Essay:Dialogue with an Atheist

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Dialogue with an Atheist by Mega aka Teresita "Ruby" Rivera Mercado.

This is a little science-fiction thingy I wrote to make myself happy, using a dialogue from alt.atheism on USENET between myself and various other players I saved. It was one of those magical things that was too good to let slip away.

Irmin Wirth was miserable. “This is easy for all of you,” he said, “with your fairy tales of a God. For me death is oblivion. When I’m dead I won’t even know that I’m dead or that I ever lived. So I must grasp every additional moment, even at the risk of being captured by the Bryn.”

Karl Trommler said, “You mean you are not even aware of the proof of the afterlife that even our most skeptical scientists accept? Astonishing! Then it falls to me, Irmin, to be your teacher one more time. A thing is meaningful if it is verifiable in principle, but whether or not something is verifiable in principle must itself be verified. A logically possible method of verification must be analyzed and verified. For instance, if someone says, ‘I have a pain in my ankle,’ it is not verifiable by me, but still meaningful. If someone says ‘Cleopatra wore a red dress on her twentieth birthday,’ it is not verifiable today, but it could have been verified by one of her contemporaries.”

Irmin said, “Go on.”

“Okay, now things which are verified do exist. Things which are not verified, but are at least verifiable in principle, may exist. Things which are not verified may not exist. Things which are not verifiable, even in principle, can not exist. Do you accept all of those premises?”

“I do, Commodore.”

“The afterlife is consciousness after death. Consciousness is exclusively self-verifiable. No one else can verify your consciousness and you cannot verify anyone else's consciousness. Provisionally, therefore we can say that the afterlife may exist, because it is verifiable in principle by the person who is conscious of it, if it exists.”

“Okay.”

“But if the afterlife does not exist, this is not verifiable, even in principle, because consciousness is required to make the verification that consciousness does not exist. Since the truth value of the proposition ‘no afterlife exists’ is not verifiable, even in principle, and the negation ‘the afterlife exists’ is at least not excluded, then the afterlife must exist, by the rule "if not non-A then A."

Irmin said, “Replace your proposition ‘the afterlife’ with ‘being reconstituted as an aquatic monkepotamus on the third planet orbiting Arcturus’ and your proof still holds.”

“Not so, because in principle we could send a starship to Arcturus III and interview that aquatic monkepotamus, so it's verifiable in principle. But the afterlife consists of a pure intellectual existence which is not publicly verifiable.”

“You are incorrectly assuming that the aquatic monkepotamus does not generate a special field that renders it completely invisible to any methods of detection, this rendering it completely unverifiable. Therefore the proof still holds.”

“Reincarnation as an aquatic monkepotamus, with the proviso that there is a special field that renders it completely invisible to any methods of detection, is one possible form of afterlife. Fortunately there are other modes, such as reincarnation as an intelligent atheist on the planet Lemnos. The only limitation is that you must be completely undetectable.”

Irmin said, “Okay, try this: Our Lady is defined as an Invisible Pink Unicorn in the sky who all people go to when they die. If Our Lady exists, she is verifiable in principle by the person who goes to Her.”

“The Invisible Pink Unicorn is not comparable to post-mortem consciousness because the Invisible Pink Unicorn is not exclusively verifiable by the person who goes to Her, but She is also verifiable publicly by other people who go to Her (unlike one's consciousness, which is only privately, or self-verifiable; we can't even verify if living animals are conscious). So your counterexample fails.”

“Not true, sir. The Invisible Pink Unicorn is not verifiable publicly. She's invisible, She's undetectable by any of the human senses or technology. She can only be seen by a soul outside of a living body.”

“Irmin, She must have been seen by a living person, specifically, that person who first stated that She is pink.”

“Well then! The afterlife must have been seen by a living person, specifically, that person who first stated that you go there when you die.”

“Irmin, the existence of the afterlife, defined as post-mortem consciousness, emerges as a result of verifiability being a prerequisite for existence plus consciousness being a prerequisite of verifiability. This is not comparable to the independent attributes of the Invisible Pink Unicorn which are not tangled with the observer's consciousness.”

“Actually it depends which side of the schism you fall upon,” Irmin said. “Some followers argue that the IPU, (peace be upon her), is pink and invisible, while others argue that her invisibleness is merely a shade of pink -- the most beautiful shade of pink naturally.”

“An absolutely invisible, absolutely beautiful shade of pink would represent a spike in the data. We should be able to see less beautiful shades of pink become less and less visible as the absolutely beautiful shade of pink was approached as a limit.

“No, invisibility is conferred by infinite pink beauty. That is, we cannot see perfection. For proof, just look at the world! You cannot see anything that is perfect. It stands to reason that if we could see perfection, we would see perfect things. Yet we don't.”

“This is true in the case of the atmosphere. A perfectly clear atmosphere is invisible, but when it is made less than perfect by suspending smog particles in it, it does become visible. However, pink is a color, and color is a certain frequency of light, so a perfect pink color consists only of those photons which have the frequency of pink, with no sidebands of yellow or orange. So a perfection of pink would be observed in an ideal pink laser, but it would still be visible.”

“This is all just word salad!” Irmin objected. “It doesn’t mean anything!”

The Kaiser’s aide interrupted here. “Your apologies sirs, but the Bryn are drawing very near.”

“You can’t force me to stay here,” Irmin shouted.

“Nor do we want to,” the Kaiser said. “We are not preparing to deny the Bryn just to avoid torture or to save Lemnos. With death so close, we are doing this with our own eternal destinies in view. It would place our immortal souls in jeopardy to force you to stay here against your will. But I think you have already made your decision, you just needed that silly argument with Karl to close the exit door in your mind and lock your decision in. Am I wrong, or would I be correct in guessing that?”

Irmin trembled where he stood, but he knew it was too late now and the Kaiser was right on the mark. He walked over to the key which would trigger the explosion of Deimos, usurping the responsibility for the mass suicide from the Kaiser. He thought of how Mars would very soon have a beautiful ring like Saturn, perhaps darker and smaller, but with many gaps and ringlets created by gravitational resonance with the moon Phobos. Irmin said, “Sometimes it’s more merciful to pull off the bandages with one quick rip.”