6

My reasoning:

Suppose the universe is infinite in spacetime (both space and time have no bounds). In this spacetime, a cyclic appearance of particles occurs (cyclic big bangs). When I'm alive I experience this spacetime. When I'm dead these experience is gone, though spacetime itself (whatever its Nature) continues to exist. Because the spacetime is infinite there will someday appear a big bang resulting in a universe with the same father and mother I have in this universe (though the circumstance might be different) and they will have a daughter or son. As I'm dead I don't feel the passage of an arbitrarily large time interval. This means that the moment I die I'm reborn again.

What's the flaw in my reasoning, if there is any?

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  • 8
    "inevitable"??? Maybe it is impossible... Jun 11 at 8:17
  • 6
    "Because the spacetime is infinite there will someday appear a big bang resulting in a universe..." Why? Maybe Big bang is a one-time event. Jun 11 at 8:18
  • 3
    I would suggest rephrasing your questions as 'If there is a finite number of quantum states in a given volume and the universe is infinite in size, then any given quantum state must eventual repeat. For example, 2m*2m*2m volume that contains me must eventual repeat. Does this imply that a 'clone' of me must exist somewhere else in an infinite universe?'
    – E Tam
    Jun 11 at 9:09
  • 1
    According to Eastern philosophies, this is, more or less, what happens. The present universe is a kalpa, cycle. There is a 'pulsation' of creation and destruction. There have been an infinite number of cycles before and there will be an infinite number of cycles in the future. When you throw dice an infinite number of times, there are always different series of number combinations that reoccur. The same combination of atoms and series of events have occurred in prior cycles and will occur in future cycles.... Jun 12 at 5:12
  • 1
    @ETam I'm not sure if your comment perfectly encompasses what the OP meant, OP seems confused by what they mean themselves. But the argument you offer is easily disproven; just because some sequence must repeat does not mean that all sequences must repeat. For instance, if we consider the set {0,1} and infinite sequences on it, we see that (1,0,0,0,0,...) is valid but the element 1 only occurs finitely often.
    – tox123
    Jun 12 at 18:55

13 Answers 13

8

The scientific perspective

I observe from other answers here that arguments invoking current science are acceptable. So from a scientific perspective, here are some questions:

  1. In your model, the universe is periodic instead of cyclic. Even in cosmologies admitting cyclic big-bangs, to my knowledge, events in the past of the singularity can't affect events in its future. Combine this with the probabilistic nature of the quantum fluctuations that "seed" a nascent universe, there is no motivation for periodicity.

  2. In the context of medicine, death and birth have very specific meanings. Statements like

As I'm dead I don't feel the passage of an arbitrarily large time interval.

This means that the moment I die I'm reborn again

appear meaningless as there is no detectable meta-physical entity that establishes a transitive correlation between the organism who died and the organism who took birth, medical procedures like transplants or the biology of pregnancy not withstanding. In simpler terms, there is no concept of identity beyond that of the organism's alive body say, a "soul" of sorts, in current medicine.

From a logical perspective

  1. the statement

... with the same father and mother I have in this universe (though the circumstance might be different)...

is self contradictory. While the periodic nature of your model allows for your parents to be 'repeated', how does it allow for differing circumstances, or vice versa?

  1. your comment

the periodic appearance of particles (periodic big bangs)

differs from your statement in the question

a cyclic appearance of particles occurs (cyclic big bangs).

As noted at the start, while there is little motivation for the first, in the second, there is no reason whatsoever that a new universe must be same as the old one.

  1. your comment

My twin brother isn't me. Or maybe all people are the same, so there is no distinction. Maybe even all living things. For sure all matter, all elementary particles are the same. Maybe they form an indivisible whole. So experience (of which I'm part, that is I experience) will be there wherever life forms. Which means that experience is enternal

is loaded with falsehoods like

  • you and I are different as you have asked while I am answering, you wrote and I am writing, you may be taking a shower, I already took one and so on. There's certainly enough differences among the collective us to conclude that the collective we are not the same.

  • all elementary particles are not the same as I am sure you must know. That not withstanding, if you allude to the quantum indistinguishablity of identical particles, keep in mind that there's still two (or more) of them. Can you call two identical things - in spite of being indistinguishable they are still two things - reincarnations of one another? Especially when they may coexist or have no causal relationship? Not to mention, extending this quantum nature to the classical scale of humans fails.

