Many people theorize that in principle, the brain could be uploaded to a computer which would then contain the person's consciousness. Would a successful demonstration of this be compatible with Judaism? (Don't worry for now how something like that could actually be shown. Say an advanced MRI-like machine would predict everyone's [who steps in it] actions with 100% accuracy, or something similar.)

Being as the answers to this: Is the brain the seat of the soul? seem to say that such a thing is incompatible with Judaism, that should mean that seeing that such a thing can exist, would be powerful evidence against free will, and therefore Judaism.

  • 1
    If I contradict Judaism, would that be evidence against it? This is silly question.
    – Double AA
    May 12, 2014 at 17:25
  • 2
    @DoubleAA I understood the question to mean "Would this contradict..."
    – Yoni
    May 12, 2014 at 17:34
  • @Yoni That certainly isn't how you answered the question, if that's how you understood it. The questions states "Assume a contradiction; is that a contradiction?" You answered the question "Can this contradiction happen?".
    – Double AA
    May 12, 2014 at 17:36
  • 1
    @Yoni I don't know why it doesn't make sense. If I assert -(p&q) then asserting q implies -p (the falsification of p).
    – Double AA
    May 12, 2014 at 17:50
  • 1
    My question is "Assume X, does that contradict Judaism?", not, "Assume a contradiction". I'm not assuming that the idea contradicts Judaism, I'm asking whether the idea in principle is compatible. Are you saying that the answer is obviously no (not compatible) based on the answers I linked to?
    – ike
    May 12, 2014 at 19:21

2 Answers 2


According to Quantum Physics' Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, often simplified as "To observe is to disturb," no such machine is even theoretically possible. Observing the behavior of any system affects the system being observed. Thus, the real brain and the "virtual" brain can't be identical.

Furthermore, even if the brain were to be emulated, since the rest of the body is connected to the original real brain the two brains would not be subject to identical stimuli. Also, in a human brain there are electro-chemical, hormonal and environmental factors that are external to the virtual brain system and can not be emulated by the virtual system.

Nevertheless, the virtual brain will likely be able to predict what the human would choose in many cases. This is not a violation of free will. Rav E.E. Dessler wrote decades ago (Michtaz m'Eliyahu 1, Kuntus Habechira) that much (or even most) of what a person decides are things he already decided and is just continuing with previous momentum and is not actually affected by free will. Only decisions that are in formation (or are being revisited) are at the "nekudas habechira", the freedom point (or Freedom Horizon) and are subject to free will.

Audio shiurim on choice based on Rav Dessler (37-40)

  • Why couldn't it emulate electro-chemical, hormonal and environmental factors?
    – Double AA
    May 12, 2014 at 17:26
  • 1
    This answer is basically an oversimplification of quantum physics, free will, and Jewish thought. Granted the question didn't deserve anything better, but doesn't make it all that impressive.
    – Double AA
    May 12, 2014 at 17:27
  • @DoubleAA becuase the virtual "brain" would not be walking down the street and smelling the nonkosher hot dog with a nisayon to eat it -- only the real human is. If the OP wants to create a complete human copy of the original and not only the brain, the copy can't be at the same place at the same time as the original either.
    – Yoni
    May 12, 2014 at 17:29
  • No reason you couldn't stimulate it equivalently for however complex a situation you want in order for the experiment to be conclusive.
    – Double AA
    May 12, 2014 at 17:32
  • @DoubleAA I'm not writing a mussar vaad, pilpul shiur or PhD thesis here! Just helping someone else and answering their question...
    – Yoni
    May 12, 2014 at 17:32

Deuteronomy 13

"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them, you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The LORD your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Likewise, the Torah tells us regarding listening to the sanhedrin in Devarim (17:11)

"According to the Torah which I will teach you and the laws which they will tell you, don't turn from that which they say right or left" [Rashi: that this requirement to obey them is, Even if they tell you that "right" is "left" and "left" is "right" and surely if they tell you that "right" is "right" and "left" is "left".]

so you see, it's already built in to the system that we must stubbornly adhere to the torah regardless of what our senses tell us.

(some personal advice: focus on whether or not the torah is of divine origin. then you don't need to reconcile everything)

  • First of all, there's a difference between a prophet and what I'm describing. This machine would be replicable, and in theory, anyone could build it using off-the-(future)-shelf components. Do you know if the "signs or wonders" referred to can include free-will violating feats? Secondly, does this mean that Judaism is not falsifiable?
    – ike
    May 13, 2014 at 14:21
  • Thirdly, if you would be able to reconcile the existence of such a device with Judaism, how can you justify saying that Judaism rules it out (in your answer to the linked question)? In fact, if anything we see can be reconciled with Judaism based on these verses, then how can it make any predictions?
    – ike
    May 13, 2014 at 14:23
  • @ike see my update. regarding your 2nd comment it's not gonna happen. but even if it did, then we don't care. must be a trick or a test
    – ray
    May 13, 2014 at 17:41
  • I don't think it's valid to both say that something is "impossible", yet claim that if it were to happen, it wouldn't change your opinion about anything. If such a "trick" is possible given your view of the world, you should acknowledge the possibility now, and if it isn't, seeing it must change your view of the world. And can you answer yes or no on the question of falsifiability?
    – ike
    May 13, 2014 at 19:22
  • @ike what i mean is it's not going to happen unless it is either a false trick/scam or a special test from upstairs. 2. no. I think everything is falsifiable. meaning, it is either true or false. if you can prove to me without a doubt that Judaism is false, I would go with that. but i am so convinced in the divine origin of the torah that i would most likely assume it's a test from upstairs as the torah says to assume.
    – ray
    May 13, 2014 at 21:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .