## South African Skeptics

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# Would you like to live forever?

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AcinonyxScepticus
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 « Reply #15 on: May 26, 2011, 22:44:22 PM »

This is a very interesting discussion and one I've had a few times with religious people.  My answer is "Hell no" and the reason is along the lines of the Swift example that Mefiante gave and the Sci-Fi story that GCG discussed.

An eternity of Heaven would be hell.  No matter what you get to do in Heaven, no matter how much you love doing it, eventually it will become tedious.  It's a concept that's hard for people who believe in an eternal soul to accept.

The example that I give is a Star Trek: Voyager episode called Quincy (and I happily give them the episode to watch).  In Star Trek, there is a race of beings called the Q who are what we might consider gods; they can materialise and dematerialise anywhere and anywhen in the universe and cause any effect on the physical universe that they want to. They can go back and watch the big bang as often as they like or go read a book in the peace and quiet after the universe has run down.

In this episode one member of the Q seeks asylum with the crew of Voyager and because the Q enjoy the "quaintness" of humans they play along with concepts like asylum because it usually leads to something more interesting down the line.  The Q seeking asylum has to argue the case for why he wants to leave the Q-continuum and become mortal.  He takes the crew into the Q-continuum and they perceive it in a way their human brains can understand; a long, straight, infinitely-long desert road with a run-down fifties garage at the roadside.  On the porch are some people sitting and waiting.

Why don't they go somewhere more interesting?  Well, they have.  They have all (independently) decided to go to both ends of the road on a whim (yeah, I know you can't practically get there, but they did).  Why don't they talk to each other?  They have run out of things to say, they have said everything that could be said and they've all taken on both sides of the discussion.  Why don't they do something?  They've done everything, they have spent hundreds of years as the other person, they've all been the dog on the porch - or even been the porch for a millenium.  There's simply nothing left to do.  And on the infinite timescale they're not even close to a tenth of the way to the end, so they might as well wait.

It's pretty easy to see why Quincy begged to be mortal so that he could one day die.  Even knowing that there was a possibility of death and an end to it all is all he really wanted.

It's funny, but they don't like to talk to me about an eternal Heaven after that.

James
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Faerie
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 « Reply #16 on: May 27, 2011, 07:51:37 AM »

An eternity of Heaven would be hell.  No matter what you get to do in Heaven, no matter how much you love doing it, eventually it will become tedious.  It's a concept that's hard for people who believe in an eternal soul to accept.

This sums up in entirety how I feel and perceive eternal life.  I often get the line of "but you'll be spending it with your loved ones and close family!!" - Yeah?  I dont particularly LIKE my close family and my loved ones are my S/O and two kids. This forms the totality of my close relationships with people, so what the hell am I to look forward to actually here again?  To spend time with my crazy dad and woo-bevarked Mom? Huh-uh, no thanks, closing my eyes to eternal sleep with zero conciousness sounds much more appealing to me.
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Rigil Kent
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 « Reply #17 on: May 27, 2011, 07:59:37 AM »

It seems the feeling in general is that we don't want to live forever (even in perfect health) because we will eventually run out of things to do. And even the things we enjoy doing today, will become humdrum eventually ( I don't think this is nescesarily true, but nevertheless, lets assume that it is).

Therefor, infinite boredom is considered worse than death.

A comparatively simple creature, like a cat or a Croton, who is not overly obsessed with the mere entertainment value of life, will presumably not "mind" living forever. But wether such a creature has any concept of death in the first place is, of course, another matter.

I know nothing about souls, but if it is devoid of conciousness, and basically a "mindless creature", then eternity in Heaven may no be as agonising as it appears at first glance.

Mintaka

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AcinonyxScepticus
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 « Reply #18 on: May 27, 2011, 10:07:48 AM »

A comparatively simple creature, like a cat or a Croton, who is not overly obsessed with the mere entertainment value of life, will presumably not "mind" living forever.

So if god has any decency and wants to ensure that heaven doesn't become a hell, he'd rob us of our highest cognitive abilities and we'd be his assorted pets and pot plants in the afterlife.

