My Review of "The Myth of an Afterlife"

#41
Ian,

Thanks for that review - you certainly saved me possibly buying the book itself - though frankly I kind of know the 'mechanics' of such books by now - ignore all the problems with materialism (the problems that ultimately lead to bizarre notions such as the idea that people don't really have free will) and then assume that there actually is a scientific theory of consciousness, even as other scientists are wringing their hands about the mystery of consciousness!

I was particularly interested in your link relating to new research split brain patients:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170125093823.htm

This is not only interesting in itself, but it also shows how cautious one must be about interpreting scientific research in general. It is too easy to think of science as a growing set of discoveries, each of which has been 'proved' by peer review. In reality it is a back and forth process in which evidence for a particular idea may turn out to be contradictory or wrong.

The book had to include NDE's, but I was a bit surprised that they also discussed reincarnation. That evidence is really fascinating, and it would seem they made little effort to refute the actual evidence - just try to argue it away on pretty spurious 'logical' grounds!

I am yet to tackle the longer version of your review.

David
 
#42
I kind of know the 'mechanics' of such books by now - ignore all the problems with materialism (the problems that ultimately lead to bizarre notions such as the idea that people don't really have free will) and then assume that there actually is a scientific theory of consciousness, even as other scientists are wringing their hands about the mystery of consciousness!
An excellent succinct summary!
 
#43
What we do, what we experience, needn't be because of some grand purpose or ultimate end . .at least not in the narrow sense you're conceiving it. It's a very narrow minded, naive simplistic view I think. Our everyday lives, our everyday activities, can be purely for the sake of it, for the raw experience, not necessarily because it makes me a more enlightened soul or whatever.

I reject this dichotomy that either our lives are a process of soul-making, or our lives and the Universe are ultimately absurd and we've just here for the ride until eternal darkness descends upon us.
It would be great if you could expand on that. The ultimate purpose of life is almost as obscure (at least to me) as it always was. I mean is it possible that people come to experience an earth life rather as we might endure a frightening horror film or roller coaster ride?

David
 
#44
It would be great if you could expand on that. The ultimate purpose of life is almost as obscure (at least to me) as it always was. I mean is it possible that people come to experience an earth life rather as we might endure a frightening horror film or roller coaster ride?

David
I don't know if I can. This is one of those few questions where I'm floundering. I reject the purpose of life is to make as much money as possible because it means nothing in the end. But I'm also leery with this suggestion that we're living this life to learn specific lessons in order to become a more enlightened soul. Sounds too much like school to me!

I doubt I was explicitly put into this physical reality, and born into the body I was, due to some decision by some external conscious entity that it's in my best interests. I think it's maybe something more like my internal psychological make-up "gravitated" me to be born where I was.

And the reason why we are born? This question is normally conflated with why do I exist at all. But maybe some souls are never born into this physical world. Maybe some have one or two lives in this world only. Maybe yet others are continually reincarnated into this physical world. So, the reason why we're born is maybe for no particular reason just as deciding to take a day trip to x or y may be for no particular reason, apart from a vague disposition or curiosity to see what x or y is like.

The bigger question of why I exist at all, why any of us have an existence .. umm. . don't know.
 
#45
I don't know if I can. This is one of those few questions where I'm floundering. I reject the purpose of life is to make as much money as possible because it means nothing in the end. But I'm also leery with this suggestion that we're living this life to learn specific lessons in order to become a more enlightened soul. Sounds too much like school to me!
Right - and what on earth (pun) would those lessons be good for - except living further lives on Earth.

I don't know if you have read Michael Newton's book "Destiny of Souls", which is derived from hypnotic regression to previous lives and the intervening periods. There is a lot of talk about learning lessons, but it is all very vague. There is also talk of lives lived on other planets.

We repeatedly here (in that book and elsewhere) that whole lives can be viewed in one go before or after they are lived - as though time is accessed in one huge block. The concept of no time evolution is extraordinarily difficult to rationalise because almost every verb has a past and a future. For example 'learn' implies a' before' where something is not known, and an 'after' when it is! My only explanation I can come up with, is that there is a second time axis in which things happen in the non-material realm.

David
 
#46
I just skimmed through your review. I have a skeptic question that I rarely see skeptics bring up: anaesthetics wipe out consciousness completely, if there's a soul, where does it go during surgery? In a dreamless sleep there's still some degree of awareness, when you wake up you feel there's a passage of time, whereas for anaesthetics you close your eyes then open them again like everything was instant. I find this to be easily the most problematic argument against afterlife, I'm surprised it rarely gets brought up by materialists, there are ways to deal with personality change/memory loss etc, and please don't get me started on how stupid split brain is, even if I was a materialist split consciousness is beyond stupid. But anaesthetics I see no way out, even if the brain is shut down we should still experience something if there was a soul.
 
