How to counter "energy can't be destroyed."

I have a friend who’s Wiccan. I’ve argued the historical legitimacy of the religion, the lack of scientific evidence for basically anything having to do with the faith, but I’m lost for a response when she starts talking about reincarnation.

Simply, her explanation is “well, energy can’t be destroyed. It’s got to go somewhere.” I know that this isn’t how it works. Energy can’t be destroyed, but there is no such thing as a “life force” or “life energy.” If it exists it can’t be destroyed to begin with.

Can someone help me put this more eloquently? This is one of the last things she’s holding onto and I feel if I can cleanly put this part of it to rest she’ll have to admit that she’s believing for other reasons than truth.

Sorry if this is the wrong forum for this.

And in case anyone starts going down that road, no, I’m not going around trying to force people into uncomfortable positions. This is an ongoing discussion of ours- if she felt uncomfortable talking about it, as a friend I would stop.

Energy can’t be destroyed. But information can be, and processes even more so. And those are what make us people. Even assuming there was some sort of life energy, that wouldn’t make you any more immortal or lead to reincarnation. After all, body heat and bio-electricity are energy too, and they dissipate just fine.

It’s not energy, but information and the processing of information that makes us what we are. Memory and thought. Destroying that pattern, that information destroys you, regardless of the survival of the energy or matter it is made out of.

It’s impossible to destroy matter, too. We are each unique snow flakes, and when you die, you melt. Your pattern is gone. You are no longer who you were, you’re a pile of… Not you.

Where does the energy in a light bulb go when you turn it off? To get reincarnated into another light bulb? What energy was created/changed form dissapates once the source is gone. So too with a functioning body.

Missed my edit window (obviously) but I meant to say “if it doesn’t exist it can’t be destroyed to begin with.”

When physicists use the word “energy” in describing conservation of energy, they are using technical jargon. Although there is of course an analogy, this does not mean the same thing as the ordinary language word “energy”, and it is a mistake to conflate the two. Your friend is making that mistake. Stress this to her.

Alternatively:
Alright, energy can’t be destroyed, but you know, energy can’t be created either. Yet there are billions more people alive now then in the past. Where’d all that energy come from? And why can’t energy return to it when they die, instead of to other people?

Continuing in this vein:
Why does energy have to go from living people to living people? And in what sense does this make them reincarnations of each other? If I speak to you, the energy of my voice is transmitted into soundwaves which impact upon your eardrums; energy has transferred from me to you. Does that make you my reincarnation? Heat emanates out of my body and eventually into space. Does this mean I am losing vital bits of my soul to the abyss?

“Energy” when that term is used by physicists has a very specific meaning. Energy is required to do work, and work is defined IIRC as the product of applied force over a distance. It is when one is applying this very closely defined physics definition of energy that it is true to say that energy can’t be destroyed.

Your friend (in common with other new agey types) uses the word “energy” in a way different to physicists. She doesn’t understand this, so she thinks she can go from her definition of energy (which I doubt she could even begin to enunciate in a way that meant anything) to a conclusion using a law that is only true when using a very close definition of “energy” that she isn’t using.

Hey, no fair! I made that point first! :slight_smile:

Well, the idea is equally valid even if the source is indistinguishable.

Why, may I ask, is it valid?

Heh. **Robot Arm **he make a joke: he means that the point made by **Indistinguishable **and myself is valid, even if you can’t distinguish the source of the point. Indistinguishable. Geddit?

Why do you feel the need to challenge her faith? Her belief does no harm to you, let her then do as she will.

Yes. Thank you for not using the phrase “lead balloon” in your description.

So if you crack your head and get amnesia, are you still “you”?

Because they are having an ongoing discussion. They like to debate such issues.

Where I am from, we call it ‘building’ and it is not only fun, but it challenges us to open our minds, defend our ideas and learn something. Getting ‘proven’ wrong is something to be celebrated. Seriously, it really is. (building is actually a two part event…we are supposed to be ‘building/destroying’).

He actually answered your question in the OP, though.

Clockwork, I like all of the answers here, but I like Senorbeef’s the most. I have never known how to answer that question either.

One thing that blew my mind when I first learned about it: the conservation of energy (the fact that energy can neither be created nor destroyed) is just another way of saying that the laws of physics don’t change over time. Cite.

Eh. Maybe so. Still counts as damned rude in my book.

No, you are gone or “shut off”, to a degree depending on how severe and permanent the amnesia is.

There’s nothing “damned rude” about challenging someones beliefs in the context of a discussion; is everyone supposed to be a yes-(wo)man?. Nor is refusing to do so a nice thing to do.

I know people like to put it like that, but isn’t it slightly misleading? I mean, one could imagine any number of possible “laws of physics” invariant over time which would be compatible with a lack of conservation of energy. It’s only when laws of physics are assumed to be describable in the Lagrangian/Hamiltonian style that the symmetries produce associated conservations, isn’t it?

Thanks for all your help, guys. I’m not going to be using these ideas verbatim, but it’ll definitely help. Let’s just hope she doesn’t bring up those magnetic fields again… :stuck_out_tongue: