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scientifically speaking: there is an afterlife
Posted: 09 August 2008 11:47 PM   [ Ignore ]
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<700 words

August 7th, KSUT’s broadcast of NPR’s “All Things Considered” carried a story: “Camp Offers Training Ground for Little Skeptics” concerning Camp Inquiry which has a secular humanist focus with God taking a back seat to reason.  The story quoted a youngster: “It seems kind of like the Big Bang that created the universe was an accident, it was a beautiful mistake or something.”  The reporter finished by asking:  “But what about the afterlife?  Are these kids comfortable with the idea that when people die, that’s it?” The story ends with a child admitting: “I’m terrified of not existing.” 
This sort of talk is an excellent example of our inability to see the forest for the trees.  The Atheist’s absolutism, doesn’t make anymore sense than the Creationist’s vision of “God” on his throne, passing judgement upon all and reigning over his heaven filled with billions of souls worshipping endlessly. There’s much more to God & creation than these dogmas.

Being a reason oriented seeker after the mysteries of ourselves, the world, its origins & what it all means, one is struck with moments of staggering insights leading to spiritual overtones and implications as rapturous as any church can offer up.

Consider the majestic flow of time: immediately after the “big bang” sub-atomic particles coalesce into particles, then atoms, then into masses that became stars and supernovas that spawned complex atoms, then molecules, followed by molecular chains, then molecular spheres.  Then, on to replication that evolved into reproduction, with the establishment of the incredible DNA structure with its singular four letter alphabet.  In a poetic sense these minute structures followed the same sort of development that their atomic ancestors and building blocks did before them.  Then, evolution’s (or God’s) crescendo with the fantastic dance of exchanging genetic material.



The symphony continued with the first nerve threads, followed by brain bundles that coupled to sensing and mobility organs.  Followed by manipulatory development - that is, refined movement and grasping abilities, along with the sensing & thinking needed to make it work.  Reflect on the fantastic proliferation, resilience and ingenuity of life these past billion some years.  Our Solar System and Earth’s story is likewise one of an emptiness developing into a staggeringly complex and magnificent foundation for life’s pageant to unfold in.  When considering this pageant I feel the deepest awe along with a visceral connection to the flow of eternity and God’s Spirit.

Where does all that leave our afterlife?  Look around at our world - everything is connected to everything else, not just across the Earth, but through the billions of days that have preceded this one.  Our heritage goes back through an infinity of generations and stretches out ahead of us.  Today is your moment to participate in that pageant, to add the fruits of your particular life to the flow of creation.  This isn’t just poetry, it is a physical fact, the Biosphere and even humanity really are stupendous recycling systems.  Yet, too few stop and take notice. 

I feel secure knowing I exist on the knife edge of an infinity going in both directions; being a product of all that came before and in the end adding the echo of my existence, my soul, to all that comes after I depart this Earth.  Alright, maybe it is a small echo, yet it fills me with a sense of glorious belonging to God and creation infinity more solid than anything I’ve heard from those mesmerizing, pick-pocketing, double talking televangelists.

It’s actually sadly funny: we humans haven’t even figured out how to get along with our neighbors or rein in our suicidal greed impulse, but are still presumptuous enough to claim we “know” God…. get real.  None of us know.  God is too big for our petty human minds to grasp. 

Isn’t it time we stop obsessing about our varied self-serving interpretations of “the true God” and start focusing on understanding God’s fantastic creation, our part in it and how best to nurture it for those generations of life yet to come?

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Posted: 10 August 2008 06:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I don’t feel that way. Ok?

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Posted: 10 August 2008 06:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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citizenschallenge - 09 August 2008 11:47 PM

It’s actually sadly funny: we humans haven’t even figured out how to get along with our neighbors or rein in our suicidal greed impulse, but are still presumptuous enough to claim we “know” God…. get real.  None of us know.  God is too big for our petty human minds to grasp.

Scientifically speaking, something that cannot be known, whose measure cannot be grasped, is irrelevant.

PC

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Posted: 10 August 2008 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Agreed. An unknowable God is an irrelevant God. It’s also not an omniscient, nor an omnipotent nor a perfectly good God, since if he were, to that extent he would be knowable.

Negative theology is a dead end road.

