A Temple Where People Actually Believe Physics

Imagine a place of gathering where you weren’t asked to worship a random deity – where you weren’t asked to believe in a fairytale afterlife, but you weren’t asked to believe in eternal none-existence either, because, after all, the only condition for entry to this temple was that you had to take physics seriously while inside its premises.

Being a hardcore reductionistic physicalist forces one to conclude that experience never ends. There are just mind configurations which equal specific experiences. These mind configurations exist only from their location. Despite the unrelenting work of medial parietal cortices and parietal lobes to imbue themselves with a sense of owning a forward-traveling soul, no soul has actually been found in the mechanism.

Even today’s popularizers of science have fallen prey to a non-reductionistic view. Richard Dawkins, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, and all their following of mainstream atheism believe that they are passengers on a ship that will dump them into absolute oblivion once it reaches the other shore.

It was the more careful thinkers such as Albert Einstein, Hugh Everett, David Pearce, and Eliezer Yudkowsky, who realized that viewing a present experience as anything more than its present configuration is uncalled for. And if my own narrative-stream and the comment section on LessWrong are honest, then a bunch of other nameless people also discovered this (and thought it was easy and trivial). All we had to do was to believe the universe exists outside of us. This means that it is littered with configurations which are present from their own inner present. Since there is no universal reference frame, i.e., the pasts and the futures are already there. I ask then, “Whence cometh death?”

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It is clear that there are just many experiences, not belonging to anyone special besides their own intrinsic existence. We can therefore say that we are all one single fragmented being, or that we are many different infinitesimal beings. If you want to be a proper reductionist, take your pick between something like Brahman or Anatta. But the pieces of reality contain nothing like Abrahamic souls.

And isn’t this why people made up all those elaborate lies about Vishnu, all those eschatologies and cosmogonies? They wanted something more than mere dust-to-dust. Well, the universe has given it to you already. Immortalists rejoice, efilists tremble.

Open individualism (saying we are all one, but can’t know it from each location) and empty individualism (saying there is no self) are the same thing at ground level. The aesthetic preference displayed in this regard supervenes on the quarks.

Here are great visuals from Qualia Computing

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Note: Empty = Open

Acknowledging the elephant in the room gives us a tremendous incentive to cooperate and can help some people out of nihilism. Yet it seems that many smart people feel ashamed to own up to what is an easy-picking implication of materialism and physicalism. Maybe they don’t have enough contrarian chakra to overcome the shame from normie atheists. Maybe they have learned to take comfort in a closed little world which ultimately asks nothing of them.

Thomas Henry Huxley, when presented with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution said, “How incredibly stupid not to have thought of that.” This is quite an entertaining quote, but it would be surprising if no one had actually ever thought about common descent and some hereditary mechanism for it. It is closer to the truth to say that many people had already seen much in the puzzle pieces, even ignoring the probable people who died without publishing their thoughts. There is a block which tends to appear in one’s mind when an obvious thing isn’t obvious to others. Darwin only got around to publishing his major work when he found out that another naturalist had also arrived at the same conclusion. Before that, he was just scared.

I say, burn this aspect of human nature. Why walk trepidatiously, when one is sure that the ground is stable?

One day, when open individualism is interpersonally assumed as a matter of convention, people will say the same as Huxley. How incredibly stupid that no one thought of this before. Except, of course, just like with evolution, many people did – but their sounds were drowned by their own undulations of submissive fear or by the heaving motions of the masses.

It is true that society will not reward you for merely discovering true things. Especially if those true things don’t fit usefully in their status-signaling neural networks. There are already many true things that society would rather not look at. But if you are here, you are probably not normal, and might as well embrace it.

People like Derek Parfit, Sam Harris, and Sean Carroll are especially curious. And that is because they exist somewhere near that stage were Darwin found himself before learning about Wallace’s similar conclusions. Derek Parfit reasoned out selflessness but just turned out to be wrong about physics, so he believed that atoms had persistent individual identities which made for his continuity of consciousness. I suspect something similar occurs with Sam Harris. He at times seems to understand selflessness, but ultimately refuses to be sure of it at the very edge, by saying something about “continuity of consciousness.” So you get a soul with a finite timeline split into many pieces. A fusion of closed individualism and empty individualism.

