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Science has already demonstrated that it can make the lame walk, and the blind see... but this is small potatoes compared to resurrecting someone from the dead. Incredibly, science has just succeeded in doing this, at least in the case of pigs...

Pig killed, placed in suspended animation for 2 hours, then successfully resurrected

(see also, newscientist article on the same, although it only gives you the first part of it, making you subscribe to get the rest.)

In the Wired article the author says that clinically ressurecting humans from the dead "may be just 2 years away". I'm not sure where he's getting this figure, but that would be absolutely incredible (even for a radical optimist like myself)! I look forward to seeing if they can do this for more than a couple hour, for instance, if they can freeze someone for months and then bring them back. That would be the real test.

While this was only a couple hours, it does appear to be the first real empirical proof that dualism is incorrect. That is, the old Cartesian belief, especially made popular in western religions, but also discussed more seriously by philosophers, that there is some sort of ethereal spirit, ghost, or soul that inhabits a being while it's alive, and then leaves when it dies. At the very least, this experiment proves that if such a thing were really true, then it must take at least 2 hours for the spirit to leave. Either that, or the pig they brought back was just a zombie-pig with no actual consciousness. The other way out for the modern dualist, I suppose, would be to claim that only humans have souls, not non-human animals. But this won't hold up as soon as they start performing this experiment on humans. While I'm not sure I agree with the Wired article that this will happen in 2 years, I'm sure it will happen within our lives... and it'll be interesting to see what types of excuses the dualists cook up to weasel their way out of this one.

Comments

( 40 comments — Leave a comment )
fallen_x_ashes
Jul. 14th, 2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
I can tell you that there are many religions that already hold that animals do not have souls, and that the soul sticks around near the body for a set period of time. IN the case of Easter Orthodoxy for example, the person would have to be dead for a period of time greater then three days. THis is why the ressurection of Lazarus is such a big deal in the New Testament, because he had already been dead for four days by the time Jesus arrived. While all other raisings of the dead could be understood as "recessatations" (yeah I can't spell today) according to the prevailing worldview of the time, the raising of Lazarus was a true ressurection and could only be preformed by the being that had the keys to life and death i.e. God.
spoonless
Jul. 14th, 2006 08:41 pm (UTC)
Interesting, so Easter Orthodoxist's don't believe in the resurrection of Christ then? IIRC, standard Christian mythology says that Christ was killed on a Friday and rose on a Sunday--only 2 days later. So do they say this was not a true resurrection, or do they say it actually took longer than most Christians believe?
fallen_x_ashes
Jul. 14th, 2006 10:14 pm (UTC)
It's an intresting point to make. Jesus did indeed rise ON the third day and not AFTER the completion of the third day, so his death was not as "permanent" in the mindset of Jewish customs and subsequently *Eastern Orthodoxy (Yeah spelling errors left and right around here.)

fallen_x_ashes
Jul. 14th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC)
You also have to consider weither or not this method of suspended animation really kills the pig. As the article describes, the pig is "mostly dead" not entirely gone. :-p
spoonless
Jul. 14th, 2006 08:45 pm (UTC)
That's a good point... as I look at other articles now reporting on this, many of them talk of suspended animation as being in a state where you are "mostly dead" or "between alive and dead". So I suppose that's a way out too. Although they do say that the brain and heart both stop functioning after a few minutes. So I wonder what is meant by dead in this context, unless they are already presuming dualism in calling "body and brain being dead" as person/animal being "mostly dead".
(no subject) - fallen_x_ashes - Jul. 14th, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 15th, 2006 05:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallen_x_ashes - Jul. 21st, 2006 05:16 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallen_x_ashes - Jul. 21st, 2006 05:48 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 22nd, 2006 10:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 21st, 2006 10:50 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallen_x_ashes - Jul. 22nd, 2006 04:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 22nd, 2006 02:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 15th, 2006 06:00 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallen_x_ashes - Jul. 21st, 2006 05:18 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 21st, 2006 10:52 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallen_x_ashes - Jul. 21st, 2006 05:19 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 21st, 2006 10:54 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - fallen_x_ashes - Jul. 22nd, 2006 04:09 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 22nd, 2006 02:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spoonless - Jul. 22nd, 2006 07:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lars_larsen - Jul. 22nd, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
urlgirl
Jul. 14th, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)
What I'd really like to see is true cryogenic suspension, in the sense that the body can be suspended semi-permanently while metabolic processes are stopped, and then a resuscitation. Of course they still haven't quite figured out how not to break cellular walls at that temperature.

