You Might Be an Android If . . .

May 1, AD 2016 37 Comments

This is reposted from July 2013 because my long-time friend, writer, mother, and beauty, Leila Miller, asked about this post. I was interested in the mind-body problem, and still am. In my book (Particles of Faith: A Catholic Guide to Navigating Science, Ave Maria Press, Fall 2016), I did not use this thought experiment because I realize now that this exercise does not tell you how to understand the soul, only how not to think of it. But I still like its diametrical simplicity.

Woman, Android

I’m in search of fundamental questions, and in the philosophy of mind studies, it seems that there are two basic conclusions as it relates to humans.

For humans:

#1 The mind and brain affect each other, but the mind is a rational substance beyond the brain, with intellect and free will.

#2 The mind is completely dependent on the brain, emerging from it and reducible to it, all mental states coordinate to a brain state.

The first one rejects materialism while the second one embraces it. Said differently:

#1 No brain, mind still exists.
#2 No brain, no mind exists.

The two have enormous implications for a person. If the mind can still exist without the brain, then we have a soul that lives on after death and religion helps us to prepare for that life to come. If not, then death is the end of the mind and there is no soul, no immaterial beings, no God. Materialism is true, religion is a farce.

I like this thought experiment. It’s my own adaptation of the zombie experiment with some embellishments and constraints, which I’m certain have been hashed out before. The reason I like it is because it addresses the individual. I’ve noticed that philosophers of mind, particularly atheists, tend to pose the questions to the human race in general rather than to themselves. It seems to me that these questions are best posed to an individual about that individual, as opposed to an individual about everyone else. Asking what you think about yourself demands an honest scrutiny and concomitant conviction. It gets straight to the heart of the question — your inner life.

The Thought Experiment

So what’s an android? It is an automaton resembling a human being, a humanoid, a soulless body. (Zombies creep me out.)

Imagine that it is possible to construct an android, right this instant, that has the exact same physical make-up, atom for atom, subatomic particle for subatomic particle, down to the smallest particle of matter, as you.

The replica is not a clone in the reproductive sense; it is not conceived through reproduction and grown, so that although you are both genetically identical, you have different experiences and memories. Neither is it a robot, computerized on the inside and animated by electricity, but covered in silicon to resemble you on the outside. Rather, it is the exact physical replica of you at this instant, inside and out, even the neurons in your brain exactly replicated down to the smallest particle.

There stands you and your android, instantly.

In the next instant, both your body and the android body are punched in exactly the same way, all things equal. Will you and your android respond by force of compulsion in obedience to the laws of physics in exactly the same way?

Do you both step the left foot back 5.347 inches with the heel angled 25.02 degrees outward, and with an exact contoured twist of the abdomen reel back and then step forward as you say, Hey, you didn’t have to punch me that hard! while the right hand raises to the punched spot and the brows furrow precisely to the slope of each hair and trillion other minute details? Or does it do something else? Does it do nothing but fall backwards to the ground like a toppled statue while you step out of the way and wince at the sight of your android falling down lifelessly?

Which do you believe about yourself?

If #1 is true, you have a soul.
If #2 is true, you do not.

But if #2 is true, then neither do you have free will; and if you don’t have free will, you can’t choose what to think; and if you can’t choose what to think, you cannot think freely; and if that’s what think of yourself, then it’s not a thought, it’s your matter obeying laws of physics; and if your thoughts are just atoms moving around, then you are literally in a position to declare that you have reasoned that you cannot reason. You think you cannot think. Where does that leave you?

What if the brain-mind computation is not 1-1?

Even if there are a statistical variety of mind-to-body reactions to a single body-to-mind stimulus, still the reaction is predetermined. As long as the reaction is pre-encoded in the brain, the reaction is produced in the same way. Life is nothing more than the right arrangement of matter, and all that separates you from a rock or a mobile phone is how that matter is arranged. You and your android react, ultimately, no differently to the same stimulus as two identical rocks in the same exact environment do.

As an aside, brain-mind mapping seems impossible to me for no other reason than the fact that it is impossible for anyone else to know my inner thoughts. How would anyone know if what I have in mind is exactly what you have in mind?

What about trees, dogs, and babies?

This is only one thought experiment among many, and if explored it will lead to other questions about conscience, consciousness, and even life itself. It will lead to other questions about the differences in plant life, animal instinct, and rational behavior.