Sean Carroll, like me, also says that no one is traveling because each brain just exists from where it exists, also understands that relativity implies an eternal block, even assigns most likelihood to the reality of the wave-function and hence Everett’s many-worlds; to top it off, he knows way more physics than me. So why the heck does he still believe he is going to simply die?

I am not a psychoanalyst, but I’m going to be a psychoanalyst anyway. To top off the general suggestions offered before for our collective failure, I would add to that list the suspicion that so much energy is spent sparring with religious non-challenges. Religious people care a lot about life after death, so the antithetical position (eternal non-existence) also becomes very important to the atheist, and would now be extra-embarrassing to reject.

Okay, so why, of all the assortment of truths that I could be pointing to in the world, am I picking a fight over this one? Well that’s because it matters. Because I am selfish. Because in the most fundamental sense, I am you, and you, and you; all experience slices everywhere. It is in my best interest that you live an enjoyable life of some sort. Although I won’t be able to access the experience of this mind typing these words from that location, I am that. This is enough to concern me.

We should be no more solipsistic with regard to “another person’s” now slices than we are with regard to some past slice of now with our name (which we also can’t access) or some future slice with our name (which we also can’t access from these spacetime coordinates). I don’t care about this name. I don’t merely care about similar memories. I care about the sum of my experiences. Somewhere, I am still that child in my old photographs. And by his physical constitution, he cannot tell that the inner light of awareness also shines here and in that girl in the Mughal Empire.

This brings me to the matter of building a temple. I had already shown an inclination for pursuing a related line of thought when I was sixteen. And it seems he assumed failure at convincing people, based on the title of that post.

It is not the case that I am convinced this is a good idea. Questions abound. How many positive hedons should we be okay with creating instead of blocking dams of potential negative hedons? How do we account for the effects that mining positive qualia and inspirational stimuli can have on people who belong to a religious-like community?

The first question has already been explored in the public eye with current religions. Often as a source of accusations against the powerful institutions. For example, the statement that “If the Vatican were really Christian, it would sell everything of high market value that it owns and use it to save kids in Africa.”

Unlike nations or corporations, organized religions put themselves on the spot by claiming moral high ground. The moral high ground seems to track closer to negative utilitarianism in most people. Our most abstract sense of good generally says that it is more important to prevent suffering than to create happiness.

Yet one witnesses an apparently stark hypocrisy:

According to Vinod Rai, the former Comptroller-and-Auditor-General(CAG) of India, who had audited some of the Temple records from 1990, in August 2014, in the already opened vault A, there is an 800 kg (1,800 lb) hoard of gold coins dating to around 200 B.C, each coin priced at over 2.7 crore (US$390,000).[42] Also found was a pure Golden Throne, studded with hundreds of diamonds and other fully precious stones, meant for the 18-foot-long Deity.[43] According to varying reports, at least three, if not more, solid gold crowns have been found, studded with diamonds and other precious stones.[44][45][46] Some other media reports also mention hundreds of pure gold chairs, thousands of gold pots and jars, among the articles recovered from Vault A and its antechambers.[47]

This revelation has solidified the status of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple as the wealthiest place of worship in the world.[48] It is conservatively estimated that the value of the monumental items is close to ₹1.2 lakh crore or ₹1.2 trillion (US$17 billion). If the antique and cultural value were taken into account these assets could be worth ten times the current market price.[49]

These estimates were on the basis of the revelations since July 2011, when five vaults were opened, with the at least one remaining vault (B), which is the largest, still closed. One of the oldest existing estimates regarding Vault B, which can be considered to be at least as reliable as any other made since the discovery of the hidden treasure (or assets) of the Temple in 2011, was by the Travancore Royal Family itself in the 1880s (when an older existing estimate was updated). According to it, the gold and precious stones contained in Vault B, which is by far the largest and the only vault (of the reported six) that is unopened so far, since the discovery of the treasure, were worth ₹12,000 crore (US$1.7 billion). Considering the subsequent inflation of the rupee, and the increase in the prices of gold and precious metals and precious stones since in general, the treasure in the unopened vault B alone, would be worth at least ₹50 trillion (US$730 billion) in present-day terms, without the cultural value being factored in.[50][51]

Why don’t these devout Hindus spread this wealth to the faithful crowds on the streets who could surely benefit greatly from it? Why don’t the crowds expect this from the religious authority?

