Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Sex Advice of Moses

This is how I imagine the conversation between Moses and his scribe went on certain topics:

Scribe: So uh, when you say, "Don't lie with a man like you lie with a woman" do you mean that men should have sex with men *differently* than they have sex with women or not at all?

Moses:  What?

Scribe:  Well it's just in this section where it seems like if mixing fabrics is a bad thing, well then perhaps keeping your sexual positions distinct between sexes might be in order as well?

Moses:  It's just a euphemism for not doing it with men at all.  Why do you ask?

Scribe:  Well when many of the men in the camp heard about this they were afraid they couldn't have sex with their wives like they were having sex with their boyfriends.

Moses:  Come again?

Scribe: In the butt.

Moses:  Wait...they do that?  To women?

Scribe:  Oh yes.  Actually man on woman butt sex happens a lot more than man on man butt sex.  There's just more man/woman couples.  I took a class on statistics in Egypt.  Mind boggling, I know.

Moses:  Well I don't believe it.  They poop from there.  So that doesn't happen.

Scribe:  Right, right.  Okay...and um, what about women?  Are women allowed to lie with other women like they lie with men?  You don't seem to address the topic at all.

Moses:  Well yeah.  Why bother?  How could they possibly even do that?

Scribe:  Well, uh, you know how your wife Miriam and her best friend um...have fun in their own tent late at night?

Moses:  You mean when they give each other vigorous back rubs?  They are rather loud.

Scribe:  No...I think they're rubbing each other's clitorises.

Moses:  What's a clitoris?

Scribe:  Right.'s that special place in front of their...

Moses:  I have no idea what you are talking about.

Scribe:  ...

Moses:  Look, if anyone is questioning my rules, tell them I know in my heart that they are perfect laws ultimately given by Yahweh himself.

Scribe:  I'm pretty sure the heart is a blood pump, right?

Moses:  Yeah, where I know things.  It makes beating sounds so I know that's where my thoughts happen.

Scribe:  Right, I haven't figured out how I feel about the whole "makes cool sounds" argument yet.  I'll get back to you on that.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Why Evolution Makes Sense

I was drawn into Christianity primarily by the young earth creationist book, “The World that Perished” by John Whitcomb and remained a defender from age 16 to age 24 when I finally decided I wasn’t really sure of anything.  Most modern young earth creationists believe in genetic conservation, limited speciation, genetic degradation, and extinction, but deny that genetic change through natural selection can add up to greater levels of complexity over long periods of time.  Since the slow accumulation of complexity isn’t something immediately (or at least easily) observable I always realized the debate with evolutionists is really about a tiny percentage of genetic change that may be going on in the world right now in any given species...  And to be fair (in hindsight), how exactly would you prove that wrong?  If creationists aren't going to demonstrate their god's magic in the lab, why do evolutionists have to prove their case even if they are arrogantly overstating it?  Last time I checked an argument from your ideological opponent's arrogance is not sound.  Why shouldn’t intellectually honest people at least be agnostic on the creation/evolution debates (and therefore whatever follows from them)?  I've since moved beyond agnosticism on the issue.

Ultimately most doubters of evolution seem to want to know why a copy of a copy of a copy doesn't just degenerate to extinction over a long enough period of time regardless of the curbing of natural selection and all of the mistake fixing mechanisms currently in place in cells.  It is at least a fair question that deserves a direct response regardless of unrelated misconceptions about the second law of thermodynamics that are often pointed out by defenders of evolution.  Pointing to other good evidence that indicated complex organisms arose from simple ones doesn’t exclude some magical mechanism.  Some sort of magical vitalism might be true underpinning subtle changes in species over long periods of time.  Responses from evolutionists like, "There are examples of limited self organization like snowflakes," while relevant to a degree don't seem to address the sheer magnitude of the accumulated complexity.  It is more like expecting Superman's Fortress of Solitude to emerge from a random crystalline structure rather than extremely advanced Kryptonian engineering.  So why would natural selection work?