For now it’s enough to remember that trees can’t answer the question and neither can the smartest dog or a newborn baby. But if you are reading this, then you can answer this question. It’s a start.

Are you indistinguishable from your android?

The path you follow after it will largely be set by your answer. One path will lead you to deny God and your own soul. The other path will lead you to God and the responsibility that comes with the freedom of choice.

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  • I like the thought-experiment, but it assumes that a precise duplicate of you down to the atomic level would not also have a soul, and that a soulless android would be able to respond.

    Just as I would not assume that a child gene-engineered from “scratch” is soul-less, I couldn’t make the same assumption of a clone of me that additionally had whatever information is physically encoded in my body built into her.

    I think that the clone would either respond about the same way I do– both of us being rational beings with identical backgrounds, we’re going to respond about the same when attacked (ie, poorly)– but she will be more and more different as time goes on; in the other option, I will respond like me, and it will not respond at all.

  • SmithGreg

    A simple and clever thought experiment to explore an old and important question that is of increasing relevance in the 21st century.

    I tell my students that the great theological questions of this century will concern the nature of humanity. What does it mean to be human? Where does the human essence begin and end, and what are its particular and unique qualities? What is human, and what is not? These questions will be forced upon us because of technology (biotech manipulation and methods for measuring and mapping the brain and the genome), redefinition of human ethics (marriage, family models, etc.), and the increased role of the surveillance state in health care (eugenics, abortion, euthanasia, medical rationing, etc.).

    Students cannot comprehend anyone caring enough about the theological conflicts of past centuries to make a big deal about them (the classical Trinitarian and Christological heresies, the correct date to celebrate Easter, the metaphysics of the Eucharist). I point out that people in those centuries would be unable to comprehend our generation’s denial that man has a soul or insistence that men marry each other in the Church. Each century has its great debates, and God has given each generation its own purposes and challenges (Acts 13:36).

    What saddens and frustrates me is that we need not go into this arena unarmed. Western intellectual history, and Catholic doctrine in particular, gives us all sorts of tools to understand the nature of mankind, and the relationship of body and soul. Chesterton’s “democracy of the dead” has a lot to say about what is and is not human. And most of our generation, much less the millennials who will fight these battles, are completely ignorant of these resources.

    At the moment, I’m ghosting/editing a book on neuroscience. Everyday, we learn more about how the brain works, and how the brain affects our body and behavior. What it cannot do, and never will be able to do, is explain our self-awareness and capacity for choice. That is because although we were scooped from the dust of the earth, the Creator breathed life into us. We are not souls trapped in bodies, but bodies that have been given souls.

    As an aside about the body-mind/soul nexus: our generation has also forgotten to consider how supernatural beings affect our thoughts and actions. We may be able to pinpoint the chemical reactions in the brain of an insane criminal, but are unable or unwilling to consider the causality and correlation of those chemical reactions. When someone with a diseased brain utters vile blasphemies, cursing God and man, does that preclude demonic oppression? Perhaps those electrochemical reactions are the mechanism by which supernatural beings manipulate a human brain.

    • SmithGreg, this is why I blog! It’s so humbling and inspiring to meet people like yourself who see beyond what I see and point me there. There are quite a few people I’ve met while blogging that are like you — knowledgeable, frustrated, and striving to educate where education has failed.

      It’s humbling because when I hit the “publish” button (as bloggers so easily can do) I am often hesitant because I know the many of the people reading far exceed my abilities and it makes me super cautious to find the right words, so as not to over- or under-state what I know or mean.

      It’s inspiring because I’ve gained so many gentle teachers who guide me and the other readers. It’s so inspired me, in fact, that my husband and I have had serious conversations about how to educate children to prepare them for the future just as you have described it.

      “…increasing relevance in the 21st century…” <–I get that. Yes! I sense that some people are not comfortable delving into some hard questions, but we need to and there's nothing wrong with exploring the possibilities.

      "What does it mean to be human?"<–I started a theology degree to learn how to communicate better, and in the beginning I thought it just meant learning the material and teaching it. It doesn't though, does it? It means relating to the modern culture and finding new ways to reach the minds and hearts. Ecumenism is so difficult.

