Afterlife

Proof of Life After Death? Maybe Not.

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Stair Way to Heaven
Indigo Moon

Lots of people are fascinated by accounts of near death experiences. For example, Proof of Heaven, in which neurosurgeon Eben Alexander writes of visiting the afterlife during a near death experience, was a New York Times bestseller and sold over 2 million copies.

Reports of near death experiences (NDEs) recounted by patients who have been resuscitated (usually from a heart attack) are proliferating not only n the popular literature, but in the scientific literature too. According to The Independent, a 4-year long study overseen by emergency medicine physician Sam Parnia found:

There is scientific evidence to suggest that life can continue after death, according to the largest ever medical study carried out on the subject.

Life continues after death? Maybe for about 3 minutes. The results are from the AWARE study and published in Resuscitation which reported:

Among 2060 CA [cardiac arrest] events, 140 survivors completed stage 1 interviews, while 101 of 140 patients completed stage 2 interviews. 46% had memories with 7 major cognitive themes: fear; animals/plants; bright light; violence/persecution; deja-vu; family; recalling events post-CA and 9% had NDEs, while 2% described awareness with explicit recall of 'seeing' and 'hearing' actual events related to their resuscitation. One had a verifiable period of conscious awareness during which time cerebral function was not expected.

CA survivors commonly experience a broad range of cognitive themes, with 2% exhibiting full awareness. This supports other recent studies that have indicated consciousness may be present despite clinically undetectable consciousness. This together with fearful experiences may contribute to PTSD and other cognitive deficits post CA.

Parnia has long been fascinated with NDEs and has published before on the subject. In the journal Medical Hypotheses, Parnia's 2007 article, "Do reports of consciousness during cardiac arrest hold the key to discovering the nature of consciousness?" speculated:

Should it be demonstrated that human consciousness can continue to function when there is a lack of brain activity, this would support the theory that human consciousness may be a subtle type of undiscovered matter that is similar to electromagnetic phenomena.

Mysterious, as-yet-undetected electromagnetic-like phenomena? Back in 1907 Massachusetts physician Duncan MacDougall reported that his experiments on dying people had found that a human soul weighed about 21 grams.

Naturally, researchers with more physicalist views have offered alternative hypotheses to account for NDEs. For example, a 2011 article by British researchers in Trends in Cognitive Sciences evaluated NDEs and concluded:

Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that there is nothing paranormal about these experiences. Instead, near-death experiences are the manifestation of normal brain function gone awry, during a traumatic, and sometimes harmless, event.

One prospective study of cardiac arrest NDEs found that the experiences correlated with higher levels of carbon dioxide and potassium in a patient's blood. Another study using EEGs found that electrical activity spiked in brains suffering from oxygen loss which might then induce NDEs.

As one of my philosophy professors noted: "I have never experienced a mind that was not in close proximity to a brain." That goes for me, too.

Finally, never forget that other motives might be behind selling people hope for a life after death. Several of Alexander's colleagues now call his account into question, claiming that he fabricated at least some of the medical details in Proof of Heaven.

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170 responses to “Proof of Life After Death? Maybe Not.

    1. Maybe he is just trying to burnish his anti-junk science credentials after swallowing so much AGW whole?

      1. Gruss Gott, man can’t you summon the attention span to watch all those bergschrunden recede?

  1. Life after death? The real question is whether there is life after love.

    1. Only if you’ve properly completed the protocol required in California to get consent for a sexual act.

      1. And if not, you may get life! Life in prison!

        1. And if not, you may get life! Life in prison!

          If someone serving life in prison dies, and is resuscitated, do they get out?

          1. Hah!

            In England there was the case of a woman sentenced to death by hanging. After she hung for a time, her body was taken down and handed over to a doctor for dissection (at the time that was the only way anatomists could get access to specimens).

            So the doc goes to start cutting her open, and notices a thready pulse, and ressucitates her. The question that was placed before the court was whether she should be hung again. The judge claimed that the sentence had been carried out and that she was free to go.

            Apparently she lived out her days with a nasty scar on her neck and died of old age.

            1. Proof positive that the death penalty deters crime.

    2. Or music after auto-tune.

      1. Or life after Sunny.

  2. Peddling the hope of life after death is the real oldest profession. And the most corrupt.

    1. Bah. I would put “government” as the most corrupt.

      Og and Thagg take from you!

      You and all you possess are Pharaoh’s!

      Have you paid the tribute to Caesar?

      Time for you to come out and serve his Lordship, corvee time!

      etc, unto the present day.

      1. The lazy shaman being fed in exchange for his mumbo-jumbo is more corrupt because he is so utterly cynical.

        And three of the four governments you listed were supported by or originated from religion as well.

