THE MURDER ON A BEACH THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: ON HAVING A SOUL
Deriving the existence of souls from an examination of human behavior, plus the fundamental physical reason why souls have to exist in the first place. These proofs rest on a foundation of coldly objective logic and reason. The reader is invited to use his/her own logic and reason to decide for himself/herself if they are correct and rigorous---or not. I guarantee you an interesting read.
I have received a request or two from readers for permission to copy and re-post certain essays of The Nine Point Five Theses in other forums.
What happens to people when they die?
It is the purpose of The Nine Point Five Theses to light a fire under scientists' rear ends and get them pounding away on finally answering this question. To, quite precisely, get scientists to attempt to find souls by building a soul-detector and detecting souls under rigorous laboratory conditions. I have a suggestion about how to conduct this experiment based on a personal experience of mine.
Is the question of what happens when people die an important question? Is this something critical the human race MUST absolutely, positively know the answer to one day, be the answer positive or negative?
Um, yes, it is. I will not justify that answer here. Why this is true is laid out in the various theses that follow this opening piece. I will leave that answer hanging as a hook to draw the gentle reader into reading The Nine Point Five Theses posted here.
But yes, it is in fact CRITICALLY important for the human race to know the answer to this question. The human race is rapidly approaching the point where it will be vital for us to truly know what happens when people die. To know the answer as precisely as it is possible to know it. To know it by the best tool the human race has for knowing things.
To know it by using the tool---of science.
The answer to the question of life after death, or not, must be known, and SOON----to a SCIENTIFIC certainty.
Why now, I can hear the gentle reader ask. The human race has been getting along just fine for all of its existence so far without knowing the answer to this question. Why is it suddenly so critical to the human race the answer to this question be known NOW?
Because there are certain choices technology is about to make available to human beings, and what choice will be the smartest one to make is going to depend on whether or not human beings have souls, or don't. Whether a human being is no more than his physical body, or are really, truly, immortal souls that merely occupy physical bodies from time to time.
Again, what those technological choices are I won't specify here. They are contained in The Nine Point Five Theses, and again I leave what these choices will be as a hook to draw the gentle reader into going through them. They are quite amazing things, these new gadgets. You can see them coming in the technological developments of today.
So how do we go about applying the tool of science to answering this question?
The first thing to do is to see if we can develop a consistent physical theory. A physical theory of souls. If we can develop a completely rigorous, self-consistent theory of souls, we will have gone a VERY long way towards convincing scientists to conduct experiments to detect souls.
And so are born The Nine Point Five Theses. They are that foundation theory.
Are they rigorous? Are they self-consistent? Are they so completely rigorous and self-consistent any thinking scientist is immediately going to go flying to his laboratory and start trying to build a soul-detector?
That, gentle reader, is YOUR judgment to make---NOT MINE.
Because it's all about reason and logic here, man. I am writing "2+2=4" up on the board here for all the world to see---but I am NOT insisting you believe it simply because I say so.
I insist the gentle reader use his own judgement, his own personal capacity for critical thinking, for thinking coldly, rationally, and objectively, to determine whether or not this theory is correct and rigorous---or isn't.
One thing I DEMAND here.
Critical thinking, I ABSOLUTELY demand. Toss what you think you know out the window before reading The Nine Point Five Theses. Toss all your scientifically unproven assumptions right out. Read these things with a totally open mind.
Now, about the suggested soul-detection experiment. About the cat-soul-diving-through-my-chest thing.
Once upon a time, many years ago while I was living in Lafayette, Louisiana, I had a cat.
"Shovel Puss" was her name. A bit of a play on words, you see, she was, if you'll pardon the pun, a "spayed cat."
And she was dying.
Hepatic lipidosis, the vet said, fat cells invading the liver, and there was nothing anybody could do.
I first discovered her condition one morning when I saw that her skin had turned yellow and hauled her furry tail to the vet. The vet said all we could do was "support" her, in medical terms, and hope she got better all by herself. In practical terms, this meant inserting an IV tube into her so she could at least be hydrated, and leaving her in the vet's office for several days where he could keep an eye on her.
