It is a difficult notion to accept that as human beings we do not exist outside of our biological boundaries, and yet, is there any other legitimate explanation of our being? Composed entirely of atoms, we are limited to existing as purely biological constructs, but the complexity, quality, and value placed on life seems so much greater than a jumble of neurons and the mass contained in our heads. There are a number of different arenas of human life that are difficult, if not impossible, to account for purely in terms of biological elements.
The first of these is the idea of choice and free will, primarily as manifestations of the mind. If human action and thinking is determined by the flow of electrons and the movement of molecules, then can choice and free will truly exist? Why are one person's choices different from another's? To determine the existance of choice and free will, one would need the sceintific capability to follow the actual path of the decision making process within the brain, which is most likely a very difficult route to follow.
The larger entity of which choice and free will are only mere pieces is the mind, which means that it is even more difficult to account for it in terms of biological elements. The boundaries of the mind are ambiguous and non-specific, and therefore, attempting to account for its activities, or determining whether it even exists, becomes even more difficult. A similar situation arises with the soul, as there are many contradictions to its mere location, and certainly its existance, purpose, and influence over humanity.
Another complication arises with the assertion that the brain is the defining element of humanity, being where does our individuality, identity, and diversity of culture then come from? We are all composed of the same materials, and yet we are so different from individual to individual and we have created so many diverse cultures, and cultures within cultures, as a species. It is difficult to comprehend how the same set of molecules in very much the same organization can create such vast differences in appearances, personalities, beliefs,and choices in humans.
There are still a number of other areas of human life which are difficult to account for with such a model of humanity, such as the idea of spiritual healing, concepts of self-awareness, creativity, and genius and so on. It appears as though such a model needs more time and technology for the analysis it deserves.
Let's give it at least a semester and see? Very interesting issues raised. There are LOTS of different ways to combine atoms and/or cells, so getting lots of different things isn't in principle so hard. And we'll work our way through some examples of choice and even (I think) "free will". The boundedness question though is a harder one (for me, at least). The brain is certainly bounded. Is there something bigger ("mind"?), with more fluid boundaries? Probably. But understandable as interacting brains? Nice question. Let's think about it together. PG