        1. A shaman might really believe magic can do things – and if his cure or rain dance goes awry, he can be burned, eaten or whatnot – try that with the Thane of Cawdor.

        2. One could argue that government and organized, hierarchical religion started out as one and the same.

          1. I think the “g” was first…ever has Man wanted to lord it over his fellow man, tell the trees which way to bend in the wind, etc. First bunch to say “I gotta club/pointed stick and you ain’t, so do what I say” counts as a “government” right?

            1. Yeah, maybe just plain violence comes first. But having a special connection to mysterious forces is a good way to solidify and legitimize that power. Hard to say how it all developed in pre-historic times. It think it is pretty plainly true in any early civilizations we know about, though, that religion and government were the same thing.

              1. co-opting religion is a method… the clergy (or equivalent) get the One True Faith a monopoly and the King gets an ally backing him up in “legitimacy”.

                Christian clergy should have known better, as they were instructed to let Caesar have his, but worry about God getting His. Should have hand-waved away any government wanting to use them as a crutch.

            2. Government is organized violence, while organized religion is a shared belief system.

              Government doesn’t depend on any belief system. To exist, all it needs is to have the last word in violence.

              Organized religion doesn’t require violence.

              While the two often go hand in hand, like when violence is used to ensure total participation in the religion, I see them as independent of one another.

              1. Government is organized violence

                Yes, any two people working together to commit violence is a government. I love how you make no effort to reform this definition that’s been repeatedly dispelled, like I did just now with a rudimentary example.

                To exist, all it needs is to have the last word in violence.

                So in order to become “the last word in violence” all it needs to do is have “the last word in violence”.

                1. I love how you make no effort to reform this definition that’s been repeatedly dispelled, like I did just now with a rudimentary example.

                  You didn’t dispel anything. All you proved is that you don’t know basic logic.

                  Saying “Government is organized violence” is akin to saying “Apples are fruit.”

                  Your saying “But not all fruit are apples” does not refute my statement.

                2. Yes, any two people working together to commit violence is a government.

                  I did not say all organized violence is government. Only that government is organized violence.

                  Nor did I say organized violence is government.

                  I said government is organized violence, and that government has the last word in violence.

                  None of that implies that any organized violence is government.

                  So in order to become “the last word in violence” all it needs to do is have “the last word in violence”.

                  To have the last word in violence, all it needs is to employ more organized violence than anyone else.

                  1. I did not say all organized violence is government. Only that government is organized violence.

                    You are defining government with an overly broad definition that going by your standard includes all sorts of things that are not in fact government. But keeping it broad enables all sorts of incorrect assertions to be made about the nature of statism. Precision in meaning is important.

                    To have the last word in violence, all it needs is to employ more organized violence than anyone else.

                    To have that last word all it needs is widespread support, aka ideological support from a large enough group. If pure brute force were truly all that was required for a state to form then any state with nuclear weapons could just annihilate all opposition and directly rule over all states’ territories that lack such destructive power.

                    Even the soldiers have free will in deciding to pull the trigger. A state cannot be a state without ideological support of those it rules over and commands.

                    1. You are defining government with an overly broad definition that going by your standard includes all sorts of things that are not in fact government.

                      And you are failing Logic 101.

                      If I say “Apples are fruit,” your saying “Well, not all fruit are apples” does not make my statement wrong.

                      Similarly, when I say “Government is organized violence,” your saying “Not all organized violence is government” does not make my statement wrong.

                      To have that last word all it needs is widespread support, aka ideological support from a large enough group.

                      Really? Did the Romans have popular support over the territories that they conquered? Or did they just send out some soldiers to do some killing whenever the natives got restless?

                      Do police in this country have support of black communities? Do the police care?

                      Everything government does is predicated on having the last word in organized violence.

                      Ask the Branch Davidians or the folks at Ruby Ridge what happens when you defy government.

                    2. If I say “Apples are fruit,” your saying “Well, not all fruit are apples” does not make my statement wrong.

                      I never said government wasn’t “organized violence”. I said you are defining broadly and with grossly insufficient precision. You could also say “government is organization” which while technically correct, doesn’t even begin to describe it or define it for what it actually is. Maybe you could say “government is people”, which while also technically correct, is a poor definition that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

                      Really? Did the Romans have popular support over the territories that they conquered?

                      After a century of occupation and political aggregation yes they did have some ideological support among those who wielded influence; chieftains, governors, bureaucrats, military officers, equestrians and Roman citizens.

                      The level of support among a people being actively warred against is irrelevant. Did the US have popular support among the Iraqis they invaded in 2003? No. But they did have basic ideological support from their own population who were being taxed and pulling the triggers necessary to wage the war.