Numbers.  Human “middle world” sensibilities wildly diverge from reality here because of the “magic” of extremely large numbers.  If you ask your average person, for example, how much money they would have if you doubled the amount of money you gave them every day for one month, starting with a penny (then giving them 2 pennies, then 4 more, then 8, etc.), none of them will predict anything like the correct answer.  Most say maybe a hundred dollars, maximum, but the real answer is over 10 million dollars.  Math.  We’re intuitively bad at it.  This is a problem when we're evaluating the most likely outcomes of certain complex physical processes that seem to run counter to our estimations (especially if we have some serious emotional investment in the outcome for the legitimacy of our favorite religion).  What happens when the outcome actually hinges on the technicalities off our human radar?

Self-replicating molecules know no such limitations.  For example, in just one species of bacteria alive today on earth, trillions of replications are occurring every single day.  That means that absolutely perfect copies will be made rather often by sheer chance alone and hence will preserve that replication process absolutely indefinitely.  So that’s why stuff doesn’t have to degrade in principle.

Note, according to mainstream science, life wasn’t doing much more than single cellular replication for three whole quarters of the last 3.8 billion years.  It was just getting really, really really, really, really really, really good at making various spins on the most basic units of life.  That’s kind of like being a baby for 2.8 billion years and then deciding you’ve mastered crying and pooping in your diaper well enough before you’re ready to grow up.

Now if you’ve filled up the planet with a variety of replicators which are ultimately immune to degradation thanks to math, odds are that something is going to manage to do even better than “perfect replication” and inadvertently start to climb even higher on the complexity and innovation scales.  The continuance of life depends on replication and you don’t need more than the single cellular world to do that really well.  Single-celled organisms are still with us in the gazillions and don’t need us to pick up the slack to keep up the charade.  Anything above and beyond that is pure numerical privilege and escalation as replicators compete with each other for resources in varying environments.  I think Lieutenant Gordon said it best:


Jim Gordon: What about escalation?

Batman: Escalation?

Jim Gordon: We start carrying semi automatics, they buy automatics, we start wearing Kevlar, they buy armor piercing rounds, and *you're* wearing a mask and jumping off rooftops.


Suddenly, Batman!  You get where this is going.  The substitution for the human intentionality in this analogy (since evolution is not an entity in and of itself, has no awareness or foresight, and no particular goal in mind) is the idea that random chance variation of replicators ends up trying out all sorts of replicator possibilities and the replicators that happen to have an advantage in relation to their competitors in a given environment will be the ones inevitably surviving to produce more offspring.  It’s all pure physical logistics.  So juxtaposed with bare replication, the human brain that can actually contemplate all this incredulously is pretty gratuitous, but only incidentally gratuitous and certainly not representative of what evolution has generally produced in the vast tree of life.

So where are all the transitional forms?  Well, even if we didn’t have the fossil record, they’re still here.  There are still single celled organisms, multicellular organisms, fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, monkeys, and your parents.  [Unless you are Batman, sorry!]  One would think that if creationists wanted to ask why there are still monkeys, they would actually be asking why is there anything at all besides humans (as though everything is supposed to evolve in lockstep)?

A creationist asking for transitional forms between humans and mammals who happened to have never been exposed to the entire primate order would likely be blown away by the evidence of many different species of primate who are almost upright, really smart, and share many basic social characteristics with humans.  Remember, a god wouldn’t have to create people and animals with anything in common at all and yet the process of evolution would require this to be the case.  Why do humans commonly have knee and back problems, occasionally have vestigial tails (some of which can actually move with muscle control), why do humans get goosebumps which in other species the same mechanism is meant to puff out a full coat of hair to be intimidating, and why do we have jaws too small to hold our wisdom teeth in?  Is it because Adam and Eve looked a lot more like monkeys than modern creationists would be comfortable with?  Doubtful.  More than likely it's because we have a common ancestor with our fellow primates.

On top of that, why is it that snakes, dolphins, and whales have been found with vestigial legs?  Is it because a whimsical, sex positive god wanted to allow some lucky whales to curl their toes during sex?  Or is it because snakes have legged lizard ancestors and aquatic mammals have land mammal ancestors as we would expect from the tree of life if evolution brought the current species into being?

We have E-Coli bacteria that were able in the lab over many generations to mutate and start processing nylon, a synthetic fabric invented recently.  The bacteria does this extremely inefficiently, but it does do it.  And we have every generation of those bacteria preserved on file and we can identify which mutations enabled this to happen.  What do you suppose would happen if these bacteria were left to their own devices for millions of years?  They’d probably leave behind ancestors much more adept at processing nylon.