So I left her there, and dropped by in the afternoon to check on her and see how she was doing. This went on, oh, for at least several days. It was many years ago, and I'm not clear on the details now.
One afternoon on one visit, a Thursday I think, Shovel Puss looked dead at me and hollered REAL LOUD about how she wanted to leave this vet's office and go home right NOW, dammit!
So I took her home. The vet gave me a syringe filled with some kind of drug--for pain, I think--and gave me instruction on how to give a cat a shot. (You fold up the cat's skin between your fingers, insert the syringe into the fold, and gently push the plunger down.)
The vet told me to bring her back in the morning. No problem. Shovel Puss was ecstatic to be back in her own place, despite being very weak. She had a nice visit, and the next morning I gathered up and put her in my car and carried her back to the vet's office.
This Shovel Puss did NOT like. She took one look at the vet's office and deflated like the air going out of a balloon. She had had enough of the vet's office. I didn't like doing it, but I left her there and went off to work.
About 11:30 I left work to go to a restaurant for lunch. There was no other customers in the restaurant as it was early. I ordered a baked chicken lunch, which arrived promptly.
Just before I took my first bite, a "ball of energy" appeared, oh, about six feet in front of me and three feet up. It dived at me, entered my chest just to the left of my heart, went through me chest, exited just under and to the right of my left shoulder blade, continued on for a few more feet, and disappeared.
When I say "ball of energy", it's because I have no other words to describe it. There was no light, no sound, nothing in any of the normal physical senses.
This was so completely, totally, out of the realm of my experience I had no reaction beyond a certain befuddlement. Although I must confess I had a sneaking suspicion my poor kitty cat was gone.
I just ate my lunch and left.
When I got back to work I was told I had gotten a phone call while I was out. I called the number. It was my vet.
He informed me he had had to put Shovel Puss to sleep "a short while ago."
I cannot, in a rigorous, scientific sense, claim that "ball of energy" was Shovel Puss's soul, a cat-soul. I, ahem, left my soul-detector home that day.
What I can do is propose the following soul-detection experiment.
There are these little widgets called SQUIDs, Superconducting Quantum Interference Detectors, which have the ability to detect VERY small electromagnetic fields. I propose constructing a sphere of these devices, putting a cat to sleep in the middle of it, and trying to detect the cat's soul---assuming it exists---as it leaves the cat's body and passes through the SQUIDs.
Since cats are used and not human beings, a great number of ethical concerns are avoided. The experiment becomes easy.
To make it completely ethical, we will only use cats that are about to be put to sleep anyway. I point out that if cats have souls, we are doing no real harm. We are only separating the cats' souls from their bodies.
(Y'all pardon me a minute. I got to excite some scientist egos here. These scientist people are all about "credit", i.e. ego.
To all you scientists out there:
What if I am right? What if The Nine Point Five Theses really, truly are rigorous and self-consistent?
What if souls exist as real, physical entities?
What would happen to any scientist who succeeded in detecting souls? You think he/she might win so many Nobel Prizes he/she could cover the walls of his/her office with them? You think he/she would have grant money pouring out of his/her ears for the rest of his/her life? You think they'd go down in history for conducting the most significant experiment in the history of mankind? You think people walking down the street would see them, point their finger at them, scream out their name, and faint dead away?
I think it might happen EXACTLY like that. What do you scientists think?
For you scientists who take up this challenge---happy hunting.)
A closing word about The Nine Point Five Theses.
Read them in any order you want. They can be read in any order. They are independent of each other.
And there aren't actually nine point five theses, at least not yet. So far, there are only four theses. The extra two are left-over blogs from a time when this site was a daily blog. They have ideas in them the gentle reader might find interesting, so I left them in.
Each of The Nine Point Five Theses has an underlying theme. I list them below to help the reader understand them.
