Remapping the Eternal Family

by: FireTag

March 8, 2013

Human brains naturally use locations in space and time to make sense of events. Why should we expect eternal spirits to follow that protocol? The question has always bothered me.

What follows is speculation about a different way of looking at the relationship between the physical and the spiritual than the Restoration faiths adopted in understanding their 19th Century unique scriptural experiences. (Forgive me, Lord, but You did make me a physicist as well as a believer, and You must have known I was going to keep picking at questions like this as long as You allowed me a mind to try to understand.)

Those 19th Century experiences were embedded in a cultural understanding of space and time appropriate to its age just as much as early Christianity and Judaism had embedded their experiences in an earth-centered cosmos and time. Some of the more interesting advances in the thinking of Joseph Smith are, for me, found in places like the Book of Moses or Doctrine and Covenants, where that thinking begins to contemplate — if, IMO, inadequately describe — a spiritual cosmology that is not earth-centered, but paints on a broader spiritual canvass.

That cosmology is still human-centered, particularly in the LDS version, with its notions that God is a perfected (exalted) Heavenly Father whose ideal and actual spiritual sons and daughters are purified Homo sapiens who are intended to become Heavenly Fathers and Heavenly Mothers in the future afterlife. (The Community of Christ canon is somewhat different, and more ambiguous, which permits a more comfortable fit with Protestant and Catholic notions of the afterlife even when the notion of multiple kingdoms of glory are considered.)

But, that cosmology is still time-centered. It has a well-defined future toward which the purposes of God are advancing. It also has (unlike the theology of conventional Christianity) a well-defined notion of the past. Our spirits were pre-existent and entered the physical realm at some point in our physical history after an eventful spiritual past. What those events were, especially at an individual level, are surrounded by the baggage of controversial folklore that has been offered as a justification for racism. And the definition of what the future is intended to hold has also been offered by some as a justification for sexism and homophobia that has had important consequences for the religion and for the larger society.

In effect, the cosmology pictures a spiritual and physical realm with histories running in a kind of parallelism. The spiritual and physical touch at particular points (which it is the function of religion to deepen and extend), but then separate and follow their own paths.

But something I have been interested in since some of my earliest blogging is what possibilities exist for faithfully (i.e., in harmony with the 19th Century canon, and without repudiating that canon) expelling justifications for racism, sexism, and homophobia simply by modernizing the cosmology and embedding it in 21st Century understandings of space and time.

This article, though built only on the Community of Christ canon, which increasingly diverges from the LDS canon after 1835, will focus particularly on the implications for understanding of the family lives we can expect in the “afterlife”. What I find surprising, and think will surprise both LDS and Community of Christ readers, is how much of the 19th Century LDS teachings can reemerge in a slightly different form as a prediction of combining modern cosmology with the general Christian assumption that humans have spirits.


So lets work up to this using some graphics, beginning with the figure at the start of the post. The “X” defines what’s called a “light-cone”; it exists for every event, and divides space and time into regions where events can or can not transmit any information to or about each other through physical space. Using the event at the central point of the “X” as an example, that event can potentially interact with — the more precise term is “can be causally connected with” — any event within the vertical sectors of the light-cone. It can not be causally connected with any event outside those sectors (i.e., separated too far in the horizontal, spatial direction). The lines of the light-cone separate at a rate of 1 light year in any spatial direction per 1 year forward or backward in time.

How big is the “X”? Well, most cosmologies predict it is infinite, or at least very much larger than anything our telescopes can ever see. General Relativity allows spacetime to be “flat”, as in the picture above, or to be closed in upon itself like a higher dimensional analog of a globe, or to be open like a higher dimensional analog of a potato chip shape. Observation with our best instruments says only that it is remarkably close to flat, while still being open, but there is still a slight chance of it being “slightly” closed.

And in an infinite physical universe, as I’ve tried to depict in the first figure above, exact duplicates of an event can recur elsewhere in space and time. So can arbitrarily close or divergent variations of the same event — even extraordinarily complicated physical events like the lives of you and me. Like Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, there can be many physical copies, and sometimes their plans differ significantly from each other.

Indeed, when we add in another pillar of modern cosmology,  quantum mechanics, copies aren’t just permitted in an infinite physical universe, they are required! The core reason is that in quantum mechanics, the number of distinct states in any region of spacetime is finite (or at least belongs to a “smaller” class of infinity than does the spacetime infinity itself), if, quite literally, astronomical.

So, think of the first image above as symbolically representing copies and variations of the lives of one of us. They randomly pop up at various points widely separated in space and time, live and die, but have no interaction with us individually, because we’re too rare (because we’re complicated) to be close enough to be causally connected. Our doppelgangers, good or bad, exist, but never crash our party. From a God’s-eye view of all of space and time, there were always copies of us “from the beginning”; there will always be copies of us “yet to come”. And from that viewpoint, you can always build up a database of who has previously been “mighty in testimony” and who has not — but I would suggest that such a database will have nothing to do with skin color, nor will it allow one to infer previous faithfulness from one’s status in the present physical life. You can’t infer a rigged coin because a single toss comes up tails.

Every copy of “me” has equal right to (and will) perceive himself as the original, and will imagine “me” to be a copy of “him”. Indeed, I’ll have some close variants that never went into physics in their lives and won’t imagine my existence at all. But if they are close enough a variant to me to imagine me, they will certainly perceive themselves of having a spirit just as I do, and they will start asking themselves, “What is the relationship of my spirit to the spirits of my copies?”

