Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Its Life Jim, but thats about it - Fear and Cheese Toasties

I've recently read a lot of articles on the internet and around regarding the crap that people spout about LAD (Life After Death). Its not only interesting to read the different perspectives that people have, but also some of the blatant bullshit that people convince themselves and others to believe in.

It is mildly depressing in a way to think that there are many people who convince themselves that there is something out there after we kick the bucket. It shows an unwillingness, in my opinion, to take ownership of their own fates, preferring instead to leave it up to some ill formed or weird idea that probably uses the word energy, soul or quantum. Throw dimensional or portal in there as well and you've covered many of the quack pot theories in existence. Of course, that's not to say that every day people can add new theories to the list of answers to the question "what happens when we, like, you know, die". Since there's no evidence of any life whatsoever after death, it means people can say whatever they like without fear of being proven wrong. Much like Homeopathy - no substantial evidence of any kind, therefore any claim can be made.

Religion, of course, has cornered most of the market in LAD. The damn bible in one hand and pointing at the cross saying "Be good and you'll go to heaven. Be bad and hell awaits ye." Its been a pretty good sales technique over the years. Since many people are unable to accept that there's nothing out there after you pass on from this mortal coil, they readily accept any answer you put in front of them. And once they take that bait, you can do the whole "Follow these rules and it'll all be fine after the kark it. By the way, here's the collection plate".

Ghost hunters, crystal wearers and mystic healers fall into another category. Using terms gleaned from science text like Energy Free States, Quantum, and Dimensional Interference they try and explain away their own fears that this is all there is. Many claim that there is some energy (never found or measured) that is unique to every living thing, that somehow, as Obi Wan from Star Wars says, "surrounds us, and binds us together". None of the theories stand up to any kind of critical thinking, and tend to come apart if you subject them to any kind of analysis. Most in fact always come back to the poor scientific theory that you can prove something by proving you cant disprove it. For example, Person Q believes in ghosts because there is no evidence to say there isn't any ghosts - this despite the fact that you can't prove there ARE ghosts.

Occam's razor provides us with a nice answer here. "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best." In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities. To me this means the simplest theory about death is probably the most accurate - when you check out, its all over. No ghosts, no afterlife, no transfers to another dimension, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Its a theory that is backed up by plenty of fact as well. No matter how many haunted houses are investigated, how many aura photos are taken or how many papal decree's are made, there is NO solid evidence whatsoever that there is any LAD. None. Period. And I mean solid evidence - not what the damn bible says, or what my spirit guide Guido says, or the fact that I saw Jebus in a cheese toastie. Because as soon as you start skipping gaily down that path, you introduce a lot of supposition and guess work that can only be explained by more and more complicated and hard to swallow horseshit. And screw that.

Fear of your own mortality seems to be the driving factor behind most LAD crap. People cant accept that this is the only chance we've got here to make a difference, so rely on soothing platitudes from others to blinker themselves from reality.

It is heartening, however, to see in this age of information and the internet, people asking questions and minds being enlightened on the subject. A nice Q&A I saw recently was on - see here for the full article but here's one of the bits I thought best :

How can there be meaning in life without an afterlife?

That is a matter of perspective: do you not enjoy a good meal because you know that it'll be over, and the plate will be empty soon? Would you not take pleasure in seeing your child take his first tentative steps, for the knowledge that soon he'll be striding along like any other person, the wonder of this balancing act completely forgotten and made mundane?

That things are finite, does not reduce our appreciation of them while they last; that is just how it practically goes. Atheists don't mope around feeling worthless and empty because they don't think that they are going to exist for ever - we enjoy the good moments of our lives just as deeply as believers do.

And an atheist doesn't need to fear death - perhaps the pain associated with the passing at most, but once dead, we cease to exist. For most of the history of the Universe, for billions of years before my birth, I didn't exist, and I don't remember being bothered at all by this fact. :) I don't expect to be any more bothered for not existing for eternity after my death; thus I see nothing to fear in death. I want to postpone it as long as I can remain healthy and enjoy this brief time in this remarkable Universe we are privileged to live in, but I've accepted it's inevitability, and do not fear it.

Need I say more.

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