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Apr 24 2012

The NDE delusion

Salon has had a redesign, which is fine; they seem to do this periodically just to confuse us. I’ll adjust to that, but what I don’t like is that the first thing I saw highlighted was an article so full of woo that for a moment I thought I’d stumbled onto the Huffington Post. We are now supposed to believe that science has explained near-death experiences (NDEs), and the answer is proof of life after death. It’s all nonsense; some editor somewhere needs to learn some critical thinking, because this article is filed under “neuroscience” when it ought to be in a category called “bullshit”.

The first clue that this is going to be bad is the author, Mario Beauregard. Beauregard was co-author with Denyse O’Leary of one of the worst, that is most incompetently written and idiotically conceived, books I’ve ever read, The Spiritual Brain. It’s not just that he thought it sensible to team up with a well-known intelligent design crank, but that the content is unreadable and the “science” is gobbledy-gook — Beauregard is a well-established kook, and here he is, writing for Salon.

NDEs are evidence of nothing but the creative power of the human mind. NDE proponents are constantly trotting out the same tired old anecdotes and the same tired old bogus misinterpretations, and this article is just more of the same. If you’ve ever looked into the NDE literature, you’ll know that two cases that are repeatedly brought up are the 20-30 year old stories of Pam and Maria’s Shoe; they have become something close to legend. These stories are poorly documented — “Maria”, for instance, can’t even be found in any hospital records, despite a story that details many medical details. Beauregard blithely recounts this anecdotal story as evidence that NDEs are real.

Maria was a migrant worker who had a severe heart attack while visiting friends in Seattle. She was rushed to Harborview Hospital and placed in the coronary care unit. A few days later, she had a cardiac arrest but was rapidly resuscitated. The following day, Clark visited her. Maria told Clark that during her cardiac arrest she was able to look down from the ceiling and watch the medical team at work on her body. At one point in this experience, said Maria, she found herself outside the hospital and spotted a tennis shoe on the ledge of the north side of the third floor of the building. She was able to provide several details regarding its appearance, including the observations that one of its laces was stuck underneath the heel and that the little toe area was worn. Maria wanted to know for sure whether she had “really” seen that shoe, and she begged Clark to try to locate it.

Quite skeptical, Clark went to the location described by Maria—and found the tennis shoe. From the window of her hospital room, the details that Maria had recounted could not be discerned. But upon retrieval of the shoe, Clark confirmed Maria’s observations. “The only way she could have had such a perspective,” said Clark, “was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe. I retrieved the shoe and brought it back to Maria; it was very concrete evidence for me.”

The case is touted as a clear example of veridical perception. “Veridical” is one of the favorite words of the NDE/OBE crowd; it simply means an observation that aligns with reality, so they’re always babbling about people wafting about in a ghostly disembodied state and seeing things that no earth-bound human could possibly have seen, which are later confirmed. Unfortunately, all we get are second- and third-hand accounts full of embellishments, and tall tales whose highlights are depressingly mundane, such as seeing a shoe on a ledge. It’s always trivia that gets reported. It seems that all dead people want to do is hover.

And, of course, Maria’s story has been totally demolished. The little details are all inflated; for instance the claim that details of a shoe on a ledge could not possibly be discerned has been tested on that hospital building, and it turns out that a shoe on the ledge actually is really easy to see and jumps out to the eye of people passing beneath.

So, a few well-worn exaggerations are all these guys have to go on. I don’t think Beauregard can claim science has had any “shocking results” when this is the best he’s got.

Furthermore, Beauregard, who is supposed to be a neuroscientist, says some awesomely stupid things.

This case is particularly impressive given that during cardiac arrest, the flow of blood to the brain is interrupted. When this happens, the brain’s electrical activity (as measured with EEG) disappears after 10 to 20 seconds. In this state, a patient is deeply comatose. Because the brain structures mediating higher mental functions are severely impaired, such patients are expected to have no clear and lucid mental experiences that will be remembered. Nonetheless, studies conducted in the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States have revealed that approximately 15 percent of cardiac arrest survivors do report some recollection from the time when they were clinically dead. These studies indicate that consciousness, perceptions, thoughts, and feelings can be experienced during a period when the brain shows no measurable activity.

This is another common claim. The subject, they say, was flat-lined during the incident — the heart was still and there was no brain activity, and yet, they claim, the subject was experiencing detailed perceptual events during this period of material inactivity. What they gloss over is the simple fact that, while there was definitely a period when their brain was functionally inert, they are describing these events afterwards, in a period when their brain is fully active. Beauregard is making the ignorant mistake of assuming that our consciousness is a continuous stream of recorded mental activity, and that a remembered event must necessarily have actually occurred.

That’s not how memories work. Our brains don’t tuck away a movie of our experiences somewhere in our temporal lobe; they store a few little details away, with a web of associations, and basically reconstruct the event when we try to recall it. This is why eyewitness testimony is unreliable — memory is dynamic and constantly being modified by later experience. When we lose conscious awareness and later recover it, the brain has absolutely no problem inventing a continuous narrative to fill in the blanks, and in fact, the way our minds work, we want that narrative. To consider that we didn’t exist for an interval of time is something we linear creatures tend to shy away from.

So when someone claims that a report of a recollection from a time when they were clinically dead is evidence of a mind functioning during that period when the brain was non-functional, you should know…they’re full of shit. It’s evidence of no such thing.

I also have to add that all of the accounts of NDEs and other such out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are peculiar in their attachment to ordinary patterns of perception. They claim to become a non-corporeal, immaterial, invisible entity that floats around, but somehow, they use the same mundane senses they do in the body. How do invisible eyes capture photons? How do immaterial minds detect physical vibrations in the air? Sensory transduction is a real problem for beings that lack hair cells and photoreceptors, I would think. It’s much more likely that they are using those fleshy sensory organs (or even more likely, the memory of using those organs), while experiencing an illusion of detachment from their body.

No reservations trouble Beauregard, though. He blindly charges on to claim revelation.

These findings strongly challenge the mainstream neuroscientific view that mind and consciousness result solely from brain activity. As we have seen, such a view fails to account for how NDErs can experience—while their hearts are stopped—vivid and complex thoughts and acquire veridical information about objects or events remote from their bodies.

NDE studies also suggest that after physical death, mind and consciousness may continue in a transcendent level of reality that normally is not accessible to our senses and awareness. Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.

As I’ve said, the recollection of vivid and complex thoughts while the heart is stopped is not only easily explained, it’s pretty much the default understanding by neuroscientists of how the brain works. The acquisition of veridical information would be more difficult to explain…if it had ever occurred. Trundling out the same hoary folk tales and anecdotes is not at all convincing that it has.

He is right that this idea of minds existing independently of brains is incompatible with materialist views. It’s also incompatible with the existing evidence, and he has presented no counter-evidence. His extremely badly argued article is yet another piece of evidence, though, that Beauregard is a crank.

P.S. It’s a shame that tripe got published in Salon, but don’t read the comments, or you’ll discover why it got published. There sure are a lot of mystically-inclined, quantum-woo-spouting diddledingles fulminating away in their readership.


Philosotroll covers a few other points.

167 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    Thank you for posting this. An aquaintance of mine has been heavily promoting the article as “proof” of woo; I now have something I can give her.

  2. 2
    Blondin

    Just out of curiosity, where do mystically-inclined, quantum-woo-spouting diddledingles fall in comparison to poopyheads on the cognitive capacity spectrum?

  3. 3
    Christophe Thill

    So, those NDErs are supposed, while they are in a “disembodied” state, to see without eyes and to hear without ears. But they never seem to go outside the usal limitations of our fleshy sensory organs. They never mention being able to see IR or UV, to hear ultra or infrasounds… Why would it be so?

  4. 4
    echidna

    NDE’s are overrated. Happened to me once. The hovering is strangely peaceful, and there is a sense of disassociation with your body. Nothing mystical in my experience.

  5. 5
    Anthony K

    I totes remember being Shirley MacLaine in a past life! What more proof do you need?

  6. 6
    peter

    And going in the other direction, why can they not ‘sense’ dark matter or perhaps neutrinos, for example? I would have thought a ‘soul’ could maybe detect anything which existed in the near vicinity, whether something that us ordinary chunks of living matter can detect with our eyes and ears, etc., or other stuff which is there, but only known, say, through its gravitational effects. I rather doubt that the cosmologists will be using these out-of-body-limited observations as casting doubt on modern discoveries about how little of the universe seems to consist of stuff we can detect with our (enhanced) senses!

  7. 7
    jasonlocklin

    I’m a graduate student in Cognitive Neuroscience and work with brain injuries (stroke, concussion, etc). The most valuable word that I have learned from the field has to be “Confabulation.” The after-the-fact assembling of faulty memories is incredibly common both in the healthy and injured brain. They may make good stories and seem very real to the individual, but they are reliably inaccurate.

  8. 8
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    I look at this list of the ways are brains can fool us when we’re awake and I boggle at why anyone would expect that a brain starved of oxygen would be capable of any kind of accurate perception.

  9. 9
    Anthony K

    Quite skeptical, Clark went to the location described by Maria

    This is important, that Clark was skeptical while looking for the shoe, as opposed to, I dunno, having faith that he would find it. It’s not about the evidence, it’s about the fervency of belief. Clark was once a curmudgeonly skeptic, and now he’s an open-minded convert.

    Sastra’s right in that these stories are all about the kind of person you are: stodgy, unimaginative, skeptical or spiritual, uplifted, beautiful. This is Clark’s rebirth as the latter.

  10. 10
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    Ah fuckity, fuck, fuck. I spent so much time trying to may the hyperlink work I didn’t proof the text. HTML, we are done! You hear me you polyfecal excuse for a language!? It’s over. And no, you can’t come get your CDs.

  11. 11
    dianne

    I totes remember being Shirley MacLaine in a past life!

    But Shirley MacLaine is still…never mind, if you can accept reincarnation, a little temporal detail won’t be the least bit of difficulty.

    I know several people who have had “near death experiences”, mostly the sensation of floating above their bodies, when they are alive, awake, and presumably have perfectly normally working brains. The catch? They were all severely and chronically sleep deprived. The experiences were probably some sort of micro-REM. The brain isn’t always a reliable narrator.

  12. 12
    noastronomer

    “How do invisible eyes capture photons?”

    and even if they could, how would this disembodied invisible eye then pass the signal to a remote brain that is, according to Beauregard, exhibiting no electical activity?!?

