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  • Okay, So I'm talking today with Dr Michael Shermer.

  • And Dr Shermer is, among other things, the publisher of Skeptic Magazine.

  • But more importantly for our purposes today, he is also the author of this book New book and we're Heaven on Earth.

  • We're going to talk about this today in some detail, and so I'm going to turn this over first to Dr Shermer, who's gonna tell you some things about himself, and then we're gonna have a discussion.

  • He's gonna outline this book and then we're gonna have a discussion about but why he wrote it and what it contains and what the implications are in all of that.

  • So over to you, Michael assured Jordan.

  • Thank you for having me on the show.

  • It's well, the book is kind of an extension of my previous work.

  • Most of my books, when I write them, they kind of push off from the previous books going all the way back to my first book.

  • Why people believe, where things which was about the supernatural in the paranormal and and all that.

  • Then that led to how we believe, which was why people believe in God.

  • And then if you don't believe in the supernatural.

  • And you don't believe in a deity?

  • What about morality?

  • So wrote two books on math, Science of good and evil and the moral our last book s O.

  • Then you know, kind of covering all the big subjects from a skeptical scientific perspective thing.

  • Afterlife is obviously a huge one.

  • And I had really dealt with that too much of my previous books.

  • And you know, now that I'm in my sixties, I guess you could say I'm cramming for the final thinking about these big issues.

  • This is not something I obsess about.

  • I'm not terrorized by death, like like some people actually are.

  • But I think it's a super interesting subject because, um, it's obviously a part of the human condition.

  • It's something people do think about.

  • And apparently we're the only species that could do this.

  • Although I have a chapter in every gunners on animals that grieves clearly quite a few mammals degrees, and they have some sense of loss, death and grief, you know, for fellow group members or family members that I was not clear that they understand that their moral, um and then I can cover the possibility that Neanderthals were self aware of their mortality because of grave goods that have been found.

  • Although that's it's hard to fossil possible fossilization box is difficult to interpret, but, you know, it seems reasonable that they had some sense of that.

  • But in any case, s O I deal with the, you know, the Monotheism Sze versions of the afterlife haven't immortality Judaism, Christianity, Islam, mainly because you sort of have to.

  • Although mine's a science book and those there sort of, well hanging fruit that atheists have already kind of picked out self.

  • I don't spend a lot of time on that.

  • I focused more on scientific attempts to achieve immortality and spoke of science.

  • So, uh, actually start with what doesn't seem like a scientific chap.

  • But Deepak Chopra's worldview of sort of western Buddhism that, um, that there is that the idea of birth, death after life, life before life is all kind of meaningless because it's all consciousness in a deep box worldview.

  • As he puts it, uh, consciousness is the ontological primitives every you can't get underneath that, you know the scientific attempt to explain it by material means will always fail because That's not where consciousness lies anyway.

  • So I I, um thanks to my wife, you know, actually delved into his world.

  • D'oh!

  • Deepak and I have class her 20 years, and I've called his worldview woo and in pseudo science, and, you know, we've been kind of at odds with each other, so as it changes mean, he's sort of the main, you might say, intellectual force.

  • I don't think it's unreasonable to say the main intellectual force behind the new age movement or associated with the New Age movement is that every one of them, certainly one of the most prominent ones.

  • He's got a huge following.

  • You know, he goes on Oprah and talks about these things and Dr Oz or whoever, and, you know, he has a lot of following.

  • So my wife and I actually went down to his center.

  • That Jumper Center in Carlsbad, California, spent some time there.

  • I we delved into meditation and yoga and the tea and the chanting and all that, just to kind of see what it's all about.

  • And, uh, you know, I think there's something there in terms of behavioral change.

  • That is how it affects your body in your mind you're thinking, and I could definitely see something to that.

  • And, um and but but also the difficult part that Deepak and I have had is the same problem that most scientists have with New Age beliefs but not to step it, but took non Western traditions that what Deepa calls the Eastern wisdom traditions that it's the language, the difficulty of language.

  • We have to use words to communicate on the words you use matter.

  • At some level, you have to be ableto b talking on the same level with words off when Deepak says tha the ontological primitive or consciousness is the womb of creation.

  • You know, it sounds sort of metaphorical, and he means something very specific by that.

