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Heaven is Not for Real

The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death (rearranged detail of book cover elements)

If they were aiming for success and popularity, the editors of The Myth of an Afterlife have obviously not been paying attention to current trends in publishing that have given us such books as Heaven is for Real, Proof of Heaven, Evidence of the Afterlife, and Consciousness Beyond Life.1 On the other hand, there was clearly a niche waiting to be filled for books skeptical of the immortality of the soul and the existence of the afterlife. But it turns out there are not so many of those. Perhaps this asymmetry between books favorable to a survivalist account and those defending a “mortalist” one, already reveals a peculiarity of the human mind: somehow, the hypothesis that we do survive bodily death is more appealing, commonsensical and widespread than the alternative.

Not ones to surrender to popular pressure, philosophers Keith Augustine and the late Michael Martin took it upon themselves to assemble a team of 29 valiant contributors to attack the afterlife “myth.” The result is an impressive volume composed of 30 essays, spanning 675 pages and organized in 4 parts.

Part 1 addresses “empirical arguments for annihilation,” i.e. “the position that persons permanently cease to exist at biological death” (2). As it turns out, these arguments really amount to the daily bread and butter of cognitive neuroscientists, and thus this portion of the book read like a crash-course in brain science. The “argument from brain damage,” for instance, uses neuropsychological evidence to show that “the destruction of the mind by the destruction of the brain is highly probable given the hypothesis that the mind depends entirely upon the functioning of the brain, but is highly improbable given the hypothesis that the mind can exist and operate independently of the brain.” If all brain functions have been turned off, “what’s left for a soul to do?” (121).

Parts 2 and 3 deal with broad philosophical, conceptual and empirical issues that collectively aim at dismantling the plausibility of souls and the afterlife. Among the many problems surrounding the notion of a “disembodied afterlife” are vexing questions such as how could disembodied entities with no spatial locations interact with biological and physical systems, or recognize each other, or move, act, perceive, remember and think, all without a brain. The conclusion is that no coherent or desirable version of the soul could plausibly survive brain death.

Part 4 considers “dubious evidence for survival” and essentially debunks parapsychological data related to out-of-body, near-death, haunting, mediumnic and reincarnation phenomena, all, indeed, frequently adduced as evidence for the afterlife as they purportedly involve some type of dissociation between mind and body.

Combined with the robust neuroscientific evidence in favor of a complete dependency of the mind on the brain’s functioning presented in Part 1, and the conceptual issues highlighted in Parts 2 and 3, the very weak, scarce, unreliable and controversial evidence for paranormal experiences suggestive of some kind of survival of bodily death, instead of the major challenge to contemporary materialism it is often purported to be, actually looks like a devastating blow to the last hopes of believers in the afterlife.

Given the current success of neuroscience in establishing the neural basis of consciousness and thought, is it still honest to claim that we simply don’t know “what comes after”?

A considerable portion of The Myth of and Afterlife hinges on the brain sciences, mainly in supporting the “dependence thesis,” which states that “having a functioning brain…is a necessary condition (or prerequisite) for having any sort of conscious experiences. And if human consciousness most likely cannot exist in the absence of brain activity, then it must cease to exist when the brain dies” (3). The book reviews data from brain imaging, lesion studies, genetics, development, aging and dementia, diseases such as epilepsy, mind-altering drugs, brain stimulation, animal studies and evolution, all pointing to consistent, robust, coherent, specific and predictive mind-brain correlations for personality, memory, language, perception, reasoning and basically all the features traditionally ascribed to surviving souls. This leaves afterlife believers’ with the unsustainable alternatives of having either to reconcile this evidence with their belief, or to simply ignore it. However, the price of reconciliation might be just too high. In a chapter titled “The Dualist’s Dilemma,” Keith Augustine and Yonatan Fishman closely examine in a Bayesian fashion the likelihood of the afterlife given the current evidence, and conclude that the prospects for survival are not very promising. The Myth of and Afterlife thus provides what looks to me like a new argument, by asking not what is gained by a belief in the afterlife, but what is lost. What is lost is essentially the very value of scientific evidence, and especially of brain science evidence.

Do neuroscientists concur with this approach? To my knowledge, there is no data directly addressing this question. A survey from 1998 found that less than eight percent of leading scientists from the National Academy of Sciences believed in “human immortality,” with biological scientists—probably including a fair share of those who study the nervous system—displaying the lowest rates of belief (7.1 percent),2 obviously much less than the general population. However, a more general survey of medical and healthcare students and people attending scientific or public conferences on consciousness found widespread acceptance of the afterlife (between 40 and 70 percent).3

The tenacity of such beliefs might be explained by innate cognitive tendencies such as the automatic detection of agents and intentions, a bias for teleological and essentialist reasoning,4 or simply by our cognitive difficulty (or impossibility) to conceive of our own inexistence.5 Perhaps also denial of immortality has lacked scholarly voices and due consideration as a respectable scientific and philosophical position, whether or not due to the dominant position of the alternative view. Important books like this one might help tip the balance in a way more favorable to the actual scientific evidence.

While much of the arguments in The Myth of an Afterlife make use of findings from the cognitive neurosciences to support the dependence thesis, the book does not address the biological and psychological origins of afterlife beliefs. Yet the central idea that the current mind sciences actively disprove the survival hypothesis could be further supported by neurocognitive explanations of why such beliefs arose and spread in the first place. In this regard, the parapsychological section could be read as a display of successful cultural attractors for the afterlife belief, rather than deficient lines of evidence for the belief per se. Reports of hauntings might not be “real,” but they are certainly not unexpected if the human brain is in some way tuned to the idea of the afterlife. Indeed, neuropathological syndromes such as out-of-body or near-death experiences,6 could be seen as the very origins of soul and afterlife beliefs,7 beliefs which, ironically, later co-opted these very experiences as evidence for their own validity.

The Myth of an Afterlife, rather, stays focused on its main mission of dismantling the survival hypothesis, regardless of why humans tend to accept it. Its rigor, relentless argumentation, and careful attention to the evidence and possible objections make it a major and unique contribution to a topic long neglected by scientists. Its main virtue, in fact, is simply to take the idea of the afterlife and its consequences seriously, and see where this leads. Given the current success of neuroscience in establishing the neural basis of consciousness and thought, is it still honest to claim that we simply don’t know “what comes after”? If so, then, one might wonder what exactly the cognitive and brain sciences have been discovering and teaching us all along about the nature of the mind.

Much like biologists have stood up against creationism, medical doctors have fought misinformation about vaccines, and climate-scientists have been vocal about the reality of global climate change, it is time for neuroscientists and cognitive scientists to openly reject the myth of an afterlife, and help spread the word that this idea is simply wrong. END

About the Author

Sebastian Dieguez is a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

References
  1. Gottlieb, R. 2014. “To Heaven and Back!The New York Review of Books, October 23
  2. Larson, E. J., and Witham, L. 1998. “Leading Scientists Still Reject God.” Nature 394, 313.
  3. Demertzi, A. et al. 2009. “Dualism Persists in the Science of Mind.” Ann. N, Y. Acad. Sci. 1157, 1–9.
  4. Bering, J. 2006. “The Folk Psychology of Souls.” Behav. Brain Sci. 29, 453–462; Nähri, J. 2008. “Beautiful Reflections: The Cognitive and Evolutionary Foundations of Paradise Representations.” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 20, 339–365.
  5. Nichols, N. 2007. “Imagination and Immortality: Thinking of Me.” Synthese 159, 215–233.
  6. Blanke, O., Faivre, N., and Dieguez, S. 2015. “Leaving Body and Life Behind: Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experience.” In S. Laureys, O. Gosseries, and G. Tononi (eds) The Neurology of Consciousness (2nd edition). Elsevier, 323–347.
  7. Metzinger, T. 2005. “Out-of-Body Experiences as the Origin of the Concept of a ‘Soul’.” Mind & Matter 3, 57–84.

111 Comments

  1. David Zohar says:

    Moslem suicide bombers believe not only in an afterlife but also that 72 virgins each are waiting for them in heaven..
    It would help the war against terrorism if your essay could be translated into Arabic and distributed -also via facebook which Arabs are using to a large degree- to rid them of their fantasies.

    • Keith Kenyon says:

      Lovely idea but the believers are so fanatical that a more likely result would be the bombing of the publishers and authors. The common interpretations of the Quran with regard to women and marriage by many Muslim men makes one wonder how there are enough virgins that get into heaven for the suicide bombers anyway. Do female suicide bombers get the same privileges (i.e. 72 virginal handsome young men) or are they transformed into one of the 72 virgins? If it was my choice I would prefer 72 experienced women; but then there is no accounting for taste.

      Sadly this marvellous book on the Myth of Afterlife will only get through to the converted. Becoming a Skeptic requires thought, education and then the most difficult part of all is accepting that the ingrained nice story is very likely to be false. Becoming a Skeptic is more reasoned and cognitive and less instinctive than a believer?

      • John collins says:

        I guess each of us will just have to wait and see, eh?

        • Michael says:

          And if there isn’t, we will never know. In fact we will never remember we existed!

          • f f skitty says:

            in the tibetan book of the dead, the notion of not remembering our prior existence(s) is referred to as the gift of ‘forgetfulness’. this ‘forgetfulness’, imparted in the last stages of physical death, allows the soul to be reincarnated with no ties to the past.

      • Uncle Greezy says:

        Just for clarification, the Qur’an does not say anyone gets 72 virgins upon entry into Paradise. It says the faithful will get a number of pure, servant-like beings, regardless of whether the faithful person is male or female. The “virgins” are not humans who have died.

        Just to be clear, I don’t think this idea is any more tenable than the Christian concept of an afterlife. I just wish westerners knew a bit more about what Islam actually teaches. This would help us better understand it’s adherents– especially those who are not extremists.

    • Bob Pease says:

      I somehow think that if they would read it , it would be listed as heresy, and a cosmic reward for the murder of the authors of such blasphemy.

      Dr. S

    • Ed Vore says:

      Wouldn’t help. The suicide bombers are so brainwashed nothing would convince them!

    • Ralph Meyer says:

      Good show! If those Muslim nitwit criminals knew the truth about reality it’s likely they’d tell their mullahs and the other Islamic twit clergy that persuade them to blow themselves and innocent people to smithereens to go blow themselves up on a vacant lot! That would do everyone a great deal of good.

    • Ken says:

      Not virgins, it’s raisins, 72 raisins. True believers get 72 raisins upon meeting Allah, that alone is a reason to believe in an afterlife!

      • Geno says:

        Isn’t it possible that raisins could be a euphemism for virgins? If I dated a “chick” doesn’t mean I went out with poultry!

    • Herb Van Fleet says:

      Ken is right. The word “virgin” is a mistranslation from the Koran. The word is actually “raisin.” Raisins were a favorite food of the early Muslims, but a major drought killed them off. So if you were good and did good deeds, then you would go the heaven and receive 72 raisins! Apparently that was a lot of raisins back then. I’m sure a lot of dead terrorists were really pissed when they arrived at whatever the Muslims have as the “Gate of Heaven” and got a basket of raisins!

      Now, somebody, go tell this to the living Muslim terrorists.

    • Ian says:

      I believe that the anti-terrorism forces in the USA should be discreetly putting doubt into terrorists minds about life after death. But given the power of evangelicals in politics I doubt this will never happen.