      "What saddens and frustrates me is that we need not go into this arena unarmed."<–Bingo! I never knew until I started studying all the resources of philosophy and theology, and then I was honestly kind of angry. Why aren't more people taught about these things? It blew my mind. Still does. So exciting.

      "…does that preclude demonic oppression?"<—I'm so glad you said that. Only the demons can be happy that modern culture underestimates them. The more no one asks about them, the more they can destroy.

      Thank you so much for your insight. Thank you!

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  • jandhyde

    “imagine an android” but “the replica is not a clone in the
    reproductive sense; it is not conceived through reproduction and grown,
    so that although you are both genetically identical, you have different
    experiences and memories.”

    It’s not an android then. It’s a clone. With different experiences. So it will react differently. Jesus.

    “As an aside, brain-mind mapping seems impossible to me for no other
    reason than the fact that it is impossible for anyone else to know my
    inner thoughts.”

    You’re really not a big sci-fi guy are you? We’re on the verge of being there –

    • I think you misread; she specifically said it was NOT a clone. You seem to be reading the description of “clone” as a contrast instead of a definition.

      Specifically, quote:

      Imagine that it is possible to construct an android, right this instant, that has the exact same physical make-up, atom for atom, subatomic particle for subatomic particle, down to the smallest particle of matter, as you.

      end quote.

      If it has a soul, I would call it a clone; if it does not… well, I don’t like calling it an “android” because of the mechanical implications, but then I think that if it doesn’t show evidence of having a soul I’d call it “the pseudo-corpse.”

      • jandhyde

        While I appreciate the fact that “she specifically said it was NOT a clone,” that doesn’t take away from the fact that she is using the term android incorrectly. It probably won’t bother too many people but it annoys the crap out of me. It’s like listening to an actor butcher your home state or country’s accent in a movie.

        • No, she was not using android “incorrectly;” she was using the term in the non-scifi jargon.

          an·droid [an-droid] Show IPA
          an automaton in the form of a human being.
          1720–30; < Neo-Latin androīdēs. See andr-, -oid

          Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2013.

          a person or animal that acts in a monotonous, routine manner, without active intelligence.

          • jandhyde

            “she was using the term [android] in the non-scifi jargon.”

            So, let me get this right…. per the definitions you provided, you think the thought experiment asks if a genetic replica with no active intelligence will react differently than you, a human being with an active intelligence, to outside stimuli.

            If that’s what she was going for, wow. I hope that’s not the case.

            Look, I get it’s supposed to be all fun and whatnot, I just don’t think she’s using the term android the way you think she is and if that’s the case, she’s not using it correctly.

          • By the straight-out-of-the-dictionary
            definitions, she was using “android” correctly. It includes created beings like
            Data, even if I’d argue that it’s not exactly accurate. The scifi
            sub-definition, which isn’t listed, doesn’t automatically include the “without
            active intelligence” thing… makes for a lot of really good stories in the
            “what measure is a man?” vein.

            quote: per the definitions you provided, you think the
            thought experiment asks if a genetic replica with no active intelligence will
            react differently than you, a human being with an active intelligence, to
            outside stimuli.

            That was the point of the
            exercise– identifying a materialist inclination in one’s

            are you getting your definition of android, and can you source it? As I shared,
            Random House dictionary agrees with her.

          • Micha Elyi

            In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep author Philip K. Dick never did describe in detail how an artificial person came to be but there are hints that they were not mechanical assemblies.

            So both the dictionary and sci-fi usage supports Foxfier’s position.

        • Kind of like how folks flinch when you call a female dog a “bitch.”

      • That’s a good point, Foxfier. I don’t like the word “zombie” but it probably would be a better fit. I see scary walking dead things when I think of that word.

    • SmithGreg

      The mind is incarnated in the brain. We have no example in history, literature, scripture, etc. of an “un-incarnated” mind. We believe that when we die (St. Paul says, “Go to sleep”), our soul goes to an intermediate place to await the resurrection, when soul and body are reunited in a restored cosmos, free from the “bondage to decay.”

      But in the meantime, the only mind any of us have ever known or seen is instantiated/incarnated in the brain. But that doesn’t mean that the brain *causes* the mind.

