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Life after death?

For topics that are more about faith, religion and religious organisations than anything else.
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Emma Woolgatherer
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Re: Life after death?

#21 Post by Emma Woolgatherer » July 23rd, 2012, 6:34 pm

Latest post of the previous page:

But I see that the mind uploading article mentions philosophical controversy about the idea, and I know that one of these issues is whether this is truly "moving" the personality/mind or rather making a copy of it. Cloning, which I mentioned earlier, would probably run into the same questions.
The way I see it, the key thing would be whether there's a continuing sense of self. And I'd have thought that if one really could copy (and I think you're right about that: it would be copying) someone's consciousness, whether they're about to die or not, and then install it (for want of a better word) in a brain of some kind housed in a body of some kind, in a way that made that body a "person", able to think, feel, perceive, judge, reason, remember, form new memories, etc., etc., and that "person" believed him- or herself to be a continuation of the previous self, despite the change in body (which is perfectly plausible: I believe myself to be a continuation of the self that existed in a body very different from the one I have now), then that would seem to be a kind of afterlife. What makes it particularly scary, though, is the thought that there might be several copies of the same consciousness, in different bodies, all going around thinking, "I'm Jo Jenkins." (Including, perhaps, the original, if he/she didn't actually die.) But of course they wouldn't be the same after that point of installation. From then on, they'd have different experiences. I think the clones issue is different, because all they'd have in common with the original is genetics. All their experiences would be different. I think the sense of self is key, and that depends on things like memories.
animist wrote:And I can't really imagine how, even if this emulation could be done, what "life" would be like - no body means no sensations? I suppose there would be artificial organs to provide these, but then this would be taking the "original" personality ever further away from the original.
I had assumed that there would be a body, human or synthetic human or robot or cyborg or whatever. I'm not sure that it matters which, as long as the host body experiences that continuing sense of self.

But hey, I was only toying with the idea, for the purposes of answering Altfish's question. This is all new to me. And it seems to be more the stuff of transhumanism than humanism.

Emma

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animist
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Re: Life after death?

#22 Post by animist » July 23rd, 2012, 10:12 pm

Emma Woolgatherer wrote:
But hey, I was only toying with the idea, for the purposes of answering Altfish's question. This is all new to me. And it seems to be more the stuff of transhumanism than humanism.

Emma
I vaguely assumed that Nimzo was really asking about supernaturally-achieved life after death, so I answered that it seemed to me that this was incompatible with humanism, which to me is just ethical atheism. Nimzo, is that what you meant? If we go into science fiction techniques, albeit in theory possible, then of course the answer is, yes, it is compatible. There might after all be ways to keep brain cells alive indefinitely, or replicating them other than by uploading to a computer, while replacing other parts of the body - whether that would count as "death" is another matter.

Oddly enough, I have just been rereading Arthur C. Clarke's "The City and the Stars", which features a giant central computer; it holds "memory banks" of the city's inhabitants and then periodically brings them back to life!

Lord Muck oGentry
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Re: Life after death?

#23 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » July 23rd, 2012, 11:57 pm

nimzo256 wrote: Is a belief in life after death incompatible with being a humanist?
Probably not— but it jolly well ought to be. :D

More seriously: I suppose that humanists can entertain various views, true or untrue, intelligible or unintelligible, about personal identity and continuity, without ceasing to be humanists.
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

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Dave B
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Re: Life after death?

#24 Post by Dave B » July 24th, 2012, 9:32 am

Lord Muck oGentry wrote:
nimzo256 wrote: Is a belief in life after death incompatible with being a humanist?
Probably not— but it jolly well ought to be. :D

More seriously: I suppose that humanists can entertain various views, true or untrue, intelligible or unintelligible, about personal identity and continuity, without ceasing to be humanists.
Good point Lord MoG, one can practice Humanist attitudes towards others and the world without being a "philosophical humanist" were the metaphysical is concerned.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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nimzo256
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Re: Life after death?

#25 Post by nimzo256 » July 26th, 2012, 11:44 pm

Thank you for your welcomes and your comments. Generally people here seem to believe that a belief in the possibility of life after death is incompatible with humanism. I have to say that I don’t agree. I agree that belief in God is incompatible with humanism, but that to me is a very different question from the life after death one. Although I can’t be totally certain I think there are several reasons to believe that God doesn’t exist – one of the most important being the problem of explaining who or what created God? And then who or what created the entity that created God? etc. . And it’s no good saying that God has always been there and doesn’t need a creator, because we know that everything in existence must have some form of origin.

