What if there's an afterlife but no God?

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Magical Realist, May 18, 2013.

  1. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Not if you understand you already came from the dead. Before you were alive, you weren't alive. So the very thing you claim to be unlikely, already happened at least once. You went from existing as nutritional elements to an animate life form. And even before you were that, before anything was alive, it was non-living matter. You seem to agree with that much. If it can happen once in a Universe with an infinite amount of time in which things can happen, why can't it happen again? Just as Dawkin's related in The Blind Watchmaker in regards to the animation of Life. It could be an extraordinary rare event, but given enough time (which the Universe has plenty of), it can happen. So why can't you be reanimated as some different life form at another time far in the future?


    Your memories, personality, body, and relationships won't be conserved and, actually, they are not important to preserving who you are. All that matters for you to be "reincarnated" is that the matter that represents you, no matter how small (though I can't pretend to know the exact source or size), gets reused in the formation of another life form. Like a person waking up from a long coma with permanent amnesia, you will remember nothing, you will not be who or what you were before, but you will be the same consciousness doing the perceiving and feeling for the new life form that you are as you were the consciousness that did the perceiving and feeling for the past life forms that you were. You just won't know it, as you don't really "know it" now.
     
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  3. ForrestDean Registered Senior Member

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    That is certainly understandable for those who have yet to experience other realities alternate to this one. Once one does it can change one's perspective significantly, at least for many that are not too incredibly bound by beliefs.
     
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I'd classify belief in the continuation of one's personal life after death as a religious belief. It's an idea that in various forms is very widespread in religions all around the world. Belief in a succession of rebirths that somehow preserve personal continuity and identity throughout is one variation on the theme.

    Why do you use the word "advanced"? You're making a value judgement there, suggesting that somehow your religious ideas about reincarnation are more advanced than other people's religious ideas about God. That needs to be explained and defended.

    Whether or not somebody needs God is a different question than whether or not a God exists. The questions are logically independent. It's conceivable that people might psychologically need a God even when one doesn't exist. And it's conceivable for a God to exist even if nobody needs him.

    My understanding is that in quantum mechanics, matter (elementary particles) and energy seem to be kind of interchangeable. Wave-particle duality, pair-production and so on. So I'm not convinced that I agree with your axiom A.

    Ok.

    "Requires a physical host" makes consciousness sound like a parasite or something. It seems to suggest that consciousness and the physical body are two different kinds of things.

    The mass of the cells that die and are replaced in the human body during the course of a single year is close to the total mass of that body. So in a very real sense, in terms of the identity of the matter that constitutes you, you aren't even the same person that you were last year.

    I think that our individual sense of personal identity is largely constructed from continuities of memory, bodily form, relationships with the rest of the environment and so on.

    So how do we get from the stuff you've discussed to your seeming belief in reincarnation? You still haven't spelled out that vital part. How does our personal identity and consciousness supposedly survive the destruction of the brain in which memory is stored, the bodily form that we identify with ourselves, and the relationships that we have to our surroundings in this life? What aspect of our personal identity remains? Somebody might argue that atoms that were once part of our body are still out there somewhere, but why should we think that those atoms are still us? And what reason is there for thinking that they will once again come together to precisely restore our bodies, memories and relationships?
     
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  7. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    Taking a short break from all this thinking. Will be back later tonight to address your questions more fully if there aren't a barrage of replies. In the meantime:
    A couple of quick points:

    1.) No offense intended but part of your response kind of reinforces my point about theists. They kind of get bogged down in arguing things that just prevent them from processing a secular idea. But be that as it may, I will try to address those points of yours later, as well.

    2.) See my post at the bottom of the first page of this thread for a quick answer on your question regarding "personal identity." I treat personal identity in its most basic and fundamental form.

    3.) Remember that although, specific atoms may no longer be us, those atoms were released after mind integration. Meaning, the process of integrating consciousness with the self-regenerating brain cells has already begun so it literally doesn't matter. But you make a very good point because it directly challenges my assertion that matter is linked to identity. If our bodies constantly replace dying cells, especially in our brains, how does our identity maintain consciousness? My short answer is integration. In other words, new cells become "us."

    One thing I should add is I don't pretend to yet know exactly where the seat of identity in matter resides. It may require better minds to figure that one out. For the moment, I'm only strongly suggesting it does reside in matter.
     