      As far as Steve’s idea that we are on the verge of being able to reproduce the mind artificially, let’s just consider the complexity of that task. The brain is arguably the most complex thing in the created universe. It has 100 billion neurons, but the the neuronal connections between them total more than a quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000—more than the number of stars in the universe). The possible combinations of pathways through them (representing our thoughts, feelings, etc.) are an exponential multiple of that. No, we are not close to reproducing the brain. It’s not a Moore’s Law problem, so that given a few more years of technological improvement we will have artificial processors big enough. What mankind IS is a qualitative leap from what mankind can DO. That’s because we were created in God’s image. And our mind, which is a representation of God’s own mind within the creation, is incarnated in our brain.

      • Micha Elyi

        We have no example in history, literature, scripture, etc. of an “un-incarnated” mind.


        I disagree. In Scripture, God has a mind and is present but not incarnated on numerous occasions. There are also mentions of spirit beings.

        • SmithGreg


          Great points. I wasn’t careful enough in my comments.

          We have no experience with a disembodied/unincarnated *human* example of what Stacy was getting at in her thought experiment. None of us have ever been or met a mind without a body. While I believe the human mind is distinct from the body (it is not caused by the body, so material determinism is false), God incarnated our minds through our brains. As I said earlier in the thread, we are not souls trapped in bodies, but we are bodies which have been given souls.

          You are quite right about the pre-incarnate God (and the Holy Spirit). John 4:24 tells us that “God is spirit.” And as you point out, spiritual beings are, well, spiritual. I certraintly don’t deny they exist. In fact, earlier in this thread I argued that we ought to consider the ways that these spiritual beings can affect our minds. The CCC points out:

          CCC #329 St. Augustine says: “‘Angel’ is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, ‘angel.'”

          CCC #330 As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.

          We, however, are *not* spiritual beings. As C.S. Lewis put it, we are “amphibians,” living both in the spiritual and physical realms. The CCC puts it this way:

          CCC #362 The human person, created in the image of God, is a being at once corporeal and spiritual.

          • LT

            Well, except for ghosts. Many humans have experienced ghosts. Now, we do not fully understand ghosts, and some “ghosts” could, in fact, be angels or demons. But exorcists are fairly comfortable saying that some encountered spirits are souls (human minds without bodies) and not angels or demons. A priest friend of mind, who has some experience in this realm, posted this article below and said this was consistent with documentation and feedback he has received over the years:


            Even if you think the ghost questioned isn’t fully settled (and it’s not), I don’t think you can confidently claim that we have “no experience with a disembodied/unincarnated *human* example…mind without a body”.

          • LT

            The ghost *question* (not questioned!)…Sorry about that. I can’t figure out how to edit my comment here to correct typos.

  • Loreen Lee

    I don’t believe #1 and #2 are mutually exclusive.

    • Loreen Lee

      Just that the existence of the soul would obtain whether or not there was mind exclusive of brain, or brain exclusive of matter, or an interaction between mind and brain. I just believe the ‘soul’ as a metaphysical category, what have you, cannot be identified with either brain or mind. Hope I have understood you correctly.

      • Loreen Lee

        To relate this ‘problematic’ to the Trinitarian study that you have given such good reports of: consider this.
        The mind could be related to what is called the Intelligible and the Will, or the Word made Flesh in Jesus and God the father. These I would correlate with the Mind. But we have left out the third Person of the Trinity: (Consider: the Life, the Way and the Truth, or Truth Beauty and Goodness). Truth, the Intelligible. Goodness: The Loving Will of God. What of Beauty? Could we not relate this to the Holy Spirit: to grace, to unity, to ‘holiness’. It is this latter aspect, that which draws us into a unity, that I would equate with the Soul. (That essence of unity and wholeness)…..thanks.

  • I don’t know. I’d like to say that the android would act just as I would, and in fact would be a twin, and would have a unique soul (and just like an identical twin, could make his own decisions about life, although he’d have all my memories and past life-experience, etc., I don’t think he’d make all the same decisions I would going into the future).

    The only way to find out for sure is to test this hypothesis.

    My understanding of the soul and the afterlife: I have a soul, and the soul is naturally the form of my body, namely the form (or emergent property) of my brain. When my brain dies, if nature were allowed to run its course, I would die. I can’t exist without my body, under normal circumstances.

    But maybe God preserves my soul without my body. This would be an unnatural state, I think, and so I side with Aquinas’s position (or what I think his position is). If there is an afterlife, eventually we get new resurrected bodies, and our soul is perfect because the body is perfect, and the soul is an emergent property of that perfect body.