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Posted: 10 August 2008 11:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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citizenschallenge - 09 August 2008 11:47 PM

Isn’t it time we stop obsessing about our varied self-serving interpretations of “the true God” and start focusing on understanding God’s fantastic creation, our part in it and how best to nurture it for those generations of life yet to come?

Except of course that god is our fantastic creation - literally.

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Posted: 10 August 2008 06:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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traveler - 10 August 2008 06:53 AM

I don’t feel that way. Ok?

OK - you’ve convinced me—

I agree with Occam shorter posts have more impact.

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Posted: 10 August 2008 06:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Jackson - 10 August 2008 06:43 PM
traveler - 10 August 2008 06:53 AM

I don’t feel that way. Ok?

OK - you’ve convinced me—

I agree with Occam shorter posts have more impact.

I also agree with his refusal to read the original (<700 grrr word ) post.

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Posted: 10 August 2008 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I stopped at the end of the first paragraph so I’ll respond to that.

The story ends with a child admitting: “I’m terrified of not existing.”

I think this is a chicken thing to ask a child.  They haven’t had time or experience to think through, recognize, and accept the fact that we are all temporary phenomena.  By the time we are in our 70s or 80s the concept of an end to our existence doesn’t bother most of us very much. 

Occam

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Posted: 11 August 2008 03:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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citizenschallenge - 09 August 2008 11:47 PM

This sort of talk is an excellent example of our inability to see the forest for the trees.  The Atheist’s absolutism, doesn’t make anymore sense than the Creationist’s vision of “God” on his throne, passing judgement upon all and reigning over his heaven filled with billions of souls worshipping endlessly. There’s much more to God & creation than these dogmas.

I like the 1-paragraph critique idea - here is paragraph 2.

I don’t agree with the summary dismissal of atheism with no rationale except it doesn’t “feel” right to the author.  I think this is one of those 50 reasons people believe in God.

He might be thinking of an Einsteinian God as described in Dawkin’s God Delusion - hard to tell from this paragraph.

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Posted: 11 August 2008 05:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Einstein’s God is the very opposite of citizenschallenge‘s.  Einstein’s was nature itself.  And it is knowable through rational investigation (also known as science).  citizenschallenge claims his God is too large for us to grasp.  Actually, he relegates it to the most obscure, shrinking, unknowable gaps.

PC

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Posted: 11 August 2008 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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citizenschallenge, your acceptance of science and rationality (at least from a practical standpoint) is commendable.  It takes courage to use your head in the face of mounting religious idiocy.  However, there are a number of points I’d like to make.

1) Atheism is by no means an absolutist claim.  It is simply a demotion of the possibility of God to the same level as other irrational appeals to the unknown.  However, I assure you if the proof presented itself an atheist’s views would be among the first to shift.

citizenschallenge - 09 August 2008 11:47 PM

The story ends with a child admitting: “I’m terrified of not existing.”

2) I agree with Occam.  Children are also terrified of the dark and the boogeyman, but there is no reason to believe these fears are justified.  Basing any kind of universal interpretation off of this is neither rational nor scientific.  For example, many adults fear death, which is the one event in our lives that we can be sure will happen.

citizenschallenge - 09 August 2008 11:47 PM

Being a reason oriented seeker after the mysteries of ourselves, the world, its origins & what it all means, one is struck with moments of staggering insights leading to spiritual overtones and implications as rapturous as any church can offer up.

3) I feel the same way, but I don’t need to have a God at the beginning or end of the line to do so.

citizenschallenge - 09 August 2008 11:47 PM

...the Biosphere and even humanity really are stupendous recycling systems.

4) So the afterlife you’re talking about is the non-destruction of the physical matter that make up our bodies?  I think most people feel that an afterlife contains a preservation of conciousness, which isn’t what you are describing.  On this, science is mute.

citizenschallenge - 09 August 2008 11:47 PM

God is too big for our petty human minds to grasp.

