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David Lucifer
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Re:Souls
« Reply #15 on: 2003-04-07 10:40:43 »
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Quote from: boygoboom on 2003-04-06 12:22:31   
I am, more or less, agnostic about everything, in that I admit that there is insufficient data necessary to either confirm or deny most theological and mythical constructs, be it God or yeti. But like I said, being of an extremely scientific and therefore naturally skeptic mindset, I am compelled to take into account any evidence for or against a particular idea, and any evidence supporting its opposing ideas, then I approximate the probability of its truthfulness. There is no evidence supporting the existence of werewolves (or Mother Goose, for that matter), which is compounded by the fact that there is no evidence supporting the existence of any supernatural creature (at least no credible evidence), therefore there is a slim-to-none probability that they exist.

Truth is merely the approximation of probabilities. Incidently, this is very similar to Wave Function Theory.


How would you list werewolves, Mother Goose and the xtian god in order from least probable to most probable? For purposes of this exercise assume that the xtian god is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly benevolent.
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Re:Souls
« Reply #16 on: 2003-04-08 20:20:10 »
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Quote from: David Lucifer on 2003-04-07 10:35:32   

Most people that use the word would say a soul is that part of a human that exists before birth and after death. Those that believe in reincarnation would say that one soul could be part of two completely different humans or even part of one or more animals. Does that still agree with the way you defined it?

Yes, in an exact sense.  If some part of us persists after death in order to partake in virtual dancing upon clouds or to be reinserted into a new human or animal form (perhaps with some memory cables unplugged) then what else could it be but the information that uniquely describes us as individuals?

Most people seem to have the fuzzy idea that this information is encoded in some kind of energy field or other semi-physical form, but the key is that it is the essence of you.  If it enters another body, we would expect that body to suddenly have your personality and your memories.  We might expect to be able to animate it in other was, such as to give it the experience of an immortal Heaven -- or Cyberspace :-)

This is one way of contemplating reincarnation that does not look completely stupid, since there is no law of conservation of information.  I do not believe that such a structure would naturally be extracted from and reinserted in brains that are realized at a molecular level, but if the universe is actually encoded at a higher level of abstraction then such data structures might be unexpectedly portable.

For example, the metaphysical practice of invoking and evoking spirits could represent the spawning of a temporary copy of the a soul.  So when you consult your dead ancestors (or even your living teacher or your invisible friend) you are consulting an actual personality.  That is certainly what the experience of divination feels like anyway.  Since information can be copied there is no need for your invocation of Alan Turing to rule out my own, nor any restriction from someone like him or Philip K. Dick being reincarnated multiple times or at many different times.

In such a universe, that file would have all the qualities of what we call a "soul."  Of course there would be other major ramifications too...
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Re:Souls
« Reply #17 on: 2003-04-08 22:11:32 »
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Re:Souls
« Reply #18 on: 2003-04-09 12:12:37 »
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Quote from: localroger on 2003-04-08 20:20:10   

Most people seem to have the fuzzy idea that this information is encoded in some kind of energy field or other semi-physical form, but the key is that it is the essence of you.  If it enters another body, we would expect that body to suddenly have your personality and your memories. 

I agree that is what you would expect using your definition of soul, but that is exactly where we run into problems with the common definition. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't most people who believe in reincarnation say that two people living at different times with very different personalities and no common memories can have the same soul?
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Re:Souls
« Reply #19 on: 2003-04-09 12:24:53 »
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Quote from: boygoboom on 2003-04-08 22:11:32   

I more-or-less find all three ideas to be ridiculously infinitesimal possibilities. Though I agree with the standard Atheist argument, that to be omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly benevolent, all at the same time is paradoxical, which I suppose would make the existence of God to be the least likely. As for Mother Goose, well she was never claimed to had existed (other than being modelled after an actual woman), so there's no point to considering her. Now werewolves (to play devil's advocate), besides their scientific improbability (impossibility even)... who knows? It sounds absurd, but we would have said the same thing about the radiowave or the sonic tooth brush a thousand years ago. Who knows what forces may be out there that we just haven't invented the sensors to detect yet. New species are discovered every year, though mostly of the bug variety. Of course, there's absolutely no credible evidence supporting the existence of werewolves in the entire history of mankind, so to believe in them would be moronic. I would suppose I'm more a skeptic than an agnostic.

I agree with you entirely on the order you presented them. Things that are by definition logically inconsistent are effectively impossible, so we can assume they don't exist without having to look everywhere first. Mother Goose may be logically consistent, but as a cartoon she is physically impossible. Finally the werewolves are not physically impossible, it is just possible to imagine a humanoid tranforming into a nasty canine in the same way that a caterpillar metamophoses into a butterfly. It seems unlikely for mammals to do so, but maybe on another planet with things that resemble mammals superficially. Who knows? Unlikely but certainly not impossible.