  13. 13
    Glen Davidson

    And Hitler heard a voice telling him to move away from a place where, moments later, a shell hit and killed several of his comrades. Proving that he had a divine mandate (until 1942 or so, I suppose).

    Gee, aren’t anecdotes instructive?

    Actually, that “Maria” dreck more suggests that NDEs are BS than anything, or why is this old nag still trotted out? Shouldn’t we have hundreds, or thousands, of verifications by now, considering how many NDEs occur?

    As I recall, Clark wasn’t so much a skeptic, as a hopeful believers. She was supposed to be skeptical at the point of hearing about the tennis shoe, which always sounds good to the wooists, but was quite willing to be persuaded. But then, who cares either way, since at best it’s one person whose observational habits are unknown? Suggestion works, and even good observers are often fooled.

    Glen Davidson

  14. 14
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    May=Make. I shall now give up and henceforth will only communicate through the medium of interpretive dance. Ah five, six, seven, eight…..

  15. 15
    Anthony K

    Oops. Me fail on assigning Clark a gender.

  16. 16
    Janstince

    I’ve been on the out-of-body experience through sleep deprivation. I guess it was peaceful, compared to all the crazy that led up to it. I don’t remember it all that well anymore, just a feeling like I was looking at the back of my head as I sat on the floor.

    I did almost die once, though my heart didn’t stop. I remember it pretty vividly. I was panicked, but then there was a great calm. I felt myself lifting, floating, tumbling over. There was light, then a darkness came, creeping, like Spawn’s cape, alive and probing with cut tendrils.

    Of course, this makes absolute sense when you consider I was drowning at the beach, being tossed around by waves, and my brain was becoming oxygen deprived. Fortunately (or not, as you will), my brother was there to pull me up, get me back to land, and pump my lungs clear.

  17. 17
    carlie

    Our brains don’t tuck away a movie of our experiences somewhere in our temporal lobe; they store a few little details away, with a web of associations, and basically reconstruct the event when we try to recall it. This is why eyewitness testimony is unreliable — memory is dynamic and constantly being modified by later experience.

    YES. It’s a few years old now, but this episode of Radiolab was a total mindblow, particularly the first segment titled “eternal sunshine of the spotless rat”. The amount to which memories can be chemically and physically altered is scary.

  18. 18
    'Tis Himself

    If I’m having a near death experience, is Death having a near me experience?

  19. 19
    Nick Gotts

    Quite skeptical, Clark went to the location described by Maria

    This is someone reporting that Clark said in 1984 that she was quite sceptical in 1977. I’m, er… quite sceptical.

  20. 20
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Kenny!

  21. 21
    'Tis Himself

    Kenny!

    The bastards killed him!

  22. 22
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    ‘Tis, you have been around long enough to know the reference.

    Maybe this will help.

    Shiloh!

  23. 23
    Anthony K

    This is someone reporting that Clark said in 1984 that she was quite sceptical in 1977. I’m, er… quite sceptical.

    It’s a key feature of these narratives. I mean, Clark was going to look on the roof for a tennis shoe. Really, what the fuck does her attitude have to do with anything?

    But it’s about adding a veneer of veracity to these kinds of stories, and it hints that people have some inkling of the concept of confirmation bias:

    “Dave said he saw a ghost last night.”

    “Does Dave believe in ghosts?” → “Yes, he’s a fan.” → “Meh. So what?”

    “No, he’s quite skeptical.”

    “Oh, wow. Finally, proof of life after death!”

  24. 24
    Anthony K

    Shiloh!

    Oh, fuck. We have scifi and danielhaven. Do we need another dense no-nothing?

  25. 25
    chigau (違う)

    danielhaven is gone.
    probably
    What is blog-comment equvalent of NDE?
    Near Flounce Experience?

  26. 26
    Reginald Selkirk

    Beauregard relates an experiment carried out by Olaf Blanke, in which a patient’s brain was being probed in advance of surgery for epilepsy. The patient was insistent that she viewed her body from above, although she could not see things which were visible from above but not from the position of here eyes. I.e., she was experiencing a perceptual illusion, not a real out of body experience.

    The editors of Nature went so far as to declare triumphantly that as a result of this one study—which involved only one patient—the part of the brain that can induce OBEs had been located.

    Along the same lines, psychiatrist Bruce Greyson of the University of Virginia commented that “We cannot assume from the fact that electrical stimulation of the brain can induce OBE-like illusions that all OBEs are therefore illusions.”

    None of the NDEs Beauregard relates are controlled experiments; they are anecdotes. He thinks hundreds of anecdotes outweigh one well-controlled experiment. This is why he is a shit scientist.
    And since the possibility that an OBE is an illusion is known, we can state that the possibility needs to be controlled for if an experiment is to have any evidential value. The patients are not responsive, so they are not reporting what they claim to be experiencing. And the medical team is usually too busy with other stuff – oh, like saving a life – to spend time checking controls of an experiment they are not performing.

  27. 27
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    This should drag the idiots out of the woodwork.

  28. 28
    ButchKitties

    Aren’t NDEs more common in people with sleep disorders than the general population? The whole thing smacks of REM states and confabulation.

  29. 29
    Dhorvath, OM

    But Shiloh is fun to play with.

  30. 30
    Anthony K

    Near Flounce Experience?

    “I saw my cursor hover over the close browser button. I felt myself clicking, but my browser seemed not to close. I’m sure I got up and went to the fridge to make a sandwich, but I’d just learned the term ad hominem, and somehow I still knew those atheists were using all sorts of mean ad hominems against me. So, I checked back, and they were, laughing at all the devastating arguments I’d copied and pasted from other websites…”

  31. 31
    'Tis Himself

    ‘Tis, you have been around long enough to know the reference.

    Surely you recognize “They killed Kenny. The bastards!”

  32. 32
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    ‘Tis, would that be Northern Recreational Lands?

  33. 33
    'Tis Himself

    Shiloh finally stopped using atheist Stephen Hawking’s comments to prove gods. Also he seemed to understand that xe didn’t understand the weak anthropic principle well enough to use it as an argument for anything. So all xe had left was NDEs.

  34. 34
    'Tis Himself

    Janine, of course.

  35. 35
    nooneinparticular

    An olde colleague of mine worked for a bakery to help his way through Gradual School. Early one morning while on a delivery he fell asleep at the wheel and hit a bridge abutment. He says he recalls very distinctly that before anyone arrived, while he lay mangled and bleeding on the pavement, a woman cradling him, stroking his forehead and telling him help was on the way. In fact he said he was sure she was real until sometime after he came out of the coma, he asked about her. He was told then that there was no woman. He was clinically dead on that road but thankfully was revived by the EMTs. Had quite a hard, long time recuperating.

    ANYway, even though he still remembers the woman very distinctly and insists that it was just his brain in the throes of a critical situation fantasizing about comfort and rescue, he is thankful for the phantasm. Something comforting come out of a horrific situation. Not an NDE wooer, him. Not surprisingly a large number of his friends and family come to a different conclusion; she was an angel, a long dead relative, a guiding spirit, a goddess….he says he just nods and changes the subject.

  36. 36
    chigau (違う)

    I have a recollection of a movie…
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatliners
    watching it was not an NDE but it did make me wish for it all to end.

  37. 37
    Anthony K

    watching it was not an NDE but it did make me wish for it all to end.

    The only thing that saved me is my love of Bacon.

  38. 38
    chigau (違う)

    The only thing that saved me is my love of Bacon.

    Kiefer for me.
    (How many Baldwins are there, anyway? Is there a factory somewhere.)

  39. 39
    Anthony K

    Kiefer for me.

    He’s an added bonus.

    (How many Baldwins are there, anyway? Is there a factory somewhere.)

    Yes, but it has absolute shit for quality control.

  40. 40
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Kenny!

    NDEs are permanently linked to that name in my memory.

  41. 41
    unclefrogy

    that list linked to above wow. to see all of that in one place in alphabetical order because there are that many is really humbling. It is no wonder that science and the relentless testing and retesting has become so dominant as a way to understand reality.
    All this woo stuff and its persistence seems to me to be proof of the existence of what the Australian aborigines call dream time as a “real place”. Dream time is a very accurate name for the “spiritual realm” for that is where it has its existence in the brain in the “dream state”. Especially if it turns out to be true that the mind our thinking consciousness is an emergent quality caused by and existing as the interaction of the physical parts of the brain, some what like a program on a computer.

    In a near death experience as the brain looses contact with the body it would feel like you were out of your body wouldn’t?

    uncle frogy

  42. 42
    thegoodman

    It’s really amazing how similar all of these NDEs are to effing DREAMS.

    Just imagine, your body is shoved into a state of sub-consciousness and it starts behaving very similarly to the way it behaves in an induced sub-consciousness.

    Why is this difficult for people to understand?

    Even if they cannot understand it, it doesn’t give them the right to simply make shit up. This is often the argument I use against people claiming woo. Not understanding things is OK. Pulling explanations out of your ass is not.

  43. 43
    brian12

    It is our brain that is responsible for placing us within our bodies.

    Dr. Steven Novella (Skeptics Guide To The Universe Podcast) has a good article on the subject here: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/bringing-out-of-body-experiences-down-to-earth/

  44. 44
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    NDEs are permanently linked to that name in my memory

    same

  45. 45
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Huh. I’ve had OBEs. I’m also perpetually sleep-deprived. OBEs are kinda trippy.

  46. 46
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    I’ve had OBEs too but it had nothing to do with sleep.

  47. 47
    Glen Davidson

    I’d like the woo-believers to tell us why such fantastic capabilities are saved for NDEs and drugs like ketamine (or don’t they believe in the veridical nature of drug experiences, and why not if they don’t?), rather than being useful for scoping out bank vaults, CIA headquarters, and Illuminati meetings.

    I mean, gee, we can coast about the atmosphere spiritually, yet while we’re healthy, capable, human beings, we can’t make use of this ability. Only as we lose our strength and our rational thinking is compromised do we get to make use of such extraordinary powers.

    Evolution has let us down badly. No wonder this idiot teamed up with a stupid anti-evolutionist troll like Denyse, since apparently this has nothing to do with evolution, and everything to do with magic.

    Glen Davidson

  48. 48
    Akira MacKenzie

    Despite its left-leaning reputation Salon is a for-profit publication and like any good capitalist instsitution, Salon must whore themselves out to their audience ( and “liberals” who believe in god and/or magic still vastly outnumber the left-wing atheist materialists) to make a buck.

    What can I say? Supersticion, like sex, sells.

  49. 49
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Thegoodman:

    Just imagine, your body is shoved into a state of sub-consciousness and it starts behaving very similarly to the way it behaves in an induced sub-consciousness.

