Machine vs. Afterlife

Well-known scientist Stephen Hawking gave a rather controversial interview recently. Saying that there is no afterlife to look forward to, classifying this as a fairy tale arose a lot of criticism and controversy.

He isn’t the first notable person trying to detach from the conscience of people the image of the luxuriant Eden Garden promised after death. Paradisiacal notions are cross-cultural, often laden with pastoral imagery, and may be cosmological or eschatological or both.

But these words coming from one of the most respected people in history – transmitted by means of a special technology which transforms thoughts in sounds – gave another meaning.

This is the frequent statement of a scientist. He’s not saying “God isn’t real”, he’s only saying there is no need of God to explain the world. This is a scientific allegation, with its foundation back in time: in the theory of Occam’s razor to be specific: We should seek the greatest value of our action. The idea born in the Middle Age asserts that we shouldn’t multiply hypothesis in order to explain a phenomenon.

The same thing is said by Hawking – implying that modern physics doesn’t need a God means it would be an over and above hypothesis in this system of explaining the world.

For most religions, Paradise is the image of a non-spatial, non-temporal, fairy-like place, where only the ones who live their lives accordingly to the moral code of each religion wind up. Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom believes that human beings are cabled to the fear of death and because of this fear they invented philosophy and religion, but also a fairytale terminology.

I think the phantasm of immortality is a mental construct necessary to the human condition which helps them deal more easily with all the bad things that happen and also counter-attacks the fear of death and the relationship between the individual and the world.

However, a scientist who refuses the religious horizon is disqualified. It’s like a scientist that rejects from the start a hypothesis. But what is science if not the disclosure to any hypothesis until the discovery that it can or can not be sustained. On the other part, asked by the interviewer “If this is the situation, what can we do?” he responded :

“We should seek the greatest value of our action.”

And how is this different form any other moral percept of religions?

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