Unfortunately the two questions have become very closely interlinked over the course of human history – probably because God offers the prospect of an afterlife to his followers. But I see no logical reason not to ask the life after death question without any reference to God whatsoever. Why should it be that only believers in God should be able to carry the hope that their mind will live on after their physical body has died?

The truth is that mind is quite a poorly understood area, and our current level of scientific understanding doesn’t allow us to be anything close to certain that our mind dies at the same time as the body. Intuitively it might seem to some that it should, but intuition isn’t always right. Admittedly too we don’t yet have any evidence that our minds can live on after our bodies but that doesn’t mean we can conclude that they can’t. The Ancient Greeks of course didn’t have any evidence that the sun was powered by nuclear reactions, but that didn’t mean to say that it wasn’t. We might like to think that our understanding has improved since then, and of course it has. But there are huge questions that we are nowhere near solving – for example ‘How can we explain why it is that things exist?’ Both attempts to answer this question at our current level of knowledge and thinking fail; we can either try and say that some things have existed eternally ( see above for refutation), or we can say that things can spontaneously come into existence from absolutely nothing, but again we know that this is impossible (and I include the Big Bang and quantum fluctuations when I say this). It follows that the truth must lie in a third possibility – a possibility we are not yet capable of even thinking of, let alone investigating. To me that illustrates quite well how undeveloped human understanding really is at present. And if human understanding is so underdeveloped then how can we possibly be sure that the mind dies when the body does? Belief in the POSSIBILITY of life after death seems perfectly logical to me, and I think the reason humanists don’t tend to believe in it is the unfortunate association with the God issue.

I’m not trying to say that this belief if adopted should lead humanists to lead their lives any differently than they do at the moment, but at the same time I don’t see why humanists should completely deny themselves the hope. It would be a hope with far more reason behind it than the hope of life after death that any theist might have.

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animist
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Re: Life after death?

#26 Post by animist » July 27th, 2012, 8:20 am

reading Nimzo's post makes me think of one "problem" in the concept of life after death in a secular context which has not been addressed. Life after death for theists is part of their belief system which is based on the existence of a reward- (and penalty-) giving God, whose motivation seems to be the need to be worshipped. Once one has sensibly ruled such an infantile despot out of court, it is hard to see what the actual MOTIVATION might be for achieving life after death, even if the technology existed. This is where the concept diverges from the slightly related one of longevity, where we can see that a rich person's motive and ability to extend their lives might actually, via ageing research or cyronics, come to pass. But once I am dead, who would want to keep my little thoughts and quirks alive in some way forever?

nimzo256
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Re: Life after death?

#27 Post by nimzo256 » July 27th, 2012, 9:02 am

Animist you make a very good point by bringing in the question of what the QUALITY of any life after death without God might be. This of course can only be speculation. But again that shouldn't prevent humanists from hoping, if they so want to, for a life after death as good as, if not better than, the life we have now.

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Alan C.
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Re: Life after death?

#28 Post by Alan C. » July 29th, 2012, 3:56 pm

Note the lack of a question mark.
Immortality for Humans by 2045
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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Dave B
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Re: Life after death?

#29 Post by Dave B » July 29th, 2012, 4:09 pm

Phew, for a second I thought they meant real immortality - millions of extra long lived biological bodies all demanding resources and producing crap!

In sci-fi this sort of thing has raised interesting problems like inheritances not being passed on to the kids etc., the "old man/woman" just gets richer and richer through compound interest and careful investments. Does this mean less of the cake for the mere mortal plebs? Revolution is often result in the fiction.

An awful lot of money would be needed to throw at this idea to train/recruit the right people to even consider it possible.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Ken H
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Re: Life after death?

#30 Post by Ken H » July 29th, 2012, 6:15 pm

Alan C. wrote:Note the lack of a question mark.
Immortality for Humans by 2045
Isn't that cheating a person out of his heavenly paradise? :D
This is one of the great social functions of science - to free people of superstition. - Steven Weinberg

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Dave B
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Re: Life after death?

#31 Post by Dave B » July 29th, 2012, 6:26 pm

Ken H wrote:
Alan C. wrote:Note the lack of a question mark.
Immortality for Humans by 2045
Isn't that cheating a person out of his heavenly paradise? :D
Perhaps those sort of people are worried that they are destined for a trip in the opposite direction and just want to [postpone the departure date indefinitely! :laughter:
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Sel
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Re: Life after death?