    I know, right? NDEs/OBEs sound an awful lot like the symptoms of sleep paralysis. Go figure.

  50. 50
    Anthony K

    Supersticion, like sex, sells.

    I once had a dream I had sex with a ghost. Of course, I was prepubescent at the time, so what passed for ‘sex’ was some good tingly in my nethereal regions. Another time, I dreamt I had sex with some sort of pixie or brownie. Man, as a kid, I was into all sorts of supernatural get funky.

    That’s of course, when I could get it on in dreams. Like most people, most of my aroused dreams involved near sex experiences and a frustrating start to the day.

  51. 51
    frankensteinmonster

    He is right that this idea of minds existing independently of brains is incompatible with materialist views.

    No he is not. The soul could still exist and be a material entity.

  52. 52
    Ingdigo Jump

    Our brains don’t tuck away a movie of our experiences somewhere in our temporal lobe; they store a few little details away, with a web of associations, and basically reconstruct the event when we try to recall it. This is why eyewitness testimony is unreliable — memory is dynamic and constantly being modified by later experience.

    Memories are not a film real, they are a script. Each time you review one you have to recast and perform it all over again.

    Oh, fuck. We have scifi and danielhaven. Do we need another dense no-nothing?

    scifi? Oh you mean Shiloh!

  53. 53
    Ingdigo Jump

    No he is not. The soul could still exist and be a material entity.

    It wouldn’t be the self though,. We have enough data showing how the brain relates to that so that at most the soul can only be a component, not the whole mind.

  54. 54
    ButchKitties

    I’ve had OBEs and other assorted mystical experiences. In my early teens I thought these were proof of psychic phenomenon. I’ve since learned that migraine with aura means my brain lies to me shortly before knocking me down with excruciating pain. Typical lies include:

    “You’re outside your body, standing just behind yourself”
    “Look at the pretty, pretty halos/auras around everything/everyone”
    “There’s a disembodied voice talking just below your range of hearing”
    “There’s burning grease in here somewhere”
    “A shadowy figure is standing just outside your range of vision”

    Prior to understanding my illness, I used to unconsciously add details to these experiences. The shadowy figure would be a woman dress in 18th century garb. The indistinct voices weren’t so indistinct; I could make out words.

    I still have these symptoms, but since getting a diagnosis, they’ve become much less detailed. Can awareness that you’re seeing/hearing/smelling things that aren’t there lower the chance of confabulation?

  55. 55
    Ingdigo Jump

    Amusingly given how Scifi/Shiloh dismiss my NDE experience it seems to be a confirmation bias. Unless it fits the narrative of an afterlife it’s not a REAL NDE. Just some comforting images and sensations that don’t have Jesus or angels? Not an NDE.

  56. 56
    Akira MacKenzie

    @Brownian

    At the risk of crossing over into the realms of “TMI” I have to confess that my erotic dreams have never gotten past third base. Oh sure there is nudity and fondling, but when my dream partner and I get to the point actual (or would that be virtual?) penetration my dream “skips” to something else, or worse, I wake up.

    Pathetic, eh? I can’t get laid even in my own subconscious. :(

  57. 57
    robro

    We can barely trust our brains when we’re healthy and awake. It’s nonsense to make anything out of the recollections of someone who’s brain is in the traumatic state of dying and starving for oxygen. It’s preposterous that a so-called “neuroscientist” would not know that and publish such claptrap.

    As for Salon, I suppose they’re just competing with HuffPost (such an appropriate name).

  58. 58
    frankensteinmonster

    It wouldn’t be the self though,. We have enough data showing how the brain relates to that so that at most the soul can only be a component, not the whole mind.

    We are both talking science fiction here, obviously, but the soul could have a redundant copy of the brain circuitry inside, so it could store the whole mind once the brain is offline. :P

  59. 59
    A. Noyd

    Occasionally I slap the snooze button when my alarm first goes off and slip into a dream where I get through most of my morning routine. Then the alarm goes off again seven minutes later. Using Beauregard’s logic, because I perceived I got through thirty minutes of preparing to leave the house, I must have traveled back in time in order to wake up again.

  60. 60
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Frankenstein

    Well yes but that wouldn’t be the self, that would be the back up copy. The original would still experience death and then slip into nonexistence. It’s also why the transhumanist upload death cheat is a empty consolation prize IMHO.

  61. 61
    Inaji

    The soul could still exist and be a material entity.

    Wrong, wrong, wrong. People have been trying to track down the “soul” for centuries. Doesn’t exist, sure as hell isn’t any sort of material entity.

  62. 62
    frankensteinmonster

    Well yes but that wouldn’t be the self, that would be the back up copy.

    Not if the data was stored redundantly bot in the soul and in the brain to begin with, making the whole thing a kind of supernatural RAID storage :) ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID )

  63. 63
    frankensteinmonster

    Doesn’t exist, sure as hell isn’t any sort of material entity.

    Whether it actually exists is pretty much irrelevant here, because to make the independence of mind and brain and materialism mutually exclusive as concepts, mere factual nonexistence of the soul is not enough. Logical impossibility of the existence of a material soul would be required.

  64. 64
    Anthony K

    scifi? Oh you mean Shiloh!

    No, I mean scifi: “I’m morally committed to the idea that I’m neither an atheist nor a theist so my only point is that neither side knows for sure!” I expect scifi would be similarly up-in-the-air about NDEs as a point of moral pride.

    Can awareness that you’re seeing/hearing/smelling things that aren’t there lower the chance of confabulation?

    I’d be surprised if you couldn’t. The brain really likes to create cohesive narratives when dealing with sensory input it suspects relates to whatever it is the brain treats as reality. When aware that the sensory input may be faulty, the brain seems less interested in creating that cohesive narrative. Lucid dreamers exploit this by training themselves to recognize dream states and stop the brain from creating this explanatory narrative. (I confess I have no real experience with lucid dreaming: the close I come is dream suspicion: something unexpected happens, and I get suspicious in my dream. My brain tells my dream self some post hoc bullshit: “Don’t you remember? Lonny has himself turned into a horse every Tuesday…”, and I get the feeling that I don’t buy it.)

    If this is the case, then recognising the disconnect prior to a migraine (I’m so sorry; they sound just painful as all hell) might free the mind from having to fill in confabulatory details (i.e. it doesn’t need to commit to the idea that the perception of voices must be resulting from real voices and cobble together a script.

    This is all speculation on my part, however.

    Amusingly given how Scifi/Shiloh dismiss my NDE experience it seems to be a confirmation bias. Unless it fits the narrative of an afterlife it’s not a REAL NDE. Just some comforting images and sensations that don’t have Jesus or angels? Not an NDE.

    I don’t think they’re the same person, but it is rather ironic to note that proponents of such ‘open-minded inquiry’ tend to be very selective as to which anecdata count.

  65. 65
    Anthony K

    At the risk of crossing over into the realms of “TMI” I have to confess that my erotic dreams have never gotten past third base.

    That’s most often the case for me, though I’m pretty sure I’ve experienced penetration in a few select circumstances.

    Once I had to defeat a witch (green skin, pointy hat-type) in a dream by performing cunnilingus on her. I distinctly remember she had long, tangled pubic hair sopping with sweat.

    There is so much that is wrong with me.

  66. 66
    Phalacrocorax, z Třetího Světa

    frankensteinmonster said:

    The soul could still exist and be a material entity.

    making the whole thing a kind of supernatural RAID storage

    Perhaps these concepts are not as clear to me as they are to thee (what with my not being particularly smart and stuff), so could you tell me what do you have in mind when you propose a soul that is both material and supernatural? Is this soul made of matter, or something else?

  67. 67
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Logical impossibility of the existence of a material soul would be required.

    Show how it is a “logical” (anything stupornatural is by definition illogical) and not a material thing. Or shut up about it.

  68. 68
    frankensteinmonster

    @Phalacrocorax:

    so could you tell me what do you have in mind when you propose a soul that is both material and supernatural?

    I have no clue what it would be like if such a thing existed. I merely pointed out that its existence is not logically impossible and therefore one can not claim that ‘mind w/o brain’ and materialism are incompatible.

  69. 69
    frankensteinmonster

    Show how it is a “logical” (anything stupornatural is by definition illogical) and not a material thing.

    Sry but I have no clue what you are talking about…

  70. 70
    rthille

    Reading more and more science, I worry about just how badly my brain works.

    But then my brain tells me that it works much better than these scientists think it does, and I feel better!

    :-)

  71. 71
    consciousness razor

    I have no clue what it would be like if such a thing existed. I merely pointed out that its existence is not logically impossible and therefore one can not claim that ‘mind w/o brain’ and materialism are incompatible.

    No. Naturalism is the claim that minds don’t exist without brains, not that they can’t. If naturalism is false, there is at least one mind which doesn’t reduce to matter, but there is no evidence for that. Now parsimony enters the room and shatters all wooist dreams everywhere. The end.

  72. 72
    raven

    The soul could still exist and be a material entity.

    Bob the Rain God could exist and be a material entity.

    The Invisible Pink Unicorn could exist and be a material entity.

    We could all be living as simulations in a giant Quantum computer and still be material entities.

    However, without any data or proof, these are all trivial and meaningless statements.

    This is a common fallacy. Fallacy of trying to think while being an uneducated and stupid xian.

  73. 73
    frankensteinmonster

    Naturalism is the claim that minds don’t exist without brains

    BZZZT ! Wrong. Naturalism(or should that be materialism?) claims only that minds can’t exist without a material substrate. It does not say what substrate it should be as long as it is material. it may be a brain, it may be a sufficiently powerful computer, it may be even the soul provided it exists and is somehow a material thing too. And that was kinda the point I was trying to make to begin with ;)

  74. 74
    SpaceQueso

    @ButchKittie (54)
    Actually, the human mind is really programmed to see patterns where there are none. IE, when you hear a washing machine rumbling indistinctly somewhere else in the house, you could think it was a drum solo. My hearing impaired grandmother used to dance to the ringing in her ears. Hell, she’d hum along. So if you don’t have a clear idea what you’re hearing/seeing, then you will tend to assign shape/meaning to the experience. Got all that from Thomas Kida’s Don’t Believe Everything You Think. Really spectacular book.

    Haven’t NDEs been chemically or physically induced without brain death? Or, at least, the symptoms? I remember seeing something about that on like Nat Geo or something, that certain places on the brain, when stimulated, produced symptoms of a NDE, and others produced OBEs. They even had a “faith” stimulator- but I don’t remember any specifics or what the show was even called or anything.

