A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival

#1
Sounds like an interesting book, though with a hefty price tag.....anybody read this? From a review:

Here is a much simplified and therefore perhaps incorrect summary of what I feel are the major points he raises. The first is that the claim that certain paranormal phenomena provide evidence for survival of death relies first on an argument from elimination, in particular that there are only two other alternatives available: the evidence is due to fraud, misobservation, defects of memory etc., or the evidence is due to 'super-psi'. Eliminate these and default you have proved survival. Of course there are any number of alternative logical possibilities, the evidence is due to the actions of mischievous boggarts, daemons, demons, jinns, fairies, aliens, etc. Or maybe the universe is a computer simulation and these are communications from the programmers; perhaps they are communications from the living breathing individuals in alternate worlds, or any number of possible explanations that no-one has ever thought of, including those no human ever will be able to think of, any more than chimpanzees can think of nuclear physics.

The second argument is that in order to account for the evidence certain additional assumptions must be made about surviving entities; that they are fully human personalities with human needs and intentions, that they carry memories of terrestrial life, that they can acquire information from and transmit information to the terrestrial world, and that they desire to communicate and have the means to do so. There is another hidden assumption which I don’t think Sudduth brings out, and that is there must be a one-to-one temporal correspondence between 'their world' and ours in order for communication to take place.



It also strikes me that given these assumptions there ought to be a prediction that as more and more people with a deep interest in psychical research 'pass over' the communications should become increasingly more sophisticated and impressive, perhaps involving cross correspondences dealing with highly technical scientific matters. In reality the bulk of the most impressive evidence comes from before the Second World War and most of it from before the First World War.

The third of Sudduth’s arguments is that the dichotomy between survival and super-psi is a false one. For surviving entities to receive and transmit information implies they must use a process which could be called psi. When someone in a NDE describes what is going on in the operating theatre, or the whereabouts of false teeth or slippers on a hospital roof, no-one sees disembodied eyes floating around, so if genuine this information must come from some form of ESP. The same is true with mediumistic communications.


Take one example, this was something known as the book test, in which the sitter was told by the communicator to go to the library of someone else (presumably their country house library) and to select, say, the sixth book from the left on the third shelf of the fourth bookcase from the right and look at line ten on page 150 where they will find an appropriate message. Now I assume that spirits were not expected to be able to open books and read them, therefore they must have acquired the information through ESP of some sort.

In other worlds it is not survival versus super-psi but survival + super-psi, versus embodied super-psi, with no clear way of distinguishing between them. Sudduth also points out that we have no way of knowing what super-psi ought to look like, so may indeed always look like survival. Sudduth here also notes the role of dissociation, multiple personality, role playing and the like in the production of such communications.

As you will see even from this grossly oversimplified summary, this is a very complex and difficult book, but one that those with a serious interest in psychical research should try and struggle through. Even those sceptical of both survival and psi should find something of value if they persist, the arguments may elucidate that non-paranormal explanations may be more complex and subtle than is usually thought. – Peter Rogerson.
http://pelicanist.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/post-mortem-examinations.html

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Philosophi...c6b718584653f6f1d6453&creativeASIN=B017KUOSX2

edit: not sure what the rules or etiquette is on posting almost entire blog entries, but I've edited the original post to paste almost all the book review as it's just so fascinating....
 
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#2
Yes. I read it and it's one of the most misunderstood books both by skeptics and proponents.

First of all, it's an academic book. It was published in a "modern theology" series and it's clearly aimed at people with some familiarity reading philosophy text. And, as an analytical philosopher, Sudduth employs a lot of bayesian inductive arguments. Laymen will probably get lost very quickly in the middle of an argument and will probably need to re-read it multiple times. (PS: To be fair, Sudduth explains everything you should know of Bayesian inference that you will need and it's not complicated, however, if you never read a book like that, you will get lost for sure).

The book mentions some philosophers,like CJ Ducasse and CD Broad and great part of the book is an analysis of their arguments. If you don't what these philosophers defended, you'll probably get confused or have an incomplete picture of their ideas.

Sudduth is very "pro-psi" and "pro-paranormal" and, as I recall, he himself had a strong mystical experience, causing his conversion from christianity to hinduism. I also believe that he was once an editor for the Journal of Scientific exploration. And that's the main reason why skeptics deslike this book (if you are a skeptic, the best reference I can give you is the recent book by Keith Augustine).

