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The Nine Point Five Theses

Deriving the existence of souls from an examination of human behavior, plus the fundamental physical reason why souls have to exist in the first place. These proofs rest on a foundation of coldly objective logic and reason. The reader is invited to use his/her own logic and reason to decide for himself/herself if they are correct and rigorous---or not. I guarantee you an interesting read.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

THE MURDER ON A BEACH THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: ON HAVING A SOUL

Believers, feel free to aggravate your non-believer friends with this little argument. Challenge them with this. Will they pull the trigger, or not?

THE MURDER ON A BEACH THOUGHT EXPERIMENT: ON HAVING A SOUL

by Jeffrey A. Corkern

It is my contention, gentle reader, that coldly logical examination---without any call to faith or religion, completely objective analysis---of human behavior reveals humans have souls. That they really, truly are spirits only temporarily enclosed in flesh, instead of flesh solely. I have developed a collection of arguments (that I have dubbed “The Nine Point Five Theses”) that attempt to prove this thesis by somewhat abstractly examining various aspects of human behavior and teasing out the assumption of eternal existence that lies at their bottom. I have then presented them in various forums for two reasons, the first being to show people souls are an entirely rational thing to believe in, and the second being an attempt to stimulate scientific experiments to detect souls.

Unfortunately, these theses haven’t had much impact. (Not always. The Nine Point Five Theses have rattled some VERY big cages.) You would think showing people by all odds really do have souls would cause MAJOR excitement, but by and large, that hasn’t been the case.

I suspect at least part of the problem is the abstractness. (And the other part is the people I presented my arguments to really didn’t want to hear they were wrong.) The strength of The Nine Point Five Theses, abstract thought, is also their weakness. Abstractness, cold unemotional analysis, is fundamentally not exciting. Abstractness doesn’t reach most people, and as a writer, I know that to truly reach people, on the PERSONAL level, you have to engage them as PERSONALLY as you can.

So, if my abstract arguments were not getting through---then I needed to develop something IMMEDIATE and PERSONAL. Something that would stun even the most convinced person into wondering whether or not he really did have a soul.

If I wanted to be as convincing as it was possible to be, I had a challenge. Could I come up with a HIGHLY SPECIFIC situation, a PERSONALLY INVOLVING situation, a scenario that would demonstrate beyond all possible doubt to the gentle reader (at least to those who possess the capacity for intellectual honesty) that he, personally, really and truly acts like he has a soul?

After considerable effort, the following refined thought experiment has evolved. I offer this experiment for you to participate in, gentle reader.

Do you, or do you not, act like you have a soul?

As always, gentle reader, I invite you to use your own capacity for logic and reason and decide for yourself whether or not I have succeeded in doing this.

You, gentle reader, MUST be the final judge.

Consider the following scenario:

You are standing on a deserted beach with a forty-five pistol in your hand, and you're BROKE AND STARVING, man, not a penny in the world. All you own is the clothes on your back and the gun in your hand.

You're not quite alone. Standing out in the surf, with his back to you, is the meanest man in the world, mean as a snake. This guy wouldn't care if the entire human race died. He wouldn’t even lift a finger to stop that from happening. NOBODY likes this guy. NOBODY would miss him or even think to go looking for him if he disappeared without a trace. NOBODY needs him. There will be ZERO consequences to society if this guy just ups and disappears. This guy is WORTHLESS, man.

(But one thing this guy ISN'T. He is NOT evil. He doesn't go around hurting people. He pays his taxes and he obeys all laws. He's just mean and worthless. So he does not DESERVE killing. There's NO moral justification for that here. )

He's got a briefcase in his hand.

In the briefcase is a million dollars. (Or whatever amount you think would be enough to make you happy for the rest of your life.)

You've already asked this jerk for money for food, and your face is still stinging from the back of his hand. (But don’t kid yourself into thinking you can kill this guy just because he slapped you, gentle reader. Would a judge let you off?) He's not going to do it. He's already told you he wouldn't give you a nickel even if it saved your life.

All you have to do is shoot this guy in the back of the head, throw the gun far out into the ocean, take his briefcase, and you'll be happy for the rest of your life.

And waddya know, the tide is going out. The body will wash out to sea, along with all the evidence, where it will never be found. The beach is totally deserted, not another human being for miles around. Nobody will ever know or will ever find out.

For the purpose of this thought experiment, gentle reader, you may assume your chance of getting away with this murder is EXACTLY one hundred per cent. There is NO cop standing there watching you. Justice will NEVER catch up to you.

And, for a kicker, not even YOU will know what you've done. You've got this pill in your pocket that will erase the last thirty minutes of your memory. So you will NOT feel, for the rest of your life, the slightest pang of guilt over what you've done. There will never, ever be, for the rest of your life, the slightest negative consequence. (This pill, by the way, works ONLY for you. It's tuned to your brain chemistry, and will have NO EFFECT on the mean guy. So robbing him and then forcing HIM to take the pill is not an option.)

So all you have to do is blow this worthless guy's brains out, throw the gun far out into the sea, take the briefcase, pop the pill, and POOF! Suddenly you're standing on a beach with a million dollars in your hands! I mean, you have no idea how you got the million dollars, but WEEEEEEEEE! YOU'RE RICH AND HAPPY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE! Who cares if you can't remember the last thirty minutes?

Now what is your own, PERSONAL choice, gentle reader? Do you shoot the guy, take the money and the pill? And walk away rich?

Or not? Or do you drop the gun to the sand and just walk away? Broke and starving?

For maximum effect, please make your choice NOW, before reading the rest of this essay. (Note this is NOT a life-or-death situation for you. You can always walk to a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter, and they will give you something to eat and a place to stay.)

The fundamental question here is: Will you murder an innocent person for entirely selfish reasons, when it is COMPLETELY certain nobody will ever find out, and not even you will remember?

I have offered MANY people this choice, gentle reader. Believers, non-believers, skeptics, atheists, theists, the whole range of human religious belief and non-belief.

Despite this widely differing range of beliefs, they have all made EXACTLY the same choice. Without hesitation.

Not one has ever pulled the trigger. Or even come close to pulling the trigger.

NOT ONE.

What does this human action, this choice, this ABSOLUTE refusal to commit murder, imply, gentle reader? Is there a common idea we can deduce that explains why ALL these DIFFERENT people would make EXACTLY THE SAME choice?

Let's think about it.

How can we RATIONALIZE this choice? By that I mean how can we make this refusal to commit murder make sense in the SIMPLEST possible way, IN SCIENTIFIC TERMS? Be the SMART thing to do, in your self-interest?

In the SIMPLEST terms, (which is scientifically preferred) ONLY if there are negative consequences to the murderer. In the abstract (hard to get away from that), something that will eventually make you unhappy. From a scientific standpoint, that's the only thing that makes sense. Again from a scientific standpoint, there MUST be some way this choice you made IS IN YOUR SELF-INTEREST.

And it can't be just a little negative consequence, either. It would have to be one REALLY HUGE negative consequence, to so totally, completely out-weigh a lifetime of complete happiness that refusal to commit murder is done without a second's thought. (Which is what the observed behavior is.)

Except, well, there are NO negative consequences here! Not even tiny ones! No shred of guilt, NOTHING! It's not even remotely possible! ALL negative consequences have been eliminated! All the consequences can only be POSITIVE! So WHY did you make that choice? It's insane, man! Nothing's going to happen to you because you murdered that guy for the rest of your life!

For the rest of your life.

Hmph.

You're acting like there would be negative consequences anyway, aren't you. Like justice would get you anyway and there wouldn't be the slightest thing you could do to escape it.

Except it couldn't happen while you were alive. That possibility has been deliberately totally eliminated. ZERO negative consequences to you, ZERO negative consequences to society.

Okay, there is one thing in this situation----AND ONE THING ONLY---that would make the refusal to commit murder RATIONAL.

If the negative consequences can happen to you----AFTER YOU DIE.

If you SURVIVE the death of your physical body.

IF YOU HAVE A SOUL.

And some way, somehow, the negative consequences would find you THEN.

By way of making this as clear as possible, let us back off and come at this again from a simpler standpoint.

You know, there is one slight change we could make to the experiment where the question of WHY that particular choice is made would be easy as pie to understand. It would be immediately obvious, clear and easy to a six-year-old. I mean, right now the choice to not murder seems REALLY strange and hard to understand because there is every reason in the world to pull the trigger and not one reason not to.

What is that change?

Remember I said there was NO cop standing there watching you?

Let’s put one there. Watching YOU.

A great, big, mean, UGLY cop, with one hand on his gun and staring STRAIGHT AT YOU.

Now there’s NO problem understanding the choice to not murder!

You pull the trigger, or even try---you’re going to JAIL, man! For ten, twenty, THIRTY years! You might even be EXECUTED!

YOU’RE GOING TO BE PUNISHED!

(Oh, yeah, sure, try and shoot the cop. One guess who’s going to win the shoot-out. The trained, alert professional in his body armor, or the complete amateur? It’s a completely flat beach, right? No cover for miles. You’ll get one shot off at most. How unbelievably, incredibly stupid.

Which, by the way, is something VERY important to note. The cop’s presence can’t stop you from committing murder. It only makes it the STUPID thing to do.)

And NOW the simplest reason for that choice you made when the cop was NOT there is clear.

The simplest reason can only be---the SAME reason as before.

Because you’ll be punished for it. AFTER you die. And somewhere deep in your guts is the unconscious knowledge you WILL be punished. That justice is completely, totally inescapable, that you can NOT escape the consequences of your actions.

Although there is NO cop standing there watching you---you are ACTING like there is! And he can only bust you---AFTER you die!

The refusal to commit murder in this situation can only be rationalized by assuming you have a soul, and that you can't escape justice. And NOTHING else.

Let's ignore the inescapable-justice assumption and concentrate on ONE thing.

Gentle reader, you may believe you don't have a soul----but when we examine your actions, we discover YOU ACT LIKE YOU DO.

Right?

As always, gentle reader, you get to be the judge.