    • alan neumann says:

      Maybe it should be translated into English as well, so that the Christians who are going to live forever with Jesus can be rid of their fantasies. As if either religion cares about science and facts.

      • D. Warner says:

        It’s amazing how the term ‘skeptic’ is now synonymous with a non-survivalist point of view, as though the deal is sealed and ready to put to rest. I am a Skeptic, in the actual sense as although I have certain beliefs, I am certainly skeptical of all of them and prepared to bend to overwhelming evidence. You all seem to be educated, please don’t let your education translate to ignorant or arrogant pride, it’s embarrassing. This book, although I haven’t read it, presents an argument, a point of view and nothing more. No doubt it presents a very well organized, articulated and well researched argument, but none the less, it is just that, a supported argument made by people who are firm in a specific belief system no different than one held by a religious or spiritual believer. The argument deserves respect, and consideration, but it is not a definitive case, and a ‘true’ skeptic would appreciate that position. If you find yourself a PH D who is acting as a child, remember, you are an example, act like it.

        • G Smith says:

          Finger-wagging is just as childish, in my opinion.

          It is wrong to say that a skeptic’s ‘belief system” is no different than a religious or spiritual believer. Having faith and being a skeptic are irreconcilable as faith requires no evidence to support a belief and skepticism requires sufficient evidence to support a belief.

          • Geno says:

            Just be because there is no provable, empirical evidence doesn’t disprove an unknowable reality . We still haven’t figured out the spark of life

        • day2knight says:

          Skepticism doesn’t mean that your mind is so open your brains fall out. Neuroscience (especially with the advent of fMRI) is pretty firmly establishing that consciousness arises from the brain. If there is no brain there can be no consciousness. No doubt this is a bitter pill to swallow but it is far better to take reality as it is rather than believing nonsense.

    • Paul Cornelius says:

      No one ever talks about the virgins, who have to spend all eternity sharing a suicide bomber with 71 other unfortunates. They must get totally pissed.

      • Phil Bone says:

        Not at all !!

        Usually, a suicide bomber, when popping up (if I may say) into the muslim ”paradise”, is delivered in roughly 72 pieces.

        Note how, in his Great Wisdom, ‘allah’ has arranged the whole system, so that each virgin will get her own, equal (tiny) part.

        Brilliant.

      • Loughlin Tatem says:

        The irony is that after the first experience, the virgin has left. Each virginity taken reduces the value of the reward unless some miracle happens to restore the membrane.

    • Julio Siqueira says:

      “It would help the war against terrorism if your essay could be translated into Arabic and distributed -also via facebook which Arabs are using to a large degree- to rid them of their fantasies.”

      Not really, Mr. Splendor. If these muslim fundamentalists ended up spotting the numerous mistakes in Mr. Sebastian’s book review, they would conclude (naively) that the alternative view (i.e. survival) is indeed the correct one. Until we have sound and solid works defending “atheist/materialism” (i.e. the no afterlife worldview), we will only be fueling nonsensical and dangerous views on both sides of this debate. I strongly suggest that you read my own review of this trash book posted on amazon dot com.

      Very Best Wishes,
      Julio Siqueira
      juliocbsiqueira2012@gmail.com

    • day2knight says:

      What the jihadists aren’t told is that the 72 virgins are goats.

    • richard field says:

      mistranslation. 72 RAISINS, not 72 virgins (young women)

  2. Bob Pease says:

    My friend Ken Sabby sez

    “Ask anyone and they will tell you a lot about that.
    As fer myself I don’t know if it is possible to know, but it seems like the folks who claim to know fer sure is usually pretty glad to make you an offer that you can’t refuse!”

    Dr. S

  3. Mrs Grimble says:

    Sorry, but suicide bombing is far more complex than “If I blow myself up in a shopping mall, I’ll get to heaven!” The first modern suicide bombers were Sri Lanka’s Tamil Tigers. They were Marxist-Leninist idealogues, so presumably didn’t believe in an afterlife. It’s highly likely that many Islamist suicide bombers have equally strong political beliefs. There’s also evidence that a number of suicide bombers were mentally ill or intellectually sub-normal – i.e. they were bomb mules with little or no free will in the matter.
    Yes, by all means translate the book into Arabic. However, it may be a waste of time – nearly everyone in the Middle East can read English to some extent.

    • Dennis says:

      You wrote: “It’s highly likely that many Islamist suicide bombers have equally strong political beliefs.”

      Quite so. In fact, the majority of Islamic scripture is political rather than religious in that it deals with instructions in the ways that Muslims are to deal with non-Muslims (kafir). The minority of the scripture deals with a Muslim’s relationship with ‘Allah’ and other Muslims. Furthermore, all of it is taken as dogma.

  4. Gary says:

    A correction to 3. Per the sourced Wikipedia entry the Tamil Tigers were Tamil nationalists, not Marxists: “…Although it had dabbled with Marxism, Tamil nationalism was the primary focus of its ideology…”

  5. Francois Malherbe says:

    Drawn into ‘discussions’ with religious people, or the occasional unavoidable attendance of church services (christenings, marriages, funerals) I am often confronted with this ‘eternal life’ vs ‘eternal death’ thing, the latter of course being the ultimate punishment for believers. When I then voice my opinion that I cannot think of anything more terrifying than ‘eternal life’ the reactions mostly are gasps of indignation and disbelief. If confronted I then would ask them what their plans are for the first million years of their ‘eternal lives’. Activities that I’ve seen/heard listed include ‘singing and dancing with the lord’ (… to what/whose music, I wonder … gospel? … for a million years, at least … That would be the ultimate punishment for me!). As an answer I’ve seen learned people write with great insight and wisdom that ‘there is no time in heaven’ or something about ‘gods time is not our time’! At which point I would then like to point out to them that ‘eternal’ does not mean ‘no time’ but ‘time with no end’, an important difference in my opinion. Furthermore, could anyone please provide an example of a single life-process, physiological, psychological, individual, communal, global etc that is not inescapably linked to the vector of time? So, whatever believers look forward to after death cannot have anything to do with ‘life’, and ‘eternal life’ then reduces to ‘eternal ?’.
    Of course, I’m writing this to fellow sceptics and without any doubt true believers in ‘eternal life’, learned or not, will put me straight with a torrent of words, containing imagined ‘truths’ and perhaps some impressive terms expressed in ancient Greek, Hebrew etc. It all depends to what level of absurdity they are prepared and able to go.
    For me death is eternal … thankfully!

    • Doug says:

      I agree about the relief that death is the end. In fact, I used a similar reasoning, years ago, to abandon my obsession for getting rich via Amway. If successful, I would have to spend a large amount of time with these people, perhaps trapped on a cruise ship with nowhere to hide! Same goes for religion. I’d much prefer to be around those destined for Hell then Heaven, if I have to be in one or the other for Eternity :-)

      • horacio says:

        The sinners are much more fun.

      • alan neumann says:

        Amen brother!

      • Kent says:

        As a former believer, I studied my way out of religion and into atheism. I also realized that spending eternity with some of my former church associates and leaders would have been a true hell. I looked at them and determined that I could not spend eternity with any of those joyless, soulless individuals. I believe it was Mark Twain who famously said that you go to heaven for the climate and hell for the society. I’m just looking forward to living the rest of my life as best I can, and to then fade into oblivion.

    • f f skitty says:

      mark twain’s delightful ‘letters from the earth’ (letter II) is the gold standard for heavenly skepticism.
      it has the added bonus of authorship by satan himself, addressing his fellow archangels.

  6. Robert J Laskowski, MD, MBA says:

    The book sounds interesting, but beside the point. Matters of faith are not, and contrary to what many “believers'” books attempt, can not be matters of science. Science is by its nature “skeptical.” To be scientific, a theory needs to be testable, and falsifiable. Confusion occurs when faith and science invade each other’s domain. Religious incursions into explanations of natural phenomena are at best comforting and at worst delusional. Yet, one can interpret a rare natural event as a “miracle” spiritually and not dissociate from the the demonstrable fact that rare events do occur naturally, and in fact should be expected to occur. I am a spiritual person. I have been educated as a scientist and strive to think like one. There is no conflict in my mind. Science helps us discover and understand things which are amenable to science. Spirituality’s realm is beyond understanding, and beyond existence as we can know it. We who practice science do not need to spend our time disproving beliefs of others, unless those beliefs limit our ability to understand. (e.g. Climate change deniers who base their denial on religious or policital beliefs and want to impose them on others. However, we who “believe” in climate change, if we are acting as scientific thinkers must also remain open to the possibility that current thinking on climate change may turn out to be false. To be threatened by scientifically grounded climate skeptics ironically puts us in the same place as religiouslly based deniers)

    I believe in an unknowable afterlife. This belief is not scientific, demonstrable or refutable. It makes me feel better and perhaps helps me live a more conscious, connected and hopefully more humble life.

    • Ralph Meyer says:

      Of course, you realize that beliefs in things that cannot be demonstrated by clear incontrovertible evidence are of the nature of beliefs in fairies, leprechauns, the man in the moon, Mother Goose, Santa Claus, gods, demons, devils, trolls, and other such superstitiously imagined but unreal entities. As long as your behavior is not affected by your ‘comforting’ belief in an un-demonstrable afterlife, you’re OK. If it is, you’re just being ridiculous along with the rest of the religiosi who stupidly and often harmfully accord their behavior with believed nonsense.

  7. Al says:

    when taken in the context of religion, life after death seems ludicrous … sipping tea with long lost relatives while kissing ‘gods’ feet and surrounded by roads paved with gold …

    if anybody has had a near death experience their concept of spiritual energy is MUCH different than the promoted religious version … my experiences have led me to the concept that there is an advanced energy repository that we are all somehow part of …

    each person has a micro-speck of this energy, but it up to the individual to ‘polish’ it in order for it to be pulled permanently into the core and therefore not be subjected to coming back to ‘hell’, or other wise known as earth (or what i call the ‘testing station’) …

    i have NO idea whether my concept is correct, but what i experienced during my ‘outings’ are so far beyond the human experience that there just HAS to be more than our meager existence … but, what the hell do i know?

  8. Dudley Jones says:

    Hi

    Is it true that it is possible to find good physicists who think that the psychological time inside my head is some kind of illusion, and that we actually live in a space-time block with four dimensions?

    If this is true, does it have an impact on the subject of this article?

    best wishes and thanks for a stimulating book review

    • Roger says:

      Yes! Passing time is an illusion. We are alway somewhere in our block of time, but we can only see on one direction due to entropy. I am alive, and I have always been alive, and I will always be alive. However, I will always be stuck between two points in time that are the boundary of my life. How’s that for heaven and hell?

      Okay, so I am a physicist, but I got this idea from Kurt Vonnegut. Re: Slaugherhouse Five. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to disprove this by my science.

  9. Kevin B says:

    Let’s admit that although science is great at explaining the functional part of the brain, we have absolutely no idea how something made of dead matter can produce the “experience” of consciousness – it does not seem derivable from any physical law.

    It is disengenuous to even compare it to creationism or vaccines where we have scientific proof that validates it. You can always criticize or make fun of religious practices and beliefs, but that proves nothing. AStudy if NDE’s show life changing resulted in a dramatic fashion where the experiencer says it is much more real than a dream to our conscious life. And not from “religious” believers. In fact most debunk much of religious practice.

    Let’s admit there is no proof either way.