Without trying to refute any further (this answer would be way too long then), let me just say that comments like

"So experience (of which I'm part, that is I experience) will be there wherever life forms. Which means that experience is enternal" My mother is still my mother if the situation is different

I am not the particles out of which I'm made up. So maybe I reside in all particles of the universe somehow...

i mean, the next big bang can occur after all present particles have accelerated away from each other. In this case, there can come new particles into existence

Well, in physics, the spacetime we are living in is a negatively curved infinite spacetime

virtual particle pairs must become real (the pairs are "torn part" to become real, as Hawking radiation originates in highly positively curved spacetime)

Reincarnation is not continuous Especially if you consider the soul to be independent of matter.

lack a cohesive whole, scientific merit, logical self-consistency and clarity of reasoning.

In fact, I take issue with your use of established scientific theories to justify metaphysical or philosophical ideas. Your attempt at trying to model reincarnation, an idea as baseless in modern scientific thought as counting fairies on a pinhead, is a futile exercise. Invoking concepts like assumption of infinity of spacetime, Hawking radiation, elementary particles, Boltzman brains, appear in this discussion as mere buzzwords thrown around without serious thought or a full critical analysis.

If all you meant was that the material we are made up of is eventually recycled and that given enough time, the quantum state wave function of the universe may repeat itself, say so.


The philosophical perspective

You raise an interesting question. Can it be possible for a universe that rinses and repeats itself, albeit allowing for some changes, to manifestly exhibit some form of reincarnation? What would be the model for and characteristics of such a process?

It isn't clear what you mean by reincarnation. Does your philosophy accept a concept similar to that of a soul? If so, is there some sort of system of rules which constraint the nature and actions of this soul? If not what constitutes I after death? What establishes a link between the old and the new I? Who identifies as I? For that matter, what is even death - is it the complete erasure of I, partial erasure ? What is I's encoding that preserves I for reincarnation?

In your philosophy spacetime and its eternity play an important role (though I fail to see why the spatial infiniteness is important).

  • This spacetime is dynamic, it evolves, it changes. It may be repetitive, but it isn't boring or monotonous. Its periodic but it also admits changes. In this way its flexible. Its predictable and unpredictable.

  • It has an expanding, a shredding phase where everything is pulled apart. There can be no families and no atoms. It has a wrathful and self-destructive drive to be empty.

  • It also has a contracting, aggregating phase. It brings together material that may have been separated in eons and years. This spacetime is benevolent and warm. It wants to fill the vast void cauldrons of space with something living, something that can experience it.

  • The spacetime is mysterious. Its true Nature is unknown to I, its inhabitant and the one who experiences it. I is cognizant of the its nature to the extent that it undergoes 'Big-Bangs', (though a generic I may never have witnessed one) and is the mother of 'particles'.

  • It can be argued that there exist at least some Is who are of a scientific and inquisitive temperament willing to search for and believe in observational truth and inferences thereof. There exist some Is who live in a family structure. These Is have (perhaps to each their own, its not clear) a mother and a father, a biology that necessitates the existence of both, and perhaps even a social structure whose fundamental unit is their collection, the family.

  • Yet, spacetime is supremer than I for I dies while it goes on. It is the stage where I reincarnates. In this sense, it isn't 'estranged' or totally separate from or unaware of the relatively insignificant I that exists in it. It non-vanishingly interacts, majorly affects and (in light of the discussion on 'experiences', see below) is affected by every I.

  • Contrary to its mercurial nature when its newly born or nearly dead, the spacetime is freely flowing most of the time and doesn't exert itself. It is patient and inevitable in its cycles. In this manner, it has a rhythm.

Relatively insignificant as an I may be, I has some authority over spacetime. I posit that in your philosophy, it is the various 'experiences' of Is that lend relevance to spacetime. Moreover, they are the most important part, the connecting construct and the third essential element in the core trinity of I, it and 'experiences', that is the foundation of your philosophy.

  • I further propose that its the reemergence of identical experiences in a new universe relative to an old one, that brings into being an I, and its the 'running out' of these 'experiences' that lead to Is death. Imagine a film reel being played - a reel of Is 'experiences'. The start of the film is the birth of I. As the film runs-out, the 'experiences' come to an end, and I dies.

  • As the spacetime ebbs and flows, as it changes and demonstrates its dynamism, the set of 'experiences' that encode I (see below) appear like waves on an ocean surface, thus reincarnating I, before disappearing back along with their I. In this manner the rhythm of spacetime drives the death-dormant-rebirth cycles of I.

  • I also claim, that its the 'experiences' that encode I between births. The actual mechanism of this encoding into the only thing that exists when I doesn't, namely spacetime, is the primary, if not the only, mystery of it. The nature of this encoding, its expansive capability and capacity to host all Is, its enduring unaffectedness and witnessing of the eternally turbulent and occasionally intense spacetime, its majesty as the underlying bookkeeper and ultimate arbiter of truth is a facet of this philosophy that is both mesmerizing and demanding of further inquiry.

