The Philosopher's Eye

News and brain candy for the philosophy community

Machine vs. Afterlife

Well-known scientist Stephen Hawking gave a rather controversial interview recently. Saying that there is no afterlife to look forward to, classifying this as a fairy tale arose a lot of criticism and controversy.

He isn’t the first notable person trying to detach from the conscience of people the image of the luxuriant Eden Garden promised after death. Paradisiacal notions are cross-cultural, often laden with pastoral imagery, and may be cosmological or eschatological or both.

But these words coming from one of the most respected people in history – transmitted by means of a special technology which transforms thoughts in sounds – gave another meaning.

This is the frequent statement of a scientist. He’s not saying “God isn’t real”, he’s only saying there is no need of God to explain the world. This is a scientific allegation, with its foundation back in time: in the theory of Occam’s razor to be specific: We should seek the greatest value of our action. The idea born in the Middle Age asserts that we shouldn’t multiply hypothesis in order to explain a phenomenon.

The same thing is said by Hawking – implying that modern physics doesn’t need a God means it would be an over and above hypothesis in this system of explaining the world.

For most religions, Paradise is the image of a non-spatial, non-temporal, fairy-like place, where only the ones who live their lives accordingly to the moral code of each religion wind up. Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom believes that human beings are cabled to the fear of death and because of this fear they invented philosophy and religion, but also a fairytale terminology.

I think the phantasm of immortality is a mental construct necessary to the human condition which helps them deal more easily with all the bad things that happen and also counter-attacks the fear of death and the relationship between the individual and the world.

However, a scientist who refuses the religious horizon is disqualified. It’s like a scientist that rejects from the start a hypothesis. But what is science if not the disclosure to any hypothesis until the discovery that it can or can not be sustained. On the other part, asked by the interviewer “If this is the situation, what can we do?” he responded :

“We should seek the greatest value of our action.”

And how is this different form any other moral percept of religions?

Related articles:

Does Nirvana have a Neural Signature?
Population Pessimism

2 comments on “Machine vs. Afterlife

  1. Cindy
    July 16, 2012

    Great article which the phantasm of immortality is a mental construct necessary to the human condition which helps them deal more easily with all the bad things that happen and also counter-attacks the fear of death and the relationship between the individual and the world. For most religions, Paradise is the image of a non-spatial, non-temporal, fairy-like place, where only the ones who live their lives accordingly to the moral code of each religion wind up. Thanks.

    • Barbara
      November 13, 2013

      I read a book one time (don’t remember what it was, it was ficiton) and one of the characters proposed what i thought was a rather clever twist on pascal’s wager he challenged one of the other characters to live for a month as if the bible was completely true, all the way down to reading every day and praying, and to see what kind of effect that hadas far as the strict gambit itself, it doesn’t really work, because it could apply to any religionbut on that same note, if one were to strip away the specific religious context of it, and apply it to the question of whether there is a creator or not, it’s not a bad way to look at things, that’s really about where i’m atone of my favorite pascal quotes: If I saw no signs of a divinity, I would fix myself in denial. If I saw everywhere the marks of a Creator, I would repose peacefully in faith. But seeing too much to deny Him, and too little to assure me, I am in a pitiful state, and I would wish a hundred times that if a god sustains nature it would reveal Him without ambiguity.

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This entry was posted on May 19, 2011 by in Viewpoint and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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