I have lots of incredulity about young earth creationist explanations if it's a debate about your incredulity  about naturalistic explanations.  Whose incredulity wins the day if we're being fair?  Dendrochronology seems to very straightforwardly leave no room for Noah’s flood.  Google it.  Modern Creationist organizations still have no explanation for the massively excessive radioactive decay in fossil layers which would have boiled away the oceans if released in the same year.  Even if the radioactive decay can magically be there and then the heat be magically taken away...why in the world did those geological processes go through that charade at all?  It also seems like there is ample opportunity to find the absolutely wrong animal in the wrong layer of geology to disprove the general evolutionary scheme of things and yet somehow there's still a massive worldwide consensus the evidence generally lines up according to evolutionary expectations. Conspiracy?  Shouldn't both extant and extinct similar types of creatures have been found in the same strata if it was just about the hydrodynamics of one worldwide flood?  There’s the issue of how creationists have to expect more evolution than evolutionists in the last 4,000 years since Noah’s flood to account for the supposed 16,000 representatives of the "created kinds" being crammed into one boat and then diverging into the many millions of species we see today.  Etc.  Obviously there's lots of issues here few of us are qualified to fully resolve.  For the basics of the evolution side of things, I would recommend to my creationist friends to read carefully through Douglas Theobald's handy "29 Evidences for Macroevolution" online (and even read the creationist Ashby Camp's responses) and Jerry Coyne’s “Why Evolution is True." Or just read the wiki page on evolution.  There's tons of stuff around the internet.

I recall the feeling even at the very beginning of my creationist career of John Whitcomb magic-bulleting the Noah’s flood explanation against the general trend of geological evidence which Whitcomb himself was presenting.  It made me uncomfortable even when I wanted it to be true.  To the extent I have been able in recent years to scrutinize the back and forth between creationists and evolutionists, I’ve always found evolution to be very friendly with the mutually converging lines of evidence while creationists could only stretch hard to accommodate it.  That is, after I retrained myself from creationist-think to not think in black and white categories and was willing to weigh evidence for the sake of dueling cumulative cases.  With unfair standards of evidence the theory of evolution couldn’t beat a gnomes-made-everything-yesterday belief system either.  That’s nothing to brag about if you’re a gnomist or if you happen to believe in merely an older young earth creationism.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Naturalistic Immortality

The following is my presentation transcript for the upcoming St. Louis Skeptical Society's Skepticamp.


Good afternoon!

Not science fiction: So the topic of this talk is “Naturalistic Immortality.”  It is the scandalous idea that, despite appearances to the contrary, it is logistically impossible to die from your first person perspective.  [PAUSE]

You may need to use what you learned from Mike McKay’s talk to evaluate what I am going to tell you...

To be clear, I’m not talking about science giving our bodies a way to live forever or uploading our minds into supercomputers one day.  This is something entirely different, categorically.  It would be a totally naturally occurring phenomena that applies to absolutely everyone.

So how does that work exactly?  And more importantly how might a rational person arrive at such an extraordinary conclusion?   Is Ben even a rational person to begin with?  No promises...  

Not religion: Well firstly if it’s a nice idea, why not believe it’s true? If a lot of people believe in it, that means it’s okay to believe in it as well, right?  I had a dream, read some tea leaves and consulted a crystal ball, talked to some dead relatives that had passed on to the other side, and believed everything that Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza writes about near death experiences in his books.  Mostly I just have a strong feeling about it and am entitled for reality to honor that feeling despite all evidence to the contrary, because the idea of dying is just so unappealing.  Convinced yet?

Just kidding...  This is not a supernaturalistic idea and makes no use of religious justifications.