  • As just mentioned, this encoding imparts to spacetime a rich memory. Via it (both figuratively and literally), I remains immune to "the passage of ... arbitrarily large time"s between births. This memory, as indelible as it is, is still not perfect. It allows for some change as "the circumstances might be different" for the reincarnated I. Perhaps, being 'read' so many times has affected it. How reliable is it? Is this 'presently playing' version of 'experiences' the original one or has it been sufficiently modified enough to now constitute what is arguably a new I? Is this a proposal for the creation of the first Is? Is this the source for an evolving diversity in the cosmic population of Is ? Does this imply new Is can be created and some old ones erased? Does this not make Is ultimately mortal in-spite of their reincarnative property.

As you can see, the scope for questioning is endless as is the avenue for synthesis. Hope this probed some aspects of your query. Loved the philosophical side of your question, and disliked the misused science. More some other time.

3
  • "More some other time"...:)
    – user52804
    Jun 13 at 10:16
  • One thing though. The singularities can be disconnected in time as well in space. In an eternally expanding spacetime (negative overall curvature) the galaxies can accelerate away from each other and a new big bang can occur if they are far enough. This can spawn new particles (from the vacuum field fluctuations). The problem is what causes negative curvature (dark energy)? Maybe the fluctuations themselves. You can call this periodic or cyclic.
    – user52804
    Jun 13 at 10:22
  • 2
    "buzzwords thrown around without serious thought or a full critical analysis." IOW, the question is New Age woo, straight from charlatans like Deepak Chopra.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 13 at 19:28
5

Identity

There is a subtlety that several folks touched on which I would like to spell out: what does it mean for you to be the same as another person who seems like you. You seem to imply that identity is defined by parentage, but that begs the question of how we decide that two people in different spacetime locations are both your parent. It just kicks the can up one generation. But then we can broaden the scope to ask the question: how do we decide whether two spacetime regions are identical? Can we even do such a thing? And if so, then we must next ask: "How many different configurations of spacetime are possible within a finite volume?" If the answer is: "Only a finite number", then we get the recycling which is implied by your question. If the answer is: "Infinitely many", then each "copy" of you may, in fact, be unique. This makes the question of identity much more difficult, because it overlaps with the question: "Are homozygous twins the same person?" This question seems to be an obvious "no", but two copies of you in different spacetime locations may only have as much in common as two extremely well-matched twins.

Reincarnation

Of course, you did not spell out exactly what you mean by "reincarnation". You seem to suggest a fairly mechanistic version which does not imply a shared memory of past lives. If so, I challenge the usage of the term "reincarnation", which implies that the "new you" is identical to the "old you", in the sense that you really are the same person. This is why people who believe in reincarnation claim to have memories of their past lives. If you don't believe in this cross-life memory transfer, then the different copies of you are not causally related, any more than running an app on your computer multiple times counts as "reincarnating" the app. Most importantly, the "new you" will not have a sense of: "I've been here before, because I just died yesterday. Welcome back, me!" That is, the new you will certainly not think: "Obviously, I've been reincarnated. I am the 7,239th instantiation of Neo-me."

Furthermore, the different copies of you need not exist at sequential times, or even at non-overlapping times. If the universe is spatially infinite but has finite granularity, and is essentially isotropic, then there are likely an infinite number of "copies" of you existing simultaneously, and probably at all times during the universe's existence (at least at the times in which humans may exist). What does "reincarnation" mean in that context? Each copy of you will presumably think it is unique, blithely unaware of how blandly repetitive it is in the infinite "fun-house mirror universe". Perhaps a bit more depressing than your original speculation?

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  • 1
    This answer comes close in convincing me! But not quite. I'm ganna take a shower first (my wife keeps pushing so...). I'll come back! (+1!)
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 18:03
  • I don't think that spatially connected beings (it's maybe even possible that I reincarnate, in the flesh of. say, an alien insect) are the same, even if a copy of me walked somewhere on another planet. Like twins are not the same. But if the flesh forms in a new universe in the future I think it can. If I would reincarnate in a grasshopper tomorrow, I think I withhold the grasshopper inside it his rights to be a grasshopper. So only in a future universe (so not parallel) it's possible to reincarnate. The universe (according to the observations) is infinite.
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 18:57
  • 1
    @Methadont it is literally impossible to observe that the universe is infinite in space. The visible portion is most certainly finite, and has a radius of less than 50 billion ly. The best observations suggest that it is finite in time, also, excluding possibilities like a bounce or multiverses. But it sounds like you do believe in the Hindu/Buddhist notion of reincarnation, for which science really has very little to say (except perhaps: "no"). Jun 11 at 22:06
3

What's the flaw in my reasoning, if there is any?

