What is consciousness?

Xavier Symons | 24 Nov 2018 | BioEdge.org

Noetic Medal of Consciousness and Brain Research
Noetic Medal of Consciousness and Brain Research
Brain organoid research is advancing at a rapid pace. These are essentially miniature human brains grown in a laboratory from stem cells. Scientists have detected brain waves in some, which might indicate the presence of consciousness. There have also been attempts to attach brain organoids to robot machines, and to implant brain organoids in non-human animals.

Yet there is growing concern about the lack of scientific oversight of this research. In an article in The Conversation this week, Julian Koplin (Monash University) and Julian Savulescu (University of Oxford) argue that such research raises “serious ethical questions”. In particular, there is concern that brain organoids might one day develop a sophisticated form of consciousness, and resemble conscious human beings. Read more.

The Man of Syn?

Thirteenth and Final in the PE Series, Reviewing Chapter Twelve

Dragon's Breath by Sharon K. Gilbert is the last chapter of Pandemonium's Engine, and its subject matter ends this series of blog posts on a strange note, which seems fitting.

Mrs. Gilbert goes back over some of the Scriptures of Genesis already noted in previous posts and some of the themes, mentioning the "alien abductions" that we sometimes read about in the newspaper or online. She believes these do occur, and give us a glimpse of an "overarching spiritual war."

She wonders if there is a Dragon's breath that can animate humans, just as the breath of God brought to life the first man, and as the Holy Spirit revives men today from spiritual death.

Gilbert enjoys some word play and suggests that the Antichrist might well be the Man of Syn, in other words, his DNA may be synthetic, altered by gene therapy. As a student at Indiana University in the mid-1990s, Gilbert's classes often discussed the ethics of molecular tinkering. She writes:

One class instructor ended a session by handing out a small slip of paper with one question on it: Is it ethical to build a super-soldier clone in order to defend our nation, and if so, is that clone "human"? … email exchanges across the globe echo … that question: Is synthetic biology ethical under any circumstance? (p 363)

Now that we have "cracked the code", Gilbert states, "We dare to imagine ourselves equivalent, nay, superior to the living God! Such hubris cannot, will not, endure for long … " — the Lord will return.

However, until that Day, expect the uninvited, bizarre and unimaginable. For example, did you know that if you have a laptop and a bank account, you can access genomic sequence information and order the nucleic acids and synthesizer for a do-it-yourself Frankenstein kit? "You can cut-and-paste your own little Frankenstein monster, complete with as many 'mommies' and 'daddies' as you like." (p 367)

Synthetic Genomics is a growing industry. The current, global market for just the reagents used in synthesis has grown to a billion dollars, and that figure is climbing. This industry doubles its activity every 14 months, and that number is several years old. The Obama administration has issued a challenge to scientists to reduce the cost of DNA analysis, and with that, lower the cost of production as well — with the promise of cheaper medical diagnosis and treatment. However, as the process becomes more affordable to anyone with a laptop, it also becomes much more volatile. Designer pathogens would be the most difficult to fight, since their sequences would be entirely novel …

Sharon Gilbert has a website, and invites you to get to know Jesus Christ. Her chapter ends with this promise: "His return is imminent. And when He comes, Jesus Christ will strike down the Dragon, put him in chains, and ultimately throw him and all who follow him into the lake of fire."

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...and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind ... the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind ...the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. -Genesis 1

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A SistersSite eBook

Flesh and Bone and The Protestant Conscience is an e-book on Amazon.com. It is 99¢ and in the Amazon lending library as well. The book description follows.

Would you let your conscience be your guide?

Does God care if the skin and bone of the dead are passed along to the living for medical uses? Is organ donation OK with God? Should you sign a Living Will?

Did you know that dead organ donors are often anesthetized before their organs are removed? Do you know the current definition of death? The conscience cannot function without facts.

As we ponder the ethics of in vitro fertilization, stem cell research and man-made chimeras, our thoughts trail off. How then should we live? (Ez 33:10)

How should a Christian think about euthanasia by starvation when doctors and the state attorney general all agree it is time to withhold feeding from a brain injured patient? Some things are family matters, but someday it may be our family.

Here is a small book to help you think about whether you want to sign your driver's license, donate a kidney, cremate your loved one, and many other practical questions that may arise in the course of your healthcare decisions or watch over others.

It offers a special focus on the doctrine of the Resurrection that is related to such decisions. Sunday School classes and Bible Study groups could use this book to facilitate discussion about the issues covered.