    • bruce says:

      kevin b., ” we have absolutely no idea how something made of dead matter can produce the “experience” of consciousness – it does not seem derivable from any physical law.”
      Right off the bat you pose your argument from a dualist’s perspective. As if “dead matter”, matter being inherently inferior to “experience”, cannot be intimately related to consiousness. We may not yet understand how consciousness emerges from brain activity but we do know that without brain activity there is no consciousness. Posing consciousness as inescapably mysterious is just more desperate clinging to the notion of life after death it seems to me.

      • Ian Wardell says:

        Phil Bone said:
        “It says that all the *descriptions* of any ”afterlife”, AS THEY ARE FORMULATED by various religious creeds, are biologically, anatomically, neurologically…. impossible”.

        It doesn’t matter what it said. The point is that it produced no compelling argument to justify this stance. I’ve read the book so I know.

    • Phil Bone says:

      To Kevin B. — Apparently, you didn’t bother to read the hereabove review of the book –let alone, read the actual book.

      It says that all the *descriptions* of any ”afterlife”, AS THEY ARE FORMULATED by various religious creeds, are biologically, anatomically, neurologically…. impossible.

      No more, no less.

      Of course, that is not disproving the eventual existence of a ”mysterious substance” or ”phenomenon”, YET unknown to human perception and who could be acting ”somewhere out there”….

      Nobody in the scientific world will ever tell you that (it’s called ”the fallacy of the black swan”).

      But as far as the various religious ‘doctrines’ on that topic are concerned, THESE have all been proven erroneous. Or, in other words : ”false”, if you prefer.

      So, there is no point anymore in saying ”Let’s admit there is no proof either way”.

      This is not ‘bigotry’, but the enunciation on a known fact : it’s been **debunked**.

      I hope you get the point.

  10. Simon says:

    “somehow, the hypothesis that we do survive bodily death is more appealing”

    Yes, I certainly can’t imagine why surviving bodily death would be more popular than oblivion.

    • Al says:

      your sarcasm noted, but using the concept of an afterlife as a placebo is not the real issue here … in fact, belief is the least important factor in this subject … what scientists and others have been trying to determine is if life after death actually exists other than in the minds of those who have been brainwashed by the religious promotions of such … belief is ignorance combined with wishful thinking … facts are what are being looked for … imo, these will be hard to find, if not impossible …

      • Phil Bone says:

        Al — For scientists, there is no point in trying to *prove’* that ”life after death is impossible”, for the simple reason that the statement (”life after death ACTUALLY EXISTS”) is just a mere soap bubble, blown in the air —just like : ”the blue fairy does exist”.. or : ”the pink unicorn”.. etc…

        Billions of people can assert cloudy sentences like that everyday….. What’s the heck ?

        On the other hand, what scientists can do –and THEY do it !– is *examine* CONCRETE claims made by religious believers (like : ”life after death has such and such characteristics” etc..), and THEN prove that these claims are factually erroneous. That’s, apparently, what the book reviewed here does.

        I hope you can see the difference.

  11. Bob Pease says:

    “It is disengenuous to even compare it to creationism or vaccines where we have scientific proof that validates it. ”

    This seems to say ( among other possibilities ) that we have scientific proof to validate both vaccines and creationism

    Please clarify this

    I really think you mean
    ** We have scientific proof to INvalidate Creationism and to validate the effectiveness of
    vaccines **

    Dr. Sam Antics
    Bob Dobbs University
    Church of the Subgenius

  12. DJK says:

    Interesting that none of this seems to address an “embodied” afterlife, which the idea of resurrection seems to imply.

    • bruce says:

      An embodied afterlife is just as improbable as disembodied consciousness. Of course, if you can demonstrate it, I’m sure there would be much interest. Especially on the part of the many producers of zombie-based fiction.

      • Phil Bone says:

        To DJK — I think that if you scientifically demonstrate the reality of such a phenomenon, you are ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN to be awarded…. at least three Nobel Prizes !

        In physiology, in physics.. and even in literature (category : science-fiction) ! ! !
        lol

  13. Bob Pease says:

    “if we are acting as scientific thinkers must also remain open to the possibility that current thinking on climate change may turn out to be false.”

    Of Course .. but the consequences of acting on this are
    too grim.

    In essence You are saying that It is OK to ignore the current thinking on climate change because it might not be true.

    • bruce says:

      Being “open to” is not the same as “not acting on”. Biologists should be open to the possibility of evolutionary theory being dis-proven but that doesn’t mean they act as if it isn’t true.

  14. Mike Colyar says:

    Of course all commenters so far have avoided what, to me, is the obvious deduction from this whole discussion. That humans are, on average, simply fools.

    Trying to explain why millions of people maintain such ridiculous ideas is like trying to deduce what dogs think about the origins of tennis balls.

  15. Phil says:

    I would love to read this book but the cost is extremely prohibitive.

  16. Adrian says:

    “Given the current success of neuroscience in establishing the neural basis of consciousness and thought…” (also put in the introduction to the article on the eskeptic page and highlighted in its own “box” – you couldn’t have missed it). I wonder how many readers of eskeptic were *skeptical* about it (requiring evidence not mere faith in author)? Were you? You should’ve. Think about it, the holy grail of neuroscience is reached and you never heard about it? It would have made world news. But lacking any peer reviewed scientific references it sounds like bias laden wishful thinking which misleads the readers.

    It’s easy to agree with Ed Vore about muslim terrorists being brainwashed but it’s hard to see that anybody, including you, has bias and that bias, by its very nature, is brainwashing to some extent. Don’t think so? Then what disabled your skepticism you proudly uphold in regards to the claim of the achievement of neuroscience? We easily believe what we like to believe. We are very lax on what it takes to convince us and then we hurry to close the case. eskpetic had an article on a professor who fell for a scheme believing that a model loves him and ended up carrying drugs for her even though he never met her! Intelligence doesn’t save you from your bias. But on the other hand we expect very stringent proof requirements in order to be convinced of what we don’t like. We make up straw men of our opposition so that we feel our views make 100% sense and the opposition’s views make absolutely no sense.

    That again is demonstrated here. Going back to the original statement I quoted: “Given the current success of neuroscience in establishing the neural basis of consciousness and thought, is it still honest to claim that we simply don’t know “what comes after”? If so, then, one might wonder what exactly the cognitive and brain sciences have been discovering and teaching us all along about the nature of the mind.” Wondering what cognitive and brain sciences have been discovering does not prove that neuroscience established the neural basis of consciousness and thought or that the question “what comes after” is settled. But if you really like it to be settled (one way or the other) then you might as well lower the bar of what a proof should be. But explaining *how* something (be it mind or something else) works or manifests doesn’t explain *why* it works (and neuroscience is a long way even from explaining the how). Max Velmans, for example, says: ” the [neuronal] causes and correlates of conscious experience should not be confused with their ontology.”

    It takes a preexisting bias of how the world is (that is, everything is ultimately reducible to physical and chemical) in order to conclude that that’s how the world is (the mind is reducible to the brain, to what neuroscience has been discovering). But if you don’t have that bias (or if you apply skepticism to it) then you realize that it’s *possible* that instead of what neuroscience has been discovering (like certain areas “lighting up” when I have certain thoughts) causing the mind, the opposite might be true: the mind is causing what neuroscience is discovering. It is not unconceivable (unless bias prohibits) that the brain activity discovered by neuroscience is an effect (side-effect even) of the embodied mind. Even if correlation (which is, to a good extent, what neuroscience is discovering) proves causation it doesn’t prove which way that causation goes. The only thing that, AFAIK, is related to the direction of causality is Libet’s experiments (see wikipedia). But even then bias determines how one interpreters them. Some will point to the building up of the readiness potential before the action and dismiss free will and others, like Libet himself, point to the subect’s ability to veto that readiness potential and withhold from making the action. Further it is pointed out that what was studied was “the urge [to move] appear[ing] on its own at any time without any pre-planning or concentration on when to act” and “one cannot passively wait for an urge to occur while at the same time being the one who is consciously bringing it about.” Others, like Daniel Dennett say that no clear conclusion about volition can be drawn from Libet’s experiments because it relies on the subjective time reported by the subject.

    It’s ironic how easy we see the circularity of “God exists because the Bible says so and the Bible is true because God says so” but how hard to see the circularity of “If all brain functions have been turned off, “what’s left for a soul to do?”” (the conclusion under the “argument from brain damage”). If mind is reducible to brain then when the brain dies the mind dies. And since the mind dies along with the brain then that’s an argument that the mind is reducible to the brain!!

    I’m sure that the book presents some good, valid points. But it’s interesting that most of what’s mentioned here is reducible to questions which are meant to be rhetoric but they only work if one already accepts the reductionist premise. Some I already mentioned: 1) “is it still honest to claim that we simply don’t know “what comes after””; 2) “one might wonder what exactly the cognitive and brain sciences have been discovering and teaching us all along about the nature of the mind”; 3) ““what’s left for a soul to do?”” Here’s more: “vexing questions such as how could disembodied entities with no spatial locations interact with biological and physical systems, or recognize each other, or move, act, perceive, remember and think, all without a brain.” Well, some philosophers thought that the physical reality didn’t exist at all but only the mind did. They had no problem with the *possibility* of a mind perceiving, remembering and thinking without a brain. But instead if the mind is reducible to brain then those questions are indeed vexing. So much so that they are impossible to answer and become rhetoric. No wonder that the article continues: “The conclusion is that no coherent or desirable version of the soul could plausibly survive brain death.” It is interesting that the term “desirable” was mentioned. It was left unanswered “desirable to whom” – I assume it was the authors.

    The articles uses “dismantle” or “debunk” 3 times. Or “devastating blow.” Or “the central idea that the current mind sciences *actively disprove* the survival hypothesis,” or “this [mind-survival] idea is *simply wrong*.” These strong and categorical words are used despite weaker words (used even if it doesn’t account for bias in interpreting the evidence): “the very weak, scarce, unreliable and controversial evidence” for the survival hypothesis or ““dubious evidence for survival”” or ““the destruction of the mind by the destruction of the brain is highly probable given the hypothesis that the mind depends entirely upon the functioning of the brain, but is highly improbable given the hypothesis that the mind can exist and operate independently of the brain.”” Those strong words used to describe the book achievements do not really fit some weaker statements for the opposing hypothesis like “weak evidence” or talking about the evidence in terms of probability. And to a skeptical mind this may indicate that the book had an agenda. It doesn’t take much to realize that since the article itself says the book did have a mission: “[it] stays focused on its main mission of dismantling the survival hypothesis.”

    “it is time for neuroscientists and cognitive scientists to openly reject the myth of an afterlife, and help spread the word that this idea is simply wrong.” The time to do that was ever since materialism was around because that’s simply its mission. But when you stop being skeptical about an idea and start being dogmatic about it when honest evaluation of the evidence doesn’t support your claim then that’s not science (even if done by scientists) – it’s propaganda.

    And one of the first duties of someone who calls himself or herself a skeptic is to detect the bias behind claims. There’s always bias because we need bias and preconceptions. We couldn’t reason otherwise.

    • Phil Bone says:

      To Adrian —
      PHEEEW….. What a dollop ! Several dozens of lines, just to say that neuroscientists –as all scientists– build their researches on an (allegedly) ”biased” basic assumption : ”everything *must* be material in the Universe.

      Who told you that is was a ”biased” assumption, to begin with ?

