There is aprofound difference between pain which ends and pain which never was. It mayseem that anything which results in pain being as if it never happened is anend to the pain we are suffering, but that is not a true description of the"reality" of not existing, of "nothing". Take the time toreally think about the difference, you will eventually realize that if on ourphysical death our past is consumed by nothing, it is no worse to suffer fiftyyears of pain than suffer five years. If in fact there is nothing afterphysical death, then if you live one minute, or 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 moreyears, all the horrors in your past, present, and future will be “consumed” bynothing. This is not the same as saying that we find "peace" in anihilistic death, we find "nothing".
If after ourphysical death there is "nothing" then when we die we will notexperience calm or peace or pain or distress, we will not experience anythingbecause we will not exist. "Nothing" will not relieve us of anythingsimply because there will be no one to experience relief, there will be no"you" who can feel the absence of pain. You will not remember thegood times or the horrific events in your life. We need to accept the difficultbut essential point, if nothing follows physical death then there is nopeaceful sleep because no one exists who can sleep, there are no nightmaresbecause there is no one to dream. All will be as if it never was.
There are manyarguments that purport to counter our logic, including assertions that aperson's life before physical death has “existential” meaning (we use"existential" in the sense of having meaning and purpose "in andof itself"). Yet most of the alternative arguments are set in the timebefore death, within the causal sequence of events that precede death. Everymainstream humanistic theory is based on the biophysics of existence beforephysical death. We believe that none of the popular arguments adequatelyaddress the period after death (perhaps with the possible exception suggestedby modern physics that is discussed below and in our books), and therefore noneadequately answer the question of how a person who no longer exists can have apast, present, or future?
Humanistphilosophers seem to accept that human consciousness is purely physical innature, and acknowledge the end of consciousness at physical death. Yet almostall modern humanist philosophers tell us that a finite life can have meaningand value. The problem lies in failure to accept the rational and logicalpossible consequences for each human being if individual consciousness ceasesto exist on the physical death of the mind and body. Most of the humanistphilosophers either ignore or misunderstand what the future may hold for usafter physical death if we are nothing more than physical beings.
If we live in anessentially "atemporal" universe, and there is no non‐physicalexistence after death, then we believe that physical death consumes each humanbeing's physical past, present, and future. This is very difficult tounderstand and accept, yet the idea that there is no fundamental temporality,and that this fact leads to the annihilation of our physical past, appears tous to be the correct interpretation of our physical universe. This isespecially true if, as we believe, a lack of fundamental temporality impliesthat the universe is modeled by a symplectic manifold which accommodates someform of atemporal physical state evolution equivalent to the so‐called"arrow of time". In other words, a model where physical states evolvefrom A to B to C and where if B exists A and C do not exist. Whether or notsuch a model is compatible with a block universe is not known, we intuitivelybelieve it is not, the key problem is what it means to "exist". Ourconclusions are based on very complex and controversial relativistic and quantumscience, we think we are right but we may be wrong.
Even though weare convinced that physical death is not the end of your existence, if it isthe end should you be frightened by the certainty of your demise? If indeed youcease to exist, you need not fear death, for after your death you will feelneither pain, nor pleasure, nor peace, nor torment. "You" will nolonger exist, therefore "you" will feel nothing. The resulting voidis just that, a complete and total void.
Even if in someunknown manner multiple clones could survive in an ever‐expanding universe, theidea that they are perpetual extensions of their donor seems less thancredible. Such a perpetual presence seems to be more like an endless path of meaninglessindividual moments experienced by many me’s, than a continuous meaningfulexistence. Furthermore, if there is no life after death, it would make nodifference if an individual (cloned or otherwise) continued to exist, or"died" in one hundred years or in one billion years, because"death" would annihilate the individual's past, present, and future(we discuss this in the next section).
We haveconcluded, rightly or wrongly, that no current, or reasonably foreseeable,rational theory appears to provide us with a singular physical consciousnessthat continues to exist after physical death, so that a single physical"me" continues to exist after my death in my physical “past”. We havesaid that if we do not have a singular physical or non‐physical consciousnessthat continues to exist after physical death, then those who believe innihilism are probably correct, and some type of "nihilistic" voidawaits all of us. It may be a true void, like the void that preceded our birth,or it may be a very strange void where billions of "me" merelyco‐exist. Whatever physical form it might take, it would seem to satisfy the definitionof a "meaningless" void.
Philosophersoften speak of the void that would follow physical death without life afterdeath as the abyss, the unknown, the approaching void, etc. All of thesesuggest that we are on a journey to a "place" which lies at the endof our physical lifetimes. If on our death we cease to exist, this idea that weare traveling to our ultimate destiny is false. We are not traveling to anabyss, the void, or the unknown, for these words suggest that we are movingtoward something. I recognize the seeming absurdity of the language, yet if onour death we cease to exist, then "nothing" totally consumes us.
The possibilitythat we have a permanent physical consciousness appears to require theexistence of a physical consciousness that is not bound to events on aworldline. Yet it seems intuitively true that if consciousness of past eventscan be lost when memories fade in old age or are damaged when we suffer braininjuries or strokes, then physical consciousness may not have incorporatedthose past events into a permanent singular “me”. In fact, every night betweendreams we lose touch with our past memories as we sleep. Einstein only brieflyaddressed physical (not non‐physical) existence when he said “An individual whoshould survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension,...”
We cannot ruleout this possibility, if for no other reason than the fact that it istheoretically impossible to prove a negative. In other words, we might be ableto prove that physical consciousness after death exists in the universe byobserving it, but we can never prove that physical consciousness, or some otherform of existential meaning, does not exist after death because we have notobserved it (we discuss this limitation in some detail in our other books).Indeed the very fact that human beings exist in our universe argues stronglyfor existential meaning and purpose. If we have a physical existence that hasexistential meaning then the billions of people who intuitively believe thatevery day, every moment, of their lives has purpose and value are absolutelyright.
The only way wecan answer the question "what is nothing?" is to answer it by notasking it, for if we ask the question we destroy the answer. Most people failto recognize the fact that "something" simply cannot comprehend"nothing". If we are no more than physical beings, and if “nothing”follows our physical death, then at the moment of our physical death,"nothing".