  • If you can't get out that you're wasting your time talking so deep and I have kind of become friends and we were constantly communicated, just try to see if we can find some ground where we're talking, you know, on the same plane.

  • And so I think I've learned a lot from him in that in that sense, and so my chapters devoted to him on that and the General Eastern wisdom traditions you know that when you die because I always ask him, Where do you go when he said he said Just the wrong question.

  • I mean, you just returned to where you were before, because when people ask me, well, what do you think happens after you die?

  • My standard come equipped is the same thing.

  • You go to the same place you were before you Reform will say, What are you talking about?

  • I wasn't anywhere before I was born, right, and you'll be nowhere after you die.

  • But for deep on time and consciousness kind of overrides the concept of time in the beginning and an end.

  • Really, your consciousness just returns to where it waas and that the this physical body and brain is just a temporary in Stan she ation of consciousness into physical B.

  • But it just going back to some other place.

  • And there's like a figure.

  • We don't have the words to even conceive of what that meets that.

  • Is that the Western language?

  • The way scientists talk, I can't really capture what he's talking about in that sense, and so that's why I think we kind of hit a histological wall there where you have to actually get into introspection, meditation, and that the deeper parts of that tradition.

  • But I've never been ableto, you know, really get into personally, so I can't say I understand it other, like a kind of see where he's coming from in that regard.

  • So So let me ask you some questions about that.

  • So the first might have to do with this idea of the ontological primacy of consciousness.

  • Say now, one of the things I've learned from studying mythology is that the mythological world view.

  • First of all, I think the mythological world view conceptualize is the world as a place to act rather than as a place of face.

  • So it's sort of like Stephen G.

  • J.

  • Gould's idea of two Magisterium don't overlap.

  • There's a moral Magisterium in a materialist, magisterial say, but it's been striking to me, looking at the archetypal foundations of mythological thinking that in the in the scientific world view, there seemed to be too fundamental causal elements.

  • You could say nature and nurture something like that.

  • Biology and society and then technically sophisticated Western academics argue about the relative contribution of each to any given existential phenomenon.

  • But in the mythological world view, there's always three actors.

  • There is nature, usually personified his female or experienced his female because personified isn't quite the right word.

  • There's culture, but there's also the individual, and the individual's seems to be the same thing as the conscious actor.

  • And that would be the hero of the Dragon slaying hero say, And there's that there is a kind of primacy given to that.

  • So in the oldest creation, Miss, you always see this interplay between the mother, often Mother Earth and the Father that sky and then the hero who separates the two and somehow brings and perversely, in some sense, although being their product clearly as the offspring is also the thing that gives rise to the Mount the same at the same time.

  • And it seems to be something that's in keeping in some sense with our lived experiences that we confront the social world, obviously and our beneficiaries and victims of it, and we confront the natural world in the same manner.

  • But we also seem to be a gent, IQ actors and without us as a gentle doctors.

  • The idea that there's a reality seems to it seems to be full of paradoxical holes like reality without a conscious actor.

  • And I think that's the sort of saying that that generates the thinking that you've referred to as characteristic of Deepak Chopra and the people who who make those sorts of claims.

  • So I mean, what what's your What's your take on consciousness and its role in being well and one and it's everything because it's what I do.

  • What I tell deep on what I write about in a chapter is that you're familiar with the anthropic principles.

  • I call this the week consciousness principal bet.

  • Without consciousness, without consciousness, nothing exists.

  • You know, this is one of the points T Park makes on for me and you personally.

  • If we're dead or were not conscious, the world doesn't exist for our brains.

  • It's gone.

  • There's nothing.

  • There's nothing, Uh, but he goes further than he says.

  • This is what I call the strong consciousness principle that that consciousness is required.

  • Our consciousness is required for material things to exist.

  • And so there I have a discussion of what Donald Hoffman, the cognitive scientist at UC Irvine, calls his, um, the interface perception theory.

  • I don't know if you're familiar with this.

  • But his analogy is like you know, your laptop screen.

  • Here you have these icons on the screen and, like the little trash can icon, it's like a trash can.

  • But of course, there's no trash.

  • Get the open, the open your laptop.

  • There's a trash can in there.

  • You know, these air, just kind of icons.