We don’t mean what we say is the short answer.

The sacred has a cost. In practice, we are willing to pay that cost.

I may be a utilitarian on paper – talking about carefully dissecting masses of hedonia, and weighing them at their fault lines. But in reality I am much more practical. I workout  every day without worrying about how much it pains me or what arithmetic I’m performing on the longevity of my narrative stream. I eat the same thing every day for simplicity, regardless of how much positive qualia is going unborn. We pay prices to uphold the establishment of our sacred rituals.

Both in the Vatican and the Padmanabhaswamy case, it is not even that long-term happiness/status sustenance is implicitly preferred to suffering prevention. If the goal was to create happiness or preserve status, having jewels locked up in a temple dungeon would do little in that regard.

This is more a brute side effect of deontological reinforcement. Quite similar to how I have not taken a single bite of a donut in over five years – to reinforce the sacredness of my commitment to diet, even though I know based on my will-power that a bite of a cookie would do no harm.

Selling a diamond-encrusted crown or two would not make a difference to the temple’s public glamour, since no one would notice. And yet the person on the street almost starving, or needing treatment, would surely notice. The energy of the temple’s reasoning engine is not enough to overcome the systematizer. The reasoner is an expensive process and prefers to sleep in the belly unless it is absolutely necessary to awake.

If we are going to create a religious-like community, it better be weighed against the other potential uses of that money and energy. Overcoming systematizers is very expensive, and no one likes it. Those who would benefit the most from an overthrow don’t even peep about it (Prussian-style soul-destroying school system come to mind?). The sort of smart people who would end up loving having access to such a physics temple, will likely be the primary obstacle to the formation of such a thing. And their children who would grow up with the proven benefits of a reassuring community gathered to contemplate their commitment to each other and to ‘the ultimate’ will also miss out. All because we were embedded in invisible systematizing agents that happened to trade too many precision points in exchange for energy conservation when evaluating what sounded “religious” or “spiritual”.

Finally, I do recommend taking architectural cues from the Padmanabhaswamy temple:

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Atheists Should Stop Being Atheists

 

People have played massive co-op augmented reality games for ages. We call these religions. When everyone’s constantly falling dead off their camels for no apparent reason, it gets kind of sad. So people decided that they should have a storyline with interesting characters and that they themselves should have quests within that overarching meta-story. This is all well and good until some people want to eject the disk and play another game. This causes quite a bit of tantrums and stabbing.

Nowadays, there is less stabbing but there is another situation: some players discovered they could shut off the console and go explore outside. These weirdos appeared in China, Greece, and the Middle East, but made their most successful stand in Europe. We call their escape from the arcade, the Enlightenment. Everything we have is a product of the Enlightenment. You can find reeds and stones and honey in the outdoors, but the thing you can’t find is video game discs sprouting like fruits from the trees. This makes the gamers anxious and hesitant to come out for too long. Cosmic inflation, the fact that the Higgs Field bestows mass, and the percentage of dark matter are all indications of just how barren the trees are of shiny discs hanging from their branches. “What does any of this have to do with me?” they think.

But the outdoorsy jocks are just starting to travel the terrain and have heard the birds promise worlds far better than the childish ones back at the arcade. But they can’t make the journey alone. They need everyone on board to help them along the way. Including those that play the game called Judaism 2.0: God Kills Himself and those that can’t put down Islam: The Final Saga. After much pestering, some of them said, “Okay jocks, we’ll go with you, but we’re bringing our PSPs.” These are called moderates. They alternate between looking down at the fictional images on their screen and looking up at the wilderness. This generally works, and moderates contribute greatly but they often trip. [Moderates are generally less happy than people who feel very certain about their views, according to a study I saw.]