  8. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    2,422
    I'll try to be as concise as I can here:

    If an exact duplicate of you was made, which you would you be? I imagine that your answer would be "the one I am now". Your duplicate might be physically identical (another instance of "you"), but he is nonetheless a distinct entity. If you were to run out of the lab in shock and end up in a fatal accident, I don't think you'd wake up looking out of your duplicate's eyes. I mean if "you" were that body, you would have been all along.

    Now the question is: why would this equation change just because the duplication occurs much much later?

    Just so you understand that we are indeed on the same page, the focus here isn't on the duplication of a "personality" but rather the duplication of a unique instance of a core experiential "self". In other words, I agree that if a person was to wake up in a hospital with complete amnesia and profound personality change as a result of severe brain trauma that we'd still be dealing with the same instance of "self" (this is in no small part due to the fact that neuroscientific advances have situated the seat of pure consciousness in the brain stem, and not in memory and/or personality centers).
     
  9. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    748
    "If an exact duplicate of you was made, which you would you be?"

    I just asked myself this moments ago because, essentially, we are regenerating new cells of ourselves regularly. But if matter is the seat of identity, how can it still be us if our brain cells change every week or month or whatever it is? My hypothesis seems to get bogged down here. Unless, of course, some cells in the brain stem are not replaced and live for a person's lifetime? I seem to remember someone somewhere suggesting this was the case when I presented this idea somewhere online before.

    But this whole hypothesis gets real freaky when you consider this:
    If the brains cells that represent us are dying off, what happens if the matter that represents us gets reused and reanimated in another life form before our current life form dies? Do we have the same consciousness in two separate entities? Would it be like those two conjoined twins that share brain connections? Are they like one brain with two mouths and four eyes? That seems too much of a paradox so there must be some brain stem cells that don't die throughout our lifetime???

    I think I may need help from others at this point.

    But to answer your question, assuming we retain certain brain cells throughout our lives:

    "why would this equation change just because the duplication occurs much much later?"

    Because the same matter that made up our primary stems cells in our previous life, is being used to construct whatever cells make up our new life form's "brain." It can't be done at the same time as in your scenario because the specific matter that makes up you is already in use. To make a "duplicate" of you you would have to use other matter and then it wouldn't really be you. Identity is always mater specific.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2013
  10. elte Valued Senior Member

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    1,263
    The past is just stored in the present in the representative way that it has caused things to be the way they are, including our brain structures that even led us to record history. It's only represented and doesn't itself physically exist any longer. I don't see how there'd be any possible way that the past could be purposely accessed in any physical way because it, itself, no longer physically exists, and so there's no way that it could be physically tapped to do anything with. It is completely unlike the situation in which a compact disc's 1 and 0 method of representing information (indeed from the past, though, but stored and saved in real time) can be called upon by computer hardware to affect the present by causing earphones to emit sound waves. We can't tell that the universe is like that.

    Another example is how the physical DNA in a cell is a recording of the instructions of a life entity. The information is physically in the order of the DNA building blocks, though I see what you mean in that the organization of the materials of the universe can be seen somewhat similarly. However, we have the means to use that stored information to turn a cell back in it's developmental state. I'm not aware of anyone or any physical device that was made in our universe (like our laboratory equipment that we made here) that can do that.
     
  11. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    2,422
    I think the self is an architecture rather than a collection. The individual parts can be switched out as long as the form remains. After all, subatomic particles of any particular type are all absolutely identical anyway, so there's no uniqueness to be found in the fundamental building blocks themselves.

    It's the configuration that's important here.
     
  12. elte Valued Senior Member

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    1,263
    I've now edited it to emphasize that the organization of the DNA structure is important.
     
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    5,121
    I like these personal identity thought-experiments.

    I'd say that the situation is like the letter 'Y', and both of them probably have an equal claim to being continuous with, to being the same person as, the original unique trunk of the Y.

    Once the bifurcation occurs, each branch would have its own life-trajectory, will accumulate memories and relationships peculiar to itself, so they will become distinct individuals after the split.

    How can you be sure that you are the same 'self' today that was looking out of your eyes last night, before you went to bed? For that matter, how can we be sure that any of us is a single continuous 'self' from moment to moment?