      When the first researches based on a ‘materialistic’ approach of the Universe began back again (around the al-Andalûz, then the European Renaissances), the ‘scholars’ -as they were known at the time- said :
      >>>”Ok. Religions have told us for millenia how the world functions, and how the Universe, Nature, the human entity and its ”soul” are made, based on a supernatural approach (”a ‘perfect god’ makes everything as it pleases ‘him’, and tells us all.. through *revelation* ”).

      >>>But obviously, the Universe DOESN’T FUNCTION like they say it functions.

      >>>Now, for a change, let’s try to see if we are to be more ACCURATE by trying to look how all these things get around, based on *material* observation of our *material* world.””

      That’s NOT what is called “a bia’.

      That is called a working hypothesis.

      You propose a research ‘path’. Then –and only then–, you set to work on that basis, and see if you get more *strong* and *verified* results than with the other approach.

      Ok ? It’s as simple as that.

      Problem is (for the tenants of the ‘supernatural’ vision) is that the materialistic way… works. It JUST WORKS ! !

      May I remember you that that’s how humanity ”discovered” the existence of electricity, the radio, the herzian and the wifi waves, the laws of gravitation and of evolution ??

      That’s how they (at last !) discovered the origin of diseases –viruses, bacterias, etc.. ??

      All things that the previous ”mystical” approaches have NEVER been able to discover, however ”omniscient” their various divinities were supposed to be.

      Now.. If all this is based on ”biased” basic assumptions, as you claim… WHY don’t you (and all the people uttering that claim) work hard, for a change, to show us undisputable results based on YOUR own basic assumption ?

      It’s easy to dismiss altogether the entire scientific method (without even the beginning of a demonstration to back up your point), but it’s another story to present results that would actually contradict these so-called ‘biased’ achievements that you scorn so much.

      • Adrian says:

        To: Phil Bone,

        You make some confusions here (I list 4 here). Inability to see an inconvenient distinction is a sign of… bias!:) I love both working hypotheses and the scientific method (of which they are part of). But if you really want X to be true because, for example, if non-X wouldn’t fit your paradigm, then it is your “want” or “like” not your “working hypothesis” that establishes bias (that’s your first confusion). I thought I made that point clear (but again, bias filters out inconvenient information and even builds up straw men and then it pats you on the back saying: “Oh, you are sooo right!”). Lookup “confirmation bias.” To give you an example, see atheist Thomas Nagel’s honest statement: “It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.” (Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False). Because of his strong dislike for God he remains an atheist despite his criticism of materialism. That also explains why there are many atheists being unreasonably militant when, as Brian says, this “should be a non-issue” (at least compared to other causes that effort could be put in so that the effort they put into atheism vs. those other causes that amount to more than “nothing” seems unreasonable).

        Further, what you call ‘basic assumption : ”everything must be material in the Universe”‘ is not your average “working hypothesis.” Britannica’s “The Syntopicon: I”, has a chapter on God which starts:

        With the exception of certain mathematicians and physicists, almost all the authors of the great books are represented in this chapter. In sheer quantity of references, as well as in variety, it is the largest chapter. The reason is obvious. More consequences for thought and action follow from the affirmation or denial of God than from answering any other basic question. They follow for those who regard the question as answerable only by faith or only by reason, and even for those who insist upon suspending judgment entirely. (Great Books of the Western World, vol. The Syntopicon: I)

        There is no other “basic assumption” or “question” that has more consequences both for your worldview and for your life and there is a whole lot that depends on it. Everybody comes with a worldview when takes up your “basic assumption” that “everything must be material” so this basic assumption is loaded from the start. This is your 2nd confusion, between “basic assumption” and “fundamental assumption.”

        Then even if one didn’t have any apriori preference towards a specific outcome of this “working hypothesis,” once one accepted an outcome as a true belief then it becomes a bias. It gets added to your grand paradigm and layed as a foundation for other held-as-true beliefs. When you don’t know if X is true then you can “work” with hypotheses X or non-X and question and judge them. But when you accepted X as true then you integrate it in your paradigm and is no longer an object of judgment but it becomes itself a judge that further decides what other ideas to be accepted as true or not. Thus you build on top of X other believed-as-true ideas such as Y and Z. And from now it’s as hard to treat X as a mere working hypothesis to be but under scrutiny as it is for a judge to judge itself. Our held-as-true beliefs (or assumptions or postulates) are how we make sense of the world, how we explain and interpret things. It is them that determine what’s true or not (for us). But that leads to a conflict of interest when it comes to evaluating those beliefs themselves. To a good measure we are what we believe and giving that up may be as hard as cutting off one’s own hand. So it’s very hard to seriously question X. The threat of giving up X is bigger than X. Not only X but Y and Z and everything built on it comes down crumbling. The mind’s (or neuron’s–your pick) response to this threat is to induce blindness, denial, filtering out or downplaying the inconvenient data and switching. When your mind’s/neurons’s reasoning tells you “trust me, I’m not biased” it seems you trust it whole-heartedly. We all strive for a consistent paradigm and worldview where all the parts fit each other (X, Y, Z). That’s exactly why there are many sayings, even in science, that relay the idea that the older one gets the harder it is to change. For example Max Plank said “Science advances one funeral at a time.” The older one gets, the more and more one built on top of a belief and the more one needs to prune if one were to give up that idea. Therefore, the harder it is to honestly and seriously reevaluate an old, well established belief. All this applies much more to the natural/material vs supernatural hypotheses because, as the quote above pointed out, they are down at the very foundation of your paradigm and there is a lot depending on them and built on top of them. Therefore, it doesn’t take a long time to build a lot on it because, by its very nature, is at the foundation from the start. This is your third confusion: You confuse a working hypothesis with a belief held as true, added to your grand paradigm and layed as a foundation for other held-as-true beliefs. It is not your working hypothesis that’s the bias but your ex-working hypothesis which was then accepted as true belief and is now enthroned as King of your paradigm.

        The 4th confusion is in your statement: “the materialistic way… works.” You confuse the scientific method with the materialistic way (presumably based on the materialistic assumption). If the principles of locomotion on land work (and work very well without any need of air or underwater locomotion principles) that in no way necessitates that there is only land! Even many atheists acknowledge this. Lookup the late atheist Stephen Jay Gould’s “non-overlapping magisteria.” There is a lot written on this but it is precisely because the Christian worldview that science rose in the western world. And many top notch scientists had no problem doing the science they did without holding a materialistic worldview, for example my top 2 scientists: Newton and Einstein. Newton was deeply religious and wrote more on religion than he wrote on science. Einstein said: “This firm belief, a belief bound up with a deep feeling, in a superior mind that reveals itself in the world of experience, represents my conception of God” (A. Einstein, Ideas and Opinions).

        Now, since you seem to also like science and the scientific method, you should “test drive” this hypothesis “Phil is biased.” From there you can derive the conclusion that, mostly likely, Phil will “miss” (aka “be blind to”) inconvenient truths. Well, you scored 4 points!

        • Adrian says:

          And Phil, based on this basic assumption/working hypothesis that “Phil is biased” let me make a prediction that Phil will not admit that he is biased. Now answer “why won’t he if the evidence points there?” and you will have discovered where bias lies. What you said, “IT JUST WORKS,” is so right about working hypotheses and the scientific method!

          • Phil Bone says:

            PHEEEW ! What a dollop again ! Several dozens of lines, again, just to build four very neat and very polished…. strawmen ! Wow ! What a record !

            You keep repeating that I confuse several things several times in my reply to your post. The problem is that, each time, ..you just knocked on a ghost !

            You have ”bet” that I would not admit to be biased, but it didn’t even come to your mind that…. you might have biases too !

            Of course you claimed that I was ”biased” : I debunked your unsubstantiated statements ! It’s quite understandable.. a bias is exactly that : denying everything that don’t fit with your views !

            But your reply is evidence that you yourself didn’t accept my arguments, probably due to your own ‘confirmation biases” : they didn’t corroborate your ‘paradigm’ ! So.. you churned them out until they ‘fit’ your reassuring view that materialistic approach of the world is definitely faulty.

            See how silly is your game of ”who’s the most biased of the two” ??? It’s so easy to become the ‘biased’ one of somebody else.

            Anyway.. You made me laugh my head off when you pitifully went nitpicking between ”basic assumptions” and “fundamental assumptions”, trying to demonstrate that, therefore, I erred in complete confusion. Wow ! What a.. ”fundamental” argument it was ! (lol)

            Then you wrote : ”Even if one didn’t have any apriori preference towards a specific outcome of this “working hypothesis,” once one accepted an outcome as a true belief then it becomes a bias”.

            In the strictest sense of what you said, you’re absolutely right. The only problem is.. that it’s not how science works.

            This (so called) ”argument” of yours, inferring that the scientific method leads inevitably to biased situations, blatantly proves that you don’t have the faintest clue about how the scientific method functions.

            First, you should know that, in science, there is NO such thing as ”true belief”.

            There is no such thing as ”belief”, to begin with. This word belongs to the religious vocabulary. In science, researchers examine facts, test them again and again, and eventually acknowledge them as pertaining to the reality of our Universe.. or not. The concept of ”belief” doesn’t have anything to do with that.

            Second : in science, there is NO such thing as ”truth” anyway. Here again, this word belongs to the religious vocabulary. Every single religion, since the beginning of recorded history, ”claim” that they have ”the ultimate truth”. I hope you don’t deny that.

            In the science world, no one will tell you, for example, that ”the mechanics of the general relativity is definitely ‘true’ ”. It is an accepted theory. Not in the trivial, popular sense of the word, which is laughable, but in its scientific acception : a coherent explanation to a natural process or phenomenon, which represents the most acute state of human research on a topic, as far as one can best know about at any given instant.

            That means that, if an unexpected new discovery pops up that partially or totally invalidates the ongoing theory, scientists have to rework the whole batch in order to incorporate that discovery into a new coherent system.

            That’s how science works.

            There are dozens of historical examples of the scientific world having gone through such reworking.

            But maybe it is too opposite to your (biased) conception of the materialistic science for you to admit that.

            Now I will tell you what could be a real ”bias” : it is if scientists would refuse to acknowledge the new discovery, on the basis that ”it could not be real, given that it contradicts the ‘universally accepted’ current theory”.

            THIS IS what a bias is.

            After that, the rest of your post being entirely constructed on this misunderstanding of what materialistic experimental science actually is, the debate runs dry.

            PS : I’m always ready to admit I’m wrong with a given statement I make. But the least I can ask is that it is my statement which is refuted. Not a made-up and illusory statement that I’ve never put forward.

            Thanks. It was quite amusing to ”debate” with you.

          • Adrian says:

            To: Phil Bone

            I pointed out 4 confusions you made and you addressed none of them (except claiming that one of my arguments/evidence was “nitpicking”). Instead of addressing my arguments and evidence, apart from a few remarks, your point was almost exclusively that I “don’t have the faintest clue about how the scientific method works” (but not that you in fact did not make the confusions I argued). But despite the arguments and evidence I provided and despite the fact that you did not counter-argue, you still said: “You keep repeating that I confuse several things several times in my reply to your post. The problem is that, each time, ..you just knocked on a ghost !” (If you paid attention it wasn’t repeating you confused concepts I gave new and specific arguments for every time I stated you did that.) So I gave arguments, you gave no response to them but, despite the evidence you still believe that I knocked on a ghost. But you don’t say why and don’t support at all your claim that I knocked ghosts! From the statement above you just moved on to another topic. Despite my arguments and despite your lack of counter-arguments you still like to believe that I knocked down ghost! If you are right, and “belief” is strictly a religious term, then you must be a very religious person because you have lots of it! You believe that just calling them ghosts make them so. You stating something may be good enough for you to take it as true and you must believe that your fellow self-skepticism-free atheists here will believe what you say without any proof but that’s not me. But you should know that summoning ghosts is not good enough, you need to prove the ghosts!