END

"AFTER THE AWAKENING"


Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Nine Point Five Theses in book form

(Actually posted 3/19/2012)
I have put The Nine Point Five Theses into ebook form for those who might want it. The book consists of the core essays and stories, a little additional commentary to tie them all together, and "AFTER THE AWAKENING" (which some of you have tripped over, and some of you have not).

But it's not free. It's $4.99 at Smashwords.


20% of the book can be read for free if you want to get a taste of the book.

I have noticed sometimes people seem to get lost here and wander around looking for things.( I have also noticed people find The Nine Point Five Theses, disappear for a while to digest what they've read, then come back weeks or months later for another dose.)For $4.99, you can have The Nine Point Five Theses in a much-better organized format you can carry around with you and peruse whenever you want.

As always, I guarantee you an interesting read.

Note: And for you first-time visitors, you can read it all right here at this site for free, although it's a teeny bit harder navigating around.

Friday, May 11, 2007

AND NOTHING HEARD MY SCREAM

I have received a request or two from readers for permission to copy and re-post certain essays of The Nine Point Five Theses in other forums.

OKAY, PERMISSION GRANTED---UNDER CERTAIN BROAD CONDITIONS, AND THE STORY "AND NOTHING HEARD MY SCREAM" MAY NOT BE COPIED.

Anyone can copy any of The Nine Point Five Theses and re-post them in other forums, under the following two conditions:

1). You MUST leave my name on it.
2). You may NOT change one single word or re-arrange any of the format of the essay. As is, or not at all.

It would be nice if you would include a link back to this blog site, but I won't insist on it.

AND NOT THE STORY! I'm still not happy with Michael Stone. The final version of the story is not yet done, I think. So I would rather he remain right here for the moment.

Thank you for your co-operation, and rattle all the cages you can.:-)

Meanwhile, back at the blog . . .

LEGAL NOTICE: All Rights Reserved. You may link to this story all you want. You may NOT copy and distribute this in any way, shape, form or fashion without my explicit written permission.


Now, if you don't believe in souls---what's the RATIONAL way for you to act? What effect would such a belief ultimately have on society?

The answer to those questions is simple. Quite stunningly simple. And yet, when that answer is pointed out, the response is surprise, shock---even anger. And a great deal of resistance, of deliberate refusal to understand.

Let me introduce you to somebody who can explain it a lot better than I can. Who will punch that simple answer across, no matter how much you might not want to hear it.

Shake hands with Michael Stone.



AND NOTHING HEARD MY SCREAM
by Jeffrey A. Corkern





My path was long and hard. My path was a path of pain.

My path had driven me to the banks of the Mississippi River, to a journey through clouds of dense, confusing fog, to struggle my way over large slabs of shifting, shattered, cruel rock. The fog dragged at my skin with clammy fingers. Ice needles stabbed my lungs with each labored breath. Vicious chill sucked the heat out of my shivering body. The fog covered the riverbank with dank gray formlessness, the rocks with slick, wet, treachery. I stepped. A slab teetered and slipped from under me. I staggered and went down face-first onto a merciless edge, into starburst red agony. I rose spitting blood and continued on, wondering what the purpose was for it all, wondering if there were any meaning for my pain, if there were any meaning at all.

I had been born onto this path, into this world, this Darwinian jungle world. This was all the reality I had ever known. The journeys of others were easy. Mine was not. My journey had always been one of suffering and solitude, to my constant wondering and bewilderment.

I walked alone, as I always had, always would, in my pocket the only safety I could trust, a forty-five automatic, banging against my hip.

I came upon a dark form, a stranger rendered faceless by the fog.

"Hello," the stranger said. He wore a thick coat that kept him warm and safe from the fog's hungry cold. A child of the soft paths, a child of privilege. "Who are you?"

"I am Michael Stone. And you?"

"I am," the stranger replied, "Just Plain Old Skeptic. Did you know there are no souls?"

"Really?" I asked. Deep inside me, a spark of anger flared at the Universe’s infinite cruelty. "How do we know this?"

"The greatest scientific geniuses in all of history have assured us souls don’t exist."

"I have long suspected as much," I said. The spark flashed into a flame of rage, into a light that illuminated and distilled all the experiences of my journey into one blinding insight. "If there are no souls, the only rational thing to be is a sociopath."

Just Plain Old Skeptic smiled, a streak of white smeared against the blur.

"What an absurd statement," he said. “You are a silly woo.”

The statement stunned me. What a complete fool. I looked around for witnesses. We were an island of two in the fog, alone and isolated, beyond the reach of all justice. I raised my arm and pointed behind Just Plain Old Skeptic.

"Look," I said, "behind you. It is the great genius Dawkins himself."

Just Plain Old Skeptic actually turned his back to me to look. I drew the forty-five silent as a ghost, brought the muzzle to the side of his head and squeezed the trigger. In the fog, the crack of the round was flat and lifeless. Just Plain Old Skeptic became Just Plain Dead Skeptic. Red and gray brains pattered like gentle raindrops over the Mississippi's surface. Just Plain Old Skeptic pitched forward onto the rocks and was still.

I pulled that fine, warm coat off his body and put it on.

"Do you see it now?" I asked him. I flicked his brains off a sleeve. "Now is it clear?" I ran my hand over silken cloth as warmth spread through my being. "Once I was cold. Now I am warm. And all it will ever cost me is this spent shell. How my action affected you will never affect me. How was my action not rational?"

I bent over and picked up the spent shell. I looted the rest of Just Plain Old Skeptic's body and eased him into the river.

A gator rose and drew him under, and Just Plain Old Skeptic turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.

I continued on my journey, slipping and struggling over rock, feeling a deep sense of confirmation. My anger at the Universe grew into a knife of rage in my guts, a knife that twisted and burned, aching for release. Another faceless stranger rose in the fog.

"Hello," he said. His skin was soft and unmarked, without a single scar. Another child of ease. "I am Sternly Rational."

"Hello," I said. "I am Michael Stone. Did you know there are no souls?"

"I do indeed," he said. "All smart and strong people know this."

"To the Universe, you and I are nothing, then," I said. "Human beings are nothing. We come and are gone like puffs of mist. The Universe is cruel beyond belief."

"You have grasped a hard truth," Sternly Rational replied. He cast his hand at the sky. "What is puny, weak, ephemeral Man, that the mighty Universe must be mindful of him?"

"To the Universe, zero," I said, "less than the dust beneath our feet. Our thoughts, our actions, have no physically real meaning in the end."

"I see you are one of the smart and strong who can grasp this hard truth and not hide from its sting, as am I," Sternly Rational said. "One must pity those who lack the strength to face this, who must take refuge from the Great Emptiness in the delusions of religion."

"How should I act, knowing this?" I asked.

My question took Sternly Rational by surprise. He stepped back in puzzlement.

I can't see how this would have any effect on how you should act," he said. "I haven't thought about it. What do you think it means?"

"My actions are free and uninhibited," I said. I drew my forty-five. "Since I do not exist eternally, I can escape the consequences of my actions."

"What?" Sternly Rational asked in a confused tone. "I don't understand."

"I may do as I wish," I said. "Without an immortal soul, the Universe began when I was born and will end when I die. I am therefore absolutely alone, a Universe of One. Anything I can get away with is rational." I aimed and fired. "Any feeling of connection I might have to the rest of humanity is strictly false and an illusion."

I missed my shot. Instead of smashing his head, I tore Sternly Rational's throat out, a red raw-meat wound like a great gaping mouth slashed open underneath his chin.

Sternly Rational put his hand to his throat and made a gargling sound of terrible surprise. He folded over onto the rocks making wet, bloody sounds.

He wasn’t dead. It wasn't safe to approach. I backed away and sat down to wait while Sternly Rational twitched and jerked and became Sadly Rational. I thought and watched a red stream flow into a brown one, bloom out into the water, and fade away. I brooded over the implications of this new fundamental insight as it spread throughout humanity.

The Universe didn't care. I was nothing. All humanity was nothing. Pressure clamped down on my mind from all sides, gentle, inescapable, inexorable, raw evolution itself, growing into pain as my understanding deepened.

For every human being I met, if he could kill me for whatever I had and get away with it---that was the smart thing for him to do. This was a newly discovered physical truth, the way the Universe was, an evolutionary force. Every single person I met was now a potential killer, everywhere, all the time, forever. The smarter he was, the more likely he would be to kill me.

What would this new physical truth do to the human race?

I felt a society, an entire world, crashing down in flames.

The flowing stopped. I rose, picked up the spent shell, and looted Sternly Rational's body. I rolled Sternly Rational's flaccid body to the river, tumbling it over the rocks. He went in without a splash.

Another gator rose and pulled him down in a swirl of water and Sternly Rational turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.

I continued down my path. The rage, the fire, jumped in me, roared and built up white-hot in my guts, began transforming me, forging me into a new being, evolving me. A line of V's formed in the river behind me as the gators followed. Around me, the confusing fog began to lift, rising to clarity, rising to final revelation.

I heard a bell ringing from up on top of the riverbank. The sound cut through the fog with a ring as clear as pure water. I looked up and saw a female dressed in a military uniform standing next to a small pot suspended from a tripod. She was swinging a bell back and forth.

“Alms, kind sir!” she called to me when she saw me. “Far, far away in a distant land, untold thousands of innocent people are dying from lack of food! Alms, kind sir, for the relief of the starving! Alms, kind sir, for the love of God!”

Far, far away? I felt a strong tug of connection, but contemptuously dismissed it for the lie it really was. They were not connected to me. There was no physical reason I should be concerned. They were nothing. I wanted what I had for me. This was only evolution. Let evolution take its natural course. Let the innocent starve to death. That was safer. The less people there were, the safer I was.

I passed her and her ringing bell by.

Another faceless stranger appeared in my path, clad in expensive clothing, fat, well-fed. The gators sank out of sight to safety, like the perfect Darwinian sociopaths they were, to await my gift.

"I am Michael Stone," I said. I gripped the forty-five in my pocket. "There are no souls."

"I am Naïve Skeptic," the stranger replied. "Of course there are not. Such a transparently foolish, impossible notion, clearly born out of desperation and fear of death."