    I'm not sure that the idea of a 'real me' even makes much sense, if the only way that we have for identifying ourselves as a particular individual or as something that even continues to exist from moment to moment, is by our memories, our bodily continuity, by our continuing relationships with our environment, and so on. I'm not convinced that there's anything more to me being me than that.

    Everyone thinks of themselves as "me", right? 'Selves' all seem to be identical in that 'core experiential' (I'd probably say functional) sense. So what makes one 'me' different than another, what individuates them into numerically different people? I suspect that it's what you call the 'personality' that's doing that. In other words, if two duplicates have the same memories, identical bodies and equal claims to the same history (equal claims to being continuous with the trunk of the Y) then I don't think that there's any correct answer as to which one is "really me". They both would be. But now I'd have bifurcated into two distinct people, increasingly different as time goes on, each of which no longer has privileged access to the other's thoughts and memories occurring subsequent to the bifurcation.
     
  14. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    748
    Thoughts and memories are completely superfluous. What differentiates one entities' identity from another is the specific matter that makes them up. Thoughts and memories mean nothing to the Universe.

    Take a rock. What differentiates one rock from another? Thoughts and memories? I don't think so.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2013
  15. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    748
    Am I hogging the thread? I'm sorry, I'll step off now.
     
  16. Write4U Valued Senior Member

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    11,008
    Perhaps I am wrong but your proposal reminded me of Bohm (Wholeness and the Implicate Order).

    I see the problem that everyone sees things in black or white. Either there is a God or there no God. But no one asks, in the absence of both what then is there?

    IMO David Bohm's vision was of an unbroken, interconnected whole, a universe of potentials which under certain circumstances become manifest.
    http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/holomovement
     
  17. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    748
    I'll have to pick that one up after I finish what I'm reading now. Can never say no to a science read. Definitely sounds like an eye opener. Thank you.

    He concept of all things being in flux seems to me something I've taken for granted. How could it not?

    Edit: Reading the write up at the link. Very intriguing.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2013
  18. Enmos Valued Senior Member

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    43,184
    Very interesting. Do you have a source for that?
     
  19. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    Mike probably beat them to it with a personal 18-month demonstration back in the '40s.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!



    ". . . So how was Mike able to survive? Scientists examined him and determined that Mr. Olsen had not done a very good job at chopping Mike's head off. Most of the head was actually removed, but one ear remained intact. The slice actually missed the jugular vein and a clot prevented him from bleeding to death. Apparently, most of a chicken's reflex actions are located in the brain stem, which was also largely untouched. Mike was also examined by the officers of several humane societies and was declared to have been free from suffering."

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/20/us/gallery/headless-chicken

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_the_Headless_Chicken

    http://www.uselessinformation.org/headless_chicken/index.html
     
  20. cosmictotem Registered Senior Member

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    748
    lol
     
  21. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

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    If they lived for some decades after the duplication, the two should begin to even diverge in terms of which genes were switched off epigenetically, as can happen with older monozygotic twins. But this wouldn't necessary contribute to their accumulating psychological differences.
     
  22. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    2,422
    Consciousness and the brainstem. (pdf)
    Parvizi J, Damasio A.

    And here's a Ted Talk Antonio Damasio gives on the the topic:

    [video=youtube;LMrzdk_YnYY]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMrzdk_YnYY[/video]

    There's other stuff out there as well, such as Unconscious Neural Specificity for 'Self ' and the Brainstem but I don't have access to it all. Here's the abstract in any case:

    One of the interesting things about all this is that the brainstem pretty much represents the tightest regulation of physical parameters seen anywhere in the body. What better place for something to be "grounded".
     
    Last edited: May 22, 2013
  23. Rav Valued Senior Member

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    2,422
    I can't be sure. But I think it's likely for the neurobiological reasons discussed above.

    Thought experiments such as the one I touched on don't really work as intended from a third person perspective. I mean, if a guy named Dave is duplicated in a lab, and the question of which one is really Dave is posed to an audience, then the answer is clearly "they are both Dave". But what if you are Dave? What if it's you who is sitting in the lab about to be duplicated. The question is then which Dave will you be when the experiment is over? Assuming your sense of self doesn't end up distributed across two physically separate bodies simultaneously you will only be one of them. This isn't a fact that needs to be discovered, it will simply be self-evident. You will find yourself in one body, and not the other.
     

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