The First Paradox

Materialism is the belief that nothing exists except physical matter and forces. It sounds very scientific but I call it an article of faith because its adherents refuse to subject the idea to critical scrutiny. I hope my first paradox can convince you that materialism is no more logical than Methodism or Voodoo.

According to materialism, you are nothing more than atoms, or more precisely, an arrangement of atoms. In fact, the arrangement is much more important than the atoms. Imagine Machine 1. It plucks a hydrogen atom from your body and replaces it with another hydorgen atom that it has in storage. You would not be altered in any way. Now letís say that the machine works very fast. In a second, it plucks every atom from your body and replaces it with an atom that was originally outside your body. Science tells us that the atoms of an element are identical. Even though all your atoms had been changed, you would still be the same person.

Now imagine Machine 2. This machine leaves you with all your original atoms but it puts them in a logical order. Hydrogen atoms are put on the top, then helium, all the way down to uranium on the bottoms of your feet. This machine leaves you with all your original material but it destroys the arrangement or blueprint of your body. Machine 2 kills you.

Remember the transporters of science fiction? We can imagine how one would work. Call it Machine 3. Itís a little complicated. The first thing it has to do is record the arrangement of the atoms in your body [A]. This may not be possible now; but then Leonardo (for all his inventions) never imagined that machines could duplicate his Last Supper at the rate of thousands per hour. We already have the second part of the Machine 3. It transmits the arrangement of your atoms (that is, information) to a distant point [B]. Finally Machine 3 would take each atom in your body, and send a particle beam to a receiving station [C] where the biological blueprint would be used to put your body back together.

Since you will be recreated, why not make some improvements in yourself? Materialism tells us that your brain is your mind, emotions, and essence. You could register your 25 year old bodyís blueprint. Then, whenever you were transported you could put your current brain into your younger body. You could have eternal youth.

We could make an improvement on Machine 3. Information can be transferred at the speed of light but it takes a lot longer to move particles. From Machine 1, we know that we donít actually need the atoms of your body to make you, we just need a source of equivalent atoms, primarily oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, which are very abundant.

The final machine records your brainís blueprint and sends it wherever you want to go. The receiver, which is in Hong Kong or Cleveland or Mars already contains your 25 year old bodyís blueprint. It simply assemble a new you, a second you. Call it You. Thereís one little problem with this machine. You are still where you started only You is on Mars. This problem is easily solved. Once your arrival on Mars has been confirmed, the sending machine blows your head off.

Perhaps this trip doesnít sound appealling to you. But why not? As a good materialist, you know that you are only an arrangement of atoms and that all atoms of an element are equivalent. Thereís only one reason you might not want your head blown off. You might believe that there was something more to you than an arrangement of atoms. But if you believe that, you are not a materialist.

Hereís the essence of this paradox. If you are nothing but matter and energy, a copy of you could be constructed: A You could be made. Then it would make no difference if you or You were killed. But you would not agree that it made no difference; neither would You. In other words, you regard yourself as a more than the material that makes you.

What I have said does not disprove materialism. It may be objectively true: Every possible observer may regard you and You as absolutely equal. I donít claim to give you objective knowledge. I talk about subjective knowledge only. From the objective point of view, there is no problem. From the subjective point of view, materialism is wrong: There is something more than matter and forces; there is me.