"People everywhere will soon finally realize what that means," I said. "Killing is smart. A rational thing to do to get what you want."

"Oh, fudge," Naïve Skeptic said, with the blindness of a lifetime of comfort. "People would never do such a horrible thing. People are nice."

"People are not nice," I said, drew and fired. Naïve Skeptic snapped backward with a little round hole in the front of his head and a big round hole in the back. He lay on the rocks staring up at the sky with a permanent stare, Forever Wide-Eyed Skeptic. "People are smart. 'Homo nice' is not what people are. People are Homo sapiens, Homo smart. That's what people are."

I picked up the spent shell. I looted Naïve Skeptic's body and dragged the idiot to the river. The gators surfaced like ancient gray submarines, sank their teeth into Naïve Skeptic, and Naïve Skeptic turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.

The gators and I continued our journey. My anger continued to rise. Hot-lava anger coursed through my bones, flamed in my fingertips. The pressure of evolution, of being nothing, crushed in on my skull. The fog continued to lift, patches of clear sunlight moving along the rocks.

Again I heard the ringing bell up on the riverbank, again I saw the female in the military uniform.

“Alms, kind sir!” she called. “Far, far away in a distant land, thousands upon thousands of innocent people are dying in agony from a terrible disease! Alms for the sick, kind sir! Alms, kind sir, for the love of God!”

Far, far away? I felt the tug of connection, but it was weaker this time. They were not connected to me. There was no physical reason I should be concerned. They were nothing. I wanted what I had for me. This was only evolution. Let evolution take its natural course. Let the innocent die in agony of their terrible disease. That was safer. The less people there were, the safer I was.

I passed her and her ringing bell by.

I smelled him before I saw him.

A pungent, sweetly aromatic smell cut through the fog. The stranger stood on a rock with a burning tube of something clasped tightly between his fingers. As I approached, he put the burning tube in his mouth, took a deep drag and held it in his lungs.

“I am Michael Stone,” I said. The stranger turned to face me. His face bore a dazed, sweetly beatific expression. His eyes were shot through with viscous red lines. Although we were less than an arm's-length apart, he squinted at me as if he could barely see me in the fog, as if I were a long way away. “There are no souls. We are all nothing.”

The stranger expelled a massive cloud of smoke from his lungs.

“I am Barely Here Skeptic,” he gasped, coughing. “Yeah. It's a bitch, dude, but that's the way it is. All the scientists tell us this, and they should know, shouldn't they.” He offered me the burning tube. “Here, dude, I got the cure for it all. The finest, most expensive emotion drug in the world, primo stuff. Have a toke. All your pain will go away and you will feel completely happy, I promise. You can hide from the agony of being nothing for all of your life.”

“No.”

Barely Here Skeptic's eerie red eyes opened wide in shock.

“What?” he exclaimed. “It don't make no damn difference what you do with your life, dude! We are all helpless little nothings, man! Getting stoned and staying that way is the smartest thing to do! Why the hell not?”

“I am not weak.”

Barely Here Skeptic blinked and became sullen. He closed in on himself.

“Yeah, well, screw you, dude,” he said. “Watch this. Watch me make you go completely away.” He put the glowing tube between his lips and took a deep drag.

And he did it. The emotion drug hit him, and he went completely away, became completely unconnected to the Universe. Although his eyes were open, he saw nothing, lost in an addled haze of induced emotion. When I pressed the cold steel barrel of the forty-five between his eyes, he didn't even twitch.

He was happy.

I squeezed the trigger and blew his stoned brains out. Barely Here Skeptic became Not Here At All Skeptic. The burning tube dropped from his lips and vanished between the rocks. Barely Here Skeptic folded in on himself like an empty sack and dropped, going down without a sound.

I bent over and picked up the spent shell. I looted Barely Here Skeptic's body. I got him by the collar and dragged him to the river, gagging at the stench of the emotion drug that clung to his body.

I dropped Barely Here Skeptic into the river. The gators sniffed him for a moment, then dragged him down, and Barely Here Skeptic turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.

I turned and continued on my journey, wondering if there were anybody he had been connected to, anybody who would miss him.

The ringing bell cut through the fog.

“Alms, kind sir!” the woman cried. “Far, far away in a distant land, thousands of poor people have been injured in a great natural disaster! Alms for the wounded, kind sir! Alms, kind sir, for the love of God!”

Far, far away? The tug was only barely there. They were not connected to me. There was no physical reason I should be concerned. They were nothing. I wanted what I had for me. This was only evolution. Let evolution take its natural course. Let the wounded die of their wounds. That was safer. The less people there were, the safer I was.

I passed her and her ringing bell by.

The gators saw the next one before I did. It was a man wearing a white lab coat. The gators submerged beneath the surface, leaving only a ripple behind to betray their presence.

This time, I could see his face, but did not wish to. There was nothing there that meant a damn thing.

"I am Michael Stone," I said. "There are no souls, and soon society will dissolve from within, in an overwhelming wave of slaughter, as people realize this means killing is smart."

The stranger smiled in a superior fashion.

"I am Hypercomplex Scientist," he said. He stroked his lab coat and looked proud. "Oh, my friend, no, such an awful thing could never happen, because it would destroy the gene pool. I have spent my life of ease and affluence, which I deserve for being a genius and therefore a superior Darwinian competitor, in the study of these matters, and I know it all."

"The gene pool?" I asked. "Please explain."

"You are suffering from the delusion of free will," Hypercomplex Scientist said. "What you think is consciousness and free will are actually only emergent properties of the Darwinian non-linear electrochemical competition between your brain cells, which themselves are controlled by the structure of their genetic makeup."

"Darwinian non-linear electrochemical competition? And this means?"

"It is not what we want that controls our actions, my friend, but what our genes want," Hypercomplex Scientist said. "We are only zombies, controlled by our genes!"

I drew my forty-five and aimed it at Hypercomplex Scientist.

"Is this not Darwinian competition? What you believe in?" I asked him over the sights. "Am I not now the superior Darwinian competitor? Am I not now the genius?" I squeezed the trigger. The bullet slammed Hypercomplex Scientist backward onto the rocks, turned him into Simply Dead Scientist.

"I had a gene I didn't like once," I said to the corpse. “It was an altruism gene. I changed it. I turned it off. If I can change my genes, I am controlling my genes. They surely are not controlling me. How incredibly stupid, my friend. What an absolute, utter fool you were."

I picked up the spent shell. I looted Hypercomplex Scientist's body. I picked his body up and held it over my head. The gators rose and came for Hypercomplex Scientist. I watched the perfect Darwinian sociopaths come and realized they were my brothers, my evolutionary goal, what the Universe wanted me and all humanity to evolve into. I blessed Hypercomplex Scientist to the river. My brothers the gators accepted my benison with open mouths. They pulled Hypercomplex Scientist under, and Hypercomplex Scientist turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.

I turned away and continued down my jagged path, feeling the anger twist and burn inside me, the evolutionary pressure re-shape me to the core of my being. With every uncertain step, my transformation grew more complete.

The ringing bell had no effect on me.

“Alms, kind sir!” the woman called. “Far, far away in a distant land, thousands upon thousands of innocent people are being murdered by armies of evil! Alms, kind sir, for the defense of the innocent! Alms, kind sir, for the love of God!”

Far, far away? There was no tug at all. They were not connected to me. There was no physical reason I should be concerned. They were nothing. I wanted what I had for me. This was only evolution. Let evolution take its natural course. Let the innocent be slaughtered by evil. That was safer. The less people there were, the safer I was.

I passed her and her ringing bell by.

Another stranger in the distance. My step quieted. He only heard me when I was close.

"I am Michael Stone," I said as he turned. "There are no souls. This means anybody who is smart should be a killer."

"I am Apologetic Skeptic," the stranger said, waved a manicured hand and looked helpless. "Maybe, well, yes, but I have signed the social contract, and would never do such a savage thing."

"I refuse to sign that contract," I said. The forty-five roared its oblivion. The back of Apologetic Skeptic's head spouted brains, and he went down Sorry As Hell Skeptic. "Me and a million other savages. Your 'social contract' is totally stupid. It has no physically real enforcement mechanism I am absolutely forced to respect, and is therefore not worth the paper it's not written on."

I picked up the spent shell. I looted Apologetic Skeptic's body and hurled him to the gators. They fought to be first to get him. Apologetic Skeptic splashed into a ferocious maelstrom of roiling gray, was torn into pieces and sucked down, turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.

I knew I was close to the end of my journey. The fire inside me bubbled and burned in anticipation. My brothers and I continued on. The last of the fog lifted away, and I saw the Universe for the Hell it really was. I walked on the harsh, brutal landscape of final Truth. My evolution, my transformation, was complete.

I had become the supreme killer the Universe wanted me to be.

Again, fresh prey for me and my brothers, another stranger standing balanced on a rock contemplating the river.

"I am Michael Stone," I said. I edged closer. "I have no immortal soul, so the only rational thing I can be is a sociopath."

The stranger turned to face me.

His eyes froze me in place.

The Great Emptiness burned in his eyes, a vast inhuman blankness beyond all hope of light, a gaze before which all humanity shriveled and vanished away to utter insignificance, a total disconnect beyond anything I had ever seen.

"I am Stone-Cold Genius," he said. "Precisely true. I have understood that for a very long time now. Hello, brother."

"You understand already? I’m not the first?"

"Not even the ten-thousand-and-first," Stone-Cold Genius said. His blank eyes burned at me. "There are many of us who understand, hidden in the shadows and the darkness."

"Check my reasoning, so I can be sure it is right," I said. "Tell me what remains of the history of Man."

"Come, let us reason together," Stone-Cold Genius said. "I challenge you. Tell me how you think the end of humanity will come."

"If there are no souls, the only rational thing to be is a sociopath," I said. "All of society's members will evolve into sociopaths. The smarter you are, the quicker you will turn. But sociopaths hate society by definition. Society must inevitably collapse, in a tidal wave of murder."

Stone-Cold Genius shook his head.

"No," he said. "Your understanding is not complete. Your logic is correct, but people don't think logically. They think emotionally. Tell me. What does the lack of immortal souls mean? What are scientists telling us about life?"