Not that 50 degrees isn't a good step. It's an awesome step! At 50 degrees, as they say, you have the freedom to "take your time" fixing up somebody's body.

What I like is that the procedure, the way they describe it, ought to be very readily applicable to ER care. There are plenty of folks with bad, bad injuries that are pronounced dead on ER tables where just "a little more time" for doctors to fix things internally is all that's needed. The processes that kill large portions of brain mass during that time are too much to fight while you're also trying to fix someone's internal plumbing. Imagine, though, if all they had to try was to cool the body down to near-freezing right before "brain death" sets in. Wow.

Truly good news.

Oh, and no, I have no problem with the idea that there is no soul, my Eastern/Greek Orthodox upbringing notwithstanding (/me waves to fellow Greek-type person). It would be nice to put the zombie myth aside once and for all. Then of course we still have "consciousness" to wrestle with, but at least investigations in that area are sometimes semi-rational.
fallen_x_ashes
Jul. 14th, 2006 10:49 pm (UTC)
My problem with there being no soul is that it would undermine the foundation of pretty much all the Earth's religions, more so then the lack of evidence of a God ever could.
(no subject) - urlgirl - Jul. 14th, 2006 11:19 pm (UTC) - Expand
spoonless
Jul. 14th, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)
yeah... it's great news. I said in the post above that I found 2 years to be extremely soon, but I just found another article saying that scientists have already applied for the permission to start testing this on humans as soon as possible...

Suspended animation surgery planned for humans

I guess what I should have said is that I doubt they'll get it to work for much longer than 2 hours for a while... at least a decade or more before they could try anywhere near 3-days long, which it seems is what will be necessary for some dualists to give up.

Oh, and no, I have no problem with the idea that there is no soul

And I should mention, just for completeness here in case anyone takes it the wrong way, that I don't have any problem with the idea of a soul, or at least a spirit... as long as it's something that dies when the body dies, and can be probed and understood by science as a functional or emergent property of the brain. It's only the dualist interpretation of this as something entirely non-physical that I disagree with.
(no subject) - urlgirl - Jul. 14th, 2006 11:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spoonless - Jul. 15th, 2006 03:24 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - urlgirl - Jul. 15th, 2006 03:53 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spoonless - Jul. 15th, 2006 04:20 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - spoonless - Jul. 15th, 2006 04:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - urlgirl - Jul. 15th, 2006 04:36 am (UTC) - Expand
firmament
Jul. 15th, 2006 12:06 am (UTC)
Some metaphysical red-herrings
I think you're confusing a few issues. Let's start with Descartes. First off, Descartes was a thorough mechanist-materialist when it came to biology, even the human body. Animals in Descartes' system are completely material, likened to mechanical/clockwork automatons that were popular toys in his day. Even the human body operated this way. Only the human mind was made of spirit-substance, which wasn't an "ethereal spirit, ghost, or soul that inhabits a being while it's alive," but was rather an unextended (and thus incapable of inhabiting anything), thinking substance, responsible for our acts of rationality and will. Mind is able to influence the body pseudo-mechanically through moving around the extremely sensitive pineal gland.

There are people (not Descartes) who thought that some spooky substance was required for living creatures (vital spirits, or elan vitale), but that's pretty independent of the question of souls or mind-body dualism, and doesn't really have anything to do with dualism, per se, since the elan vitale could easily be a natural force that only occurs in living creatures (and something of this tradition remains in the contemporary discussions of emergent properties of complex, self-organizing systems).

And even if we muddle all these issues up (which I admit happens in some of the public), whether this tells against a sort of popular dualism depends entirely on the specifics of the mechanisms of ensoulment. It isn't obvious to me that these dualists are committed to any particular mechanism whatever, much less a particular mechanism that is incompatible with this process. As far as I can see, they could say any of the following: (a) the soul stays around because the pig isn't totally dead yet, (b) the soul leaves the body when it dies, and comes back when it is reanimated, (c) zombie pig. Probably there are tons more options besides, and none of them are obviously ad hoc moves that attempt to accommodate new data, unless we have some reason to think that they were committed to a different account beforehand.
spoonless
Jul. 15th, 2006 04:04 am (UTC)
Re: Some metaphysical red-herrings
When I say Cartesian here, I just mean that the general ideas are similar to Descartes', not necessarily that he would have phrased things exactly this way. (Thank you for filling in some of the details about his particular form of dualism.) I think the general concept has been around a lot longer than he, and has survived in a much broader form. But I'll credit him with doing a particularly good job in cleaning up such ideas and putting them into a coherent form. Having something concrete to argue against, rather than a vague collection of popular intuitions, makes it better even for monists like myself.