But is mapping events in space and time the best way to get a handle on questions like this? Or is this type of map any more “real” than another kind of map might be in describing spiritual phenomenon? Notes on a page and a frequency transform in an electronic device are both ways of mapping a musical experience so that others can hear it, but neither one is the “real” music, and each has its uses in describing what is a single, inseparable experience. I would suggest that in Mormon cosmology, the physical and spiritual are a single experience, but we do need to transform between two different maps to highlight the physical or spiritual aspects. Let me try to start drawing the second, “spiritual map” by turning space and time “inside out” as in the adjacent figure. Note that I’ve eliminated certain types of events that were present in the previous figure, but only to minimize visual clutter, so think of them as still being present if not drawn.

In principle, I can be as fine-grained in differentiating events as I wish. In fact, I can decide “similarity” on multiple degrees of freedom (spatial dimensions) at once, using color, shape, intensity of glory, or anything else to define the coordinates of the new space.

In the new mapping, events widely separated in space and time become a single location in the spatial dimension. Causal relationships between them are not determined by any consideration of the light-cone. But we’ve neither gained or lost any information that was present, so we should expect the translated mapping to be as phenomena-rich as the original. It is just that the laws that describe the original phenomena won’t necessarily seem either simple or useful in the new mapping, while in the new mapping, phenomena that seemed too complex or random to notice before would leap out at us, demanding attention.

Now, nothing I’ve done here is mathematically illegitimate. I’ve simply created what a physicist calls a “dual” description of nature, and duality pops up in nature all the time. The question of whether this particular description is useful, however, and, more specifically, whether it is useful as a faithful framework or theory to explain and interpret the 19th Century Restoration canon is another matter. To consider a theory, you examine its predictions, compare them to the predictions of alternative frameworks in light of observations, and make your choice.

So let’s examine ideas about the eternal family in that light. First, we’d better look at what corresponds to “time” in the new mapping.

In physical spacetime, the difference of a time-like direction from a space-like direction (which is closely tied to causality) is that in the former there exist “records”; some events only exist if certain other events are within their past light cones. (I apologize for being so vague, but the vagueness is attributable to the fact that the nature of physical time is poorly understood and still highly debated in science. We may well need 22nd Century cosmology to better understand why time seems to have a direction at all.) Let me give an example chosen with devious intent:

A particular copy of me may have a brother, or two brothers, or three sisters. Or it may be that there are copies of my parents that have all of those earthly families, with the single exception that in the lives of those copies, the telephone rang at the wrong time, the mood passed, and they ended up with an entirely different child with a birthdate one month later than mine. All of those possibilities — and many, many more — occur with some probability, and they can all be plotted along the information similarity axis in the new mapping. In fact, as we look at those “me’s” with ever finer resolution, we see ever more variations of me, and it becomes necessary to invoke ever more spatial dimensions to explain the variations we see. (This is not a bug, but a feature of the description; the same thing is known to occur with physical space, which turns into something like a quantum foam at the smallest possible scales.)

However, to invoke a truism, there is zero possibility that a copy of me will have children if my parents didn’t have any. My existence is a “record” of my parents’ existence, and my parents’ and my existence can only be plotted in respect to each other on a time-like axis. Similarly, the plotting is one way; there is no way that I can marry any woman on the planet and produce either my father or my mother as offspring of our union. Even in physical space, that requires time-travel (cue the TARDIS brake sound effect!). Indeed, in information similarity space, my mother is free to marry any man she wishes, and she will often do so if for no other reason than that my father is inaccessible in her world, but any resulting offspring won’t be a copy of me. They’ll be at least as different from me as any half-brother or half sister.

So “ancestry” becomes a pretty good proxy for tracking a time-like dimension in this description, and gets better and better the more generations the trail of ancestry continues, simply because you can’t alter the identity of any generation much without shifting the information similarity coordinates of the variation by a lot (i.e., perpendicular to the ancestry dimension coordinate). The result is an “eternal family”, but it is very different than the ones most of us live in, or idealize, or theologize about (at least in Western civilizations). It is more like a vast web, reaching both forward and backward over cosmic scales, connecting to variants of more and more of us as individuals — and even to past and future ancestral and descendant species of humanity.

The web does not favor one sex over another. On average, any sample of the web will have as many patriarchs as matriarchs. Spouses will be of various races, so children will be of various races.  Some threads of the web will terminate in childlessness (including same-sex spouses, since even the most heterosexual of us are likely to have LGBT variants), or veer wildly horizontally into adoption. Some of our variants will choose to remain single and form closer bonds with friends or brothers and sisters than they would with spouses.  Similarly, all of us will have both heterosexual and LGBT children in our eternal families; deal with it! We will have no family members in heaven with whom our variants repeatedly destroy our relationships on earth.

The description that emphasizes the collective ensemble of what happens to our (and other entities) recurring copies and variants in the past, present, and future of space and time is the best description we can yet give of the spiritual realm, IMO. But the physical and the spiritual remain merely one inseparable reality that can be described in two surprisingly different ways.

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32 Responses to Remapping the Eternal Family

  1. Mike S on March 9, 2013 at 2:56 PM


    I enjoyed this post. I haven’t commented yet, because I’m still processing everything. I have studied widely over the past few years about quantum physics, string theory and multi-dimensionality, time (and the arrow of time), etc. You bring up some very interesting (and deep) points. I think reality is far more complex and engaging than what we typically think about.

