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Which path do you prefer?

Contemplating one's own non-existence can be, not only terrifying, but seemingly impossible or unreal. I can't blame anyone for preferring a more comforting narrative, even if it might happen to be unverifiable.

There are only two ways, that I can think of, to build a worldview. One is to use only currently verifiable facts and let the chips fall where they may, comfortwise. The other is to step just slightly outside of verifiable science where we can construct a more comforting narrative that we can claim is likely to be verified by science in the future. (OK, a third way is to just to abandon yourself to irrationality altogether, but...)

I don't begrudge anyone their comforts; life is hard enough already without deliberately making it more painful for ourselves, but I think it's good to at least be aware of which path we're taking. But I also realize that the comforts of self-delusion aren't nearly as comforting when we suspect we're fooling ourselves, so choose your poison carefully.

For me personally, the greatest peace comes from aligning my worldview, as completely as I am able, with well-established science, chips be damned. When science finally approves those comforting hypotheses, I'll be more than happy to embrace that liberation then. For now... I am at peace with my perceived limits.

By skado
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16 comments

3

Science will never point to an after life. The entirety of our consciousness is due to the brain. Plenty of brain injury cases or degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s for example demonstrate changes in a persons personality, perception, and physical/mental abilities. There is no soul, there is only matter. And over time you will decay into carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms. I’m going to turn this into a kids book.

Riley Level 5 Dec 1, 2018
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where knowledge stops, imagination begins. And to some degree, greater or lesser, we all have our own bus. some sit near the front some sit near the back....

hankster Level 8 Nov 30, 2018
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I like facts, I like the truth. The truth will set you free, as the saying goes. On the other hand I know unicorns are not real but I like then anyway I just don't dream of electric sheep.

silverotter11 Level 8 Nov 30, 2018
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I stumbled across this years ago, and it seems a rather fitting response. I will always side with science. It's all the comfort I need.

By AARON FREEMAN:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you'd hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you'll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they'll be comforted to know your energy's still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you're just less orderly. Amen.

Amzungu2 Level 5 Nov 30, 2018
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Nice! It's hard for me to imagine myself being less orderly, but maybe so... smile001.gif

What if? All that energy goes into the things that eat you?

@skado haha, I can relate to that sentiment as well. On the flip side, I'm a nurse that works with cancer patients, and let me tell you there is a whole lotta God in cancer care. I have no problem respecting other's choice of comfort and will happily sit and pray with them when requested and humbly accept their praising God for providing them with such stellar care. 😉

@Beowulfsfriend in the African bush, that's exactly what happens. They set their dead out to be handled by nature. No burials or burning. Just cosmic repurposing.

@Amzungu2 certain cultures, Zoroastrian in Iran used to, would put the bodies on carved rocks with openings for the bones to fall through and then when all the flesh was gone the bones would be ground up, baked in bread, and feed to more birds.

@Amzungu2
I know they appreciate you. Kindness is never inappropriate, especially toward those who are suffering.

@skado No truer words...

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History has far too much influence on our worldviews. It's history, gone, never to return. Why can't we dismiss history, start in the now and move forward?

powder Level 7 Nov 30, 2018
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History holds valuble lessons.

@nvrnuff yes but should not dictate our future. Israel's claim on Jerusalem for example. "Why? Because it was promised to us 3000yrs ago." Fuck off!
All these rituals we still follow; arranged marriage, genital mutilation........history/ tradition has far too much influence on our future.

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If a person concocts some far-fetched world view just to be comfortable then of course that would cast doubt on the validity of such a world view.

On the other hand, a great many very intelligent people, going back to earliest history have toyed with the idea of universal consciousness. That includes several of the founders of modern physics. I do not feel that it is correct to write off the opinions of such eminent people by ascribing to them a fear of death. There are other reasons for their metaphysical thinking.

That said, in the final analysis no one knows the answer, or IMO even understands the question.

WilliamFleming Level 7 Nov 30, 2018
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"There are other reasons for their metaphysical thinking. "

This is what I'm looking for. What are the possible reasons for adopting a worldview-level assumption, other than that we have adequate evidence? Why not just wait until the evidence is solid?

