February 1, 2014 - Most people believe they are immortal. That is, that part of themselves-some indelible core, soul or essence-will transcend the bodyās death and live forever. But why? And why is this belief so unshakable?
A new Boston University study published in Child
DevelopmentĀ suggests that our bias toward immortality is a part of human intuition that naturally emerges early in life. And the part of us that is eternal, we believe, is our hopes, desires and emotions.
Researchers have long suspected that people develop ideas about the afterlife through cultural exposure, like television or movies, or through religious instruction. But perhaps, thought Emmons, these ideas of immortality actually emerge from our intuition. Just as children learn to talk without formal instruction, maybe they also intuit that part of their mind could exist apart from their body.
Emmons tackled this question by focusing on āprelife,ā the period before conception, since few cultures have beliefs
or views on the subject. Emmons interviewed children from an indigenous Shuar village in the Amazon Basin of Ecuador. She chose the group because they have no cultural prelife beliefs. For comparison, she also interviewed children from an urban area near Quito, Ecuador. Both groups gave remarkably similar answers, despite their radically different cultures.
Both groups also said that their emotions and desires existed before they were born. Why would humans have evolved this seemingly universal belief in the eternal existence of our emotions? We tend to see people as the sum of their mental states, and desires and emotions may be particularly helpful when predicting their behavior. Because this ability is so useful and so powerful, it flows over into other parts of our thinking. We sometimes see connections where potentially none exist, we hope thereās a master plan for the universe, and we imagine that a soul survives without a body.
I think so. People who claim not to have any spiritual beliefs are liars or stupid.
Okay, all kidding aside, it would be powerfully disappointing to realize that there is no awesome prize for beating the final level boss. Itād make all your suffering seem like the Universe
were playing a pointlessly cruel joke at your expense.
Iām always looking for cheat codes. It be gross if I wake up with some pulsating blob attached to my belly button, thoughāa lĆ eXistenZ.
I suspect thereās some adaptive value to such beliefs, and we may be prone to them. The terminology āhard-wiredā is objectionable however, because for just about everything weāre supposedly hard-wired for, there are contrary examples. My own determinism is wholly relative along this line. Being born of human parents makes it likely youāll have certain features common to all humans, but doesnāt guarantee any of them.
Of that adaptive value? A parent who believes they will eventually be reunited with a deceased child might be more likely to take such hope to heart and not waste away (or commit suicide from despair), eventually leading them to have more children.
So Iāll pass on any appeal to popularity that the prevalence of such beliefs is an indication of their veracity. There was a time when almost every human believed the earth was flat, and that idea was as wrong then as it is now.
I doubt the veracity of this claim. Smells much like a nowadays belief. Ancient men were āwiredā in nature and by so may have been much more capable than our educated times for basic intuitive truth. Dont forget their shamans could reach high skies and report what they grasped. And every tribe had its skilled practitioners. But I am off topic.
Has anyone read Beckerās Denial of Death? Iām curious to know how the ideas in that book are linked to this study. I have not read the book, but itās reserved at the library, so Iām going to pick it up today and hopefully get through it next week, which, coincidentally, happens to be the week of my birthday (the big 3-5), and, coincidentally, the week of my annual mortality freakout & drunk-a-thon.
From my āaverage guy on the streetā position all I know is that the more science discovers the closer their discoveries confirm biblical stories.
The Lord hath hardened thine mind and given unto thee strength of confirmation bias so thou are troubled not by great mysteries.
We have actions that cross the threshold of permanence, even if seemingly insignificant in larger scales. We learn this early as children, and therefore it is obvious that something about us is immortal. Putting it into words though can dilute, manipulate, or even corrupt this idea though.
My brother claims not to know what will happen after death, so he doesnāt believe either way for or against an eternal soul. My father Couldnāt care less about the subject. My mother believes in an afterlife, but more in a residual catholic way. I believe in a āeternalā soul, simply because I canāt really accept the idea of material constructs acheiving consciousness.
My point is, if things were hardwired in that domain, wouldnāt we have a more standard position on the matter? Wouldnāt the adult expression of thos beliefs be more even between individuals?
equilibrium conversion isnāt so much a gray area as realizing that 4 = 2 + 2 is not only true but that either side of the equals sign is both inherrently different and intrinsically the same ā¦ continue to realize that thereās no end to the conversions of whatever equals four ā¦ see how the issue of consciousness could be a plane with hell below and heaven above ā¦ wonder about it being a sphere or greater genus ā¦ figure out how everything is wrong and ignore how itās all right ā¦ learn.
itās simple. everything is one. weāre all drops in the same ocean. we are the universe and the universe is the eternal observer of itself. i am you and you are me in another lifetime.
I donāt necessarily think the concept of an after life exists in the mind of a child. Rather the awareness of the eternal that is our true nature is all the child has until he or she learns to speak and is taught to āBELIEVEā in the opinions of others. At this point the child experiences a split as he or she learns to mimic those in the community in order to survive in a an illogical world that traditionally has eradicated those who donāt fit in. (The inquisition, Witch burnings, ā¦,, and so on )
Eventually the child forgets entirely that his or her true self exists and just like a fish in the ocean has no concept of water, the child has no real concept of who he or she is, something that can not be conceived of but only experienced.
āI know that my mind is a product of my brain but I still like to think
of myself as something independent of my body,ā said Emmons.
This man has solved the mind-body problem! Somebody buy him a drink and give him a pat on the back.
I donāt think itās an emergent belief in the afterlife so much as itās a denial of the finality of death. Absolute nothingness is about as hard to imagine as infinity. The closest analog we have is our sleep cycle. We go to sleep, perchance to dream and wake up so thatās the easiest way to imagine death. Seems the most likely too. If there is an afterlife, itās probably some quantum infinity between two moments somewhere in the process of dieing. Nicely wraps up nothing and everything in one package.
I like to believe Iām in a scenario similar to ST:TNG āThe Inner Lightā. So in 40 or 50 years when my eyes are closed for me, Iāll wake up on the bridge of the Enterprise.