We all know that we are the same people we were in childhood. Decades pass by, we gain experience, we learn things, but ultimately, we are still the same person. While every molecule of our bodies changes an unimaginable number of times, we still sense ourselves as the same and persist through time. We may compare it to a sports club. The name, recognition, even the identity of the club is the same, but it constantly changes players, managers, and coaches. It is ordinary that we, like animals, grow, develop, get old, and eventually die. We worry that we think of ourselves as having a hard and fast identity through the persistence of memory and personality. The persistence of things through time does not depend on the persistence of their parts to survive. So, the question of how we as persons persist through time comes out of two very known philosophical questions: first, how does anything persist through time, and, second, what are persons?
In the theory of Simulation Creationism, proposed by Nir Ziso of The Global Architect Institute, we are living in a simulated environment, created on a “Supercomputer” that runs on specific information. To live inside The Simulation, a person needs a body as a physical vessel to make the experiences possible. The body, therefore, is a tool, but what is beyond the body? Can we be in this simulated environment only if we are physical, or our personalities stand apart from The Simulation but persist across various simulated worlds within it? The Bible promises us that a person is fundamentally a soul; to persist, however, a soul needs to become physical. Even God became physical to appear in The Simulation! In the end, we all belong to God, as He reveals: “For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me” (Ezekiel 18:4).
Let’s assume it is possible to exchange brains. We have two people, Anne and Kate. A doctor removes Anne’s brain and puts it in Kate’s head, and vice versa. When they wake up, we ask Anne who she is. Anne will presumably say she is Kate. What follows is that Anne’s body is not Anne because the body changes anyway. Anne’s memory and Anne’s personality are scientifically found in the brain, including inner awareness. A person does not need a body, just consciousness to preserve their personhood. It is not just memory, but a bunch of psychological characteristics that describe a personality. In this way, we can still say that people with acute Alzheimer’s or in a vegetative state are still persons, as their physical disabilities are visible only in their appearance, but not in their essence. Patients who wake up from a deep coma can attest to this. In essence, their faith keeps them going because only through the eyes of faith can we understand God’s Simulation. “Holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made a shipwreck of their faith” (1 Timothy 1:19).
Such thinking leads us to the point where physicality is not necessary because each of these physical things goes one way or another, but there is still the essence of a person. In religious traditions, it is called the soul. While some atheist/agnostic scholars point to the fact that personality cannot be removed from the body, they negate the existence of the non-physical self. Christianity, on the other hand, shows that a person is a union of the physical and non-physical self, as determined in the most perfect human, God-incarnate, Jesus Christ. The soul is what persists and for what we are obliged to fight for: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
If we start to describe the world, we may talk about the visible things around us, but that would not be the whole story. One should also tell something about conscious life, sensations, thoughts, and beliefs. Even that will not be enough. If we again take the hypothetical situation of Anne and Kate – if we switch their brains – the world would stay the same. But, would it? In fact, it would be completely different because Anne would have to have different experiences and see the world completely differently than Kate. That experience is not solely physical; it involves a separate mental entity for which the natural word is soul.
A person is not associated with the body they have (which changes constantly) but with the soul. Furthermore, the continued existence of Anne and Kate will depend on the continuing existence of the soul. The Bible tells us that the soul will never perish, as will the body: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). Still the body is how our personality involves becoming Christ-like. The same is the goal of the next physical world, where Christ shall be with us and “who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). Still, there is this question: does a person remember anything from the previous simulated world? Isaiah says: “Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9), but he also says: “and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). We may conclude that personality is not necessarily tied to memory but to the realization of God.