Friday, March 30, 2007

Thinking Similar Thoughts

After the disappointing conclusion of Pinker's 'How The Mind Works', I was pleased today to discover two individuals who seem to have made the final step to understanding that everything is pointless. First thanks to ChooseDoubt for pointing me to Struggles For Existence, the website of John Hartung:

"I already exist" you say? ... but what if there comes a time when there will be no evidence — none whatsoever — that you, Kilroy and I were here? "Well ... I won't exist then, but I exist now" sounds like a sensible reply.

Sorry to disagree, but I do because there is a difference between a magician's illusion of sawing a woman in half and actually sawing a woman in half — a difference in consequences. Prospects [Prospects for Existence … one of Hartung’s papers, available on his site] argues that if a time comes when there is no evident difference between life having existed and life having been an illusion, we are conglomerations of matter and energy which merely perceive themselves to be alive. Put differently, if life vanishes without a trace, as is slated to happen if the universe unfolds without interference from us and our descendants, we will not exist then, so we do not exist, in any meaningful sense, now.

[Hartung goes on to argue that] if we agree that there is a problem about the future that affects the meaningfulness of our lives in the present, then we can discuss doing something about both. That's why I want to badger you about existence and offer an alternative to pie in the sky. Prospects proffers eternal consequence, and so existence, through making ourselves the ancestors of a line of descendants that will evolve forever. That is an empirical possibility which, considering the alternative, ought to be pursued.
And looking around the site, Struggles For Existence seems to cover a lot of the same ground as this blog and is well worth a look. Somebody else who has been thinking similar thoughts, is Matthew Alper, author of 'The God Part of the Brain' which I started reading today:
And if God does not exist? Then I am no longer the extension of some transcendental force or being, no longer one with any exalted spiritual realm, no longer infinite or eternal. In short, if there is no God, I am mortal. And if I'm mortal? Then death is the decisive end of my existence. These few fleeting years of life will be the only ones I will ever know. And when they're done, "Out, out, brief candle!" This person "I" called "me," the sum of my conscious experience will be snuffed out for all eternity. Without God, there is no transcendental realm. Instead, I am abandoned to the spiritless forces of a coldly indifferent and mechanistic universe, an expendable cog in a soulless machine - here today, gone tomorrow - a random event in an arbitrary universe, no more significant than a speck of cosmic dust. Consequently, without God, life holds no intrinsic purpose or meaning.
Thank god there are some sane people in the world. That others understand actually does make me feel a bit better! More on 'The God Part of the Brain' soon.