Afterlife Aftermath

Video from Wednesday’s debate over “Death Is Not Final” is now up.

You’ll be happy to hear that the good guys “won.” In scare quotes because helping the world’s population understand that naturalism is the right way to view the universe is a long-term project that won’t be settled with a single debate. But Intelligence Squared does a fun thing where they ask people to vote before the debate starts, and then again afterward. We started out the night slightly behind in the polls, and by the time we were done we were slightly ahead. Mostly by peeling away the undecideds, as any savvy politician strives to do. [Update: oops, not right. See below.] So that counts as a victory — especially when the topic is one where many people (not all!) have fairly fixed opinions.

death-results

death-pies

It was a pleasure to have Steve Novella as a partner. The man knows his neuroscience, as well as his debating. He did a great job making the single most important point for an issue like this: the mind is the brain, full stop. It’s hard to hear the case he makes and hold on to any contrary view.

I was slightly disappointed in the folks on the other side. Eben Alexander basically relied on two things. One was his personal story of having a Near-Death Experience while in a coma. Anyone who accepts that people can experience dreams or hallucinations will not be overly persuaded by that alone. The other was to throw up ideas like “quantum mechanics” and “the hard problem of consciousness” in an obfuscatory way, to give people license to believe that science doesn’t understand everything. Which is true! Science doesn’t understand everything. Which doesn’t change the fact that no serious researcher in quantum mechanics or the hard problem thinks that those ideas provide an excuse for believing in life after death.

Ray Moody was a very pleasant gentleman, someone you’d be happy to have a beer with and talk philosophy. But he did almost nothing to defend the proposition. I was expecting him to broaden the evidence from Alexander’s own case to many others, but instead he spoke in generalities about science and philosophy and logic, concluding essentially that it’s “conceivable” that a realm exists where souls can persist after death. Indeed it is. Many things are conceivable.

At the end of my opening talk I said that the choice here basically comes down to two options we can believe:

  1. Everything we think we understand about the behavior of matter and energy is wrong, in a way that has somehow escaped notice in every experiment ever done in the history of science. Instead, there are unknown mechanisms allow information in the brain to survive in the form of a blob of spirit energy, which can then go start talking to other blobs of spirit energy, but only after death, except sometimes even before death.
  2. Physics is right. And people under stress sometimes have experiences that seem real but aren’t.

In the light of the evidence, the choice is pretty clear. We’ll get there, a couple of percentage points at a time.

Update: I was too hasty in presuming that most of our increase came from swaying undecided voters. Here are the actual data:

death-crosstabs

As you can see, the undecideds actually broke almost equally for the two sides. Our glorious victory actually came from a combination of factors, including persuading some of the “For” voters to switch.

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179 Responses to Afterlife Aftermath

  1. Robert says:

    There is no room for the absurd certainties of the militant atheists. (Where have they gone? Further training, I presume.)

    Roger Penrose (mathematician and author): “I would say the universe has a purpose. It’s not there just somehow by chance.”

    Paul Davies (British astrophysicist): “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all….It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe….The impression of design is overwhelming”. (4)

    Paul Davies: “The laws [of physics] … seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design… The universe must have a purpose”.

    Arno Penzias (Nobel prize in physics): “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”

    Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics): “When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics.” (16) Note: Tipler since has actually converted to Christianity, hence his latest book, The Physics of Christianity

    Peter Higgs (Nobel Prize in Physics): He said a lot of scientists in his field were religious believers. “I don’t happen to be one myself, but maybe that’s just more a matter of my family background than that there’s any fundamental difficulty about reconciling the two.”

  2. Daniel Shawen says:

    Penzias and Davies’ statements are just the ‘anthropic principle’, in all it’s glory:

    “If life were impossible, no one would know it.” –Captain Obvious

    Peter Woit of ‘Not Even Wrong’ rails against this idea as a principle of science because of, among other things, the way it is abused by string theorists to adjust their 20 or so ‘free parameters’ (read: ‘fudge factors’) to make their predictions work. This is not a principle of science.