    For example, something as “simple” as time. Does God even experience time? We teach that God is “timeless”, but what does that mean? Our scriptures talk about God “speaking” and choirs of angels singing around Him. But music is a temporal thing. It only exists when one note is placed before or after another. It is the same with speaking. So if time DOESN’T exist for God, how is there singing or talking.

    I don’t know the answer. And your post has opened up a whole other host of things to which I now don’t know the answer either, but had never really thought about the question. But this is the type of post I really like – not one with which I agree or disagree – but one that makes me think. So thank you.

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  2. dba.brotherp on March 10, 2013 at 9:25 AM

    FireTag, thanks for the post.

    A couple of years ago I watched the PBS series “Fabric of the Cosmos” and it blew my mind. I realized that things may not be the way I thought they were.

    Although, I am hesitant to accept that there are multiple copies of brotherp out there, your Cylon example made it a bit more palatable.

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  3. FireTag on March 10, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Thanks dba.brotherp (and Mike S, as well) for the comments. If you really are interested in the evidence for the physical copies, a good source of central links at all levels from popular to highly technical is the Universes of Max Tegmark site at MIT:

    There’s a FAQ list there that is helpful, but, as Tegmark is NOT the first to note, the existence of parallel universes and copies of brotherp is hard to avoid. Parallel universes in some form or other almost invariably pop out as predictions of every major theoretical contender as the correct cosmology (i.e., that is not already inconsistent with what our instruments can observe).

    Be gentle, though; in some of those parallel universes, your variant is busy trying to convince my variant that my variant has copies — including me.

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  4. Hedgehog on March 11, 2013 at 6:44 AM

    So, if I am understanding you correctly, the theory is that there are multiple versions of us, our families etc., but no ‘Spirit’ outside of those multiple versions?

    I think I’m still inclined to the simulation, but freedom of choice looking like an infinity of universes model, and a spirit with a separate existance outside that simulation.

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  5. FireTag on March 11, 2013 at 11:21 AM


    We might actually be on the same page; it depends on what you mean by “outside” versus what I mean by “collective”.

    An analogy I sometimes use is that “spirit is to person as mind is to neuron.” I use the analogy because there are two qualitatively different steps involved when you go from neuron to brain, and then from brain to mind. A lone neuron can’t be said to be associated with much of a mind; it takes a complex interaction of vast numbers of neurons, housed in the physical organ of the brain, for the mind to appear as the collective manifestation of all of those interactions. Without the brain, the mind can not be manifest. With the brain, the mind continues to evolve (progress?) even though individual neurons come, go, or change their connections. The mind is not “outside” the brain in any sense I can see. It is inseparable from the brain.

    Similarly, I see it taking a vast number of physical copies of us “persons” (brains and every other part of us that interacts with the physical world) for our spirits to be manifest. With these large number of copies/variants of our “person” found at every point of physical time, and recurring throughout time and space, the spirit continues to evolve (progress?) even though individual copies come, go, or change their connections. Our spirit is not “outside” the physical in any sense I can see, but it never HAS to be, even though an individual copy of a person may be born or die. The spirit and body (the soul in Mormon theology) are inseparable, existed from the beginning and will continue to do so.

    The copies DO have to interact with each other, however, which is why there does have to be a solution to the light cone limitation on information transfer through physical spacetime. Hence the remapping, so that “distances” of copies that need to interact are very different than in spacetime, something we see a hint of (with non-spiritual implications) in phenomena like “quantum entanglement”.

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  6. Hedgehog on March 12, 2013 at 3:18 AM

    I think I’m on the more prosaic side in this FireTag. In that I view the spirit person as an individual entity, and mortality as a simulation into which we are locked. In order for there to be agency, it certainly appears as though there are other universes, other copies of this ‘physical’ us, but as Spirits we are interacting with the one version during our mortal lives, and in every event or decision that occurs, we all of us pay those consequences (however intangible or otherwise) because we are all in the same universe.
    Which isn’t to say that, post-mortality, we don’t get to have a look at, or analyse and learn from, what could have happened, or what our experience could have been in other circumstances.
    I can sort of see, in the end, that might kind of add up to the same final result… But I’m not sure of the implications for agency in the way that you seem to be framing it.

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  7. FireTag on March 12, 2013 at 3:39 PM


    There are indeed implications for ideas of agency and free will (as well as many other theological issues which I haven’t tried to address in this post or even recognize yet in my own limited thinking). However, implications of some kind or other are unavoidable solely from the cosmological observations of PHYSICAL reality plus the assumption that SOME you has a spirit. The Hedgehog and FireTag having this conversation are not operating in any privileged place in spacetime. If our spirit is interacting with ONLY one copy of our physical bodies, wouldn’t that have the implication that there are infinite copies of our spirit as well? Or some of us are zombies who don’t know they’re zombies. Those would be different alternatives than I am suggesting, but they both would still have their own sets of implications for the idea of agency and/or freedom to choose outcomes.

    If everything that CAN physically happen DOES physically happen, with some probability, somewhere in space and time, which is what modern cosmology seems to be telling us, in what sense do we say we are free?