@skado Can’t you lean heavily toward a conjecture without having absolutely solid proof? If no one ever thought about or discussed such things, then there would never be proof.

When Einstein was working on his revolutionary ideas, it must have seemed absolutely ridiculous to many. After all, there was scant evidence and no proof at all, but that didn’t deter Einstein. As for me, when eminent physicists such as Max Planck write about Universal Consciousness, I will read with rapt attention and try to grasp the concept.

If you want to see the evidence look at the books I mentioned in that other response. There are various deep questions that can not be answered from a materialist perspective but which are easily explained from the perspective of Universal Consciousness, or as Taylor calls it, Panspiritism.

@WilliamFleming

“Can’t you lean heavily toward a conjecture without having absolutely solid proof?”

Of course we are free to do that, but I think it’s useful to examine our motivations for going out on that limb. It’s not as secure as well-established science, and I don’t see any particular need to know. It’s plenty interesting to read about and think about, but I don’t see how it might affect my life, one way or the other. Why should I prefer one stance over another, if we don’t reliably know yet?

“If no one ever thought about or discussed such things, then there would never be proof.”

Well, if no one did, yes, but for the most part, those need to be professional scientists. It’s too late in my life to study climate science. I’m at the mercy of the professionals; if 97% of professional climate scientists start saying climate change is no longer a problem, I’ll take their word for it. But since they’re saying the opposite, I have to accept their word just as readily, even though that conclusion is much less comfortable for me. I can’t rely on my own judgement for that because I don’t have the required training or experience.

If we amateurs (I’m making assumptions; you may be a professional scientist, but I’m not) want to follow the developments and stay informed on cutting edge science, that’s cool, but if we then incorporate untested hypotheses into our working worldview, either consciously or otherwise, we would do well, I think, to examine the motivation to do that. Not to say that any particular motivation is wrong or right, but that it is useful to know which one motivates that choice. Einstein got paid to do what he did; why should I prefer one outcome over another, as long as the professionals have determined it is reliably true? If it hasn’t been determined, why shouldn’t I wait until it has, before relying on it?

“If you want to see the evidence look at the books I mentioned in that other response.”

Thanks, I wasn’t asking to see the evidence, though I might look at it later, I was just asking for the reason we would adopt ideas whose creators acknowledge aren’t well-established. It shouldn’t matter how appealing the ideas are to us amateurs, they’re either established or they’re not. Why wouldn’t we want to let the pros finish their work before we start incorporating those ideas into maps we guide our lives by?

I’m reasonably familiar with Sheldrake. I scanned a few aticles about the other two. They all seem to be doing a similar thing; they’re calling for studies to be done in areas that they are convinced will produce useful science, but which the overwhelming majority of the scientific community thinks is a dead end. All revolutionary science initially faces resistence; It’s how science works. Science needs to be slow and difficult. If their ideas have merit it will eventually be proven. In the meanwhile, why should anyone jump on an unproven bandwagon?

“There are various deep questions that can not be answered from a materialist perspective but which are easily explained from the perspective of Universal Consciousness, or as Taylor calls it, Panspiritism.”

Could you give me an example of one of these questions, and why we need to know right now?

@skado I don’t think that the concept of Universal Consciousness is the sort of thing that science, in its current form, is capable of analyzing. It is a metaphysical concept that does not lend itself to testing in a laboratory. I think the reason is that the concept is not about objective reality but rather it concerns personal identity and spirituality, as well as the nature of ultimate reality outside the world of our everyday experience.

To someone bent on having a glorious eternal life in heaven as a separate ego, Universal Consciousness offers scant consolation. Look at it this way: We expect that when we die others will live on, and that the chain of life will continue. If the universe itself has conscious awareness, that is all that matters—we can just look at our identity as part of greater reality rather than just as a human body.

People, even on this forum, keep saying that our sense of conscious awareness and free will is nothing but an illusion, and I tend to agree. It is impossible to see how a machine-like mass of flesh could be conscious and exercise free will, no matter how many neurons are firing. It is one of those deep, hard problems that has no solution under a materialist perspective, but if reality itself is conscious and has free will, then the problem dissolves.

