The interrogation was old school: desk, chair, and a bright desk lamp turned on the suspect’s face. Theseus was being sweated by two burly detectives.
Detective 1: We know you disposed of the body, Theseus, so stop wasting our time and spill the beans.
Theseus: I keep telling you, there was no body. You’ve got the wrong guy!
Detective 2: Tell that to our lab guys. They’ve got what we call evidence, and it’s not looking good for you right now.
Detective 1: They got skin cells and some stuff called DNA that will uniquely identify the stiff.
Theseus: I don’t care what you’ve got, I never killed nobody!
Dawn came, the detective switched off the lamp and they left Theseus alone. His thoughts turned philosophical. What is a person, what makes me really me and that old chestnut how does the mind interact with the body?
Our bodies are constantly renewing biological cells without us being aware of it. Skin, hair, and nails are a bit more obviously renewable, but fresh blood and brain cells are produced in their millions with no outward indication of the changes.
What if a brain could be connected by electrodes to a computer that delivered all the information that is normally presented to the brain by our sensory organs and nerve cells? How would we know if we were experiencing the real world or some demon’s trickery? For that matter, how did Theseus know that his interrogation was not part of that trickery? How could he be sure that the world he was experiencing was really there?
Theseus jumped as the door slammed behind the detectives re-entering the room.
Detective 1: So, are you gonna co-operate?
Theseus nodded as the detective swabbed the inside of his mouth.
He had the room to himself again and started to wonder about the materialist proposition that we don’t need a supernatural component to explain consciousness and thought processing. Our DNA determined our unique biological characteristics, but did that coding predetermine our life choices and judgment?
If Theseus had killed somebody, could it be argued that he was not responsible because of the lack of control he had over his own DNA and therefore his capacity for self-determination?
This time the door was opened wide as the detectives came in with a scrawny guy in a lab coat.
Detective 1: Okay, what are you trying to pull? The lab results show that the skin cells back at the crime scene have the same DNA as the swab sample we just took from you.
Theseus: So are you saying I killed myself?
Detective 2: Don’t try and be smart. Our lab guy is gonna take another sample and then we’ll see what’s what.
Theseus: Did it ever occur to you that human beings shed millions of skin cells in our lifetime? Some might even argue that there’s a tipping point when we cease to be who we once were, having replaced the majority of our birth cells. I might no longer be Theseus.
Detective 1: That’s enough of that baloney, just give us the name of the guy you offed!