  75. 75
    frankensteinmonster

    This is a common fallacy. Fallacy of trying to think while being an uneducated and stupid xian.

    lolwut ?

  76. 76
    roguemedic

    The heart does flatline during asystole, which is only one of the rhythms possible during cardiac arrest.

    PEA (Pulseless Electrical Activity) is another cardiac arrest rhythm, but even the name makes it clear that there is electrical activity.

    Pulseless Ventricular Tachycardia and Ventricular Fibrillation are the cardiac arrest rhythms people are most likely to be resuscitated from and they do have a lot of electrical activity. The electrical activity is monitored as an ECG (ElectroCardioGram).

    All of these are just measuring the electrical activity in the heart during cardiac arrest, which clearly does not require an absence of electrical activity. Even if we did think with our hearts, this would not be any evidence of a lack of electrical activity.

    During cardiac arrest, I have never seen brain activity monitored, so I cannot tell you what is going on in the brain. Anyone who tells you the ECG can predict the EEG is lying to you.

    If someone were to arrest while having an EEG (ElectroEncephaloGram) that would provide some evidence of the actual brain activity during cardiac arrest. I expect that this has happened plenty of times, but that the results do not support any claim of an absence of electrical activity, unless the EEG was being done to confirm a pre-existing lack of electrical activity (confirming brain death for organ donation).

    What kind of doctor, specializing in anything to do with the brain, cannot tell the difference between an EEG and an ECG? Certainly not a good one.

    Did anyone actually look at any of the ECGs before claiming that even they were flat lines? That would be evidence, so these clowns would worry that the evidence might interfere with their conclusions, so the answer is probably No.

    .

  77. 77
    frankensteinmonster

    However, without any data or proof, these are all trivial and meaningless statements.

    Of course they are. And thus one fails doubly when one makes claims that contradict such unremarkable and trivial statements. ;)

  78. 78
    consciousness razor

    BZZZT ! Wrong. Naturalism(or should that be materialism?) claims only that minds can’t exist without a material substrate. It does not say what substrate it should be as long as it is material.

    For fuck’s sake, you’re tedious. Who’s claiming there is anything logically contradictory about a mind existing without a material substrate? Naturalists only need to claim there is a lack of evidence for them, not that they are impossible.

  79. 79
    pentatomid

    BZZZT ! Wrong. Naturalism(or should that be materialism?) claims only that minds can’t exist without a material substrate. It does not say what substrate it should be as long as it is material. it may be a brain, it may be a sufficiently powerful computer, it may be even the soul provided it exists and is somehow a material thing too. And that was kinda the point I was trying to make to begin with ;)

    All well and good, but since dualists pretty much always define soul or mind as some immaterial, ethereal thing, the point your trying to make is trivial at best (and a complete red herring as far as I’m concerned). Yes, if the soul was a natural and material something ouyside of the brain, it couold exist. In which case belief in a soul and materialism would be compatible. But noone is claiming that.
    Also, since there’s no evidence of a ‘soul’ or ‘mind’ seperate from a brain (material or otherwise), belief in such a thing is unjustified.

  80. 80
    Kamaka

    Logical impossibility of the existence of a material soul would be required.

    Huhwut?

    “Soul”, material or otherwise, is a preposterous fabrication, unworthy of consideration as actually being possible.

    Kinda like gods and hells and agnostics.

  81. 81
    pentatomid

    Yay, typos!

  82. 82
    frankensteinmonster

    Who’s claiming there is anything logically contradictory about a mind existing without a material substrate?

    Are you even trying to understand what is being said ?
    I was objecting against this sentence :

    He is right that this idea of minds existing independently of brains is incompatible with materialist views.

    Which is equivalent to claiming ‘It is logically impossible to have both minds existing independently of brains and materialism being true.’. And all I did was to point out that this is not true.

  83. 83
    feralboy12

    Also, since there’s no evidence of a ‘soul’ or ‘mind’ seperate from a brain (material or otherwise), belief in such a thing is unjustified.

    Oh, but blah blah blah energy blah blah quantum blah blah vibrations blah blah blah perceptions.
    Of course it’s all a wonderful paradox, which means it’s far too profound to blah blah blah blah.

  84. 84
    Ingdigo Jump

    He is right that this idea of minds existing independently of brains is incompatible with materialist views.

    No it isn’t. Minds existing without any material structure might be incompatible. A brain is just the only hardware we’ve ever seen for it.

  85. 85
    calliopejane

    Just last night I watched neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk about her own stroke — she described experiencing very beautiful thoughts & feelings, of being made of energy and connected to all of the whole beautiful universe, all daily cares and anxieties alleviated, a sense of belongingness, peace and joy. Occasionally lucidity would reassert, and while being taken to the hospital, she did have the thought that she was quite likely dying, then she lost consciousness.

    When she awoke, Taylor had the true scientist’s orientation toward the experience: “what can I learn here? This is actually kind of cool — how many neuroscientists get to study a stroke from the inside?!” Surely many people would give this some supernatural interpretation, of feeling god’s love and comfort in time of trauma, or whatever. But Taylor knows a great deal about know how the brain works, and so has no need to resort to magical explanations. She explains how the parts of her brain that were malfunctioning because of the stroke were those that that contain our sense of separate self (so she felt “one with the universe”), and the logical time-aware planning parts (so no anxiety or urgency).

    Her talk is intensely emotional and very inspiring (she’s crying by the end, so was I) — a good counter-example to theists’ claim that rejection of the supernatural means a bleak, emotionless view of life. And she does state that she aspires to everyone being able to feel that joyous sense of connection and peace. But she doesn’t argue that people should have some kind of faith or look to some outside source of support to find it — rather, she believes most people could learn to access that state precisely *because* it exists inside all of our brains.

    So how cool is that!!?

  86. 86
    frankensteinmonster

    No it isn’t. Minds existing without any material structure might be incompatible. A brain is just the only hardware we’ve ever seen for it.

    raven calling you “an uneducated and stupid xian” in 3…2…1…

  87. 87
    Ingdigo Jump

    She won’t because I’m right. A hypothetical AI would be a mind without a brain. It’s still material.

  88. 88
    khms

    Just so long as we are clear that we’re talking about a (hypothetical) different world from the one we’re actually living in, here …

     

    Logical impossibility of the existence of a material soul would be required.

    Show how it is a “logical” (anything stupornatural is by definition illogical) and not a material thing. Or shut up about it.

    The original claim was this:

    He is right that this idea of minds existing independently of brains is incompatible with materialist views.

    No he is not. The soul could still exist and be a material entity.

    Now if we look at this claim in isolation, I have to say it’s true: the “idea of minds existing independently of brains” is compatible with materialist views – that is, it is not logically impossible – it just happens not to be true in this world. The mind could have turned out to be separate physical entity, that’s just not what happened.

    Of course, this was actually PZ’s paraphrase of this claim:

    Needless to say, this view is utterly incompatible with the belief of many materialists that the material world is the only reality.

    … which is also true, the materialist view is indeed that there’s nothing else.

    Now it doesn’t help that frankensteinmonster, probably through carelessness, used some supernaturalist language in talking about the non-supernaturalist, fictional concept, making him/her sound as if they were talking about something quite different. However, I believe that from context, what they meant is clear.

    Just so long as we are clear that we are talking about a hypothetical physical mind here, not a claimed dualist, supernatural one. One is a gedankenexperiment, the other is what the OP was about. You could have a world with physical minds separate from brains, that’s just not our world – but nobody has yet come up with any way to reconcile supernatural concepts with what we know about the world (at least not while keeping them supernatural).

    My own point of view is that, because we can imagine a material separate mind, we can conclude what we should see in that situation, and as that is not what we do see, we can rule it out, at least for homo sapiens. After all, we have a list of fairly materialist feats that mind is supposed to be capable of, making this strictly materialistic territory.

    It’s much harder to exclude a god that way, at least the ill-defined feel-good or sophisticated-theology kind of god – the older, superman-style gods are easier to rule out. The more actual claims of fact there are about a phenomenon, the easier it is to prove it wrong. (And the more fun it is to imagine what a world would be like in which this were true. Just so long as we don’t have to actually live there.)

    Oh, and as for the upload scenario?

    If sufficient fidelity could somehow be guaranteed, I don’t see how that would not be a true continuation. As a programmer, I certainly do not consider the backup copy any different from the original – bits are bits. And as for myself, the brain isn’t particularly continuous anyway (as mentioned above). The idea of a fundamental difference between original and copy seems to me a rather dualistic mindset. In fact, for example running around with Alzheimer’s would be less of a true continuation for me.

  89. 89
    The Sailor

    Clark:

    “This case is particularly impressive given that during cardiac arrest, the flow of blood to the brain is interrupted. When this happens, the brain’s electrical activity (as measured with EEG) disappears after 10 to 20 seconds. “

    Wrong.

    Electroencephalographic changes during brief cardiac arrest in humans.

    [...]
    In 82 of 93 (88%) episodes, EEG changes were identified, and occurred an average of 10.2 s after the last normal heart beat. Of these 82, 67 (82%) illustrated slowing and attenuation.
    [...]

    He’s incapable of reading the literature.

  90. 90
    frankensteinmonster

    She won’t because I’m right. A hypothetical AI would be a mind without a brain. It’s still material.

    Of course you are. But so was I in my first comment, because we are saying essentially the same thing by other words.
    .
    The only difference is, that I used a very unbeliever-unfriendly, yet for the intended purpose perfectly valid, counterexample.
    .
    And got attacked almost instantaneously by people who did not even bother to actually understand what I said. Mere presence of the ‘boo’ word ‘soul’ caused a kneejerk attack response.

  91. 91
    Ingdigo Jump

    If sufficient fidelity could somehow be guaranteed, I don’t see how that would not be a true continuation. As a programmer, I certainly do not consider the backup copy any different from the original – bits are bits.

    The problem is that your bits are not conscious. In this instance if you destroy one, their perception ends…and the other continues. Yet one still has met a very real end of their experience. Similarly if you take two copies and separate them with different stimuli they are no longer copies.

    In a transhumanist upload scenario the organic brain still dies. The mind it generates CEASES and a copy continues in a mechanical form. The mechanical form is just like the original…except that the original one DOES experience death and an end to consciousness.

  92. 92
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Frank

    Have you considered the communication problem is on your end? You’re starting to annoy me as well.

    Note that I’m actually in agreement with them, there isn’t a logical way for a soul to fit in and still be the mind of the individual.

