Surprisingly Serious Comment o’ the Week!

Hey everybody, it’s Friday! And there’s a nor’easter a-comin! Excitement is in the air—the kind of excitement that can only be tempered by the awarding of Comment o’ the Week.

Though I usually opt for the lulz, today I’ve decided to reward a more thoughtful comment (don’t worry, I don’t plan to make a habit of it). When asked to customize an afterlife, you commenters stepped up with some very interesting thoughts on your own personal philosophies, and remarkably you were not sidelined by a discussion of boobies. Zapski wrote the following:


ZapskiNo Gravatar // Aug 26, 2009 at 5:01 pm

In seriousness, I as an atheist think that there is no soul in the dualistic sense. However, I think that what is essentially us leaves our bodies at all times, every time we interact with others. Like raindrops in a pond, the ripples we make affect all the other drops, and all the ripples that hit us, are changed by our ripples, etc.

Humanity has one giant soul-soup in which we all make bigger or smaller ripples. What I say shapes you, what you say shapes me. When I recall something you said or did, or if some action of yours consciously or unconsciously affects me or my actions or ideas, that is your “soul” having its effect.

Carl Sagan (for example) made a big splash in the soul-soup. Many of us are shaped by his words and actions.

Religion has it backwards: Your soul doesn’t leave your body at the moment of death, it stops leaving your body, and echos in the lives of others.

We are the heaven in which our dead reside.



Congratulations, Zapski! You win the ability to choose next Wednesday’s Afternoon Inquisition. Send it in using our comment form!

Happy Friday everyone! Go make a splash in the soul-soup.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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  1. August 28, 2009 at 4:24 pm —

    Very very well said Zapski.

  2. August 28, 2009 at 4:53 pm —

    Congratulations and well deserved.

  3. August 28, 2009 at 5:08 pm —

    That was so freakin’ awesome! A rainstorm of inspiration… (thanks.)

  4. August 28, 2009 at 5:24 pm —

    How can we falsify this soul-echo theory?

  5. August 28, 2009 at 5:41 pm —

    @jrpowell: Easy! Have you every been influenced or moved by something a person said/did? If yes, congratulations! If not, you are an advanced cyborg who will melt if you start to cry. Which is pretty cool too.

  6. August 28, 2009 at 5:51 pm —

    Thanks all, it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a very long time. I think it’s pretty well grounded in skeptical thinking too, as it’s really based on my understanding of how our brains work as physical processes. I’d welcome any questions and criticism.

    Rebecca – I’d also like to say that you and the SGU were formative in the thought processes that influenced this notion.

    I think I started thinking about influences, and changes in consciousness, and how we as atheists deal with death around the time Perry DeAngelis passed away, or shortly afterwards. The SGU interviewed Susan Blackmore around that time, and what she had to say about how the brain works related to consciousness (it’s all just biochemistry) got me thinking about complex systems, chaos, how the random things that happen to us change us, and so on.

    Over time that all formed itself into the notion above.

    Thanks for the splash. There’s still a lot of ripples bouncing around :)

  7. August 28, 2009 at 6:43 pm —

    That was fantastic, Zapski :)

    We are most certainly hyper-social creatures. Steven Pinker has said similar things about language and books, like how seeing a bunch of scratches or scribbles (or electronic color aberrations, as in the computer screen) that I write (or type) immediately conjures up a specific idea in your head.

  8. August 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm —

    Well written Zapski and congrats!

  9. August 28, 2009 at 8:36 pm —

    Well said, Zapski. (And well done Rebecca for appreciating it.)

    All of you should read Douglas Hofstadter’s latest book, “I Am A Strange Loop”. He develops this very idea with the thoughtful analysis and clarity of writing that you’d expect from Hofstadter. (And if you’re not familiar with Hofstadter, seriously, do yourself a huge favor and read “Godel, Escher, Bach”.)

  10. August 28, 2009 at 9:12 pm —

    Wow, you articulated that perfectly. I want to go and read that to other people and say ‘this is what life is about!’ Its a beautiful way to think about humanity.

    Thank you Zapski, just reading that last line gives me chills.

  11. August 28, 2009 at 9:48 pm —

    I’d like to 11th that emotion.

    But I also have to say *cough* *cough* *(sound of exhalation)*

    totally, dude.

  12. August 28, 2009 at 10:20 pm —

    Oh Carl. There is no measuring the void you left.

    Here is the tribute I wrote about him.

  13. August 28, 2009 at 10:58 pm —

    First: Congrats to my main un-dead dude, Zapski…

    Second: We can win COTW for being sensitive? I’ll never get to post an AI!

  14. August 29, 2009 at 12:29 pm —

    I concur with everyone. You were able to articulate my feelings so well I’ve been quoting you all week. In fact, I’m writing about that right now on my “blog”. Glad Rebecca posted this so I can link back.

  15. August 29, 2009 at 6:32 pm —

    that was deep and definitely worthy of COTW

  16. September 2, 2009 at 4:06 am —

    I tripped over my own inadequacies trying to say much the same thing just before seeing this post. Zapski has outdone me, and I appreciate it .

    (I know it’s a day late and a dollar short, but I spent the dollar at OC SITP tonight. :P)

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