    At most, I have the freedom to decide which “me” makes a decision among an infinite, persistent ensemble of “me’s” that make exactly the same decision and an infinite, persistent ensemble of “me’s” that make the opposing decision. From the bird’s-eye view of God, absolutely nothing is changed by “my” decision except the spatial location where the particular decision is registered. To paraphrase something that science fiction master Robert Heinlein once wrote, “Every little neutron thinks it has the freedom to stay in its nucleus or to decay – but the atom bomb explodes anyway.”

    In one of his books, David Deutsch has pointed out that those aspects of freedom that allow me to choose actions that I do not wish to choose are useless –- quite literally –- because I will not use them. The only meaningful definition of freedom then, if it exists at all, is the ability to realize courses of action that are fully consistent with my own nature and desires. But this is precisely the aspect (and the only aspect) of freedom that is preserved in the multiverse. None of my variants are ever forced by the existence of other realities to choose anything they perceive as against their own nature or desires. The absence of freedom, and the futile nature of attempting to be anything but what we were “intended” to be, would be solely a “God’s-eye” phenomenon.

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  8. Hedgehog on March 13, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    #5, “Similarly, I see it taking a vast number of physical copies of us “persons” (brains and every other part of us that interacts with the physical world) for our spirits to be manifest. With these large number of copies/variants of our “person” found at every point of physical time, and recurring throughout time and space, the spirit continues to evolve (progress?) even though individual copies come, go, or change their connections. Our spirit is not “outside” the physical in any sense I can see, but it never HAS to be, even though an individual copy of a person may be born or die. The spirit and body (the soul in Mormon theology) are inseparable, existed from the beginning and will continue to do so.”

    I think I can be pretty clear that I disagree on this point (although it is certainly one way of looking at ideas of reincarnation). The connections between the different selves don’t seem to reach a point in which they will cohere in to a single complete spiritual entity, as you describe it.

    I do think the spirit is outside the multiverse, in the same way that an individual participating in a computer game is outside the game. I tend to view the alternate universes simply as things that were possible had the game gone that way. So to us, they look like they are there (but didn’t actually occur), in the same way that a computer game can go different ways, depending on what the participants decide to do, and the programme design has to be accommodating that.

    “The copies DO have to interact with each other, however, which is why there does have to be a solution to the light cone limitation on information transfer through physical spacetime. Hence the remapping, so that “distances” of copies that need to interact are very different than in spacetime, something we see a hint of (with non-spiritual implications) in phenomena like “quantum entanglement”.”

    I’m also having a hard time getting my head round the idea that decisions we make might be based (via some sort of quantum-style entanglement) on experiences our other selves might have had, but that we are not consciously aware of in this universe. (I am aware of research that shows that our conscious reasons for doing something are constructed after the decision event however…). Though I suppose our spiritual being may be capable of ‘playing several games’ simultaneously…

    #7 “If our spirit is interacting with ONLY one copy of our physical bodies, wouldn’t that have the implication that there are infinite copies of our spirit as well? Or some of us are zombies who don’t know they’re zombies.”

    I don’t think so, from a computer simulation perspective. I think there is some danger in supposing that what is observable to us (however esoteric the physics might be getting) is the only thing, and that there is nothing beyond that. It think there is something beyond that.

    I gather there are physicists looking for expected glitches in a simulated universe. I think it is possible we can experience glitches, without necessarily being aware of them. One tale that gets told in my family is about the cupboard and the kitchen counter, which happened to my grandparents. My grandfather wished to shorten the legs of a cupboard in order for it to fit under the counter in the kitchen. He measured everything. He shortened the legs of the cupboard by the required amount. The cupboard would not fit under the counter. My grandmother intervened before he shortened the legs further, and said that the problem may be that the cupboard does not yet know that it should now be able to fit under the counter. The tale goes, she gave the cupboard a good talking to, after which it did in fact fit under the counter. So, the way I look at this, do we have sentient cupboards? Or do we have a programme that was little slow to update?

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  9. Justin on March 13, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    I’m not usually a fan of comments that just say: “Don’t have much to add, but I wanted to say that I liked this post” — but,

    I don’t have much to add, other than to say that I liked this post.

    I do think that understanding a given cultural context’s cosmology is key in understanding the word of God that was given to them [like the Hebrew’s flat Earth with vaulting sky-dome, etc.].

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  10. Douglas on March 13, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    Anyone want to speculate on Founder Effect and Genetic Bottlenecking and how it affects Adam’s posterity?

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  11. Justin on March 13, 2013 at 10:33 AM


    Are you referring to the fact that mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam lived thousands of years apart and lived in geographically distinct locations?

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  12. FireTag on March 13, 2013 at 12:43 PM


    The inherent assumption I still see in your explanation is that you and I are physically what happens in the simulation, but that all the other alternatives of us are “non-player characters” (zombies — the dead who appear alive). I suppose this would be a bad time to confess that I am such a zombie, or to question if I’m talking to one. :D

    I’ll borrow a little more from QM to expand the explanation. An electron is ALWAYS both a particle and a wave, even though particles and waves are conceptually contradictory entities. There is always a law that allows you to relate your probability of observing a particular “particle property” (such as spatial location) to the overall wave, but the particle state stays “real” even in a non-multiverse (Copenhagen) interpretation of QM ONLY until the next observation by ANYONE.

    Those other copies of us may not be interacting with us, but they are certainly interacting with other parts of their region of spacetime, so there is nothing that makes us the “real” outcome on any cosmic scale.