You are assuming that the feeling that we are ourselves is entirely a function of the physical state of our body, including our brain. This is a very reasonable assumption but we don't know that it is true. One could argue for example that we are not at one moment the set of impressions we have at that moment. We may for example be the awareness of these impressions, awareness only existing at that point in time. Our impressions may also not be entirely a function of the physical state of our body. Recycling the universe would not necessarily cause our impressions to recur.

Your assumptions do seem to imply that bodies exactly like our own now will exist in the future (and existed in the past). This, however, doesn't necessarily make them the same body. If there is the slightest difference between two cycles of the universe, then the universes in these two cycles are not the same and whatever they contain are not the same things. If the universe is infinite in space, then even an infinite time does not imply that the same universe will occur again. So, you would need to assume that the universe is finite in space while time is infinite. Assuming this, the same universe will recur, but then again only if there is such a thing as the smallest quantum of energy.

Another aspect is that without any hypothesis about the infinity of time and the finiteness of levels of energy, it is at least conceivable that two bodies exactly alike appear at different times and places, perhaps even regularly or cyclically. This would be reincarnation as you have defined it, although not a necessary one.

Finally, defining reincarnation as the reoccurrence of the body seems to make it both physically possible and meaningless. If our mind is only a function of the physical state of our body, then who cares that we might get "reincarnated"?

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  • If our impressions didn't recur, then we'd react differently, and the universe (at least, our little corner of it) would get derailed from its repetition. So by definition, if the universe repeated, our impressions would also; the thought experiment implies that our “spirits” (or whatever) are also repeated.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jun 11 at 20:00
  • @wizzwizz4 1. "If our impressions didn't recur, then we'd react differently" Why? This may be true, but we don't seem to know that. Our impressions may not be entirely a function of the physical state of our body. Recycling the universe would not necessarily cause our impressions to recur. - 2. "So by definition" What definition? Jun 12 at 9:50
  • 1. My impressions have an effect on my actions. 2. “if the universe repeated”; having the same starting point isn't sufficient for repetition.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jun 12 at 13:45
  • @wizzwizz4 "My impressions have an effect on my actions." Maybe not all have. It wouldn't make any difference if your impression of blue was identical to my impression of red. - 2. “if the universe repeated” What is your point? Jun 12 at 16:03
  • The premise of the hypothetical scenario screens that out as a consideration.
    – wizzwizz4
    Jun 12 at 18:46
3

No, reincarnation is not inevitable

From a mathematical perspective regarding infinity, the flaw in your reasoning is here:

Because the spacetime is infinite there will someday appear a big bang resulting in a universe with the same father and mother I have in this universe (though the circumstance might be different) and they will have a daughter or son.

This touches on the concept of something "almost surely" happening, which basically boils down to "100% probability" and "guaranteed to happen" meaning different things when infinity is involved. For example, if you flip a coin infinitely many times, the probability that at least one flip results in heads is 1. However, an infinite sequence of only tails is also possible, so it is possible (but extremely unlikely) that a heads is never flipped in that infinite time.

If we assume that at the start of the Big Bang for a given cycle, the probability of you being created (or at least a person who is arguably "you") is some number strictly between 0 and 1, then this is pretty much the same thing as the coin example: in the infinite series of Big Bangs that follows your current existence, the probability that at least one more "you" is created is 1, because your existence is possible and we get infinitely many tries. However, it's not guaranteed - there are also some possible infinite sequences of universes where you are never created again.

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    I'd argue that your last example isn't even the most pessimistic case. Pick a real number between 0 and 1 uniformly at random. Even if you repeat that a countably infinite number of times, the probability to get the same number twice is zero. The same might hold true here. If there are simply too many possible universes then even in an infinite time repetition is unlikely. And this does not even touch the problem that the successive universes might not all be generated independently at random at all.
    – mlk
    Jun 12 at 13:24
2

Assuming your assumptions, and from a systemic perspective, you might be the product of your organized parts, like a pyramid is the product of an organized set of stones.

In such case, for you to reincarnate into you again, the same molecules should be present in the same space at the same time again and again. That would be possible only if nature works in a loop.

In such case, you might be asking, again, the same question that you've already asked on all previous cycles of the universe, and you still don't get the answer.

