37:44 +1100 (EST)

Hi everyone!

To Mike Perry: I meant it when I said that I did not know about the
Bekenstein limits. Please either explain or refer me to an accessible

As for the possibilities of resurrection, your image of monkeys pounding
away on typewriters provides an apt description. Whether or not there are
multiple universes, I do not doubt that if we create enough versions of 
Lucy then we will also resurrect the real Lucy --- not that we will have
any means of telling just which one is the real Lucy.

But really now! If that is to be our algorithm for resurrecting everyone,
then it begins to look rather pointless. Resurrecting the real Lucy would
be interesting and valuable; resurrecting quadrillions of versions merely
hands us the job of dealing with quadrillions of semi-human apes. If you
want to do that, you're welcome, but please don't ask me to help. Or even
pay much attention. We learn nothing by this exercise, and saddle
ourselves with lots of responsibility besides.

For that matter, why bother with the question of whether or not these
recreated creatures ever existed anywhere in ANY universe? We have no way
of proving that they did not, and hence we should not bother with Lucy but 
recreate any person or object that takes our fancy. 

It is one thing, and highly worthwhile, to truly resurrect someone who
once lived. But only one of those quadrillion versions has any real claim
on our morality or our attention, and we do not know which one. Imaginary
beings have no clear moral right to become existent beings. Merely to 
say that they might have existed in some other universe does not increase
that moral right: let the inhabitants of those other universes resurrect
their own Lucys. If we someday work out how to resurrect the Lucy of OUR
universe, that will be enough.

As for multiple past histories, there may be some sense to that notion.
But as we learn more through archaeology or other means, the multiplicity
goes down. To say that we truly have multiple past histories, you need 
to establish that our processes of historical investigation (both
those we use now and those which we may someday develop) show no
convergence towards a single past history. That may be true, but you have
not given evidence to that effect. (If, say, quantum effects cause us to
have a past history in which --- to make a caricature to explain what I
mean --- Hitler both won and lost his European war, then so far no sign of
such effects has been shown).

Even with multiple histories, the only thing that would happen in my
mind would be that the moral advantage in truly resurrecting someone
of the past would become diluted. Moreover such resurrections could
not be done at random: we would somehow have to distinguish those pasts
for which future study would not make them purely imaginary, and those
pasts which are genuine pasts. In effect, resurrection would also involve
predicting future abilities at historical investigation. (Clearly some
pasts turn out to be imaginary when we can look at present evidence
with new tools --- witness what is happening to our ideas about the
relationships between different species when we look at their DNA).

To Jan Coetzee: While the journal MEDICAL HYPOTHESES does have a certain
value in making us realize possibilities, many of the papers in it really
tell us almost nothing. Sure, we can speculate, and speculation is good.
But speculation must be followed by experiment. The author of the article
you describe (by Adams, MEDICAL HYPOTHESES 44(5)(1995) 419-427) seems not
to have considered all the work of the last 15 years by neuroscientists
on just how memory works. If their work is basically on target, then his
ideas mean nothing at all. If their work is not basically on target, then
his ideas count as one set among many others which might explain our

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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