---"On Emotion Drugs"
Why are emotion drugs illegal? Why is the War On Drugs being fought so vigorously? They seem like such harmless things. This thesis answers that question. The answer will surprise you. Emotion drugs are an incredibly fundamental attack on the basis of society. For a non-scientist, this is probably the thesis you should read first.
On an abstract level, this thesis shows what effect immortal souls would have on a society's basic rules of behavior, specifically what an individual immortal soul may and may not do to get happy.
---"On The Sentient Constraints Of A Sentient-Containing Universe"
This is the rock-bottom of all The Nine Point Five Theses. This thesis explains why something as weird as immortal souls MUST exist in the first place. (They make a sentient-containing Universe stable, as in safe from its sentients, if you must know RIGHT NOW.) If you are a scientist, read this thesis first.
---"The Happiness Box: A Short Scene"
The intent here is to get the gentle reader to examine his own actions, and see if he, personally, all his life, has been acting like he has a soul---but just hadn't realized it.
What would YOUR choice be, gentle reader? Would YOU choose to go into a Happiness Box, or not?
This one is two parts. In the first part, I derive a single, simple rule that encompasses all of human motivation. Since this rule involves souls, in the next part I examine human action to see if we can find evidence of souls in it. I do this by deriving what would the SMART way for a person to act if he does NOT have a soul, and the SMART way for a person to act if he DOES. I close by examining the ultimate effect of having or not having a soul on society.
To those who take up the challenge of reading and analyzing The Nine Point Five Theses for yourself---happy thinking.
(And for those of you who find The Nine Point Five Theses completely rigorous and logical:
HELP ME SPARK THE SOUL-DETECTION EXPERIMENTS.
If you know a scientist who could carry out soul-detection experiments---show him/her The Nine Point Five Theses. After they get their Nobel Prize, they will thank you profusely.
If you don't know any scientists, then, if you would please, at least help me spread the word. Digg this if you can, post links, and so forth, whatever you can think of that'll help spread the word and start a debate that will end, I absolutely guarantee you, in scientists finally doing experiments to detect souls.
Little help here?)
And I'm done.
I guarantee you all an interesting read.
Andrew: A married man with a wife and kids. A good and kind man who loves his wife and children very much.
But Andrew is also a man who doesn’t believe he has a soul.
Jeff Corkern: Me.
Me and Andrew are on a stage. I am standing stage left, Andrew is stage right sitting in a chair. In the rear and center of the stage, Andrew’s wife and two children are sitting, watching both of us.
"Andrew, man," I say, "I’m going to do you a favor. I’ve got a gadget that will make you happy permanently."
Andrew raises an eyebrow in mild disbelief.
I walk off-stage and return pushing what looks like a large steel coffin on wheels.
"Andrew," I say, "this is a Happiness Box."
I open the top of the box. Inside is revealed a very large computer, plus various clear plastic tanks containing fluids and tubes running to those tanks. At top, in the region where a head would lay, is an open metal sphere with what looks like half a hollow basketball with tiny electrodes spiking out all over its interior. All the wires and tubes in the box lead to the metal sphere.
"Andrew," I say, "this box is the ultimate in virtual reality, the absolutely latest ultra-cool advance in high technology. It works like this. Surgeons will remove your brain and place it in this basketball-looking thingy here. Then the surgeons permanently implant electrodes into your brain’ sensory nerves---hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, everything. In the box is a computer that will feed impulses into the electrodes attached to your sensory nerves. The computer will be programmed to keep your brain in perfect health and give you whatever you want. Essentially what happens is your current life is replaced by another life---"
Andrew's wife and children look at Andrew with sudden concern.
"No," Andrew says, sharply and with total revulsion. "Who would take care of my children? Who would love them?"
Andrew's wife and children look relieved.
"Please don’t interrupt, Andrew," I say, "it’s rude. Essentially what happens is your current life is replaced by another life---except this life will be perfect. Before you go into the box, you can program any kind of life you want ---"
"No," says Andrew, interrupting again. "I am not interested."