1
  • Except if someone or I myself answered it positively.... I don't have to appear though exactly like how I was constituted as a baby though. Maybe I can be reborn on a different Earth, meeting different (though I hope the same) people. Maybe one of me's isn't asking this question at all.
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 14:40
1

There is more than one flaw in your reasoning. There are assumptions there with no evidence that they are true nor even any indication that they are probable:

  • Is space time infinite?
  • Are big bangs cyclical?
  • Is it an exact loop? (Which it has to be for your mother and father to be the same, this also sounds strangely finite)
  • If "circumstances might be different" what makes you say they are the same people?
  • Why do you assume that when you are dead you are somehow still there?
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  • 3
    If the galaxies in space are moving away from each other with an increased acceleration, spacetime has to be negatively curved, and an infinite spacetime is infinite. In such a spacetime, (like in the early universe spacetime, which was an infinite negatively curved spacetime), virtual particle pairs must become real (the pairs are "torn part" to become real, as Hawking radiation originates in highly positively curved spacetime). These particles will someday have such a configuration in phase space so they make it possible for me to be born again.
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 9:41
  • 2
    My mother is still my mother if the situation is different. Why shouldn't I be her son? Maybe you can apply the same reasoning like why am I not other people, so an eventual next me isn't me, in the same way that my twin brother isn't me (if I had one).
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 9:44
  • 2
    I indeed assume that if I'm dead I'm somehow still there. Which is questionable. But I can return. I am not the particles out of which I'm made up. So maybe I reside in all particles of the universe somehow...
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 9:47
  • 2
    @Jonathan Your answer is 100% irrelevant to the question. None of your objections apply given that they are assumed as true to begin with: "Suppose the universe is infinite in spacetime (both space and time have no bounds). In this spacetime, a cyclic appearance of particles occurs (cyclic big bangs). " Jun 11 at 10:35
1

While your basic concept isn't new (philosophers such as Nietzsche wrote essentially the same) it is not identical with the concept of reincarnation.

In your version, the 2nd "you" is an identical copy of the current you. In fact, similar to the Many Worlds theory, there would also be millions of near-identical versions of "you", with a single atom out of place, and countless not-quite-so-near versions with larger variations.

However, all of them don't have one thing: Continuity

They are not "you, born again". They are not only seperate from you through the Singularity that happened inbetween, there is also nothing linking "you" to "you 2", except a coincidental perfect identity.

The concept of reincarnation, however, is the continuation of one life and the two lives are typically linked together in some way. Even if "reincarnated you" is not in any way aware of its previous life, then fate has dictated the form of reincarnation, or your karma is connected, or in some way there are two lives in the same world that are connected. All concepts of reincarnation have some kind of link between these two lives, as otherwise the entire idea becomes meaningless.

4
  • The linking aspect is indeed something to consider! So the moment I die there has to be a birth (an incarnation) of another person in which I can reincarnate? Doesn't this imply that the soul (karma, or consciousness), exists separate from the matter in which it resides? And that it can't exist in between two incarnations? Can it even be that I reincarnate in a person I love? I believe that our dog is the reincarnation of our former dog who passed away one year ago. And maybe she was the reincarnation of the same dog in a previous universe (a two-time reincarnation in one universe!).
    – user52804
    Jun 12 at 9:04
  • @Methadont Not all reincarnation concepts require an immediate or closely timed birth event, but yes, a kind of "essence" (typically weakly defined) links the two lives together so that they are considered the same individual. Note that I'm not arguing for or against the merit of reincarnation as a concept here, simply describing why what you describe does not equal that concept.
    – Tom
    Jun 12 at 15:08
  • But why can't the fact that both events of a birth (like the one I had once) are quite similar be considered as a connection (even though separated in time)?
    – user52804
    Jun 12 at 16:38
  • @Methadont because they offer no continuity. They are similar in the way that when you roll dice, rolling a six one time and rolling a six some other time is a similar event, and yet these events are entirely independent of each other.
    – Tom
    Jun 13 at 7:10
1

This won't matter if "souls" exist

If we assume people have an existence distinct from their bodies (like a "soul"), then your reasoning is irrelevant as reincarnation would depend entirely on what happens to that existence (e.g. where their soul goes).

Reincarnation isn't possible if "souls" don't exist

If we assume people have no existence distinct from their bodies, reincarnation presumably isn't possible at all. The body/brain is nothing but biology. Your experience exists entirely within your brain. When you die and your body's brain function can no longer be restored, that's the end of "you". You will never experience anything ever again because you don't exist any more. If something pops up in future that's an exact copy of you, that's a copy, it's not you and it's not reincarnation.

Say you clone yourself (creating a biologically identical version of yourself) and you die before this process completes, that should align with your definition of reincarnation (since when and where you're born wouldn't affect who you are at birth, assuming the biological state of the body is the same). But if you don't die, it wouldn't be reincarnation. That wouldn't make much sense to me. Clearly that new "you" would be running around in either case, so they need to have an existence that's independent of what happens to you, so it can't be reincarnation.

