Found this article a few days ago and it is very interesting on a few different levels. There is a lot to discuss here so let’s get started.
The article states, basically, that the laws of physics, as we know and understand them, make any sort of afterlife impossible. So there is a lot to digest in that last sentence. I have said on numerous occasions that eventually, science and our understanding of the universe will phase out any sort of God and religion. However, I think that no matter how much definite proof there is, religion will never go away completely because of the psychological aspect of it. There are individuals that will believe what they believe no matter how much proof you offer either way, because it makes them feel better. No amount of proof, no matter how sound or definite, will change their mind. That is fine, to each their own, I have no problem with anyone believing in whatever, as I have some questionable and somewhat bizarre beliefs myself. So for that reason organized religion will never full disappear from our society. As time goes on and the universe becomes more knowable there may be new types of “religion” or belief systems that come into play. Honestly, it is just a matter of time before science can prove, for or against, things like an afterlife or if there is a God.
In the article Dr. Carroll, says that an afterlife, in the sense that we understand, it cannot exist. It is an impossibility. “There is no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die.” Before I start to pick apart this idea let me say this. I basically agree with him. In my heart of hearts, I do not think there is an “afterlife.” An afterlife simply does not make sense to me and my logical brain. That does not mean that it is impossible, but knowing what I know, or think I know, I think there is an extremely low possibility for that to be true. An infinitesimally small number, extremely close to 0, if not 0.
Where I think I might be getting hung up is in his statement he addresses our “current laws of physics.” If he is simply saying that based on the laws we have in place now, and what we know about consciousness and the brain, now, an afterlife seems to be impossible. If he had worded his statement like that I would have no argument with that at all. Perhaps that is what he meant, but looking at his statement he seems to be making an absolute statement, which really bothers me. I am not arguing that there is or is not an afterlife, as I have said, I think that there is almost no chance that an afterlife is real or possible. What I am getting at is the logic and the fact that he is speaking in absolute terms.
Carroll is a doctor so he is magnitudes smarter than me, but I still feel he missed some very important logical steps here. The first is that it always bothers me when anyone speaks in absolutes. To me making an absolute statement means that you know for certain every variable involved and have accounted for it. Then the outcome you have given is therefore incumbent of every variable, only then can you say for certain that your outcome is correct and absolute. For me this is where his whole argument breaks down.
Consciousness is a very bizarre thing and that is really understating it. I am not an expert on the subject but I have read on it more than the average person, I think. From what I have gathered we really truly do not understand it. How does a specific collection of matter, basically star dust, come together to create something like consciousness? Basically how does inorganic matter create organic consciousness? Those are HUGE unanswered questions. To me without answering either of those we really cannot say one way or the other of an afterlife or what happens to consciousness after our bodies die.
Consciousness is something that we personally, everyone one of us seems to know what it is, yet it is nearly impossible to explain or describe. This is a major issue not only for us but I would argue also for Dr. Carroll. As a scientist how can you say that X is not possible even though we do not fully understand it or many of the factors involved? That seems silly to me. Although, I understand that he might be saying that on a physical level that based on what we know this seems to be impossible. Still, I cannot fully jump on board with his assertion even though I know it to more than likely be true.
I will also further my logic and say that while we know very little about consciousness, we know seemingly less about how the brain comes together to create consciousness, and I would say we know even less about the universe as a whole. Our scientist have no idea what makes up the majority of the universe. All our theories revolve around Dark Matter and Dark Energy, both of which have never been examined or even detected. Dark Energy makes up 95% of the mass-energy of the universe, while Dark Matter makes up 84.5% of the total mass of the universe. That leaves only about 5% for ordinary matter, which is what we are made of. So we know and or understand about 5% of the universe, that is truly depressing. So again with us knowing so little about all the aspects involved, consciousness, the brain, and the universe, why are we making absolute judgements about the afterlife, or rather what happens to consciousness when we die? That really irks me.
This is somewhat off topic but while scientists try and find a Unified Theory of Everything, I am not sure it exists. What may be the case is that we should be trying to figure out the laws that govern ordinary matter, what we are made of, and that could be an entirely different set of physical laws that govern Exotic matter and energy (Dark Matter and Dark Energy). I am not an expert but it seems far-fetched to me to think that we can have one set of rules to govern both sets of matter. There is a possibility that a Dark Matter being could exist but again we do not know enough about the substance one way or the other. Something to think about is that a conscious being made from Dark Matter could potentially have an afterlife because their consciousness is universal and may be impossible to destroy. Basically the laws that govern Dark Matter could be completely different than what we experience. Whereas with ordinary matter and our physical laws it may not be possible.
Again I want to reiterate that I think he is correct, in that I do not think there is such thing as an afterlife. Logically that does not make sense, but based on what I have just laid out, I would never say that it is impossible because there are WWWAAAYYY too many unknowns. There is so much that we do not know and that bothers me.
When I read this article I thought for sure I would have one opinion about it, but I quickly developed the opposite of what I was thinking. While I consider myself logical, as rational as I can be, the overall premise to the article I think, is more than likely correct. However, his logic I simply cannot jump on board with.
It is also worth noting that there are an number of articles that claim the opposite out there, that physics and quantum mechanics can prove that there is an afterlife. I have the same argument for this proposal as well. I could be convinced either way with sufficient evidence, but right now for me either argument is just speculation. But that is pretty much all we have in this life.
Always keep an open mind…