#47
I just skimmed through your review. I have a skeptic question that I rarely see skeptics bring up: anaesthetics wipe out consciousness completely, if there's a soul, where does it go during surgery? In a dreamless sleep there's still some degree of awareness, when you wake up you feel there's a passage of time, whereas for anaesthetics you close your eyes then open them again like everything was instant. I find this to be easily the most problematic argument against afterlife, I'm surprised it rarely gets brought up by materialists, there are ways to deal with personality change/memory loss etc, and please don't get me started on how stupid split brain is, even if I was a materialist split consciousness is beyond stupid. But anaesthetics I see no way out, even if the brain is shut down we should still experience something if there was a soul.
It might be an argument against survival if considered in isolation but then there is the body of evidence supporting survival to dismiss. Looking at a very narrow issue like this gives an easy answer but only if we ignore the full picture.
 
#48
I just skimmed through your review. I have a skeptic question that I rarely see skeptics bring up: anaesthetics wipe out consciousness completely, if there's a soul, where does it go during surgery? In a dreamless sleep there's still some degree of awareness, when you wake up you feel there's a passage of time, whereas for anaesthetics you close your eyes then open them again like everything was instant. I find this to be easily the most problematic argument against afterlife, I'm surprised it rarely gets brought up by materialists, there are ways to deal with personality change/memory loss etc, and please don't get me started on how stupid split brain is, even if I was a materialist split consciousness is beyond stupid. But anaesthetics I see no way out, even if the brain is shut down we should still experience something if there was a soul.
I agree! And it's something I specifically brought up with Keith Augustine in the comments section of Robert McLuhan's review of the book (I don't know where in the comments). I said the book never mentions anaesthesia, Keith claimed it does. Well, if it did, it was only the very vaguest mention! I can't remember. Yep, I have no idea why skeptics concentrate on the less convincing stuff. I mean the split-brains phenomena -- which the various authors bang on an' on about -- would be vastly more impressive if the split-brain person didn't appear to be exactly the same as he was before!

I've never experienced anaesthesia. Does it really seem that quite literally no time passes at all? I imagine that people might consider this proof that it must be the brain responsible for consciousness? Same thing as when people almost die, but are resuscitated and have no recollection of anything. Just a blank nothingness.

It's emotionally compelling, for sure. But it's not proof.

To quote from my review:

It surely must be obvious to everyone that spectacles (i.e. eyeglasses) actually create vision. Changing the lenses affects the vision in certain characteristic ways. One can make one's vision worse, or better. One can make one be able to see in the distance, but not close up; or conversely, to see close up, but not at a distance. We can invert peoples' vision. We can make people see everything in blue, or red, or green, you name it. Or all blurry. By painting the lenses black we can even eliminate one's vision completely! And all these effects are consistent across different people.

"By painting the lenses black we can even eliminate one's vision completely".


The fact that one's vision can be completely eliminated by wearing spectacles, whose lenses have been painted black, does not compel the conclusion that normal spectacles therefore must create vision. In section 9 where I talk about NDEs I say this:

"It might be that those who were unable to recollect any experiences never, in fact, left their bodies in the first place. If this is so, then they will still be subject to the constraints of their bodies and hence didn’t have any experiences to recollect any more than if they had been in deep sleep".

One's body, and especially one's brain, affects consciousness. If it can affect our consciousness, why couldn't it suppress consciousness completely? It would be like saying that spectacles can alter your vision, for better or worse, but spectacles could not completely eliminate your vision. But, of course, they can.

It seems that whilst we are embodied, we are subject to the constraints of the body.

I entirely agree though that it must be very emotionally compelling, especially when no time seems to have elapsed. Which goes to show, that if we do simply cease to exist, it won't be an eternity of nothingness. Our fear of death (death construed as annihilation) is irrational. But I reckon we most probably survive. The reincarnation evidence (from genuine memories, not hypnotically induced "memories") is extremely compelling.
 
#50
I agree! And it's something I specifically brought up with Keith Augustine in the comments section of Robert McLuhan's review of the book (I don't know where in the comments). I said the book never mentions anaesthesia, Keith claimed it does. Well, if it did, it was only the very vaguest mention! I can't remember. Yep, I have no idea why skeptics concentrate on the less convincing stuff. I mean the split-brains phenomena -- which the various authors bang on an' on about -- would be vastly more impressive if the split-brain person didn't appear to be exactly the same as he was before!

