This article explains why the Christian concept of the human soul is not persistent, i.e. why it turns to nothing on death. Therefore there is no afterlife and no life after death. This document has five parts. The first is a caveat to the lack of persistence of the soul. The second part attempts to prove that dualism (that the mind is more than the contents of the brain, i.e. there is something non-physical in addition to the contents of the brain) is false. The third part shows why the soul is not persistent. The forth part explains why, in a limited sense, our souls are persistent. The fifth part is the conclusion. The postscript to this article is the contents of an email that invalidates my conclusion. This document was helped into existence via an email conversation with Distinguished Professor Jack Copeland of the University of Canterbury Department of Philosophy.
The use of technology to extend the human life span provides a means for the human soul to live indefinitely into the future. Examples of such technology includes:
The human brain is a collection of approximately 1 billion neurons, electrically firing to each other. According to dualism, the mind is more than a collection of neurons firing to each other in particular there is something non-physical about the nature of thought. A key component of the human brain is memories of past events. Memories are just configurations of firing neurons. If dualism were true, memories would be something else in addition to a collection of firing neurons, something non-physical. According to Occam's razor, there is nothing non-physical in addition to collections of firing neurons to serve in the role of memories. This argument can be generalized to prove that all human thought is collections of firing neurons. By Occam's razor applied again, there is no non-physical component in human thought. Therefore the human mind is equal to the contents of the human brain and therefore dualism is false.
A plant’s soul: is nothing really to speak of. A plant barely even experiences pleasure and pain. It is easy to see that plants’ souls are not persistent.
A fish’s soul: pleasure and pain dictating the path of least resistance in the behaviour of the fish. A fish seeks out pleasure and avoids pain. Given the following unknown vector-valued function:
Where r maps from a real value (time) to a finite p-dimensional vector space, the space of all possible values for the fish’s state. An example of a pleasure-pain function is the vector valued function F : R x Rp x Rp → Rp, where
where larger values of Φ (as Φ → ∞) indicates pain and smaller values of Φ (as Φ → -∞) indicates pleasure. The vector-valued function f : R x Rp x Rp → Rp, the so-called ‘‘freedom function’’ is the zero function when the fish's evolution is purely dependent on minus the gradient of Φ. The function f determines the behaviour of the fish if there is no gradient function being applied to the fish. In particular the value of can be used to apply linear or nonlinear friction to the fish's movement. The vector-valued function g : Rp → Rp is equal to the identity function when the fish's evolution is purely dependent on minus the gradient of Φ. The function g can be used to clamp the gradient function within certain values, or set the value of g to zero when the value of the gradient function is small in magnitude. Using Newton's second law of motion:
This differential equation can be solved for r by rearranging the equation to:
and then integrated numerically by making use of the following recurrence relation:
where n takes the values 0,1,2,3, ..., Δt is a suitably small value for the time increment and and are given values for the initial state of the fish.
Examples of pleasure in a fish is the act of sexual reproduction and the eating of food. Examples on pain in a fish is the capturing of the fish by people and the fish being brought out of the water and onto the land where the fish is unable to breathe. It is easy to see that the fish is suffering when it has been caught by people. It is easy to see that a fish soul is not persistent after death.
A cat’s soul: is like fish souls with the addition of memories of earlier pain and pleasure, such as cruel treatment by people and kind treatment by people giving rise to memories of specific people who were kind or cruel to the cat. A cat is a predator so it has innate knowledge of physical laws that govern the movements of it's prey. A cat's soul therefore includes this capability much like human souls can predict the behaviour of living beings that people eat. It is easy to see that a cat’s soul is not persistent after death.
Person’s soul is like a cat’s soul with the addition of what philosopher Karl Popper calls the world of objective contents of thoughts or the ‘‘The world of the mind’’. The use of technology to create an artificially intelligent being would ultimately have a god like quality in being all present (omnipresent), all knowing (omniscient) and all powerful (omnipotent).
Such a being would pass the Turing Test for artificial intelligence and would therefore be a fascinating being to speak to by way of at least a computer keyboard or at least a one on one conversation with a being with an ability in all of the five human senses hearing (speech recognition), seeing (language recognition and object recognition), feeling, smelling and tasting.
Since dualism is false, when the brain dies, the collection of 1 billion neurons stops firing and therefore the mind dies too. A corollary of this is that the soul dies too. Therefore there is no afterlife and no life after death.
The memories of people in other people's minds gives one way for the human soul to persist beyond the death of an individual, but this is not much in the way of persistency. Other ways that the soul can be persistent is in artifacts left behind by people after they die, such as works of art, letters, science, mathematics, philosophy and Websites.
The moral of the story is that you only have one life to live, and therefore you had better make the most of it! Older people should envy young people and as yet unborn people because these people are more likely to be around when technology raises the average life expectancy of people vastly beyond its present value. Also smart people like Robin Williams and Kurt Cobain should not have committed suicide as they are likely to be role models for dumb people and if smart people don't want to live, then dumb people won't want to live either! I once tried to kill myself over my love for a married Chinese woman, but I am now in a head-space that wants to live long into the future, so that I might see what amazing technology comes about in the future. Means to a long life include not smoking, getting regular exercise, eating sensibly, brushing twice daily and flossing daily.
‘‘Occam's razor cuts both ways. A universe containing only sense data is simpler than a universe containg both sense data and physical matter. Therefore by Occam's razor the universe contains only sense data.’’
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