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Last updated on June 15th, 2017 at 11:55 am

Phillip Adams writes:

Readers warn there are no atheists in a foxhole and you’ll sing a different song on your deathbed, or like Voltaire, you’ll be a last-minute convert. But when near death, I’ve maintained my cheerful belief in a meaningless universe. And I’ve learned that the opposite is often true, that true believers can die badly, their tenuous faith evaporating.

I’ve seen it happen, sadly and suddenly, to close friends who’d passionately argued for an afterlife. One, a scientist, had written bestsellers arguing that modern physics endorsed immortality. On his deathbed he bitterly begged me to stop publication of his final book.

Hal G.P. Colebatch is sceptical: “There aren’t many scientists who write bestsellers on this subject. In fact in Australia I can’t think of any. Perhaps Phillip could identify him.”

Posted by Tim B. on 04/26/2005 at 01:09 PM
    1. There is no reliable evidence that Voltaire was a deathbed convert, though under pressure from a priest to renounce Satan he is supposed to have responded: “This is no time for making enemies”.

      Posted by rexie on 04/26 at 01:21 PM • permalink


    1. I’ve often thought that the worst death would be one in which you realize in your last moments that your whole life was wasted.  Mr. Adams will someday have the chance to find out, I’m sure.

      Posted by RebeccaH on 04/26 at 02:07 PM • permalink


    1. I’ve seen it happen, sadly and suddenly, to close friends …Hal G.P. Colebatch is sceptical.

      Ok, Ok, technically he wasn’t there to witness it per se.  But it must have happened sometime somewhere.  Why let something mundane and petty like facts get in the way of a great column.

      Posted by wronwright on 04/26 at 02:25 PM • permalink


    1. Googling “modern physics immortality australia”–long-shot, anyway–takes you to some really scary websites. A whole bunch of them.

      Posted by m on 04/26 at 02:49 PM • permalink


    1. I dunno what Adams’ problem is with death. Writing like his tells me he’s been brain dead for years.

      Posted by Gary from Jersey on 04/26 at 02:51 PM • permalink


    1. While I’m basically areligious, given that Phat Phil believes “in a meaningless universe” why shouldn’t he make stuff up?  It’s meaningless.  Of course, then so is his thinking and his writing and his total existence, but, then, I’m afraid that would be the case even if he were religious and believed in a meaningful universe.

      Posted by JorgXMcKie on 04/26 at 03:29 PM • permalink


    1. There is a fairly well known book called “The Physics of Immortality”.  Of course, the author isn’t dead.  Or Australian.  And he isn’t talking about an afterlife.  Anyhow, terrible book.

      Posted by jlyoder on 04/26 at 04:44 PM • permalink


    1. I think I know who it might it might be but the identity escapes me.  Only reason I think I know is because some years back Adams was associated with a scientist who wrote something about the afterlife etc (as alluded above) and I bought the book.

      But I am not travelling 3000 km just to be able to say “ahah”.

      Rainney ? D Rainney or a similar name could be the scientist PA subject of PA’s writings.

      Posted by Louis on 04/26 at 05:49 PM • permalink


    1. Accepting Pascal’s Wager is not a bad way to live your life.  And at the end, either you get to laugh about the payoff or no one complains…

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 04/26 at 06:41 PM • permalink


    1. Although, to be honest, my brushes with death have in fact been religious experiences, if one counts the Blasphemer’s Prayer.  You know, the one that goes “Oh, Jesus, oh, shit, oh, Jesus, oh, shit..,” (repeat as circumstances warrant)

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 04/26 at 06:43 PM • permalink


    1. There is nothing more contemptible than someone who quotes an unverifiable deathbed statement that utterly contradicts the deceased’s life work.  Philco is not only bulky, overpriced and out of date, he is now morally reprehensible as well.

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 04/26 at 06:58 PM • permalink


    1. Is there any particular reason Phillip Adams is a paid columnist besides the fact that he’s very very good at presenting his own idiotic opinions as fact?

      The man simply cannot write worth a damn. Reading one of his rapes of the English language and the written word as a whole is more maddening than the stupidity and ignorance contained within them.

      He rambles on, takes a few usually completely inaccurate swipes at the US, and then proceeds to tell us all how the US is taking over, how we’re going to lose in Iraq, blah blah blah, and Australia is doomed to fall as well because the politicians have no balls.

      Say it isn’t so, Phillip! Australian cinema has almost been destroyed by the American imperialist celluloid machine!

      This is clearly a subject of great relevance and is the final nail in the coffin of concluding that the United States is simply a nasty little place over the great big ocean where smelly ignorant people who like to blow things up live.

      And Jews! Jews live there. And Republicans. Filthy rich Republicans. Jews, Republicans, and the stupid masses they send off to fight their wars for oil.