            Another example is your saying “Of course you claimed that I was ”biased” : I debunked your unsubstantiated statements ! It’s quite understandable.. a bias is exactly that : denying everything that don’t fit with your views !” Again, you make claims and believe them to be true without proof! You say that your initial post “debunked” my statements. But that’s the one in which you made plenty of confusions, I pointed them out to you and you did not address my points about your confusions! But nevertheless, you believe you “debunked” my claims. Can you spell “wishful thinking” more clearly than this? You believe my statements are unsubstantiated even though I’ve provided plenty of quotes from reputable sources! But you just make claims without substantiating and supporting them (for example through quotes from reputable sources like I provided). You call “ghosts” and “debunking” without proving any of it! On the contrary, you said to me “In the strictest sense of what you said, you’re absolutely right.” Further you dodged the topic on your bias with a few remarks and changed it to something you thought it was more convenient for you: a claim that I don’t have a clue about science (of course, you find that more convenient than you being all confused-does convenience leave any room for truth?). Now tell me who believes without proof? Who denies what doesn’t fit one’s views?

            Another example is “I can ask is that it is my statement which is refuted. Not a made-up and illusory statement that I’ve never put forward.” You failed to clarify what’s the difference between your version of what you said and my version. Are you confused about the two? Or maybe you didn’t do that because there is no difference or else you would have argued against my specific points about your many confusions. You talk about dollop but your many line are either confused, vague or dodging the topic. That’s worse than dollop! I was very specific about my arguments (such as where you were confused) and brought substantial support (such as quoting reputable sources). You didn’t do any of that.

            You say “I’m always ready to admit I’m wrong with a given statement I make.” Well, you certainly didn’t prove your point either (as many other points and claims you’ve made). It’s just another unsubstantiated claim that you like to believe despite the evidence.

            You called my post “dollop” of “several dozens of lines.” It seems you wrote that at the beginning and when you finished you didn’t go back to count your lines. And the reason you claimed I don’t have a clue is because this is “blatantly proved” by “(so called) ”argument” of [mine], inferring that the scientific method leads inevitably to biased situations.” Your confusion is very resilient. That was never an argument I made (it was though a straw man you made) but was instead a straw-man you’ve made up for me. I don’t even agree with that argument (and I mentioned I love the scientific method; you noticed I even used it on you, right?). First, what is of interest to the bias topic is not where the scientific method leads to but rather where it starts from. Only bias can explain how you missed that point over and over. The sceintific method starts with assumptions/postulates/hypotheses. But that doesn’t make it biased. It is just a method. Bias resides instead in minds (or you may prefer “gray matter”). And any assumption can become bias. That happens, as I explained, when they are accepted as true beliefs and the more biased they become the more we build on them.

            You said I “nitpicking between ”basic assumptions” and “fundamental assumptions”.” They can be used as synonyms but are clearly not in our case. “Basic” as you used it just refers to the starting point of a reasoning or “working hypothesis” as you put it (a point which is basic because it doesn’t depend on others). But I repeatedly specified that “foundation” is the foundation of one’s paradigm. Any assumption at the “top” of your paradigm can be called “basic assumption” (it can be the starting point of an argument). However, obviously, one will dispose of an assumption at the foundation of one’s paradigm on which one built a lot of other knowledge much harder than the “basic assumption” on top which has nothing built or dependent on it! In the latter case there is no epistemological cost or sacrifice involved in giving up that basic assumption. As far as bias is concerned (which the topic was about) that’s indeed a fundamental distinction.

            You said: “First, you should know that, in science, there is NO such thing as ”true belief”. There is no such thing as ”belief”, to begin with. This word belongs to the religious vocabulary.” I’m trying hard to abstain from using emotionally charged language. I’ll just recommend that you consult a dictionary. You continue “In science, researchers examine facts, test them again and again, and eventually acknowledge them as pertaining to the reality of our Universe.. or not. The concept of ”belief” doesn’t have anything to do with that.” Anything? It seems you forgot what you wrote earlier in a previous post about “working hypothesis.” The scientific method starts with making postulates which needs to be accepted as true even though you don’t know if they are really true. So you can’t know if the postulates (or their conclusions) are true but when you act and reason as though they are true that’s a belief. Not only you didn’t know what you wrote earlier, it seems you didn’t know what you would write later either when you wrote “in science, there is NO such thing as ”truth” anyway.” I agree. Einstein said “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” But it is exactly because there are unproved postulates at the root of any theory that makes science fall short of truth; it makes it tentative. You say that in science, instead of “true theory” we have “accepted theory.” Right again. It is exactly this “acceptance” which means treating it as true which establishes bias (it is no longer a “working hypothesis” but an “accepted hypothesis”). There are whole books (written by secular people and atheists) on the topic of bias in science plus plenty of articles. But leaving that aside, when you don’t know if something is true but you accept it as true (and act and reason as though it’s true) then that, by definition, is belief and has nothing to do with religion. For example, The New Oxford Dictionary defines belief as “an acceptance that a statement is true.” Didn’t you say that science deals with “accepted theory?” Or Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary defines it as “a tenet or body of tenets held [or, accepted] by a group.” or “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.” This confidence in something that can’t be rigorously called “truth” is therefore belief. You alleged that I don’t have a clue about how science works but again you keep confusing concepts. Apart from having absolutely no opinion whatsoever, the lack of “truth” (that you claim) automatically requires belief! When you act like what you know is true event though you know that it’s not truth, it’s only tentative, then you automatically exercise belief. So by saying that “there is no such thing as “truth” you just contradicted your earlier statement that “there is no such thing as ‘belief’.” Besides confusion and topic dodging, you can add contradiction to your achievements.

            You say “Now I will tell you what could be a real ”bias” : it is if scientists would refuse to acknowledge the new discovery, on the basis that ”it could not be real, given that it contradicts the ‘universally accepted’ current theory”.” “If” scientists would do that? Not “when”? Well Kuhn’s famous book in the philosophy of science, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” says that science progresses by what? by revolutions. It is exactly because new theories that go against the established ones are hardly accepted by the established community and it takes a revolution to change that. Russian physicist Viktor Komarov also has a whole book on this. Also, I already gave somewhere here on this page Max Plank’s quote that “Science advances one funeral at a time.” Why did he say that? He was a top scientist, he had no religious bias. But as a top scientist he knew that it often takes many funerals for some challenging ideas to be accepted. Scientists that believed the old theory that’s being challenged for a long time will just be biased to the old ones not accept it! Or I gave you Nagel’s example. Also I’ve already told you about “confirmation bias” and it seems you forgot about it. The term was introduced in the context of science and it was done so because such bias does happen in science. You may not like and dismiss scientific bias based on your dislike but that doesn’t change the reality. My point was that the more fundamental to a paradigm a belief (or “accepted theory” to use your term) is the more likely it is to be biased. And the most fundamental question for a worldview is if God exists or not.

            You said “You have ”bet” that I would not admit to be biased, but it didn’t even come to your mind that…. you might have biases too !” First, yes, you have not admitted you are biased. Second, you should read what you respond to. I’ve said in my original post: “There’s always bias because we need bias and preconceptions. We couldn’t reason otherwise.” I said “we” twice! That includes me. I’ve studied enough about bias to write a book about it, enough to understand that bias is universal and I’ve developed a keen eye for bias, including my own.

            You say: “See how silly is your game of ”who’s the most biased of the two” ???” Is that what all this is to you “who’s the most biased of the two”?? That is indeed silly. Did you just assume it’s the same for me or is another straw man? No, to me, it’s not about you being more biased than me (and I’m not saying I’m less biased than you). It’s about me finding out the truth, even the truth that’s paradigmatically inconvenient. It’s about you doing the same! It’s about seeing past one’s bias so that one can gaze further and deeper into the truth. It’s about seeing the Truth not my truth, not just the cardboard cut-outs that my paradigm props up for me all around (that Plato called shadows of reality).

            When one feels insecure about the intellectual merits of his argument one will try to cover up that insecurity by using emotionally charged terms hoping that it will make up for the lack of good arguments. Well, your post is full of such terms: “PHEEEW!”, “What a dollop,” “Wow, What a record!”, “Wow! What a.. fundamental argument it was!” “lol,” “It was quite amusing to ”debate” with you,” “How silly,” “You pitifully went nitpicking,” “you made me laugh”, and the like. It all seems like you’ve desperately trying to make it look like you’ve one and concluded the “debate.”

            I’m sorry to throw in an emotionally charged term myself, but the truth is that I pity you. You seem to be biased almost beyond any hope and pointless to dialog with you.

  17. Dudley Jones says:

    Is mind identical to brain? Right now I am thinking of a nice ripe peach that is reddish yellow, soft, and very roughly spherical. The mental representation is pretty clear. Is there something reddish yellow, soft, and very roughly spherical inside my brain imaging the peach? Probably not.

    This is not about some kind of mystical dualism, it is about how different things in the universe may or may not be identical. We could do a brain scan and see me thinking about the peach, but the scan would not show an image of a peach.

    Bertrand Russell thought that somehow mental and physical stuff was the same kind of stuff, and he called this “neutral monism.” Does the Heart Sutra seem to be teaching neutral monism? Body and mind are the same kind of logical or experiential something? I find this incomprehensible.

    We will get this figured out, might take a while.

    • Phil Bone says:

      To Dudley :
      May be it slipped your mind that there is such a thing as the…. memory ?? ( ͜¨)

      I dare you to form the ‘image’ of a peach in your head…. if you had never seen a peach (or the picture of a peach) ever before !

      When you ‘see’ a real peach, it means that the light ”transports” the image of that peach in your eye, which transforms this ‘photo’ into ‘bits of information’ and gets them right away into the visual cortex of your brain, where only then you ”perceive” the peach that you see.

      Then, what do you think happens in the next fraction of a second ?? You brain stores these informations in the neural networks that we trivially call ‘memory’, duh !

      So when you say : “Is there something reddish yellow, soft, and very roughly spherical inside my brain imaging the peach?”, of course, not –as you accurately concluded ! All you are doing is retrieve the bits of information that we call ”red peach” stockpiled in your brain, and transfer them into its ”vivid perception” area.

      Every living being equipped with eyes –be it a simple snail, a multifaceted-eyed bee.. or a super sharp-eyed lynx– do it all the time ! When they see a moving form getting in their field of vision, their eyes ”capture” the form, then immediately extract, from their memory area, the ‘image’ of that form, then instantly transfer it to this other part of their memory which is called ”previous datas” (what we humans call ‘knowledge’) to check up if it corresponds to something familiar, or weird, or pleasurable –a friend or an ally, for example–, or neutral… or if it rings a strong ”danger-ahead” signal.

      Did you notice, on the other hand, that we have more difficulties to *vividly* draw back the smell of that peach, up there in our ‘mind’ ? It’s because, unlike many other mammals, humans have seen their olfactive capacities drastically diminish all along the past million years…. So, they have less ‘vivid’ information to store in their memory. QED.