I think agnostic means pretty much the same thing as skeptical, you believe things are true only so far as the evidence and your intellect suggests, no more and no less. For that reason I consider myself both an atheist and an agnostic. Atheism is a position on the existence of gods while agnosticism is more of an epistemological position on truth in general. I don't believe the xtian god exists because it in internally logically inconsistent. If you define god as being equivalent to the universe, as some do, then I do believe in that god. For most definitions I  have come across the likelihood of their existence falls somewhere between Mother Goose and werewolves.
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Re:Souls
« Reply #20 on: 2003-04-09 19:47:58 »
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Quote from: David Lucifer on 2003-04-09 12:12:37   

I agree that is what you would expect using your definition of soul, but that is exactly where we run into problems with the common definition. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't most people who believe in reincarnation say that two people living at different times with very different personalities and no common memories can have the same soul?
Yes, that's what would happen if a soul were recycled for an indefinite period.  Your soul would end up being much older than "you."  I believe that even living brains have a mechanism for discarding unused memories (or sometimes used memories :-( ) and, if all goes well, providing new nodes for new memories to form around.  (Let's hope so if we're going to have workable life extension.)  If that's the case then each lifetime on Earth might end up making a relatively small effect on the overall being that re-emerges after death.
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Re:Souls
« Reply #21 on: 2003-04-09 22:13:50 »
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Re:Souls
« Reply #22 on: 2003-04-12 05:02:17 »
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[boygoboom] Just because a poet or playwright talks about the soul, and lends their own descriptions, doesn't mean that's what it is.

[Hermit] Sigh. Just because the religious use "soul" one way, does not preclude the perfectly valid use of it in others... It seems to me that allowing the religious to define what words you use and what you mean by them, e.g. an "atheist" is somebody who "believes" there are no gods, or a "soul" outlasts the body, gives the religious altogether to much significance. Particularly when, at least in these cases, many perfectly respectable sources define them differently, and the etymology indicates that the original usage predates the current religious orientations which are being extolled here.

[Hermit] Have some fun instead and possibly discover that your scruples are not new...


Source: Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life"

[Ingmar Mergman now takes over the direction of the film and re-invokes one of his greatest triumphs on a low budget. Bare windswept trees starkly silhouetted against the... oh you know. Lots of good sound effects, too: howling wind, howling dogs, howling sabre-toothed field mice. Suddenly we see the Grim Reaper. He is hooded, in a black cloak with a sackcloth jock-strap, and bearing... a scythe.]

[He materializes outside a lowly cottage and strikes the door with his scythe. Geoffrey, who is Marketing Director of Uro-Pacific Ltd, opens the door. From inside the house comes the sound of a dinner party.]

Geoffrey: Yes?

          [Pause. The Reaper breathes death-rattlingly.]

      Is it about the hedge?

          [More breathing.]

      Look, I'm awfully sorry but...

Grim Reaper: I am the Grim Reaper.

Geoffrey: I am Death.

Geoffrey: Yes well, the thing is, we've got some people from
    America for dinner tonight...

          [Geoffrey's wife, Angela is coming to see who is at the
          door. She calls:]

Angela: Who is it, darling?

Geoffrey: It's a Mr Death or something... he's come about the
    reaping... [To Reaper.] I don't think we need any at the
    moment.

Angela: [appearing] Hallo. Well don't leave him hanging around
    outside darling, ask him in.

Geoffrey: Darling, I don't think it's quite the moment...

Angela: Do come in, come along in, come and have a drink, do. Come
    on...

          [She returns to her guests.]

    It's one of the little men from the village... Do come in,
    please. This is Howard Katzenberg from Philadelphia...

Katzenberg: Hi.

Angela: And his wife, Debbie.

Debbie: Hallo there.

Angela: And these are the Portland-Smythes, Jeremy and Fiona.

Fiona: Good evening.

Angela: This is Mr Death.

          [There is a slightly awkward pause.]

    Well do get Mr Death a drink, darling.

          [The Grim Reaper looks a little startled.]

Angela: Mr Death is a reaper.

Grim Reaper: The Grim Reaper.

Angela: Hardly surprising in this weather, ha ha ha...

Katzenberg: So you still reap around here do you, Mr Death?

Grim Reaper: I am the Grim Reaper.

Geoffrey: [sotto voce] That's about all he says... [Loudly] There's
    your drink, Mr Death.

Angela: Do sit down.

Debbie: We were just talking about some of the awful problems
    facing the -

          [The Grim Reaper knocks the glass off the table. Startled
          silence.]

Angela: Would you prefer white? I'm afraid we don't have any beer.

Jeremy: The Stilton's awfully good.

Grim Reaper: I am not of this world.

          [He walks into the middle of the table. There is a sharp
          intake of breath all round.]

Geoffrey: Good Lord!