  • That represents something that we think of as a trash can.

  • And, um, you know, this is gets the problem of you know, what it's like to be a bat.

  • It was not a crowd.

  • I can't know if I bolted on some some huge years and and I had an echo location system in the neural processes to process that information.

  • And so I would have some sense of what it's like to be about, But they have everything on to actually be about that.

  • I would just be a bat, and I wouldn't even be.

  • I wouldn't even know I was a human, wondering what it's like to be a bad Okay, so that some level we can't actually no, um, you know what it's like to be something else.

  • And so you begin with Deepak and I, and these kinds of traditions like that, we hit this system a logical wall of language.

  • It's difficult to say what you mean by certain things.

  • Yes, yeah, well, especially when you get down to the fundamentals of things.

  • Well, it's pretty clear that the things that so let let's look at that user interface idea So obviously what happens when you're looking at a computer screen is that the complexity of the screen is reduced to a set of icons that conserve as tools.

  • Right?

  • And I think that that's a reasonable way of thinking about how we look at the world is the complexity of the Net.

  • Hoffman's theory is that natural selection didn't select our brains to record an accurate representation of reality, like a scientific model attempts to get ever closer to what reality is really like.

  • No natural selection just wants us to estate predators.

  • Doesn't matter.

  • What they looked like with the icon is in your brain of breath.

  • That's brain or whatever is left of you survived.

  • That's all that matters.

  • Uh uh, This is why we're so easily deceived by illusions and magic tricks and things like that that our brains aren't really wired to represent reality as it really is, whatever that means.

  • And, yes, you could say that without human consciousness, the iconic reality that we inhabit would not exist.

  • Right?

  • Okay, okay.

  • Additive that slightly.

  • Is that it is.

  • I told him so let's say you know, what's it like to be adults?

  • And I don't know.

  • Okay, so some kind of echolocation systems and his point is, Well, there, you know, sharks are dangerous, so his they avoid charts.

  • But the question is, what is a shark look like in a dolphin's brain versus looks like an armory?

  • Um, it's probably quite different, and I really have no idea what a shark looks like.

  • Two adults.

  • But I do know this.

  • There really are sharks, and they really have sharp things on one end and a tail on the other.

  • And they're eating machines and you should avoid themselves.

  • Yeah, so that's actually a weakness of the icon claim, I would say, because it looks to me like here's a twist on it.

  • What we see in our conscious experience are functional icons, but there are also low resolution representation of the things that are actually there.

  • And and I don't think that computer icons are low resolution representations of the things that air they're they're just functional icons now.

  • I might be wrong about that, because has it's hard to to conjure up that analysis on the fly.

  • But the trash can, for example, on your desktop is actually it's actually a low resolution representation of an actual trash can, not a computer trash can, even though it functions the same way.

  • So so I think I like the icon idea.

  • But I think it mrs some element of the actual relationship between the perception and the reality we definitely see in low resolution, which is why we can stand animated pictures like, say, The Simpsons, that you know where where everything is.

  • One extremely little resolution.

  • But that makes no functional difference to us whatsoever.

  • And we definitely see and hear in low resolution.

  • But the Resolute like I I think, what we see or something like Instead of icons, they're more like some nails that are functional.

  • That's a good analogy.

  • And then, well, I like it because the thumbnail the thumbnail actually is an unbiased sampling of the actual object, right, because a photograph is relatively un by a sample of an object, and you can compress it.

  • You can, you can, you can ready until it.

  • And what you're doing is blurring out distinctions between you're blurring out distinctions between different aspects of it, without without losing the relationship between the parts.

  • It's something like that.

  • Yeah, that's right.

  • Yeah, And all in, in a way, much of science operates at a metaphorical level.

  • You know that string, you know, Have you ever seen a string theory document memory that didn't have violins featured in it?

  • You know that the compute that brain is like a computer.

  • It's like a dual processor is like a quantum information those metaphors where you can't because we have to talk and you have to transfer the literal meaning of metaphors to move something from here to their original Greek.

  • So, you know, we're trying to capture some idea that's really hard to get that by something We're very familiar with.

  • Some part of the problem we have to that addresses some of the issues use dealt with with, um, some of your recent conversations with people is is we're operating on a different level So Deepak, for example, pounds me with articles about quantum physics.

