The afterlife and the first law of thermodynamics

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Benjboi's picture
The afterlife and the first law of thermodynamics

My question is this, does the first law of thermodynamics and to a lesser extent the second law effectively prove that we exist beyond our deaths. I'm not talking about a traditional afterlife, I'm talking that the fabric of my body will only convert into something else and since my mind is a system of electrical impulses in essence, that those exist beyond me. So is the afterlife real? Discuss...............

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algebe's picture
@Benjboi "since my mind is a

@Benjboi "since my mind is a system of electrical impulses in essence, that those exist beyond me."

Is that what you think souls and gods consist of? Patterns of electrical impulses? That seems rather mundane and well, natural. I thought your god was supernatural.

chimp3's picture
Benjiboi: Ask your deity!

Benjiboi: Ask your deity!

mykcob4's picture
STupid question from Benjboi.

STupid question from Benjboi.

Move along nothing to see here!

Benjboi's picture
I thought your God was

I thought your God was supernatural? Ask your deity. Stupid comment move along?

You seem to all be labouring under the illusion that I'm claiming to have an answer or that I'm goading you into an argument. I'm not and I'm not some bloody ignorant zealot. Debating an interesting point is just inherently more interesting than watching tv on an evening. I like a decent discussion and was hoping to engage in one. Sadly no matter where I go, be it political forums, religious forums, law and order forums I find people who do not want to engage in discussion which leads me to ponder, if you don't want to engage in discussion why on earth are you on a forum? I thought that maybe I could find a civil debate amongst the cold logic of atheism but even here, amongst the supposedly enlightened, in a forum called the debate room for pity's sake I cannot get civil discourse, what a bloody sad state of affairs that is. For my point it's a perfectly reasonable theological question and your belief in a lack of a God is a perfectly reasonable theological belief.

So I ask again in the vain hope of discussion, does the conservation of matter imply that the afterlife is a possibility? If not why not?

algebe's picture
Benjboi: In your profile you

Benjboi: In your profile you've identified yourself as "non-atheist", so I responded to your comment on that basis. Theists assert that their gods are supernatural, outside of time and the realm of nature. So I questioned whether you thought souls and gods were patterns of electromagnetic impulses, because that doesn't seem to fit the supernatural idea.

That's a counter-argument in my book, though Michael Palin might disagree.

mykcob4's picture

1) Your status is non-atheist
2) As a rule, non-atheist are hostile to atheists
3) We have had this "debate" so many times on this forum it isn't even funny. We know how it goes. If you have something NEW please feel free to add it, but I warn you I doubt very much that you do.
4) No one knows what happens after you die except for the natural decay of the physical body.
5) I hazard a guess that the energy force dissipates. It is just a guess.
Unless you can actually measure in a controlled environment where the energy goes at the moment of death, it is mere speculation. Not a debate that I or many people would be interested in. A subject that would be completely devoid of facts isn't worth the effort.

And that is the problem with discussing anything with non-atheists. They interject things that have no basis in fact. Here are some examples.
a) god is eternal
b) intelligent design
c) young earth
d) flat earth
e) biblical verses

So on and so forth. These "debates" are just things devised by christian apologists. Please reference my thread on "Apologists"

So if you want to "engage" either come up with something that is actually NEW or pick a subject that is interesting.
I have had "interesting conversations with Deans of Divinity colleges from a variety of universities. One such subject had to do with the morality or lack thereof, of missionaries.

Benjboi's picture
I apologise if this isn't new

I apologise if this isn't new to you but it is new to me. I've never discussed this idea with anyone before and I thought it worth while bringing up. I'm not prepared to trawl through hundreds of pages to check if my musings had been mentioned before. If you don't like them a far more cordial thing to do is to just ignore them. It's an irony clearly lost that you're so hostile (and rightly so) towards Christian bigotry and yet are guilty of a similar kind of bigotry yourself.

If you don't mind me saying so it's also quite arrogant to suggest that because you've made your mind up about something the discussion has no value. Of course it has value, it has value to everyone that's yet to formulate an opinion.

Unless I'm very much mistaken isn't a discussion without fact called philosophy? Couldn't it then be argued that since modern western atheism has its roots in philosophy that far from being a fruitless endeavour it's borne the very ideas you're so vehemently defensive of and therefore has value in and off itself. I'm not saying my choice of topic would bear any great advances in free thought but it's worth more consideration than flagrant dismissal.