    Furthermore, suppose we could see from a God’s-eye view all of the possible copies of “us” and plot the probability of finding a copy at a particular point along the info similarity axis. We’d look like a waveform just like an electron does.

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  13. Douglas on March 13, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    #11 – decidedly NEITHER, and either person as the role of “Adam” and/or “Eve”, respectively, is neither conclusive nor a scientific “fact”.
    What I’m alluding to is, if we accept Archbishop Usher’s chronology (I don’t strictly), is that virtually all the human history has occurred in some six thousand years. This includes a wide variety of racial and/or genetic types, languages, and cultures, which does not empirically seem reasonable in the given time frame. Now, I don’t doubt the veracity of the Bible (it’s not a history book or an anthropological treatise anyway) but either there were, as Joseph Smith would have said, “many plain and precious things removed from it”, or there was some manner of intervention which made the human family as diverse as it is. I don’t really have a conclusion, just pointing out the obvious which can’t be resolved by mere reference to scripture.

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  14. FireTag on March 13, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Douglas and Justin:

    There were huge founder effects when humanity first crossed a species boundary, however instantaneously or gradually we picture that happening. The different eras in which all but one of our parental male line and female lines died out support that interpretation.

    In the remapping picture, that means that a point of speciation can shift things on the “horizontal” axis a lot compared to the average shift from generation to generation.

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  15. FireTag on March 13, 2013 at 1:06 PM


    Now having seen 13, I’d note that the mitochondrial and chromosome data point to a NARROWING of the remapped Homo Sapiens eternal family, as more and more branches of related previous species ended without surviving offspring able to reproduce, until our species began its own “dominion” over the earth.

    I personally see no reason theologically, and certainly not scientifically, to defend something like 6 K years in Usher’s chronology. At some point on earth, life on earth could not conceive of God; now some of it can. We crossed a boundary somewhere, but I can always be comfortable with new data about when the boundary was and how it was crossed.

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  16. Hedgehog on March 13, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    I admit now this is all going beyond my competence in physics, and I do find your perspective to be interesting, but I still maintain no zombies in the simulation. So, sure it all exists as probability, but whether it is our spirit interaction with the programme that collapses the wave with each decision/act … or God observing (and I’d say that observation is constant and continual) and recording our choices that collapse that wave…
    But, as I see it no zombies from the outside (or have I just misunderstood your previous comment?).

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  17. FireTag on March 13, 2013 at 3:47 PM


    I always appreciate discussions with you, so I’ll try to be a little clearer.

    No interpretation of quantum mechanics that I can recall at the moment would permit wave function collapse to occur outside of the light cone if the interaction occurs THROUGH space and time. Even in the “many worlds” (Everett) interpretation that says reality SPLITS into separate universes in which event and observer are themselves immediately entangled in a single wave function, the rip into separate realities itself only propagates at light speed.

    Entanglement between physical particles CAN act outside the light cone; it is the proverbial “spooky action at a distance” that so bothered Einstein, but there is too much evidence (to go into here) that entanglement is a real phenomenon which is fundamental to the laws of QM themselves.

    So, in describing the wave function in info similarity space, I may be confusing things for the reader. I’m saying don’t be surprised to see things that look LIKE phenomena in QM in both mappings of reality, because each mapping should be equally rich in phenomena.

    But the copies of you or me scattered throughout spacetime have never been in physical causal contact. Wavefunction collapse can not make them vanish from PHYSICAL space into unrealized possibilities. Whatever laws that govern their interactions with each other are independent of the laws that govern physical space, even if the laws that do govern them turn out to look like analogues of physical laws with which we are more familiar.

    Either zombies are forbidden, or it is overwhelmingly likely that you or I are both zombies. If we perceive ourselves as interacting with the spiritual, that perception is no more or less likely to be real than the perception of all the copies. If my spirit or your spirit only relates to one physical copy, it is overwhelming odds that we are NOT the lucky copies. :D

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  18. LDS Anarchist on March 13, 2013 at 4:45 PM


    I skipped over this post for a variety of reasons but when I saw Justin’s comment in #9 I was reminded of a friend I use to have who would always try to get me to look at this or that topic to get my take on it, but as the topics never interested me, I always refused to look. Then one day he cornered me and somehow got me to commit to giving the data a looksie, and I’m glad that he kept insisting because I ended up getting new insights. So, after reading Justin’s comment, I thought of him, and said, “Fine, I’ll look.”

    Anyway, I’m still working through the post and when I got to this sentence

    Indeed, when we add in another pillar of modern cosmology, quantum mechanics, copies aren’t just permitted in an infinite physical universe, they are required!

    my mind shot out, “Well, then quantum mechanics is wrong, for there are no copies in the Universe!”

    Now, that is a new insight for me so even if the rest of the post doesn’t stimulate my brain anymore, this part has. Is this thought right or wrong? Again, my mind says, “It’s right.” How does my mind explain the “copies”? It just replies, “Go smaller.”

    I would unfold that by saying, “No two electrons are exactly alike. They look alike, but in actually, they are totally distinct. You must look smaller, then the individuality comes out and then it will be shown that of all the fundamental things that make up the Universe, no two are alike. Thus, there are no copies.”

    Now, you can take that as you will, or cast it out as impossible nonsense, but its very impossibility shows that it is true. (And I won’t explain why that is.)

    [This comment has been me thinking out loud and using your post to record a thought, so it’s probably best to just ignore it. Just know that I’ve taken some benefit from what you’ve written.]