"That life is a random occurrence in an uncaring Universe," I said.

"And this means what, in a physical sense?"

"All human action is physically equivalent and physically meaningless."

"To the Universe, what are human beings? What are you?"

"Nothing."

"And human beings will feel what about this?"

Clarity struck like a steel hammer. I stood revealed to myself. Truly his understanding was deeper.

"Rage," I said. "Rage and despair."

"And the effect of this on society?"

"Killing," I said. "There will be rising numbers of little massacres. Random killing sprees, murder-suicides, that will seem to happen out of nowhere and for no reason at all."

"What is mass murder, in the end?"

"The same as all other human action. Nothing."

"Correct," Stone-Cold Genius said. "Who will start the killing?”

“The fresh, unclouded minds, who will perceive this new physical truth clearly, without being blinded by the prejudices of the past,” I said. “The children. The first little massacres will be committed by children.”

“Have you and I both not seen precisely such little massacres?” Stone-Cold Genius asked. “Let us recite their number!"

"Harris and Klebold at Columbine," I said.

"Woodham at Pearl! Weise at Red Lake!"

"Kinkel at Springfield."

"Malvo at Washington! Gill at Montreal! Rouse at Lynville! The Oriental Boys at Sacramento!"

"Cho at Virginia Tech."

"Tell me," Stone-Cold Genius said. "Why did children commit mass murder?"

"They were angry. Because they had been treated like nothing."

"What did science tell them they really were? What did the Universe tell them they really were?"

"That they really were nothing."

Stone-Cold Genius spread his arms wide in complete futility.

"Our children are our future!" he cried. "And they will be called the Children of the Slaughter! What unimaginable horror will they unleash upon the human race?"

The future was torn open before me like a curtain. I stood on a high point overlooking an infinite plain. I saw the surprise massacre of Man.

"The little massacres will continue, grow in number, and become bigger and bigger massacres," I said. I ascended to new levels of knowing. I saw the cities die. People by the millions ran screaming in the streets, only to drop coughing fountains of red and die writhing in agony in puddles of their own blood. "You will see them more and more often in the news, until they become common. The record for the number murdered at one time will be broken again, and again, and again. The death toll will rise exponentially, to dozens, then thousands, then tens of millions."

"How? How could this impossible murder happen? What awful thing could make it possible?"

"Technology."

"What is the essence of the power technology has given us?" Stone-Cold Genius asked. "The ability of one to massacre millions at the push of a button. All hail mighty technology, savior of Mankind! Now one man can kill another man with a finger's barest twitch on a trigger."

"One lone angry Child, one lone killer, one lone mass murderer, all on his own," I said.

"Your understanding grows," Stone-Cold Genius said. "One lone angry Child can kill dozens by breaking a bag of manufactured Sarin in a city's subway."

"One lone angry Child can kill tens of thousands by releasing refined anthrax spores into a city's wind," I said. I looked into the coming years. Stinking heaps of rotting bodies filled the cities. Blood ran like water in the gutters. Rising crematoria smoke blackened the sky, the entire Earth.

“Even as we speak, scientists are picking out the smartest of our children and teaching them they are nothing,” Stone-Cold Genius said. “What will they feel? What will grow deep inside them with each lesson?”

“Pain,” I said. “Pain and anger.”

“What will they become?”

“The apotheosis, the highest form, of the totally Darwinian human,” I said. “With the pathetic, weak, silly, ignorant superstition the Universe cares burned completely out of their skulls.”

“The brightest, most intelligent, most savage expression of Man in the uncaring Universe,” Stone-Cold Genius said.

“In a state of constant and unending agony,” I said. “I now know the complete evolutionary history of Man.”

“Tell me!”

“From the killer ape,” I said, “to the screaming killer genius.”

"Soon, very, very soon," Stone-Cold Genius said, "one lone angry Child, one lone screaming killer genius, will be able to murder tens of millions with a mere tap of a button, or the twisting of an aerosol-release valve. What does this mean?"

"At its core," I said, "human civilization is violently unstable.”

"Your understanding is complete,” Stone-Cold Genius said.

“Given the current high level of technology,” I said, “it can’t possibly survive much longer."

“What must be the inescapable fate of the human race?"

"On a day of complete peace and calm, out of the clear blue sky and utterly without warning, human civilization will be attacked," I said, caught up in the madness of world-wide massacre, "and destroyed, like twin towers crashing down."

"Yes, we grasp the ultimate meaning, you and I," Stone-Cold Genius said. Total understanding glared from his eyes like total insanity. "Only a physically real restraint could stop it from happening, and there is no such thing. The historical forces of Science and Technology are driving humanity to an inevitable, unavoidable end. One lone angry Child, one lone screaming killer genius, in an act of rage and despair at being nothing, will soon manufacture and release a technological creation obscene beyond imagining, for no reason other than mass murder, that will wipe out the entire human race."

"I feel its name hanging in the air like the blade of a guillotine," I whispered. "The Damnation Flu."

"A whirlwind of death is coming to smite the entire world," Stone-Cold Genius said. "It will be every man for himself. The smart will survive only if they prepare and strike first."

"Tell me," I said, "why are you here?"

"Hunting," Stone-Cold Genius said, and moved like a striking snake, but I fired first, and turned Stone-Cold Genius into Stone-Dead Genius, lying at the river's edge with muddy water lapping into his empty skull.

My brothers undulated to the river's edge to get him. I barely had time to loot Stone-Cold Genius' body and put the forty-five in his hand. The haul was rich. He had been having a long, successful hunt. His experience had apparently been exactly like mine. There were many, many fools who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand.

I stepped back and let my brothers have him. They yanked him down, and Stone-Cold Genius turned to nothing, disappeared, gone, wiped out, vanished, zeroed, ERASED, like he had never been.

I picked up the last spent shell and tossed them all into the river, severing all connection to the events here, to the past. I exhaled a long breath and took stock of my journey in the light of my new understanding and transformation.

The value gained: Three thousand, five hundred ninety-eight dollars.

The value lost: One forty-five, seven shells.

The value of the humans killed: Zero.

I had shown a profit.

That was smart.

"If there are no souls, the only rational thing to be is a sociopath," I whispered to the Great Emptiness. "How strange that this is so difficult to see."

But of course, the Great Emptiness made no reply.

The Universe didn't care, never had. How insane, to want such a thing. I stared out over all of human history and added it all up, all the pain and misery of all humanity throughout all of history. It rolled over me and crushed me like a bug, all the empty suffering and death. Billions upon billions of human beings had lived and died lives composed only of completely purposeless anguish and pain, and none of it had been worth it. It had all had absolutely zero meaning.

The Universe was an infinite death camp, a vast Hell house, whose only real purpose was to inflict as much pain and torture as it could on all of its inhabitants.

The Universe was an abomination.

The anger boiled and erupted inside me with a volcano’s force, ripped its way up through my guts, forced its way out to the Great Emptiness in a long, primal scream of rage so crystalline and pure it threw my mind reeling and shaking into horror.

And nothing, nothing at all, heard my scream or felt my horror.

I came back from horror lying face-down on the rocks. My final duty shone clear in my mind. I had finally found the purpose for my journey.

The Universe had to be destroyed. Smashed beyond all hope of recovery, blotted out of existence, thrown back into the Great Emptiness it came from.

A wild laughter ran through me. The Universe had created its own destruction.

Blood was running into my eyes from a cut on my scalp. I staggered up, wiped the blood from my eyes, and headed away from the river. The onrushing doom of Man prodded me, hurrying my step. I fingered the money in my hand. Time was short, and I had much to do.

The Slaughter was coming.

END

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

On Detecting Souls: A Proposed Experiment


On Detecting Souls: A Proposed Experiment

-or-

There Was This Cat-Soul That Went Through My Chest Once---

by Jeffrey A. Corkern



What happens to people when they die?

It is the purpose of The Nine Point Five Theses to light a fire under scientists' rear ends and get them pounding away on finally answering this question. To, quite precisely, get scientists to attempt to find souls by building a soul-detector and detecting souls under rigorous laboratory conditions. I have a suggestion about how to conduct this experiment based on a personal experience of mine.

But first:

Is the question of what happens when people die an important question? Is this something critical the human race MUST absolutely, positively know the answer to one day, be the answer positive or negative?

Um, yes, it is. I will not justify that answer here. Why this is true is laid out in the various theses that follow this opening piece. I will leave that answer hanging as a hook to draw the gentle reader into reading The Nine Point Five Theses posted here.

But yes, it is in fact CRITICALLY important for the human race to know the answer to this question. The human race is rapidly approaching the point where it will be vital for us to truly know what happens when people die. To know the answer as precisely as it is possible to know it. To know it by the best tool the human race has for knowing things.

To know it by using the tool---of science.

The answer to the question of life after death, or not, must be known, and SOON----to a SCIENTIFIC certainty.

Why now, I can hear the gentle reader ask. The human race has been getting along just fine for all of its existence so far without knowing the answer to this question. Why is it suddenly so critical to the human race the answer to this question be known NOW?

Because there are certain choices technology is about to make available to human beings, and what choice will be the smartest one to make is going to depend on whether or not human beings have souls, or don't. Whether a human being is no more than his physical body, or are really, truly, immortal souls that merely occupy physical bodies from time to time.

Again, what those technological choices are I won't specify here. They are contained in The Nine Point Five Theses, and again I leave what these choices will be as a hook to draw the gentle reader into going through them. They are quite amazing things, these new gadgets. You can see them coming in the technological developments of today.

So how do we go about applying the tool of science to answering this question?

The first thing to do is to see if we can develop a consistent physical theory. A physical theory of souls. If we can develop a completely rigorous, self-consistent theory of souls, we will have gone a VERY long way towards convincing scientists to conduct experiments to detect souls.

And so are born The Nine Point Five Theses. They are that foundation theory.

Are they rigorous? Are they self-consistent? Are they so completely rigorous and self-consistent any thinking scientist is immediately going to go flying to his laboratory and start trying to build a soul-detector?

That, gentle reader, is YOUR judgment to make---NOT MINE.