There are people (not Descartes) who thought that some spooky substance was required for living creatures (vital spirits, or elan vitale), but that's pretty independent of the question of souls or mind-body dualism, and doesn't really have anything to do with dualism

He may not have believed a spooky substance was required for non-human creatures, but for humans... isn't that the whole point of "substance dualism"? ie, that the mind is a different kind of substance than the body? whether you call this spooky or not I guess depends on your POV, but from my POV that's very spooky. :)

Although, I think I see what you mean here... in this context, you're using substance to mean some kind of spooky physical substance that has extension, right? That's not something I'm claiming that this pig experiment disputes... I think what it disputes is the idea that the mind (soul/spirit/you name it) is non-physical, that is... not affected by the physical world or physical experiments we can do on it.

(a) the soul stays around because the pig isn't totally dead yet
Granted. For this particular experiment, dualists are welcome to escape it by saying the mind/soul/etc. lingers for more than 2 hours after the brain dies. But that seems temporary, until they do further experiments that push it out further. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

(b) the soul leaves the body when it dies, and comes back when it is reanimated,
If this happens, then I'd say it's not really dualism, but monism in disguise. If the scientists were able to do something to the pig to force the soul to return, then the soul was affected by the physical world and hence it is a physical substance which can be studied.

(c) zombie pig.
Like (a), I mentioned this as a possible escape in my original post. But who is realistically going to say that? Especially if they do this on a human, I can't really picture someone walking around and their dualist friends continuously accusing them of being a zombie. Surely their friends will accept them and believe them that they're really back. Unless of course they start eating brains and have glowing red eyes! :)
urlgirl
Jul. 15th, 2006 05:24 am (UTC)
Re: Some metaphysical red-herrings
Off-topic a little, but:

Re: (c) - No-one has to accuse a resuscitated person of being a zombie for this to be a serious issue. The reaction to someone who's been reanimated can range anywhere from dislike/discrimination to a religious fervor-induced belief that this person is now somehow soulless, inhabited by the devil, unnatural, inhuman, unmoored somehow from societal restraints and therefore deserving of special treatment, undeserving of humane treatment, etc.
firmament
Jul. 15th, 2006 09:41 am (UTC)
Re: Some metaphysical red-herrings
He may not have believed a spooky substance was required for non-human creatures, but for humans... isn't that the whole point of "substance dualism"? ie, that the mind is a different kind of substance than the body?

Well, he did think that some substance you might reasonably call "spooky" distinguished between "rational beings" and animals, i.e. mind-stuff, but the presence or absence of this thing has little to do with whether a body is living or not. For Descartes, the spooky stuff has nothing to do with biology, but instead with (what we would call) psychology. So, I think that the Cartesian's basic view is consistent with any story about what is going on with the pig (and in a similar case with a human). According to Descartes, the mind is affected by the physical world, in at least two ways: it gets sensory input from it, and it expresses its will through commanding the body in it. So, when in interaction with the physical world, the mind must necessarily associate with the body. But whatever is going on with biology (e.g., living, dying, reanimation) should be compatible with mind-body dualism.

I think there are a number of cases that challenge mind-body dualism, having to do with deficits in rationality caused by brain lesions and such, but they have been on the books for a long time, while this case seems more beside the point than those cases. Ultimately, though, I think dualism loses because it is a very poor theory (in terms of simplicity, empirical fruitfulness, etc.), rather than having any decisive evidence against it.
Re: Some metaphysical red-herrings - spoonless - Jul. 17th, 2006 01:40 am (UTC) - Expand
ex_memepr0g
Jul. 15th, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)
Hm, I'd like to see human resurrection soon, and it's also great to see scientific proof that dualism does not exist, and that the soul, as a separate concept, does not exist. But then again, I enjoy seeing scientific evidence to disprove a lot of older ideas that are clearly false.
lars_larsen
Jul. 15th, 2006 06:06 am (UTC)
This will revolutionize surgery. Surgeons are under the clock. Giving them more time would radically alter their outcomes. Especially in trauma where the problem often has just a physical "put it back together" solution and not a medical or disease based problem that requires a living person to "heal".
(Anonymous)
Aug. 1st, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
Dualism ain't going to be an issue
They are just going to practice on pigs & monkies for a while. Once they know what they are doing they'll ask to be able to do it to humans who are unlikely to survive anyway. And after a while they will start applying it to humans who are more & more likely to survive, but whose chances are improved.

But no one in the medical establisment is going to be shooting for suspended animation beyond several hours. All focus is going to be on figuring out who will benifit & proving that to the FDA.
( 40 comments — Leave a comment )

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