  93. 93
    Ingdigo Jump

    The idea of a fundamental difference between original and copy seems to me a rather dualistic mindset.

    You are incorrect. In fact presuming no difference is much more dualistic because you are ignoring that the mind is a product of physical hardware. A print regardless of quality is never the original.

    In fact, for example running around with Alzheimer’s would be less of a true continuation for me.

    If changes in the fundamental hardware that makes your mind means that you are no longer a true continuation, how does COMPLETELY changing the hardware not do the same thing.

    From a 3rd person’s perspective it’s the same, bits are bits…from your POV your copy is a duplicate you are leaving as a legacy. You can’t see through it’s eyes, you can’t experience what it does; it isn’t you.

  94. 94
    Ingdigo Jump

    Or look at it in an opposite direction.

    If we take a memory from your life and implant it in someone else, do they become you? Did they actually experience that event?

  95. 95
    khms

    The mind it generates CEASES and a copy continues in a mechanical form.

    Would you also claim that, when someone flatlines but is brought to life again, that this is a different person, and the first one really died? They certainly ceased operations.

    Or are you confused because, at least in some scenarios, there are for some amount of time two versions of what was one self? Just because this doesn’t occur naturally, doesn’t mean that there’s a necessary fundamental difference between the two continuations.

    There’s nothing fundamental about being the original version, and there’s nothing fundamentally impossible about having two continuations where there was only one. Hell, have a hundred. They’d all be me. That’s what being software is all about!

  96. 96
    Anthony K

    If sufficient fidelity could somehow be guaranteed, I don’t see how that would not be a true continuation. As a programmer, I certainly do not consider the backup copy any different from the original – bits are bits. And as for myself, the brain isn’t particularly continuous anyway (as mentioned above).

    That may be the case, in the abstract. Until we determine how to take your consciousness out of your body and put it into your upload, however, you will remain you and your copy a copy.

    The idea of a fundamental difference between original and copy seems to me a rather dualistic mindset.

    Not entirely. There’s the reality of subjective experience. Twins are not a single consciousness in two bodies. It’s not the product of a rather dualistic mindset that one does not know see what the other sees when they’re separated.

    In fact, for example running around with Alzheimer’s would be less of a true continuation for me.

    That’s all very academic sounding and whatnot. If you ever happen to get Alzheimer’s, be sure to let us know when you stop experiencing things as you and someone else starts.

    Fundamentally, the difference between the you that wrote the comment and the you that will read my response and the difference between the you that wrote the comment and the you that may have Alzheimer’s at some point in the future is a matter of degree.

    Whatever your computer model of continuation is, I don’t see at all how it in any way parallels human experience.

  97. 97
    khms

    because you are ignoring that the mind is a product of physical hardware

    You did see I required “sufficient fidelity”, right? That was certainly meant to include the hardware it’s running on. I’ve ported software between rather different environments, so I know from experience that there’s nothing fundamentally impossible about this. In the worst case, you can always just write a simulator.

    Also, see Alzheimer’s. I have serious trouble seeing that one as still me. Because it doesn’t have sufficient fidelity. Actual continuity is overrated.

    You can’t see through it’s eyes, you can’t experience what it does; it isn’t you.

    You can say the exact same thing of the “me” from yesterday, or the one from “tomorrow”, yet I certainly consider those true me.

    You still sound to me as if you were claiming a soul – some untouchable, unmeasurable something that the original has and the copy doesn’t.

  98. 98
    Anthony K

    There’s nothing fundamental about being the original version, and there’s nothing fundamentally impossible about having two continuations where there was only one. Hell, have a hundred. They’d all be me. That’s what being software is all about!

    Again, either the software analogy fails or ‘being me’ doesn’t adequately describe what is happening. Let’s say I clone you, perfectly, and make a copy. I poke one of you with a pin. Do both of you sense it? Are you both you?

    What is the experience of twins? Their point of divergence happens to be a lot earlier than you and your copy. Are they the same person?

    Honestly, these are just some problems I see with your claim. I’m increasingly out of my depth when it comes to discussions of conscience. I don’t doubt these questions have been dealt with by others more knowledgeable.

  99. 99
    Ingdigo Jump

    Would you also claim that, when someone flatlines but is brought to life again, that this is a different person, and the first one really died? They certainly ceased operations.

    When someone flatlines they’re not actually brain dead…you’re equivocating.

    There’s a difference between turned off/on again and off peroid.

  100. 100
    frankensteinmonster

    Note that I’m actually in agreement with them, there isn’t a logical way for a soul to fit in and still be the mind of the individual.

    The word ‘soul’ is just a label here. renaming it to something like ‘exotic mater based emergency backup storage’ (and thus reducing the soul leaving the body to a standard mind-upload scenario) will surely make it sound less religion and more technology, if you want.

    If changes in the fundamental hardware that makes your mind means that you are no longer a true continuation, how does COMPLETELY changing the hardware not do the same thing.

    The thing you are missing is called ‘redundancy’. the brain stores information redundantly as it is. so when individual cells die, or even whole parts of it are damaged, you don’t cease to be yourself, the continuity of mind is still preserved.
    I think it is not a stretch to imagine, that if your brain had all its information evenly and redundantly distributed between say three functionally identical parts, you could lose one part or have it replaced with a new and empty one, without losing neither information nor continuity of your mind. you would still stay yourself. you wouldn’t perhaps even notice just as you don’t notice when individual neurons in your brain die.
    .
    And now imagine that only one of those three parts of your brain is organic. the other two are either a computer grafted onto your brain several years before your mind will need to be uploaded, or the ‘exotic mater based emergency backup storage’ we renamed the soul to.
    .
    So now, your organic brain dies, but your mind keeps going without any disruption of its continuity.

  101. 101
    Ingdigo Jump

    You still sound to me as if you were claiming a soul – some untouchable, unmeasurable something that the original has and the copy doesn’t.

    You sound like you can’t read what I write.

    Identity is more than the sum memories and brain patern.

    There’s nothing fundamental about being the original version, and there’s nothing fundamentally impossible about having two continuations where there was only one. Hell, have a hundred. They’d all be me. That’s what being software is all about!

    Actually they would not, in fact by definition they would all be different people. Even at the moment of duplication while an outsider could not tell the difference each individual would, specifically because they recognize themselves as them and this other duplicate as not-them.

  102. 102
    Reginald Selkirk

    Beauregard’s own contribution to the field involves interviewing NDE patients and finding that the experience has a profound effect on their outlook and their lives. I don’t have a problem with that. It’s just that that isn’t evidence that the experiences were real. Religion can have a profound effect on how someone lives their life. But we all agree that all those other people’s religion (unlike out own, which is the one, true belief) is false.

  103. 103
    Ingdigo Jump

    The thing you are missing is called ‘redundancy’. the brain stores information redundantly as it is. so when individual cells die, or even whole parts of it are damaged, you don’t cease to be yourself, the continuity of mind is still preserved.
    I think it is not a stretch to imagine, that if your brain had all its information evenly and redundantly distributed between say three functionally identical parts, you could lose one part or have it replaced with a new and empty one, without losing neither information nor continuity of your mind. you would still stay yourself. you wouldn’t perhaps even notice just as you don’t notice when individual neurons in your brain die.
    .
    And now imagine that only one of those three parts of your brain is organic. the other two are either a computer grafted onto your brain several years before your mind will need to be uploaded, or the ‘exotic mater based emergency backup storage’ we renamed the soul to.
    .
    So now, your organic brain dies, but your mind keeps going without any disruption of its continuity.

    FFS this shouldn’t be so hard.

    If I make an update of your mind into a duplicate body, would you then let me shoot you through the head?

  104. 104
    truthspeaker

    khms says:
    24 April 2012 at 3:15 pm

    The mind it generates CEASES and a copy continues in a mechanical form.

    Would you also claim that, when someone flatlines but is brought to life again, that this is a different person, and the first one really died? They certainly ceased operations.

    In that case it’s the same hardware that resumes operations.

  105. 105
    Nutmeg

    ButchKitties:

    Can awareness that you’re seeing/hearing/smelling things that aren’t there lower the chance of confabulation?

    Interesting. That seems possible. This isn’t an area that I know anything about in an academic sense.

    In the past couple of years, I’ve started occasionally having minor sleep paralysis and the sensation of being unable to breathe when I’m waking up slowly. Probably this is related to being a sleep-deprived, stressed-out grad student. There are never any hallucinations associated with it – I’m kind of disappointed and kind of relieved. It was pretty scary the first couple of times. Once I found out that it was sleep paralysis and not dangerous, though, it stopped being scary and just became annoying.

  106. 106
    Ingdigo Jump

    My whole point that you keep over looking is that a transhumanist duplicate is a continuation of the mind from a 3rd person perspective from the POV of the original they still die.

  107. 107
    frankensteinmonster

    If I make an update of your mind into a duplicate body, would you then let me shoot you through the head?

    there is no duplicate body in my scenario. there is just one single brain/other_hardware system that has enough redundancy to keep going without observable disruption even when the ‘brain’ part of it is destroyed.

  108. 108
    khms

    Whatever your computer model of continuation is, I don’t see at all how it in any way parallels human experience.

    Apart from the little problem that we still have to figure out how to actually do something like this “upload” thing, I don’t see why you would expect it to not parallel that hypothetical human experience.

    And sure, if we have several continuations, they will diverge over time. (The same can happen to software, too. Been there, done that, no t-shirt.) Doesn’t mean that at the point the one becomes several, there’s a good reason to claim one is a “true” continuation and the other isn’t.

    Sure, I can imagine all sorts of problems such an upload might have that would disqualify it – but I can’t think of a single fundamental, unavoidable one.

    But maybe it is easier to look at the related problem of the Star Trek transporter – at least the copy there is supposed to work exactly like the original, same hardware design and all. Is the copy the same as the original? What about versions where the original continues to exist? As you might expect, my answers are the same as with the upload scenario.

    (And as for Alzheimer’s, the one thing I’ve always told people is that significant brain damage is one of the scenarios where I don’t want to continue with this life. That’s a variant of the ultimate horror for me.)

  109. 109
    Ingdigo Jump

    there is no duplicate body in my scenario. there is just one single brain/other_hardware system that has enough redundancy to keep going without observable disruption

    My point exactly.

    The problem is that even this doesn’t exist as we clearly see the brain damaged causes affects to the mind. Shouldn’t the backup correct it? Or does that soul get ejected and a new one put in?

