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Possible experiment to determine existence of souls?

  1. Feb 6, 2006 #1
    My friend and I were having a discussion about human existence and sentience, and an interesting idea for an experiment came up. Suppose two genetically identical people of the exact same age and parentage were raised in two identical rooms seperated from all living things. There are no windows in the rooms, and the heat and light is controlled and exactly the same for both rooms. The two people are fed the exact same food at the same time by means of a chute or some other device in the wall.

    Would the behavior of the two people differ? Would they act exactly the same at the exact same time? Is this experiment even possible in the future? If so, would it determine the existence of souls?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 6, 2006 #2
    Whos your friend?:biggrin: I do not believe that they would do the exact same thing, because, like my brother and I, they might think differently, even in identical conditions, I dont think they would. Your genes determine who you are, but they dont completely control you.
  4. Feb 6, 2006 #3
    I wouldn't at all be surprised if an expirement along those lines was actually conducted by the Nazi's during WWII. Dr. Mengele is unfortunately well know for doing some inhumane research on twins at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

    I would think that you would logically conclude that they would each develop a unique identity without actually conducting an expirement. I'm sure they wouldn't mirror each others actions 1 for 1. Even that alone doesn't mean that a soul is the reason for this either.
  5. Feb 6, 2006 #4
    You and your brother, although having the same parents, were not raised in identical conditions. Both of you interacted with living beings, which can have a profound effect on the development of one's personality and therefore behavior. Most likely you two are also not genetically identical. In an experiment such as this, anything at all that could influence the behavior of a person must be controlled and exactly the same for both people, which is very hard to do if not impossible without making the living conditions undesirable for the test subjects.
  6. Feb 6, 2006 #5
    What logic leads you to this conclusion, and why are you sure of this?
  7. Feb 6, 2006 #6
    lol The friend I was referring to here is Eric. :tongue2:
  8. Feb 6, 2006 #7
    How does this determine whether or not there is such a thing as a soul and what exactly do you define a soul as being(and why)?
  9. Feb 6, 2006 #8
    The logic that twins don't show 1-1 mirror movement in the womb so why would they show it once they are born? (which is probably as close to the experiment that you can get).
  10. Feb 6, 2006 #9
    Yea, sorry, I realized after RVBUCKEYE's post that I was being vague about what I meant by "soul". You can call it whatever you like, but what I meant by "soul" was something that humans and other beings may have that allows them to think and consider things instead of living on pure instinct; that which allows us to have perception, and free will. An even easier way to describe what I mean is something that would account for different behavior in the experiment above. Hope that halps?:surprised
  11. Feb 6, 2006 #10
    The people that would have to be used in this experiment would have to be raised in an artificial womb, because the environment and timing of certain events would be different for the two people. Remember, everything must be the same, which may never be possible. :frown:
  12. Feb 6, 2006 #11
    Also, look into the subject of "feral children". You probably would not associate a child brought up in an isolated environment as showing many signs of being human at all. Much less having a soul.

    edit: here's a helpful link
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2006
  13. Feb 6, 2006 #12
    There would be several problems with such an experiment. First of all to create genetically identical people you would have to clone someone. Not only is the technology a long way away, but it is ethically questionably. Second, the nature of the experiment itself is completely immorral, locking people away their whole lives just to satisfy your curiosity. I agree with RVBUCKEYE, this harkens back to the experiment is Nazi Germany. Besides, if there were differences how could you prove they came from a soul? Might it not be minute neurological differences that you never managed to catch in the cloning process? Perhaps one of the people might injure themselves in the room without you noticing and this might affect their pyscological development. There are simply too many problems both ethically and scientificly to ever have the experiment work. It might sound fine as an idea, but that's as far as it will ever go.
  14. Feb 6, 2006 #13
    Since we don't currently have the technology required to conduct this experiment (and it may not be possible at all), it lives only in our heads; the idea of it allows us to play with the possible outcomes and their meaning. There have been many more inhumane experiments conducted in the past, and many were to prove things that had much less importance. I am not saying that I don't value human life, just that the immoral aspect of it isn't particularly relevant to this thread. Since this experiment has not yet happened, we must disregard any ethical issues and focus on the accuracy of the experiment and the effect it would have on society.

