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January 19, 2011


Joe Kendrick

The hell doctrine in the bible always confusing me because as much I've studied it, I can't figure which book is the most helpful. Jesus says hell is weeping and nashing of teeth and you go there if you don't help people. Revelation says it's for the devil and his angels. So, I haven't a clue how to separate what I've been told in a SBC church or what I've read/studied/written on in the Bible from Augustine or any other theologian/philosopher.


I'm curious to know if Leighton has any exposure to consciousness studies in physics? I don't. I picked up a book recently, "The Quantum Enigma", which goes into the topic a bit.


I don't think Jesus talked about hell as it developed in Western culture. I think Jesus was quite clearly using metaphors and images, often ones immediately evident to his listeners -- pointing to the flaming garbage dump and sewers down the mountain from the Temple, for instance.

Greg Horton

Scott, I agree. I wasn't referring to Western Culture at all. Unfortunately, the weeping and gnashing of teeth, the fire, the worm dying not, etc., are all pretty explicit metaphors. The beauty of metaphors and analogies is that they tend to try to accurately portray that which they represent. In that light, it's fair to say that Jesus wasn't thinking of a happy place when he chose a burning, smoldering, stinking trash dump for humanity's final end. Avoiding the actual intent of the metaphors and analogies does no good. For anyone who believes in the authority of Scripture, the text has to be taken seriously. That's why it's easier simply to say: primitive, got it wrong, way wrong.


Zoss, the short answer is that I'm six years out of date on the physics of consciousness, since I've been looking at it from a biological angle lately. I'd have to dig out my grad school notes from a storage cage before saying anything useful. As for the rest, I'm trying to trim it so I don't have to start a blog called My Comment Is Too Damn Long.


Here's an attempt at trimming. If I understand the question in the first paragraph, electronic data is like the printing in a book, in that it is not a distinct physical category so much as an interpretation we impose on the arrangement of physical things. We have conventions for how to translate marks on a page into language, and digital devices have conventions for converting their contents into electronic signals to "talk" to each other. Lose the interpreter (a broken cell phone), the convention (as in the currently indecipherable Linear A), or the medium (e.g. the texts destroyed in the burned Library of Alexandria), and the information is lost.

Not that electrical information is particularly helpful for understanding consciousness anyway, except in a very roundabout way. It's like trying to learn to use a Mac by poking the chips on its logic board with a wee little voltmeter. We almost always need to work at a higher level of abstraction, unless there's some really precise and quantifiable thing we're looking for.


Oh, and I agree with most of the post, except that I don't want to live in a universe where the inventors of the wireless printer won't be tortured forever without possibility of reprieve.

Ed Suominen

[P]lease tell me how electrical impulses are able to contain data, and also, if the same principle applies to wifi, packet delivery, etc.

The brain's signaling is a combination of electrical and chemical. A neuron releases neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin into a tiny cleft that separates one of its synapses (the ends of the octopus arms you see in a typical drawing of a neuron) from the synapse of a neighboring neuron. In the neighbor, the neurotransmitters generate electrical charges which add up (or subtract; there's an inhibitory mode of action, too) until the neuron finally fires and dumps neurotransmitters into its neighbors. By "neighbors," I am referring to topological neighbors, not necessarily spatially next to each other. It's a big network of neurons selectively connected together (via the synaptic clefts). The interconnections are what make the brain into a mind. There's nothing special about any given neuron. But when they are tangled together in the billions, with trillions of selective connections between them, you get Greg, or Ed, and all of our memories, loves, fears, and beliefs.

All of this dies in our heads when the blood stops pumping. The cells burst with toxins, the signaling stops, the intricate network turns into mush. Game over, lights out.

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