      • Dudley Jones says:

        Phil

        Thanks for the thoughtful reply about the peach example. What I was trying to say is that if two things are identical, there can be no differences of any kind. I think the expression for this is “Indiscernibility of identicals” and vice-versa, or something like that. My experience of the peach and the grey brain stuff that creates this experience do not seem to be identical in this sense. Of course the brain stuff (plus the external world) causes the experience.

        I think we are probably on the same page for most issues.

        • Phil Bone says:

          Right.

          Certainly no hard feelings, anyway ! ( ͜¨)

          • keith says:

            You brain stores these informations in the neural networks that we trivially call ‘memory’, duh !
            Phil is the duh necessary, when some have genuine lines of inquiry and you have a valid answer, don’t let the previous post argument prime the augment to another (post) it’s rude IMO and it shows lack of tolerance to others not so well informed as I believe that is what you were trying to do, inform and educate.

  18. Anthony says:

    What I find painful and most distressing about the oblivion to come is that never ever ever ever again will I enjoy “the implacable beauty of the world” (Camus). This is such an oppressive thought that I often wish I had never been born. At 66, I’ve studied much and read much to try to assuage the horror this knowledge has gouged into me but no comfort comes from the great minds of any culture. It’s not so much a fear of “being” dead as the tragic pathos of never ever even a wisp of life ever again. Is this not a great injustice? A cruel and perhaps unnecessary joke by nature when, if the universe is infinite, moreso should such creatures as we be. Why couldn’t the cosmos allow that?

    • Doug says:

      Why? Well, as Steve Jobs said in his Stanford University address in 2005, “…because death is very likely the single best invention of life.” … “It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

      • richmartini says:

        actually aaron sorkin said that. He wrote that speech.

      • Adrian says:

        Doug,

        Nice quote but unfortunately it’s a contradicting statement. It implies that “the new” has in store better things than the old ones that were cleared out. But these new, better things in store are ultimately new inventions of life themselves and then death (mere making room for such new, better inventions) cannot be “the single best invention of life.”

        Not only that it’s contradicting but there are counter examples. Take “negligible senescence” (look it up on wikipedia) – and this is very relevant to Anthony’s topic about death and eternality. There are animals (such as shark, lobsters, some turtles, etc.) that show no signs of aging and, as far as we can tell, do not age. They don’t reach a climax in their life like we do. They don’t stop growing (even though their rate of growth decreases). Their reflexes don’t slow down. When they die, they die from predators, disease, hunger or accidents but not from “old age.” Now all these animals are more primitive and lower on the evolutionary tree. The problem is how come we lost that trait? I can’t imagine that comes even close as beneficial as this. This doesn’t “help survival” this is survival. Think of an individual that lost that trait and one that kept it. Which one will most likely survive more, have more offspring and will outcompete the other? The theory of evolution will predict (speaking in terms of the scientific method) that it will be the one which kept the trait. But that’s not what we observe. One can try to get out of this conundrum by assuming that this particular trait was linked to another trait and further assume that this other trait was more beneficial for survival than negligible senescence? What trait could possible help an individual live longer than living longer (which is exactly what happens when you don’t die of old age)!? Anyone?… For comparison let’s took at one of the most beneficial mutations, lactose tolerance. “Once the LP allele appeared, it offered a major selective advantage. In a 2004 study, researchers estimated that people with the mutation would have produced up to 19% more fertile offspring than those who lacked it. The researchers called that degree of selection “among the strongest yet seen for any gene in the genome”” (Scientific American). Now which one would you rather pick? Lactose tolerance or the “fountain of youth?” But hey, who’s unbiased enough to say there is a problem here for the materialist view? It’s better to cling on to believing in an imaginary absolutely most beneficial mutation all the while claiming that your view is scientific and you don’t believe in supernatural like the imaginary “absolutely perfect being” that some deluded people believe in. Hmm, what will a man not do to save his paradigm?

    • Adrian says:

      Anthony,

      First, I’m very sorry for what you feel. Second, I do appreciate your honesty and strength in taking the materialist worldview where it leads. There are very few that see that far. As I explained in an earlier post, there is a lot of bias that usually blocks people from seeing that far–crutches to help them avoid hitting rock bottom. Many materialists don’t see that their worldview is incompatible with anything other than nihilism because they are very biased against nihilism. They *want* life to be meaningful, to have a purpose. I intend to write a book on this topic at some point and I’ll surely quote what you said here. But few, like you do realize that unavoidable and grim conclusion. But even you don’t follow the materialist assumption all the way (for example you talk about “injustice”). If your materialism is true then justice or injustice are ultimately meaningless. Everything would really be meaningless. All that there would is atoms in motion. To ask a fundamental question, “why is there anything better than anything else?” which points out that “betterness assumption” that we all share. You may say, because some things aid evolution. But why is evolution or survival of the fittest better than the death of the fittest? Why is life better than death (an assumption you make as well)? Doug says below that death is good as well. He implies that newer things are better than old. Well, why is fitter better than unfit? Because fitter survive? But again, why is surviving and life better than dying? Whatever answer you give to the fundamental question above there is a “why?” following it and whatever answer you give there is still a “why?” that follows. We believe in betterness (and a lot of things under it like right/wrong, goodness and morality, etc.) even though the scientific method can in no way confirm it. If materialism is true, then betterness must be a superstition that evolution fooled us into believing to aid procreating. If materialism is true then there wouldn’t be any supernatural love. Instead, love would be reducible to matter, to certain acts and relationships between acts and physical objects. And so would be pity, for example. Now, a handicapped lady that would fret over whether her husband married her out of love or out of pity, when the very same acts (marriage, gifts, flowers, attention, etc.) would describe both love and pity, would be deluded. She would believe in a supernatural love beyond what the strict material world would account for. The irony is that most, if not all, atheists believe in supernatural in one way or another (for example they believe in such idealized love). They are just too blind to see it. And it’s refreshing to find one that sees more than the majority.

      Third, I disagree with you, I do believe we were meant to be eternal (but that’s well beyond the scope of this response) and therefore I find life meaningful.

      • Adrian says:

        To add to “why is there anything better than anything else?”, let me ask any materialist: “How do you prove that the way that matter is arranged in your brain is *better* than the way that matter is arranged in a rock for example?” Of course, if everything is reducible to matter, in order to avoid a vicious circle, you must *not* use your brain to answer this.

        • Phil Bone says:

          Classical fallacy.

          It’s called ”incomplete syllogism”, and ”begging the question”.

          Try again.

          • Adrian says:

            To: Phil Bone

            You said:

            Which one is the fallacy? My question or the materialist answer? If you meant my question then please be advised that my question, being a question, makes no statements and therefore can’t be a fallacy. If you meant that the materialist answer commits the fallacy of “begging the question” then you are right! But I already said that in the post you responded to. I called it “vicious circle” which is what “begging the question” means.

  19. Alan says:

    I don’t think it can be proved that mind cannot exist without a brain. We cannot I think prove a negative and we cannot prove that God or magic do not exist.

  20. Brian says:

    It’s rather cute that anybody could actually think this is a ‘death blow’ to those who believe in an afterlife. For most believers, the afterlife has ZERO to do with the physicality of this life, so studies and books like this are just laughable and completely meaningless. I find it interesting that those who don’t believe in an afterlife spend sooooo much time thinking about it and discussing it. Should be a non-issue, right? Hmmmm….

    • Stephen Nowlin says:

      Certainly this book will not be a “death blow” to afterlife beliefs. And you are right that reason and evidence are unlikely to convince believers in a supernatural cosmos that the truth is otherwise. But the Copernican arc of change set in motion nearly six-hundred years ago unquestionably bends toward the disintegration of mythical belief and its replacement with a different emotional connection to existence, one based in both the knowledge and poetics of science. The book in question will help. This little discussion will help. It’ll take some time — check back in a few hundred . . .

    • Phil Bone says:

      To @Brian —
      You say : For most believers, the afterlife has ZERO to do with the physicality of this life”…..

      So… What’s all that fuzz about, then ? What’s the use of claiming such a hazy ”concept” anyway ??

      As far as we all know, we are living in the ”physicality” of this Universe, as you say. Not in a fictitious ”non-physicality”…. But maybe that slipped your mind.

      Claiming that ”there is an afterlife” is like claiming ”there is a pink unicorn somewhere” or any elucubration of the same sort.

      Everybody can utter dozens of meaningless –and useless– silly statements like that every day. It’s just like blowing soap bubbles up in the air.

      Can you understand that ? Besides, as soon as you claim that such a thing actually exists, then you ought to be able to demonstrate –one way or another, that’s your problem– what you are claiming.

      But that, also, slipped your mind.

      Then you say : ”I find it interesting that those who don’t believe in an afterlife spend sooooo much time thinking about it and discussing it”.

      You’re right : that should be a non-issue, —as it IS a non-issue, indeed !

      The problem is that people believing in such unsubstanciated fairy tales, spend much much time….. desperately trying to convince others that it is ”absolutely true”, and ”warn us” that if we don’t obey to their ”divine commandments”, we will pass our (so-called) ”afterlife” er.. ”burning in hell” ! (lol)

      Believe me : the very moment you stop bothering the rest of the planet with your fuzzy beliefs and keep them –freely but strictly– in the boundaries of your private lives and ‘community’ circles, skeptics, ”hardcore” atheists (^^) and secularists will at once stop bothering about them and spend time to debunk them.

      It’s that simple. Got it ?

      Good…..

      • Brian says:

        Really Phil? When was the last time somebody directly approached you and tried to proselytize? Without you broaching the subject first? It almost never happens. Yet you still feel the need to try and prove that some non-physical claim that has no bearing on you or your life is just a myth. As you pointed out, there’s nothing to disprove, it’s completely non-physical, and therefore unprovable one way or the other, and yet you all persist. Why do you feel this need, why does something you read somewhere provoke you so much?

        • Phil Bone says:

          Brian — Apparently, you live in a world where nothing touches you….

          Maybe you didn’t hear about these fanatical christians who in many states in the US and many countries in Europe try very hard, again and again, to anihilate any law giving to women the right to have an abortion, or to homosexuals the right to marry someone they cherish –to name a few examples ??

          Maybe you didn’t hear about these fanatical muslims who massacre dozens of people in one single kalashnikov spurt, just because they represent everything they hate ?

          And you cannot deny that these horrific actions happen, all around the world, because —so they say— their ”god” was ”really angry”, and ”told them” to perpetrate such ignominous deeds.

          Then yes, THAT ”provokes” me.

          So.. when I ”read something somewhere” that pours out, again and again, such irrational and crime-inducing ”beliefs” —or enhances them, why shouldn’t I reply and debunk all the junk the tenants of these sanctimonious dogmas spread around, here and there ?

          Can you explain that to me ?

          Besides, you are here on a site which is called ”e-Skeptic”. Then why do you feel the need to come all the way down here, to spread your silly statements about the existence of a ”god”, of a ”soul” or any other of your unsubstantiated claims ??

          Why would you have the right to do so, but atheists (and ”anti-theists”) shouldn’t have the right to reply ?

          By the way, please note that this site welcomes contradictory arguments, coming from ”god believers” as well as from ”no-god” advocates.

          This is called…. debating. It’s as simple as that.

          Note, also, that the immense majority of the ”dedicated” religious websites —such as the (in)famous ”Answers In Genesis”, to name but one— ….spew out their retarded BS over hundreds of webpages, but.. don’t allow comments !