  3. Robert says:

    I see that one of the militant atheists has returned from training, possibly after spraining an ankle while on manoeuvres. He/She doesn´t like my quotations from a lot of eminent scientists, or perhaps they´ve never heard of any of them? I don´t know whether these scientists in fact believe(d) in God, but what they said shows that they have/had their doubts. Just like me, really, only more exalted: “How on Earth can we account for the existence of the Universe, with all its weird inexplicable peculiarities?”

    (A famous believer was Max Planck. The militant response is: “Oh! He was well-known to be mad!” Just as with Newton: “Ha! He believed in alchemy!”, which actually does not seem quite so way-out now that we know that everything is made of the same things.)

  4. Robert says:

    Peter Higgs´comment that a lot of scientists in his field are religious believers is interesting, since we are frequently told that hardly any modern scientists are. (I think someone said that on this thread too). The “modern or living ” is supposed to imply that, of course, so much more is known now that it´s impossible to believe that the Universe was created. This is rubbish. It may have been Hawking who said that for every new discovery about the working of the Universe, another half dozen mysteries are thrown up. (I particularly like the “explanation” for action at a distance. That when two particles have been in contact at some time, they subsequently constitute a “system”. A bit like a grand-piano top, really. The two particles may now be light years apart, but they´re just like the grand-piano top – lift it and every single bit of it moves simultaneously.)

    So far as I know, even gravity has not actually been explained fully yet. Is it gravitons, which no-one´s actually found so far, or the bending of space-time? Or both. If it´s the bending of space-time, why should this make me fall towards the Earth´s centre if I step out of a hovering helicopter? (I think this one is probably my ignorance and, in fact how gravity works is fully understood. Or not.)

  5. Robert says:

    It´s nearly 1 am here, so my brain has become feverish, getting ready to make sure I can´t sleep. What I find interesting about some of the quotations I gave is that they´re essentially Paley´s watch argument. I´ve always thought it to be a pretty strong argument and the rebuttals never seem very convincing to me.

  6. Daniel Shawen says:

    @Robert;

    Welcome back!

    I have no issues at all with whatever reason(s) one does science (including strong faith in a supreme being), nor with any religious faith either. This does not always come through. My ankle’s fine. No maneuvers going either, other than right here.

    Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Mendel, dozens of other great scientists who were also believers — all win this case for you.

    But still, the ‘anthropic principle’ is less than useful. Occam’s razor, maybe, on a good day.

  7. Daniel Shawen says:

    I actually like the watchmaker argument (and Dawkin’s hates it). But he makes an OK case for stepwise evolution anyway. There are a few much better arguments than the watchmaker on the flip side, but I can’t recall them right now.

    But it’s a fact; genetics and chemistry trumped Darwin a very long time ago. We’ve sequenced hundreds of species already, and just identified a hidden code buried within the genetic code itself. This is fascinating stuff, no matter what you may believe. We are related to other life on Earth by our shared genetics. There really is no wiggle room for a deity creating us or any species living here out of thin air. Creation science is sheer fantasy.

    The Talmud is a record of rabbinical scholars who argued about the same book of Genesis for 1000 years before there was any religion called Christianity who translated through Greek and Roman languages before adopting it as their own and proclaiming it to be the unerring inspired word of G-d, right?

    Bacteria grown in the lab actually evolve (yes, evolve) to become resistant to antibiotics. Evolution just works. There is no debate about it in science.

    The Earth is over 4 billion years old. It’s a fact. Carbon and potassium-argon dating methods both work, and work well.

  8. Robert says:

    Daniel:

    Robert Jastrow: “At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    It´s strange that I´m a non-believer myself, yet on these threads I usually find my self sounding quite the opposite. I think this is because so many atheists seem to be totally unaware of the wonder and mystery of the Universe. They treat it as though its existence is no more surprising than the pound of sausages in my fridge and the “counter-intuitive” (ie apparently impossible) ways in which it works are no more arcane than the rules of cricket.

    J.B.S.Haldane had this to say: “I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”

    (It is, though, stretching it a bit to include Einstein in the Believers.)

  9. Daniel Shawen says:

    @Robert;

    Einstein definitely believed in G-d (you aren’t allowed even to say the word in our tradition, which eliminates one source of blasphemy).

    For some believers, it’s the things you DON’T believe in that defines your faith in G-d.

    G-d is not a human being, a religious leader, a sacred text, a graven image, or an idol.