Because it's all about reason and logic here, man. I am writing "2+2=4" up on the board here for all the world to see---but I am NOT insisting you believe it simply because I say so.

I insist the gentle reader use his own judgement, his own personal capacity for critical thinking, for thinking coldly, rationally, and objectively, to determine whether or not this theory is correct and rigorous---or isn't.

One thing I DEMAND here.

Critical thinking.

Critical thinking, I ABSOLUTELY demand. Toss what you think you know out the window before reading The Nine Point Five Theses. Toss all your scientifically unproven assumptions right out. Read these things with a totally open mind.

Now, about the suggested soul-detection experiment. About the cat-soul-diving-through-my-chest thing.

Once upon a time, many years ago while I was living in Lafayette, Louisiana, I had a cat.

"Shovel Puss" was her name. A bit of a play on words, you see, she was, if you'll pardon the pun, a "spayed cat."

And she was dying.

Hepatic lipidosis, the vet said, fat cells invading the liver, and there was nothing anybody could do.

I first discovered her condition one morning when I saw that her skin had turned yellow and hauled her furry tail to the vet. The vet said all we could do was "support" her, in medical terms, and hope she got better all by herself. In practical terms, this meant inserting an IV tube into her so she could at least be hydrated, and leaving her in the vet's office for several days where he could keep an eye on her.

So I left her there, and dropped by in the afternoon to check on her and see how she was doing. This went on, oh, for at least several days. It was many years ago, and I'm not clear on the details now.

One afternoon on one visit, a Thursday I think, Shovel Puss looked dead at me and hollered REAL LOUD about how she wanted to leave this vet's office and go home right NOW, dammit!

So I took her home. The vet gave me a syringe filled with some kind of drug--for pain, I think--and gave me instruction on how to give a cat a shot. (You fold up the cat's skin between your fingers, insert the syringe into the fold, and gently push the plunger down.)

The vet told me to bring her back in the morning. No problem. Shovel Puss was ecstatic to be back in her own place, despite being very weak. She had a nice visit, and the next morning I gathered up and put her in my car and carried her back to the vet's office.

This Shovel Puss did NOT like. She took one look at the vet's office and deflated like the air going out of a balloon. She had had enough of the vet's office. I didn't like doing it, but I left her there and went off to work.

About 11:30 I left work to go to a restaurant for lunch. There was no other customers in the restaurant as it was early. I ordered a baked chicken lunch, which arrived promptly.

Just before I took my first bite, a "ball of energy" appeared, oh, about six feet in front of me and three feet up. It dived at me, entered my chest just to the left of my heart, went through me chest, exited just under and to the right of my left shoulder blade, continued on for a few more feet, and disappeared.

When I say "ball of energy", it's because I have no other words to describe it. There was no light, no sound, nothing in any of the normal physical senses.

This was so completely, totally, out of the realm of my experience I had no reaction beyond a certain befuddlement. Although I must confess I had a sneaking suspicion my poor kitty cat was gone.

I just ate my lunch and left.

When I got back to work I was told I had gotten a phone call while I was out. I called the number. It was my vet.

He informed me he had had to put Shovel Puss to sleep "a short while ago."

So.

I cannot, in a rigorous, scientific sense, claim that "ball of energy" was Shovel Puss's soul, a cat-soul. I, ahem, left my soul-detector home that day.

What I can do is propose the following soul-detection experiment.

There are these little widgets called SQUIDs, Superconducting Quantum Interference Detectors, which have the ability to detect VERY small electromagnetic fields. I propose constructing a sphere of these devices, putting a cat to sleep in the middle of it, and trying to detect the cat's soul---assuming it exists---as it leaves the cat's body and passes through the SQUIDs.

Since cats are used and not human beings, a great number of ethical concerns are avoided. The experiment becomes easy.

To make it completely ethical, we will only use cats that are about to be put to sleep anyway. I point out that if cats have souls, we are doing no real harm. We are only separating the cats' souls from their bodies.

(Y'all pardon me a minute. I got to excite some scientist egos here. These scientist people are all about "credit", i.e. ego.

To all you scientists out there:

What if I am right? What if The Nine Point Five Theses really, truly are rigorous and self-consistent?

What if souls exist as real, physical entities?

What would happen to any scientist who succeeded in detecting souls? You think he/she might win so many Nobel Prizes he/she could cover the walls of his/her office with them? You think he/she would have grant money pouring out of his/her ears for the rest of his/her life? You think they'd go down in history for conducting the most significant experiment in the history of mankind? You think people walking down the street would see them, point their finger at them, scream out their name, and faint dead away?

I think it might happen EXACTLY like that. What do you scientists think?

For you scientists who take up this challenge---happy hunting.)

A closing word about The Nine Point Five Theses.

Read them in any order you want. They can be read in any order. They are independent of each other.

And there aren't actually nine point five theses, at least not yet. So far, there are only four theses. The extra two are left-over blogs from a time when this site was a daily blog. They have ideas in them the gentle reader might find interesting, so I left them in.

Each of The Nine Point Five Theses has an underlying theme. I list them below to help the reader understand them.

---"On Emotion Drugs"

Why are emotion drugs illegal? Why is the War On Drugs being fought so vigorously? They seem like such harmless things. This thesis answers that question. The answer will surprise you. Emotion drugs are an incredibly fundamental attack on the basis of society. For a non-scientist, this is probably the thesis you should read first.

On an abstract level, this thesis shows what effect immortal souls would have on a society's basic rules of behavior, specifically what an individual immortal soul may and may not do to get happy.

---"On The Sentient Constraints Of A Sentient-Containing Universe"

This is the rock-bottom of all The Nine Point Five Theses. This thesis explains why something as weird as immortal souls MUST exist in the first place. (They make a sentient-containing Universe stable, as in safe from its sentients, if you must know RIGHT NOW.) If you are a scientist, read this thesis first.

---"The Happiness Box: A Short Scene"

The intent here is to get the gentle reader to examine his own actions, and see if he, personally, all his life, has been acting like he has a soul---but just hadn't realized it.

What would YOUR choice be, gentle reader? Would YOU choose to go into a Happiness Box, or not?

---"On Souls"

This one is two parts. In the first part, I derive a single, simple rule that encompasses all of human motivation. Since this rule involves souls, in the next part I examine human action to see if we can find evidence of souls in it. I do this by deriving what would the SMART way for a person to act if he does NOT have a soul, and the SMART way for a person to act if he DOES. I close by examining the ultimate effect of having or not having a soul on society.

To those who take up the challenge of reading and analyzing The Nine Point Five Theses for yourself---happy thinking.

(And for those of you who find The Nine Point Five Theses completely rigorous and logical:

HELP ME SPARK THE SOUL-DETECTION EXPERIMENTS.

If you know a scientist who could carry out soul-detection experiments---show him/her The Nine Point Five Theses. After they get their Nobel Prize, they will thank you profusely.

If you don't know any scientists, then, if you would please, at least help me spread the word. Digg this if you can, post links, and so forth, whatever you can think of that'll help spread the word and start a debate that will end, I absolutely guarantee you, in scientists finally doing experiments to detect souls.

Little help here?)

And I'm done.

I guarantee you all an interesting read.

END

Labels:

The Happiness Box: A Short Scene

Note added 04/05/2012: Happiness Boxes are finally under development. A Russian billionaire has started the ball rolling.
The Suicide of Man has begun.



THE HAPPINESS BOX: A SHORT SCENE

by Jeffrey A. Corkern



DRAMATIS PERSONAE:

Andrew: A married man with a wife and kids. A good and kind man who loves his wife and children very much.

But Andrew is also a man who doesn’t believe he has a soul.

Jeff Corkern: Me.

Scene opens:

Me and Andrew are on a stage. I am standing stage left, Andrew is stage right sitting in a chair. In the rear and center of the stage, Andrew’s wife and two children are sitting, watching both of us.

"Andrew, man," I say, "I’m going to do you a favor. I’ve got a gadget that will make you happy permanently."

Andrew raises an eyebrow in mild disbelief.

I walk off-stage and return pushing what looks like a large steel coffin on wheels.

"Andrew," I say, "this is a Happiness Box."

I open the top of the box. Inside is revealed a very large computer, plus various clear plastic tanks containing fluids and tubes running to those tanks. At top, in the region where a head would lay, is an open metal sphere with what looks like half a hollow basketball with tiny electrodes spiking out all over its interior. All the wires and tubes in the box lead to the metal sphere.

"Andrew," I say, "this box is the ultimate in virtual reality, the absolutely latest ultra-cool advance in high technology. It works like this. Surgeons will remove your brain and place it in this basketball-looking thingy here. Then the surgeons permanently implant electrodes into your brain’ sensory nerves---hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, everything. In the box is a computer that will feed impulses into the electrodes attached to your sensory nerves. The computer will be programmed to keep your brain in perfect health and give you whatever you want. Essentially what happens is your current life is replaced by another life---"

Andrew's wife and children look at Andrew with sudden concern.

"No," Andrew says, sharply and with total revulsion. "Who would take care of my children? Who would love them?"

Andrew's wife and children look relieved.

"Please don’t interrupt, Andrew," I say, "it’s rude. Essentially what happens is your current life is replaced by another life---except this life will be perfect. Before you go into the box, you can program any kind of life you want ---"

"No," says Andrew, interrupting again. "I am not interested."

"Please, Andrew, mind your manners," I say mildly. "I’m still not finished. When you go into the box, all memories of the box itself will be erased. So, as far as you will know, the life you are living inside the box will be perfectly real."

"Not interested," Andrew says. "You’re talking about abandoning my family."

"Yeah," I say. "So what? We’ll just chop that memory out, too."

"Forget it," Andrew says, "not a chance."

"Andrew, you’re not thinking," I say. "You’re passing up a golden opportunity. All you are is your brain, right? Reality is just a current of sensory impulses going into your brain and being processed in various ways. That’s all you are. Physically speaking, all we are going to do is replace the sensory current portion with another sensory current. By all logic and reason, it will be precisely the same, precisely as real as the life you are living now."

"Jeff," Andrew says, "you are wasting your time. No."

