Thursday, March 19, 2009

On the mind and the afterlife

Death is an inescapable end of a human life. In death, the physical body of the individual dies and all his possessions remains on earth, his presence of mind lost to a netherworld and is unable to experience the material comforts sustained on earth. For a Christian like me, I believe that the soul of a human being is distinct from its physical body. For those that God loves, he would give them deliver them to heaven and for the rest, he puts them into hell.

Yet I ask, is the soul and the mind distinct or the same thing? The mind consists of the individual’s memory of his experience. If soul and mind are one, and we should say that that the soul survives death, then the mind survives death as well. If we should say that soul and mind are separate, and that the soul survives but the mind perishes in death, then what would characterize ourselves in the afterlife? If we find ourselves in heaven without our memories of our experience acquired during our living days, can we say that we are the same being in heaven as we were on earth?

The biologist would claim that soul and mind are separate, and the mind is nothing but a physical matter called the brain which contains all the memories and experiences accumulated in our living days. A man can suffer amnesia when he sustains injuries to his brain in his living hours. If this is so, then it is inferred that all memories are lost in death when the brain dies. What reason then is there for us to suppose that we would be characterized by our memories in the afterlife?

I would like to believe that the mind is a spiritual matter and like the soul, survives death and transpires into the afterlife. I read the Bible and notice the characteristic of a homogenous mind and soul complex when a man dies and crosses into the afterlife. In Luke 16:19, Jesus tells of a parable of a rich man who went to hell and who still had his presence of mind to ask of God to send someone to earth to warn his brothers. If he had not his mind, he would not have his memory and would have seen himself in hell as the beginning of his experience and he would not have the concern to ask of God to save his brothers. Even though his wealth did not travel with him to heaven, yet his mind did and his awareness was not a state of tabula rasa. It is a phenomenon that memories exists in the afterlife when the realist associates all matters of mind to the physical object called the brain.

Let’s presume that the mind does indeed escape brain death. What pursuit in life would then be considered to have a tangible amount of meaning to it as it can survive death and transcend into the afterlife? Objects that are separate from the soul would remain on earth. I would hence say that the pursuit of possession in only meaningful to the extent that we enjoy our possessions. At least we experience their comforts while living and are able to take these memories of comforts with us to the spiritual realm. But if there is anything more worthwhile than comfort experience, it is knowledge. I would believe that the scientific laws governing earth applies in heaven as well. One plus one is equal to two, whether this be in heaven or on earth. If we know about universal truths that applies to both earth and heaven, our knowledge would be as pertinent to us when we were on earth as it would be in heaven. I am sure heaven is a paradise of learning. Imagine the joy of Einstein when he observes the principles of physics being applied in the heavenly realms as well. Imagine his joy when God finally reveals to him the deterministic mechanism of quantum theory, affirming Einstein’s belief that ‘God does not play dice’ and dispelling the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle which Einstein had always a deep suspicion of. Men of the different fields of knowledge would step into heaven and marvel at the knowledge and skills of God. The artist would see the beauty of heaven and praise God as the God of art. The musician would hear beautiful songs of the angels and praise God as the God of music. For an economist which I will be, I will witness the perfection of a material abundant economic system where the fundamental problem of economics, scarcity, is absent. On second thoughts, my knowledge of economics would become meaningless because a system devoid of scarcity is not an economy at all. Oh well, I might take up philosophy then for who is more knowledgeable about difficult questions such as the meaning of existence other than God, the philosopher-king of philosopher-kings.

I have a hunch that many knowledges may become meaningless in heaven because God would provide every solutions to every problems of humanity possible. How about literature? Surely man can enjoy a good novel in heaven. Surely God would have a great library in heaven with Pride and Prejudice in the bookshelves. But seriously, what use is literature when the state of heaven does not reflect the state of human realities in the world? They are only remnants of a world of injustice, conflict and tragedy. How about mathematics? I am sure Pythagoras Theorem as well as the other models of mathematics would still apply in heaven. I find it impossible for mathematics to not work in the dimensions of one’s existence.

And what would knowledge serve as in heaven? I doubt that any knowledge created by man is impervious to the mind of God. Hence, I see heaven as a place already perfected of God’s perfect knowledge and all knowledge created by man are merely for entertainment purpose in heaven. I would study history in heaven because since everything is already known in heaven, the only thing left to do is to retrace our story from the beginning and to enjoy the whole experience again.

However, why should it be that only the acquisitions of mental pursuits are transpired in death to the afterlife? I would find this very unfair for those whose talents are not their mental faculties but their physical faculties. The strongman, unlike the intellect, spends his time and effort in the development of his physique. Wouldn’t God be prejudiced then if he allows the intellect to acquire knowledge and take knowledge with him in death but not the strongman who had pursued strength to take his strength with him in death? For God made individuals with different gifts and talents and the quality of the mind is not a gift of every individual.

God devises the phenomenon that accompanies the afterlife. He creates what transcends death and what does not. Perhaps the transcending of knowledge to the afterlife is limited and knowledge not pertaining to God’s will is forfeited just like the physical possessions. I do not know the nature of the afterlife, but if the mind is not what it is in heaven as it is on earth, I find that one’s personal identity is not the same and one cannot be called as being himself if his mind is different.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A flaw of the 1-man-1-vote system in a proportionally-representative electoral system involving more than 2 contestants

In a democratic political system with more than 2 political parties, a proportionally-representative voting system will not necessarily lead to the most socially optimal outcome. Let me use an example to illustrate this. For example, Thailand has 3 political parties – the rural populist People's Power Party(PPP), the royalist Democrat Party (DP) and the neutral party For The Motherland (FTM). Next, we have two major supporter groups with different preferences of political parties to form the government- The National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship(UDD) which is pro-PPP and anti-DP, and the People's Alliance for Democracy(PAD) which is Pro-DP and Anti-PPP. The neutral FTM party is ranked second in preference to both political support groups. Here is a table showing the ranking of the preferences of the 2 groups of supporters.

The objective of an electoral system is to obtain a government that is most socially optimal, that is that the majority of the voters can be reasonably happy with the elected government. If we interpret “reasonably happy” as the voter being able to get his first or second choice, then the most socially optimal political group would be the FTM as it is ranked second in preference for both support groups. Both support groups would be contented with a FTM government than to have a government of the political party they oppose.

However, in an electoral system with only one vote per person,an individual does not have the ability to reflect his preference of the second-best government. Only the top preference of an individual is reflected in the votes. When the votes are tallied up, the results is that the FTM garners the least votes as people from the UDD and the PAD spend their votes on their respective topmost preferred political party. The FTM would hence lose out in the political race.

Such a flaw in the voting system can also be applied to public-polled popularity competitions such as Singapore idol. A contestant who is generally well-liked by the general public may still have a higher chance of being eliminated than a contestant with a smaller but more fervent fan base.

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