          [The penny is beginning to drop.]

Grim Reaper: I am Death.

Debbie: [nervously] Well isn't that extraordinary? We were just
    talking about death only five minutes ago.

Angela: [even more nervously] Yes we were. You know, whether death
    is really... the end...

Debbie: As my husband, Howard here, feels... or whether there is...
    and one so hates to use words like 'soul' or 'spirit'...

Jeremy: But what *other* words can one use...

Geoffrey: Exactly...


Grim Reaper: You do not understand.

Debbie: Ah no... obviously not...

Katzenberg: Let me tell you something, Mr Death...

Grim Reaper: You do not understand!

Katzenberg: Just one moment. I would like to express on behalf of
    everyone here, what a really unique experience this is...

Jeremy: Hear hear.

Angela: Yes, we're *so* delighted that you dropped in, Mr Death...

Katzenberg: Can I finish please...

Debbie: Mr Death... is there an after-life?

Katzenberg: Dear, if you could just wait please a moment...

Angela: Are you sure you wouldn't like some sherry?

Katzenberg: Angela, I'd like just to say at this time...

Grim Reaper: Be quiet!

Katzenberg: Can I just say this at this time, please...

Grim Reaper: Silence!!! I have come for you.

          [Pause as this sinks in. Sidelong glance. A stifled
          fart.]

Angela: ... You mean to...

Grim Reaper: ... Take you away. That is my purpose. I am Death.

Geoffrey: Well that's cast rather a gloom over the evening hasn't
    it?

Katzenberg: I don't see it that way, Geoff. Let me tell you what I
    think we're dealing with here, a potentially positive learning
    experience...

Grim Reaper: Shut up! Shut up you American. You always talk, you
    Americans, you talk and you talk and say 'Let me tell you
    something' and 'I just wanna say this', Well you're dead now,
    so shut up.

Katzenberg: Dead?

Grim Reaper: Dead.

Angela: All of us??

Grim Reaper: All of you.

Geoffrey: Now look here. You barge in here, quite uninvited, break
    glasses and then announce quite casually that we're all dead.
    Well I would remind you that you are a guest in this house
    and...

          [The Grim Reaper pokes him in the eye.]

Grim Reaper: Be quiet! You Englishmen... You're all so fucking
    pompous and none of you have got any balls.

Debbie: Can I ask you a question?

Grim Reaper: What?

Debbie: ... How can we all have died at the *same* time?

Grim Reaper: [pointing] The salmon mousse! [They all goggle.]

Geoffrey: [to Angela] Darling, you didn't use tinned salmon did
    you?

Angela: [unbelievably embarrassed] I'm most dreadfully
    embarrassed...

Grim Reaper: Now, the time has come. Follow... follow me...

          [Geoffrey suddenly runs forward with a revolver. He
          looses four shots at the Grim Reaper from about three
          feet. They pass through him. Pause. Everyone is rather
          embarrassed.]

Geoffrey: Sorry... Just... testing... Sorry... [He sits.]

Grim Reaper: Come! [Out of their bodies, spirit forms arise and
    follow the Grim Reaper.]

Angela: The fishmonger promised me he'd have some fresh salmon and
    he's normally *so* reliable...

Jeremy: Can we bring our glasses?

Fiona: Good idea.

Debbie: Hey I didn't even eat the mousse... [They follow the Grim
    Reaper out of the house.]

Angela: Honestly, darling, I'm so embarrassed... I mean to serve
    salmon with botulism at a dinner party is social death...

Jeremy: Shall we take our cars?

Geoffrey: Why not?

          [Slightly to the Grim Reaper's surprise, they follow him
          up to heaven in a Porsche, a Jensen and a Volvo.]

Grim Reaper: Behold... Paradise!

          [Heaven bears a striking resemblance to a Holiday Inn.]
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Re:Souls
« Reply #23 on: 2003-04-12 06:12:57 »
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[boygoboom] I more-or-less find all three ideas to be ridiculously infinitesimal possibilities. Though I agree with the standard Atheist argument, that to be omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly benevolent, all at the same time is paradoxical, which I suppose would make the existence of God to be the least likely.

[Hermit] The problems with omnipotence and omniscience (like that with most of the omnis) is more serious than the problem of mutual exclusion. The very postulation of any of them can be shown to  contradict well supported knowledge of the Universe and to imply other things about the nature of the holders of such attributes which even their proposers might find disconcerting, e.g. an omniscient being could not have free-will without creating a paradoxical loop. Thus omniscience implies an inability to think to effect. Ah well, it seems that the gods have an awful lot in common with their followers.

[Hermit] I refer you to [ Hermit, "Off topic - RE: virus: Omniscience and omnipotence", 1999-07-07 ] [ Joe Dees, "virus: Omniscience and omnipotence", 1999-07-06 ] which address these issues in some detail.