    Einstein’s tradition and mine in particular is one that has all too often run afoul of the first commandment, which is by far the trickiest one. Neither did he (or I) worship at the altar of science, which is just as bad, and just as flawed as we are.

    Does that clear up what it is that I believe?

    You really ask the right questions. Thanks.

  10. Daniel Shawen says:

    We don’t worship at the altar of Karl Popper either, but he actually was on to something about falsifiability.

    For a finite mind, it is far easier to sort out what is false than what is the truth. This is simply because falsity if finite. The truth, however, is infinite. We can never have all of it, or even the biggest part of it.

  11. Robert says:

    Daniel: I think you said somewhere that you had changed religion? If it´s not the kind of question one shouldn´t ask – what are you now?

    Einstein´s beliefs are a bit of a mystery. Per Wiki, he did not believe in a “personal” god, which he said is a concept he could not take seriously. He also called himself an agnostic. I know some atheists can definitely come up with quotes, showing him to be an atheist. I think that probably his opinion changed from time to time and in the periods when he believed that maybe the Universe was created, he was thinking merely of just of a Creator, not the God of any Earthly religion.

    I expect he had the same difficulty that lots of people, including those like me with shrunken brains, have. Don´t believe in a Creator – idea is absurd. Yes, but…………just where did the Universe come from then? Part of the fascination is that there´s no reasonable answer, based purely on logic, that anyone can give and probably never will be. I agree with Jastrow´s comment, except that I think they finally scaled the highest peak, pulled themselves up and saw……..another still-higher range of mountains beyond.

  12. Daniel Shawen says:

    There are faithful, agnostic, and atheists in most religious faiths, and Einstein’s is no exception.

    It is his disposition toward science (one must have some sort of motivation) that convinces me he was no atheist.

    Being faithful to one’s religion for reasons of tradition and/or a higher sense of morality is no impediment to doing science for most people, and even for most faiths.

    Just watch out for that first commandment. It’s a real “gotcha” if you go OCD on your particular religion.

  13. Robert says:

    I was in the shower this morning. I´d just got rid of another elephant that had materialised suddenly – sent him to join the 76 other elephants I´ve got living in my flat – when I realised what I believe at least part of the truth is.

    1. Space has existed and will exist eternally. It is also spatially infinite.

    2. “Why does space exist”, ask the sceptics? “Why not”, I reply. “Why do you assume that the logical natural order is that there be no space? It´s easier to imagine that space exists than that it doesn´t.”

    3. It has nothing in it but swirling clouds of energy and universes, created out of the clouds of energy.

    4. Sometimes a patch of energy will condense into matter and thus is born a new universe.

    5. Our Universe occupies a miniscule patch of infinite space. It has no boundaries and could bump into another universe at any time.

    6. There isn´t an infinite number of universes, because they exist only for a finite time before turning back into energy.

    7. Our Universe will eventually disappear into a final puff of energy. All is not lost, however! A few billion years later, or maybe trillion, those puffs of energy that our Universe became will coalesce again with some other bits of energy floating about and they will form a new universe.

    8. The laws of physics did not suddenly and spontaneously appear – but they change in time. Sometimes they are propitious for a universe with life. Lucky us!

    I´ve still got a few minor details to work out, but I think the full explanation for the Universe and everything in it should be complete by Tuesday lunchtime. I´m not sure if the action at a distance would still work after the last proton in the Universe has turned back into energy – or even later, when the two particles, that once had a reaction, are now in different universes.

  14. Daniel Shawen says:

    @Robert;

    Those are some pretty nice and creative ideas about the universe and also about the afterlife. What I particularly like is there is no ‘carrot and stick’ afterlife, which is something which didn’t even exist until the New Testament.

    Those were dark times, by the way. Isaac Newton, for example, kept his heresy about the mistranslation of the Holy trinity (essentially changing Christianity into a polytheist culture like the Greeks from whom it was mistranslated) a guarded secret until after his demise, and also struggled with morality more than most. A man who had shaved the edges off of shillings to counterfeit new coin, and who also messed with Newton (Minister of the Royal Mint) by arranging the escape of several cohorts from the country, was eventually sentenced by Newton to be drawn and quartered, which is a particularly cruel means of execution actually banned by much earlier Christian society.