However, the reason a lot of proponents desliked the book is because Sudduth argues that "super psi" is a better hypothesis than "personal survival". And by better hypothesis, I'm refering to the hypothes that fit the empirical evidences better. It's important to point out that Sudduth never says that the empirical evidence is worthless or that it doesn't support survival, he only says that there's no reason to prefer survival over super-psi (in fact, according to him, it's the opposite).


I would recommend that you only read this book after reading Braude's Immortal Remains, Robert Almeder's Death and Personal Survival and papers by C.D. Broad and Curt Ducasse.
 
#3
Yes. I read it and it's one of the most misunderstood books both by skeptics and proponents.

First of all, it's an academic book. It was published in a "modern theology" series and it's clearly aimed at people with some familiarity reading philosophy text. And, as an analytical philosopher, Sudduth employs a lot of bayesian inductive arguments. Laymen will probably get lost very quickly in the middle of an argument and will probably need to re-read it multiple times. (PS: To be fair, Sudduth explains everything you should know of Bayesian inference that you will need and it's not complicated, however, if you never read a book like that, you will get lost for sure).

The book mentions some philosophers,like CJ Ducasse and CD Broad and great part of the book is an analysis of their arguments. If you don't what these philosophers defended, you'll probably get confused or have an incomplete picture of their ideas.

Sudduth is very "pro-psi" and "pro-paranormal" and, as I recall, he himself had a strong mystical experience, causing his conversion from christianity to hinduism. I also believe that he was once an editor for the Journal of Scientific exploration. And that's the main reason why skeptics deslike this book (if you are a skeptic, the best reference I can give you is the recent book by Keith Augustine).

However, the reason a lot of proponents desliked the book is because Sudduth argues that "super psi" is a better hypothesis than "personal survival". And by better hypothesis, I'm refering to the hypothes that fit the empirical evidences better. It's important to point out that Sudduth never says that the empirical evidence is worthless or that it doesn't support survival, he only says that there's no reason to prefer survival over super-psi (in fact, according to him, it's the opposite).


I would recommend that you only read this book after reading Braude's Immortal Remains, Robert Almeder's Death and Personal Survival and papers by C.D. Broad and Curt Ducasse.
I dont understand. I've never heard of psi experiments where they see tunnel of light or deceased relatives. Many OBEs during cardiac arrest are followed by tunnel of light, and if it's a psi thing I'd expect them to see the scene from the doctor/nurse point of view, not floating above the ceiling where there's no person to transmit the information.

Personally I don't believe in mediums (they're all frauds to me, using cold reading/general statements that apply to many people), and I'm highly skeptical of psi in general, although I think just telepathy is certainly a possibility.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#4
I've gotten the impression that Sedduth doesn't want post-mortem survival accounts to be true because they contradict the afterlife narratives he holds to. Both the Christian Heaven/Hell narrative as well as the Vedanta Mind@Large narrative.

All that said, I've not read his books so I might be treating him unfairly. IIRC he was going to write a book in support of the survival hypothesis.
 
#5
I dont understand. I've never heard of psi experiments where they see tunnel of light or deceased relatives. Many OBEs during cardiac arrest are followed by tunnel of light, and if it's a psi thing I'd expect them to see the scene from the doctor/nurse point of view, not floating above the ceiling where there's no person to transmit the information.

Personally I don't believe in mediums (they're all frauds to me, using cold reading/general statements that apply to many people), and I'm highly skeptical of psi in general, although I think just telepathy is certainly a possibility.
I don't want to discuss that, mainly because I'm not a supporter of the super-psi hypothesis. But I think that once you accept NDE as something that involves some "paranormal" aspects, you open a pandora box and you need to investigate all allegedly paranormal claims, from reincarnation to abductees (I'm not saying that you should accept everything, indeed you'll end up rejecting most of it). And when you start analysing everything, things start to get very messy.

I've gotten the impression that Sedduth doesn't want post-mortem survival accounts to be true because they contradict the afterlife narratives he holds to. Both the Christian Heaven/Hell narrative as well as the Vedanta Mind@Large narrative.
Yes, I think that is probably the case. Specially because he does think that consciousness continues after that, he just denies personal survival.
 