                      Or did they just send out some soldiers to do some killing whenever the natives got restless?

                      Were Roman soldiers robots, without a will of their own? Was the Roman Senate and bureaucracy not supportive of the regime for one reason or another?

                      Brute force alone does not a state make.

                    3. Brute force alone does not a state make.

                      A state cannot exist without having the last word in organized violence. You can’t deny that.

                      As far as support goes, I don’t think that is as necessary as you think. Though it certainly helps. Not because enforcers (Roman soldiers of old, cops of today) are robots. It’s that they don’t care what they are enforcing, so long as they can use deadly force without consequence.

                      Society has no shortage of sociopaths who naturally gravitate towards the organization that lets them use violence without consequence.

          2. Well, of course the rulers want to make themselves the sole conduits of the divine, like the Pharaohs.

            If only someone had stood up the Pharaohs and their pretensions!

            1. I’m not making any normative judgement here. Just an observation based on what I know of human history.

              As our local Catholic wierdo, what do you think about the closeness of the Church and governments throughout most of the Church’s history?

              1. “As our local Catholic wierdo”

                *sigh*

                1. Not the only Catholic, I’m sure. But he is the one who makes a big deal of it every day.

                  1. Sure, let me see what I can do to address your question:

                    Sometimes the Church and the government were *way* too close. Other times, the Church, or at least heroic men and women in the Church, stood up to tyrants, forming glorious chapters not only in Church history, but in the history of liberty.

                    St. Ambrose excommunicated the emperor Theodosius for massacring citizens – the Emperor submitted, helping establish the principle that even the mighty ones of the earth are subject to the Church.

                    St. Thomas Becket stood up to Henry II, who “accidentally” provoked some of his people to kill the saint. This caused such a fuss that King Henry ended up doing penance for the murder – submitting himself to at least symbolic scourging. And Becket’s stance helped limit the death penalty – with a complicated “benefit of clergy” which protected lay as well as clerical defendants from the bloody criminal code of the day (not to mention other protections of defendants like sanctuary).

                    St. Robert Bellarmine disputed with James I over the divine right of kinds, which the saint denied. Instead, he said, governments derive their authority from the people and can be overthrown when they abuse their authority to the extent of forfeiting their legitimacy. Sound familiar?

                    1. divine right of *kings*

                    2. It gets weirder – Thomas Jefferson had a copy of Filmer’s book in his library – Filmer tried to refute Bellarmine and included extensive quotations from Bellarmine. By marking up the book, Jefferson showed that he was exposed to Bellarmine’s ideas. Hmmmm…

                    3. When researching the development of criminal procedure in the Church’s canon law, I was fascinated to see the Church’s theologians and jurists articulate the natural-law right to due process. The Romans defended the rights of property and self-defense, and from this Catholic jurists concluded that property and self-defense were insecure unless you could defend your property, life and liberty by fair procedures in court.

                      St. Thomas Aquinas articulated the famous principle that a human ordinance contrary to the natural law was no law at all. See also the Declaration of Independence and “the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” and Martin Luther King’s *Letter from a Birmingham Jail.* Here’s a guy named after Martin Luther, and he cites Catholic theologians about the superiority of natural law over human ordinances.

                    4. I hope this addresses a few of your queries.

        3. Yeah, and it’s not like some of those government officials weren’t aware of their state religion’s obvious corruption/silliness. Cicero was pretty damn cynical about auguries and Augustus wasn’t exactly what you’d call ‘religious’. Still formed a godhood cult around his image on purpose though.

          1. Any tool at hand to get and keep power.

        4. Hmmm! I thought governments created religion to control the masses. But now the religions are the source of governments? The Earth is cooling…. The Earth is warming… The weather is changing!

          One has to admire the metamorphological processes by which we validate our own opinions as proof of facts, otherwise unsubstantiated.

  3. As one of my philosophy professors noted: “I have never experienced a mind that was not in close proximity to a brain.” That goes for me, too.

    Whoa, like, profound…

    Hey, man, you don’t talk to the Professor. You listen to him. The man’s enlarged my mind. He’s a poet-scholar in the classic sense. I mean, sometimes he’ll, uh, well, you’ll say hello to him, right? And he’ll just walk right by you, and he won’t even notice you. And suddenly he’ll grab you, and he’ll throw you in a corner, and he’ll say “Do you know that ‘if’ is the middle word in life? ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you’…” I mean, I’m no, I can’t ? I’m a little man, I’m a little man, he’s, he’s a great man. “I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas”

    1. That monologue is right up there with with To Be, or Not To Be…if not better.

    2. Where does that come from?

      1. Apocalypse Now

        But it’s “Colonel” and “poet-warrior” instead.