"Please, Andrew, mind your manners," I say mildly. "I’m still not finished. When you go into the box, all memories of the box itself will be erased. So, as far as you will know, the life you are living inside the box will be perfectly real."
"Not interested," Andrew says. "You’re talking about abandoning my family."
"Yeah," I say. "So what? We’ll just chop that memory out, too."
"Forget it," Andrew says, "not a chance."
"Andrew, you’re not thinking," I say. "You’re passing up a golden opportunity. All you are is your brain, right? Reality is just a current of sensory impulses going into your brain and being processed in various ways. That’s all you are. Physically speaking, all we are going to do is replace the sensory current portion with another sensory current. By all logic and reason, it will be precisely the same, precisely as real as the life you are living now."
"Jeff," Andrew says, "you are wasting your time. No."
"It’s my time to waste," I say. "I’m only trying to do you a favor."
"By telling me to abandon my wife and children? Hardly."
"We can wipe the memory of that out after you’re in the box!" I protest. "You’ll never know you did it! C’mon, man! Why not?"
"It’s not ethical!"
"Now tell me, please," I ask, "what does the word ‘ethical’ mean in any physical terms? In terms of volts and newtons? You’re not making any sense."
Andrew shakes his head and looks stubborn.
"What’s the physical difference?" I ask. "What physical experiment could you perform that could tell you the difference? That you were inside a Happiness Box?"
"I don’t know, and I certainly don’t care," Andrew says. "I’m not going to do it."
I sigh in a forbearing fashion.
"Let me point out as precisely as I can what you’re giving up," I say. "Surely you will see the light of reason then. Andrew, what do you really, truly want? In the Happiness Box, you can have it, and more. Would you like to see your children always be obedient and never give you any trouble? Done. Would you like to see your children grow up and win Nobel Prizes? No problem. Be a rich man with no money worries, live in a big, fancy house on the beach? A mere few lines of code. We can even dispense with sensory experience altogether and just shoot the juice to your pleasure centers. Permanent bliss."
"Well, what about women, then? The supermodel of your choice. All of them. One, a hundred, a thousand. They’re all in there, every single one, waiting for you."
"Look," I say, "there are going to be lots of people who will be more than happy to jump into this box with both feet. They’re going to be fighting each other by the millions to get a Happiness Box of their own. Even fathers. Join the crowd. Everybody else will be doing it."
"Perhaps they will," Andrew says, "but I shall not. That thing is an abomination. No."
"Andrew," I sigh, "you’re a hard case. Here’s yet another advantage. When you’re in the box, we’re going to put it deep underground. You will not be exposed to new diseases, or environmental carcinogens, or be in danger of dying by accident, or terrorist attack, or any of a thousand other different dangers. Since you also won’t have a body, it will be impossible for you to die of a million different ailments. Which all adds up to one thing. When you’re in the box, you will be safe, Andrew, safe beyond your wildest dreams, and you will as a consequence live a very long time, maybe hundreds of years."
"Okay," I say, "you force me to do this. I wanted to avoid this, but now I have no choice. I told you I was trying to do you a favor. Now I will tell you why."
I raise my hands to indicate the entire stage.
"This reality we’re in now can be a terrible place, a place of absolute, bone-crushing horror," I say. "What’s the most horrible thing you can imagine? I bet I know. Watching your children die slowly and painfully of cancer while you stand by utterly helpless to remove their pain. I can save you that." I point at the box. "In the box, that can’t happen. In the box, Andrew, nothing bad can ever happen to you."
"That’s nuts," I say. "That’s absolutely nuts. Do you understand what you’re turning down? A long life of perfect peace and happiness, for a short life that is certain to contain pain and suffering. Will you turn that down? Will you?"
"I will," Andrew says flatly. "To raise my children and keep them safe, to love my wife and children, I will take the short life of pain and suffering."
