Sunday, October 03, 2010

Where will YOU spend Eternity?

This is from David Wood's review of Richard Carrier's Sense and Goodness without God.

Richard’s chapter on “The Secular Humanist’s Heaven” (in which he declares his hope that humans will spend eternity inside computer programs) would be comical, even to secular humanists, if it weren’t obviously meant to be taken seriously. 

And I thought atheists all thought that everlasting life would be boring.  

24 comments:

Matt said...

Hi Dr. Reppert, I enjoy your blog.

I think what most atheists mean when they trash eternal life is really unchanging eternal life or perhaps eternal life worshiping God. Eternal life in constantly improving humanist utopia is a different thing.

I'd prefer an eternity worshiping God to existence as a computer program (which I'm not sure counts as me anyway) but many of them would not.

Alex Dalton said...

Where did we get the idea that we are going to worship God for eternity in heaven? I hear this alot from the pulpit - phrased as if heaven is going to be one big endless worshipful sing-song. Is anyone really hoping heaven will be non-stop worship?

Edward T. Babinski said...

I don't think it's possible to download yourself literally into a computer, but we might be able to copy memories and personality into a computer program, which isn't the same thing as continuing onward after death, it's just a computer copy of yourself that ocntinues onward.

I also think Carrier is simply imagining the only way that post-physical-death existence seems possible, at present, namely downloading a copy of one's self into a computer before one's body completely perishes. If science comes up with other ways of preserving a person's memories and personality that don't include physical machinery, then he'd cite those examples as well. Maybe some sort of field of flux could preserve memories and personality, but again, just a copy of the brain and body.

The copy of course will never think of itself as a copy, but as the original, since it will contain all the memories of the original body that dies.

Edward T. Babinski said...

The idea of not dying, but continuing to live and enjoy life, with one's memories and personality intact is one that appeals to me far more than dying.

But that's natural. Prey seeks to escape predators, not many animals seek their own deaths (I can't speak for all of them of course). And humans have the biggest minds and highest hopes of all, and also the greatest fears of death perhaps, also due to those same big brain-minds.

Walter said...


I think what most atheists mean when they trash eternal life is really unchanging eternal life or perhaps eternal life worshiping God.


Exactly.

What makes this life great is getting to learn and experience new things. Also, growing as a person. The Christian afterlife sounds like nothing but static existence. Eternally praising Yahweh day in and day out as your only activity doesn't seem very thrilling.

Doctor Logic said...

Well, since we ARE computers (of a sort), spending eternity as a computer doesn't sound so bad. ;) It's only if you think computers lack the potential to have what we have that it sounds like a bad idea.

Here's an interesting anecdote. I gave a presentation to a group of secularists/atheists some years ago, and at one point I asked, pseudo-rhetorically, "Who wants to live forever?"

About a third of the audience put up their hands. I was then interrupted and instructed to ask who doesn't want to live forever at which point, another third of the folks raised their hands.

Now, this isn't a scientific study, and it's not clear how many of my audience thought I meant "live forever in some decrepit old body", but I speculate that many atheists have come to terms with death, and take pride in the fact that they have done so.

For my part, I can't imagine I would be bored in a million years. There's always something new to learn, some new skill to master, someone new to meet, etc.


Matt,

You can spend an eternity worshiping God from inside the computer program. ;)

Anonymous said...

whats wrong with the old fashioned road to immortality, freezing your head?

If we are computer progams then we can be downloaded and we could exist forever in a computer and it might be fun. one big ole world of warcraft game..could be phenomenologically like anything at all. So it could be really cool. The only problem is, we are not computer programs.in the sense of "cool" that allows

steve said...

Alex Dalton said...

"Where did we get the idea that we are going to worship God for eternity in heaven? I hear this alot from the pulpit - phrased as if heaven is going to be one big endless worshipful sing-song. Is anyone really hoping heaven will be non-stop worship?"

