Norman Samish wrote:
Hi John,
Your rhetorical questions about "heaven" point out how ridiculous the concept is
>> Actually, with all due respect to John, I failed to see how his original message (below) in any way illustrated "how ridiculous" the concept of heaven is.  It may suggest that it is inconceivable that we could live for eternity leading anything like the life we know now, but his points aren't in the slightest pursuasive to me.  I think the problem is a lack of imagination.  Why would I have to choose to spend the afterlife with a certain spouse.  I would assume the ties that bind us together here probably wouldn't apply.  Why would I need to choose a body to be in that matched something from this earlier stage? 

I'll readily concede all of this is pure speculation, and so I'll just stop here and say that I think assumptions that an afterlife would be ridiculous is as much speculation as assumptions in a specific afterlife experience.

- and no, I don't think heaven, hell, etc., are even remotely likely.  I think that when I'm dead, I'm dead, never again to be congnizant. 
Now this statement is fraught with all kinds of issues and problems for me.  Clearly you do not accept the QTI.  No problem there.  I've never really sold myself on that either.  But if it is true that our focus for understanding should be on the first person, is there any meaning in saying you are dead "never again" to be aware?  Isn't it just crazy speculation on your part that anything is continuing?  And even if we accept there is some "reality" or "truth" to the world "out there"- the objective appearing environment that we seem to interact in- are you saying we are to assume that it will continue for ever and ever, but never replicate your experiences that you had in your life?  Or perhaps we should assume that it should end at some point, and that there will never be another multiverse.  Was all of this a one time deal?  If so, how do you explain such a "miracle" without invoking some intelligence.  How can something (big bang) happen only once in all of existence and be a natural phenomenon? 

It seems to me that at least from a perspective, the "block multiverse" view makes sense.  It must exist eternally- I just can't wrap my mind around a "pre-existence" era or a "post existence" era.  A careful examination of time does seem to suggest that, as D. Deutsch says, "different times are just special cases of different universes," each existing eternally from at least some perspective.

I'm not so sure that there are yes/no answers to many of the questions that we ask.  Even a question such as "is there a god" may  have an answer that depends on your location in time or in the multiverse.  If it is ever possible in the future to replicate my experiences on a computer through artificial intelligence, and the AI me asks the question, then obviously the answer should be yes.  But perhaps there really was a natural, fundamental reality in which the original me existed in which the answer would be no.  Or take a Tipler-like theory that has the universe evolving to the point that it can replicate or emulate itself.  The question "is there a god" at the point that a universal computer exists would be yes, while the question at some prior point would be at best "unknown." 

I do not want to toss out there there is fundamental truth, fundamental reality of some nature, but any questions going to the underlying nature of existence seems to not easily lend itself to yes/no answers.  Is there a fundamental "realness" to the physical world, or is this all a "machine dream."?  Why isn't it both, depending on where you are at?  Now some would accuse of speculation here, but on close inspection it seems I'm only choosing one form of speculation over another.  Does this mean science is pointless?  Absolutely not.  Science opens great doors of understanding in, for instance, describing how a description of the multiverse fits observable data.     However, I am simply choosing not to close doors in the absence of proof against.
The thing I'm agnostic about (defining "agnostic" as "without knowledge") is whether an infinitely powerful God is reponsible for the universe we see.   And if this God exists, why?  And where did IT come from?
Despite arguments I have made previously, I would say I most closely fit the agnostic description for God as well.  I certainly do not believe in a God separate and apart from our existence that "created" the universe.  Any answer for me will be some form of a self explanatory, or bootstrapping concept in which God and all of existence are really one in the same.  I must admit I am partial to a Tipler like theory in which the universe evolves to the point that it can create itself.  Then again you are left without a yes-no answer.  Does it even make sense to ask whether the universe evolved until it was able to create its creator, or whether God existed first?  Its a chicken and egg argument that doesn't have a correct answer IMO.

You ask "why" God would exist.  Equating God with purposeful action, or intentional action, you question in a sense is asking why we should consider intelligence to play a role in the shaping of our reality.  Again, I think Deutsch described very well in FOR why we have to consider intelligence as a fundamental force in the universe.  He pointed out that over the last several billion years, the determination of the color and brightness of the Sun could be made solely on the consideration of physical laws.  However, if one were to consider such questions for the future of the Sun, one had to factor in the potential role that intelligence may play in such a question.  The role of intelligence in understanding, shaping, and even replicating environments, both in the "real" world and in virtual environments must be admitted to seem fundamental to an understanding of our reality.  In this sense I am considering "God" broadly as all of the knowledge, intelligence, and experience that will exist across the multiverse.  My take on the "where did it come from I have already answered.

