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"Then what do YOU believe?"
A little background: I'm an atheist. Have been for as long as I can remember. I haven't abandoned a religion or suffered a crisis of faith; I never practiced one or had any.

My mother, who never showed any particular signs of it when I was growing up, has lately taken to claiming that she's always been a churchy type and had been suppressing it in the family context because of "things that happened before you were born". As she ages she gets more stroppy about it, and in the last couple-three years we've had some pretty towering rows as she's tried to church me up and I've made it as plain as possible that I'm not having any.

The last time this happened she decided to go on the offensive and demanded to know, if I don't believe in her brand of woo-woo, what DO I believe? The standard "now you're on the spot, smart guy" thing churchy people like to pull. "If science knows everything, where do you people who believe in it go when you die?"

So I mulled it over for a while, and ultimately came up with the following.

Each human mind is a unique, irreproducible,* complex collection of electrical impulses and patterns. We are information, recorded on a fragile, volatile storage medium imperfectly maintained by an unreliable organic machine, and when we die - when the machine stops working - that information is lost. (Sometimes it's lost well before the machine stops.)

This is the fundamental nature of the universe - order into disorder, loss of information. We are temporary self-ordered states. Anomalies. Errors for which entropy eventually, inevitably corrects. It's not in any way reassuring, but it's how things work in the real universe we're all stuck in.

* with current technology

Unsurprisingly, she didn't like my answer.

Current Mood: fatalistic

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dornbeast From: dornbeast Date: February 14th, 2014 07:36 am (UTC) (Link)
The first false assumption in that "gotcha" question: Science doesn't know everything. And one of the things scientists don't know is where people go when they die - is there some existence beyond death, or not?

The second false assumption: People don't believe in science. Either they accept that science is a body of information that has been tested, refined, and occasionally been wrong only to correct itself down the line, or they don't. If I had an annual budget roughly the size of the American GDP, and more time than any human currently has, I could duplicate every scientific discovery ever. Since I don't, I accept that the majority of science is true because it's been tested by people who were searching for the truth, and sometimes re-tested to discover that the old models were crap, and needed to be replaced,

On the other hand, what you've written is perhaps the best summary of what most likely happens when people die. It'll do for a hypothesis, anyhow.
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