If one were to reconstruct a person identical to you using the exact same matter (not just the same type of matter, but the same actual matter), one could perhaps argue that's technically the same "you". But it still wouldn't be reincarnation, as that implies some sort of continued experience. A continued experience might be possible if you bring a dead person back to life, but this assumes their brain is still in tact and this is a revival/resurrection, not a reincarnation.

Of course a clone or reconstruction can potentially remember everything the original can remember, up to the point of cloning, thus they can feel like they're continuing the life of the original. But if this were the definition of reincarnation, it would kind of fall apart when considering the cloning argument above. It's still a distinct entity that has an existence of its own.

What is "reincarnation" anyway?

Of course a large part of this is semantics. If you define "reincarnation" as some sort of continued experience (as most people seem to, e.g. the same you being "reborn" into a new body), with the possibility of remnants of memories or experiences being carried over, then reincarnation won't happen here for the reasons mentioned above. But if you define it as there simply being an identical version of you at some point in future, then that's probably fair enough (although it would conflict with how most others define reincarnation and might be a problematic definition when one considers the possibility of overlapping existences).

There can be an identical "you"

It seems reasonable to say the universe would repeat itself eventually given an infinite timescale, and there would thus be another "you". At least if you assume there would be infinitely many Big Bangs and each one starts from exactly the same state (if even one atom is in a different place from one start point to the next, any given state would not necessarily ever be repeated). You could also potentially go one step further and suppose the universe is deterministic and reverts back to its original state leading into the next Big Bang, in which case every iteration would contain one version of you that would live exactly identical lives.

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  • Reincarnation is not continuous Especially if you consider the soul to be independent of matter.
    – user52804
    Jun 12 at 16:39
  • @Methadont I probably should've said "continued", not "continuous" (although one could make an argument for either one).
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 12 at 16:47
  • Can't continued existence not be seen as reincarnation?
    – user52804
    Jun 12 at 16:53
  • i mean, the next big bang can occur after all present particles have accelerated away from each other. In this case, there can come new particles into existence and because I'm not there anymore, nor anyone else, you can say that the new forms of life can be the same as me or us. A clone of me is different from me in this (or parallel) universe but maybe not in a universe that's distant in time. If you're dead and reborn at the same moment it's maybe better to speak of continued existence mybe.
    – user52804
    Jun 12 at 17:28
  • @Methadont I would argue that once you stop existing, you can't continue existing later (because anything that comes into existence later is not going to be you, because you are gone). But this is perhaps semantics again, or beliefs: something that can't really be argued. Although reincarnation is not a continued existence, but a continued experience, e.g. after you die you wake up in someone's womb or whatever and there's the possibility of remnants of memories or experiences being carried over. But this would only really make sense if you assume souls exist.
    – NotThatGuy
    Jun 12 at 17:50
1

This doesn't necessarily require a long answer.

Based on the following 2 assumptions reincarnation is inevitable.

  1. You are nothing more than the matter in your brain and body.
  2. The universe lasts for eternity.

How reincarnation would manifest itself in that type of universe is at this time untestable and unknowable. However your reasoning is sound.

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    Hi! I think it will remain untestable forever. I can have memories of past lives, but I can't go back to them to that life because then I would encounter myself, thereby disproving reincarnation. It would be like meeting a twin brother and exactly that is what a reincarnated person is not. But nevertheless, +1
    – user52804
    Jun 14 at 0:54
  • 1
    @Methadont if we could prove that humans stored memories of past lives I would think that fact suggested that we were more than the matter in our brains and bodies. Then again I suppose it could also mean that memories were stored in matter and somehow that matter was organized inside of us in such a way that we experienced the memories of a now deceased lifeforce. Jun 14 at 3:12
1

An Abridged Version of your Original Question is:

Is reincarnation inevitable?

The Short Answer

If reincarnation is inevitable, it is not for the reasons you provided. In your description, you assume that your future physical self would be the same as your current self. However, reincarnation necessitates a different body. Maybe you would be reincarnated as a tuna fish. Even if you were re-incarnated as a person, it would be a different person.

The Long Answer

After reading the details of your question, it seems like you have re-invented something called The Infinite Monkey Theorem. A lot of people have had the same idea throughout history. If you click on the link I provided, then you can read at least the first paragraph or two of the Wikipedia page written about the theorem.

When I was in college, I wrote a few programs which randomly generated "test data." For example, I had an assignment to create a computer program for managing a contact's list: The computer program (app) would keep track of phone numbers and email addresses of your family members, your boss at work, etc... I wrote a program which randomly generated people's first names, phone numbers, etc... I occasionally, I saw short English words, such as "dog" or "cat" appear in the street names. If you randomly generate a sufficiently large amount of data, short English words will appear.

Suppose that you had a machine which randomly generated letters, punctuation marks, and other symbols at a rate of 80 words per minute.