"It’s my time to waste," I say. "I’m only trying to do you a favor."

"By telling me to abandon my wife and children? Hardly."

"We can wipe the memory of that out after you’re in the box!" I protest. "You’ll never know you did it! C’mon, man! Why not?"

"It’s not ethical!"

"Now tell me, please," I ask, "what does the word ‘ethical’ mean in any physical terms? In terms of volts and newtons? You’re not making any sense."

Andrew shakes his head and looks stubborn.

"What’s the physical difference?" I ask. "What physical experiment could you perform that could tell you the difference? That you were inside a Happiness Box?"

"I don’t know, and I certainly don’t care," Andrew says. "I’m not going to do it."

I sigh in a forbearing fashion.

"Let me point out as precisely as I can what you’re giving up," I say. "Surely you will see the light of reason then. Andrew, what do you really, truly want? In the Happiness Box, you can have it, and more. Would you like to see your children always be obedient and never give you any trouble? Done. Would you like to see your children grow up and win Nobel Prizes? No problem. Be a rich man with no money worries, live in a big, fancy house on the beach? A mere few lines of code. We can even dispense with sensory experience altogether and just shoot the juice to your pleasure centers. Permanent bliss."

"No."

"Well, what about women, then? The supermodel of your choice. All of them. One, a hundred, a thousand. They’re all in there, every single one, waiting for you."

"No."

"Look," I say, "there are going to be lots of people who will be more than happy to jump into this box with both feet. They’re going to be fighting each other by the millions to get a Happiness Box of their own. Even fathers. Join the crowd. Everybody else will be doing it."

"Perhaps they will," Andrew says, "but I shall not. That thing is an abomination. No."

"Andrew," I sigh, "you’re a hard case. Here’s yet another advantage. When you’re in the box, we’re going to put it deep underground. You will not be exposed to new diseases, or environmental carcinogens, or be in danger of dying by accident, or terrorist attack, or any of a thousand other different dangers. Since you also won’t have a body, it will be impossible for you to die of a million different ailments. Which all adds up to one thing. When you’re in the box, you will be safe, Andrew, safe beyond your wildest dreams, and you will as a consequence live a very long time, maybe hundreds of years."

"No."

"Okay," I say, "you force me to do this. I wanted to avoid this, but now I have no choice. I told you I was trying to do you a favor. Now I will tell you why."

I raise my hands to indicate the entire stage.

"This reality we’re in now can be a terrible place, a place of absolute, bone-crushing horror," I say. "What’s the most horrible thing you can imagine? I bet I know. Watching your children die slowly and painfully of cancer while you stand by utterly helpless to remove their pain. I can save you that." I point at the box. "In the box, that can’t happen. In the box, Andrew, nothing bad can ever happen to you."

"No."

"That’s nuts," I say. "That’s absolutely nuts. Do you understand what you’re turning down? A long life of perfect peace and happiness, for a short life that is certain to contain pain and suffering. Will you turn that down? Will you?"

"I will," Andrew says flatly. "To raise my children and keep them safe, to love my wife and children, I will take the short life of pain and suffering."

"You’re a good man, Andrew," I say. "But I want to ask you one question. Is what you’re doing rational according to your belief system? All I’m doing, from your perspective, is replacing one sensory stream with another, much better one---and yet you turn it down, and it’s not even close. Does that make sense?"

"I will concede it’s not rational," Andrew says. "But I’d rather be irrational than abandon my family."

"Okay," I say, tossing my hands up theatrically, "I give up."

Hanging my head in a defeated fashion, I push the box off-stage.

I return bearing a flat, oblong package of a green, leafy material wrapped in clear plastic.

"You won’t let me make you happy permanently," I say, "so let me at least make you happy for a little while."

I lay the package at Andrew’s feet and back away.

"That’s marijuana," I say. "Happy toking. Just bend over and pick it up."

Three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers enter from behind Andrew and surround Andrew on three sides. They fold hairy muscular arms over massive chests and stare straight down at Andrew.

Andrew looks up at the three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers.

"Hello, officers," he says.

The three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers don’t say a word. One great, big, mean, UGLY police officer shifts in a significant fashion that makes his handcuffs clink together rather loudly.

"Hurry up, get smoking, and get happy," I say. "Time’s a-wastin’."

Andrew looks at me.

"Now you’re the one who’s nuts," he says. "No. I have zero desire to go to jail."

"If you bend over, pick up, and smoke that dope," I say, "or, generally speaking, get happy by direct stimulation of your brain’s pleasure centers----the three great, big, mean, UGLY cops here will bust you and haul your rear end off to jail."

"Yes."

"You touch that dope, that emotion drug---you get punished."

"That about covers it."

"So touching that dope---isn’t smart, isn’t rational."

"Yes again."

"Tell you what," I say, "I have a compromise. If you would, officers."

The three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers back up about three feet. I produce a large piece of white chalk and draw a square around Andrew, so that the three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers are just outside the square.

"All right," I say. "I have made a deal with the three great, big, mean, UGLY police officers here. As long as you stay in that square, you can smoke all the dope you want. Inside that square, you have COMPLETE freedom of action. But, alas, the second you leave that square, for whatever reason, you can be arrested and punished for any illegal actions you performed while inside the square."

Andrew laughs.

"Not punished right then, just punished later," he says. "That is no compromise. Forget it."

"So it’s still stupid to touch that dope?"

"Yes, it’s still stupid to touch this dope."

I gesture. The Happiness Box is wheeled back out onto the stage.

"One more time," I say. "This box will make you happy---UNTIL THE DAY YOU DIE. Something I didn’t state the first time, but was certainly implied. Want it?"

"No."

"Andrew, man," I say softly, "you are acting just like you did in the white-square situation. This Happiness Box ain't nothing but a high-tech emotion drug, and you are acting like you can get busted for drugs not now, but later. Incredibly, you are acting like you can get busted for using emotion drugs---AFTER YOU DIE. You say you don’t believe you have a soul---but when we examine your actions, we discover YOU ACT LIKE YOU DO."

Now it’s Andrew’s turn to not say a word.

"Now we can define the word ‘ethical’ in physical terms, perhaps," I say. "An unethical action is an action I can get away with while I’m alive, but will be punished for after I die. I screw up, a hammer I can’t escape comes down on my rear end. That’s a PHYSICAL definition."

"But I didn’t think of it like that," Andrew says finally. "I thought only of loving my family."

"But you yourself said what you were doing didn’t make sense by your own belief system," I said. "Only one thing makes your behavior to be in your own personal self-interest, rational, explainable. You are acting like you have a soul---but it’s totally unconscious on your part, buried deep in your guts, so much a part of you you’re not even aware of it. And it’s not just you, Andrew, the vast majority of the human race is doing exactly the same thing---acting like they have souls, but completely unaware of it."

I step back.

"For your kids, I do this," I say. "I suggest you reconsider very carefully what you think you believe, how it might affect people’s actions---the entire human race---in times to come. Because Happiness Boxes are coming, man, they are at most only decades away. And, if there are no souls, this Happiness Box you so rightly called an abomination becomes RATIONAL."

END

Monday, February 26, 2007

ON EMOTION DRUGS

Note added 04/05/2012: Happiness Boxes are finally under development. A Russian billionaire has started the ball rolling.
The Suicide of Man has begun.


ON EMOTION DRUGS

by Jeffrey A. Corkern

Why are emotion drugs illegal?

Our society---in fact, all stable, functioning societies in the world---do NOT like emotion drugs for some strange reason. Drugs like pot, cocaine, heroin, LSD, meth, Ecstasy and so forth. They spend literally HUNDREDS of billions of dollars fighting emotion drugs. "War On Drugs" is not an over-exaggeration to describe this world-wide effort, not in the least. The expenditure easily matches what has been spent on fighting real shooting wars.

This world's societies are SERIOUS about this war. A lot of this world's societies will stand you up against a wall and SHOOT YOU DEAD if they catch you selling emotion drugs.

You wanna know the weirdest thing?

The world's societies can't really tell you WHY they're doing this.

They can't answer the question of why they're making this EXTREME effort against emotion drugs. They can't. Not one society in this world can give an answer to that question you can't shoot down with the greatest of ease. If they could give an entirely logical answer, an answer that could convince EVERYBODY emotion drugs really were intrinsically bad things, an argument everybody could understand, they wouldn't be having such a hard time keeping people away from emotion drugs. They wouldn't be having to spend so much money.

This extreme effort seems strange to a lot of people. So much so there are organizations---like NORML, the National Organization to Reform the Marijuana Laws, for example, and many others---that are actively trying to make emotion drugs legal.

One sign of everyone's complete and total confusion is they haven't even correctly labeled these things as what they are. EMOTION drugs, that is. Drugs that make people feel good, that MAKE people feel a certain EMOTION they want to feel.

Let's run through a couple of these worthless arguments against emotion drugs and shoot them down, just to illustrate how completely and totally confused this anti-emotion-drug thing is.

The first objection you hear is that it's wrong to use to emotion drugs----because they're illegal.

Right.

This is so astoundingly illogical it takes your breath away. An example of circular logic at its finest. Because they're illegal? Easily cured, man. Just make the damn emotion drugs legal. Then it'll be right. Just make all emotion drugs legal and let corporations sell them just like soda pop. You'll save how many HUNDREDS of billions of dollars? How much drug crime will go away? How many prisons will be COMPLETELY emptied? How much money will you rake in on taxes? It'll be in the billions! You'll make every nickel back you spent on that futile War On Drugs! People will spend money on emotion drugs before they'll spend money on FOOD, man!

Which brings up the second objection.

Emotion drugs in general hurt their users. Letting people use emotion drugs will be allowing people to damage themselves, even kill themselves. Several of these emotion drugs will kill you deader than a hammer if you slip just one little inch.

First answer to that: There are quite a number of activities that people do in this world that are just as dangerous (or MORE!), that can kill you just as dead---and none of the world's societies forbid these activities. Things like sky-diving. High-speed auto racing. Airplane racing. Hang-gliding. Scuba diving. Mountain climbing. Slip just one little inch doing any of these activities or any of a thousand other risky activities---and you're DEAD, quicker than a heartbeat.