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  19. FireTag on March 13, 2013 at 5:26 PM

    LDS Anarchist:

    What happens at sub-quantum scales is an issue that current physics can’t resolve for the PHYSICAL universe, which is why I said that at finer and finer scales, things became strange and foam-like and you needed more and more dimensions to track the differences.

    How this corresponds to the spiritual realm I can’t say, because I’m only looking to apply 21st Century cosmology to interpret the early Restoration teachings. So, if you wish, interpret my use of the term “copies” to mean “exact duplicates to within any degree of resolution of which we are yet capable”.

    Part of the problem, however, has to do with the fact that at very small scales, mathematics itself seems to change in profound ways. Single numbers seem to start to behave as if they are arrays of numbers. There are also indications that there is a minimum length, such that if you try to look at finer and finer scales, you reach a point where things seem to get larger and larger (an analogy to the situation where you keep getting closer to the north pole until you get there and suddenly find yourself traveling south whether you want to or not).

    I’m not claiming any final answers here. Reality is greater than we suppose; as someone (Haldane?) said, it may be greater than we CAN suppose.

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  20. LDS Anarchist on March 13, 2013 at 10:55 PM

    So, if you wish, interpret my use of the term “copies” to mean “exact duplicates to within any degree of resolution of which we are yet capable”.

    Yeah, my brain likes that better.

    How this corresponds to the spiritual realm I can’t say, because I’m only looking to apply 21st Century cosmology to interpret the early Restoration teachings.

    I don’t know much about CoC theology, so maybe this doesn’t apply to your church, but D&C 131 comes to mind, about all spirit being matter. Have you taken that into account (if it applies to your theology)?

    Part of the problem, however, has to do with the fact that at very small scales, mathematics itself seems to change in profound ways.

    This reminds me of the primes problem, which deals with the other direction, really large numbers. Have you ever read James McCanney’s Calculate Primes book, which allows a person to calculate the next prime number, showing an order to the apparent randomness? It’s very clever. But it shows a defect in our mathematical understandings. I wonder if the same applies (defects) to our understanding of small numbers.

    Finally, I’ll take a moment to elaborate on that previous thought of mine, that at the fundamental (smallest) level, everything is unique.

    A curious thing about the word of God (and it depends which canon we’re talking about, but for this comment I’m referring to the LDS canon) is that the heavens weep over lost souls. If things at the fundamental level are identical, then the loss of fundamental bits is not really a loss, because there is always (and always will be) more identical stuff to take its place. If you’ve got an ocean of water (and can create more at any time) and you lose a cupful, most people would not weep. Its loss simply does not affect you.

    But if every bit of water in your ocean is unique, then every bit of it becomes precious in your sight and needed for your “collection” to be complete. Now, let’s say you lose a cupful, which, mind you, is totally unique. There will never be another cupful quite like that one. What do you do? You weep over your loss.

    God weeps over lost souls. If we say He weeps only because of the misery of the soul itself (the soul’s loss) and not for His own loss, then it’s possible to conceive of identical fundamental bits and we can say that cloning is a fundamental principle of nature. We are all, then, at the fundamental level, a clone. But if God also weeps for His own loss, then He must be dealing with unique bits. Which must indicate that there’s no such thing as a clone, only things that resemble each other at low resolutions.

    (Of course, God never really loses anything, but that’s another topic. And that topic itself also testifies that we are talking of unique bits, otherwise He would just cut His “losses” and move on.)

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  21. Hedgehog on March 14, 2013 at 2:26 AM

    #17, Thanks for the explanation, still thinking it through.

    So, would it be better to say that any zombies, as so defined, are not conscious, and because ‘we’ are conscious, and having this conversation, we can’t be the zombie version? To what extent does your model say anything about the mental state (as opposed to the acts) of the copies?

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  22. FireTag on March 14, 2013 at 11:04 AM


    I’m convinced of my own consciousness and of my interaction with my own spirit. (A secularist would probably be convinced of the former, but might doubt the latter.) But I have to infer YOUR consciousness and YOUR interaction with YOUR spirit on the basis that I’m probably not privileged to be the only conscious “actual” person in a world filled with zombies. And the same is true for you making inferences about me, while able to EXPERIENCE only your own consciousness directly.

    So, you and I are probably not privileged to be the only conscious copies or variants of us in an infinite space. Whatever consciousness is, you have to infer its presence in others. There is nothing different about that if the “others” are outside our light cone, but are copies of someone inside our light cone.

    I don’t think there are zombie versions at all.

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  23. FireTag on March 14, 2013 at 11:33 AM

    LDS Anarchist:

    Your D&D 131 is an 1843 experience and so postdates the theological split between the LDS and RLDS. It is not part of our canon, but we would share earlier declarations that matter and spirit are inseparable. More specifically, we would NOT be quite so literal in assuming that spirit is fundamentally made of matter. To us, it would be more like: (spirit < --> matter) on an equal basis.

    The structure of primes is a very deep part of mathematics, but I’ve not pursued it much except to follow occasional headlines as new theorems are proven.

    I think the “loss of a soul” means something different when we look at the spiritual in the way I’m suggesting in the post. If “the spirit and the body are the soul of man”, the loss of a spirit when there are infinite copies of the physical body takes a lot more than the loss of a single copy/variant. God weeps when the losses to a spirit become very severe because so many variants are being self-destructive. On the other hand, I think He expects we’re going to have variants that make self-destructive mistakes as part of the development of our spirits. The heavens probably don’t weep over those much, any more than I lose it over a paper cut.

