Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Atheists and Death: Not what you assume!

It is an unfortunate fact that many Christians perceive atheists through myopic lenses which depict something more in line with a caricature in their own mind, than reality. Such is the case with how atheists view death. The standard spiel here, mainly from fundy Christians, is that the atheist sees it wholly as the end of the line, physical body dies...and finito! Not so fast!

In an event not widely circulated, one of England's most outspoken atheists, Sir A. J. Ayer wrote of his own "near death" experience in The London Sunday Times in December, 1988. Ayer admitted to some "mystification" about his experience, and wasn't prepared to say either:i) it proved a bona fide religious sort of afterlife exists OR ii) It proved a deity existed. But then Ayer was always a cautious fellow as he consistently emphasized the verification principle for claims in his books, articles.

As Ayer related in his Sunday Times account:

"The experience weakened my conviction that death would be the end of me, though I continue to hope it will be.. However, one should note that just as there can be godless life, so also can there be a godless afterlife."

He later described beholding a "red light" which he subjectively construed to be the "supreme law of the universe", though he insisted this was only his "feeling". No where at no point in the Sunday Times account did he mention "God" or a literal "supreme Being", and certainly NO personal entity of the Christian mold. Nor did he bestow any firm conviction on ANYTHING he experienced. Nor did he tie his "supreme law" to a deity.

What exactly was Ayer asserting?

Based on his other writings I am convinced Ayer offered one possible hypothesis for his NDE as there actually being life after death. But note his key words:

"just as there can be godless life, so also can there be a godless afterlife."

In other words, he possibly accepted life could continue, but again -godless as life before death is godless. How can life exist after death if there is no God?

As I made clear in earlier blogs, the error of many religious critics of atheism is they read it only one way. Their brains are too uninformed to process nuance or differences. For example, they insist atheism is based on one hardcore form of Materialism, which grants nothing real other than the hard physical. However, there are actually a number of different forms of Materialism including:

- Physicalist Materialism (everything in the cosmos has a physical nature)

- Epiphenomenalist Materialism (non-physical processes occur contingent on physical origins, organs, etc.)

- Panpsychic Materialism (attributes a mental character to physical entities)

- Emergent Materialism (can attribute vitalist forces to physical nature)

- Dialectical Materialism (mental processes evolve from physical ones)

If Ayer was a Panpsychic Materialist (after his experience) then it is perfectly logical and consistent he'd allow for a "life after death" but with reservations. What are they?

First, as he indicated, no "God" exists. Godless afterlife just like Godless life.

Second, no "soul" exists. What we are talking about is the conscious essence of a human, which is associated with what we call "B-waves". These are a form of quantum-scale wave but with conscious properties. (Discussed at length in the last chapter of physicist David Bohm's book: Wholeness and the Implicate Order). Bohm's essential point is that these elusive B-waves are associated with human consciousness, and because these B-waves can survive death (they are immaterial waves, after all) so can consciousness.

Take neuronal assemblies (which make up discrete regions in the brain) and note that uncertainty principle limitations applied to calcium ion capture near synapses shows they (calcium ions) must be represented by a probability function. (This function may be described from quantum mechanics). E.g. PSI(X,Y,Z, t) in conventional space-time form.

Thus brain dynamics and function is contingent upon the neuron and its connections to synapses. Thus we want networks that invoke the above PSI function and Pauli spin operators as effective gates. (For the Pauli spin operators as matrices, see Fig. 1)

Consider a sub-complex of 1,000 neurons. Labeled A1, A2..........A_n.

Application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to Ca+2 ions (at body temperature) discloses the associated wave packet dimension increases to many times the size of the ion itself. Any classical Newtonian trajectory is therefore inapplicable and irrelevant. (See also, 'Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics', by Henry Stapp).

Thus we can represent the ion uptake superposition as a separate contributor to the aggregate (sub-complex) or neuronal assembly: PSI (A1....A_n) + PSI(Ca+2) in other words, a superposition of wave functions, with each wave function consisting of a wave packet and each wave packet consisting of DE BROGLIE WAVES. The preceding formulation, based on standard interpretation of quantum mechanics, discloses that a non-local aspect of brain function is possible.

Since quantum superpositions can also link fields, e.g. electrical in the brain, then it is possible for these fields to also exist outside the brain's immediate physical dominion. Now, as a field basis for brain phenomena we can refer to the paper, 'Soliton Model Of Einstein’s Nadelstrahlung in Real Physical Maxwell Waves', Nuovo Cimento, Vol. 35, No. 8, 1982.