      2. Apocalypse now

    3. I know what you’re thinking. It’s the heads, right? Sometimes he goes too far–but he’d be the first to admit it!

  4. Life continues after death? Maybe for about 3 minutes

    During which you arrive at the Pearly Gates and are informed by St. Peter that the correct answer was Mormon.

          1. Is that the Howard Dean squeal?

    1. One of my favorite episodes ever!

      1. Wasn’t that from the movie?

      2. I guess I’m the only one who went here first?

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmY7qgjz0ZE

    2. It’s all about the magic underwear.

  5. I believe in an afterlife but I also agree with the article that near death experiences aren’t proof of it.

    1. Do you ever worry about being conscious for eternity?

      1. Think of the opportunities!

        Ah, well, I really must put my foot down here. I’ve got four hauntings and a
        “scare-the-bugger-to-death” to do before morning.

        1. My wife believes in an afterlife and says she could spend eternity with me and her family. I think she is underestimating eternity.

          1. ComfortForm Coffins…because you are going to be dead a long, long time!

          2. The problem is, you don’t really comprehend ‘eternity’. It’s a human word for something that never ends–kind of like ‘infinite’–words that have durational time built in.

            But durational time is only one type of time.

      2. Nope. We Buddhists believe in rebirth. You don’t have to be “conscious” between births either. So since this lifetime is not something you are going to remember, you can focus on attaining your goals and creating value in the limited time of say, 90 years. On the other hand, you can look forward to enjoying a great life next time by making good causes now.

    2. They may not be proof, but it’s hard to get evidence on, so it’s some of the best we have. “Survival” research isn’t well funded. You’d think it would be, considering the answers could be the most important scientific discoveries since…ever! What could have greater consequences? The trouble is that it’s so hard to figure out how to proceed, and there are huge religious interests muddying the water.

  6. If you put people in a centrifuge and spin them around until they suffer g-force loss of conciousness, they’ll often report the same phenomenon that occurs during “near death experiences” despite the fact they’re clearly never dead at any point during the process.

    This isn’t proof of heaven, it’s just the subjective experience of how the brain interprets lack of oxygen.

    1. This isn’t proof of heaven, it’s just the subjective experience of how the brain interprets lack of oxygen

      I think this is bullshit.

      G force induced loss of consciousness causes a loss of color vision, and a gradual loss of peripheral vision, finally loss of sight, with the pilot being able to hear right until he blacks out.

      Pilots suffering from hypoxia don’t report any dramatic experiences like the NDE people. In fact, they often have no clue that they are impaired at all; they’re just flying the plane as if they have all the O2 they need.

      So where do you get this notion?

      1. Actually they do.

        http://www.near-death.com/expe…..ers06.html

      2. Dreams are reported to follow G-LOC which are brief and vivid.

      1. Only if you sneeze and no one says “Bless you.”

  7. There is a great NatGeo documentary on Netflix called “Moment of Death” which examines many of the issues behind NDE’s, from the scientific angles to the real stories of people who died and came back. It also has a fascinating bit about Hypothermia treatments for heart attack patients.

    It’s available streaming and only an hour long, well worth the viewing.

    http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie…..id=3565916

    1. I saw a physicist once claim that quantum field theory proves there’s no life after death. I tend to agree there’s no such thing, but I’m not good enough at physics to either defend or attack his argument.

      1. Only from the mind of a scientist with an agenda can one proclaim that a theory proves a negative fact. Sounds pretty stupid when stated like that, huh?

  8. Someone should point out here that the Eurasian Magpie has passed the mirror test, for which there are a number of explanations. One of which is that consciousness isn’t where we think it is in the brain.

    I would think the suggestion that our consciousness can survive independent of the body would be thrilling to transhumanists. I don’t care so much about a copy of my consciousness surviving on a computer somewhere. I want that consciousness to really be me.

    1. How do you know the computer copy isn’t really you?

      1. No penis.

        1. Check and mate.
          *stands to shake PM’s hand*

        2. but they can grow penises now.

          (laughs)

          1. Scientists! Is there anything they cannot do?

            1. I’m no scientist, but I can make my penis grow at will.

      2. “How do you know the computer copy isn’t really you?”

        What you’re really asking is whether the copy would know he wasn’t really me.

        If I were fooled into being copied under the false pretense that I wouldn’t die and disappear in the copying, I suppose my doppelganger wouldn’t know he wasn’t me.

        That being said, if the truth is that the digitized being wasn’t really me, and I knew that going in–then my copy would likewise know that he wasn’t me.