    There are good reasons to think that there is a soul, and that the soul is not simply reducible to the parts of the body (just as temperature cannot be reduced to single molecules or atoms), but I don’t see why making the android would be much different from cloning someone, and clones have souls. If a miraculous act of God is necessary for the birth of a soul, for whatever reason, then why can’t God choose to act at the moment an android is made?

    • That seems like a good assessment Paul, although I don’t like the word “emergent” because it’s so often used to defend materialism, but I get your point. Thank you.

      I also think you’ve highlighted why I like this thought experiment. We have no way for now to actually test it, but philosophically we can think about it on the grounds that it is conceivable. As technology moves more in this direction, it helps us be better prepared for it.

      Like Foxfier said, it seems like God would create a soul immediately if there were to appear a new human body instantly. It’s one of the ways we think about the beginning of human life. If there’s a human body, there’s a human soul. But there are questions even there. Is it possible that embryos don’t form after fertilization sometimes? Is there a line?

      But, you’re right, if a fully formed human body were to appear instantly, it seems God would create a soul, if He wills it, and that soul would have free will.

      Another reason I’ve been thinking about this is because of the theory of Mitochondrial Eve. To even think about that possibility, we have to think about human bodies without souls. That theory would require a “humanoid” (to use the words of the International Theological Commission) population with only one man and one woman possessing a soul, and thus be the only humans. I’m not advancing that theory or dismissing it, just thinking about its implications. Have you heard of it? I summarized a document here:

      • I have read a bit about the Mitochondrial Eve scenario (something a while ago from Jerry Coyne and his discussion with some Catholic philosopher/sci-fi writer). Thanks for the link. From what little I understand about the argument, I think it is wrong and dangerous.

        Anytime we try to define a group of people as “soulless” or “lacking humanity”, it seems we go down a very dangerous route. One of the things I admire about Aristotle and Aquinas is that their psychology (realist, foundationalist, essentialist) precludes going down this road. Does it walk like it has a rational soul and talk like it has a rational soul, or do others of its species? Then it has a rational soul.

        Back to Androids:

        I like the teleportation scenario. If I’m destroyed, and an atom-by-atom copy of me is made somewhere else, is that me, or not? If yes, then the materialist position is in serious trouble, because nothing physical got transferred. It’s completely different matter, and all that’s the same is the physical relations. It seems as though the materialist needs to say “no”. (The dualist/idealist does not have to say “yes”!)

        It seems that, for the materialist, everyone dies over and over again (because their atoms are constantly being replaced), or there is no such thing as an individual person. “Paul Rimmer” is just a convenient label for a particular unlikely internal relationship that particles can have.

        My wife, by the way, is convinced that if she were teleported, she would die.

        • Micha Elyi

          I like the teleportation scenario. If I’m destroyed, and an atom-by-atom copy of me is made somewhere else, is that me, or not?
          Paul Rimmer

          Your use of the words “I’m destroyed” and “copy of me” kind’a give away that you agree with your wife – that’s not you that steps out of the teleporter at the other end.

          Even aside from the metaphysics, basic common sense says to stay away from teleportation machines. Who’s operating the thing, anyway? Uh huh, people who can’t reliably transfer a phone call from one extension to another in the same office. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

          • Micha, that’s an awesome answer!

            I actually don’t agree with my wife. I think my matter is destroyed and replaced all the time. So, if there was reliable teleportation, if all the parts get put together in the same way they were taken apart, it’s me.

            And if I’m wrong and there’s a heaven, I’ll have the souls of copies of me to hang out with there. That’s neat.

            As for the safety of teleportation, that’s a different question. I’d do it if it was at least as safe as flying in an airplane. And I don’t want flies getting into the machine the same time I do!

  • Jeff_McLeod

    Stacy, this is spot on as usual. You have captured the incoherence of mental determinism. Your argument is devastating.

    I giggle at the optimism of some commenters who think we’re on the verge of mapping thoughts.

    If they only knew the complexity of such a claim.

    I can throw out a bone.

    It’s well known that people who suffer brain damage & lose language functions find that a separate part of the brain spontaneously compensates for the language function. The brain possesses a property known as neuroplasticity.