We'd have no memory of having higher cognitive abilities so we wouldn't miss them.  We'd be unable to understand our own memories and (in essence) the person that we were would cease to exist - an eternal death.

I could live with that ... so to speak.

James
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Faerie
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 « Reply #19 on: May 27, 2011, 10:10:44 AM »

A comparatively simple creature, like a cat or a Croton, who is not overly obsessed with the mere entertainment value of life, will presumably not "mind" living forever.

So if god has any decency and wants to ensure that heaven doesn't become a hell, he'd rob us of our highest cognitive abilities and we'd be his assorted pets and pot plants in the afterlife.

We'd have no memory of having higher cognitive abilities so we wouldn't miss them.  We'd be unable to understand our own memories and (in essence) the person that we were would cease to exist - an eternal death.

All that bought to mind the hundreds of mentally retarded people I've seen in my life, mindlessly lolling around in their wheelchairs and dribbling from their chins whilst time just passes them by.....

By gods, thats just depressing....
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Hermes
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 « Reply #20 on: May 27, 2011, 10:21:22 AM »

All that bought to mind the hundreds of mentally retarded people I've seen in my life, mindlessly lolling around in their wheelchairs and dribbling from their chins whilst time just passes them by.....

By gods, thats just depressing....

If we are going to be vegetables, then go all the way and be it mentally and physically.  There are trees that seem quite happy to become thousands of years old, and they don't have a particularly exciting time.

@Faerie: Congrats on post 1000.
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Rigil Kent
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 « Reply #21 on: May 27, 2011, 11:18:44 AM »

So if god has any decency and wants to ensure that heaven doesn't become a hell, he'd rob us of our highest cognitive abilities and we'd be his assorted pets and pot plants in the afterlife.

Unless heaven has an endless supply of entertainment lined up to occupy and satisfy our hedonistic souls, that would seem the only option, yes.

Mintaka
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GCG
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 « Reply #22 on: May 27, 2011, 12:15:26 PM »

A comparatively simple creature, like a cat

our supreme and divine overlords does not look kindly upon being referred to as 'simple'.  lazy, yes, but not simple.
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Faerie
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 « Reply #23 on: May 27, 2011, 12:35:47 PM »

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Rigil Kent
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 « Reply #24 on: May 27, 2011, 13:09:58 PM »

A comparatively simple creature, like a cat

our supreme and divine overlords does not look kindly upon being referred to as 'simple'.  lazy, yes, but not simple.

My unreserved apologies to all felines and their admirers.

Mintaka
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Mefiante
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 « Reply #25 on: May 27, 2011, 14:30:12 PM »

One possible way to get around the inevitable ennui that must surely eventually attend eternal life would be to have a kind of memory reboot and/or erase facility — sort of a selective blue screen of death.  That is, once your memory is saturated and can’t take any more, you get to erase selected bits (or maybe even all of it) so that you can start learning things all over again.

It’s interesting to speculate what would happen to your mind if you did erase certain bits but not also erased the fact of the erasure itself.  You’d probably have far too many of those “Oh, I know that but hell if I can remember” moments.  And then you’d beat yourself up over not being able to dredge the needed memory to the surface, perhaps even knowing that you can’t.

While it would alleviate the tedium of eternity, it’d still be a pointless strategy in all sorts of ways, not least in that it would be a meta-cognitive hell.

'Luthon64
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AcinonyxScepticus
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 « Reply #26 on: May 27, 2011, 14:52:41 PM »

Unless heaven has an endless supply of entertainment lined up to occupy and satisfy our hedonistic souls
I don't see how that's possible.  There can't be infinte pieces of entertainment, so even if the pieces of entertainment can number $(\infty - 1)$ then there will come a time when the entertainment will run out and need to be repeated.