I am a non atheist, this is factually correct so the 'rule' that non-atheists are hostile to atheists is demonstrably incorrect. It's not my fault that the site didn't adequately cater for a spectrum of opinion. I appreciate that this is all a little victim sorrow sounding, that's not my intention.

mykcob4's picture
Alright Benjboi, I'll lay it

Alright Benjboi, I'll lay it out for you.
CyberLN is the moderator. She likes discussions with theists. But in her, you will get the obligatory "which god are you referring to. That is the extent of her sarcasm or hostility unless she is addressing me, that is another matter.
Nyar is our resident genius humble as he may be and he is, his knowledge and IQ are off the charts. If you want to talk science, philosophy, abstraction, mathematics, physics. He is your guy.
Pitar is a self-professed philosophical poet. He waxes poetic and exudes his idea of philosophy...discussion? maybe not, comment yes.
Watchman is about the cleverest person on the forum, if you post something inaccurate he'll catch it for sure.
Me, I am an old angry curmudgeon. Everything pisses me off. I blast theist relentlessly. Not for sport, just because. I am not one for philosophy as it is basically a waste of time. I AM for what is right and for humanity. Violate either one in my mind and I am on you like white on rice.
There are others. Xeno keeps this forum informed and up to date. Burnyourbible is on a crusade.

You might ask why I am so volatile. Well, Keith Raye found out and I didn't even have to explain. You see I'm tired. Tired of all the lies and bullshit. I have seen all of this christian crap before. Every trick you could imagine.
I started a thread called "Apologist." I am not promoting it. I don't care if any of my threads die or not. But, you may want to read it. "Apologist" sums up everything I believe about theist.
Let me give you a clue of why many atheists are angry.
I had a new neighbor move close by. I did everything to help them. They just happen to be evangelical, and I mean American evangelical which means off the rails batshit crazy evangelical. I didn't let it bother. They asked me where I go to church. I explained that I don't. they asked why. I told them that I don't believe in any god. They were shocked but acted like it didn't matter. A week or so later the wife called me and asked if I was molested as a child and was that the reason "I won't jesus in my life". How fucking insulting.
That kind of shit happens to atheists almost every day. So yeah, I'm angry, bitter, or whatever the hell you want to call it. I don't give non-atheist the benefit of the doubt. I know better.
Does that answer your question?

Benjboi's picture
Wow, thanks for the breakdown

Wow, thanks for the breakdown of who's who, it will prove very useful in future should I wish to engage again. As for the rest of your comment you could have simply and succinctly said 'I'm an Atheist in the USA, why do you think I'm pissed off?' although I appreciate the effort nonetheless. In my tired stupor last night it never even entered into my head that I was conversing with someone from across the pond and I wish I could say I can relate to this but I cannot. You see here the most confrontational or evangelical it gets is when someone tries to thrust a copy of the watchtower (a Jehovah's witness magazine in case you don't have this in the US) into your hand. So I'll have to beg your forgiveness on my lack of empathy.

We don't have religious nutters particularly (we've got a small radical islam problem) but when we do we know how to treat our crazies. America elects them to office (I know I've pinched this rather witty observation from someone else but I cannot think who it is).

I can see you're not really here for the debate and I respect that. However I would like to trouble you for your thoughts on something (no debate intended, just seeking a perspective from the US) and I pretty sure it will have been covered before but here goes anyway. America was founded as a secular state, the separation of the church and the state is written into the fabric of your constitution. The UK on the other hand is a fundamentally Christian country, our laws were initially written in support of biblical teaching and the head of state is also the head of the church. Logically you might assume that the UK is a good candidate for religious intolerance and the suppression of free speech and yet the reverse is true. Why do you think this is?

Is it perhaps that we've watched the heads of state spending 500 years manipulating the scriptures and so don't consider them to be beyond criticism ourselves. Or could it be that we are an extremely polite society so just don't really discuss these things nor feel the necessity to, I said to one of the other commentators earlier religion and politics are not discussed in polite company this is to some extent true in the UK. Or maybe it's that the US constitution preventing any sort of interference in religion has allowed bad ideas to grow unchallenged by authority.