    I used to have ideas like yours, before studying physics. Weird thing is, a few of them turned out to be pretty close to big crunch ideas that were not mainstream until decades later.

  15. Tony says:

    The problem? How to imagine a God that is totally unlike anything we can imagine. If God was something we could imagine, He wouldn’t be much of a God. However if you would like to know a little of what He may be like, than try to imagine this, imagine Love unlike anything we have ever experienced, but as substance, as a solid like rock or metal or wood and think of it not as some weak feely thing, but as power itself, like a fusion bomb or exploding stars, or even the big bang, but far, far, more powerful, and I do mean absolute power itself. The little of it in this world is like living in the middle of the most arid desert imaginable and trying to imagine an ocean. How do I know? Most definitely not a near death experience. I try to come up with another name for it, but there is none known to man, because the word love to us seems so touchy feely or more weakness than strength, but it is what it is.

  16. Daniel Shawen says:

    @Tony, all

    Now pay attention, because Tony’s post is pivotal to a number of things on this thread, including the afterlife, a supreme being, our understanding of the universe, etc.

    The miracle of the neocortex

    Jeff Hawkins of Palm Pilot fame has written extensively about the neuron structure of the neocortex without actually understanding its function in the miracle we call the human mind.

    The original purpose was to wrap the amygdyla (reptilian brain) in neurons that were capable of modeling the behavior of other individuals we may encounter (to make us more social and behaviorally versatile than your typical reptile).

    This it did, by a complex interaction of the virtual model we construct of our loved ones and/or social group, with a chemical reward mechanism based on the action of endorphins. These chemicals explain many things about the way human beings function. Among them are the “runner’s high” (an obsession with physical activity associated with running), a disposition (like Tony) to experience a surge of endorphins when engaged in religious activity (sometimes referred to as ‘rapture’), and almost anything that you can, for any reason, make into your obsession, including a belief in a supreme being and/or an afterlife.

    A consummate engineer, like the late Howard Hughes as portrayed by Leo DiCaprio, might experience a rush of endorphins when a aircraft design for a smoother fuselage and airfoil results in a faster and more maneuverable craft. In short, it is your neocortex that allows you to model something physical, organizational, mathematica, or emotional (just falling in love), and to be much more successful at it than you would be if you only had the fight or flight reactions of your average reptile.

    The neocortex provides the emotional flexibility it takes to become obsessed about going to the moon, understanding math or physics. You name it; the neocortex and the obsession / chemical endorphins provide the basis for whatever it is you wish to spend your time and energy nurturing.

    The OCD I keep mentioning confuses most people because they don’t understand, this is a malady we all (and many mammals also) share. It’s our bid, in the cosmic scheme of things, to become as a single social organism capable of obsession with anything we need to in order to solve mutual or individual problems we may encounter. In this way, the neocortex provides the chemical basis for the highest standard of life yet achieved on this small planet.

    Should I be writing a book about this? There’s more.

  17. Robert says:

    In the event that a Creator of the Universe exists, it´s highly unlikely the he/she/it would look anything like a human being. Probably, he/.. would not have a physical body at all, but be a conscious force which decided for some unknown reason to create a universe. Why should we worship a disembodied force? Why would such a force expect or want us to go along to a funny building periodically to worship and indulge in other strange rituals, presided over by unusually-dressed men, who declaim odd things that they have learned from their predecessors ? The Force would also be a bit puzzled by there being a plethora of different religions dedicated to worshiping it, each believing it´s the true one and each with its very own rituals.

    If the Force has arranged an after-life for us, what conceivable purpose could this have? Commune with the Force – for ever, many trillions multiplied by itself a trillion times years – what ultimate purpose could this possibly have? There are also the difficulties I raised in a previous contribution as to what we would do with ourselves in this Heaven. If we are fully conscious thinking entities, then I think boredom might set in quite soon. By the second day, say. But there really cannot be any purpose, can there, in an after-life? Not really.

    It´s hard not to note that, on Earth, even those who are apparently very strong believers in a All-Good Creator and an after-life don´t seem any more enthusiastic to die than the rest of us.

  18. Daniel Shawen says:

    @Robert

    Yes, this is a concept (the afterlife as a place for what was once / or potentially could be life) to commune and decide what to do next.