  110. 110
    Ingdigo Jump

    And sure, if we have several continuations, they will diverge over time. (The same can happen to software, too. Been there, done that, no t-shirt.) Doesn’t mean that at the point the one becomes several, there’s a good reason to claim one is a “true” continuation and the other isn’t.

    Again, take my “shoot through the head” scenario and suddenly that true continuation becomes very important to whichever one I have the gun pointed at.

  111. 111
    frankensteinmonster

    The problem is that even this doesn’t exist as we clearly see the brain damaged causes affects to the mind. Shouldn’t the backup correct it? Or does that soul get ejected and a new one put in?

    Hey ! I never claimed here that the soul actually exists ( and we don’t have computers into which we can upload our minds, either ). Al I am doing right now, is arguing that mind upload that preserves the continuity of your identity is possible.

  112. 112
    khms

    [Last message - I need to go to bed.]

    Identity is more than the sum memories and brain patern.

    Is it?

    Even more important, is any “more” an important difference?

    Sure, if the continuations diverge, they’re then no longer the same – except in the sense that the me of today is the same as the me of yesterday. We’re certainly not identical. And from the inside, it’s impossible to tell if the continuation is real or illusory.

    Oh, and the twins are a red herring – their consciousness was never the same, as consciousness doesn’t develop until there’s a brain, by which time the question of twins is long decided.

    [Tired. Need sleep. Also, had that discussion more than once in places like rec.arts.sf.science; nobody ever comes up with a new argument, and neither side really seems to understand why the other side thinks the way they do.]

  113. 113
    Marcus Ranum

    Anyone who’s had experience with recreational use of nitrous oxide will be fairly familiar with all the symptoms that the NDE believers describe.

    One time, years ago, I had the whole experience with the tunnel and the lights and at the end of the tunnel was a Rammstein concert and Amy Lee was onstage doing vocals with Til. So, obviously, there is a heaven and if you don’t like gothic metal, I suggest everyone do their best to avoid the place.

  114. 114
    Anthony K
    Whatever your computer model of continuation is, I don’t see at all how it in any way parallels human experience.

    Apart from the little problem that we still have to figure out how to actually do something like this “upload” thing, I don’t see why you would expect it to not parallel that hypothetical human experience.

    Don’t do that. The part you quoted refers to the problem with looking at consciousness as modeled by software. The part of my comment that refers to the uploading is “Until we determine how to take your consciousness out of your body and put it into your upload, however, you will remain you and your copy a copy.” The ‘until’ was meant, and it’s all very clear.

    And sure, if we have several continuations, they will diverge over time. (The same can happen to software, too. Been there, done that, no t-shirt.) Doesn’t mean that at the point the one becomes several, there’s a good reason to claim one is a “true” continuation and the other isn’t.

    I’m talking about consciousness which has an identity, not some special snowflake uniqueness. Twins, clones, these theoretical copies of yours, all will have separate consciousnesses, all will have the problem of other minds.

    And yes, it’s true that the you of today and the you of yesterday have the same problem. It is not nonsignificant that these yous will generally agree that they’re same you, which future independent copies will not, though they may agree they share a past you.

    Sure it’s all intuition, but that’s the problem with talking about consciousness outside a dualist framework. Concepts like ‘same’ become problematic.

    But maybe it is easier to look at the related problem of the Star Trek transporter – at least the copy there is supposed to work exactly like the original, same hardware design and all. Is the copy the same as the original? What about versions where the original continues to exist? As you might expect, my answers are the same as with the upload scenario.

    How is this different than twins? If you want to consider Star Trek, they covered this in the TNG episode “Second Chances”. At the point of splitting, Tom and Will Riker become two separate consciousnesses, two distinct iterations. Whether or not they’re physically identical copies of each other or not are largely irrelevant.

    (And as for Alzheimer’s, the one thing I’ve always told people is that significant brain damage is one of the scenarios where I don’t want to continue with this life. That’s a variant of the ultimate horror for me.)

    Now why would you worry about that? You won’t be continuing in this life, if you can be said to be doing it now. Won’t be you, right? You will never experience such a thing. People = software, right? Hi fidelity or not the same.

    Seems like you innately understand dualism just fine, which was the point of my comment about this all being some abstract fapping.

  115. 115
    Anthony K

    Sure, if the continuations diverge, they’re then no longer the same – except in the sense that the me of today is the same as the me of yesterday. We’re certainly not identical. And from the inside, it’s impossible to tell if the continuation is real or illusory.

    Without the assumption that the sense of continuation is at least somewhat meaningful and that other minds exist, the entire discussion is moot.

    Oh, and the twins are a red herring – their consciousness was never the same, as consciousness doesn’t develop until there’s a brain, by which time the question of twins is long decided.

    Seriously? You’re talking Star Trek and cyborgs, but we can’t use twins as a thought experiment, as they’re the closest thing to copies we have?

  116. 116
    Anthony K

    Anyone who’s had experience with recreational use of nitrous oxide will be fairly familiar with all the symptoms that the NDE believers describe.

    I’ve never had that experience. I’ve done whippits, but I’ve either done too few or done them in combination with way too many other drugs that their effects were conflated with the booze and the pot and the ‘shrooms and the more booze and the nicotine and the caffiene from earlier and I have to go lie down now and what happened to my clothes?

  117. 117
    Marcus Ranum

    If I make an update of your mind into a duplicate body, would you then let me shoot you through the head?

    Ah, the “James T. Kirk Paradox”! So, a transporter beam dematerializes Kirk in one place and rematerializes him in another. But the Kirk that is about to be dematerialized is infinitely clever and indestructible and would (by definition) figure out a way to avoid dematerialization. The transporter machine would be fooled (because Kirk is clever, by definition) and rematerialize an exact copy of Kirk, because the ‘original’ never was dematerialized. Now there are 2 exact duplicate Kirks, equally indestructible, neither of which is capable of taking orders from the other. In time you wind up with a universe of indestructible Kirks.

  118. 118
    Marcus Ranum

    I’ve done whippits, but I’ve either done too few or done them in combination with way too many other drugs that their effects were conflated with the booze and the pot and the ‘shrooms and the more booze and the nicotine and the caffiene from earlier

    Well, you have to take the balloon and breathe nothing but the nitrous for a couple breaths. Make sure you’re sitting down because you’ll be lying down. If you experienced the “wah-wah-wah” effect on the music, the next effect is the tunnel and/or the flying ziggurats and celtic knotwork. (Yes, I was once flying through a screen-saver universe of celtic knotwork and it was very cool) So believers see “heaven” and we unbelievers see Rammstein concerts and celtic knotwork or whatever’s interesting to us. I’ve played with the stuff around friends and have noticed that the hallucinations are very dependent on what you normally think is important (not surprising, that) One of the most common ones I’ve had is that I hallucinate that I’m involved in the music. One time I was standing in stage right next to Dr John playing “such a night” on the last waltz. After that, christian heaven would be such a let-down.

  119. 119
    Anthony K

    Given:

    Also, see Alzheimer’s. I have serious trouble seeing that one as still me.

    you’ve kind of painted yourself into a corner with this:

    And as for Alzheimer’s, the one thing I’ve always told people is that significant brain damage is one of the scenarios where I don’t want to continue with this life. That’s a variant of the ultimate horror for me.

    If that person isn’t you, then who the hell are you to make end-of-life decisions for them?

    What if I have myself cloned? Can I/my clone kill my clone/me? Is it murder or suicide?

  120. 120
    Anthony K

    Well, you have to take the balloon and breathe nothing but the nitrous for a couple breaths. Make sure you’re sitting down because you’ll be lying down.

    Don’t you tell me how to get fucked up. I know how to get fucked up.

    (Had a friend who’d do five balloons in a row. He was pretty translucent to begin with, but he’d turn totally blue. That can’t be good for you.)

  121. 121
    Anthony K

    In time you wind up with a universe of indestructible Kirks.

    We have that, only in North America we call them quarks. Must be one of those rhotic/non-rhotic things.

  122. 122
    Ingdigo Jump

    Seriously just answer the gun question. It’s the crux of the debate

  123. 123
    Ichthyic

    Don’t you tell me how to get fucked up. I know how to get fucked up.


    “I knew fucked up, being fucked up has been a friend to me, and you sir, are not fucked up!”

  124. 124
    Ichthyic

    he’d turn totally blue. That can’t be good for you.

    deaths from oxygen deprivation are not unknown amongst nitrous balloon users.

    it’s why we always treated it like taking a hit off a joint; you take the hit, and then breathe in a bit of air after, and THEN hold your breath.

  125. 125
  126. 126
    Ichthyic

    we unbelievers see Rammstein concerts

    ohne dich.

  127. 127
    Ichthyic

    What if I have myself cloned? Can I/my clone kill my clone/me? Is it murder or suicide?

    your clone is a quantum deviation of you the second it is made.

    It would be murder, if, of course, the choice is between just murder or suicide.

    first I suppose one would have to define it as a crime.

    which would depend on how the particular society in question assigns rights.

    I can see why the religiots want to ban cloning; they will never be able to wrap their tiny minds around how to resolved the assignment of rights issues involved.

  128. 128
    Ichthyic

    universe of indestructible Kirks.

    Bender did it already.

  129. 129
    feralboy12

    (Had a friend who’d do five balloons in a row. He was pretty translucent to begin with, but he’d turn totally blue. That can’t be good for you.)

    And I had a friend who liked to enhance his bong hits by applying pressure to his carotid arteries and briefly cutting off the blood supply to his brain. He seemed to think this provided some sort of spiritual experience, and castigated me for being “close-minded” when I declined to try it myself.
    I had some stupid ideas at 19, but finding God through oxygen deprivation wasn’t one of them.

  130. 130
    Ichthyic

    finding God through oxygen deprivation

    OTOH, I bet it’s pretty effective. Brain gets quite rundown without oxygen, after all.

    I suppose one could mimic what it feels like to be a creationist.

  131. 131
    Anthony K

    I had some stupid ideas at 19, but finding God through oxygen deprivation wasn’t one of them.

    Who cares about finding God? Generally it’s his followers on Earth that impel me to avoid consciousness.

  132. 132
    Anthony K

    your clone is a quantum deviation of you the second it is made.

    Aimed at khms, I believe the answer is “Nuh-uh! Because computer programmer!”

  133. 133
    Ray, rude-ass yankee

    ‘Tis Himself@18, Sounds like a Chuck Norris joke in the making?