        Maybe my copy would be perfectly okay with that knowledge. But why would that knowledge make me feel any better?

        After being copied, if I went on living in my physical body with my own personal consciousness, grew old, and died, then what does having an immortal copy of myself matter to me? It won’t be me living into eternity and experiencing the future.

        I’ll be dead. I’ll know my life is ending, and then I’ll die and not experience any future at all.

        A copy of me who doesn’t know he isn’t me doesn’t make me feel any better either–since it isn’t me, I know I’m not immortal, and then I have to die.

        If our consciousness can survive outside the body, however, and we can actually be digitized ourselves–rather than just have a copy made? That’s a whole new ballgame. That’s a future to be excited about.

        1. What if they put your old consciousness in a young body and kill you in the process. You would wake up thinking you had transferred consciousness but really they only did a copy and delete. Then in a way you would be immortal.

          1. I wouldn’t be immortal.

            The copy would. And he wouldn’t know he wasn’t me.

            But a thing is what it is and not something else.

            Just because someone else is deluded doesn’t make me immortal–when I’m dead.

        2. Still might work unless they apply lossy technology and like the poor jpeg file, you lose a little bit every time you are saved to hard drive. Maybe it turns out that those with mental handicaps are actually geniuses that got a little fuzzy over time.

    2. I want that consciousness to really be me.

      First we need a coherent definition of the self. Which is very tricky.

      1. Think of it this way: What if Christianity offered you–not a chance to go to heaven yourself! …just a chance for a copy of you to go to heaven. How excited would Christians be about that.

        The good news gospel isn’t that a copy of me can go to heaven thinking he’s me the whole time. The good news is that I can go to heaven myself.

        Christians don’t need a philosophical definition of “self”. I know who myself is, and if there were a copy of me, it wouldn’t be me. It would be its own “self” just with a lot of similarities.

        1. Maybe Christians have some special insight. None of that seems at all obvious to me.

          1. You don’t know the difference between yourself and something else?

            You must be a philosophy major!

            1. Your whole line of thinking, which I agree with, is part of why I could not buy anything that happened in the TV show Dollhouse.

              1. I used to watch the original Star Trek and wonder why anyone would willingly stand in a transporter beam.

                Don’t they know they’re being killed and replaced with an imposter every time they’re beamed somewhere?

                1. How do you know that hasn’t already happened to you numerous times?

                  1. If it had already happened, then the original Ken Shultz isn’t getting anything out of what I do.

                    I’m living his life, and he’s dead.

                    My understanding is that identical twins aren’t exactly the same, mostly because mutations occur after the zygote splits–much more so than anyone realized before. But imagine for a moment that they were genetically identical.

                    Do you imagine one of them wouldn’t care if they died–so long as the other one continued to live? If someone like me gets to be immortal, that’s great. Good for them.

                    I’d much rather be immortal myself. …and there’s a big difference between being immortal and a copy of you being immortal.

          2. Do you understand that if a computer rendered a copy of a van Gogh–perfectly in every way–that it still wouldn’t be a van Gogh?

            There’s something about the personal connection to the real van Gogh that makes the painting by van Gogh.

            Certainly, it has something to do with van Gogh’s personal inspiration, circumstances, interpretation, etc. But the fact that van Gogh made it himself is what makes it a van Gogh.

            Make a perfect copy of The Starry Night. It still won’t be a van Gogh, and if you sold it as such, you’d be thrown in jail for fraud–as well you should be.

            A copy of a van Gogh is not a van Gogh.

            A copy of me is not me.

            1. If I make a copy of “Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone”, is it not actually a Harry Potter novel by virtue of its being a copy?

              1. It may be functionally the same to an outsider, but if it were conscious, it would make a big difference.

                The analogy breaks down soon after we start talking about objects that aren’t conscious. It breaks down further when we start talking about things that are meant to be copied–like books.

                Suffice it to say, if aliens invaded your house today and made a perfect copy of you, you would still care if you were killed. …even if your copy still survived somewhere. So the universe spins on without you–you think you’re not going to care about that because there’s still a copy of you somewhere?

                The copy may even have all your memories and personality, etc. So what? You won’t be experiencing any of that–because you’re dead. Lights out!

    3. When you wake up from sleep, how do you know it’s still the same you? You’re going by your memory + appearance.

      1. I have no question but that if a digital me were uploaded, it could think it was the real me.

        But if it isn’t the real me, then it being immortal and ingenious really wouldn’t matter much to me.

        For the last time, we’re talking about two separate questions.

        Question 1: Can we upload a copy of my consciousness so that it can be immortal?

        Question 2: Can I become immortal myself?