I've never experienced anaesthesia. Does it really seem that quite literally no time passes at all? I imagine that people might consider this proof that it must be the brain responsible for consciousness? Same thing as when people almost die, but are resuscitated and have no recollection of anything. Just a blank nothingness.

It's emotionally compelling, for sure. But it's not proof.

To quote from my review:

It surely must be obvious to everyone that spectacles (i.e. eyeglasses) actually create vision. Changing the lenses affects the vision in certain characteristic ways. One can make one's vision worse, or better. One can make one be able to see in the distance, but not close up; or conversely, to see close up, but not at a distance. We can invert peoples' vision. We can make people see everything in blue, or red, or green, you name it. Or all blurry. By painting the lenses black we can even eliminate one's vision completely! And all these effects are consistent across different people.

"By painting the lenses black we can even eliminate one's vision completely".


The fact that one's vision can be completely eliminated by wearing spectacles, whose lenses have been painted black, does not compel the conclusion that normal spectacles therefore must create vision. In section 9 where I talk about NDEs I say this:

"It might be that those who were unable to recollect any experiences never, in fact, left their bodies in the first place. If this is so, then they will still be subject to the constraints of their bodies and hence didn’t have any experiences to recollect any more than if they had been in deep sleep".

One's body, and especially one's brain, affects consciousness. If it can affect our consciousness, why couldn't it suppress consciousness completely? It would be like saying that spectacles can alter your vision, for better or worse, but spectacles could not completely eliminate your vision. But, of course, they can.

It seems that whilst we are embodied, we are subject to the constraints of the body.

I entirely agree though that it must be very emotionally compelling, especially when no time seems to have elapsed. Which goes to show, that if we do simply cease to exist, it won't be an eternity of nothingness. Our fear of death (death construed as annihilation) is irrational. But I reckon we most probably survive. The reincarnation evidence (from genuine memories, not hypnotically induced "memories") is extremely compelling.
I once read a case of a woman dying temporarily after birth. She does not remember waking up due to temporary brain damage, so she used hypnosis after hypnosis. She showed her memories of nde.
Perhaps some people are hurt so they lose the connection temporarily, the stream of consciousness constantly moving the front as a springboard for the latter to continually change so perhaps the anesthetic and some of the damage has taken away the memory at that time. their.
At the same time, there are some cases of strong enough experience of cardiac arrest during general anesthesia.
 
#51
I've never experienced anaesthesia. Does it really seem that quite literally no time passes at all? I imagine that people might consider this proof that it must be the brain responsible for consciousness? Same thing as when people almost die, but are resuscitated and have no recollection of anything. Just a blank nothingness.
I have experienced anaesthesia as a child. It really seemed that no time passed at all. When I came to, I didn't believe at first that the surgery had already been performed. My grandmother explained the situation to me and I thought that it had been an interesting experience.

Since then I have had experiences that have proved to me with 100% certainty that psi is real. I find Augustine's arguments amusing.
 
#53
It might be an argument against survival if considered in isolation but then there is the body of evidence supporting survival to dismiss. Looking at a very narrow issue like this gives an easy answer but only if we ignore the full picture.
I'm not saying it proves afterlife isn't real, there's quite a few difficult evidence from NDEs to explain. I'm trying to see if afterlife is consistent with the data, I always play the devil's advocate and am purposely extremely skeptical. Materialism sure isn't consistent with the data due to existence of consciousness, but materialism being wrong doesn't imply afterlife. A moving magnet generates electricity, something that can't be explained by motion of particles in the magnet without assuming something fundamentally new, when it stops moving no more electricity, consciousness might be similar.

I have experienced anaesthesia as a child. It really seemed that no time passed at all. When I came to, I didn't believe at first that the surgery had already been performed. My grandmother explained the situation to me and I thought that it had been an interesting experience.

Since then I have had experiences that have proved to me with 100% certainty that psi is real. I find Augustine's arguments amusing.
Would it be possible to share what those psi experiences were?
 
#54
Materialism sure isn't consistent with the data due to existence of consciousness, but materialism being wrong doesn't imply afterlife. A moving magnet generates electricity, something that can't be explained by motion of particles in the magnet without assuming something fundamentally new, when it stops moving no more electricity, consciousness might be similar.
Yes I agree with this. Keith Augustine will also very much agree with this (he'll be reading this thread with interest, you can be sure of that).

Nevertheless, it remains the case that science, as currently construed, limits itself to that which can be measured. So unless consciousness is conflated with some material process, in other words unless materialism of some variety is correct, then consciousness escapes science, at least as science is currently construed.