  134. 134
    puppygod

    I’ve read somewhere very interesting interview with a guy who was neurosurgeon. Among other things he told about his own NDE that he had after car crash and subsequent surgery. It was quite funny, because at first he described his experience in terms not unlike usually seen in such stories, and then, him being neurosurgeon, atheist and skeptic to the core, proceeded to deconstruct his own story by pointing out how his own brain apparently cobbled up this false memory from fragment of his other memories and figments of imagination. He even went as far as to point out discrepancies between his “memories” and what really happened as reported by surgeons who were operating on him. Very refreshing take on problem.

  135. 135
    bronwynpatterson

    One question PZ – I agree with what you’re saying here but one thing comes to mind. You say “how can it be possible for immaterial minds to perceive reality” and I presume logically the answer that they can’t stuffs the idea that consciousness might extend outside our physical bodies. But what about phantom pain? We know that is real and that people with missing limbs sometimes feel things that aren’t there showing our minds don’t actually perceive the world the way we believe anyway. To me this shows we don’t actually scientifically understand consciousness fully anyway so how can we base our judgements (in a final way) that something can’t be experienced because it isn’t physically logical until we really have a clear scientific understanding of what consciousness really is? Otherwise applying that logic would have to mean we say people’s phantom pain experiences are bullshit too because they don’t fit our (limited) logical understanding of the physical mind. (i.e. in the phantom pain scenario this logic would state that there are no sensors there to transmit pain signals therefore it cannot be experienced…)

  136. 136
    Anthony K

    Otherwise applying that logic would have to mean we say people’s phantom pain experiences are bullshit too because they don’t fit our (limited) logical understanding of the physical mind. (i.e. in the phantom pain scenario this logic would state that there are no sensors there to transmit pain signals therefore it cannot be experienced…)

    Nothing in neurology suggests that our perceptions have a one-to-one correspondence with reality. We know this. We’ve known this for a long time. Optical illusions are examples of this, both used for entertainment and for research.

    As for phantom pain, it’s clearly a real experience, and we know that one doesn’t need sensory input to have an experience. You’ve dreamt, right? You’ve had an earworm? A remembered song? Can you imagine a loved one’s voice without having them whisper in your ear?

    We know of these things. Our understanding of neuroscience has to account for them. It’s clearly your understanding (“in the phantom pain scenario this logic would state that there are no sensors there to transmit pain signals therefore it cannot be experienced”) that’s faulty.

  137. 137
    Anthony K

    Bronwynpatterson, if you’re interested in things like neuroscience and phantom pain, I recommend The Brain that Changes Itself, or picking up some issues of Scientific American Mind and reading the column by the husband and wife team of Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Diane Rogers-Ramachandran.

    I guarantee you won’t have the same question about phantom pain afterwards.

  138. 138
    Ichthyic

    Who cares about finding God? Generally it’s his followers on Earth that impel me to avoid consciousness.

    fuck man, you still got it.

    +1

  139. 139
    Anthony K

    fuck man, you still got it.

    Trying to lose it, but I can only smoke so much of this weed. Shit’s all paranoia-inducing.

  140. 140
    had3

    I wonder why blind people don’t just use their abilities to see instead of relying on physical eyeballs? The same for deaf, or paralyzed people. Clearly the physical body isn’t necessary for these activities.

  141. 141
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    had3:

    Well -clearly- if they’re blind then their soul would also be blind. Come on – be REALISTIC.
    Obviously the great WooMotherGodFairyUnicornJeebus wants them to be strong in spirit as well as physically – or why would they be blind in the first place? It’s a test. yeah.

    In less retch-inducing words, this reminds me of that ridiculously long and pointless thread in which a commenter was attempting to argue for substance dualism by stating the consciousness ‘attaches’ itself to physical bodies and is eternal but when I linked him to a video debunking substance dualism he replied with somethig resembling ‘cool video, good thing I don’t believe that sort of stuff’. The doublethink… it hurts!

  142. 142
    Menyambal

    I have trouble sleeping, and have taken to using an audiobook under my pillow as a distraction from obsessive thoughts. It does help.

    It also serves as a reference for passing time. Now, on nights where I am prepared to swear I have not slept a wink, I find I have missed entire chapters of a book.

    Clearly, I have lost awareness, simply by falling asleep, yet I would be prepared to swear that I was conscious the whole time. I don’t tell wild stories about what happened, I just assumed I was tossing and turning.

    I’d compare that to an NDE, although less dramatic.

    NDEs are also comparable to dreams, and are occurring in a damaged and malfunctioning brain. I see no reason to accept the babblings of spiritualists, either from or about NDEs.

  143. 143
    clairekelly

    This was a great read. I can’t help but lap up well written commentary about NDEs. Because, hilariously, for several years I believed I had experienced one. (Please, don’t flame. I was 14, for a start, and desperate to believe in something, particularly as I was in and out of hospital constantly with an undiagnosed lung complaint that did, in fact, nearly kill me.)

    What has been interesting to me has been that over the years, particular as my understanding of neuroscience has reached some depth, there is nothing left of my experience that I can’t now explain rationally, and to my absolute satisfaction, with a combination of psychology, neurology, and a teenaged girl’s terror that I might really die. Twenty years later my only regret is the fallibility of memory as I really wish I could revisit the experience with my frontal lobe fully developed, and knowing I would get better.

    PS @ Menyambal/#142 I was about to make a similar point, and its opposite as well – I have (rather famously) fallen asleep sitting up in lectures and meeting and recalled several minutes of dreaming when in reality I barely closed my eyes.

  144. 144
    John Scanlon FCD

    Ing,

    the original one DOES experience death and an end to consciousness

    FFS, the original-that-died HAS NO POV (at that point).

    Nobody that actually died remembers it (by ordinary definition of ‘die’). In what sense have they ‘experienced’ it? – only the sense in which a piece of meat experiences being tossed on the slab.

    Consciousness and experience are not instantaneous events, they only mean anything within a continuing process of memory and action.

    You don’t usually strike me as obtuse.

  145. 145
    John Morales

    johnscanlon:

    In what sense have they ‘experienced’ it? – only the sense in which a piece of meat experiences being tossed on the slab.

    In the sense that they’ve experienced the experience of having experienced that experience, that’s in “what sense”.

    (IOW: It’s experienced as a sense-impression, though not via the external sensorium — introspection is a sense, too)

    </Captain Obvious>

  146. 146
    georgewiman

    Bicycle accident: it turns out brains don’t work well after being smacked on the pavement good ‘n hard. I don’t remember the accident at all, but even the hours after waking up in the ER are a jumble.

    Years later I had major emergency surgery complicated by infection and couldn’t eat for 11 days. Last-resort antibiotics messed up sleep cycles somehow so I could only doze for a few minutes here and there. Yet my clear (very unpleasant) memory of faces embedded in the wallpaper, watching me and judging me, makes the most sense as a hallucination. I bet if I went back to that hospital room I wouldn’t find sepulchral faces in the wallpaper. Maybe there’d be a shoe on the ledge outside the window though.

  147. 147
    ianwardell

    “So when someone claims that a report of a recollection from a time when they were clinically dead is evidence of a mind functioning during that period when the brain was non-functional, you should know…they’re full of shit. It’s evidence of no such thing”.

    Imagine 2 different scenarios.

    a) Everyone who has ever been on the threshold of death reports remembering an NDE.

    b) No experiences at the threshold of death have ever been recalled — just a complete “nothingness”.

    Since apparently remembering some experience at the threshold of death nevertheless constitutes no evidence for survival whatsoever, then it also follows that no recollection of anything whatsoever at the threshold of death would also constitute no evidence for extinction whatsoever!

    Do I really need to state that this is beyond preposterous? The problem with skeptics is that they appear to have very little understanding of the word “evidence”. They inevitably appear to conflate “evidence” with “scientific evidence”.

    Of course one might argue there’s no scientific evidence for survival, but there again if we assume the world is physically closed and we do not beg the question by presupposing reductive materialism, there’s no evidence for the existence of consciousness before death either!

  148. 148
    Nick Gotts

    Otherwise applying that logic would have to mean we say people’s phantom pain experiences are bullshit too because they don’t fit our (limited) logical understanding of the physical mind. (i.e. in the phantom pain scenario this logic would state that there are no sensors there to transmit pain signals therefore it cannot be experienced…) – bronwynpatterson

    Er, no. All the feelings you have in an extremity when it’s there, including pain, result from impulses sent along the nerves from that extremity, up the spinal column, and into the brain. Removing the extremity does not remove those nerves, or the pain centres in the brain, so it is entirely in keeping with the physical nature of the mind that the same sensations can still occur. It is entirely incompatible with this understanding that people could see from a viewpoint outside their body. The comparison between the two is absurd, as I’m sure you will realise on further thought.

  149. 149
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    The problem with skeptics is that they appear to have very little understanding of the word “evidence”.

    Evidence for this statement?

  150. 150
    Nick Gotts

    Since apparently remembering some experience at the threshold of death nevertheless constitutes no evidence for survival whatsoever, then it also follows that no recollection of anything whatsoever at the threshold of death would also constitute no evidence for extinction whatsoever!

    Do I really need to state that this is beyond preposterous? – ianwardell

    It is you who are beyond preposterous, idiot. Of course not recollecting anything from the threshold of death is not “evidence of extinction”. Simply, while we cannot prove that death is the end of experience, absolutely everything we have learned about how physical changes in the brain correlate with changes in experience indicate that destruction of the brain, or permanent cessation of activity within it, imply the end of experience.

    Of course one might argue there’s no scientific evidence for survival, but there again if we assume the world is physically closed and we do not beg the question by presupposing reductive materialism, there’s no evidence for the existence of consciousness before death either!

    More amazingly stupid nonsense. Of course there’s evidence for the existence of consciousness before death, because consciousness is simply the awareness of onself and one’s relationship to the surroundings, and people – and for that matter other animals – could not act in the intelligent, goal-directed ways they do without it.

  151. 151
    Menyambal

    clairekelly, I, too, have experienced long dreams in a few seconds of sleep.

    I used to notice that many of the images in my dreams were of the mere suggestion of a concept, with the rest of my mind hurriedly filling in the details and making sense of random flickers of thought. Nowadays, I just ignore my dreams, but everything I have read about NDEs fits in with all I know about dreams.

    I also notice that while falling asleep, I will often have intervals where my thoughts make random connections that seem sensible at the time, but which make no sense when I wake. Sometimes the connections seem so amazing that I snap to alertness to deal with them.

    Me being me, the connections are about ideas and inventions—in a more “people person”, illusions of dead friends seem quite likely. I know that even I have several times`awakened filled with sorrow at the loss of friends that I had only dreamed existed—for a`while I was`afraid to wake up for fear of losing loved ones.