5) Yet, you seem to know a lot about him.  According to you God created the universe, has a spirit that you can connect with, doesn’t answer prayers or play any of the games other religious folk would claim, is unknowable, and most importantly exists.  How can you know any of these things?  PC is correct.  You’ve just taken all the contradictions out of our picture of God and left a being which you can somehow selectively justify knowing but which will also, by definition, exist beyond our explanations.  The problem is that the only thing that can exist beyond the known is the unknown.  Your god is merely a synonym of ‘unknown’, but to call this God is disingenuous.  Even if the god you describe exists, your description bares no resemblance to the god or gods of any of our “varied self-serving interpretations of ‘the true God’,” aka religions.  An atheist is someone who recognizes these interpretations as irrational and understands that after this, any appeal to God is merely an appeal to the unknown.

[ Edited: 11 August 2008 03:44 PM by Chocotacoi8 ]
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Posted: 11 August 2008 12:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Oh, I missed the title of this thread the first time around.  It’s a beautiful example of an oxymoron.  The first three words ABSOLUTELY DO NOT[/B] give any evidence of an afterlife.  Anyone who thinks this is “scientifically speaking” is apparently incapable of scientifically-thinking, at least at this time.

Occam

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Posted: 11 August 2008 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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the PC apeman - 11 August 2008 05:48 AM

Einstein’s God is the very opposite of citizenschallenge‘s.  Einstein’s was nature itself.  And it is knowable through rational investigation (also known as science).  citizenschallenge claims his God is too large for us to grasp.  Actually, he relegates it to the most obscure, shrinking, unknowable gaps.

PC

yeah okay, I agree with you….

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Posted: 11 August 2008 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Occam - 11 August 2008 12:36 PM

Oh, I missed the title of this thread the first time around.  It’s a beautiful example of an oxymoron.  The first three words ABSOLUTELY DO NOT give any evidence of an afterlife.  Anyone who thinks this is “scientifically speaking” is apparently incapable of scientifically-thinking, at least at this time.

Occam

Actually, you are wrong. Your afterlife consists of providing nourishment to a large variety of molds, bacteria, viruses and insects, and animals if you die undiscovered. Or, if you choose cremation, you provide carbon and water to the atmosphere. So scientifically speaking there is an afterlife - just not in My Pretty Pony’s magic land.

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Posted: 11 August 2008 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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A Voice of Sanity - 11 August 2008 03:16 PM
Occam - 11 August 2008 12:36 PM

Oh, I missed the title of this thread the first time around.  It’s a beautiful example of an oxymoron.  The first three words ABSOLUTELY DO NOT give any evidence of an afterlife.  Anyone who thinks this is “scientifically speaking” is apparently incapable of scientifically-thinking, at least at this time.

Occam

Actually, you are wrong. Your afterlife consists of providing nourishment to a large variety of molds, bacteria, viruses and insects, and animals if you die undiscovered. Or, if you choose cremation, you provide carbon and water to the atmosphere. So scientifically speaking there is an afterlife - just not in My Pretty Pony’s magic land.

I am in touch with my previous lives! wink  Molecules are recycled over and over into living things(or not). Every part of me could have been a part of another living thing! I see Kings, Queens and Bigfoot in my past lives. Well, actually, just as probably a rat, cow, dog or hobo or a weed, or bacterium of some sort.

Kids are afraid of a lot of things they don’t understand. I remember being afraid of a hole burned into the back seat of my parents car. We would hold onto each other (no seat belts) to avoid that hole! I can’t for the life of me figure out why we were afraid of it. My son was afraid of clowns as a child. He was also afraid to check the front door to see if it was locked before bedtime! (if it was not locked, someone might open it and scare him). Go figure. If you are going to harp on the fact that kids are afraid of death, add in all of the other thinks they are know to fear!

[ Edited: 11 August 2008 06:07 PM by asanta ]
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Posted: 11 August 2008 04:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Life will not exist forever at least not in our universe.

The 2nd law of thermodynamics says entropy (disorder) will always increase, life is an ordered system.

The 3rd law states that heat will always decrease.

So the future is cold, dark, chaotic, and devoid of life.

It didn’t bother you “not existing” before you were born, and it won’t bother you “not existing” after you’re dead. Further more I don’t care what happens in the universe after I have died. The only thing that is important is enjoying your life now and not being overly sentimental because all your possessions, friends, and family will also stop existing someday too. I think kids have problems with death because life seems static when you are young and it’s hard to imagine everything you love going away.

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