I and my son are atheists. My wife is, at best, agnostic. She doesn't believe in a personal God, but she does think there has to be an afterlife. The reason is because she doesn't understand that we do not have a soul. She explained to me that we are energy, and energy cannot be destroyed. The best explanation I could give is, we aren't energy. We are what our experience and our brain make us. I'm sure there are more intelligent people here that could help me explain this a little better. I think her fear of not existing is in conflict with what evidence proves. There's no true supernatural event, nobody can prove past lives, and there isn't heaven or hell. I'm interested in others thoughts, maybe even corrections.
I don't believe we have a supernatural immaterial part to ourselves or that there is a supernatural element to the universe.
Does your spouse think all mammals have souls or just members of the primate order ?
If she's referring to her own consciousness, she needs to understand that consciousness is a PROCESS. It is the operating system run on our brain which allows us to function and perceive the world as it is. In that regard, we are no different from any other computer; we're just vastly more sophisticated ... well at least SOME of us! [wry grin!]
And the fact is that when the power is turned off to the computer, what was in memory is LOST. Same with us - lose support to the brain and its contents, memory and programs is just as gone. If she wants to posit an afterlife, she will also have to justify a means whereby consciousness can be maintained independent of a nervous system ... and so far as I know, there ain't no such animal.
She may be avoiding the real scary issue of whether or not we have free will. This is a very disturbing thought. We have to function and make decisions as if we, at the very least, have control over our actions. In reality we may have as much control as a wind-up toy, if you consider how our brain chemistry affects our decision-making. Between this and facing oblivion upon our demise, atheism doesn't offer much comfort.
On the bright side, a lack of superstition does allow us to pursue the best course in improving our living conditions and deriving the maximum fuzzy feelings of "real" accomplishment. We may be machines, but we still feel the broad rang of emotions that evolution has endowed us with.
The energy of the brain is electrochemical, created by its structure and sustained by blood flow (as though you don't already know this). Cut off the blood flow and the energy the brain requires to maintain itself is of course also cut off. Whatever remaining energy is left in the brain is quickly dissipated, being that the brain isn't a superconducting device ... and it fails.
She may have an understanding of the conservation of energy, but insofar as the mechanism of how energy works, it's likely her understanding is poor at best.
What's up, Eric?
I've got a couple of videos here you may be interested in. I've tagged 'em to start at a certain point, but if you don't have the ads blocked, it may not link to the specific point.
If it doesn't start at the specific point, just fast-forward to 52m09s. Graham Hancock has an interesting take on the "aftelife" or the "soul."
The second video discusses afterlife at 47m and 24s. Ramesh Balsekar is quite an articulate "guru" of India.
I'd also like to add that if you replace "energy" with "matter," then maybe you could can have a better perspective on how to interpret this "energy" thing. It's true that matter cannot be created nor destroyed, and so in a way, your wife is right. However, what happens to your matter when you're dead? Just as many eons ago the death of stars made it possible for that matter in our bodies, if you're worm food, then your matter continues on through other species. If you're cremated, the process may take longer in that it may be the death of our star (the sun) for all matter in our vicinity to condense elsewhere.
But I don't know, maybe your wife had something else in mind, something like when the electrical energy in the dying brain only retracts into whatever higher dimension it came from in the first place. Who knows? I think if you start dissecting it more and question it closely, try entertaining some of her ideas, then you can tease out what makes sense and what sounds preposterous.
As for me, E=mc2 . Bear in mind I'm not a physicist or engineer. However, with my limited understanding, my matter and all that is in the universe, and energy, are one in the same, but just in different states. When I die, the matter in my body will convert to other, and possibly, useful things, e.g. fertilizer for a tree - maybe. And, when the medium sized star that is the center of our solar system grows, and ultimately implodes, maybe some of those atoms will convert to energy, which will be propelled at the speed of light to a distant galaxy, that in turn, maybe useful to another life form. All in all, not a bad ride for a little primate living on a insignificant planet on the edge of a nondescript galaxy.
The problem with E=MC2 is that so many people throw it around, yet have no idea what it means. What that equation was expressing is the rest energy of matter, as well as showing the equivalency between matter and energy.
For example, if two deuterium atoms fuse to become Helium-4, the weight of the helium is LESS than that of the two deuterium atoms. That difference in weight is accounted for by the release of energy. Two deuterium atoms have an atomic weight of 4.028; helium's atomic weight is 4.0026, a difference of 0.0254. It may not seem like much, but do enough of that reaction and you have a thermonuclear explosion.
In the case of our physiology, the energy density of chemical reactions is far lower, and what energy our brains and bodies use is dissipated in heat. Conservation of energy is maintained; we just don't see it much unless we LOOK for it.