    Again, with a little exaggeration, a dream becomes an NDE.

  152. 152
    ianwardell

    It is you who are beyond preposterous, idiot. Of course not recollecting anything from the threshold of death is not “evidence of extinction”.

    As I pointed out skeptics invariably fail to understand the meaning of the word “evidence”.

    Simply, while we cannot prove that death is the end of experience, absolutely everything we have learned about how physical changes in the brain correlate with changes in experience indicate that destruction of the brain, or permanent cessation of activity within it, imply the end of experience.

    It indicates it, but that conclusion is not forced. The fact that Y states inevitably follow X states doesn’t force the conclusion that Y states are a product of X states. Those who subscribe to survival would generally adopt either the filter or transmission hypothesis of the brain.

    And there are a multitude of reasons to doubt that brains produce consciousness. We would for example have to give up the notion that we are enduring selves. This is more staggering counter-intuitive than almost anything could be.

    Then there’s all the evidence suggesting survival such as NDEs and the closely related phenomenon deathbed visions, evidence for reincarnation in the form of children’s recollections of previous lives (although not alleged memories retrieved through hypnosis which is much poorer quality evidence), apparitions of a certain type, and mediumship (although in the case of mediumship I’m quite sympathetic towards the superpsi hypothesis).

    There is also much indirect evidence which tends to suggest the continuation of consciousness after death. The most notable indirect evidence is psi phenomena. There’s also physical phenomena such as, for example, clocks stopping and photographs falling off walls occurring near the time of death. More interestingly these phenomena do not normally occur in the vicinity of the dying person, but rather in the vicinity of someone, located at some distant place, who is emotionally close to the dying person.

    Much more interestingly there have been reports of a restoration of mental functioning in people immediately prior to death which tends to support the filter hypothesis of the brain. Indeed there have been scattered reports of people apparently recovering from dementia shortly before death.

    More amazingly stupid nonsense. Of course there’s evidence for the existence of consciousness before death, because consciousness is simply the awareness of onself and one’s relationship to the surroundings, and people – and for that matter other animals – could not act in the intelligent, goal-directed ways they do without it.

    The modern western metaphysic eschews teleology i.e goal-directed behaviour :-) It is generally held that the notion that the world is physically closed (i.e physical chains of cause and effect wholly explain any organism’s behaviour and not consciousness per se) is incompatible with teleology. Of course this is ludicrous and I agree with you that we can at least infer that other people (and other animals) are conscious. Your beef is with the materialists! ;-)

  153. 153
    Hurin

    ianwordell says:

    As I pointed out skeptics invariably fail to understand the meaning of the word “evidence”.

    And then reveals the following about his understanding of the word “evidence”:

    And there are a multitude of reasons to doubt that brains produce consciousness. We would for example have to give up the notion that we are enduring selves. This is more staggering counter-intuitive than almost anything could be.

    Then there’s all the evidence suggesting survival such as NDEs and the closely related phenomenon deathbed visions, evidence for reincarnation in the form of children’s recollections of previous lives (although not alleged memories retrieved through hypnosis which is much poorer quality evidence), apparitions of a certain type, and mediumship (although in the case of mediumship I’m quite sympathetic towards the superpsi hypothesis).

    Hold on while I try to get my palm far enough away from my face to write you a response.

    I’m supposed to think “evidence” includes your intuitions, a collection of poor quality anecdotes about “deathbed visions”, and the universally unsubstantiated claims of people who claim they can talk to the dead?

    And I’m the one who doesn’t understand what “evidence” means?

    Evidence comes in a couple of forms; it can be physically measured, or sometimes be derived from very well established theories in the context of chemistry and physics (although this latter kind is subordinate to experimental data). Evidence can be derived from personal experiences to a limited extent in social sciences and neuroscience, but there is a lot of quality control that needs to happen to bridge the gap between anecdotes and data.

    Your intuition has nothing to do with evidence; the most powerful scientific theories are often deeply counter-intuitive, but that doesn’t lead us to reject them. One might find the idea that gravity is caused by a distortion in the local structure of spacetime counter-intuitive but we have actually measured the degree to which a totally eclipsed sun can “lens” the light of stars passing close to it. In case you are still confused: its the measurement in that scenario that constitutes evidence, and not some relativity denier’s incredulity.

    As for the claims of “mediumship” I suggest you check out James Randi’s million dollar prize tests on JREF:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/JamesRandiFoundation?ob=0&feature=results_main

    Randi offers $1M to people who can provide evidence of paranormal phenomena of this type in fair trials whose conditions are discussed ahead of time. He hasn’t had to pay the prize money yet, and the test has been offered in some form since 1968. Perhaps you can explain why no one can actually demonstrate these abilities around people who doubt them?

    I don’t know where you picked up your concept of evidence, or what you payed for it, but you got ripped off. I hope you kept the receipt.

  154. 154
    SallyStrange

    We would for example have to give up the notion that we are enduring selves.

    The degree to which localized brain damage can radically alter a person’s personality suggests that this is not the case.

    As far as these accounts of pictures falling and suchlike things go–I have never heard of this. I have never had a near-death experience. Nor has anyone I know. According to your “standards” of evidence, I am then justified in calling NDEs pure counterintuitive bunkum.

    That’s what you get when you water down the word “evidence” until it just means “any report of anything happening ever, including subjective experience and hearsay.”

  155. 155
    ianwardell

    Addressing Hurin’s post:

    First of all intuition is not evidence, nor have I said it is.

    Secondly the claim that scientific theories are often deeply counter-intuitive, such as gravity is a distortion in space-time, scarcely approaches the notion that the persisting self is an illusion. It’s more in line with the notion that perhaps it is only I in the world who is conscious. Or perhaps the Universe sprang into being 10 minutes ago complete with all our mutual consistent memories. Or perhaps the world is unreal and we’re all brains in a vat, like in the Matrix. Or perhaps inductive reasoning has no foundation and therefore we can infer absolutely nothing about the future course of events. And lastly perhaps I’m not a persisting self and the notion that “I” exist from one day to the next, or even one second to the next is all an illusion.

    I have no evidence that any of the foregoing are false, but it is reasonable to assume they are false in the absence of reasons and/or evidence to suppose otherwise.

    As for James Randi I’ve been in email communication with him a few years back. I’m entirely satisfied that the failure of anyone to win the million dollars is entirely uninteresting.

  156. 156
    ianwardell

    Addressing Sally Strange:

    No one apart from materialists think that a change in my personality such as passing from a bad mood to a good mood means that I cannot be one and the same self in both cases. You need to distinguish between the substance of a self and its properties.

    And I’m aware that skeptics haven’t heard of the vast majority of the evidence suggesting survival. But that’s never stopped you guys giving your firm definitive opinions!

  157. 157
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    There is also much indirect evidence which tends to suggest the continuation of consciousness after death.

    Nope, unevidenced assertion, POOF, dismissed without evidence. Hint about real evidence, you can shut the fuck up and just point to it.

  158. 158
    SallyStrange

    No one apart from materialists think that a change in my personality such as passing from a bad mood to a good mood means that I cannot be one and the same self in both cases.

    You are obviously unfamiliar with the phenomenon I am referring to. I am not talking about moods. I am talking about going from being an analytical-minded surgeon who hates dancing and music to becoming a passionate professional pianist.

    You need to distinguish between the substance of a self and its properties.

    What does this even mean? What is the “substance” of a self? I need to know that before I can understand what its properties are and what the distinction is.

    And I’m aware that skeptics haven’t heard of the vast majority of the evidence suggesting survival. But that’s never stopped you guys giving your firm definitive opinions!

    I haven’t given any firm definitive opinions, merely pointed out that by your own reasoning, you have no basis to suggest I’m wrong if I don’t accept that NDE experiences even happen, much less suggest anything definitive regarding the existence of a mind or soul that is independent of the existence of a brain.

  159. 159
    ianwardell

    Addressed to Sally Strange:

    Not going to discuss these things here. I’ve written an article which is relevant if I’m allowed to provide the link:

    http://existenceandreality.blogspot.co.uk/

  160. 160
    Ingdigo Jump

    Out of curiosity when does the soul come into place? Is it when a brain is edvanced enough? Is it in each cell?

    Again how the fuck is the soul the self at all if you need the brain filtering it to get the person? A carberator is not a car

  161. 161
    SallyStrange

    So you’re nothing but a cowardly blogwhore. Got it.

  162. 162
    Ingdigo Jump

    Also the biggest reason there will be no singularity is that transhumanists are too fucking dense to understand simple concepts like frame of reference of POV…its down right pathetic now how they just ignore this issue

    Again if you have your mind backed up…can I shoot you?

  163. 163
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Why whould we care what a person who doesn’t understand the concept of real evidence has to say? Blogwhore is too polite a trem for such a gullible mental masturbator.

  164. 164
    Hurin

    ianwardell

    First of all intuition is not evidence, nor have I said it is.

    Well then, thanks for the concession. If that’s the way you feel, then I’m sure you’ll agree that your next point…

    Secondly the claim that scientific theories are often deeply counter-intuitive, such as gravity is a distortion in space-time, scarcely approaches the notion that the persisting self is an illusion…

    Is hardly relevant to whether “the notion that the persisting self is an illusion” is actually true or not. You can’t make a good argument for the persistence of consciousness after death by simply making an argument from personal incredulity; that’s idiotic.

    Again, no one is going to take you seriously without evidence.

  165. 165
    truthspeaker

    Ichthyic says:
    24 April 2012 at 5:32 pm

    he’d turn totally blue. That can’t be good for you.

    deaths from oxygen deprivation are not unknown amongst nitrous balloon users.

    Which is why many festival-going hippies have a low opinion of people selling nitrous.

    I’ve done it, and it’s fun, but I don’t like the risk-reward ratio.

  166. 166
    starstuff

    I got gypped. I died twice in one night & didn’t see any bright lights, angels, dead relatives or aliens.

  167. 167
    Sili

    Quite skeptical, Clark went to the location described by Maria—and found the tennis shoe. From the window of her hospital room, the details that Maria had recounted could not be discerned. But upon retrieval of the shoe, Clark confirmed Maria’s observations. “The only way she could have had such a perspective,” said Clark, “was if she had been floating right outside and at very close range to the tennis shoe. I retrieved the shoe and brought it back to Maria; it was very concrete evidence for me.”

    So just how did Clark verify the observations, if the only way to make them would be by floating in the air next to the shoe?

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