#6
Personally I don't believe in mediums (they're all frauds to me, using cold reading/general statements that apply to many people), and I'm highly skeptical of psi in general, although I think just telepathy is certainly a possibility.
It isn't necessary to go via a medium. Many bereaved people experience some form of contact with the deceased, One could argue that a proportion of this may be 'wishful thinking' but there remain some experiences of direct contact which won't so easily go away.

One sub-category of such experiences occurs among those approaching their own death, who may receive surprise visits from deceased loved ones. But, as in NDE accounts, there are also instances where the experiencer is physically healthy at the time. It's a broad subject.
 
#7
It isn't necessary to go via a medium. Many bereaved people experience some form of contact with the deceased, One could argue that a proportion of this may be 'wishful thinking' but there remain some experiences of direct contact which won't so easily go away.

One sub-category of such experiences occurs among those approaching their own death, who may receive surprise visits from deceased loved ones. But, as in NDE accounts, there are also instances where the experiencer is physically healthy at the time. It's a broad subject.
My thing with mediums is that they make money. I'm extremely skeptical of people who profit off paranormal stuff. NDE researchers get their reputations and careers destroyed and salaries reduced, they are very different from mediums. I do believe some deceased contact of family relatives are genuine, but mediums asking for $$$ to contact the deceased are all frauds.
 
#10
edit: not sure what the rules or etiquette is on posting almost entire blog entries, but I've edited the original post to paste almost all the book review as it's just so fascinating....
Well I am a moderator, and I am unaware of any such rule.. :)

I always think Super-psi is the weakest of arguments.

Materialists clearly can't rely on the super-psi argument. You have to concede so much to accept ψ, never mind a super version of it, that you might as well accept the original proposition. I mean ψ, more or less by definition, involves minds doing things that aren't compatible with materialism.

If you want to read something academic on the subject, I would recommend "Irreducible Mind" - which is reasonably cheap on the Kindle. It covers a range of subjects, that break the materialistic view of mind, including the idea that it ends at death.

Nevertheless, I think it is best not to look for conclusive proof of what happens after death, because unless perhaps you have an NDE, you will always be left with a niggling doubt. Be content with a high probability that our consciousness continues after death.

David
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#12
As Gabriel once said, for the living-agent psi hypothesis to be true the mind would have to have incredible power that appears difficult to explain in material terms (I always find macro-PK the most "immaterialist" power). It suggests there's at least the strong possibility that there's an afterlife.

The mimicry thing is what makes me very skeptical about living agent psi. We have psychic power but it manifests itself in ways that suggest an afterlife as opposed to those instances of Psi that have no such suggestion.

I'm also not sure how living agent psi would fit into the evolutionary picture. All this power but it ends up manifesting in largely "useless" ways as far as the propagation of our genes are concerned? Seems like it would be selected against long before. There are "just so" stories one can make up about why evolution ended up producing psychic manifestations to fake the afterlife but it seems rather desperate to me?
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#13
Materialists clearly can't rely on the super-psi argument. You have to concede so much to accept ψ, never mind a super version of it, that you might as well accept the original proposition. I mean ψ, more or less by definition, involves minds doing things that aren't compatible with materialism.
Yet parapsychologists have offered a variety of materialist explanations for Psi? There are books featuring a variety of materialist explanations.
 
#14
Yet parapsychologists have offered a variety of materialist explanations for Psi? There are books featuring a variety of materialist explanations.
Well OK you have to convince yourself that materialist ψ is impossible. I don't give the idea any credence:

1) ψ seems to break loads of physical constrains simultaneously. Think of, precognition, ESP over long distances, remote viewing, NDE's etc. Theories that make sense of data like that, inevitably have to be abstracted from physical concepts.

2) None of these theories seem to be used for anything else - or even acknowledged. Their only function is to sort of debunk ψ. I mean, think of the various theories of NDE's. If neurones can do all the wonderful things they are supposed to do when starved almost to death of oxygen, wouldn't this be relevant to something else rather than just explaining NDE's?

3) The concept of the neural net - that is supposed to contain our memories (at least in as much as any theory explains memories), is inherently statistical. You train a neural net with data, and it forms a representation of reality and can 'recognise' situations and things. The problem is that there is absolutely no reason to expect that a representation of your NN for beer (say), it will look like anything other than noise if I receive it.