A person who can type at a rate of 80 words per minute is not unheard of. Computer can go faster than that, but I choose that speed so that you can imagine checking in on the machine from time to time. You can check and what the machine is either displaying on a computer screen, or printing on paper.

This machine outputs exactly one character at a time, such as "A" or a comma, or a space.

If the machine magically lasted forever, never broke, and printed letters for all eternity, then what would happen? Well, the machine would eventually type the question, "Is reincarnation inevitable?" Note that the machine did not "learn" about the English language. The machine is not an artificial intelligence (AI). If you wait long enough, and the letters are typed are random, the machine will eventually accidentally type "reincarnation." You might have to wait 1 billion years, but it will eventually happen.

When I was in elementary school, I once asked my father if time was infinite, and you waited long enough, would asteroids in space randomly smash together to build a Ford Pick-up Truck. I did not mean that a truck would magically appear in a fraction of a second, but rather, over millions of years, a piece of copper there, and a piece of iron here, would eventually be welded onto a partial-truck by asteroids hitting it. Most work-in-process trucks would be destroyed before completion. Clearly, rocks randomly smashing together to form a pick-up truck is unlikely, but if you waited long enough, would it happen? My father said no. However, mathematicians have proved the infinite monkey theorem.

As a reminder, your original question was:

Is reincarnation inevitable?

I read the details. I think that you were trying to imagine a case where:

  • The universe never ends?
  • The events in the universe is sufficiently chaotic

If that were true, then someday, there will be a planet like earth again. Also, there will eventually be a planet like earth which has humans living on it. A person very much like you will be born again.

An idea very like that was expressed in the last 10 minutes of the Hollywood movie K-PAX (2001). If you have not watched X-PAX before, then I recommend watching the movie for entertainment purposes; but it the movie does not contain any secret truths.

I am not sure if the universe and time and stuff will go on and on, forever and ever. However, that is okay, because it is clear that even if time never ended, etc.. etc... what you described would not be reincarnation.

That is, if there are a billion billion big bangs, and you pop into existence again a long time from now, that person will not be a reincarnation of you.

Part of the definition of "reincarnation" is that your future self will not have the same body as your current self. For example, in the future, you might be a squirrel instead of your current state as a human.

Not only that, but the idea of reincarnation includes a lot of stuff about souls and the supernatural. If a billion billion years from now, there is another human which is physically just like you, I am not sure that shows that souls exist, or magic exists, or that the future body with your same genetics would contain the same soul, and not a new soul.

The infinite monkey theorem does not prove that reincarnation is inevitable. This is because a copy of your body, or a copy of the collected works of shakes-spear, or whatever, does not have your same soul.

I personally do not believe in the existence of souls or reincarnation (for much the same reasons) but I do understand the basics of the ideas. Even if it were possible for a person to randomly be born someday with your genetics, and other physical things were the same too, that would not reincarnation. In fact, reincarnation discusses having new/different bodies, but you assume that your future self would have the same body.

Someone could reply, "as unlikely as it is, given an infinite amount of time, I will eventually be re-born as a fish."

Well, the problem is that, from a scientific standpoint, the fish would not be you.

If you allow yourself to have a fish body, but keep the same soul, then it no longer makes sense to talk about probability theory, the infinite monkey theorem, or accidentally re-typing Shakespeare's collected works. If magic exists, then you can do anything. Scientific rules about probability, and future events, do not matter anymore if you allow supernatural events.

Conclusion

The answer is that things you described are not sufficient to conclude that reincarnation inevitable.

You are essentially arguing that "as unlikely as it is, given an infinite amount of time, I will eventually be re-born" is a corollary of the infinite monkey theorem.

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  • A body in a next universe loos pretty different from a body now. In time that is. I can only be reborn from the same particles. A tunafish in this universe doesn't consist of the same particles. Maybe the only way for me to be reborn in the future is from these future particles.
    – user52804
    Jun 14 at 5:53
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The ONE TRUE ANSWER is: "Nobody really knows for sure!"

Nor can they know. That is one aspect of the human situation at this early stage of its evolution. Your task, as an evolving human is to discover REALITY, whatever that may be. You will then probably, since you are human, try to communicate your discoveries to other humans. You will then make the further discovery that most of them simply Don't Want To Know. Even the ones who SEEM to want to know will prefer to believe whatever is most comfortable for them. And those who CLAIM to know will be misleading you in direct proportion to their certainty and authority.

That's when you'll probably decide just to "go it alone" and see if there's an end to the long, dark tunnel.

