I recently read an article about Stephen Hawking entitled, “Heaven is a ‘fairy story.‘” It was short, blunt, and horribly dull. At one point in the article Hawking is quoted as saying, “I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”
Notice the tactic here (which is common), loading the definition: “the brain as a computer.” But what are some of the assumptions here? The lack of a soul, the computer equating the entirety of personhood, the limit of the brain as merely a processor of sensory data, the brain as just a tool? If the brain is a computer, what about processor upgrades, memory upgrades, logic board repairs? If the brain is a computer what about hard drive transfers, reboots, and operating system upgrades?
I recently bought a new Macbook pro and was able to transfer ALL my data, preferences, and operating system from my old computer to the new one in a matter of moments. It’s the same computer … but not really. It has the same content, but has been “glorified” with 8 GB of memory and a 2.0 GhZ quad-core i7 processor.
No, even if you compare your brain to a computer like Hawking, it does not necessarily mean that when your parts fail all that awaits you is darkness. When the computer dies there is system information, personal data, unique preferences stored on the hard drive that are still in tact despite the computers ability to ‘turn back on.’ It is certainly within the realm of possibility, and my belief that even when our “computers” turn off, our consciousness will find new life in a new body.