ON THE ETERNAL SOUL
Life is a set of chemical processes which is capable of creating child processes faster than entropy can tear it apart. And those child processes in turn can make grand-child processes, and so on. Individual cells do not endure, but the community of cells which is the organism does endure…somewhat longer.
On a higher level, individual organisms do not endure, but the community of organisms which is the species does endure…somewhat longer.
On the highest level, individual species do not endure, but the planetary biosphere which is the set of all species does endure…somewhat longer.
The physical “intelligence” to construct every protein in the human body is encoded in our DNA, which is copied as single-strand transfer RNA, which goes into a ribosome like an audio tape, and the ribosome constructs the protein using this information and materials from the ambient store of amino acids floating around in the cell which are supplied by eating other organisms.
Intelligence in a mental sense is the process of modeling the objective universe in a subjective way. When intelligence is great, as it is in mankind, the model is so precise that it can be used to predict how the real universe will react when changes are made to it. This allows humans to construct, for example, a car. A car is a piece of frozen intelligence.
Patterns of matter are information. A CD contains a layer of dye (matter) which a laser has dented with a series of holes to record information. Every bit of processed information requires energy to create or retrieve. But information can only exist as patterns in matter. The reason for this is simple: since energy is fundamentally light, and light always travels precisely at the speed of light for all observers, there is no way to confine pure energy in frozen patterns like we have produced a car. If disembodied spirits exist, they must be made of different stuff than energy.
To date no believer has put forth a testable hypothesis for the eternal soul, and where it would fit in the Standard Model of particle taxonomy.
People who believe in an eternal soul have latched onto the truism that “energy cannot be destroyed” and also assert the soul is made of energy. This fails for the reason I describe above, and also because energy can indeed be destroyed qua energy when it is converted to matter, and vice-versa.
US FISSION WILDLIFE SERVICE
What demands brought about human intelligence? Why didn’t beavers go from dam-building to great cities long ago? Wolf packs have greater natural selection pressures than apes picking berries. So on the great tree of life why did the homo sapiens twig wake up?
Any other animal preceding us as a civilization would have tapped all the oil. We know we’re the first, and our own depletion of the oil will not even be a sign to the next species that we were here. They will simply take the dearth of oil as a given, and none of our other artifacts will survive. Even the great pyramids will be undistinguished weathered hillocks in the desert if that agent of entropy ISIS doesn’t nuke ’em down to bedrock first like they’re doing to any other pre-Mohammadean artifact.
It took 4.6 billion years to get here. How long to the next civilized species after we’re gone? We’ve been broadcasting radio for only a century out of those billions of years, so is it any wonder when we listen out into space we don’t hear anyone?
If evolution is without purpose, intelligence must be an accident. The dinosaurs were tried
once, and lingered for much longer than we have, but evolution stumbled on. Can any species claim to be the peak of blind, continuing forces?
THANK A ZORKON
The Zorkons somehow survived the War on Experimentalism and become a wise and mature civilization with enough technological prowess to manipulate the very bedrock structure of reality itself. They grew aware that when the universe became sufficiently sparse through its general expansion, it would become possible for a kind of activity similar to biology to occur based on electromagnetic force instead of the usual nuclear reactions (although it would proceed much more sluggishly and on a far grander scale than Zorkon nuclear biology).
As a final gesture of their civilization, and because it was the excellent thing to do, the Zorkons organized all the matter in their universe in such a way as to allow this chemistry-based quasi-biology to come about after trillions of turns, long after the end of conditions which allowed the Zorkons to exist. None of them ever lived to see their labors come to fruition.
Eventually the living chemistry creatures who emerged from the Zorkon’s vast engineering project become intelligent enough to look back at the time of the Zorkons and imagine their universe to have existed only in the first few fractions of a second after the big bang and far too hot and dense for life as they knew it to exist. A few of these beings operating with chemical biology, who called themselves “Humans”, suggested that only a conscious agency could have established the favorable conditions of the universe, but many of the Human “scientists” scoffed at suggestions that there could have been an “intelligent designer” of their universe.
Others insisted the universe was simply created in its found state by a powerful being that resembled a male human.
Humanity somehow survived the War on Terror and became a wise and mature civilization with enough technological prowess to manipulate the very bedrock structure of reality itself. Some humans grew aware that when the universe became sufficiently sparse through its general expansion, it would be possible for a kind of activity similar to biology to occur based on gravity and anti-gravity instead of the chemistry of electromagnetic forces (although it would proceed much more sluggishly and on a far grander scale than human chemical biology).
As a final gesture, and because it was the excellent thing to do, humanity collectively organized all the matter in the universe in such a way as to allow this gravity-based quasi-biology to come about after trillions of years, long after conditions allowing humans to exist had ceased. Not one member of humanity lived to see these long labors come to fruition.
Eventually the living gravity creatures who emerged from humanity’s vast engineering project, who called themselves “Vondans”, become intelligent enough to look back at the earlier epoch and they imagined the universe of humanity to have occurred in the first instant after the big bang and was therefore far too hot and dense for any life as they knew it to exist. A few of the Vondans suggested that only a conscious agency could have established the conditions of their universe, but many of their “scientists” scoffed at suggestions that there could have been an “intelligent designer” of their universe.