        Making an immortal copy of me that thinks it’s me is the answer to Question 1.

        It is not the answer to Question 2. It doesn’t even address Question 2, which is the question I care about the most.

        If we make an immortal and ingenious copy of Ken Shultz, then good for the copy!

        But if I still grow old and die, myself, because Question 2 is impossible, then what difference does answering Question 1 really make for me?

        I still die. I’m still dead.

  9. Three blondes die in a car wreck and go to heaven. At the Pearly Gates St. Peter says to them, “Well we’re not sure what to do with you, so if you can answer this question correctly I’ll let you into the Kingdom of Heaven. What is Easter about?”

    Blonde 1 says “Easter is that holiday where we eat a big dinner of turkey and stuffing and pumpkin pie and be thankful for everything.”

    “No, that’s wrong.”

    Blonde 2 says “Easter is that holiday where we light fireworks and barbeque and celebrate America.”

    “No, that’s wrong.”

    Blonde 3 says “Easter is that holiday where we honor the resurrection of Jesus, who was crucified and rose three days later from inside his tomb.”

    Saint Peter smiles and is about to let her in when she adds, “And if he sees his shadow it means six more weeks of winter!”

    1. The rest of this week… will you be here?

      1. How’s the veal?

      2. Thank you, thank you very much! I’m here through Tuesday. Try the waitress and tip the veal!

    2. A Boy Scout shoplifts a candy bar and is almost immediately killed while trying to cross the street. St. Peter says to him, “Son, you have committed a mortal sin and must now go to hell.”

      “Please, St. Peter,” says the Boy Scout, “I was too young to understand all of that.”

      “Very well. I will restore you to life, but you will be tested, and if you fail, you will go to hell.”

      So the Boy Scout is restored to life. He watches a car being driven erratically and hears a booming voice from Heaven saying, “Laura Bush, you have failed the test.”

      A while later, he hears the sound of wild partying coming from a row house and hears a booming voice from Heaven saying, “Marion Barry, you have failed the test.”

      A while later, he sees a $10 bill on the sidewalk. He thinks, “Well, it’s really not stealing. Finders keepers, losers weepers.” So he bends down to pick up the $10 bill. He hears a booming voice from Heaven saying, “Father Shea, you have failed the test.”

  10. Something to consider: The cells in our bodies are continually dying and being replaced. It’s been suggested that complete replacement occurs ever 7 years. Yet in spite of the fact our entire body ‘dies’ on a regular basis, our memories, personalities, and quirks that make us who we are continue. I’ve always been skeptical of an afterlife (and all religion), but there’s compelling proof that our essence can theoretically continue even after death.

    1. You are referring to the Hayflick Limit.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hayflick_limit

      1. Ahhh…didn’t know it had a name. Thanks. But it proves that our ‘essence’ can be successfully transferred to new cells–with little or no loss of data. Who knows where we go after we die. Maybe nowhere, maybe someplace more interesting? Guess we’ll all have to wait and see.

        1. Not actually true.

          Apoptosis -the process of programmed cell death- happens when the telomere region at the end of a strand of DNA get depleted. This is a mechanism that prevents replication error that would cause mutations in DNA. So basically once our cells can no longer reproduce the full DNA strand without replication error they die.

        2. A & T: LiveScience notes “brain cells typically last an entire lifetime (neurons in the cerebral cortex, for example, are not replaced when they die).”

          1. Tman & Ron, you’re missing the point, which is that the matter in those structures is impermanent, yet experience continues, showing that experience does not reside in any particular bits of matter. Experience may bear some relationship to matter, but it is itself immaterial.

            1. Robert,

              Actually I do think it’s material. That’s why people with Alzheimer’s and dementia literally forget everything. Their brains cells die and can’t replicate the information anymore. I just watched my best friends Dad go through this before he died and it’s terrifying to watch someone not be able to remember what they were doing 5 minutes ago. It happens to all of us eventually, whether within 2-3 hours of oxygenated blood no longer reaching the brain or whether through a longer, slower deteriorating process. But that “experience” is most certainly material.

    2. If you assume materialism, sure, there is no reason why in principle you couldn’t transfer consciousness, memories and personality to some other physical apparatus.

    3. It’s been suggested that complete replacement occurs ever 7 years.

      I don’t think that’s true of neurons in the cerebral cortex.

      1. Not the entire neuron at once, but what about the molecules in it? The water surely turns over pretty quickly, along with the lower wt. electrolytes & small molecules such as sugars. The macromolecules more slowly, and in some cases not entire molecules at once either, but they definitely incorporate new matter & discharge old matter.