So as one of the athletic explorers, how pushy should you be? Clearly, we can’t stay in the arcade. If you have family trying to lock you in, you need to get some courage and face their deceit.

I have gradually chipped away at my mom’s Catholicism with pure reason to the point were I don’t even know if she’s Christian. Whereas when I was a ten-year-old, she dragged me to a room and cried hysterically that I was going to hell for not believing in God. It was a difficult relationship and a tense struggle but now she’s much more reasonable and easy-going. It’s almost impossible at first, but with patience and calm, reason really works. Arguing about this with your family will also make you grow as a person because it will get you thinking about what really matters. Unless you’re making a case for nihilism. Which would be unfortunate, to say the least.

In the case of other people, I think it’s largely a waste of time unless you have a public platform where you can be heard by many. I don’t have the energy to debate old ladies trying to sell me Jehova, and I don’t see the point. They are likely deluded or at least completely misinformed about many other things in the world also, and I’m not the person to teach them all about it…Considering it took me about a year of repetitive hard work to talk sense into a single person by reinforcing the neural pathways that we needed reinforced in her brain so that we could have a better relationship.

But if you have influence, by all means be a champion of reason, not an atheist. Being an atheist gives pride of place to Abrahamic theism over other metaphysical ideas about creation, of which there are many.

The Hindu concept of Brahman is a less anthropomorphic version of God. The concept of chaos as the source of all things is also a common theme throughout history, with explanations often employing metaphorical characters like Izanagi and Izanami in the Shinto religion of Japan.

One can also claim that there are two or three or four architects. Why should this Universe require an architect, but that architect require none? But calling yourself an ademigod-ist or ademitheist would sound ridiculous. Maybe it wouldn’t if Constantinople had converted to some now forgotten Gnostic sect.  We may not even have been a culture concerned with origin stories if Gautama had been born in Bethlehem (with a superstar P.R. team, of course) and Yeshua had been born in Lumbini.

We are all, in fact, apanguists and acoatlicuists but these terms have probably never been written except here because we are not hostage to paying them this kind of respect. If a lot of people started calling themselves Adaoists and started forming Adaoist organizations, the Dao would gain more public consciousness and Laozi would smile in his grave. The idea of a single, man-like mind as ultimate cause is probably more philosophically indefensible than many of the other creation myths. So it makes no sense that it should have such a high platform just because of what can be called historical accident.

It is also important to note that if you are living in America or another place with majority Christians, that they have hijacked the term theist for themselves when in fact they are a bizarre literary/metaphorical cult that is not humanly possible to take literally as theist. (Unlike the early Christian church which can indeed be considered theist because they didn’t call Jesus, ‘God.’) Muslims and Sikhs and Jews are theists. Many Christians will say things like, “God died on the cross for our sins.” A Muslim who literally believes that God is running the universe doesn’t understand this. His head breaks. Theism entails literal belief that there is an omnipotent entity running shit. You can’t say that this entity dies, because that would mean the universe shuts off or runs along Godlessly from there on. And Muslims, like literal-minded Dawkinites, don’t understand why God would commit suicide via sacrificing his son to himself so that he may forgive the sins he set up to need redemption by blood-cleansing. Christian theology changed with time to be more poetical/bullshitty/literary than the simple, blunt-headed Islamic worldview of bringing it back to basics. And yet most of those boring, old atheist-vs-theist debates involve a context of Christians defending theism as if that was naturally and rightfully their home-turf.

So don’t be an atheist, and especially not a achristianist or aislamist, instead try to soar out of the ditch and put everything in a larger perspective for them. It is more useful and prevents you from falling too deep into the holes of these transient imaginations that will be forgotten in the large scheme of things. We could be devoting that time to getting a better framing of reality by learning the current revelations of physics which can lead us much closer to truth than ever before.