## Monday, September 17, 2018

### Do We Still Need To Believe In "Hell"? Uh...NO!

Image (13th century artist's depiction ) of"Hell" and accompanying WSJ Review header.

In his WSJ Review piece "Do We Still Need To Believe In Hell" yesterday, Fordham professor Scott G. Bruce informs us that:

"Hell lost some of its purchase on humankind in the 19th century, when new scientific theories such as Darwinism eroded the authority of the bible and the tides of sentiment turned against God's wrath in favor of His mercy."

This is correct given Darwin's theory of evolution pertaining to hominids shows humans descended from more primitive ape ancestors in the sort of process shown below:

The disconnection to supernatural fantasies and follies was traumatic for a large portion of humans at the time, and still remains so - as millions remain unable to accept we are risen apes and not "fallen angels".  But they should rejoice, because being the former - in terms of evolution - means there is no purchase whatsoever of supernatural punishments.  As we all know, and can be grown-up enough to say, neither the descendants of apes, or apes themselves possess "souls". There is only a brain, but it is ample to generate consciousness as I already showed in my blog post on  'A Materialist Model of Consciousness'

Thus, when a human (or ape) dies, that's it. He is gone and there is nothing left - nothing to "punish" and nothing to go on. This hard fact may be why so many evangelicals and other   über  orthodox Christians refuse to accept evolution: they don't want to accept: a) they have no souls, and b) when they're dead, that's it, finito.

Aside: I   do, however, leave open the (small) possibility of a nonlocal - quantum based - afterlife - wherein consciousness is enfolded in de Broglie waves.  In such case, death doesn't mean the final termination of consciousness, so much as the end of its localization. If that is so, you cease to be a "person" or an individual identity and instead merge with other dispersed quantum wave forms (I have called them "B-waves" or de Broglie waves) to enter an "oceanic" state.  Some commenters, i.e. Bryon Ehlmann on Quora,  have insisted there is no evidence for this but they are wrong.  The Davisson-Germer experiment revealed wave patterns from which the de Broglie wavelength  could be computed. The experimental set up is shown below *:

Since these "matter waves" are inextricably bound to material particles, e.g. electrons, protons, and these persist after death, it is not a stretch to postulate the continued existence of B-waves or de Broglie waves and embodying a kind of remedial or primitive consciousness.

But I digress. The point is there is no need for "Hell" or to postulate such  - because it has exhausted itself as any kind of useful concept, especially after Darwin's theory of evolution has basically rendered it fanciful along with hobgoblins and the Boogieman.    Where Prof. Bruce is more on target is when he writes:

"At the same time, Hell has become a powerful metaphor for the most extreme suffering and squalor in this world."

To underscore this one can reference horrific spectacles such as beheld when the Nazi concentration camps were liberated, and which embodied the very essence of earthly Hell, e.g.

Photo taken outside the Mauthausen Concentration Camp by Russian soldiers in May, 1945.   Many  soldiers in the company that raided the camp declared they'd never beheld any Hell until seeing the gassed bodies of the Jewish victims.

But having briefly ventured into reality, Prof. Bruce then trundles back outside it to supernatural fairyland when he asks:

"Has Hell outlived its usefulness in modern society? Probably not. The doctrine still serves Christianity as it has for centuries as a frightening deterrent to sinful behavior."

I seriously doubt it. Most every person equipped with basic critical thinking skills and an IQ over room temperature can ascertain in a few minutes that  the Hell doctrine collapses under logical scrutiny alone, e.g.

As for "sin", it is too childish for words. “Sin” is predicated on an exaggerated importance of humans in the universe. Thus, it elevates (albeit in a perverse way) the importance of humans in an otherwise meaningless cosmos. With “sin”,  the overly self-important and morally smug, self-righteous human has at least the potential of offending his deity – thereby getting its attention – as opposed to being relegated to the status of a cosmic “roach”.