#32 Post by Sel » July 29th, 2012, 9:20 pm

nimzo256 wrote:Animist you make a very good point by bringing in the question of what the QUALITY of any life after death without God might be. This of course can only be speculation. But again that shouldn't prevent humanists from hoping, if they so want to, for a life after death as good as, if not better than, the life we have now.
This sounds suspiciously like religious dogma. I do not hope to live on after death. My brain is simply stuff and that stuff decays when I die. Gone. Kaput. Suggesting that an afterlife without god would have no quality is pushing for an acceptance that their must be a god or what would be the use/point of an afterlife.

A humanist accepts that this is the only life we have. We best enjoy and value it while contributing to the quality of life for the short time we are here.

I do not find this depressing in any way. It is what it is.
"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." Bertrand Russell

Fia
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Re: Life after death?

#33 Post by Fia » July 29th, 2012, 10:26 pm

Sel wrote: We best enjoy and value it while contributing to the quality of life for the short time we are here.

I do not find this depressing in any way. It is what it is.
:clap: Quite, Sel.
I work on living the one life I believe have with joy and compassion. We eventually return to the stardust from whence we came.

I understand why heavenly hereafters were invented: to keep the workers and women in their place. The poor and illiterate who have through the ages been sold religion on jam tomorrow had no option to live life with joy. We are lucky enough to have that choice, and I do so with mindfulness of those who have sacrificed much for the freedoms we now enjoy.

nimzo256
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Re: Life after death?

#34 Post by nimzo256 » July 30th, 2012, 8:17 am

Sel wrote: [This sounds suspiciously like religious dogma. I do not hope to live on after death. My brain is simply stuff and that stuff decays when I die. Gone. Kaput. Suggesting that an afterlife without god would have no quality is pushing for an acceptance that their must be a god or what would be the use/point of an afterlife.
Did you read my previous post? I tried to make it clear there that there is nothing religious at all about my belief in the possibility of life after death. For all practical purposes I do NOT believe in God. God is thoroughly bad idea.

Neither you nor I have any idea what an afterlife without God would be like. Unfortunately as I said before, the concept of a life after death and the concept of God have become much too closely linked, and you are finding it difficult to disentangle one from another. Not surprisingly perhaps as theists have over thousands of years have taken the idea of life after death as their own and linked it to whatever god they happen to believe in. In fact they tell people that there is no possiblity of life after death without belief and worship of their god. I don't see why humanists should let them do this unchallenged.
Sel wrote:A humanist accepts that this is the only life we have. We best enjoy and value it while contributing to the quality of life for the short time we are here.
I do not find this depressing in any way. It is what it is.
As I've said before I don't believe that the possibility of a life after death should alter our approach to this life one iota - and I would totally agree with how you say we should live this life. However you might want to accept that your life is the only one you will ever have, and I respect that. But what right do you have to say to others that they should accept theirs should be the only life (or only form of life) they will ever have?

Most people if given a choice between living another 30 minutes or another 30 years will choose the later. People like life. People usually want more of it. Why should it be that only people who believe in a god should have the hope of living on after physical death?

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Re: Life after death?

#35 Post by nimzo256 » July 30th, 2012, 8:31 am

Fia wrote:
I work on living the one life I believe have with joy and compassion.
And why should the possibility of life after death stop anyone living this life with joy and compassion?
Fia wrote: I understand why heavenly hereafters were invented: to keep the workers and women in their place. The poor and illiterate who have through the ages been sold religion on jam tomorrow had no option to live life with joy. We are lucky enough to have that choice, and I do so with mindfulness of those who have sacrificed much for the freedoms we now enjoy.
I agree with every word of that. The possibilty of a life after death has for thousands of years been a great selling point for theists. But why should they have a monopoly? Why can't humanists believe in this possibility too? Why does the possibilty have to depend on there being a god? Our scientific knowledge is extremely basic (think of what has been discovered in the past 500 years and then project this onto the next 500 years to get an idea of what has yet to be learned). On top of that think of how poorly the connection between physical body and mind is currently understood. So why is it even reasonable for humanists to rule out the possibilty of life after physical death? To me the only reason this happens is that humanists assume that the idea should be labelled religious and therefore 'belonging' only to religion. To me this a mistake both logically and in terms of the competition.