Heaven is going to be a cross between High School Musical and Camp Rock. Zach Efron and the Jonas Brothers will be the praise team–with the Angel Gabriel as backup guitarist.

terri said...

Heaven is going to be a cross between High School Musical and Camp Rock. Zach Efron and the Jonas Brothers will be the praise team–with the Angel Gabriel as backup guitarist.

This has got to be the scariest description of Hell that I have ever heard!

;-)

steve said...

terri said...

"This has got to be the scariest description of Hell that I have ever heard!"

Well, as the saying goes, one teenybopper's heaven is another man's hell!

If only Jonathan Edwards were alive today...

David said...

One of the strange things about the Bible is that it gives us the promise of eternal life as the ultimate reward and then says very little about what it is. Perhaps it is too much like trying to explain sex to a two-year old--you'll just have to wait to see how glorious it is.

I didn't become a Christian because I wanted to go to Heaven or because I feared Hell. I became a christian because I wanted freedom and forgiveness from destructive thinking and behavior as well as the desire to know God. In both I have not been disappointed. Based on that, heaven will not be a disappointment either.

GREV said...

Restate the post:

An earlier comment is a misunderstanding of eternal life -- either deliberate or in ignorance --

"Exactly.

What makes this life great is getting to learn and experience new things. Also, growing as a person. The Christian afterlife sounds like nothing but static existence. Eternally praising Yahweh day in and day out as your only activity doesn't seem very thrilling."

The believer in Christ, shall resume the filfillment of the mandate given to Adam and lost in the garden.

Ruling the universe.

Does not sound static or boring at all to me.

October 04, 2010 9:44 AM

Walter said...

Ruling the universe.

Are you serious? Christians will be ruling the universe like Ming the Merciless!

Matt said...

Doctor Logic,

Well, if digital physics is true I could be doing that already. Maybe God's coming kingdom is a firmware upgrade.

I sure hope he runs Linux because I'd hate to think of Heaven crashing.

GREV said...

Walter -- Do you wish to make serious comments about the issue or just spout off whatever?

Rulership of the universe, restoration of the creational intent are all part of the Scriptural description of the restored new Heaven and New Earth.

Something that the Creation is said to long for. Not a merciless imposition of whatever parody you might want to parade around.

You want to exchange serious ideas and respectful questions -- fine. I would look forward to it.

Walter said...

Walter -- Do you wish to make serious comments about the issue or just spout off whatever?

Sorry if I am being flippant; I simply cannot take "ruling the universe" all that seriously. It sounds like something from a bad episode of Buck Rogers. Do Christians really believe they will be co-ruling with Jesus like lieutenant governors or something?

Rulership of the universe, restoration of the creational intent are all part of the Scriptural description of the restored new Heaven and New Earth.

I don't believe in divine scripture.

Victor Reppert said...

This was Carrier's reply to the above passage.

I do not assert a "belief" in any of those things. To the contrary, I express reservations about every single one of them (e.g. pp. 413-14, 405-06). Never once do I even imply that if my worldview is universally adopted an ideal society will "immediately" result (to the contrary, it should be clear I think it will take a long and difficult time to improve society to the state humanists are aiming for: pp. 371-87, 405-06). And the possibilities of space colonization and brain transfer I say are "all science fiction, surely" and might "never be achieved in practice," hence I explicitly say these are only what I "hope" one day will be realized (p. 406).

Blue Devil Knight said...

My impression from reading Wood, and not Carrier, is that Wood is in dire need of an editor. If what Carrier said is true, then Wood is not a reliable reviewer.

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is, Wood doesn't need to be a reliable reviewer to expose Carrier as, uh... well, I can be nice and say "a person with very unique hopes and dreams", or blunt and say "just another religious person, except his religion is more esoteric".

And does anyone notice that modern atheism seems weaker and less... atheistic, with each passing year? These appeals to ex nihilo origins of our universe, appeals to creative mechanisms and agents that exist outside of our universe in order to explain it, and now an atheist entertaining the hope that humanity will, in fact, have eternal life and (when you get right down to it) supernatural powers?

