Legacy – the only immortality for a skeptic

Hello there fellow bloggers, readers and browsers,

I was recently reading through my issue of Scientific American (which I subscribe to), and I came to the columns in the back of the magazine, and the one written by Michael Shermer really appealed to me. It is entitled ‘Climbing Mount Immortality’. The whole topic of the column was to discuss mortality and how it shaped our civilizations., but what really appealed to me was the topic of immortality itself. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all spiritual-after-life crazy on you, I want to discuss the concept of Legacy.

Legacy is the only immortality a skeptic can subscribe to. Albeit a very partial immortality, it is the only one there is. If one believes that there is no afterlife, then the only way in which that person can survive in the minds of those around him, is by doing something to remember him for.

This concept is very readily visible for Alfred Nobel. You will be aware of the Nobel prize. If you are, (you should, or you should stop looking at my blog right now) then you will know that it is an award given to scientists, essayists and peace activists for showing exemplary skills in their area, and making great discoveries.
Seeing that 99% of people know about the Nobel prize, Alfred Nobel could say that he is a success.

What most people don’t know about Alfred Nobel is that he was actually the inventor of dynamite. He created this lethal weapon off war in the hope that ‘war would become so bad, that it would be done by nobody’. But this did not happen, wars just became bloodier and more violent, and you must feel for Nobel for having his invention turn into such a disaster in his mind. This is what inspired him to set up the Nobel prize.

He was worried that all of the world would see him as an evil man for thousands of years to come. So what he did was posthumously donate all his money to set up the Nobel prize. this has worked because now, instead of everybody seeing Alfred Nobel as a villainous person with sinister intentions, we see him as the most famous and prestigious prizes handed out to scientists.

The idea of legacy has an impact on me, I want people to remember me after I die, not just by my family for being a brother or a son or a husband or a father, but by the world as a person who changed a field for ever, like Einstein, Hawking or Nobel. This is the only way for me to stick around after my death, I wont be able to experience it, but my family will be proud, and so will I on my deathbed, knowing that I can be content with what I have done with my life.

I will leave you with a quote from Amanda from Saw II, “The answer is immortality. By creating a legacy, by living a life worth remembering, you become immortal.”

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Is this just me?

Dear skeptical colleagues,

I am going to be blogging about something which has been getting on my nerves for a while now, and I want to know if something like this happens to most skeptics around non-skeptical fellows. I am constantly being talked to by my family as though I am not a skeptic, and am just an annoying contrarian who just disagrees with everything any body says. My most common response is, “That depends on what you say.”, and then I get a simple, “yes Jack.” as if to say that there is no hope and that they are going to just stop discussing it because he will just keep on denying. I find this very annoying, and I really do get the idea that they have no idea what I actually stand for in my life.

It’s not just my parents, and I have heard experiences from other people who are skeptics who just get addressed as closed-minded people who just argue for the sake of arguing. I am going to challenge that point.

It all flows from the point that Christopher Hitchens strived for his whole life, “It’s not what you think, but how you think.” I do not tell you that you are wrong so that you know that you are wrong and you can correct that mistake next time, I tell you how you are wrong.  I like to understand why some people tell me outrageous things, especially in lay people, because if they have arrived with some serious logical flaw, I like to correct their thought process.

For this reason it also follows that it is what you say to me that matters. I will not disagree with whatever anybody says to me. The skeptics I talk to on the internet and at school I will happily agree with almost everything they say, because I agree with their logic, their evidence and their conclusions. This is definitely a very un-contrarian thing to do. But when somebody says to me that if they look hard enough they can see the other side of the moon (true story), then I get angry and ask them “Why the hell are you saying that? What possible logic could lead you to the conclusion that you can see the other side of the moon? Do you understand the concept  of a sphere? What is going on in there?” (I don’t say that, I am a lot more calm (most of the time)).

The problem is that my family (the people I have to spend the most time with in my life) often say very stupid things, and I try to help them, but they just feel uninterested because it’s all sciencey and over their heads. Its annoying. Please contact me if you also have experiences like this, I want to hear how you deal with it.

I will leave you with a quote from Mikhail Bakhunin, “From the naturalistic point of view, all men are equal. There are only two exceptions to this rule of naturalistic equality: geniuses and idiots.” Mikhail Bakhunin, A Russian revolutionary of some note.