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By Garrett Fogerlie
The idea that energy cannot be created or removed, it can be only transferred from one type to another, is often used to justify a poorly constructed argument for reincarnation, eternal life, ghosts and proof that there is a soul. This idea is wrong on its own merits. It uses incorrect logic that is then applied to hopeful thinking. If it is used to justify the soul, then where was the soul before you existed?
Energy, specifically the energy in the human body (and brain, nervous systems, etc.) is obtained from chemical processes; the most of it comes from oxygen and the rest from nutrients. Energy is also lost through waste, and radiated away as heat and infra-red light.
The idea that after we die, our energy force, our soul or consciousness, and whatever makes me, me and you, you, lives on since it is just transferred into another form is like saying that after my computer is turned off, the soul of the computer remains, that somehow all of its data and methods of processing or interpreting this data remains as a unique energy signal. While obviously there is information preserved after a computer is turned off, but in this analogy it is no different than my writings and people’s memories of me will still exist after I no longer do.
It is an argument made out of ignorance, and it shouldn’t deserve a response except that now more and more people take it on face value and don’t think to question it.
A little background, the first law of thermodynamics goes a little like this: The law expresses that energy can be transformed, i.e. changed from one form to another, but cannot be created nor destroyed. It is usually formulated by stating that the change in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of heat supplied to the system, minus the amount of work performed by the system on its surroundings. (By the way, we call this The First Law of Thermodynamics; however it is, like all accepted and proven scientific ideas, The First Theory of Thermodynamics.) Nevertheless this does not mean that your consciousness will live on after you die. Your consciousness is derived from your brain, and your brain consists of trillions of synapses through which neurons signal each other. How these are connected is what makes you, you and me, me. Just like the layout of transistors on a computer chip make that chip able to do fast floating point math or store memory. The difference here though is that most computer chips are identical copies, or as close to identical as we can make them.
Human brains are of course also similar too, that’s why we know where the pleasure center is located, or the area’s associated with vision, memories, etc. are located. When the brain is exposed to something new, more connections are formed and this is where each person’s brains start to differ. Nevertheless though, once you die, the chemical reactions stop as do all the electrical signals. This absolutely does not mean that your consciousness is stored in this energy which is, quickly after death, being dissipated as heat and chemical breakdown. The connections in the brain are what you consider your consciousness, not the energy travelling through them. (I phrased it this way to show my point; obviously the connections are nothing if nothing travels through them.) So when you’re dead, your consciousness ceases to exist! If is not floating through the universe as infra-red radiation or anything else.