Perhaps there is, at least according to many old manuscripts that have - passing miraculously - somehow survived. Here's what the BhagavadGita has to say. But be warned! Most translations are useless, since they adopt a religious interpretation. The best for a philosophical interpretation (in my experience) is that of Besant and Das. Chapter and verse cited at the end of each quote.

For certain is death for the born, and certain is birth for the dead; therefore over the inevitable thou shouldst not grieve. 2:27

The Sages, united to Pure Reason, renounce the fruit which action yieldeth; and, liberated from the bonds of birth, they go to the blissful seat. 2:51

The Blessed Lord said: "Many births have been left behind by Me and by thee, Arjuna. I know them all, but thou knowest not thine, Parantapa." 4:5

He who thus knoweth My divine birth and action in its essence, having abandoned the body, cometh not to birth again, but cometh unto Me, Arjuna. 4:9

But the Yogi, labouring with assiduity, purified from sin, fully perfected through manifold births, he reacheth the supreme goal. 6:45

They who, refuged in Me, strive for liberation from birth and death, they know the Eternal, the whole Self-knowledge, and all action. 7:29

The indestructible, the supreme is the Eternal; His essential nature is called Self-knowledge; the emanation that causes the birth of beings is named Action. 8:3

The worlds, beginning with the world of Brahma, they come and go, Arjuna; but he who cometh unto Me, Kaunteya, he knoweth birth no more. 8:16

Spirit, seated in Matter, useth the qualities born of Matter. Attachment to the qualities is the cause of his births in good and evil wombs. 13:22

"When the dweller in the body hath crossed over these three qualities. whence all bodies have been produced, liberated from birth, death, old age and sorrow, he drinketh the nectar of immortality." 14:20

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  • "When the dweller in the body hath crossed over these three qualities. whence all bodies have been produced, liberated from birth, death, old age and sorrow, he drinketh the nectar of immortality." +1 for that! Though you can't be sure...
    – user52804
    Jun 14 at 7:22
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You are making many assumptions about the nature of the Universe and about the nature of human identity, some explicit, some only implied.

You say "given" all those Universal assumptions, sure you can build them around your demand for reincarnation. But the likelihood of them all being valid is minuscule.

Then, you assume that a carbon-copy of some previous incarnation is somehow the "same" self reincarnated. There is no support whatever for such an assumption. On the contrary, given their disconnected timelines, the default philosophical position must be that the later self or soul would therefore be independent of the earlier one.

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  • Exactly the same assumptions are made by you but in the other direction. This doesn't point to a flaw in my reasoning. In this universe a clone of me will not be me (in time as well in space), except if I could be recreated from exactly the same particles, which can only be the case after an eventual next big bang.
    – user52804
    Jun 14 at 0:50
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Consider the 'infinite monkeys typing' for validation of the premise - with caveats about scale. This will link you to various thinkers on the issues.

If they were you, they would be exactly you, living exactly your life. So what you are really asking, is about almost identical people & universes. This really is about counterfactuals, which are very important to how we reason, but, illusory in terms of our own lives & experiences. It is revealing though, that our reasoning relies in a deep way on a kind of 'multiverse'. We picture alternatives, and our ability to do so has real consequences - making the alternatives in a way part of our reality.

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  • I'm not sure if I see a connection with the typing monkey. Shakespeare made his stories in a lifetime, while it takes the monkey a lot longer. The monkey hasn't a story in mind. altogether. Do you compare the monkey with an infinite universe where every different collection of words is a universe (of which one is ours, the Shakespeare story)? Is (are) god(s), who created the world, a kind of Shakespeare? I'm indeed asking about nearly me's. They are me but in different circumstances (maybe speaking a different language). and indeed thinking about them (myself) can inspire me.
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 16:53
  • A copy of Shakespeare being randomly typed by a not-Shakespeare, is like a version of (similar enough to) you occuring in different circumstances. The reasoning and numerical arguments are the same. Each book a person. You specifically, one specific book.
    – CriglCragl
    Jun 11 at 17:43
  • But there have to be more monkeys than one to type different stories. The stories have to be Shakespeare-like. Not every random sequence is "a me". Or there can be one monkey typing forever, once in a while typing a new me, so to speak.
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 17:47
  • @Methadont: It's just a numbers game. What do you think about Boltzman brains? There is a case made that the future is just a special case of the multiverse, all possible states existing at once, and only our subjective experience making particular links.
    – CriglCragl
    Jun 11 at 18:06
  • Boltzmann brains have a very short fleeting existence though. For a moment there could be a brain (or whole universe) feeling just like me right now (without everything around it like the laptop I'm typing on). But the experience would be there only a flash second, not for a whole lifetime (for the whole lifetime to occur, the brain would have to evolve and thermodynamic fluctuations don't evolve).
    – user52804
    Jun 11 at 18:11