      See? Anyone can write a Phillip Adams column, and in only two paragraphs. I think I’ll try to get a job at the Australian. Think of all the server space / newsprint they’ll save!

      Posted by Chaos on 04/26 at 06:59 PM • permalink


    1. What exactly were Philco’s brushes with death, chicken bones and cholesterol aside?

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 04/26 at 07:23 PM • permalink


    1. Who the hell knows? I would imagine that living in a polluted capitalist hellhole like Australia must be – after all, those poor Aussies have that nasty Bush-loving Howard ruling them – can’t be good for one’s health.

      Posted by Chaos on 04/26 at 07:27 PM • permalink


    1. Wouldn’t modern physics be more likely to endorse immorality?

      Posted by Matt Moore on 04/26 at 08:01 PM • permalink


    1. Aha

      Daryl Rainney is the name you want Tim, or Hal for that matter.

      Posted by Louis on 04/26 at 08:12 PM • permalink


    1. Not turning up anything on Google, Louis. That spelling correct?

      Posted by Tim B. on 04/26 at 09:16 PM • permalink


    1. Phillip Adams and “cheerful belief” go together like Phillip Adams and ripped abs.

      Posted by Hanyu on 04/26 at 09:34 PM • permalink


    1. Tim,

      Probably not – “Rainney” wrote a book about the afterlife and I recall he was a physicist. He was also a devout Christian, which made the association with PA all the more interesting.

      He also died some time ago. Relying all on memory at the moment.

      The book title is on the tip of my tongue, sort of……

      Posted by Louis on 04/26 at 09:35 PM • permalink


    1. Phil has no idea.  My uncle is a priest who is there at the point of death for many people.  He said that those who believed in an afterlife were more at peace when they died than non believers.
      Anyway I would prefer to live an optomitist, if I’m wrong I’ll never know, than to live a pessimist and when I die I find out that I did have something good to look forward to.  Life wasted.

      Posted by youngy on 04/26 at 10:44 PM • permalink


    1. Youngy — That’s basically Pascal’s Wager

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 04/26 at 11:58 PM • permalink


    1. Philly’s near death experience may have been when he went under the knife to have his stomach stapled, he had been overly self medicating on cream buns.

      His cheerful belief in a meaningless universe is a cop out, unlike us plebs when proved wrong he cant cop it sweet and get on with it he blames the world.

      Posted by rog2 on 04/27 at 12:26 AM • permalink


    1. Didn’t some work of fiction feature someone who used Pascal’s Wager being surrounded by various gods, one of whom said: “…and now we’ll show you what we do to smartasses.” or similar? 😉

      Posted by Patrick Chester on 04/27 at 12:29 AM • permalink


    1. Louis, even if somebody with a name like “Rainey” wrote a book on the afterlife, which no-one can now find, was it, as Phatty states, a “bestseller”? In fact he claims this unnamed person wrote “bestsellers” plural!

      Posted by Susan Norton on 04/27 at 02:16 AM • permalink


    1. “Bestseller” might mean his best seller ie last one sold 5, this one sold 10 (thats ‘cause I marked it down to 10c plus 3 cream buns)

      Posted by rog2 on 04/27 at 02:44 AM • permalink


    1. does this means Phil is close to death?


      Posted by Astonished on 04/27 at 03:16 AM • permalink


    1. Death is as close as the next cream bun!

      Posted by rog2 on 04/27 at 05:08 AM • permalink


    1. There is a fairly well known book called “The Physics of Immortality”.  Of course, the author isn’t dead.  Or Australian.  And he isn’t talking about an afterlife.  Anyhow, terrible book.

      Posted by jlyoder

      Well, other than that, you have to admit he got his facts right.

      Posted by ErnieG on 04/27 at 06:19 AM • permalink


    1. Susan,

      Quite – though you must remember I am relying on memory, though I know I have the book in my library in Sydney, and I am in Perth.

      As for PA’s best seller etc, claim etc, yes, I would hardly regard that book as a best seller, though I made a small contribution to its sales. (I even bought one of Bob Ellis’ books, just to make sure his critics were right, which they were).

      Adams was publicly associated with two scientists, the mysterious one subject here, and Paul Davies, of like inclination politically to PA.

      I will contact Sydney tomorrow and see if the book can be located in my library – though I would search for alternative spellings of the phonetic “Rainney”. I even the book being reviewed in the OZ I think, or was it the SMH, which prompted me to buy it in the first place.

      Alternative spellings could be Reyney, but the phonetics remain somewhat etched in my memory.

      Posted by Louis on 04/27 at 06:57 AM • permalink


    1. As for the rest of the interesting comments, we die everytime we sleep.  When we awake the following morning, our memories take over. Again.