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  24. LDS Anarchist on March 14, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    The Wikipedia says this about snowflakes:

    A snowflake is either a single ice crystal or an aggregation of ice crystals which falls through the Earth’s atmosphere. They begin as snow crystals which develop when microscopic supercooled cloud droplets freeze. Snowflakes come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Complex shapes emerge as the flake moves through differing temperature and humidity regimes, such that individual snowflakes are nearly unique in structure….

    It is unlikely that any two snowflakes are alike due to the estimated 10 quintillion water molecules which make up a typical snowflake, which grow at different rates and in different patterns depending on the changing temperature and humidity within the atmosphere that the snowflake falls through on its way to the ground….

    Snowflakes form in a wide variety of intricate shapes, leading to the popular expression that “no two are alike”. Although possible, it is very unlikely for any two randomly selected snowflakes to appear exactly alike due to the many changes in temperature and humidity the crystal experiences during its fall to earth.[

    But that shouldn’t apply to a “fundamental bit” because it wouldn’t be an aggregate of smaller particles. Nevertheless (and I expect Justin to understand this next part, but others I’m not so sure), when we come into existence, or come into awareness of existence, it is done by noticing light. Because each bit comes into existence along the perimeter of the sphere of light, and that sphere is constantly expanding, what it sees when it first looks will be different than what any other bits first see when they come into existence and will be from a unique vantage point, for no other bit will have come into existence precisely at that location and will see precisely that view of the universe.

    And so the light may make an initial impression upon that bit, a sort of holographic recording or “universal stamp,” giving it its forever uniqueness.

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  25. LDS Anarchist on March 15, 2013 at 9:57 PM


    I’m still working my way through this post and I’d like to ask you about the copies and doppelgangers idea, upon which much (perhaps all, for I still haven’t read the entire thing) of this post is based, whether the concept of copies, doppelgangers or even just very close variants applies to Christ. In other words, would you say that God the Father has other doppelganger Christs who are His children, just as there are doppelganger you’s and me’s? I’m curious if you’ve taken that into consideration.

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  26. LDS Anarchist on March 15, 2013 at 10:32 PM


    One more question.

    You stated in #5, “The spirit and body (the soul in Mormon theology) are inseparable, existed from the beginning and will continue to do so.” You also stated in #23, “Your D&D 131 is an 1843 experience and so postdates the theological split between the LDS and RLDS. It is not part of our canon, but we would share earlier declarations that matter and spirit are inseparable.”

    Where are you getting this idea that the spirit and body are inseparable? The only thing I find in the LDS canon is the following:

    For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy. (D&C 93:33-34)

    Is this your source, or is there another?

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  27. FireTag on March 15, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    LDS Anarchist:

    The answer to comment 26 is yes, although our numbering of sections is different than yours (the Wikipedia article on the D&C has a comparative chart on the section numbers) and we have paragraphs and sub-paragraphs rather than verses within the sections, so it’s hard to cross-reference. However, I believe our corresponding Section is 85 if memory serves, and much of the entire section is relevant.

    Notice that we would now read this modernly as elements = physical = matter/energy.

    The responses I would make to comments 24 and 25 are related, and they both have to do with what happens in particular mathematical limits of what the OP describes

    I’d like to postpone those responses until tomorrow, because it’s getting late for coherent thinking here on the US East Coast.

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  28. LDS Anarchist on March 16, 2013 at 2:05 AM

    The responses I would make to comments 24 and 25 are related, and they both have to do with what happens in particular mathematical limits of what the OP describes

    Right, the foam. I finally read it all. As for the Christ question, I’ll look for it tomorrow. Btw, I found this:

    [Sec 90:5e] The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receiveth a fullness of joy; and when separated, man cannot receive a fullness of joy.

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  29. FireTag on March 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

    LDS Anarchist (Re comment 25):

    First, thank you for correcting my faulty memory. Your D&C 93 corresponds to our Section 90. Our 85 corresponds to your D&C 88. It’s good to correct that now, because your D&C 93: 6-18 will play an important part in framing my answer to your inquiry.

    The RLDS/CofChrist tradition accepts the Trinitarian view of the Godhead. (I’m personally more drawn to the “binitarian” view more common in Eastern Orthodoxy, but that does not impact the view of the relationship of God and Jesus, which is the issue here.) We would treat the experiences of the first vision or the Brother of Jared as implying that Divinity “takes on” whatever form it needs to in order to communicate with finite creatures like us, and we would not infer that the forms Divinity assumes are Divinity’s only “natural” forms. For example, we would say that God took on the form of a burning bush in order to communicate with Moses, but we would not thereby infer that God’s natural form was only plant-like.

    God the Father and God the Son in the Trinitarian view shared by broad sections of Christianity are different aspects of a single God, who is both “utterly Other” and “with us” in a Mysterious way. Now, if I wed this view to the notion of the inseparability of spirit and element, I can’t get comfortable with a notion of a God who is EITHER always “outside” reality (panentheism) or confined “inside” reality by laws that are “outside” His own nature. So I personally end up with a notion that God is “coincident” with all natural law.