          Well.. Maybe that’s the ideal world you dream of : a world where you could ”testify” for your (silly) beliefs at will, but where no one would be there to refute, debunk or even contradict them.

          Well.. Forget it. That was the time where religion was absolutely hegemonic. This time is definitely over.

  21. Michael says:

    The after life might not be real, but the price of the book sure is!! Ouch.

  22. Doug Dean says:

    Oblivion is a scary thought in which humans seem to be the only ‘lucky’ creature to ponder. Yet, by considering one’s own death a desensitization to the thought of it can eventually occur — at least when compared to the constant reinforcement of an afterlife preached every Sunday. This is why I approach theists with the following question;

    If God declared that the afterlife was now closed would you behave any differently?

    Surprisingly, the Christians I ask eventually admit their behavior wouldn’t change at all. This is a good sign! In creating a conversation that allows theists to personally contemplate the permanency of death, via a safe thought experiment, I hope that the thought of death would lose some of its sting, thus lessening the need for a magic charm to escape the inevitable.

  23. Stephen Nowlin says:

    I’m pleased to see a book like this enter the discourse, even if a minority participant. Yet I can’t help but wonder why we so seriously ponder 675 pages on a question for which the answer is simple and self-evident.

    If we continually witnessed rabbits hopping through their lifespan, we would not likely bother to write volumes rebutting believers who insist on winged flight as the true nature of rabbit mobility. We would consider the case settled simply by observing a lot of rabbits over time. Similarly, if you want to know what happens to a living organism after it dies, you need only watch it. Watch a hundred dead things, a thousand, watch them for days and years. What you observe will settle the question of whether or not a living thing continues to live in any fashion at all, after it dies.

    We have become inured to the absurd meme, reinforced for millennia, of life continuing after death — to the extent that we take seriously a phenomenological question we would otherwise reject as ridiculous if it applied to any other commonplace subject. And scientists and intellectuals in general hide in their domains, politely concerned about whether the majisteria should not overlap. The final paragraph of the above book review is its most compelling, and it is time that academics, scientists, intellectuals, skeptics, and frankly thoughtful theists, aggressively dispel the lingering myths about life, death, and a supernatural universe — archaic beliefs that send human reason careening in wrong and terribly destructive directions in the 21st century.

    • Phil Bone says:

      Stephen (#23) — It’s like you had ‘stolen it away’ out of me own keyboard ͜¨ ! ! !

      Couldn’t say it better.

  24. Janice Muir says:

    I take a lot of comfort in the idea that many worms and other critters will feast well when I die. That’s pretty much all I care about.

  25. Charles Boden says:

    Plants have a form of consciousness and yet are void of having a brain. According to studies, they are capable of being conscious of their spacial location, of reacting to threat, by producing chemical toxins when they hear a caterpillar on another plant, for example; are reported to have a form of “learning memory” and to react when their leaves are broken off as though capable of feeling pain.

    What if “consciousness” is something else? What if perhaps it is information at the most intangible scale? Consciousness is certainly a perceivable reality of the universe (and what an unbelievable reality it is), but is it really just the result of electro-chemical discharges of the brain? Is that all we truly are?

    Perhaps all things contain “forms of consciousness”, forms of information. Perhaps it is this primordial essence, this inteligent and creative principle of the universe, that makes use of the brain as an instrument in order to manifest in the physical, three-dimensional realm, and not the inverse order. It is we, as conscious beings, who interact with our brain and hence with our physical body. But how could this be proven? How can one access the intangible, even more so if perhaps the phenomenon is dimensional?

    Naturally there will be no physical reaction if the instrument, the brain, is damaged, but that does not prove that consciousness does not remain present, though no longer able to interact with the physical. I once watched a program in which a lady scientist was using an analogy to explain what a diferent dimension would be like. Standing in front of a TV screen, she explained that those in a bi-dimensional reality, such as the TV screen (width and height), would not be able to hear or see her in a 3rd (depth), but that she, in a 3rd, would be able to hear and see all that was happening in theirs. It instantly clicked in me that, if indeed consciousness does persist even after physical death, the process must be something very similar…

    • Phil Bone says:

      Charles —- Except that the ”people” on the screen…. are not actual people. They are just electrons hitting an electronic surface. Get back down to earth !

      There is a proverb that states : ”Comparison is not reason”.

      Of course, if you wanna state such worn-out evidences like, for example, ”ants don’t have any consciousness of how we humans perceive the world”, what can we do but agree with that ?

      But then, you say : ”Perhaps all things contain “forms of consciousness”, forms of information”.

      Very well..

      By the way : this has been thought of for more than two hundred centuries by now. It’s called ”Animism”. But let’s forget that.

      Indeed, it can be proposed as a scientific hypothesis…. Why not ?

      But if you envisage this ”statement” as a basis for a scientific research program, you should necessarily conduct it…. according to the scientific method ! Otherwise, it cannot work !

      That’s where you comment ‘derails’. In your very next sentence, unfortunately, you write : ”Perhaps it is this primordial essence, this inteligent and creative principle of the universe, that makes use of the brain as an instrument in order to manifest in the physical, three-dimensional realm, and not the inverse order”.

      As soon as you introduce any unprovable concept such as ”an intelligent and creative principle of the universe” —-which, moreover, is supposed to ”use” our brains to manifest ”itself”, you instantaneously exclude yourself from any scientific research system, ’cause such a lofty speculation is completely antiscientific ! !

      It doesn’t explain anything, cannot be worked upon, and doesn’t bring forth any predictable, ”workable” result. Thus, it is completely redundant –therefore useless– when it comes to comprehend what happens in a given natural process.

      I wish you’d realize that.

  26. Charles Boden says:

    When I said “they hear a caterpillar”, naturally it cannot be “hearing”, but it is not understood how plants are capable of detecting, and yet they do and can recognize and respond..

  27. Ian Wardell says:

    I’ve read the book in its entirety. Unlike this reviewer I have a fairly unfavourable opinion of the book. Eventually I intend to write my own review.

    The reviewer says:

    “Among the many problems surrounding the notion of a “disembodied afterlife” are vexing questions such as how could disembodied entities with no spatial locations interact with biological and physical systems”

    The difficulties for dualism are not as formidable as those for materialism. Indeed the book — almost 700 pages — completely omits any mention of the difficulties of materialism! This is utterly disgraceful as it’s such an essential point. It is my position that we are compelled to accept that *modern materialism*, i.e the materialism espoused with the birth of modern science and the adoption of the mechanistic philosophy in the 17th Century, simply cannot accommodate the existence of consciousness. See 2 essays I’ve written which explain this:

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/science-afterlife-and-intelligentsia.html

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/neither-modern-materialism-nor-science.html

    Reviewer says:
    “[How can souls] recognize each other, or move, act, perceive, remember and think, all without a brain. The conclusion is that no coherent or desirable version of the soul could plausibly survive brain death”.

    This comment partially seems to assume materialism. But materialism is untenable. Moreover, if there is a “life after death”, then none of these are produced by the brain, but rather are attributes of the soul.

    Thus the contention would be that thinking, memory, perceiving are all attributes of the self or soul. Whilst the soul acts through the body, then the brain affects these attributes, but doesn’t create them. Think of the way a prism affects white light. We get coloured light, but the prism *all by itself* didn’t produce the coloured light, rather it is a combination of the prism and white light. Likewise, I suggest it could be a combination of the self/soul on the one hand, and brain on the other hand, that results in out mind and psychological states. Hence we can expect to feel very different and have very different abilities in the afterlife (should it exist).

    • Phil Bone says:

      To @Ian —

      Everything you said hereabove could be just perfect…. Except that you systematically proceed by mere unsubstantiated statements. It’s all ”hanging up there in the air” !

      You affirm : ”We are compelled to accept that *modern materialism*, i.e the materialism espoused with the birth of modern science and the adoption of the mechanistic philosophy in the 17th Century, simply cannot accommodate [sic !] the existence of consciousness”…..

      Maybe you meant, more simply, that ” *modern materialism* is not able to explain what is exactly ‘consciousness’, and how it works in reality” ???

      If that’s what you meant, as it seems to be the case, then that’s EXACTLY the way of thinking which, for millenia in a row, led people to assure us that we could never ‘lift the curse’ that caused diseases and epidemics (because they pretended that it was *the wrath of ”god”*, thus ”beyond our understanding”)…. until Louis Pasteur and Alexander Yersin discovered that the so-called ‘curse’ what simply the action of bacteria (and viruses).

      Remember : ”One should never say ‘never’ ”.

      Then, later on, you firmly state : ”If there is a “life after death” [which you don’t demonstrate], then none of these are produced by the brain, but rather are attributes of the soul [oh really ? how did you infer that ?]. Thus, the contention would be that thinking, memory, perceiving are all attributes of the self or soul. Whilst the soul acts through the body, then the brain affects these attributes, but doesn’t create them”.

      That’s called ‘fallacy out of ignorance’ (If there is a “life after death”) , ‘circular reasoning’ , and ‘begging the question’ : first, you pose that ”thinking, memory, perceiving.. are all attributes of the self or soul”, then therefore, you conclude that ”the brain doesn’t create them”.

      Brilliant.

      Maybe you should open a book about how science really works, before coming on a skeptics’ site and spill out your profound ‘scientific’ thoughts ? Thanks.

  28. richmartini says:

    Believe not believe. What happened to data? I recommend Dr. Greyson’s youtube talk “Is Consciousnes Produced by the Brain” for numerous medical citations of when brains were not working and yet consciousness existed. Or Mario Beauregard PhD’s Brain Wars – where he cites the case of a patient having a near death experience where he came back and described all the colors of the clothing the hospital staff were wearing. “Doc. Loved your orange shoes.” Only problem, patient had been blind from birth – had never seen a color. Ever. I’ve been collecting near death reports and comparing them to between life hypnosis session, and seeing how the reports are consistent. Then I set out to replicate them by having near death experiencers remember their events under hypnosis – and were able to see and access information they didn’t see before. The point being, when new information is brought back from one of these events – that is information that can’t be ascribed to hypoxia or cyptomnesia – new information from someone no longer on the planet who reports something that could not have been known on the planet – then we have something to explore and examine. The “belief” that life ends with death is just that. If we can’t define consciousness, then we can’t define “life” any more than we can define “death.” This book doesn’t take into consideration the numerous medical cases where people have been dead – no oxygen to the brain for minutes, sometimes hours, and yet they’re able to bring back “new information” from the afterlife. Like Dr. Eben Alexander being given a tour by a woman, who months after the NDE discovered that woman to be a sister he never knew about, who had died prior to his birth. Or even in “Heaven is for Real” where the child meets a sister who died in childbirth that he was never told about. It’s not about piling them all into one big rubric of “heaven” – it’s about examining each case for new information. What are we learning from those who are no longer on the planet that we couldn’t possibly have known? My two cents.

  29. Stephen Nowlin says:

    I’m thinking maybe consciousness is simply the emergent sensation of what it feels like to be a particular living organism. It’s the organism’s reflexive impression of its own data stream, all its biological parts, a realtime self-image of the flow. We don’t say “look at the millions of water molecules as they each interact with gravity and truncated granite!” We say “look at the waterfall!” We have a sense of the waterfall as a thing in itself, a thing independent from its constituent parts, but it’s not really — it’s just how its component elements are interpreted by our senses at a higher magnitude of appearance.