Philosophical Voltron: The intellectual conclusion of naturalistic immortality is the seemingly unavoidable result of combining other independently established philosophical positions.  Primarily it means adding physicalism plus the metaphysical idea that all logically possible things actually exist physically somewhere in reality.  That theory of everything part is what I would call the Allverse.  So if you can describe it mathematically, that is without logical contradiction, it is in a sense “obligated” to actually exist, from that perspective.  [PAUSE]

Obviously it will help in general if you are already on board and familiar with many of the debates revolving around justifications for metaphysical naturalism, which is basically the idea that the physical world is all there is with no magical additions.    [PAUSE]  I suspect many, if not most of you, are already physicalists in that you believe the mind is just the physical brain working.   [PAUSE]  However, you may have some hang ups when it comes to things like the personhood/teleporter problem and how exactly to define the parameters of a self.

There are many other supporting concepts that gel physicalism and the Allverse together for the conclusion of naturalistic immortality.  What you believe about A and B-theories of time [PAUSE], the problem of induction  [PAUSE], whether or not an actual infinity is possible  [PAUSE], and how to deal with infinite ratios  [PAUSE] will all have at least some impact on the conclusion.  I will be touching on most of those issues with less intensity than I will the Allverse and my definition of a self.  Those two positions are probably the most controversial set up positions here and I will be focusing the majority of my time on them.

I’ll be interested in hearing what Brian Vandenberg has to say later today in his talk, "Soul to Self: The History of the Modern Idea of Self" as we may be covering similar terrain.

This talk on “Naturalistic Immortality” is not a atheism 101 talk, obviously, but hopefully it will be some rousing fun.  Feel free to ask questions afterward and I can elaborate or address issues I couldn’t cover.

You are just a material pattern:  Physicalism is the idea that the mind is just what the brain does.  There is no magical component.  We are biological computation machines from top to bottom and our thoughts are made of a special arrangement of atoms.  “Thoughtium” is not on the periodic table (anymore than free-willium, moralitium, or smartphonium is), but there is a type of pattern that our materialistic universe allows for which is what we call “mind.”  Our brains compute from sense data and make maps of the outside world.   Our brains also compute their own internal computations and make maps of their own thinking.  We call that consciousness.   [PAUSE]  Everything we know about neurology supports this conclusion and there is no experiment that has demonstrated any other component of consciousness is necessary even though such an experiment would be theoretically possible if something else were in the mix.  Why we would need magic to finish the deal when we have all this sophisticated hardware in the first place is beyond me...

It should be noted that the materials the patterns of our minds are made of are not necessarily important.  Your atoms are not sacred.  It’s the pattern itself that is important regardless of what it is embedded in.   [PAUSE]  You can make a house from wood, or bricks, or steel, and it can still basically be the same house.  Obviously not every element on the periodic table may be as palatable to a mental arrangement, just as you can’t make a skyscraper out of wood for technical reasons, but the exact medium of a pattern has no particular significance.  If I magically switched out all of your atoms with new atoms in the exact same positions you would not be able to notice.  Don't worry.  I'm not going to do that to you today.

So we’re just patterns?  Who cares, right?  Other than maybe most religious people?  However there seem to be grounds for concern if...

All logically possible things actually exist in a physical sense:  But how could one possibly know that?  The reason I’m inclined to jump to such a grandiose metaphysical conclusion (which I arrived at in 2006) is because it appears to be the most efficient and least contrived explanation for the inherent arbitrariness of our universe.  Stephen Hawking, for example, looks at the Standard Model of physics and asks:

What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe. Why does the universe go to all the bother of existing?

So what does breathe fire into the equations we have on hand anyway?   [PAUSE]  I believe it’s a valid question that has significant weight and probably can only be addressed philosophically.  Even if we get a perfectly complete set of equations describing our own universe with nothing leftover we’d likely still be stuck with the same question...why not every other self-contained set of equations describing some other kind of logically possible universe?   [PAUSE]

The problem there is trying to resolve the issue of metaphysical arbitrariness and it calls out for a goal post.  What ultimate state of affairs for all of existence wouldn’t be arbitrary?   [PAUSE]  When would be the appropriate time to stop asking the question?  Because if you are not careful, literally anything you offer up will be arbitrary from one frame of reference or another.  So it seems to me we need to ask ourselves what is the best candidate for least metaphysically arbitrary?   [PAUSE]  And I see three categorical possibilities contending for this role.  Let's see if you agree:

One, there could have been nothing at all that exists.  There wouldn’t be a problem if there was nothing to have a problem with it, right?  But we can rule that out deductively since, ta da, here we are.   [PAUSE]