      The physical stuff which forms our bodies remains – this life, the past and the future.

      When you sleep, where do you go? or do you cease to exist……..


      Posted by Louis on 04/27 at 08:40 AM • permalink


    1. Louis,

      Please don’t bother just for li’l ol’ me.

      Posted by Susan Norton on 04/27 at 09:04 AM • permalink


    1. It seems amazing how Bob Ellis mentioned some purported physicist who wrote a best seller and people in Australia, the US, Great Britan, Canada and elsewhere are trying to figure out just who that could be.  A lot of intelligence is being harnessed here.  Hence, the power of the blog.

      I’m fairly sure the same will happen with the Huff and Puff celebrity blog.

      Posted by wronwright on 04/27 at 09:27 AM • permalink


    1. Patrick Chester — Sounds like Terry Pratchett.

      Louis — Sounds like Islam.  Allah recreates the world every day, so the past is irrelevant and striving for the future pointless: “It is, as it shall be.”

      Posted by richard mcenroe on 04/27 at 09:28 AM • permalink


    1. Allah recreates the world every day, so the past is irrelevant and striving for the future pointless: “It is, as it shall be.�?

      Somebody needs to carve that into the Clue Bat(tm) and start beating the Pals and their sympathizers about the head and shoulders with it.

      Posted by Achillea on 04/27 at 12:40 PM • permalink


    1. Richard,

      That is Islam ? really…hmmm, did not know that, so we have another snippet of data to store in our memory.

      Just imagine if we stopped thinking – although there are quite a few that have already achieved that feat – just read some of the posts on Quiggin’s blog.

      Just wish I could recall that name more accurately though, and decided not to ask for a search in Sydney – just realised it would be too hard for the person involved.

      Posted by Louis on 04/27 at 08:18 PM • permalink


    1. The Milwaukee County Library system has several copies of The physics of immortality : modern cosmology, God, and the resurrection of the dead by Frank J. Tipler. The Countycat has nothing under any of the spellings of Rainey, altho a different first name turned up a children’s book about monsters.

      Posted by triticale on 04/27 at 09:47 PM • permalink


    1. Paul has already written an obituary of Adams … it’s quite amusing …”An overturned barrel caused a stampede of olives that crushed the well-known serial receiver of public funds” …

      Posted by Stevo on 04/28 at 03:20 AM • permalink


    1. Rotary Hoe!

      It is Daryl Reanney, Death of Forever, one link here,+Daryl&tn=Death+of+Forever+(Softback+Preview+Edition)

      Tadah! ‘Kew ‘Kew 🙂

      Posted by Louis on 04/28 at 03:58 AM • permalink


    1. He must have had ONE near death experience because he says he KNOWS that there is “nothing after death” in his last column.

      Posted by crash on 04/28 at 04:37 AM • permalink


    1. I have to agree with Phillip for succinctly expressing my long held view that even for the late Pope this last week the irony’s on him. When you’re dead, you’re dead, and no point wasting this life in the false hope of another life that has zero evidence in support of it’s existence. Apathetically relinquishing power to people who peddle that myth, such as those rude old ladies of the Houghton Uniting Church, Hougthon, South Australia or the Saudi princes and their wahhabiist and Crawford Ranch friends is pointless. If I was a conservative, as I surely am, I would want the premises of my ideology to be based on more than ridiculous promises and being mean to everybody in a dog-eat-dog world of theological and economic power.

      Is that why you fear Phillip, because he challenges you to question your own beliefs ? Well why don’t you ? If you learn something from the process the world may yet become a better place. I’d hate to accept things unquestioningly. Why be an intellectual doormat ?

      I am a conservative who doesn’t fear Phillip, because true conservativism is trusting the instincts of people who are smarter than I.

      Apatehtically relinquishing power to the people who are theological or have other strange beliefs in unegalitarian power plays based on flimsy or no evidence – now that’s radical.

      You guys are so rad.

      Anyone with proof of god’s existence can reply and tell me I am wrong. All the rest of you, the onus of proof is on you, and you can shut up until then.

      PS Howard won because the other side was so hopeless and there was no third choice. Such a smidgin of democracy really isn’t democracy of course. We are not trusted enough for any real measure of democracy. Some people think we are too stupid for that. And we are…

      Posted by dopey on 04/28 at 05:27 AM • permalink


  1. I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to this thread. It seems the issue raised by Hal Colebatch has now been thoroughly aired – and, at the bottom line, Adams is talking crap.

    He can hardly be unaware of this blog. If he’s got an answer, let him put it – or be seen as a liar without ethics.

    Posted by Susan Norton on 04/28 at 10:17 AM • permalink