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animist
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Re: Life after death?

#36 Post by animist » July 30th, 2012, 9:07 am

nimzo256 wrote:Most people if given a choice between living another 30 minutes or another 30 years will choose the later. People like life. People usually want more of it. Why should it be that only people who believe in a god should have the hope of living on after physical death?
I think this is an important point, and I suppose it shows that, subjectively anyway, you can have too much of a good thing because it is easier to think about things in small doses than in large ones like new lives. Sel expresses what most of us here think, ie that we don't need an afterlife or radically extended life, that the idea reeks of theology, that knowing that something is limited increases its value, etc etc. But the neat putdown of theistic attitudes to immortality ("Everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die") has IMO a sort of atheistic counterpart ("Every humanist is happy to die, but not just yet"). If you make yourself think that long periods of living, like lifetimes, are just linkages of short periods of living, like 30 minutes, then you can maybe see why some people are keen on life extension: after all, life always ends for a particular reason, like disease, and we all want to defeat disease, don't we?

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Sel
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Re: Life after death?

#37 Post by Sel » July 30th, 2012, 4:24 pm

Why should it be that only people who believe in a god should have the hope of living on after physical death?

I need to ask:..Since we are not the only living creatures with a brain, would other animals also have life after death? Where would you draw the line? Which brain is developed/evolved enough to deserve to live forever?

Research is beginning to show that other animals have developed empathy, awareness of self, tool making skills and the ability to plan ahead as well as a sense of community. Elephants and dolphins can recognize themselves in a mirror. I will try to find sources on this research when I have more itme.

What is it about humans that makes us so superior that our brains/spirits would live on forever? Where in the evolution chain could that superiority, that spirit, have developed?

Nimz: I read your post and was aware that you stated you have no belief in god. But I think your hope of an after life is based on an irrational idea that we humans must be special. Such beliefs are religious in nature - requiung no proof.
"The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge." Bertrand Russell

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Re: Life after death?

#38 Post by nimzo256 » July 31st, 2012, 12:29 am

I haven't said anything about how humans may differ from animals in terms of the possibility of life after death. In fact I haven't mentioned animals at all anywhere in this thread either explicitely or implicitely (where did you think I had?).

To put the record straight for you, I don't think it's logical to believe in the possibility of life after death for one species and not another. I don't believe humans are special, and I agree with you that any such belief could be said to be religious in nature

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Dave B
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Re: Life after death?

#39 Post by Dave B » July 31st, 2012, 9:26 am

Not talking for Sel but I took it that she had opened up another branch of the discussion, rather than questioning anything you have said so far, nizmo.

I seem to remember this aspect of the argument from elsewhere, in another forum maybe. Is your concept of life after death only available to humans or to all sentient creatures? What is the "basic specification" of the nature of the mind required to achieve this in your model? Is it required that the mind has to be able to conceive of such a state as life after death to achieve it? Is it something totally independent of the physical body, including the grey matter? Does it happen whether we believe or not? And all those questions that, I presume, are unanswerable! And if such questions are unanswerable on what can you base your argument - a feeling? Faith? A wish?

Oh dear, there's me taking the problem to pieces again, wanting to count the cogs and see how they go back together - no faith I'm afraid. :wink:
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

nimzo256
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Re: Life after death?

#40 Post by nimzo256 » July 31st, 2012, 11:32 am

Dave B wrote:Not talking for Sel but I took it that she had opened up another branch of the discussion, rather than questioning anything you have said so far, nizmo.
Dave - I was responding to Sel's post in general but particularly to the part that was directly addressed to me - Namely - "Nimz: I read your post and was aware that you stated you have no belief in god. But I think your hope of an after life is based on an irrational idea that we humans must be special. Such beliefs are religious in nature - requiung no proof."

I wanted to point out that I didn't believe in the 'irrational idea' that she had attributed to me, and couldn't understand what made her think that I did.

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Dave B
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Re: Life after death?

#41 Post by Dave B » July 31st, 2012, 11:43 am

My mistake on her querying you then :redface:

But I would be interested in your ideas on who - or what - qualifies for the possibility of life after death and what qualifications they require; sentience, intelligence, intellect or what? Is it a case that you have to be able to "embrace" the idea philosophically or is it a right to all? Does your concept contain answers to these questions?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
Me, 2015

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