"Sin” then is a catch all, throwaway term for any localized and reactive behavior, e.g. at the personal, individual level, which is perceived as an offense against a deity. In the strict religious idiom, “Sin” impinges on and affects the deity that so many believe in...so if a deity doesn't exist there can be no sin. Take away the deity, and the whole sin fetish, obsession loses its allure and quickly becomes redundant. How can there be “sin” if there is no deity to offend or to notice “sin”? To tote up all the little “black marks” in its “book of future judgment”.  If we are talking of offenses against other humans, say like Brett Kavanaugh's attack on a HS school girl (Christine Blasey Ford) when he was at Georgetown Prep- well that may well be a crime, but we usually don't invoke the religious term "sin."

Beyond that, no less a stalwart than philosopher Sir Bertrand Russell, in his book Why I Am Not A Christian, precisely identifies ‘religion’s source of terror’ ("Hell")  to account for the hold it has on so many. He notes how fear has been ‘dignified’ by use of this source: the demented hell concept to the point people no longer think it disgraceful[1] . Russell correctly points out that by dignifying fear as a coercive tool to drum people into the fold, religions lose any claim to credibility.  Again, I assert with the content of the preceding link and some critical thought, most intelligent people ought to be able to dispel any "need" to believe in Hell in a very short time.

Finally at the end of his essay, it is encouraging to see Bruce come to his senses,  grounded in reality again:

"In some distant, better future, the foreclosure of Hell will be an important step in the maturation of human communities that can mete out justice on their own, without supernatural aid."

My question is: Why wait for some distant future to get our act together?  Why keep exploting supernatural bunkum and boogiemen (demons, Satan)?  Given our ascent to wards mastering AI  and other marvels, there's no reason why supernatural - free justice can't be developed and meted out now. Besides, most people with more than half a brain already know Hell is B.S.  For all the reasons given above.  So I say, let's launch on that "better future" from now, not wait another thousand years!  (Assuming we even have that long, which I frankly doubt.)

------
*  Davisson and Germer heated their nickel crystal  specimen in a high temperature oven, not knowing that this affected the formerly polycrystalline structure of the nickel to form large single crystal areas with crystal planes continuous over the width of the electron beam. To make a long story short, when the experiment re-commenced  the electrons were scattered by atoms which originated from crystal planes inside the nickel crystal, leaving patterns from which the de Broglie wavelength could be calculated according to:
$n\lambda =2d\sin \left(90^{{\circ }}-{\frac {\theta }{2}}\right),$

[1] Russel, R.: Why I Am Not A Christian, Touchstone Books, p. 54, 1957.

Anonymous said...

"If that is so, you cease to be a "person" or an individual identity and instead merge with other dispersed quantum wave forms (I have called them "B-waves" or de Broglie waves) to enter an "oceanic" state."

So according to your theory there would be no perception of what is going on in that "afterlife", right?
And by the way what do you think that rudimental consciousness would be like? Do you think there would be any thoughts?

Copernicus said...

The simplest hypothesis - which I actually subscribe to (see y post of Feb. 9, 2014)is that no afterlife exists, period. When you die it's curtains, nothingness, as if in perpetual general anesthesia. The next simplest hypothesis is the de Broglie nonlocal wave state enabling a rudimentary consciousness, though I'm not even sure such entity makes sense given our current language limitations. Again, this is not my "theory", but more or less articulated by others who drew applicable inferences from research by Stuart Hameroff - a former anesthesiologist- and physicist David Bohm ('Wholeness and the Implicate Order')

For sure, it is doubtful one would even acknowledge one is in an afterlife if in an implicate order, as Bohm describes it. By the same token, it is impossible (imho) for an exolicated being to describe what an implicate existence would be like. But if you read Bohm's book it will definitely provide more extensive insights than I can impart in a blog comment.

Anonymous said...

But do you think there would be any thoughts? Or you have no concrete opinion on this question?

Copernicus said...

Thoughts imply a degree of individuality, or individual consciousness, hence there would not be thoughts as we recognize or identify them. Again, given we are explicated beings trying to imagine what implicate beings would experience (as "thoughts"0 it's a bit like discussing how many angels inhabit the tip of a pin.