If you have an answer to "Why does anything exist?" I'd be glad to hear it.
With respect to the personal gods that much of humanity prays to and has faith in, I think they're the result of human nature, fables, fiction, and the machinations of priests.  The fact that so many have "faith" that these gods exist is dire testimony about a flaw in humanity that embraces the irrational.
I agree with you that belief in orthodox religion based on statements made by a handful of people 2,000 years ago, or whatever else, is irrational.  However, I do not see a general belief in God as irrational.  Lets assume science were to somehow prove the MWI was correct.  And subsequently, we create artificial intelligence that passes the Turing test, or whatever tests would satisfy reasonable scientists.  Finally, lets say science eventually proved that it were indeed correct that in some universes that would allow for the development of intelligent life, these universes would be designed in such a way that it was possible to create a computational device with infinite processing power. 

None of these things are proven yet, by any means, but very reasonable scientists have made arguments on behalf of each of these theories.  If the MWI is the correct interpretation and the other two things are physically possible, how do we avoid something essentially equivalent to God?  Its not speculation to say that a universal computer would be created that would develop artificial intelligence that would then be processed through an infinite number of experiences (thus equating our "multiverse"), because in the MWI if its physically possible- it happens. 

This is where I have stumbled back into a bias in favor of God.  I do believe in the MWI, I do believe it will become possible to create artificial intelligence, and I think that given  just these two things it is hard to avoid the role of intelligence in explaining experience .  Even if one universe never develops a universal computer- an infinite number of universes capable of creating artificial intelligence would lead to an infinite number of emulated first person experiences.

  My personal observation that is in the same way lay persons are drawn toward God as a comfort, scientists seem to avoid God like the plague for fear that it is irrational, or does not fit the conceptions they should have as scientists.  Now, I don't mean to paint with too broad a brush here because I am aware that many scientists believe in a God, but in general the belief is much weaker than as shown in the general population.  It just seems to me that science is moving closer and closer to a TOE that includes a role for intelligence in the explanation, in one form or another, and this intelligence in whatever capacity is what would generally be considered God.

Even though I don't think that personal gods exist, there are benefits to having faith that they do.  As Kevin Ryan said, there is comfort in submission.
----- Original Message -----
From: "John M" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
Sent: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 12:59 PM
Subject: Re: belief, faith, truth


just imagine a fraction of the infinite afterlife: to sing the pius chants for just 30,000 years by 'people' in heaven with Alzheimers, arthritis, in pain and senility?   Or would you choose an earlier phase of terrestrial life for the introduction in heaven: let us say: the fetal age? or school-years with the mentality of a teenager?  Would you love spouse No 1,2,or 3?  Would you forget about the biggest blunder you did and regretted all your life?
Or would you prefer the eternal brimstone-burning (what a waste in energy) without a painkiller?

I did not ask about your math, how many are involved over the millennia? I asked a Muslim lately, what the huris are and what the female inhabitants of heaven get?

An agnostic has to define what he does 'not' know, hasn't he?  Just as an atheist requires a god 'not' to believe in.  We are SOOO smart!

Have a good day

John M

--- Norman Samish <

> I'm agnostic, yet it strikes me that even if there is no God, those that decide to have faith, and have the ability to have faith, in a benign God have gained quite a bit.  They have faith in an afterlife, in ultimate justice, in the triumph of good over evil, etc.  Without this faith, life for many would be intolerable.   
If there is no God, there is no afterlife and they get a zero.  If there is a God, there is an after life and they get infinity.  So how can they lose?  Maybe Pascal's Wager deserves more consideration.
Norman Samish
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Brent Meeker" <
> To: <>
> Sent: Sunday, January 29, 2006 5:25 PM
> Subject: Re: belief, faith, truth
> Even within the context that Pascal intended it is fallacious.  If you worship the God of Abraham and there is no god, you have given up freedom of thought, you have given up responsibility for your own morals and ethics, you have denied yourself some pleasures of the mind as well as pleasures of the flesh.  It's a bad bargain.  
Brent Meeker
> “The Christian religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration- courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth.” --- H. L. Mencken
> Stathis Papaioannou wrote:
. . . if you believe in the Christian God and are wrong, the real God (who may be worshipped by an obscure group numbering a few dozen people, or by aliens, or by nobody at all) may be angry and may punish you. An analogous situation arises when creationists demand that the Biblical version of events be taught alongside evolutionary theory in schools: if we are to be fair, the creation myths of every religious sect should be taught.  - Stathis Papaioannou
> >

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