Let an assembly of neurons (A_n) then be described by a P-wave packet (pilot wave packet comprised of an ensemble of de Broglie waves or B-waves)

A_n = @exp [iS/ h-bar]

where @ is the vector density and S a common phase for the P-waves. Then the assembly A_n moves with a group velocity v = df/(d(1/L) where f is the group frequency and L the wavelength. A_n must also satisfy:

[A_n - (m^2 c^2/ h-bar^2) A_n = 0

(REM: h-bar = h/ 2 pi, where h is Planck’s constant or ~ 6.62 x 10^-34 J-s)

One solution of the preceding can be shown to be:

A_n (b) = @ exp[2 pi (1i) [ft – (x/L) + theta]]

where f is frequency, t is time, L is wavelength and x is position in direction of wave propagation. Theta is the phase angle. (For generality, one can assume theta = 2 pi) These vector waves would have a superluminal velocity. But to put it in terms more apropos of David Bohm's Stochastic QM concept - we instead say that the waves interconnect with particles at a higher dimensional level.

The point? At death, these p-wave packets can escape their associated particles, and act like very finely scaled EM waves. The waves also exhibit a similar form to propagating electro-magnetic waves, e.g.

E(x, t) = E_o exp [i(kx – wt]) (j)

B(x,t) = B_o exp [i(kx – wt]) (k)

j, k directional unit vectors. or, re-writing the factor of the electric, magnetic amplitudes, E_o, B_o (since: exp (ix) = cos (x)- i sin(x)):

E (x,t) = E_o cos (kx – wt) – i[sin (kx – wt)] (j)

B(x,t) = B_o cos (kx – wt) – i[sin (kx – wt)] (k)

where k = 2 pi/ L is wave number vector, x is displacement in wave propagation, w is angular frequency (w = 2 pi f), t is time. This shows that consciousness can feasibly be embodied in B-, P-wave packets and act like a transmitted electro-magnetic wave. (For details on how the field equations of electro-magnetic theory can be directly linked to QM and possible residual consciousness, see: Stochastic Interpretations of Nonrelativistic Quantum Theory, by B.H. Lavenda and E. Santamato, in International Journal of Theoretical Physics, Vol. 23, No. 7, 1984, pp. 601-60)

What would such consciousness be like? Well, it would be absent of any ego, personality or individuality. Indeed, some would perhaps not even regard it as consciousness because of the nonlocal aspect. Perhaps the only thing one would be aware of is that one "is". One could perhaps say, "I am" but in a most diffuse, and amorphous sense. Make no mistake here that none of this is to be confused with any Christian form or account of an afterlife, since there'd be no personality!

Thus, the impersonal quantum post-life consciousness is predicated entirely on physical assumptions, so there is no "supernatural" component.Finally, let me again emphasize the highly speculative nature of all this. Also, to add that my own (current) conviction - in the absence of the evidence or proof for the physical reality of de Broglie waves- is that we simply cease to exist at all at death.

But this is based on my being a hardcore physicalist-Materialist, and only about one in three atheists are. It would be a grievous error to generalize my particular point of view as applying to all atheists. And Sir Ayer is an excellent case in point.


Unknown said...

"Also, to add that my own (current) conviction - in the absence of the evidence or proof for the physical reality of de Broglie waves- is that we simply cease to exist at all at death."

Wait! Didn't Louis de Broglie see his de Brogle (B-) waves discovered in some experiment in the 1920s or was that something else? If my memory is correct I believe this experiment showed what de Broglie proposed in his Ph.D. thesis as "matter waves"...or..was this not the same thing?

Copernicus said...

You are probably referring to the Davisson-Germer experiment of 1929 for which Ni atoms in a substrate were accicentally left over night in an oven. On examining the substrate the next day, the Ni atoms were found to have concentric rings which were attributed to electron (wave) diffraction patterns. In other words, matter (electrons) had disclosed a wave nature which could be measured and were very close to de Broglie's theory (L = h/mv)

However, this is not adequate for the purposes David Bohm and others invoked. As Bohm notes in his textbook, 'Quantum Theory' - p. 157:

"It is critical to regard momentum as a fundamental and not further analyzable property of matter, which, to the extent it is defined - determines statistically only the mean distance covered by a particle in a time according to

d/dt[x^] = p/m

It is this assumption which is used in his Stochastic interpretation of quantum theory to allow that *physical reality* is conferred on the wave function (U) making it deterministic.

Whereas for the main (Copenhagen) interpretation, it is regarded as a statistical artifact only. The physical reality, then, could be shown by extension if the p-waves and B-waves that make up mass-energy packets can be shown to "drive" the evolution of U. Up until now this hasn't been done, though some experiments (elgl the Gozzini experiment and another by Aspect and Rapisarda) have been proposed.

Of course, if successful, such an experiment would also validate the Stochastic Interpretation.