    (As I wrote in comment 7, the notion of free will and agency, IMO, only becomes FULLY meaningful when we discuss the limit of being bound by nothing outside our own nature. God is always bound by nothing outside of His nature because there IS nothing outside His nature.)

    The Tegmark link in comment 3 itself has a link to the idea of a “Level IV Multiverse” in which entirely different aspects of mathematics produce multiverses with entirely different sets of physical laws, so that neither spacetime nor information similarity mappings are particularly useful descriptions. Poetically speaking, there may be realms of nature where mercy does flow like a river, while justice is harder than steel. I believe God to be “big enough” to encompass all that there may turn out to be, even if access to some of those realms is limited to entities human minds can’t even imagine.

    So, let me get back to the two mappings of the OP from the viewpoint of a Trinitarian. In either mapping, God will permeate the entire framework and be more identifiable with the framework itself than with any event/law/entity within the system. In our common Restoration theology, Christ is identified as intimately related to the creation of ALL of the worlds and the persons therein. So I find it useful to picture the “impersonal” aspects of reality as manifestations of the “otherness” of God the Father, and the “personal” aspects of reality as manifestations of God the Son, even though I perceive the Father and Son as aspects of a single Divinity like any good little Trinitarian. God and Christ – personal and impersonal – are everywhere.

    But, like all Trinitarians, I’m still left to struggle with the issue of the relationship between this “Cosmic Christ” and the human Jesus. However, in Restoration theology, Jesus, in the words of 93:12-15:

    12 And I, John, saw that he received not of the fullness at the first, but received grace for grace;
    13 And he received not of the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fullness;
    14 And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fullness at the first.
    15 And I, John bear record, and lo, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove, and sat upon him, and there came a voice out of heaven saying: This is my beloved Son.

    That raises some immediate interesting questions. What was the relationship of Jesus to Christ in verse 12 as opposed to verse 15? What happens if Jesus doesn’t continue “from grace to grace”? Does everything in the plan of salvation crash and burn? Or does the cosmic Christ manifest instead as some “fisherman’s son” or some other person who might not even get named Jesus but who DOES continue “from grace to grace” so that the critical role in human history does get filled?

    I suspect it’s the latter. But it was Jesus within our light cones, even if it’s some other manifestation of Christ elsewhere in spacetime. I would note that, since Jesus clearly affects an amazing amount of history, any non-Jesus who is the Christ is a long way away in information similarity space from any variant of you or me that I can easily imagine.

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  30. Justin on March 18, 2013 at 11:57 AM


    I think what LDSA was saying at the end of #24 (which he mentioned only I would potentially understand , and which I do BTW) is that with scientific reductionism — it’s assumed that the more that microreductions take place, the more we will find that things are similar. That as we get further and further “down”, into the realm of particle physics — all things (human, vegetable, bacteria, or mineral) start looking more and more the same.

    Whereas, theologically, we would hold that (to God) every vibration in a quantum field has a discernible “uniqueness” to Him. (LDSA can correct me if that’s an unfair re-presentation of what he was saying).

    In any event — with this “information similarity” axis:

    * At what level do you define there to be sufficient % similarity with another event to call that a “clone”? (Can tmy clone be a female? Non-homo sapiens hominid? etc.)
    * How does this work when we reduce scale to the extent of the quarks and electrons — where the particles appear absolutely identical?

    I mean, I think I can appreciate how this connects “events” (used loosely to refer to even human beings as “events”) causally across seemingly unconnected areas of the light-cone — but how do these particulars I’ve mentioned fit in?

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  31. FireTag on March 19, 2013 at 11:23 PM


    I apologize for being so slow to get to this. I thought LDS Anarchist had answered his own question in 24 to his satisfaction and didn’t respond specifically.

    The degree of similarity between a “copy” and a “variant” is intentionally fuzzy, as is the scale of spacetime over which universes can be considered to be copies, variants, or dissimilar, because it’s all a matter of what you want to look at. By the time we get up in scale to people, let alone planets, it all comes out in the wash.

    The reason is that the NATURAL scale of quantum spacetime is the Planck scale. A “pixel” of spacetime would occupy a 4D volume equal the Planck length cubed x the Planck time. There are on the order of 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Planck times PER SECOND.

    So, whatever standard you wish to pick for a region of spacetime to be the SAME as another region of spacetime, if there is anything complex in the regions, they are a LONG, LONG way apart in spacetime.

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  32. Remembering FireTag | Wheat and Tares on September 7, 2013 at 7:50 AM

    […] Andrew S: While some of my co-bloggers had been able to meet up with Darryl, one of my regrets is that I had not. Although I didn’t have the pleasure (as Mormon Heretic describes) of helping Darryl begin The Fire Still Burning or create a Facebook account, Darryl’s blog was one of the first I read and subscribed to when I was discovering blogs. In my process of discovering the other niches within the Latter Day Saint movement (both within and without the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), Darryl’s posts definitely fleshed out the Community of Christ/RLDS Church’s very personality (one recent favorite post was his World/USA Conference After-Action Report). And while I didn’t necessarily agree with (or fully…comprehend) some of Darryl’s political posts, they were of such a quality and caliber and raised points putting issues in international perspective (such as There are Wars and There are WARS) that I knew they had to be considered, carefully chewed, and digested. But speaking of posts to be carefully chewed and digested…Darryl was always at his best when he updated the theologies and cosmologies of yesteryear with the physics and theories of today — definitely check out Remapping the Eternal Family.  […]

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