"You’re a good man, Andrew," I say. "But I want to ask you one question. Is what you’re doing rational according to your belief system? All I’m doing, from your perspective, is replacing one sensory stream with another, much better one---and yet you turn it down, and it’s not even close. Does that make sense?"
"I will concede it’s not rational," Andrew says. "But I’d rather be irrational than abandon my family."
"Okay," I say, tossing my hands up theatrically, "I give up."
Hanging my head in a defeated fashion, I push the box off-stage.
I return bearing a flat, oblong package of a green, leafy material wrapped in clear plastic.
"You won’t let me make you happy permanently," I say, "so let me at least make you happy for a little while."
I lay the package at Andrew’s feet and back away.
"That’s marijuana," I say. "Happy toking. Just bend over and pick it up."
Three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers enter from behind Andrew and surround Andrew on three sides. They fold hairy muscular arms over massive chests and stare straight down at Andrew.
Andrew looks up at the three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers.
"Hello, officers," he says.
The three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers don’t say a word. One great, big, mean, UGLY police officer shifts in a significant fashion that makes his handcuffs clink together rather loudly.
"Hurry up, get smoking, and get happy," I say. "Time’s a-wastin’."
Andrew looks at me.
"Now you’re the one who’s nuts," he says. "No. I have zero desire to go to jail."
"If you bend over, pick up, and smoke that dope," I say, "or, generally speaking, get happy by direct stimulation of your brain’s pleasure centers----the three great, big, mean, UGLY cops here will bust you and haul your rear end off to jail."
"You touch that dope, that emotion drug---you get punished."
"That about covers it."
"So touching that dope---isn’t smart, isn’t rational."
"Tell you what," I say, "I have a compromise. If you would, officers."
The three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers back up about three feet. I produce a large piece of white chalk and draw a square around Andrew, so that the three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers are just outside the square.
"All right," I say. "I have made a deal with the three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers here. As long as you stay in that square, you can smoke all the dope you want. Inside that square, you have COMPLETE freedom of action. But, alas, the second you leave that square, for whatever reason, you can be arrested and punished for any illegal actions you performed while inside the square."
"Not punished right then, just punished later," he says. "That is no compromise. Forget it."
"So it’s still stupid to touch that dope?"
"Yes, it’s still stupid to touch this dope."
I gesture. The Happiness Box is wheeled back out onto the stage.
"One more time," I say. "This box will make you happy---UNTIL THE DAY YOU DIE. Something I didn’t state the first time, but was certainly implied. Want it?"
"Andrew, man," I say softly, "you are acting just like you did in the white-square situation. This Happiness Box ain't nothing but a high-tech emotion drug, and you are acting like you can get busted for drugs not now, but later. Incredibly, you are acting like you can get busted for using emotion drugs---AFTER YOU DIE. You say you don’t believe you have a soul---but when we examine your actions, we discover YOU ACT LIKE YOU DO."
Now it’s Andrew’s turn to not say a word.
"Now we can define the word ‘ethical’ in physical terms, perhaps," I say. "An unethical action is an action I can get away with while I’m alive, but will be punished for after I die. I screw up, a hammer I can’t escape comes down on my rear end. That’s a PHYSICAL definition."
"But I didn’t think of it like that," Andrew says finally. "I thought only of loving my family."
"But you yourself said what you were doing didn’t make sense by your own belief system," I said. "Only one thing makes your behavior to be in your own personal self-interest, rational, explainable. You are acting like you have a soul---but it’s totally unconscious on your part, buried deep in your guts, so much a part of you you’re not even aware of it. And it’s not just you, Andrew, the vast majority of the human race is doing exactly the same thing---acting like they have souls, but completely unaware of it."
I step back.
"For your kids, I do this," I say. "I suggest you reconsider very carefully what you think you believe, how it might affect people’s actions---the entire human race---in times to come. Because Happiness Boxes are coming, man, they are at most only decades away. And, if there are no souls, this Happiness Box you so rightly called an abomination becomes RATIONAL."
Labels: souls emotion drugs happiness