Two, there could have been some arbitrary selection that exists from all the  logical possibilities.  For instance our universe could just exist and that be the entirety of reality.  Or maybe just this room with you and I and false memories of a false history and no future might exist and that be it.  You don’t know.   [PAUSE]

Three, all logically possible things actually do exist and we only get to look at a part of that.   [PAUSE]

Please note that the idea of “all logically possible things” is its own thing in concept.  It is real that we have at least a sampling of logical possibilities “alive” in this universe.  And it will always be a real question about whether the infinite other candidates of logical possibility are out there, from an empirical standpoint, even if you disregard everything else I have to say philosophically on this issue.   So keep that in mind, please.   [PAUSE]

So it seems to me that the real competition is between categories 2 and 3.  Something arbitrary existing or everything existing.   [PAUSE]

The second option begs the question of why just that selection of possible reality gets to exist at the expense of all its conceptual siblings.  If the question of metaphysical arbitrariness is valid, then one has to propose an elaborate ad hoc hypothesis to justify such a privileged existence.  However, there is no privileged existence if we kick out that ad hoc hypothesis.  Bizarrely enough it appears that proposing everything is actually simpler than proposing just one arbitrary thing.   [PAUSE]

Perhaps you might agree that it is entirely arbitrary to settle for an ultimate explanation like a supreme deity with all sorts of arbitrary characteristics and magic powers, or a cosmic universe laying chicken, or the answer 42.  As I’ve said, even the Standard Model at the end of the day when we finish it up is going to be equally arbitrary.   [PAUSE]

I would hope that most philosophers know that every theory of everything must at some point accept the brute fact of existence without further explanation, because there is no longer any logical possibility for there actually being further explanation.  I contend that what I call the Allverse is that brute fact of reality...the most natural metaphysical context where our question about the arbitrary nature of our universe can make the most coherent sense.   [PAUSE]

It seems to me incidentally this is the next logical extension of what most metaphysical naturalists already believe.   [PAUSE]  How is it that life came to be?  Well through a long and wide process of natural sorting of living species, we and the other living species on this planet were left over from all the poorly adapted extinct ones.   [PAUSE]  How is it a self replicating molecule could assemble itself through chemistry alone?  Well there’s a giant universe full of molecular combinations and that probably allowed for abiogenesis to get started somewhere on some planet and we got lucky.   [PAUSE]  How is it that our universe is conducive to life?  Well with a large enough selection of universes with different properties at least one possible universe would have the sufficient parameters to allow for life.   [PAUSE]  Well why are there even universes or multiverses at all?  Well...if every logically possible thing exists (including things we might not label universes) then things like universes would be part of the lot.   [PAUSE]  If you wanted to be cute you could ask why does something rather than nothing exist...and the answer is that both something and nothing exist without preference.  You just didn’t notice the nothing.   [PAUSE]

The question then is, if you are just a pattern...and every pattern literally exists somewhere out there, then why wouldn’t every infinitesimally small variation of you not exist in the infinite library of all the rest of existence?

But some of you may be asking, even if all those patterns really are out there,what connects your pattern to those patterns?  I mean, maybe something like that is true, but why should I care, right?  Well I’m glad you asked!

Perhaps you’ve heard of the classic Teleporter problem:

I’m going to argue that if the Allverse physically exists, that you cannot disown your attachment to all the other patterns of you while consistently maintaining ordinary definitions of self.   [PAUSE]

So how do we draw the boundaries of self, your personal identity, as physicalists?  Religious people tend to have huge problems with this kind of thing when it comes to abortion and when exactly morally relevant, conscious human life begins.  I find that many secular people have similar issues in the contexts relevant here.

Atomic differences: To all the physicalists in the room, I ask the question, like a Socrates...are you slightly different than you were a moment ago?  [PAUSE]

Is it not true that you as a physical pattern are ever so slightly different from your previous self every moment of your life?  You have new thoughts, new memories, new ever updating experiences. And even your atomic arrangement must be slightly different since we can’t hit absolute zero in temperature, now can we?  Atoms have to keep moving.  And you are made of atoms.   [PAUSE]

As they say, you can’t cross the same river twice.  And in this case, I need to point out that in the most rigid, yet still entirely accurate, sense, you can’t find the exact same person twice either.