    4. Neurons in the cerebral cortex are not turned over. They are never replaced.

      1. Has that been confirmed, or is it just a theory? Once upon a time most believed that the majority of the cells in our bodies never get replaced either.

        1. There has been some recent research related to this. I may not be up to date completely, but I think people have found that there is more turnover in the brain than people long believed, but certain structures and cell types still don’t appear to be replaced.

          1. That seems like that might be tough to replace certain pathways, and to retain memory? I think I would need to read up more…interesting stuff.

  11. I suppose there are some religious contexts where “life after death” might be meaningful. But to me the notion is absurd. Death is the end of life. If you have a near death experience but continue living, you weren’t dead. Cardiac arrest is not death, no brain activity is not death. Death is when you (or your physical incarnation if you believe in incorporeal souls and things like that) stop being alive for good. One thing that always puzzles me about people who claim to have religious experiences is why would you assume that what you are experiencing is something external?

    1. The concept is not absurd, a literal interpretation of the words used to describe it is absurd.

      Yes, “life after death” taken literally makes no sense. But that is just paying semantics and begging the real question which is is what we think of as “death” really death or just some kind of transition to a different state.

      1. OK, fair enough. My assumptions about the nature of our being colored what I said. I can’t say with certainty that what we call death is the absolute end.

        What I do find stupid though is people who say that someone was dead for 3 minutes, or whatever it is, when they are still alive. Whatever might happen with souls or afterlife, if you are still alive in the conventional worldly sense, you didn’t die.

        1. Depends on how you define “dead”. Defining it as your heart stopping and brain functioning stopping isn’t an unreasonable way to do it. And people have been in that state only to have both resume and eventually recover. Where they “dead”? Depends on how you define the term I guess.

    2. Existential pedantry.

      1. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

  12. Well, it certainly suggests that medical science often mistakes “dead” for “almost but not quite dead”. So, for a given definition of “life” (say, related to awareness of some sort) and “death” (say, related to medical proclamation), you could argue that the claim is very likely proven.

    1. True looooovvvvvvvveeeeeeee

    2. Inigo Montoya: He’s dead. He can’t talk.
      Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.
      Inigo Montoya: What’s that?
      Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

      1. You’ve been mostly dead all day.

  13. Finally, never forget that other motives might be behind selling people hope for a life after death. Several of Alexander’s colleagues now call his account into question, claiming that he fabricated at least some of the medical details in Proof of Heaven.

    Yes confirmation bias is always an issue, unless you are a climatologist who supports AGW. It is striking how Ron can spot confirmation bias in every situation except one.

    1. Yes, Ron, never, ever questions the theories or practices of climate scientists.

      1. Don’t let that straw man burn you. It is not that he doesn’t occasionally criticize them. It is that he refuses to question the theory out of fear of confirmation bias while at the same time ignoring the confirmation bias in the field.

        1. I think he has come a long way in the last couple of years, and I think that we deserve some credit.

            1. Not as well as ignoring 153 years of experimental reality.

              You must be a regular Hee-Haw at ETH.

        2. My point is that he does spot confirmation bias in climate science. I assume that is what you were referring to.
          The fact that he doesn’t always spot it in the same places as you do is another matter.

  14. So our brains are evolved to hallucinate life after death as it shuts down.

    This is more evidence that the big bang is bullshit and it is only accepted as plausible because human brains are evolved to want explanations for the unexplained.

    In absence of an origin story for the universe our explanation hungry minds will accept even bat shit insane garbage like “everything came from nothing”.

    1. Maybe you should have a drink

      *pours and slides a glass of rye to Corning.

    2. This is more evidence that the big bang is bullshit

      The origin of the big bang theory is that all observable galaxies and other objects in space appear to be moving away from a central location.

      I don’t see how this in any way contradicts observations of objects in space.

      “everything came from nothing”

      Like when the god named God, which always existed, created everything from nothing?

      I find it a lot more plausible that everything has always existed. That the god named God only came into being when human brains wanted to explain how everything they see has a beginning and an ending. Like their own lives.

      1. Don’t bother. If the idea doesn’t appeal to Corning’s intuition then it just can’t be true.

      2. Like when the god named God, which always existed, created everything from nothing?

        Oh hush.

        I am an atheist.

        But an atheist who thinks we just don’t know the origins of the universe….lots of plausible reasons why 50 years of observations would give the appearance of everything moving away from everything else. To many in fact to focus on just one and call it truth.

        *drinks the rye Florida Man handed to him.

        1. lots of plausible reasons why 50 years of observations would give the appearance of everything moving away from everything else

          You must have been such a nuisance to your cosmology professor, huh?

          1. I did not have one.

            Though i did piss off more then a few biology professors by saying that the origin of species through natural selection had little or no practice utility vs creationism even in biology.