    But if the brain can spontaneously reorganize itself by changing its response pattern, then there is no token-token linkage between stimulus and response. The same input token does not trigger the same response token. Perhaps a class of tokens triggers a class of response, but already we have introduced indeterminacy, a “type-token” link, or a “type-type” link which defeats the materialist fancy, at least the hard version of it.

    It is manifestly insane to think that we are even remotely close to being able to read thoughts in the brain. There is simply no token-token linkage. What exactly is the reason for the materialist’s optimism, other than wishful thinking?

    • Thank you. I see the insanity too. I didn’t always, but I do now. I hope someone will answer your last question. It’s THE question.

    • SmithGreg

      The materialist is optimistic because he has moved the goalposts. He has hope, but it’s not Christian hope. It is weak beer.

  • This is only one thought experiment among many, and if explored it
    will lead to other questions about conscience, consciousness, and even
    life itself. It will lead to other questions about the differences in
    plant life, animal instinct, and rational behavior.

    Alle Zwei Tage Diät

  • John Morgan

    Stacy – I don’t think brain mapping is possible either. The electrical, magnetic, and chemical changes in our brain that are responsible for what makes us human will never be duplicated by mankind. Memories. Reasoning. Our soul. There are many things that cannot be measured or mapped in a laboratory. One day it may come to what society considers to be human. Sort of reminds me of Duncan MacDougall’s attempts to weigh the soul back in the early 1900s. Although he came up with a weight of around 21 grams, we know now that precision scales to provide this accuracy did not exist during his time period – so it was mostly a matter of sloppy science. And, I don’t think the precise moment of death has yet been determined.

    • Brilliant.

      “One day it may come to what society considers to be human.”

      I think you’re right.

  • Micha Elyi

    Pick the best choice:

    Stacy Trasancos steps into a Star Trek-type transporter, her body dissolves in the usual transportery way and at the destination end steps out

    (1) …Stacy Trasancos.

    (2) …Stacy Trasancos in a copy of the body of Stacy Transancos.

    (3) …a psychological zombie copy of Stacy Trasancos.

    (4) …a person who, although she believes she is Stacy Trasancos and has all her memories, behaviors and personality of Stacy Trasancos, has a different soul than Stacy Trasancos.

    My head hurts now so I’ll stop at only 4 alternatives. This is an old, old topic in philosophy. Something of it is probably somewhere in the works of Saint Augustine. In the 1980s and ’90s we used to call ’em p-zombies for short. And the soul-switcheroo borrows from John Locke’s attempt to discredit the Christian idea of the soul.

    • SmithGreg

      Why stop there? Instead of hypotheticals, let’s figure out what’s actually going to happen…

      Stacy Trasancos passes away gracefully at 115 years old in her mountain lodge, surrounded by her great-great grandchildren. She is laid to rest in the family cemetery in the nearby meadow. The centuries pass by, during which Stacy’s remains decay, the meadow is covered by a river, and all the soil washed out to sea.

      1,234 years later, the trumpet sounds and Christ descends. What rises to meet him in the air?

      1) Stacy? Are her molecules reassembled from the soil and fish and whatnot?

      2) A new version, made with different molecules, but infused with Stacy’s mind and identity?

      • #2 — imago Dei

        To be, by grace, like Christ, escorted by the angels in death nearer to God.

  • What you say at the end is especially important (and its an issue that many scientists avoid simply by ignoring it). Empirical science *presupposes* the human person and his/her capacity to understand and distinguish, to judge and also to choose. As you indicated, a person has to *think* in order to make the statement that “thinking is impossible.” Even if we could do a totally accurate physiological “map” of a human being down to every neuron and every cell, WE would be the ones JUDGING its accuracy, and thus manifesting that “we” transcend it. Just one little word: “IS”! Science can’t make a judgment without presupposing the affirmation of *being*, which indicates that the scientist inhabits a wider and deeper world than any of the facts he/she observes. Indeed, we would do well to honor the “democracy of the dead” and rediscover what they meant by “metaphysics.” This democracy includes not only the Greeks and the medievals, but also the outstanding thinkers of the twentieth century who have already labored in articulating the foundations of a contemporary metaphysics and a realist epistemology that carries the “perennial philosophy” right into the problems of our time (and even beyond them). Let three names suffice for now (one of which at least, I hope, will be familiar to readers): Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, and Karol Wojtyla.