[Hermit] So even to suggest e.g. that an omniscient god might exist somewhere in the Universe that we have not looked simply reflects a belief that an undemonstrated, imaginary attribute which contradicts known attributes of the Universe might actually exist. That takes an awful lot of belief.

[Hermit] The trouble with this is that these attributes are apparently an almost indispensable requirement for godhood as defined in most modern religions - leaving us with the conclusion that gods as defined by most modern religions are indeed impossible, for if they were possible, our Universe would not exist. The fact that our Universe exists thus precludes such attributes - except as imaginary constructs residing purely in what the believers pass off for minds - presumably to impress everyone that their gods are bigger. Like this:


[A school chapel.]

Headmaster: And spotteth twice they the camels before the third
    hour. And so the Midianites went forth to Ram Gilead in Kadesh
    Bilgemath by Shor Ethra Regalion, to the house of
    Gash-Bil-Betheul-Bazda, he who brought the butter dish to
    Balshazar and the tent peg to the house of Rashomon, and there
    slew they the goats, yea, and placed they the bits in little
    pots. Here endeth the lesson.

          [The Headmaster closes the Bible. the Chaplain rises.]

Chaplain: Let us praise God. Oh Lord...

Congregation: Oh Lord...

Chaplain: Oooh you are so big...

Congregation: Oooh you are so big...

Chaplain: So absolutely huge.

Congregation: So ab - solutely huge.

Chaplain: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here I can tell
    you.

Congregation: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here I can tell
    you.

Chaplain: Forgive Us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying.

Congregation: And barefaced flattery.

Chaplain: But you are so strong and, well, just so super.

Congregation: Fan - tastic.

Headmaster: Amen. Now two boys have been found rubbing linseed oil
    into the school cormorant. Now some of you may feel that the
    cormorant does not play an important part in the life of the
    school but I remind you that it was presented to us by the
    Corporation of the town of Sudbury to commemorate Empire Day,
    when we try to remember the names of all those from the
    Sudbury area so gallantly gave their lives to keep China
    British. So from now on the cormorant is strictly out of
    bounds. Oh... and Jenkins... apparently your mother died this
    morning. [He turns to the Chaplain.] Chaplain.

          [The congregation rises and the Chaplain leads them in
          singing.]

Source: Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life"
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With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion. - Steven Weinberg, 1999
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Re:Souls
« Reply #24 on: 2003-04-25 23:56:12 »
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Abashed, the Devil stood,
And felt how awful goodness is, and saw
Virtue in her shape how lovely - saw, and pined His loss
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Re:Souls
« Reply #25 on: 2003-04-27 12:54:47 »
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Re:Souls
« Reply #26 on: 2003-04-27 13:32:09 »
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Quote from: Jeff on 2003-04-25 23:56:12   

And if it doesn't make sense to say Jeff-20-yrs-ago = Jeff-today, then it doesn't really make sense to say Jeff-19-years-ago = Jeff-today, and so on.  Deciding Jeff-yesterday = Jeff-today is still false (just less apparently so), and imputing some time limit on how long you're the same person would be arbitrary and meaningless.

I believe this is a logical fallacy. The fact that the boundary between two categories is fuzzy does not imply that the two categories are the same. Consider "hirsute" vs. "bald".
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Re:Souls
« Reply #27 on: 2003-04-27 13:35:36 »
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Quote from: boygoboom on 2003-04-27 12:54:47   

Here is the problem I find with such technology:

Is it realistic to think that an exact copy of our memories and thought patterns will constitute a copy of us? I would think that the precise geometry of our nervous system has some impact on how we think.

I think the assumption is that whatever aspects of the "precise geometry" that are relevant to the memories, thought patterns and personality would also be copied.

The other assumption is that the kind of material that embodies the information is not relevant. A particular book such as Moby Dick is still Moby Dick whether is is printed on paper or encoded on a CDROM.
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Re:Souls
« Reply #28 on: 2003-04-27 14:41:01 »
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Re:Souls
« Reply #29 on: 2003-04-27 16:53:02 »
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Quote:
[quote author=boygoboom]
The human mind is not merely the data stored in the nervous system. It is also, in a way, the nervous system itself.

We will just have to agree to disagree then.  For my part I think the entire universe is information.  Your nervous system contains information coding its history and information coding how it will change subject to various inputs; this might include synapse growth and types, fibre wiring diagrams, algorithms for laying new fibre and for replacing and rewiring dead neurons.  It would certainly include dispersal and reaction to hormones and other general-dispersal type neuroagents, including externally introduced drugs.

None of that information is immune to being reverse-engineered and emulated.  It might take a very large computer and scanning technology we cannot yet envision and a superb understanding of the workings of the nervous system that we don't yet have, but to say that it is impossible is to make a religious statement of the first order about the nature of reality itself.
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