(You know, it's odd, but we can abstract a rule from this observed behavior. We can abstract a single, simple rule the world's societies are using to determine what is and is NOT allowed behavior to get happy.

You can do anything you want that doesn't hurt other people to get happy---except stimulate the happiness centers of your brain directly.

Anything else is allowed, even if you can get yourself killed doing it. Indirect stimulation of your brain's happiness centers is legal. Direct stimulation of your brain's happiness centers is NOT.)

Second answer to that: Okay, so what if we find a way of stimulating the brain's happiness centers that DOESN'T hurt the user? That have no side-effects. Not physically addicting and impossible to overdose on. The perfect drug or class of emotion drugs. Then we can make that one class of emotion drugs alone legal.

Impossible to make a single chemical that does that, you say? Chemicals ALWAYS have side-effects.

Well, actually, you're probably right---if you're talking about chemical substances.

Fortunately, science is marching on. The human race is no longer restricted to chemical substances when it comes to getting stoned---pardon me, happy. We can cut right to the chase these days, without having to use any kind of nasty chemicals with their nasty side effects.

Direct electrical brain stimulation.

We can run a little metal wire right to certain sections of your brain, trickle a few milliamps of current to it---and you will be in Nirvana INSTANTLY, man, higher than a kite. With NO side-effects.

The groundwork has already been laid. Neuroscientists have ALREADY discovered precisely what sections of brain to tickle, believe it or not.

So there we have it, the perfect happiness drug. Or machine, rather.

So now all objections to emotion drugs have been refuted.

So now we can make all emotion drugs and machines legal. Right? Right! There's not a single objection we can't shoot down. We can't find a single truly logical reason not to.

W-e-l-l, perhaps not. Perhaps there are one or two teeny-tiny little objections to making emotion drugs, or machines, legal.

Let us examine this question as precisely as possible. (Which is something, by the way, the world's societies have NEVER done. They have just been reacting instinctively, stumbling around blind in the dark, on this subject.)

First, let us define precisely what an emotion drug is.

An "emotion drug" is a substance that is capable of directly affecting the emotion centers of the user's brain and is employed by the user for the SOLE purpose of affecting the emotion centers of his brain, for directly altering his emotional state.

Note that this definition is totally a use definition, i.e. the user is the one who defines what an emotion drug is.

Let me illustrate what I mean. Smoking marijuana for the SOLE purpose of getting high defines marijuana as an emotion drug (and illegal). Smoking marijuana to, let us say, relieve the pain of menstrual cramps or to stimulate your appetite because anti-cancer drugs have suppressed your appetite defines marijuana as NOT an emotion drug (and legal).

It is the purpose the user has for the drug that primarily determines whether or not the drug is an emotion drug. To DIRECTLY affect his brain's emotion centers---it's an emotion drug. Anything else, it's not.

So now we have a working definition of "emotion drug." Which is also hereby defined to include, not just drugs, but also mechanical devices.

Now, what rational, logical objection can we find to making these things legal?

What do emotion drugs do.

Hmmmm.

They make people happy. Fundamentally, the rock-bottom, that's what they do. They make people feel good.

How in the world could that be a bad thing?

I mean, everything else people do has as its sole purpose to get happy. Why aren't emotion drugs just yet another pathway to this emotional state?

Perhaps we should pause here a minute and look at this getting-happy thing. There is something quite astonishing about this getting-happy thing.

You know why people do what they do?

BECAUSE THEY'RE ALL TRYING TO GET HAPPY!

You know what? You can describe ALL human action in terms of getting happy!

All of it, man! ALL OF IT! No matter how small, it’s ALL about being happy!

You race cars at high speed---because you enjoy it. You parachute out of perfectly good airplanes---because it's fun. You play video games---because it brings a smile to your face.

It goes deeper than that. A LOT deeper.

(You even BREATHE to stay happy. Right? How happy are you going to feel if you STOPPED breathing?)

You get married, because being with that special other person makes you happier than anything else in this world.

(You wanna know where this deep insight into human motivation first began to pop to the surface? To become consciously known?

In the eighteenth century!

In the eighteenth century, there was a great deal of philosophical inquiry into why people did what they did. And the answer they came up with was people did what they in order to get happy. This was NOT just some airy-fairy philosophical conclusion, either. This conclusion GOT USED AS A FOUNDATION RULE FOR ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST SUCCESSFUL SOCIETIES!

Guess which one.

The United States!

What does it say in the Declaration of Independence?

"life, liberty, and THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!"

The Founding Fathers were trying to lay the foundations for a successful society using this radical new discovery. And they did it, man, they did it. They absolutely NAILED it! Because ALL human action truly can be described as an effort to get happy!

Smart guys, our Founding Fathers.)

You have a family---because it makes you happy. You get up every morning, go out and work like a damn dog---because having a family, in the end, makes you happy, so happy you don't mind the extreme effort it takes.

Whatever you do, it's to feel happiness in one form or another. It's all about being happy, your own personal happiness, and everybody else's, in the end.

Unless, of course, you use emotion drugs to get happy.

Now you no longer need to do any of those other things. Now all you need is the emotion drug---a bag of pot, a line of coke, a wire to the brain. Now you don't need any of those other things to get happy anymore. Race cars, airplanes, video games, you don't need them---and something far more terrible you're not going to need.

You want to know what the most terrible thing is you're not going to need?

You're not going to need---other people.

You're not gonna need other people, man. You can see this already happening in society. This is a known psychological effect of emotion drugs. Look at the people you know who use dope. Look at them REAL HARD.

Are they not---ISOLATED? Fundamentally cut off from the rest of the world? In a kind of unchanging stasis? Not going anywhere?

They don't HAVE to change, you see. With people who don't use emotion drugs, if they are in pain somehow and not happy, they are FORCED to change something about themselves or their environment in order to be happy. They are FORCED TO GET SMARTER about the Universe, to strike the rock-bottom. This is NOT true for people who use emotion drugs. If they feel bad, they just go running to the dope, and PRESTO! They're happy! Without having to go through the effort of making all that nasty, wrenching, painful change! Of having to learn anything, of having to get smarter even the least little bit!

So they DON'T change or get smarter, and this is a known psychological effect of emotion drugs. If somebody started using emotion drugs at fifteen, you can examine him psychologically ten, twenty, thirty, forty years later---and he will STILL be fifteen years old on the inside. He (or she, of course) will know what he knew at fifteen---and NOTHING else.

(You can see this same isolating effect in drug-related violent crime, too. Crimes committed while under the influence of emotion drugs have a tendency to be more violent. The emotion drugs have cut the criminal's emotional connection to the rest of humanity, you see, and the result is he does more horrible things to his victims than he would have had he not been under the influence.)

Emotion drugs---cut you off from EVERYTHING. Period. WITHOUT emotion drugs, you must interact with the world in order to get happy. WITH emotion drugs, you DON'T. Right?

You know what the definition of society is?

People interacting with other people.

What do emotion drugs do?

Shut down that interaction with other people. With everything else, too, but primarily with other people.

So, if a society makes emotion drugs legal, what, inevitably, must legal emotion drugs do to that society in the end?

DESTROY IT. UTTERLY.

Oopsie.

NOW we have a rational, logical reason for a society to make emotion drugs illegal. VIOLENTLY illegal, put-you-in-jail-for-twenty-years illegal, stand-you-up-against-a-wall-and-SHOOT-YOU-DEAD illegal.

(I'm not advocating these kinds of severe punishments, please understand. I'm saying I understand why a society would impose these kinds of severe punishments.)

Now, I know some people are NOT going to like this coldly logical conclusion, that emotion drugs really, truly are intrinsically bad things, because they use emotion drugs themselves on a regular basis, and they are going to whine about this and refuse to be convinced. Because they LIKE emotion drugs and don't want to give them up. So they'll DELIBERATELY stay dumb. They’d rather have dope than brains, man. They’ll squinch their eyes shut as tight as they can, put their hands over their ears and refuse to believe a single word they've read. Emotion drugs are their refuge from reality, their escape from pain.

So I'm going to hit this one more time, harder.

Let's look at this one more time, in more detail.

Let's theoretically make emotion drugs legal, and see what happens to society.

Okay. Emotion drugs are legal, and corporations start fighting each other to sell them.

What happens first?

Emotion drugs get CHEAP. Cocaine, fifty cents a pound. Crack, one dollar a pound. Marijuana, two dollars for twenty one-ounce cigarettes. Heroin, five bucks a pound.

Sure, millions of people will get addicted and eventually kill themselves. You'll be stepping over dead bodies in the streets every day. Every city will have to have a crew that does nothing but pick up dead bodies. But we knew that's what was going to happen when we made emotion drugs legal. Hell, it's just cleaning up the gene pool. Just evolution in action, right?

And, yeah, intellectual, moral, and scientific progress will slow way the hell down because society will be collectively choosing NOT to get smarter. The smart people, instead of doing all the stuff smart people do, like inventing cures for cancer and AIDs and things like that, will be drooling against their bedroom wall stoned out of their friggin’ minds.

What will happen along with this?

Well, if people can use emotion drugs to get happy---they will tend NOT to use any other method. So sales of high-speed race cars will go down. Along with parachutes. And airplanes. And video games. And whatever else you can name, because the only goal people really have, the ONLY reason they do whatever it is they do, every single action, no matter how small, is to get happy. As so fundamental a document as the Declaration of Independence recognizes.

When we made emotion drugs legal---we made that the CHEAPEST way to get happy.

So the VISIBLE start of the decline of society will be an economic crash, which will take a good while before it starts.(The INVISIBLE part will be the intellectual decline. This will start immediately and actually have MUCH more severe effects---but you will NEVER see it happening.) The only companies making money will be the emotion-drug companies.

What happens next?

The emotion drugs get BETTER.

Free-market competition, right? The first primitive generation of emotion drugs have an unfortunate tendency to damage and kill their users. This is like, you know, REAL bad from a profit standpoint. So the emotion-drug companies will engage in a research race to produce the best possible emotion drug, one that doesn't kill or damage their customers.