            Therefore the whole fight of trying to convince everyone was kind of pointless…spend more time teaching me biology rather then prepping me to convince creationists that they are wrong.

        2. It’s not heralded as pure truth. It’s the best working theory in existence, it’s got the fewest moving parts, explains observations and has the most in the way of empirical validation. I’m open to other theories too and intuition tells me that we are overdue for the overthrow of the ‘big bang’ theory to be replaced with something that explains phenomena more betterer, but intuition alone doesn’t dictate that we abandon the theory just yet.

          1. it’s got the fewest moving parts

            Well it depends. You got soft Big Bang then you have Hard Big Bang which says the very laws of the universe were determined by the young exploding and evolving universe.

            The hard big bang theory has way to many moving parts for my taste, and the soft big bang theory can be explained by a collision rather then a bang.

      3. The origin of the big bang theory is that all observable galaxies and other objects in space appear to be moving away from a central location each other

        There is no central location.

      4. Corning has also stated that he thinks sheep are alien constructs because they are no wild versions (yeah, he actually believes that wild sheep aren’t like domesticated sheep not because thousands of years and tens of thousands of generations of selective breeding by humans has made them more docile, but that they were plopped here by aliens).

        Corning is our equivalent to the wild-haired loony who thinks that not being able to explain mechanical precision in stone placement of some ancient monument means it was built by aliens.

        He’s a fucking nutter.

  15. this would support the theory that human consciousness may be a subtle type of undiscovered matter that is similar to electromagnetic phenomena.

    Now let’s not rule out any possibilities here. Maybe a wizard did it. And I don’t think anyone has disproven the existence of midi-chlorians.

  16. …the same day the Mail runs its article on vaginal sex never resulting in a female orgasm. The yams must have broken free on Tuesday.

    1. What? That can’t be true. Unless the article is about Sarcasmic’s mom, then it explains why she became the Pele of anal.

      1. She has repeatedly assured me that it was someone else in those movies who only looks like her.

        1. Movies? Gas Station Glory Hole is a film, dammit.

        2. Your mom fetish shall forever remain a secret, old boy.

          1. Oh buoy!

  17. As I recall, the experiments conducted in 1907 by Duncan MacDougall were never repeated. Nor was there was any peer review done on his notes. Thankfully, the link you provided explains this.

  18. Ron, why do you hate Jesus?

    1. He trimmed the hedges to the same height, while I told him I wanted a layered look.

  19. Pshaw! Life after Death, who the hell cares about that shit.

    What I want to know is when they are going to get on to discovering if there is any such thing as life after marriage or life after kids?

  20. Having reflated the McDougal as the unit of soul weight, Ron should have taken the trouble to weigh his brain before and after writing this-

  21. It seems that most humans have a difficult time accepting the fact that they’re really not much more significant than bacteria in the Grand Scheme of Things ?. Sure, we’re a big-deal here on Earth, but other than some relatively weak Radio Frequency emanations that span maybe a hundred light-years and haven’t even reached the next-closest galaxy, we’re inconsequential. We live, we die, and depending upon your impact on humanity, in a relatively short period of time nobody knows you even existed. It is what it is, and no amount of magic thinking will change it.

    I’d be interested in theories as to how one might experience physical sensations like sight, smell, hearing, taste, etc., without the physical mechanisms through which we sense these things. For instance: “Thought”, the act of conceiving something in the mind, is an electrochemical process that occurs in the brain using past and present experiences and knowledge acquired through stimuli collected by the various sensory organs. How can thought occur without a brain, and without the mechanisms with which to collect input for the brain to process?

    1. How do you know it’s an electrochemical process?

      1. How is it that people sometimes become aware of things to which they could not have had any known physical cx?

        1. Such as?

      2. The structure and function of the brain is fairly well documented.

  22. No. That is all.

  23. If your eye got poked out in this life,
    Would it be waiting up in heaven with your wife?

  24. I know where I stand on the issue. What I don’t know is what happens to TV characters when the show is cancelled. Do they go on solving murders and mysteries? Go into hybernation? My only clue comes from Dallas, resurrected after 30 years… and there’s JR, 30 years older.

  25. this would support the theory that human consciousness may be a subtle type of undiscovered matter that is similar to electromagnetic phenomena.

    Subtle? matter, undiscovered or otherwise gets transformed into electromagnetic radiation to the tune of 21,500 tons of TNT per gram converted, so with souls departing this world at the rate of ~ 152,000 a day , you’d think people would notice the fireworks– it adds up to over ten time the sum of all nuclear arsenals globally.

    1. You suck at science Russ.

      I mean, really suck at it.

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