All of this is just a glimmer of insight based mainly on intuition. I certainly don’t understand Ultimate Reality because that is a very deep and impenetrable mystery. But IMO no one else understands either, and in particular, the materialist approach dies not even begin to provide answers.

I agree with you in one way. Our human model of reality as matter moving through space and time is necessary for everyday functioning and survival, and all of us are tethered to that model most of the time—after all, we have these bodies to look after. But I enjoy thinking about the big picture part of the time—I get a feeling of intense alertness, of being poised on the edge of something unbelievably astounding. There is great value to life!

Edited

@WilliamFleming
“It is one of those deep, hard problems that has no solution under a materialist perspective, but if reality itself is conscious and has free will, then the problem dissolves.”

I can see that it might be a tantalizing curiosity, but why is it a problem? What’s pressing us to come up with a solution?

@skado I don’t know why—I just want to know.

Maybe if the spiritual paradigm becomes predominant people will be happier and there’ll be less conflict.

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I find the idea of death itself very comforting. It's like getting to stay in a luxury hotel, running up extravagant room service and other charges, trashing your room, and then sneaking out before you have to pay the bill. Of course, timing is everything ...

The-Krzyz Level 6 Nov 30, 2018
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An interesting post. Probably concentrate on what is here now because whatever the ultimate outcome is probably can’t be changed from the vantage point where we current stand

Here is an interesting view of the middle way an, old folk tale sung by Steeleye Span, ‘Thomas The Rhymer’

Geoffrey51 Level 7 Nov 30, 2018
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I am always constructing comforting worldviews (slightly deviating from facts enough to create plausible deniability) in every day situations. Not just about the ultimate question. smile001.gif

KenChang Level 7 Nov 30, 2018
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I can mentally construct a worldview that it includes an afterlife in paradise, reincarnation, a combination of the two with ascending levels over multiple lifetimes, or one in which our consciousness merges with some universal force in eternal spiritual communion, but the only version that doesn't sound like some childish fairy tale is one in which we live one life and fade into oblivion.

I don't find the prospect of death to be so terrifying. Living everyday and eventually moving forward without the people I love is terrifying. Dying first and never having to grieve again seems damned idealistic.

JimG Level 8 Nov 30, 2018
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Yeah, growing old has it's drawbacks for sure. I experienced the death of spouse at age 20, and the death of my oldest l son when I was 43. This year i lost my dad. We had been estranged for many years, but I had hopes of seeing him again one day...so I am a half centurian, batttered and bruised, but still kicking...I often wish that I had died young..

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Warning, spiel ahead:

Life and reality ARE difficult which is why I stopped considering religious/spiritual people as "weak". It's cpmpletely understandable to adopt a world view in which there is some kind of eventual justice, and something to look forward to after enduring this world.The only reason I wish there was some kind of cosmic judgement is all the senseless tragedies.

I overdosed into a coma and essentially "died" back in 2016(I'm totally sober now), and being "dead"(or the closest you can get to it) was honestly the most peaceful experience I had. It's like being asleep without dreaming, just a blissful nothingness. It's why I no longer have much fear regarding death. I just want to leave something good before I go.

IamJacksEnnui Level 3 Nov 30, 2018
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Looks to me like you are wanting there to be "something else or something more" after we are dead. If we die then thats it. We will not know, so who cares, enjoy now, this is all you know and are aware of.

Jolanta Level 7 Nov 30, 2018
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No, I’m not wanting something else, but I know a lot of people do, and I can have compassion for that. I feel the same as you; this is it. May as well make the most of it.

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Choosing a world view, beliefs, opinions, etc. for the comfort they bring is idiotic to me. Why would one NOT want to align with reality? Facts? Truth? Keep searching. Keep learning. Life is not about numbing away the discomfort, smoothing all the edges, babyproofing the world around you so can't get bumped in the noggin. Confront reality. Embrace it.

Seeker3CO Level 7 Nov 30, 2018
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I'll take reality for 1000, Alex.

nvrnuff Level 8 Nov 30, 2018
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I have no interest in finding "comfort" regarding death.
We are born. We live for however long. We die.

I am fine with all that.

KKGator Level 9 Nov 30, 2018
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"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did, I said I didn't know" Mark Twain

Realist9 Level 5 Nov 30, 2018
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