This extremely lengthy post is going to involve heavy amounts of personal philosophy on the topic of the soul. If you find such discussions to be offensive or disagreeable then do not read on. I make no attempt to claim that any of it is the truth or a matter of fact. All of the following is simply my own opinion/speculation on the matter. Also, when I say extremely lengthy, I mean it. This is quality tl;dr material, so grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and relax.
That said, let’s move on to the main course. I just finished watching Mirai Nikki (I had also read the manga a while ago), so I thought this would be an appropriate time to comment on something that was brought up near the conclusion. Can the dead truly be brought back? Mirai Nikki argues that yes, the physical body can be recreated. This much, I can agree on to a certain extent. The body is merely a manifestation of the DNA; in other words, an aggregation of gene expression. However, DNA alone does not make the body unique. Rather, the external factors have a huge role in the development of the body. Even if a clone were made of me at this very moment, the copy would not have the same scars that I have. I guess a better way to put it is, the life itself makes the body. If you are willing to ignore these “small” differences though, then we can agree that recreating someone physically is quite possible.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. As great of an accomplishment recreating the physical body is, Mirai Nikki goes on to say that a person cannot truly be resurrected because the soul cannot be brought back. To address this issue, then, we must first consider the question “Just what is the soul?” Religious beliefs aside, I don’t like the idea of the soul being described as something as vague as the “essence” of a person. What does that even tell us? Not much. Being a person of scientific background, I will endeavor to dissect the issue in hopes of finding an answer. In a variety of religions, you will invariably find the soul described as the thing that “breathes” life into a body. It can be said, then, that the soul is the “uniqueness” of a being; the thing that lets you say “I”.
So what can we gather from this kind of interpretation? What do you consider “yourself”? Is it what you see when you look in the mirror? No; that is just the body. So if that isn’t the soul, then what is? Well, if we look farther back to the root of everything, the thing that makes you a distinct living being is the mind. In other words, I believe the soul to be the consciousness. Alright, you say. But aren’t there some issues with such an interpretation? What if you’re unconscious? What if you’re in a coma? People in such a state clearly don’t have a consciousness, so does this mean they don’t have a soul? Ah, but that’s where things get interesting. What are you referring to when you say “people in such a state”? If you’re talking about a comatose friend, for example, then you’re essentially referring to his/her soul. In effect, the question is redundant. If you can even speak of something as a distinct being, then you already know that it has a soul. Whether that soul is currently “connected” to a physical body is another matter.
So where does this put us in terms of Mirai Nikki’s interpretation? Before we can answer that question, we must first elaborate upon the soul yet again. So we take the soul to be the consciouness; in other words, the mind. That’s still kind of vague. Just what are we talking about exactly? Well, the mind is merely a collection of electrical impulses; a pattern of flowing electrons, if you will. Can this be recreated? To be honest, this starts getting quite complicated and less concrete, but theoretically yes. If you can create brain scans, you can in theory determine a pattern from the behavior of the neurons. This, in turn, is theoretically the mind. Of course, our neuroscience isn’t nearly as advanced as our biology in general, so the exactness of this matter isn’t very clear.
With that out of the way, we can now answer the second part of the question at hand. Can the soul be recreated? Given the framework that I’ve set up, yes. So what does this mean? Well, in terms of what I’ve claimed, a person can in fact be resurrected, both physically and “metaphysically”. But it can’t be that simple can it? Let’s put things in more perspective then. Believe it or not, this sort of thought experiment is also conducted with respect to the concept of teleportation. Magic aside, a more scientific interpretation would be the analyzation, deconstruction, and reconstruction (at a different location) of an object. Sound familiar? Yup, it’s what we’ve been analyzing thusfar.
So what is the inherent “issue” with the concept of teleportation? As I’ve just outlined, it should theoretically be possible to almost completely reconstruct a person exactly as he/she was. The question often brought up, then, is whether the reconstructed person really is the same as the person that was deconstructed. How is this different from what we’ve just been discussing? Well, the issue of time is now introduced. The copy may essentially be a flash clone of the subject at the exact moment, but what defines a person is the life, not just one single moment. Can this “copy” still be considered the same as the “original”? This is where I turn the philosophy knob up to eleven.
Detractors to all of this recreation talk argue that no, the copy is not the same as the original. The things that the copy will do are not necessarily what the original would have done. That is an understandable view, but I maintain that it is irrelevant. Pertaining to resurrection and teleportation, the original is no longer in existence. How does that change things? You no longer know what the original would have done. You can’t compare the “differences” between the two; you don’t even have a basis for such a comparison. Who’s to say what the “proper” action should have been? If the “original” is gone, then you might as well accept the actions of the “copy”. After all, you literally don’t know any better.
As feasible as I make all this sound, though, there are still some problems. I’ve only been talking about actions on a small scale and not considering behavior as a whole. Isn’t it possible that the personality of the copy will differ from that of the original? Unfortunately, yes. Just because we are able to simulate the brain patterns of the original up to this point and input them into the copy doesn’t mean we can ensure that these patterns will continue to be the same. And then comes the most obvious question. What happens if both the original and the copy are in existence? Doesn’t this mean that the copy has no soul? Well, the problem that I just brought up may actually address this.
Since there’s no way to ensure that a copied mind will be able to extrapolate and maintain behavior similar to that of the past, you could consider that the copy has a soul of its own. So wouldn’t this essentially nullify the claim that you can recreate the soul? Not exactly. The original question was whether a dead person can be brought back. In terms of pure recreation, the answer is still yes. All you need is the DNA and the brain patterns. While the question of whether the recreated person will change may be the most pertinent, it is also irrelevant. What we need to consider is the fact that people change normally all the time. Without an original to base our comparisons off of, it’s literally impossible to say if the path that the copy takes will diverge from the one that the original would have taken.
So what exactly can we gather from all this? To sum it up, I guess what I’m trying to say is I disagree with what Mirai Nikki claims. You can in theory resurrect a person, soul and all, and that’s all that really matters. The questions of what would have been and how that could affect the result, while making for interesting philosophical debates, are in the end irrelevant to the fact that a final product is theoretically possible.