Anonymous said...

One last question, if this "afterlife" happens to be true, do you think it is the same as before we were born, or is "something new"?

Anonymous said...

And by the way since there would be no individual thoughts like we know them, then there wouldn't be any awareness of the state that we would be in, right?

Copernicus said...

There clearly could not be any "individuated" awareness of state - only a holistic awareness, but god only know what that means. The problem was so formidable that Bohm in his book (pp. 39-60) believed an entirely novel language has to be devised to try to deal with the implicate order and holistic reality. He called his novel language the "rheommode". Hence, in his introduction to the specific topic of language he writes:

"In the previous chapter it has been pointed out that our thought
is fragmented, mainly by our taking it for an image or model of
‘what the world is’. The divisions in thought are thus given
disproportionate importance, as if they were a widespread and
pervasive structure of independently existent actual breaks in
‘what is’, rather than merely convenient features of description
and analysis. Such thought was shown to bring about a thoroughgoing
confusion that tends to permeate every phase of life,
and that ultimately makes impossible the solution of individual
and social problems. We saw the urgent need to end this confusion,
through giving careful attention to the one-ness of the
content of thought and he actual process of thinking which
produces this content."

He then delves into the rheomode, viz.

"Suddenly to invent a whole new language implying a radically
different structure of thought is, however, clearly not practicable.
What can be done is provisionally and experimentally to introduce
a new mode of language. Thus, we already have, for example,
different moods of the verb, such as the indicative, the subjunctive,
the imperative, and we develop skill in the use of language
so that each of these moods functions, when it is required,
without the need for conscious choice. Similarly, we will now
consider a mode in which movement is to be taken as primary in
our thinking and in which this notion will be incorporated into
the language structure by allowing the verb rather than the noun
38 wholeness and the implicate order
to play a primary role. As one develops such a mode and works
with it for a while, one may obtain the necessary skill in using it,
so that it will also come to function whenever it is required,
without the need for conscious choice.
For the sake of convenience we shall give this mode a name,
i.e. the rheomode (‘rheo’ is from a Greek verb, meaning ‘to flow’).
At least in the first instance the rheomode will be an experiment
in the use of language, concerned mainly with trying to find out
whether it is possible to create a new structure that is not so
prone toward fragmentation as is the present one. Evidently,
then, our inquiry will have to begin by emphasizing the role of
language in shaping our overall world views as well as in
expressing them more precisely in the form of general philosophical
ideas. For as suggested in the previous chapter these
world views and their general expressions (which contain tacit
conclusions about everything, including nature, society, ourselves,
our language, etc.) are now playing a key role in helping
to originate and sustain fragmentation in every aspect of life. So
we will start by using the rheomode mainly in an experimental
way. As already pointed out, to do this implies giving a kind of
careful attention to how thought and language actually work,
which goes beyond a mere consideration of their content"

The chapter gives a fascinating insight into Bohm's mind and how he wrestled with the issue of describing a holistic entity via a fragmented language. At root, the takeaway I got was that even talking about "awareness" in an implicate order reality implies the ability to actually think in the rheomode. Not that any of us - as explicated beings - have achieved anything thus far. (And even Bohm admitted the limitations)

Copernicus said...

"One last question, if this "afterlife" happens to be true, do you think it is the same as before we were born, or is "something new"?"

I would lean to the idea it is something new.

Anonymous said...

Im sorry if I wont be able to express myself properly since english is not my first language, but if this "afterlife" would be something new wouldn't we be able to "observe" or detect some type of wave field getting bigger everyday, since so many people die everyday?
And I suppose since this would be something new than you dont believe this waves could "go into someone else" in some kind of reincarnation, right?

Anonymous said...

And do you think it would be possible to exist a similar "afterlife" to the one here proposed but with individualized thinking and consciousness of the self(since in the "afterlife" we talked about there wouldn't be survival of the "self")?