    Well, of course there would be some way of watching their behavior! That is the only way to obtain results! :tongue2:

    What you are saying about the people injuring themselves argues nothing. If only one of the kids injure themselves, then their behavior is different. If they both injure themselves the same way at the same time, then we could conclude that our environment is what accounts for our different behavior (if all other factors are equal, we aren't innately different). Either way, we can form a conlusion based on what happens.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2006
  15. Feb 6, 2006 #14
    ok what about the rare occurrence of people who are aren’t related in anyway look differently have completely different back grounds raised in completely different environment and somehow they would match up to be about 95 % identical ?

    What would be the reason for this? When we get right down to the genetic structures of the equation, the human brain is more or less the same; it is composed of the same material no matter what race or background. Therefore in theory we are all capable of producing the extremely similar emotions if not exactly the same feelings, thoughts, and the 9 different intelligences which exist among us.

    Therefore I must conclude theoretically that background, relation and physical surroundings is not the basic makup of our actions and the output of our in general / and or specific thought process....

    The extraction of this analysis leads me to leads me to calculate there is another distinctive prone possibility.

    There is another force involved in creating these factors.
    something to think about...
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2006
  16. Feb 6, 2006 #15
    I don't think you could necessarily form a conclusion. It would have to be done multiple times to determine whether or not the results are coincidence or based on a flaws. The twins would have differing actions and it is very possible that one could have an accident while the other does not. And what would this say about the existence of a soul any way? More people would be more likely to claim that any significant coincidence in activity points to some supernatural connection between the twins. This sort of conclusion would be antithetic to your own wouldn't it? A supernatural connection to most people would require a soul while if they both had random yet somewhat similar lives most people would say genetics.
  17. Feb 7, 2006 #16
    This is ignoring my larger point. Let me give an example: how do you feed them? A person will varry in the methods they give food, left handed, right handed, quickly, slowly. You would have to make sure that everything is done the same so you would have to use robotics. What if the metal is slightly different because it comes from a different factory, or different refinery? This could cause minute differences that would effect changes in the two people. How would you make sure the food is identical down to the molecule? The utensils down to the smallest details? Do you see the problem? There are simply far to many variables to be controlled in real life: the experiment is only of use in mind games.
  18. Feb 7, 2006 #17


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    Dawguard, there is research showing that some environmental personality traits are caused by just such early small, unpredictable, unanalyzable causes as you cite. Sorry I don't have a link for it but it's recent, I read it within the last year in, I think, Science.
  19. Feb 7, 2006 #18
    I think you all are missing the point here. This expirement is meant to prove the existance of souls. I think that you'll ultimately prove the non-existance of souls. As of yet we still have no idea what we feel is conclusive evidence of a soul. Let's look at his two different ways.

    1) the two children mirror each others actions in every physical way. (since the will be no way to see what they are thinking during their time in seclusion unless we allow for this as well). This seems, imo, that this would show the children to be more like robots. I think all would agree that robots aren't believe to have souls.

    2) the two children don't mirror each others actions, but the toll on the children would be so great that there would be no uniquely human traits left. This is why I pointed out the cases of "feral children" in an earlier post. There have been roughly 100 cases of this, and I'm only vaguely familiar with some of them. But what it tends to show you that abandonment of children at an early age leads to purely animalistic behavior. If this was done at birth, the child would never develop any of the skills and personality traits that so many of us look at as "evidence" of a soul.

    So in both cases, even if the expirement was successful, I think that you would have an even tougher task of explaining a souls existance with the test results.
  20. Feb 7, 2006 #19
    This is a good point, but I have a question: Are you saying animals and humans differ in the way that humans have more of a "soul" than animals, or just that it would be harder to tell because their behavior is unfamiliar to us? Even if the latter is true, we could still determine if it is identical or not in the case of the two children in the experiment.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2006
  21. Feb 7, 2006 #20
    Alright, getting back to the OP, your question was essentially whether or not the experiment would work. I think that I've answered that, but you've continued on with speculation on what would happen if it did work. It can't. Simple.
  22. Feb 7, 2006 #21
    First of all, you need to put Dawguard at ease and state for the record that you aren't going to grow up and try this line of expirementation on anyone or any living thing. I see that you are trying to think of ways to rationalize your own personal feeling that you have a thing called a "soul". I don't see the harm of a thought expirement. (as long as one as morally questionable as this method stays a thought experiment only!)
    Now, that being said, let me respond to you question.