It's probably a combination of all of the above but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

mykcob4's picture
The USA came to be because of

The USA came to be because of a failed British policy. That manifested itself into a fear of the government which prevails to this date. The fears are unfounded but that hasn't ended it. Like I told Keith in the UK you receive a good education. In the USA you can get a good education but the priorities here are different. Celebrity, popularity, and football are seemingly the most important parts of growing up.
Yes the fact that religion has been unchecked in the USA has contributed greatly to the stupidity of the general public.
Also, you referred to "the polite society", well, if you look at London East End you will see that not all parts of UK society are polite. That is the political and social ancestry of the USA. Immigrants to the USA have adapted to that social behavior. Also, Politeness is equivalent to eliteness and royalty historically in the USA. Americans are famous for ruthlessness, brutish blunt behavior. I am not saying that I am any different, the word knows that I abhor royalty or elites, but my motivation is far different than any conservative or religious nutcase.

algebe's picture
Mykcob4: "That manifested

Mykcob4: "That manifested itself into a fear of the government which prevails to this date."

I think Americans' fear of government has more recent causes than the War of Independence (or American Revolution as it's properly called). With its alphabet soup of powerful, unaccountable agencies, your own government has given you plenty of reasons to fear and hate authority.

As for America's antecedents, you're probably right about the East End of London, but you've also got a large Celtic component from Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall, and that's left its imprint on American dialects and culture. Australia and New Zealand are similar. I spent my childhood in the UK, but I never heard bagpipes played or met anyone called Hamish or Siobhan until I got to New Zealand.

I've always thought Americans were way ahead of Brits on politeness and use of English. I'd rather talk to a Brooklyn New Yorker than a Cockney, Geordie, Scouser, or Weegie.

Drewcgs11's picture
"And that is the problem with

"And that is the problem with discussing anything with non-atheists. They interject things that have no basis in fact. Here are some examples.
a) god is eternal
b) intelligent design
c) young earth
d) flat earth
e) biblical verses"

What about agnostics? A person that is non/atheist, what about a person that is open to all possibilities that are not absolute?

You see atheist can be as closed minded as a theist. No matter if you have facts or logic in your argument if it goes against there opinion or beliefs there is something in there minds that block them from openly evaluating information JUST LIKE A THEIST! Atheist can sometimes resemble a religious feel it's based on a set of principles that can't be moved with logic or reasons, it's has to be from somebody like Neil Tyson, Steven hawking, or NASA to convince a atheist. If a poor man offered a piece of information that is priceless a atheist would reject it.

mykcob4's picture
Nope ZERO you're wrong. Good

Nope ZERO you're wrong. Good information is good information. I and I only represent myself, reject data from dubious sources. For example, if the christian only .com produced a YouTube video, I probably wouldn't watch it.
All theists are closed minded all of the time by definition. Atheists are closed mind some of the time.

Benjboi's picture
'All theists are closed

'All theists are closed minded all of the time by definition.'

Twaddle! In order for that to be even remotely true no theist would ever have changed religion, denomination, become an atheist or abandoned religion altogether. There are people in this forum that have disproved that assertion.

Benjboi's picture
What's your point zero? That

What's your point zero? That some atheists are completely closed off from another alternative? That some atheists are evangelical in their beliefs? I don't see what the relevance of the argument is.

Are you making the comparison that because some atheists are completely closed off its OK that some theists are? That would be the two wrongs making a right argument and is of course not ok.

In my view, it doesn't matter where you start from all that matters is that you open your heart and mind to an alternative perspective. Seeking to understand the other side and either rejecting their conclusion or having your own opinions swayed. Doesn't mean I'm right, it just means I'm right for me.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Write a more or less random

Write a more or less random string of numbers on a piece of paper. Then burn that paper and scatter the ashes into the ocean. Does the information still exist? Theoretically yes, information is conserved. Realistically, it is so scrambled that for all practical purposes it is gone.

Benjboi...the conservation of matter...

Just a side note that probably has no bearing on the conversation: matter is not a conserved quantity.

Benjboi's picture
Well that might have ended

Well that might have ended the discussion right there. Have you ever seen old school? Theres the scene where Will Ferrell debates james carville and carville has no response because Ferrell was brilliantly succinct.

It's a comforting thought though that maybe one day the atoms that made up the synapse that fired whenever my biology teacher bent over in her short skirt will be in the ocean, or on top of a mountain somewhere. It may be irrelevant but I'm only slightly more significant than irrelevant now so I'll take that comfort.

Benjboi's picture
Algebe - the options are

Algebe - the options are quite narrow to be fair. To call myself an atheist would have been disingenuous. I've struggled to find a box I neatly fit in to be fair. I call myself a deist if I'm ever asked (which is seldom to be fair, religion and politics are seldom discussed in polite company don't you know) but this is more for the convenience of others. If I tell people I'm am Ietsist they assume I'm either a pompous new age prick or they run for Google to try and figure out what it is.

