What if…

Below is an extract from “The Fine Art of Baloney detection” by Carl Sagan. It is somehow both comforting and deeply disturbing. I don’t believe in life after death, but for some reason I can’t let this go. It’s just a matter of time right?

Haldane imagined a far future when the stars have darkened and space is mainly filled with a cold, thin gas. Nevertheless, if we wait long enough statistical fluctuations in the density of this gas will occur. Over immense periods of time the fluctuations will be sufficient to reconstitute a Universe something like our own. If the Universe is infinitely old, there will be an infinite number of such reconstitutions, Haldane pointed out.

So in an infinitely old universe with an infinite number of appearances of galaxies, stars, planets, and life, an identical Earth must reappear on which you and all your loved ones will be reunited. I’ll be able to see my parents again and introduce them to the grandchildren they never knew. And all this will happen not once, but an infinite number of times.

The Consolation of Haldane depends, though, on what kind of universe we live in, and maybe on such arcana as whether there’s enough matter to eventually reverse the expansion of the universe, and the character of vacuum fluctuations. Those with a deep longing for life after death might, it seems, devote themselves to cosmology, quantum gravity, elementary particle physics, and transfinite arithmetic.

My thoughts tumble as I picture all the future Earths that could transpire, over an incomprehensible stretch of time. All the sliding door scenarios in worlds which are just like this one, and worlds which are not. Worlds in which the people remain the same and I am reunited with my love again and again. Or worlds in which he is missing and I wonder upon its surface feeling lost and out of place, but never able to quite figure out why. Worlds in which I am missing. Worlds in which this precise scene has already played out, this blog already written. Have you ever felt like you’ve been here before?

I mean, it’s not all that crazy. Let’s not forget that Haldane himself was described as the “cleverest man I ever knew” by Nobel laureate Peter Medawar, the original “cleverest” man.

But try not to spend too long thinking about it. It will do your head in.


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