    I tend to think of a "soul" as a uniquely human attribute. It takes on all the characteristics that seperate our abilitys from all other animals. (such as conciousness, free-will, personality, a sense of self). So, imo, each human has a unique soul. But... without all those characteristics, even a human being is reduced to a lowly, soul-less, animal. It boils down to the nature-v-nurture debate. The evidence suggests that a child, left without human contact, doesn't learn the necessary things that we relate to humans. They are really "wild" in every sense of the word.

    To answer you questins specifically now:

    I don't think animals have souls. It wouldn't be harder to tell, it would be impossible because the two children, have no way to communicate in a way we can understand because they have never had human contact. Thus never learned to speak, walk, deal and relate with other human beings.

    Still, all you would be doing is proving that they are acting identically. It wouldn't prove that they have a soul. (like figure 1 in my last post)
  23. Feb 7, 2006 #22
    But the difference between feral children and this scneario is that feral children have absolutely no human contact and the twins have each other. Imagine if they developed their own way of communicating; some very basic verbal or signed language... I predict the following out come: minute and uncontrolable diferences in genetic and environmental influence would render the twins different. i.e they would not act as exact copies. They would develop a very basic form of language probably with verbal and signed (body language) elements. Antoher interesting question.. would they engage in homosexual activities? I think so, ive even seen cat siblings do that when they they cannot find a mate... (very freaky i know and wretched) it is quite obvious that sexual urges are very strong in all animals including humans. Also I think they would consider themselves as one despite any small differences much in the same way that couples who have spent a long time together tend to merge their identity with their partner's, although still craving for their own space... Yes i think they would develop personality due to their interactions with their twin. But most likely they would go completely insane with boredom.. or may be not, maybe they would be really wise, remaining relatively free of corruption and lies.

    on a side note: i believe animals have feelings and a primitive and relatively tiny sense of self, even a bit of consciousness, just that itis mostly overidden by instinct.

    anyway just some thoughts on an interesting topic imo
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2006
  24. Feb 8, 2006 #23
    Actually, I dont think it would be that hard to control. You would normally make the same things at the same factories, such as robotic arms. It would be useless to make one here and another one there. As for the food being identical down to the molecule... well, I dont think that humans will be able to detect the difference, and, if made in the same pot, just divide evenly. It may be a strenuous task, but it could be done I bet.
  25. Feb 8, 2006 #24
    Let's make sure that we agree on one thing first: everything has to be identicale down to the minutest detail. Whether the people notice it or not it might affect their development physically or mentally. Now, you say we could eliminate differences by manufacturing everything together in one factory. Let's say we do: do you know the statistical differences allowable in normal factory production? I used to work in a tool and die shop, and let me tell you that no matter how accurate you might try to make something, there will be slight differences. Taking something simple like two pieces of metal being joined by a bolt, the bolt is two centimeters in diameter. Due to differing heat conditions in a factory a normal deviation might be around one millimeter. This is acceptable since 95.5% percent of production will fall within three standard deviations. Alright, hopefully this doesn't seem to far off the point, but do you see the problem? There will be differences. Suppose this small difference in joints causes one of the robotic arms to creak, and the other one doesn't.

    That's just one example: I could go on and on like this. Use our imagination, I'm sure you could to. A bit of dust falls on top of one portion of food and the person stops long enough to notice it. One screw-up and the entire experiment is ruined.
  26. Feb 8, 2006 #25
    I don't think any one can disagree with you that everything would have to be perfect in order to conduct an accurate test. So no, this is not a possible experiment to determine the existance of souls. Because it is impossible to keep the test conditions perfect if conducted in real life. O.K.:smile:
    For the sake of argument, suppose (as impossible as it may be) that everything about the test is perfect. What then?
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