X-Message-Number: 23387
Date: Fri, 6 Feb 2004 07:10:19 -0500
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: and more for Mike Perry

And a short comment for Mike Perry:

Are there ANY situations at all in which ALL information about a person
has been lost? This too becomes a fuzzy question because the information
we could conceivably derive is more than that we may be interested in
deriving. On the other hand, it's also very hard to make ZERO. Think of
the bones of a Neanderthal (I think of a Neanderthal as a person, perhaps
lacking some of the abilities of homo sapiens, but still a person rather
than a human-like animal with no worthwhile brain). We have their bones
and information about where and under what circumstances those bones
were found. The bones themselves are unlikely to give us no information
at all --- they will tell us something. At an absolute minimum, that
this Neanderthal was a man or a woman (or a child). They're also likely
to tell us something about the history of this person (their state of
health at various times). Was the skeleton found with various artifacts?
 We know that Neanderthals buried their dead with plant matter (flowers?).
Any hand axes nearby? On top of all this, we have the results of analyzing
not just this Neanderthal skeleton but of all those found anywhere to 
date. By implication such results tell us more about the one we have

Some may well object that such information isn't enough to constitute
a person. Just what information, then, IS enough and where do you
draw your line? If we recreated (revived) this Neanderthal using all
the general and particular information we had about him, would he
then be a person --- yes, of course.

It is VERY hard and would be quite rare for EVERYTHING about a person
to be destroyed. Yes, we can imagine circumstances in which that happens.
If the Sun went nova (not likely at all from what we know of how stars
work) then we could say that everything about us had been destroyed.
Even genocide, because it's rarely complete (I don't know of any case
in which a race has been COMPLETELY destroyed, not just the people but
their artifacts and remainders) ... even in ancient times when genocide
was accepted practice, literally complete destruction never happened.

That we may someday be able to revivify some Carthaginians, not perfectly
but as people with their former language and beliefs as well as we know
them, does not mean that we'll automatically do so. The choice of whether
or not to revive such people comes from US, not from the world. That is
the sense in which death comes from inside us, not from the world.

               Best wishes and long long life for all,

                    Thomas Donaldson

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