Sometimes looking at potential explanations from a high level, as above, can reveal a lot. If you plunge into the details you may get lost.

David
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#15
Well OK you have to convince yourself that materialist ψ is impossible. I don't give the idea any credence:

1) ψ seems to break loads of physical constrains simultaneously. Think of, precognition, ESP over long distances, remote viewing, NDE's etc. Theories that make sense of data like that, inevitably have to be abstracted from physical concepts.
Retrocausation is accepted by some as an explanation for entanglement, entanglement itself can suggest ESP over long distances, NDEs involving Psi don't help us explain the origin of Psi.

That said NDEs might resist materialist explanation while Psi used by conscious, living humans doesn't.

2) None of these theories seem to be used for anything else - or even acknowledged. Their only function is to sort of debunk ψ. I mean, think of the various theories of NDE's. If neurones can do all the wonderful things they are supposed to do when starved almost to death of oxygen, wouldn't this be relevant to something else rather than just explaining NDE's?
Are there any explanations for consciousness - materialist or otherwise - currently producing applied technologies? AFAIK the best we have are potential tech from IIT and Orch-OR.

3) The concept of the neural net - that is supposed to contain our memories (at least in as much as any theory explains memories), is inherently statistical. You train a neural net with data, and it forms a representation of reality and can 'recognise' situations and things. The problem is that there is absolutely no reason to expect that a representation of your NN for beer (say), it will look like anything other than noise if I receive it.
Well being an immaterialist for philosophical reasons as much as experiential ones I would agree with this, but this is an argument against materialism based on thoughts/memories. As Eric Wargo once put it - Consciousness may remain impervious to quantitative mechanistic/materialist description while we could still explain Psi in materialist terms - at least in so far as we can explain sensation in neuroscientific terms or how cameras and walking talkies work.

Sometimes looking at potential explanations from a high level, as above, can reveal a lot. If you plunge into the details you may get lost.
But high level abstraction can yield to arguments based on how wondrous Psi seems...but even things that seem wondrous can be explained in materialist terms. I would suggest checking out ESP Volume 1 & 2 or the Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century as both give us a variety of materialist explanations.

Now empirically we may find materialism fails to provide reasonable explanation for Psi but at the current moment only macro-PK seems to really resist materialist explanation.

On the flip side materialism can be true while still having an afterlife.
 
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#16
Retrocausation is accepted by some as an explanation for entanglement, entanglement itself can suggest ESP over long distances, NDEs involving Psi don't help us explain the origin of Psi.
Yes, but to use entanglement to explain precognition, you need retrocausation (obviously) together with a quantum explanation of consciousness. Also I think retrocausation in entanglement doesn't transmit information - just a statistical correlation that has to be observed at a later time. I.e QM explanations of precognition are out unless you admit some extension of QM that permits information transfer to occur in these situations.

A genuine backward transmission of information could also create paradoxes - think of Andy Paquette's dream of being mugged and murdered, which allowed him to avoid the event. From the point of view of retrocausation, this information was transmitted and as a result it could not be transmitted.........

David
 
#19
What I'm trying to say is, supposedly we are 99 percent empty space, are we really trying today that .1 percent is creating our reality? The universe is a cohesive unit you need more than one component to set it in motion
 
#20
Yes, but to use entanglement to explain precognition, you need retrocausation (obviously) together with a quantum explanation of consciousness. Also I think retrocausation in entanglement doesn't transmit information - just a statistical correlation that has to be observed at a later time. I.e QM explanations of precognition are out unless you admit some extension of QM that permits information transfer to occur in these situations.

A genuine backward transmission of information could also create paradoxes - think of Andy Paquette's dream of being mugged and murdered, which allowed him to avoid the event. From the point of view of retrocausation, this information was transmitted and as a result it could not be transmitted.........

David
Looks reasonable to me if we stick to adding things up - in an information sense. Once you start playing around with 4 dimensions and quantum coherence, it's a bit analogous to looking ahead and seeing a pothole, and altering course to avoid stepping in the pothole, which you've already seen. Here on earth, nobody thinks it's strange to do that... using energy to accelerate matter and use the degrees of freedom available to them based on the information available to them under gravity... and they 'appear' to change the future. But if your just adding things up, and understanding that within 4 dimensions and quantum coherence...
 
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