In response to Norman’s comment to the previous post, I don’t think humans are the only animals intelligent enough to extrapolate the evidence of the past and arrive at the conclusion that death is inevitable. I wouldn’t want to see the experiments for it, but I wouldn’t think every animal is capable of observing a new type of death without ever changing their behavior because of those observations. I found some information on antipredator adaptation that relates to this thought but I don’t know if any of that adaptation is observational.
I would also think that a part of every animal’s reactions to pain and fear leading to self-preservation are built from genetic memory and evolutionary survival of animals that correctly felt pain and feared the right predators and risks. Norman mentioned the “survival instinct” and from that I read a few interesting things on what instinctual behavior really is. I found that a “survival instinct” doesn’t follow the scientific definition for an instinct though certain instincts contribute to the survival of the species such as newly hatched sea turtles heading toward the ocean.
Our intelligence is our greatest asset but we still have more basic animal traits that confuse us. Our mythological religions are born out of self-preservation’s fear of death. We are definitely capable of observing death and fearing it so the appeal of religion to ease those fears. A false sense of safety for our self-preservation is probably one of the big reasons people refuse to let go of religious beliefs. This is covered a little in a recent article called Religious Belief Declining Very Slowly Around the World at prospect.org:
And immortality is, after all, religion’s killer app. The need to confront and overcome the horrible finality of death—grim, merciless, terrifying, bleak death— is one of the principal reasons religion came into being in the first place, and the reason it persists no matter how much its ground of explanation is encroached on by science. It’s no accident that every religion that ever existed promises some form of immortality. People will tolerate an awful lot of cognitive dissonance to hold on to that promise.
In the end, I don’t really know what will happen with my persona after I die. I can only assume that with the passing of my physical body that the most logical outcome is that I completely cease to exist. However, if my consciousness did continue on after my physical death then I can say with all certainty that I wouldn’t be a surprised atheist by the event, because I’m also a “devout” agnostic that holds firm to the fact that I don’t really know until I get there so there’s no sense in worrying too much about it because I know I will get to that physical end soon enough. I’m very certain that the religions of the world are wrong concerning our immortality because their methods of discovery for their claimed knowledge can’t be any more capable of knowing the truth any more than anything I’m doing when I write the great truths of the universe. LOL Widespread concurrence of your ravings and writings doesn’t make it true!
The most devoutly religious people are probably the ones that are most fearful of an inevitable death. Agnostic atheists, freethinkers, and even the casually religious are the ones that don’t fear death as much and understand it for what it really appears to be. The ironic part of that is that I would think human evolution should favor the non-religious over time because those that are the true believers are more likely to not mind an early death and engage in risky and self destructive behaviors such as suicide bombings. It’s a reason why religions have to make suicide a sin, because if they made suicide an unqualified virtue then the devout’s desire for heaven should lead to more suicides as they quicken their move to the more perfect immortality.
If we really could have immortality in heaven, then this physical existence is a near infinitely short and insignificant part of our immortal lives so it makes no sense at all to put any real importance in our human existence. I wish people didn’t believe in their immortality for the only reason that this line of thinking makes the insanely devout capable of doing such awful things because they see no importance in humanity as it compares to heaven. Their human self-preservation becomes twisted into an immortal self-preservation where they fear loss of the immortality so much it overrides their fear of human death and impacts their ability to care about the human death of others.
It’s scary, but having written this out I think I understand when a religious person says with such seriousness that they are praying for and “fear” for my soul. I don’t want anyone to put more importance in an imagined immortality for me than in my definite human mortality because there’s always the possibility these religious people will develop some twisted scheme for “protecting” my immortality at the cost of my human morality. Human rights should always trump religious rights for this reason!