    Mind you, I did not mean to say that neocortical activity of any sort is an abnormal function (mostly, it isn’t). However, obsessions (even obsessions about an afterlife) can be. In other words, life after death experiences in the neocortex could scientifically and even spiritually be the greatest thing you ever experience. All of us will experience this at least once for certain. An obsession with trying it too early would be unhealthy.

    Life tries everything. It could be that we ourselves are only the beginning of what is, or will become the mind of G-d, whatever that means.

    I’m all out for this discussion; don’t want it to get too far off topic. See you all in the next thread, maybe. Take care.

  19. allan J says:

    @robert You show moments of lucidity. Accept the world as we find it. If a cosmic deity exists he has no interest in us and never interacts with us. There’s a rather inspiring piece from a creationist who saw the light. He had argued for years on behalf of the christian god as described in the bible. Then he read about the discovery of a feathered dinosaur and his worldview collapsed. His article hints at how majestic the ‘non god’ world is. Much better than the childish idea of a world created by a tinkering magician.

    “On that day, however, I began to look at the world in a new light.”
    “This is it…” I spoke to myself softly, “Welcome to the real world.”

    Here is the link http://genesispanthesis.tripod.com/inspiration.html

  20. Robert says:

    Allan J: You´d better send the same message to Planck, Newton, Einstein, Paul Davies, Penrose, Penzias and a whole lot of other scientists, past and present. I don´t suppose any of them believe(d) in a god of religion – but just in the possibility of a Creator. Maybe, a “creative force”. Totally ridiculous, I agree, but then all the alternatives seem equally ridiculous. That´s why atheists are always happy to argue the absurdities of belief in a deity – but usually refuse to discuss an alternative.

    We´re not going to progress anywhere on this thread from the stalemate we reached a while ago. Round and round in circles, with the same question hovering unanswered in the background – “Okay then – you believe the Universe created itself? How do you suppose it managed this?” But the atheists won´t answer this. They can´t.

  21. Daniel Shawen says:

    More on Karl Popper and falsifiability:

    From: http://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Falsifiability.html

    “A falsifiable theory that has withstood severe scientific testing is said to be corroborated by past experience, though in Popper’s view this is not equivalent with confirmation and does not guarantee that the theory is true or even partially true.”

    In other words, Popper’s philosophy is of no used to convince people who are, for whatever reason, opposed to any scientific theory, no matter how much evidence there is in favor of it. Scientists need to know this, particularly one like Sean who seems disposed to debate people who hold Karl Popper’s falsifiability ideas in higher regard than they probably should. For Popper, truth has no real meaning. Please forget what I said previously about it. This is far worse than the antropic principle, and should be not be taught as any part of the philosophy of science. What say you?

  22. Alan says:

    I have to say the “against the motion” fellows, Carroll/Novella still have not answered in any way the phenomenal/veridical aspects of these experiences, as detailed by Ray Moody in his presentation. Science is “phenomena-led” and one could compare, in a sense, the situation with these NDE studies with Democritus and atoms. It took a long time to get *content*, both theoretical and experimental, into atoms but eventually science got there. Interestingly, the subject is now being studied at the academic level by medical teams and there are related studies in anthropology so one would guess it would not take the same amount of time as for atoms to get a level of theoretical/experimental content into this subject.
    What I liked about the debate was that, really, massive questions remained unanswered, and this was quite plain to see, and that this will stimulate more research into afterlife studies.

  23. allan J says:

    Bill Maher summed up Alexander’s experiences:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hcu8o1SBA4k

    “I was a speck on a beautiful butterfly wing.
    Millions of other butterflies around us.
    We were flying through blooming flowers.
    Newspaper taxis appeared on the shore…
    Rocking horse people were eating marshmallow pies..
    The girl had kaleidoscope eyes”

    Lines 1-3 are from Alexander. Lines 4-6 are from an old Liverpool folk song

  24. Daniel Shawen says:

    Only Popper would had the audacity to provide a “demarcation” model to sort out science from pseudoscience, itself modeled after Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, (survival of the fittest theory) AND THEN claim that parts of the Theory of Evolution isn’t scientific because it isn’t falsifiable (doesn’t make predictions that can affirm or falsify it).