Others insisted the universe was simply created in its found state by a powerful being that resembled a male Vondan.
Lather, rinse, repeat…
Terminal Cruise uses that old standby of science fiction, time travel, as a plot device, but before I began to write I had to decide what the nature of time would be in my novel. There were a number of choices.
1) The future and past both exist (history as a panoply).
2) The past exists, the future does not (the sensation of “now” is of the past extending into the future).
3) The past and future do not exist (there exists only the present).
Most time travel stories (and scientists, and theologians) assume option 1, which gives the travelers a wide range of destinations to use their time machine to explore. But it also leads to the inevitable paradox as the pre-existent future is redacted by visiting the past. Also, for everyone who does not have access to time travel, free will cannot exist. The future is a play and we all read our assigned lines even as we delude ourselves that we are free to say and do something else.
For the sake of my story, I assume option 2. In this view, at every instant every particle in the universe makes a complete copy of itself a certain distance away based on its momentum. When time travelers enter the past, they disturb old copies of the particles. The original set continues merrily on. As a result, the choices of the time travelers cause a second universe to gradually bud off from the first as the disentanglement proceeds along their light-cone. One implication of this is that an interested party can grab a copy of you right before you die in a car crash. There’s still some hamburger for your relatives to bury on the original timeline, but there’s also a completely healthy copy of you that survives in a kind of “afterlife”.
This is all well and good for speculative fiction, but my actual personal view is option 3. I’m a presentialist.
There is a thing called the Twin Paradox used to illustrate relativity in time. Taryn and Karyn are twins. In 2006 Karyn stays home, but Taryn flies to Alpha Centauri and back at very nearly the speed of light, a voyage that takes eight years of Karyn’s time, but only a few days of Taryn’s time. So Karyn thinks its 2014, she’s physically eight years older, but Taryn thinks it’s still 2006 and her ship’s clock agrees. She is physically only a few days older.
When Taryn steps off her spaceship and meets her twin, what year is it, 2006 or 2014? It doesn’t matter! There is no time, there is only a universal eternal NOW, but clocks and heartbeats can beat slower or faster depending on their relative motion or position within a gravity well.
The implication is that even if you had a time machine, there would be no available destination. There is no future, nothing for a god or prophet to foresee, and the only past which endures exists in physical records (subject to redaction) and human memories. Even human memories are not stored as complete records but as simple highlights which can trigger the brain to recreate the past at will. That is why three different eyewitnesses can have five different testimonies. Politicians and religious authorities know, like Santayana did, that to repeat the mistakes of the past they must control the teaching of history.
Some believers will object that this limits God, who can “see the end from the beginning” according to the scriptures, but we do not ask God to do impossible things, like create a four-sided triangle or a billiard ball that is all black and all white. The future does not and cannot exist, so even God can be forgiven for not knowing it. And this, in turn, guarantees that our will is always free.
Bowling Ball Universe
There is a way to reconcile an eternal universe with a big bang, which at a casual glance seem to be total opposites.
You see, the universe is about 13.7 billion years old, which is 4 x 10^17 seconds old. When the universe was one-tenth as old as it is now, or 1.37 billion years, it was 4 x 10^16 seconds old.
If we define an “event” as any interaction of subatomic particles (such as an electron emitting a photon, or absorbing a photon), then in the era that the universe was between 4 x 10^16 and 4 x 10^17 seconds old (today), there were a certain number of events, which we can call n.
In the block preceding this one, when the universe went from 4 x 10^15 seconds old to 4 x 10^16 seconds old, the number of events, n, was the same, even though the era only lasted one-tenth as long, because everything was on average ten times closer together. On average only one-tenth the time was required for one event to trigger the next event.
And so on. When the universe was between 0.4 and 4 seconds old, exactly the same number of events happened in that tiny universe as happened in our universe between the time it was 1.37 billion years old and today.
When you get to the nanosecond scale, when the universe was between 4.0 x 10^-10 and 4.0 x 10^-9 seconds old, the universe was only the size of a bowling ball. But inside that bowling ball there were still ‘n’ events happening, because everything was so close together. There might have been creatures living in that bowling-ball sized universe that thought their universe was enormously old and cool and huge in scale, even though to us they lived only an eyeblink after the big bang. Of course their life-processes would have operated with totally different principles than chemistry because it was so hot and dense.
Alternatively, there might be creatures who will come long after us, when the universe is perhaps 4.0 x 10^27 seconds old, who will consider our universe as it exists today to be the size of one of their bowling balls. Such creatures would consider us to be living very early in the big bang explosion. This viewpoint would be true for all scales, like a fractal.
So if you grasp what I’m saying, there can be both an eternal cosmos where the universe has “always” been here, and always expanding, in logarithmic time, yet one could simultaneously point to a “beginning” of the universe in linear time. It also means that the Big Bang is not an event that happened long ago. We are living in the Big Bang now.