This is why we need a revolution in science. Science needs to be expanded so as to include consciousness. It has to recognise the existence of consciousness as something distinct from material processes (even if caused by them). It also has to recognise that consciousness is causally efficacious in its own right. I still think some interpretation of QM looks most promising here.

Once we have such a theory, then we'll be in a position to judge whether consciousness survives or not. But our current scientific knowledge, given that it completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality, cannot possible judge that consciousness ceases to exist at death!

I find it absolutely astonishing that all these people with impressive academic qualifications are so immune to understanding this point. I find it quite breathtaking.
 
#56
Once we have such a theory, then we'll be in a position to judge whether consciousness survives or not. But our current scientific knowledge, given that it completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality, cannot possible judge that consciousness ceases to exist at death!

I find it absolutely astonishing that all these people with impressive academic qualifications are so immune to understanding this point. I find it quite breathtaking.
Yes i agree. I've read into NDEs extensively and i feel its much more likely than not consciousness survives, because there are some very tough veridical evidence (though not 100% irrefutable), and I'm 100% certain the current materialist approach to consciousness is wrong (100% irrefutable stance here). I like to always play the devil's advocate on something that sounds too good to be true. As for your second comment, even sam harris said he isn't 100% sure that consciousness doesn't survive death, it's amazing so many neuroscientist are 100% sure about this


I think a lot of neuroscientist take survival as meaning the Cartesian soul exist, and tbh I find substance dualism even more problematic than materialism. Afterall, how is the soul, made of some non physical substance, consciousness? The hard problem still applies. So said neuroscientists think it must all be in the brain because to them the only choices are substance dualism or materialism. (I've read in a book review Dennett's main charge is attacking substance dualism and since he thinks it can't be true, by elimination consciousness must be in the brain). I think only certain forms of idealism are consistent with all the evidence.
 
#57
I'm not saying it proves afterlife isn't real, there's quite a few difficult evidence from NDEs to explain. I'm trying to see if afterlife is consistent with the data, I always play the devil's advocate and am purposely extremely skeptical. Materialism sure isn't consistent with the data due to existence of consciousness, but materialism being wrong doesn't imply afterlife. A moving magnet generates electricity, something that can't be explained by motion of particles in the magnet without assuming something fundamentally new, when it stops moving no more electricity, consciousness might be similar.
The evidence for an afterlife, as I’m sure you appreciate, is much much broader than NDEs. I appreciate you’re playing Devils Advocate.

I agree that materialism being wrong doesn’t imply an afterlife. The absence of apparent memories (except for NDEs and OBEs) when we are anaesthetised though doesn’t, I think, tell us much, if anything. Though I’d agree it seems different from sleep perhaps, a lot of things get switched off by some types of anaesthetic such a breathing etc.

@Ian - who cares what Keith Augustine thinks? He’s only interested in evidence that supports his position and ignores the rest or offers lame rebuttals at best.
 
#58
Ian,

Did I miss it, or did you omit one strong argument for NDE's being 'real'. A proportion of people who have an NDE, don't have any time to consciously anticipate their death - so why should these 'hallucinations' be death-themed? If people just dreamed of some of the stuff they typically dream of, the evidence would be a lot weaker.

David
 
#59
Ian,

Did I miss it, or did you omit one strong argument for NDE's being 'real'. A proportion of people who have an NDE, don't have any time to consciously anticipate their death - so why should these 'hallucinations' be death-themed? If people just dreamed of some of the stuff they typically dream of, the evidence would be a lot weaker.

David
Ian,

Did I miss it, or did you omit one strong argument for NDE's being 'real'. A proportion of people who have an NDE, don't have any time to consciously anticipate their death - so why should these 'hallucinations' be death-themed? If people just dreamed of some of the stuff they typically dream of, the evidence would be a lot weaker.

David
Skeptics will say it's fake or gey for some reson
 
#60
Ian,

Did I miss it, or did you omit one strong argument for NDE's being 'real'. A proportion of people who have an NDE, don't have any time to consciously anticipate their death - so why should these 'hallucinations' be death-themed? If people just dreamed of some of the stuff they typically dream of, the evidence would be a lot weaker.

David
Right. Its a little odd that people are "dreaming" of dead relatives and learning moral imperatives such as interconnectedness and an love at the time of their death. Sounds a lot like what enlightened folk, religious folk, shaman, priests etc have been telling us we should expect at the times of our deaths for thousands of years now. How many people are having NDE's concerning the Super Bowl they went to when they were 12? Or, dreaming that they went to school but forgot to wear clothes?
 
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