An interesting perspective is found in The Library of Babel (there is an English audio file of the short story floating around the internet somewhere but I can't find it anymore). Here's a part of it that I remember (not quoted):

 In this story, our narrator describes his universe, it consists of bookshelves arranged in a hexagonal shape to close-off a room.  Each room snugly fits against another room in a repeating hexagonal pattern, layer upon layer upwards to infinity and downwards to infinity.  Each room leads up or down to other levels but also to the adjacent rooms and librarians move freely among them.  On the shelves of these rooms are books, each and every book appears unique.  They all consist of the letters of the alphabet and punctuation arranged seemingly at random.  One book might open with the line "KLSDFK!,,L JSFKLJSF LKJ,KLJ .,OIDF-KJ" while another might consist of nothing but the letter "P" repeated to the end.  No two books have ever been found which are the same, but rumours among the librarians spread that some have been found in nearby rooms that contain short stories with many spelling errors.  The librarians have speculated that any idea ever expressed (including this one) is written down somewhere in the library, and the librarians spend their entire lives in search of these rumoured treasures.  There is also, conceivably, the idea that there is a book that catalogues the location of all other books, and because it is conceivably possible to write such a master catalogue, it must exist. But perversely, there might be thousands of duplicate master catalogues which contain errors, leading the librarian in the wrong direction.  Nobody, near this librarian's location or one who was met in this librarian's lifetime has ever found a master catalogue, or even found a partial catalogue.But they know there is an end to the books.The books contain 400 pages.  There are 60 characters across each page and 90 lines down the page.  There is a finite number of positions that can be filled with characters.  The characters which can appear in a position are limited to 26 alphabetical characters, 10 numerical digits and 15 punctuation marks.  There are only so many ways these can be arranged to be unique.Because they know the library is infinite and because they know there are finitely many books, they know the books must be repeated.  As boring as it may be, there are an infinite number of exact copies of the book which starts with the line "KLSDFK!,,L JSFKLJSF LKJ,KLJ .,OIDF-KJ".

So, even in Heaven, if there's a way to express an interesting idea, a novel piece of entertainment that can be written in a book (of any length, not just 400 pages).  There are finitely-many books like that.  Even if they make the screenplay of the book, and the stage adaptation of the book, and the 3D experience of the book, and the theme park of the book, there are still finitely-many of these pieces of entertainment.  Even if it happens to be a huge number, it is still a number.  Even if the pieces of entertainment number $(\infty - 1)$, there will be repetition, there will be a loss of novelty, there will be boredom.

James
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st0nes
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 « Reply #27 on: May 27, 2011, 15:06:47 PM »

I'm told they make you spend the first two years (and remember, each day is as 10,000 years) learning to play the harp.  I'm bored already, just thinking about it.
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Rigil Kent
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 « Reply #28 on: May 27, 2011, 15:36:11 PM »

Even if the pieces of entertainment number $(\infty - 1)$, there will be repetition, there will be a loss of novelty, there will be boredom.

Fair enough. I suppose it would be too much to hope that there will be anybody really and truly interested in calculating that circumference/radius thingy.

Just a small niggle, though. If I'm not mistaken $(\infty - 1)$ = $\infty$

Mintaka
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AcinonyxScepticus
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 « Reply #29 on: May 27, 2011, 16:08:56 PM »

Just a small niggle, though. If I'm not mistaken $(\infty - 1)$ = $\infty$

Sure, that's 100% correct for all practical applications of infinity.  But the former is a "smaller" infinity than the latter and yet equal.  In order to understand the basic maths of infinity we'd have to talk about Hilbert's Hotel and to differentiate "smaller" and "larger" infinities we'd have to look at Aleph numbers.

Here's a way to look at it; think of a number to represent infinity.  This is infinity of the first kind, the one we use all the time.  If you could write that number down in decimal notation (say 9 999 999 999 was found to be infinity), would that be the largest number?  No, you could write an infinite number of 9's in a row (in our example, you could write nine million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine of the digit 9 in a row, which is obviously a bigger number).  This is the second kind of infinity.  Now is an infinite number of 9s the largest number?  No, you could put an infinite number of 9s after the decimal point to make a "bigger" infinity.  That would be a third kind of infinity.

I hope that more clearly explains the statement "it's a smaller kind of infinity".  It's all weird set theory that I don't even pretend to understand completely and I may be wrong (and am open to correction) in the interpretation of Aleph numbers, but that's the way I think of the concept.

James
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