On the night of January 2, 1995, Gladys McNally, an 82 year-old widow, was shot dead in a crowded restaurant. Just prior to the shooting, thirty-three witnesses saw and heard Gladys and her grandson, Nasty McNally, arguing loudly in the restaurant. Gladys was telling Nasty that she was leaving the family fortune, which he had always assumed would be left to him, to the “Save the Cats Foundation.” Nasty was snarling furiously that it should go to him. His voice grew louder and louder, and finally, according to all thirty-three witnesses, Nasty McNally pulled out a large hand-gun and shot his grandmother several times. He then threw down the gun covered in his fingerprints, and disappeared down a back alley and into the night.
Nasty McNally was not seen for five years, until he was caught driving the getaway car after a violent bank robbery. In July, 2000, Nasty McNally went to trial for the murder of Gladys McNally, his grandmother. After hearing the evidence of the thirty-three eyewitnesses, who all agreed that Nasty McNally had shot his grandmother in cold blood, Samuel S. Shonkey, the Counsel for the Defence, outlined their case:
“Your Honour, members of the jury, our modern materialistic society is based upon the assumption that we are the material body. I am my body, and you are your body. This is the logical conclusion of Darwin’s Theory, and virtually all modern scientists agree. We are nothing but chemicals. We are the molecules that make up our bodies – nothing more and nothing less!
“And it has recently been proven that the molecules making up these bodies are completely changed and replaced every five years. Therefore, we must conclude that the body that existed five years ago, no longer exists today. As this crime was committed five-and-a-half years ago, Nasty McNally cannot be held responsible.
“Everyone knows that the body labelled “Nasty McNally” committed this crime five-and-a-half years ago – there were thirty-three witnesses present when these misguided molecules shot his grandmother, who had removed him from her will. However, as the body that committed this crime no longer exists, it would be unfair to punish the present body, also known as Nasty McNally. If the person is the body, then this is a totally different person. All of these molecules are innocent – they were nowhere near the scene of the crime. Who knows where they were five-and-a-half years ago?
“So, if we accept that Nasty McNally is the body which we see standing before us, then we must conclude that Nasty McNally is not guilty of the heinous crime committed by that out-of-control collection of molecules that formerly and coincidentally happened to share the same name. Your Honour, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.”
After a brief adjournment, the Counsel for the Prosecution called for Nasty McNally to take the stand, and proceeded to cross examine him:
“Mr McNally. Is it true that at the age of five you were given the name “Nasty” by your kindergarten teacher, after feeding the kindergarten guinea pig to the neighbour’s vicious Rottweiler dog?”
“Yes,” Nasty replied, with a satisfied gleam in his eye. “And the rabbit as well!”
“And do you also recall burning down your father’s house when you were ten years old, because your father made you return the wheelchair you stole from the disabled boy who lived across the road?”
“Yes,” Nasty replied, with a contented smirk. “As if it was yesterday.”
“At the age of fifteen, Mr McNally, you were expelled from school for threatening your schoolteacher with a knife. And at twenty years of age you had the first of many spells in prison for bashing and robbing a blind man. Your excuse at the time was that you didn’t like the way he looked at you. Do you remember these events from your illustrious life, Mr McNally?”
“As clear as a bell,” replied Nasty. “The good times always stand out in your memory.”
“So, Mr McNally, you are able to remember events from your life when you were five, ten, fifteen and twenty years old, so obviously you existed at those times. And you are here before us now, recalling those events, so obviously you exist now. And as the Counsel for the Defence, Mr Shonkey, has rightly asserted, the bodies you had as a five, ten, fifteen, and twenty year old have gone, disappeared down to the last molecule.
“But you are not gone, Mr McNally – as unfortunate for society as it is, you continue to exist. You existed then, and you exist now. So it is only logical to conclude that you are not the body, but the person or self who dwells within the body. You, the self, have existed as the constant factor within your ever-changing body. Therefore you were present and responsible for all of your actions, including the killing of your poor old grandmother.
“Yes, Mr McNally, the molecules making up your body on that terrible night five-and-a-half years ago are now completely gone. And the hand that held the gun is not the same hand you have today. But it was you who became angry at your grandmother for leaving you out of her will, and it was you who pulled the trigger. And it was you who willed your legs to run from the scene of the crime afterwards. You are not your body, Mr McNally, but you, as the self within, are responsible for your body’s actions. Therefore, you should be found guilty as charged. I rest my case.”
And Nasty McNally was found guilty for his terrible crime, and received the punishment he deserved.