Posts Tagged ‘ life ’

Tony Nicklinson and Assisted Suicide: My Life, My Decision

A 58-year old businessman, Tony Nicklinson, had been suffering from the ‘locked-in syndrome’.

For those who are not familiar with this condition, imagine yourself being nothing more than a head floating in air. Your body is beyond your control. If you have to move your arm one inch to the right, you cannot. Does you left cheek feel a little itchy? Ask your nurse to itch it for you. Well, not “ask”. You may have to communicate by blinking or moving your eyes.

Imagine doing that for the rest of your life. Sounds pretty tolerable, doesn’t it? Don’t know what Mr.Nicklinson’s been complaining about!

Anyway, for reasons that I’ll never understand, Nicklinson wasn’t keen on living. Since assisted suicide is illegal in UK, the man begged the court to allow his doctor to kill him. He lost the case. The picture below shows his reaction to the verdict:

This is the face of a suffering man who’s been sentenced to life in prison. A prison of his own useless flesh and bones. Continue reading

What Happens After We Die?

In a recent online discussion with a theist, I had to endure a twenty-minute lecture on the afterlife and what it’s going to be like. He rambled on about what heaven is like in remarkable detail, from the fruits that grow over there to the rivers of milk. Then he proceeded to explain to me about hell, with all its fiery pits and multi-headed snakes.

I inquired him if he were a zombie. He said he wasn’t, so as politely as my aching head would allow me to, I asked him to come back later and tell me all about it after he’s returned from the dead. I’m sick of theists talking about afterlife with such confidence as if they just came from the grave.

Whatever happened to those beautiful words, “I don’t know”? Doubt is humble. It teaches us to be open minded about new information as it unfolds before our eyes. It’s a folly to be certain about things that we have no reason to be certain about.

A theist speaks of God with such self-assurance, it seems as if he just had coffee with God, and had a chat with Him about Inception not getting as many Oscar nominations as it deserved. Such pigheadedness alone should disqualify one from being thought of as a rational being. Likewise, any Atheist who’s absolutely certain about God’s non-existence is irrational.

When a person asks me what I think happens after we die, I do not offer him/her an enema of discombobulating, philosophical statements which sound wiser than they actually are, but I just say these three brilliant little words: “I don’t know”.

As far as we can tell, dying is like never being born. Mark Twain once said, “I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Humans are so used to the idea of existing, that they find it hard to imagine nothingness. The closest idea we have of death is a calm, dreamless sleep. Other than that, many find it difficult to comprehend what it’s like to be non-existent.

For instance, most people believe that a blind man sees nothing but a curtain of darkness before him, just like we see darkness when we close our eyes. Dead wrong. A blind man sees absolutely nothing…not even the black color that we see with our eyes closed. To help you understand this better, let me ask you what you see behind your head. Do you see a black space? No! You see nothing there because there’s no eye at the back of your head to help detect any light coming from that direction.

It is impossible for a living person to tell precisely what it’s like to be dead. But the best estimate that we can make is that being dead means being nothing.

So go ahead and try it! Say, “I don’t know!”. If you like say something like, “I don’t know for sure, but I have a good hunch that God exists.” or maybe, “I don’t know for sure, but it’s highly unlikely that God exists” (the latter happens to be my stance).

Voltaire once said, “He must be very ignorant for he answers every question he’s asked.” You’re a genius, Volty!

A Brief History of Everything

The Big Bang: About 13.75 billion years ago, the vast oceans of space and time were all condensed into something believed to be the size of a pinhead. Though the scientists have plentiful evidence to support the Big Bang theory, the origin of it is still shrouded in mystery.

Inflation: The universe began to expand at an exponential rate, driven by negative-pressure.of the vacuum in space. As it expanded, it began to cool as the energy was thinned out.

Earth forms: From a gigantic molecular cloud forming a protoplanetary plate, a red-hot blob appeared 4.54 billion years ago, a baby later to be called “Earth”.

Asteroid hits the Earth: A gigantic asteroid strikes the infant, tilting its axis by 23.5 degrees.This tilt is crucial to our planet because it is what grants us our different seasons.

Abiogenesis: About 3.5 billion years ago, life began from what’s referred to as the “primordial soup”. Life, in scientific terms, is defined as a piece of information capable of maintaining its own progeny through self-replication. The primordial replicator is believed to be a crude form of RNA (a bit like DNA, but simpler), which originated from clay crystals.

Bacteria develop: The new DNA acquires a wall of fatty acids and other cell-components to form a bacterium, the simplest organism known to man.

Evolution: A fascinating journey which led to the existence of the vast number of living species we see in the world today. The bacteria evolved into tiny underwater creatures, who evolved to fish, then ambhibians, land animals, and finally, primates.

Anthropogenesis: From Australopithicines, the genus “Homo” began to branch out about 2.4 million years ago. The other branch led to chimpanzees (who are now our cousins in the ancestral tree, with their DNA varying from our own by only 2.5%). The Homos evolved further into what we are today, the Homo Sapiens.

What it Means to be a Homo Sapien: We come from a long line of winners. Each one of our ancestors, from the bacteria 3.5 billion years ago to us now, has been a survivor who has managed to successful propagate its genes forward. If any one of them had failed nature’s test of survivability, the progeny would have been broken and we would never have come into existence.

In our long journey, we’ve acquired the kind of evolutionary baggage that is shared by no other species on Earth. A sense of altruism. Love and compassion for our children, not because they are the carriers of our genes, but out of our own selflessness. A curious organism contemplating its own origin. An organism whose aim is no longer just “survival”, but something more. A person sitting on his/her computer wondering how far we’ve come since that tiny speck of gases glowing in the middle of space 14 billion years ago.