    Consciousness is the waterfall — and there’s no waterfall if the stuff of which it is made no longer exists. e.g.. Yosemite in a hot dry summer, or the mind of a dead person.

    • Phil Bone says:

      Perfect reasoning. Why can’t all these ”faith followers” make their brain work…. just a tiny bit more sharply ???

      I don’t want to cheer or compliment ourselves as ”amongst the ‘chosen few’ ” : we’re not in any way ”superior” to any other human being, normally equipped with an average brain….

      Then…. how come don’t they just take ”a step back” and start.. just examining all these irrational concepts ?

      How come did you do it ?

      How come did I do it, when I thought about all this nonsense, then pulled out of all these silly dogmas religious dumbos had put in my head ?

      And all the skeptics, all around the world ? How did they do ? And why the others ”can’t” ?

      That’s beyond my comprehension.

      • Dudley Jones says:

        Hi

        Perhaps skepticism is an ability rather than a conclusion, a talent like being musical. People who question their own foundations are probably pretty rare.

        Some folks cannot bear the thought that we are ignorant monkeys doing the best we can. (Actually, some of our accomplishments are impressive – going to the moon and coming back alive would be an example.)

        • Phil Bone says:

          Hello Dudley
          Your guess could work in an environment where there isn’t any information stating that other worldviews exist —like during the catholic church-dominated Dark Age in Europe, or nowadays in Saudi Arabia, for example….

          But since the 19th century and the impressive explosion of printed matter in the Western World —not to talk about our own internet-saturated 21rst century— , zillions of people have been presented with the ”alternative” view that, maybe, all these stories about life-after-death, or about an allmighty entity sauntering around somewhere up there….. were just superstitious human inventions !

          After all, it is by getting aware of this ‘new’ reasoning that millions of folks around the world said to themselves : ”I didn’t think about it.. Well.. what about , if they were right, after all ?”

          Why don’t these god-believers make the same ”step forward”, then ?

          What I think is that’s because they’ve ALL been taught that, if they even dare just to think about it, the ”wrath” of their god will pour on them, and they will immediately get loads of troubles in their own life —accidents, horrible diseases, deaths of friends, etc…… Or worse (for them) : they will burn in hell forever !

          THAT’S a mighty good reason not to engage into the ”alternative worldview”.

          But maybe there are other ones.

          Any idea ?

  30. Roger Linse says:

    Afterlife? Does not make any sense. I gave up on things that go
    bump in the dark at about 7 years old.

  31. Ian Wardell says:

    @Phil Bone

    Why did you put “sic” after I say accommodate?

    Anyway, either you haven’t read my 2 essays that I link to, or you haven’t understood them.

    • Bob Pease says:

      anyone who dates a commie has got to be sic.

    • Phil Bone says:

      @Ian — Because I don’t see what you actually meant when you chose to use that verb in that precise sentence.

      That’s why I proposed another formulation. But you didn’t bother telling me if my ‘reformulation’ of that statement of yours was accurate.

      All that matters to you, apparently, is that people read the books you’ve put out. This is no way to debate. People have other things to do than spend hours reading your prose.

      If you cannot argue directly, with your own words, in a given discussion, avoid getting into it in the first place. Ok ?

      (Besides, in most discussion forums, any marketing for a personal production, or advertisement for one’s own personal site or blog.. is ”highly discouraged” —when it’s not strictly forbidden altogether).

      Last point : uttering that you contradictor ”doesn’t understand” what you say…. without demonstrating why and where he ”doesn’t understand”, is just an empty statement, and a waste of time for everybody.

      Try to.. ”understand” that.
      Goodbye.

  32. Phil dees says:

    So are they saying they have figured out consciousness. Because that would be news that every AI scientists in the world would love to have. But this is not the case we have no idea what consciousness is we have been trying to figure it out for over 4000 years. Some think that if we build small anough processors(quantum) and anough of them we’ll get AI but even thats debated. So for Neuroscientist say that they KNOW is complete hourse hockey. The other part of this issue is we don’t know where memory is stored (most likely inside dna itself). The reason for this is the worm experment. They thought they new where memory was they cut of the worms head thous remove what they thought was its memories. However, when the head grew back the neurons fired exactly as if the head was never severed. Lead some to postulate memory may be kept outside the mind. So once again there so called proof is thin at best.

    Now let say they are right and when we die there nothing we end that it there is nothing. Well yes and no if the universe is forever which came out of nothing then we return to it nothing and nothing is forever. Nothing also means no physic of any kind existing. No time, no space, no mater. The big on there is no time. Nothing is forever and there is no time so that mean everything that has ever existed and that will ever existe will keep reliving those exact moment over and over again even you reading this and about to say im wrong. That has all ready happen countless times before and will be countless time after. So we are immortal if you want to look at it that way.

  33. Ian Wardell says:

    Phil Bone:
    “All that matters to you, apparently, is that people read the books you’ve put out. This is no way to debate. People have other things to do than spend hours reading your prose.

    If you cannot argue directly, with your own words, in a given discussion, avoid getting into it in the first place. Ok ?

    (Besides, in most discussion forums, any marketing for a personal production, or advertisement for one’s own personal site or blog.. is ”highly discouraged” —when it’s not strictly forbidden altogether)”.

    …………………………..

    My blog is not a book. And there are no adverts on it and I make absolutely nothing from my blog. It takes up my time for absolutely no financial reward. I could paste it all in here, but it’s obviously better on the blog as it’s all formatted and easier on the eye.

    The 2 essays are around 10,000 words. If I make it much shorter, then it will be that much more difficult to understand. I need to lead people by the hand.

    You said:
    “Maybe you meant, more simply, that ” *modern materialism* is not able to explain what is exactly ‘consciousness’, and how it works in reality” ??? ”

    That is true, and contrary to what the authors of myth of an afterlife assert. But even this doesn’t get to the heart of the issue.

    We have to go back to the birth of modern science in the 17th Century. It’s very success was by focussing exclusively on the measurable aspects of reality — that which can be quantified and mathematically described.

    But what about the qualities of the external world? Namely colours, smells, sounds? They were stipulated not to really exist out there, and placed into the mind. That was convenient because it makes the external world much simpler, and obviously amenable to laws cashed out in purely quantitative terms.

    But then what about the mind? They placed the colours, sounds and smells into the mind, but we cannot explain the mind itself. Also minds are conscious with pains, fears, intentions. In short everything which a mathematically quantifiable description cannot apply.

    So they *changed* the mind and consciousness into that which *is* quantifiable. A conscious experience is the *very same thing as* a physical process in the brain. But that’s obviously not true. A physical process is something which we can measure, and its reality is exhausted by everything we can measure. A conscious experience is not of that nature.

    At this point I’m running into a danger of makign this response as long as my essays! Except I’m typing this out in a hurry and not going to proofread or anything. So if you don’t understand my original stuff on my blog, you won’t be able to understand this either! This is why I created a blog in the first place — so I can express my ideas.

  34. Ian Wardell says:

    Consciousness is changed into a physical process (or what that process does), in a comparable way in which the colour red was changed into a specific wavelength of light.

    And Mr Bone, you complain about the prospect of reading 2 essays. I read the entirety of the myth of an afterlife! About 700 pages! And, moreover, in stark contrast to my essays, it was extraordinarily repetitious and boring. It never mentioned any problems with materialism, it essentially asserted that we scientifically understand consciousness (not only do we not understand it, but we *couldn’t in principle* understand it as I explained in my previous post).

    There’s loads of ridiculous stuff in the book like what would be the power source of the soul in the afterlife realm(s). So the author was thinking of the afterlife realm as being somewhat similar to this physical reality where physical laws apply!

    One of the chapters attacked reincarnation, not by philosophically examining it, but by attacking the concept of karma! But, first of all, she had a preposterous conception of karma, and secondly, why the heck does reincarnation entail karma anyway??

    I’ll write a review eventually. Will put on my blog, but I’m in no hurry.

  35. Ian Wardell says:

    Its not it’s!

  36. Rodney Wilson says:

    This book, as described, sounds like a lot of pretentious nonsense. First of all, the section on neuroscience establishes exactly nothing. All that neuroscience has been able to show is that there is a correlation between brain activity and consciousness. But, as any student of statistics can tell you, correlation does not prove causality. There is no evidence from neuroscience to show whether brain activity produces consciousness, or consciousness produces brain activity.

    The sections on the plausibility of souls seem to be based on the fanciful notion that the souls are somehow dependent on aspects of physicality in order to function. But if they function within a non-physical universe, then this idea is meaningless.

    The final section on a supposedly philosophical debunking of evidence from near death experiences, recall of previous lives, and the like, seems unlikely to have taken into account the large amount of veridical evidence that has come from such sources. If they are really sure they can debunk such evidence, then they should gave a go at Zammit’s million dollar prize. If they can do that, then I might consider the book worth reading.

  37. Loughlin Tatem says:

    What might get my attention is were a person to remain dead and unburied for perhaps five years, go to heaven or hell or wherever, and after five years return to life and report on the experience. But they never seem to remain in heaven or hell for any length of time. Medical science keeps dragging back their souls to tell us how wrong we are.

  38. Siva Ratnam says:

    What right has science or science enthusiasts and rational skeptics have to declare such statement as if it is the truths, when science knows next to nothing about the “true” reality behind anything-not even a blade of grass or a grain of sand? It will do them good if they reflect for a moment on the evolutionary design, which evolution created for our species, including the kind of society we should live in and the belief systems our species should have. The center point of this was religion-which evolutionary design made to be the very foundation of every human culture on this planet. It is is science-natural science-which made that decision for our species-respect it and reflect on it and try to fathom why it did so. That is your duty as scientists and/or rationalists.

    Choose only one master — Nature. -Rembrandt, painter and etcher (15 Jul 1606-1669)

    That is what evolution wanted us to do and gave us a religion, which emphasized such a belief system. Then came the western civilization and its so called Enlightenment Era followed by materialistic science and nature was forced to take a backseat. Today it is science that is the only master we are supposed to have. Science has now got its own ego it seems and wants religion completely out of the human society and even the human mind. That undue respect to manmade science has caused most of the problems in the world-even capitalism and industrialization were aided and abetted by science. Finally, we have a civilization that is nothing but structured on the basis of science and this makes science a big participant in creating the mess that we are in-including the social, political and the health related ones. If science did not empower capitalism and industrialization, very little of this mess would have occurred.

  39. Emilie Pearson says:

    Followed the link for this book to Amazon. At $76 evidently it is not intended to be widely read or stocked in libraries. What’s the philosophy paraphrase I want, something like … if a book is published and nobody can afford it, does it really exist?

  40. Kourtney says:

    That’s really thniknig at a high level

  41. Jake Tidmore says:

    Siva, by your reasoning it seems that one could say slavery was a result of evolution. We can even complete your reasoning that religion is caused by evolution and suggest that the movement away from religion is an evolutionary step. Unfortunately for you, you’ve failed to provide evidence that religion has roots in evolutionary methods.
    Until religious advocates can strip away the superstition and the supernatural from their viewpoints, then remaining skeptical of their statements seems the most reasonable route to being factual, possibly even reaching that mythical level of being truthful.

  42. gail taylor says:

    I was going to order the book,then I saw the price!!!

  43. Roberta says:

    Imagine how funny it would be remembering all the games and books and TV shows you’ve been watching during your entire life while floating away as a disembodied entity.
    The only hope to get a second chance at life is Transhumanism. Otherwise, when you die, it’s over forever

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