It is QUITE clear what the end of that research race will be.

Say hello to the Happiness Box.

The Happiness Box is the ultimate expression of the wire-to-the-brain thing, the ultimate emotion drug. It is a steel box designed to keep a human brain alive and happy. VERY happy. The way it's used is a living brain is removed from its body and placed in the box. Various wires and tubes are connected to the brain and the box is closed. Somebody punches the start button, and that brain goes into Nirvana---and STAYS there, forever.

For as long as the brain or the box lasts, anyway. With the appropriate technology, this could easily be hundreds of years, maybe even thousands.

Various ruffles and flourishes are possible. For example, the most advanced version of the Happiness Box could, instead of just keeping you stoned all the time, be programmed so that you lived an artificial life inside the box. Of course, after the knowledge you were in a Happiness Box was removed, so it would seem completely real to you.

Hmmph. It hits me the first primitive generation of Happiness Boxes are on the market RIGHT THIS SECOND.

Video games.

Right? The user gets into what's already being described as a "total immersive experience" and stays there in his own little world for hours and hours, completely isolated from the rest of reality. It's not unknown for people to play these things for days on end, without even sleeping. And to get addicted to them, too.

Yeah, Happiness Boxes are already headed our way. The Playstation 10,000, the ultimate XBox, SIMS become real, Azeroth forever and ever. Just drop your brain into it, close the lid, and press the Start button.

These things will sell like hot cakes, won't they, folks? Perfect happiness living your perfect life forever, and no side-effects! People will be jumping into Happiness Boxes by the millions.

And there will be a TREMENDOUS push for everybody to jump into his own personal Happiness Box. Because as more and more people disappear, society is going to go downhill FAST. It will be a race to the bottom like nothing ever seen in history.

And once the last person goes into the last Happiness Box, that will be the end of society. Society made emotion drugs legal---and the end result was the absolutely unavoidable, total destruction of society.

And the Suicide of Man.

Once again, oopsie.

(Guess what we just found.

We just found the mechanism by which sentient races go extinct. They reach the technological point where they can build Happiness Boxes, build them, jump into them, and disappear. When the last brain dies----as it must inevitably do---that race is extinct. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Poof.)

In the meantime, I note that in the real world, while emotion drugs are illegal, HAPPINESS BOXES ARE NOT. The world's societies haven't looked very far down the road when it comes to emotion drugs. Which makes sense, when they can't even define what an emotion drug is.

So get ready, all you young people out there. The opportunity to buy your own Happiness Box and disappear into it is going to come within your lifetime. It's going to be entirely legal to do so.

Step right up and get'em while they're hot, folks.

One hell of a debate is coming to this world.

SHOULD I, OR SHOULD I NOT, JUMP INTO A HAPPINESS BOX?

On the face of it, this seems a laughably absurd question. Of course, you should jump into a Happiness Box! Perfect happiness! Living a long time, maybe a thousand years! More! It's the SMART thing to do!

Sure, when the world's societies see what Happiness Boxes are doing to the world, they will try to make these Happiness Box thingies illegal, in order to stay in existence.

But does a society really have that right? To punish people for using emotion drugs, Happiness Boxes, even when it's a certain thing that society---the human race itself---will be destroyed in the end?

Does a society have the right to put its existence above the right of its members get happy anyway they want to? Does the human race have a right to put its existence above the rights of its members to get happy anyway they want to?

The answer to this question---doesn't matter. If enough people want it, and they will---Happiness Boxes WILL become legal. No matter what the answer is, no matter what it does to society, to the human race. The history of Prohibition teaches us that.

The world's societies are going to LOSE this War On Drugs, aren't they, folks? They don't have a snowball's chance in Hell, despite all the hundreds of billions they've spent. Society is going down, HARD. The clock is ticking, the fuse is lit, it's only a matter of time until the explosion. Happiness Boxes are going to come out, and it's going to be Game Over for the human race in less than fifty years.

And why does that even matter? Where in Nature does it say that human society HAS to exist? That the human race itself HAS to exist? Don't all species go extinct in the end anyway? It all seems just so inevitable and unavoidable.

So why not just let it happen? In fact, why not start funding research into creating Happiness Boxes for everybody in the world immediately?

Last one in is a rotten egg!

I mean, look at the real world. A world filled with horror. With death and dying, cancer and AIDS, with terrorists and suicide bombers and a million different painful ways of getting killed.

A world---FILLED WITH UNHAPPINESS.

Compared to perfect bliss and perfect safety inside a Happiness Box. Is there anything in the world that could possibly offset that? That would make jumping into a Happiness Box a STUPID thing for an individual to do?

Because that's the one thing that would stop this from happening. If there were some EXTREMELY powerful reason for an individual NOT to jump into a Happiness Box.

Is there such a reason?

W-e-l-l, yes, there is, actually. There is ONE teeny little thing that could actually make it incredibly stupid for an individual to jump into a Happiness Box. So much so that he would look at this thing and then just walk away without so much as a backward glance at a lost Nirvana.

But I have got to warn you all first. It is a truly BIZARRE reason. Lean back and take a breath. Brace yourselves.

The reason is:

IF PEOPLE HAVE SOULS.

If people have souls. That one thing, AND THAT ONE THING ONLY, would make it stupid to jump into a Happiness Box.

Allow me to explain.

First, I must define precisely what I mean by "soul."

A "soul" is an eternally existing thinking and feeling structure that survives the death of the physical body. Souls can and do inhabit physical bodies, but don't require one.

In the simplest terms, a "soul" is you---without a body. Exactly the same---except without a body.

So how would having a soul make it stupid to jump into a Happiness Box?

Let's think about what would happen to you when you jumped into a Happiness Box and closed the lid.

Okay. Centuries and centuries and CENTURIES of unending pleasure and bliss. Then your brain dies, as it must do in the end.

And your soul pops loose. Is thrown back into harsh, cold reality from the artificial Nirvana it's been in.

What kind of psychological condition is your soul in? How well is it going to get along with all the other souls out there?

How strong is your soul going to be after centuries of bliss?

About as strong as wet cardboard, huh, folks. Whatever lessons your soul learned about getting along with reality and all the other souls out there have been wiped away by centuries of unending pleasure, haven't they? Just smoothed away and gone.

So all those painful lessons are going to have to be relearned. All over again. Painfully.

And the pain won't just be yours. For everybody else who has to deal with you, too.

The danger is greater than it might appear. For somebody who has been in the simplest kind of Happiness Box, one where his bliss centers were stimulated, the end result will be the creation of a child, an infant. This will be an unpleasant thing to deal with, but not too unpleasant.

But worse is possible. MUCH worse.

Consider somebody who has been in the most advanced type of Happiness Box, one where he has lived in an artificial reality designed to cater to his every whim. Centuries and centuries and CENTURIES of having his every desire fulfilled, of ALWAYS getting his own way.

What kind of psychological effect would that have on a soul?

It would turn that soul into a stone-raving sociopath, wouldn't it, folks. A true screaming psycho. Somebody who would never take anybody else's feelings into account. Who would stop short at nothing to get what he wants, not even murder.

This is a bad thing. To say the least. There's going to be a great deal of pain and agony involved for that soul to get right again, to relearn old lessons. For that soul and everybody else who has to deal with that soul.

So, in the end, when the pleasure that soul experienced unlearning those lessons is weighed against the pain that soul and everybody else experienced for that soul to relearn those lessons---the pain will be the greater amount. FAR greater.

Which makes jumping into a Happiness Box a STUPID thing to do in the first place.

If you DON'T have a soul, jumping into a Happiness Box is SMART.

If you DO have a soul, jumping into a Happiness Box is STUPID.

Note. Which one is the smart thing to do is entirely dependent on whether or not you have a soul---AND NOTHING ELSE.

So do you really, truly have a soul? That's the key thing you have to know when it comes time to make that decision.

(It's far from an impossible thing, you know. There isn't any DEFINITIVE scientific evidence one way or the other. In fact, there are at least three different scientific projects I know of going on this very minute that are trying to detect souls.)

We can get an indication of the answer to this question by examining it from a somewhat abstract viewpoint. Let's look at this question from a societal viewpoint, by examining what the impact of immortal souls would be on a society.

How would everybody having immortal souls affect a society's behavior?

(You can examine this question by examining individual human behavior too, and get the same answer, but we are talking about societies here, and so I restrict the argument here to societies.)

What kinds of rules and regulations would an immortal-soul society have to have?

One rule should be perfectly clear from all of the above.

IN AN IMMORTAL-SOUL SOCIETY---YOU CAN'T GET HAPPY BY DIRECT STIMULATION OF YOUR EMOTION CENTERS. YOU CAN'T GET HAPPY BY ANY MEANS OTHER THAN INTERACTING WITH OTHER SOULS AND THE UNIVERSE.

In others words---emotion drugs HAVE to be ILLEGAL in an immortal-soul society, because, as we just saw, they create more pain than pleasure in the end. Any kind of emotion drugs. No Happiness Boxes. No coke. No crack. No heroin. And so on down the line, although the line starts getting fuzzy eventually, because there will be certain substances---like marijuana and wine---that will have uses other than getting stoned.

(But it won’t actually be necessary to pass laws making emotion drugs illegal. No SMART eternal being is going to touch these things. In a society of smart, self-aware eternal beings, a dope dealer will starve to death.)

I gotta tell you, man, I see something quite incredibly strange here.

You know that single, simple rule the world's stable societies are using regarding getting happy we abstracted up above? Compare it to the rule we just now derived about getting happy in an immortal-soul society.

Do you see it?

IT'S THE SAME DAMN RULE!

You can't get happy by using emotion drugs! Stable human societies are ALREADY acting like an immortal-soul society!

Like we all have souls!

When you try to find a good, solid reason why societies make emotion drugs illegal---the rock-bottom reason you eventually run into is the deep, deep assumption by all these stable societies that people really, truly are immortal souls!

Although nobody knows for a scientific fact souls exist---the world's stable societies ACT like they do. ALL of them. EVERY damn one!

Funny thing, that.

Y'all have a good one.

END

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