    The TOE is falsifiable, DOES make predictions that affirm it, unless you misapply it, that is (a real problem for falsifiability).

    The whole apparatus of falsifiability is flawed. Popper’s demarcation ideas are not falsifiable either, and is a poor substitute for science, or a even philosophy of science.

    I watched all of Popper’s interviews with that Oxford professor. This passes for a critical philosophical interview at Oxford?

    No wonder so many people believe in superstition rather than science, and feel justified in doing so by the half-baked ideas Popper pedaled.

    Popper’s ideas about falsification as the basis of science are deserving of the most prominent status in the taxonomy of willful ignorance.

  25. Daniel Shawen says:

    Afterlife Resurrection

    OK, nobody gets it. Let me see if I can bring this back inline with the topic of the original thread. It is a little thick, intellectually. But if you wish to know why they teach creationism in Kansas, and also that so many people here and elsewhere believe so strongly in an afterlife, you have to know this, particularly if you are a scientist.

    The genius of Karl Popper’s “philosophy of science” is that he has co-opted Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection into a paradigm that tries to demarcate science from pseudoscience using exactly the same idea applied to the scientific method.

    The scientific method isn’t Darwinism, at least not entirely. Let me point out how science works without induction (it was Popper’s express purpose to remove induction from ideas about how science works). Without induction, you can’t use any scientific instruments you may have crafted using known science, in order to make observations, hypothesis, or anything else. In natural selection, nature tries EVERYTHING to solve problems.

    Any scientist that would be foolhardy to try Popper’s take on the way the scientific method works would perform “scientific” experiments that:

    1) cost an awful lot of money
    2) make no progress, because you can’t use any previous science– that’s induction
    3) allow religions, cults, astrologers, and others not qualified to attempt contributions to science

    The LHC would need to be scrapped, because it is an instrument on which we have already discovered new science. The whole idea of the Higgs boson and the data collected, like the Copernican theory of an earlier millennia would simply sit on the shelf and collect dust. No one could build on what had already been discovered about it. Theorists could continue playing with string indefinitely.

    It’s bad enough that the scientific method, most of the time, is simply glorified trial and error anyway. If you take away induction, like Popper did, science and the scientific method dies on the vine. Ignorance and superstition flourish once more. Is this what any scientist in their right mind would want?

    Perhaps when we die, our neocortex gets a rush of endorphins so great that it doesn’t matter much whether we have studied science all our lives, or wallowed in ignorance the way humanity has done for most of its brief existence on this small planet.

    As for myself, I’d rather research brain chemistry using the scientific method until the effects of rapture can be simulated as many times as possible in our short lifetimes, with virtually no other ill effects, other than sacrificing the ignorance so many people seem attached to here. I think that any supreme being would support me on this idea.

  26. SMK says:

    “Mind is the brain.” But also the body. Consciousness and “mind” are an effect of having a brain in a body with senses, of which sight and hearing (or touch if one is deaf and blind like Helen Keller) are imperative. In what sense would one be conscious, much less have a mind, if a brain could exist outside the body and never existed in a body with senses?

  27. Dan says:

    The debate reminded me why I have such a tough time with the “many-worlds” interpretation: Having fewer equations is, I suppose, aesthetically appealing, but wouldn’t that view entail that there is an alternate history branch in which you (or I) live “forever”? Or, where you (or I) endure to the heat death of the universe? In other words, as I understand it, non-zero probabilities, however infinitesimal, would be represented on some branch of alternate history. Don’t much care for the idea of immortality. I hope someone can explain to me how that’s somehow phase-cancelled away in all possible worlds. Otherwise, I’m going to be very upset on behalf of the “me” in the branch of the multiverse who has to endure another 5 billion years of consciousness.

  28. Dan says:

    A little googling and apparently my flip comments were, in fact, Everett’s view: “Atheist or not, Everett firmly believed that his many-worlds theory guaranteed him immortality: His consciousness, he argued, is bound at each branching to follow whatever path does not lead to death —and so on ad infinitum.”

    Again, I understand the appeal of MWI: whee! less equations!! respect the wavefunction! But, if it leads here, I suspect this shit is just silly.

  29. allan J says:

    See also ‘Quantum Russian Roulette’.