What book have you written? I'm quite excited at the prospect of having engaged with a published author.

algebe's picture
@Benjboi: "In my book" is


"In my book" is just another way of saying "in my opinion."

I have written books in a sense, though. I'm a translator. I write and sell about one bible's worth of words per year.

My father was a ietsist. He thought organized religion was nonsense, but he was in the "there must be something out there" camp. I have gone past that position. As someone once said, it's fine to have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out. So I question everything, and I've never received any answer or found any evidence pointing to "something out there."

We could sit quietly and enjoy our atheism, agnosticism, or ietsism. But to paraphrase Edmund Burke, all that is required for the evils of religion to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

Benjboi's picture
We're in danger of straying

We're in danger of straying wildly off topic here and to be fair it's really late here and I need some sleep but to just touch on your final point. You're off course absolutely right but how much influence over religion can a (for want of a better word) heathen have? We can offer a narrative that interrupts the tide of young recruits but beyond that are we just relegated to standing on the sidelines whilst we watch a crash in slow motion?

Benjboi's picture
Ha ha ha, "in my book" of

Ha ha ha, "in my book" of course it was, see that's why I shouldn't attempt to have discussions of this importance at 3 in the morning (UK time) my foggy brain will allow me to make a fool of myself.

Darren Koch's picture
Benjboi- I've often pondered

Benjboi- I've often pondered questions similar to yours- based on these laws of thermodynamics, aren't we already immortal? Haven't the molecules that make up our mortal bodies always existed, and will continue to exist once our consciences pass into "death"? I think the catcher is in the "life" portion; molecules continue to exist once life itself ceases to exist. What do u think?

Benjboi's picture
I suppose that yes we are

I suppose that yes we are immortal in that sense. But does that practically mean something? Nyarlathotep put it better than I ever could and hit the existential nail on the head.

If the atoms of my body exist after my death then they also existed before my birth. Since I have no recollection of this time nor even any tangible evidence that it is so (beyond the general acceptance of the first law) I must conclude that the same will be true after my death. That doesn't detract from the fact that we were in a very real sense all born from the stars and we'll go back to the stars and that is a brilliant thought.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Yeah, atoms don't have enough

Yeah, atoms don't have enough degrees of freedom to store information about where they came from (and by that I mean you). That information is stored in the arrangement of the atoms; so once you break them up, it is effectively gone.

Of course this property of atoms is what makes the discipline of chemistry possible. Can you imagine how hard it would be if the chemical reactions in your laboratory depended on what previous structures your atoms had been part of?

algebe's picture
@Benjiboi: "I suppose that

@Benjiboi: "I suppose that yes we are immortal in that sense."

All life on this planet is based on the same DNA code, which means that we all have a single common origin. Life propagates (i.e., produces more cells) only through cell division, either in single-celled organisms, or in multicellular plants and animals. In us, cells divide to form sperm and eggs, which then combine (if we're lucky) to start the formation of a new individual, also through cell division. We die as individuals, but our divided cells live on in our progeny.

Every cell in our bodies is therefore part of an unbroken sequence of cell division going back to the first single-celled animal around 4 billion years ago. Which makes me, you, and every other creature alive today part of a continuing chain of life. At no point between the first organism and me has that chain ever been broken, so in that sense, I have been alive for around 4 billion years. Of course, it's doubtful whether even a single atom from the first organism exists in me, but the system is there, and that's what counts.

chimp3's picture
Sinner: Molecules have not

Sinner: Molecules have not always existed!

Keith Raye's picture


Am I right in thinking that matter and energy are the same thing in different forms, and that the Laws of Thermodynamics dictate that matter cannot be destroyed, only changed into other forms of matter and/or energy?

Nyarlathotep's picture
Short answer: It is just a

Short answer: It is just a minor confusion between the word "matter" and the word "mass". If you were to remove the word "matter" and replace it with the word "mass" (across the board); it would fix everything.

Longer answer: some particles are matter and some particles are not (it's a definitional thing). There are processes that can remove matter particles and replace them with particles that are not matter; which ruins any conservation. Again, if you make the switch suggested above; it fixes all the problems.

Benjboi's picture
I'll confess this is right at

I'll confess this is right at the limits of my understanding but even mass isn't conserved in special relativity is it? I remember reading something about deuteron having a lower mass than its components which implies that mass is not a preserved constant. Only really energy is the constant.

Keith Raye's picture
That's an interesting concept

That's an interesting concept. I was just trying to wheedle a free physics lesson out of Nyarlathotep on the grounds that we're both H P Lovecraft fans. Well, you don't get if you don't ask, do you?


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