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 is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor.

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  1. 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 :)

  2. 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.

  3. 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”.)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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