I apologize for the technicalities here, but they actually do matter, if you bear with me.

Now, I’m going to push your buttons a little more.

Sleep is dying/rising: Here’s an idea:  I want you to consider...that every night you die and later you respawn somewhere else in the universe.   [PAUSE]  The colloquial way to describe this existential crisis is called sleeping.   [PAUSE]  Assuming you are on a typical sleeping schedule (which I’m not), at night when you go to sleep you lose consciousness (which is effectively death since you’re not even dreaming at that point), the earth moves the atoms of your body to another location in time and space (since everything in our solar system is always moving) and then miraculously you’re alive again!  You’ve woken up!  You may have no idea where you are, you may have no idea what’s been happening for the last 5 to 14 hours, and you may in fact feel entirely different than when you died--I mean, when you went to bed.   [PAUSE]

I know you probably all hate me now, but I assure you, the technicalities do matter.  They are technicalities that we must practically ignore, but they are still real.   [PAUSE]

Those were  just warm up exercises for your brain.  It's going to get a lot more difficult as we get into more hypothetical scenarios.

Teleportation:  If you’re a fan of Star Trek, Stargate, or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory you will probably be familiar with the science fiction idea of teleportation.  Some sort of technology records your pattern, rips your atoms apart, sends them someplace else and then according to that record of your pattern reassembles them at this new location.  In science fiction, normally this isn’t a huge deal.  It’s just like getting into a car and going to work, but in the cool futuristic way.

In reality, talking to real people, it seems they often have what I would consider unjustified definitions of self which require them to say teleportation of this sort, if it were real (and as described), would mean death and whatever identical person who is reassembled at the other end wouldn’t actually them.

Sleep vs. Teleportation:  I would like to point out to those who may have hang ups here, what is the difference, from a 1st person perspective, between Star Trek teleportation and sleeping other than how we feel about it?   [PAUSE]  It’s true, when you are sleeping your atoms are not being ripped apart and reassembled, but they aren’t being used either for consciousness (until you start dreaming).  Consciousness is off in both cases, atoms are transported in both cases, and consciousness is then on again in both cases.  And everyone still agrees that’s still you on both ends of waking up and going to sleep.  So for a physicalist why would that not be you on both ends of a hypothetical Star Trek teleporter?

Boundaries of Self:  So, if you are following along, every moment of every day you are not exactly the you of a moment before in physicalist terms and yet we still call you you.  You are never the same you and yet for some reason you probably feel free to claim all of your past and future selves as monolithically you?   [PAUSE]  If you are Catholic you may even call your single celled, neuron free, zygote self you.  I say that, if you are a physicalist like me, you must accept that these definitional confines of personhood are quite arbitrary.

Your two year old self, for example, is radically different in virtually every way from your 26 year old self aside from a common pattern of DNA.   [PAUSE]  But wouldn’t that also be the case if you were same age clones or identical twins who are much more like each other than you are from a much younger self?   [PAUSE]  Is a clone you you if it shares your DNA?  I don’t know of anyone who thinks that.  If 2 year old you met 26 year old you via time travel, there’d be virtually nothing about you that was alike.  Yet, supposedly that’s still you?  You’d be lucky to even share active memories.   [PAUSE]

I don't consider most of the things I did as a kid that relevant to my current identity.  There are many similarities to be sure, but is it really meaningful to maintain a monolithic definition of self that lumps every moment of your life under the banner of "you?"  Doesn't seem that realistic to me.   [PAUSE]  So how many years in either direction should we take ownership of?  How many months?  How many hours, minutes, and moments?  How you do you have to be to count as you?   [PAUSE]  And do we get to commit violent crimes and then tell the police officers that you can’t possibly be the suspect they are looking for because you are a philosopher full of technicalities!?   [PAUSE]  Of course, that’s silly.  But it is a real question of where do you draw the line?  Do you have to draw a rigid line when any line you are forced to draw will be at least somewhat arbitrary?   [PAUSE]

Or do we have to admit that personal continuity is inherently a fuzzy, categorical free association game between complex, ever-changing atomic states we have to approximate for practicality sake?   [PAUSE]  Evolution wasn’t interested in philosophy, wasn't interested in making you feel existentially comfortable with every fact there is to know about existence, and there is no magical personhood glue connecting your atomic arrangements together from one moment to the next that we could hope to appeal to.   [PAUSE]