  • You know, the material stuff is really just energy Adams, or mostly empty space and so forth.

  • And you know this This table is you know, it's actually mostly empty space of this is all true, but we don't live at the quantum level, right?

  • You live at the pro level where I'm sitting in a chair and I'm not passing through it because at that, at this level, you know it's not the same as at the quantum level.

  • And and And I think making that distinction helps clarify a lot of things.

  • Like when you talk about the truth to be found in biblical stories or literary stories like That's the SG or or Shakespeare or whatever and materialist scientist says, Well, no, I mean something different.

  • By truth, it's not that one of you is right.

  • The others wrong says that these are different levels are different ways of talking about Yeah, you think about them as different tool kits.

  • Yeah, that that's right.

  • Different tool kits.

  • That's right.

  • Yet not that they had it under the classic American pragmatist is that I think of these things as tools, you know, and there's a scientific tool kit and there's Ah, there's a tool kit for action in the world and they overlap, but they're not the same.

  • So, for example, I call this Alfie's error Alvy Singer, the character in Woody Allen's film um, Annie Hall.

  • And there's that funny scene where there's a flashback to where he's in childhood and he's refused to do his homework and he's depressed and his mother takes him to the doctor psychiatrist wherever he is.

  • And okay, what?

  • Why are you depressed?

  • Alvy says, Because I found out that the universe is expanding.

  • So what?

  • Because if the universe is expanding that eventually it's all gonna blow up and nothing means anything, right?

  • Mother's Name's Adam.

  • We live in Brooklyn.

  • Brooklyn's not expanding.

  • Had a mark.

  • That's a That's a nice observation.

  • I think, too, because so, Okay, let's go back to the conceptualization issues.

  • So one of the things that we've agreed on and I don't want to lose track of that threat because I think it's useful, is that we do see an iconic reality, and the icons have practical utility.

  • But they also bear some 1 to 1 correspondence with the thing in itself, and its low resolution is a nice way of thinking about.

  • So they're low resolution icons with functional utility.

  • Now the question would be so that, and what that makes clear is that without human consciousness, all that disappears, right?

  • Okay, then the question is Hartley.

  • What is there outside of that functional, iconic representation?

  • And so that would be the old question of the thing in itself, you could say, And I think you could say with some justification, that the thing in itself is in potential, something that collapses across time and space so that it's everything and nothing at the same time, which is, Well, I guess that's an Eastern claim.

  • That's one way of thinking about it.

  • It's a Taoist claim, and I like it because the problem with one of the issues that and this is associated with the idea of Brooklyn, it's not only does LB LB or Elvi Elvi Elvi, not only does LV live in Brooklyn, he lives in Brooklyn.

  • Now they're ready, right?

  • And so it's spatially located and temporally located.

  • And so his mother's objection is, well, don't pick a reference point that makes everything right now we relevant which I which is really good practical psychological advice because one of the things that leaves people down the path of nihilism is this claim that this observation that you can pick a time frame of analysis that makes your current action useless.

  • Who's gonna care in a 1,000,000 years?

  • It's like that.

  • Well, right.

  • So the B s that argues, you know, without God without some sort of external source for morality, on meaning, nothing.

  • What were nothing.

  • We do matters because of 15 billion years.

  • You know, the heat, death of the universe or whatever.

  • We don't live 15 billion years from now.

  • We live now here, and what we do doesn't matter, you know, So, like, this would argue, you know, theocracy problem.

  • You know, without God, there's no right or wrong.

  • Whatever Stalin did or Hitler dead is perfectly fine because of the heat death, the universe.

  • No, it's not fine because the people that are suffering in the Gulag Archipelago are in the gas chambers that house fits.

  • They're not thinking about 15 billion years from now, they're living right here.

  • Right now.

  • The torture is really doing wrong by these standards again, the level at which we're talking about is everything.

  • And this is why I'm concerned about the obsession with people obsessing too much about the afterlife.

  • Not just religious people, but scientists.

  • So what, I call it a the, uh the afterlife for atheists is you know, the core of my book is really about all the cryonics people in the trance humanists and the singular Terrians and the extra Peons.

  • That and the people that are gonna upload your mind into a computer and turn it out.