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Some Reincarnation Ideas Produce Infinities.

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Posted by John Morgan Powell on March 8, 2001 18:42:14 UTC

Richard David Yannopoulos-Ruquist,

You wrote:

> Mormons believe in resurrection, not

> If so, where did each persons personality come from?

I assume our personalities are derived from genetics and our experiences. What does science say about it? I don't believe in a pre-existence (e.g., Mormonism) or reincarnation.

LDS doctrine does not clearly indicate how much, if any, of our pre-existent (read: pre-Earth life) personalities came from our original uncreated, eternal intelligences and how much came from our status as spirit children of God the Father and Mother, but it clearly teaches that we did not live on Earth before our one-time experience.

Actually, this is not quite true. Parents who lose their children before they reach the age of 8 have been told by some church leaders that they'll be able to raise them during the millenium. No one seems to think these radical ideas through. This idea may console the grieving parents, but it produces a serious strain on the dogma (similar to the idea that children who die before the age of 8 automatically go to heaven). Will the children be resurrected with an immortal body or just brought back to life? If the parents die are they supposed to be brought back to life, but not resurrected during the millenium? What if the parents are unworthy, will someone else raise the children? How many pre-8 children and parents will there be during the millenium? Will the Earth support the population? If the children automatically go to heaven, why do they need to come back anyway? No one seems to worry about these problems when the family members need consolation as they look at the dead body of their beloved child.

When I was still a believer in Mormonism I argued against reincarnation (based on my reasoning but without LDS scriptural backing) in this way: The problem with reincarnation is one of "diminishing returns". Although you can learn more each time you take on a new body and new experiences you gradually add less and less to your storehouse of knowledge.

How many different birds or men do you have live as before you understand the essence of "being a bird" or "being a man"? The question becomes one of optimization.

How many earth lives do you have to live before you know enough about this kind of existence and can learn the rest by other methods such as using techniques like "holodecks" (from Star Trek) or some kind of dream state in which you imagine for a brief time being another person or entity? I did not know the answer to the question of optimization, but my religion implied that one earth life generally gives you enough experience that you can learn the rest of what you need for the rest of your existence as a God without having to live on Earth over and over and over again.

A high school friend who believed in reincarnation argued with me that the the goal of existence was to maximize our learning and that living other earth lives best accomplished that. I counter-argued that to maximize our learning without regard to issues of diminishing returns we should not only relive our own lives an infinite number of times without variation (each time we'll learn a little bit more), but we should relive our own lives, but in an infinite number of variations, and that we should live everyone else's experiences (e.g., those of Cleopatra, Jesus Christ, and Hitler) an infinite number of times in an infinite number of variations. If you add non-human lives you get some more infinities. Then why stop there, you should exist as every particle or entity in our universe and an infinite number of other universes an infinite number of times in an infinite number of variations. Are you tired of all these infinities yet?

I don't see good evidence for reincarnation. In my view, the increasing numbers of humans, more than ever existed in the past, suggests that more "spirits" must exist today than did in the past. If reincarnation was true and humans tended to reincarnate to only humans you would expect a constant human population (which was, by the way, better approximated in the past than the rapid growth of modern times).

If humans can reincarnate to or from other creatures then it makes it harder to keep track of the "spirit conservation law" (or do you believe new spirits are being created as time progresses?). However, massive extinctions of animal and plant life which have occurred on Earth suggest that there are episodes in which there were few bodies on Earth. If these spirits had to float around up there during these extinction events, then what's to stop them from floating around forever, maybe only having 1 Earth life? Where's the argument that the spirits have to inhabit a new Earth body after their previous one dies if there are none to inhabit?

What would happen to your spirit and the rest of those on Earth if a large asteroid impact destroyed all animal, plant, and human life on Earth and made it uninhabitable for thousands or millions of years? What if a massive collision caused the Earth to be so destroyed that it would never be inhabitable again? Doesn't the possibility of these suggest you should doubt the ideas of reincarnation?

If these spirits can migrate to other planets in our universe you open another Pandora's box. Assuming there are a very large number of inhabitable Earths and one migrates to another Earth with approximately equal probability then you would not expect to remember a previous Earth life until you had had billions? of non-Earth lives. One of the major "evidences" for reincarnation (past Earth memories) was based on the then-reasonable, but now-unreasonable assumption that Earth is the only place you could have lived in the past. Doesn't that put doubt in your mind about the reality of these claims of past-memories? Perhaps there's a rule that you have to stay on Earth except during episodes in which it is inhabitable. Thank goodness someone can control the mess ;)

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