William Rikers:  Science fiction has pioneered some helpful conceptual terrain for us to further explore in regards to our definitions of personal continuity.  There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called "Second Chances" where the Commander Riker we know meets a copy of himself that was accidentally generated in a teleporter accident 8 years prior.   [PAUSE]  Commander Riker and Lt. Riker used to be the same person, but the teleporter signal split due to atmospheric interference and one Riker went home to his spaceship as intended and unfortunately another Riker found himself stuck back on the planet.   [PAUSE]

I submit to you that if this hypothetical scenario were real both Rikers would have an equal claim to the original William Riker from before the teleporter accident.   [PAUSE]  Of course, they became different people as time went on from that original split.  One Riker advanced in rank and fell out of love with Counselor Troy.  The other Riker lived by himself, still a Lt. and held on to his feelings for Counselor Troy for 8 years until he was found again.   [PAUSE]

Why am I bringing all this up?  I’m not trying to tell you that teleporter technology is or even has to be real, after all.  That’s beside the point.   [PAUSE]

If you combine physicalism with the metaphysical hypothesis that all logically possible things actually exist, it logically entails that there is always more you out there.   [PAUSE]  Every slightly different version of you there could possibly be in the next moment is a logically possible thing in physicalist terms, in concept.   [PAUSE]  If all logically possible things actually exist, all those yous exist.   [PAUSE]  Hence, if both William Rikers get to claim the original William Riker as their past self, all those possible you continuation points will get to claim the current you as their past self, just as you are going to moments from now.   [PAUSE]

So not only does this mean that you can’t die from your first person perspective since there would always be more you after your death,  [PAUSE]  but also that you have an infinity of future conscious pathways ahead of your current pattern of self.   [PAUSE]  Outsiders may see you die (as obviously we do every day), but from your first person perspective, it will be as though you merely teleported naturally to somewhere else in existence that is incrementally physically compatible with the next moment of your conscious thought.   [PAUSE]

I submit to you again that you cannot consistently defend physicalist definitions of self and block your infinite connections to all the more you out there.   [PAUSE]  If you are a Star Trek nerd you may well have thought all these kinds of things through and be somewhat on board with what I’m saying.  If not, you may want to take some time to think more about it.  The technicalities really do matter here.   [PAUSE]

To refresh:   [PAUSE]

A:  Every moment of every day you must be slightly different than you were a moment ago, if you are just made of atoms that can't possibly stop moving.   [PAUSE]

B:  When you go to sleep, the pattern of your consciousness is practically dead (though your brain is not biologically dead) and is moved to a different location and turned back on in the form of waking up.   [PAUSE]

C:  This is not meaningfully different than science fiction where they have teleporters that can end conscious experiences, move atoms, and then turn conscious experiences back on.   [PAUSE]

D:  To deal with all the nuances of personhood, you have to draw at least somewhat arbitrary lines and declare an atomic selection you enough to work with.   [PAUSE]

E:  There are an infinity of logically possible yous (in concept, at the very least) that are just as close to being you from one moment to the next as you consider yourself to be now from a moment ago  [LINGER] within the confines of those arbitrary boundaries we unknowingly have to draw every day to have a coherent sense of active self. [PAUSE]

F:  If all logically possible things actually exist, all those continuations of you must exist that all have an equal claim to call you their history. [PAUSE]

G:  If all that is true, then from a metaphysical naturalist’s perspective, it is absolutely impossible to die.      [PAUSE]

And that’s the basic outline of naturalistic immortality.   [PAUSE]

Naturalistic Immortality:  [READ SLOWLY]  If all logically possible things exist then every logically possible conscious being and every logically possible experience every one of those logically possible conscious beings could have actually plays out somewhere.  It just so happens you are one such possibility.   [PAUSE]

Outroduction: me why I’m wrong. Demonstrate the errors in my logic.  Educate me about how physics and consciousness really work.  Point me to some good books or articles online.  Tell me that I’m crazy.  I’m okay with that.

Otherwise, shit your pants.  You’re going to live forever.