You know, there's another guy who hopes - in his case, seems to believe rather firmly - that our universe came from nothing, and that the future for humanity is one of being resurrected as simulations. His name is Frank Tipler, and he at least has the cajones to call himself a theist as a result of his views.

Another name is Nick Bostrom. Read his Simulation Argument: If you accept his argument, then by all rights Carrier should believe that we all are living in a computer simulation right now, even as we speak. And if our universe is a simulation, then guess what? Atheism is false. Unless an atheist is prepared to say that our entire universe being created and controlled by beings existing outside of it is not theism of at least some variety.

The natural trajectory of transhumanism is theism and/or deism.

PatrickH said...

Wood took Carrier to task for not following the principle of charity (the dialectical one, not the virtue), and yet he seems not to have followed it either.

He calls IIRC Carrier's point about no evidence for "blue monkeys flying out of my butt" the worst argument he's ever heard. It seems to me that Carrier did make a mistake with the butt-flying-out-of part. But he seems clearly to be making the argument that absence of evidence can be evidence of absence. If he'd confined himself to "you don't see blue monkeys anywhere you'd expect to see them, so they probably don't exist"...well, there are problems with that argument, but it's not stupid, irrational or the worst argument ever. Wood takes advantage of some rhetorical excess to score a victory that is so over-the-top as to defeat itself.

As for Carrier's vision of humanity populating the cosmos, isn't it clearly his way of saying you can have values that are natural, i.e., not transcendent, but ultimate in the sense that you can't get anything larger-scale, longer-term, bigger-than-me. And from committment to that ultimate value, you can derive specific meaning for life here and now, including clear moral demands and moral constraints. And all without God.

Again, you might have problems with that point of view, but it's not stupid if you grant Carrier at least a bit of the benefit of the doubt and ask yourself why he's talking about things the way he is.

I think Wood was so over the top, so uncharitable, that like BDK, I have serious doubts about his reliability as a reviewer.

Wood kicked so hard and so often at the ball, he ended up scoring an own goal.

Anonymous said...

As for Carrier's vision of humanity populating the cosmos, isn't it clearly his way of saying you can have values that are natural, i.e., not transcendent, but ultimate in the sense that you can't get anything larger-scale, longer-term, bigger-than-me. And from committment to that ultimate value, you can derive specific meaning for life here and now, including clear moral demands and moral constraints. And all without God.

Those are word games. No theist I know ever denied that an atheist, if allowed to dream up whatever he wishes and lay down rules (this is, apparently, now called 'being given the benefit of the doubt') can construct an artificial system with 'moral demands' and 'moral restraints' and 'ultimate value'. So long as those words don't mean at all what they do for the theist, or even the platonist, and instead mean what they do for Parker Bros.

Yes, atheists can make Monopoly games. Why, they can even choose to live life as if they were on a monopoly board. But at the end of the day, there's no deeper substance to it. And that is what Carrier and company try so desperately to ignore, and pretend is not the case. All Carrier's "hopes" show is his dissatisfaction with his own atheism, and his desire to transform it into a substitute for theism. In the process, he's just hoping for another, if esoteric variety of theism.

Again, see Tipler, who admits that his vision of humanity populating the cosmos, simulated worlds, and (in his case) the Omega Point adds up to theism. See Bostrom, who apparently recognizes that talking about us living in a simulation places us in the situation of accepting intelligent design, and some form of theism, now.

The future of atheism is deism and weird forms of theism.

GearHedEd said...

"Heaven is going to be a cross between High School Musical and Camp Rock. Zach Efron and the Jonas Brothers will be the praise team–with the Angel Gabriel as backup guitarist."

Nooooo!

Let me die instead!

GearHedEd said...

"...And if our universe is a simulation, then guess what? Atheism is false."

And by the exact same argument, then Christianity is false, too.

Fishermage said...

@ GearHedEd:

Not so according to Tipler.