Friday, December 03, 2004

Could you be me?

In response to my thoughts about his axioms of identity, Scott Lemon says nice things and then (gently) reminds me that DNA is not unique. Specifically, identical twins have identical DNA, or genotypes. They also have different phenotypes - things such as fingerprints. So it would appear that a two-factor ID (DNA + fingerprint) is needed to uniquely identify every person.

Lemon then goes on to say:

...the entire model and concept of DNA is again "given to me." Yes, I do have an interesting trait that some communities measure and discuss as "DNA", however there are a large number of places on earth, where there is no such concept. DNA is something that a certain community of people on earth say that I have. However outside of these circles, it means nothing.

But simply because a group doesn't understand DNA, it is still present, it is still unique, it is still you. There are communities who don't understand the concept of patronymic, of social security number or of any numbers higher than three. That doesn't negate these things - they still exist. They may not have applicability within a given context but they exist within that context. Scott's thought that identity doesn't exist until granted by something outside the person reminds me of nothing more than teenagers and sex: they seem to believe that sex didn't exist before they experienced puberty, and its certainly nothing their parents could understand! :)

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