Ghost Stories
Indridi Indridason

Myth of an Afterlife?

A couple of people have spoken to me about a review I wrote last year for the SPR Journal, on a book purporting to debunk afterlife claims. I thought I’d give it a more general airing.

The book is titled The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case Against Life After Death, and is a collection of essays aiming to demolish arguments for survival of consciousness after death. It’s edited by Michael Martin and Keith Augustine and published by Rowman and Littlefield, who also published Irreducible Mind (which in terms of heft and production values it rather resembles). It proclaims its departure from nearly all of the contemporary literature on an afterlife in taking the ‘eminently reasonable’ position that, in all probability, biological death permanently ends a person’s experiences. It argues that the questions that one should ask about an afterlife have been mainly dictated by those who believe in one, and encourages the consideration of other questions that have been overlooked but that are essential to ask.

The writers are mainly philosophers and psychologists, with some neuroscientists and others. Many are, or have been, involved in paranormal sceptic activities. The volume is jointly edited by Michael Martin, an atheist philosopher, and Keith Augustine, a philosopher and executive director of the sceptics website Infidels.org, which is dedicated to combating pseudoscience and paranormal belief on the Internet (and which one supposes is behind much of the aggressive editing of psi-related material on Wikipedia.)

The essays are grouped in four parts. The first, headed ‘empirical arguments for annihilation’, describes in detail the dependence of life and mental functions on a working brain and nervous system - the effects of strokes, accidents and dementia; brain scans that connect behavioural changes to lesions in specific areas, and so on – along with insights from evolutionary theory and the relationship between personality and genetics. Given the powerful scientific evidence - from cognitive neuroscience, psychopharmacology, comparative psychology, behavioural genetics, evolutionary psychology, developmental psychology, and neurophysiology - it seems obvious that minds cannot exist in the absence of a functioning brain, however much we might wish it.

The second section describes conceptual and empirical difficulties for the principal models of survival: interactionist substance dualism, an ‘astral’ body, and the Christian idea of bodily resurrection. Essays explore such topics as the metaphysical impossibility of survival or of nonphysical souls violating physical laws, and the implausibility of astral bodies and astral worlds, the latter by Susan Blackmore. The philosopher of mind Jaegwon Kim also makes an appearance, arguing for the incoherence of the dualist idea of an immaterial mind or soul interacting with a physical brain.

A short section of three essays focuses on concerns about the nature of afterlife. They expose logical absurdities such as the idea of God condemning a person to an afterlife in hell, and the incoherence of notions of heaven: How would a soul move from place to pace? How would it recognize other souls? What would disembodied souls do all day, since presumably there would be no need to sleep? A third essay addresses the intrinsic unfairness of karma, as a moral law that inflicts horrible punishments on individuals in the form of disease, disabilities and poverty for alleged previous wrongdoing they have no recollection of ever committing.

It’s not uncommon for atheist writers to tackle survival without at all referencing the evidence from psychical research (for instance, Mark Johnston’s Surviving Death (2010) and Samuel Scheffler’s Death and the Afterlife (2013) ). The editors here are fully aware of the importance of such research for many people, and accordingly take pains to demolish it as thoroughly as possible. Essays in section four address alleged shortcomings in claims for ghosts and apparitions, out-of-body and near-death experiences, and reincarnation and mediumship research.

The book is impressively clear, thorough and detailed. It is also forcefully argued. The driving force is Keith Augustine, who set the cat among the pigeons some years ago with a series of arguments in support of near-death experiences being hallucinations, which are reprised here; he also provides two of the longest essays, an introduction and a chapter titled ‘The Dualist’s Dilemma: The High Cost of Reconciling Neuroscience with a Soul’ (co-written with Yonatan I. Fishman). These two pieces cover most of the main arguments, with the other contributions reinforcing it with sidelights and detailed explorations of individual facets.

As one would expect, this is a highly partisan construction, of the kind that a team of expensive lawyers would present in court to sway a jury. Any refuge or loophole used by survival proponents is ruthlessly sought out and exposed. Might one suppose that terminal lucidity – the phenomenon of elderly patients with advanced dementia being restored to a brief moment of coherence in the hours or minutes before death – reinforce a dualist view? Alas, says Augustine, the evidence is anecdotal; hardly any cases have been satisfactorily documented. In any case, we should not place too much trust in exceptional cases:

Proponents who appeal to uncharacteristic cases as evidence for the independence thesis … suffer from a kind of tunnel vision, latching on to any data potentially favorable to their own point of view, heedless of the fact that the exceptions prove the rule. And in focusing on the rare neurological outliers while disregarding the immense body of neuroscientific evidence unfavorable to their perspective, independence thesis proponents frequently overlook the comparatively poor quality of the data thought to support their point of view (p. 251).

Arguments that are often employed by survival proponents – perhaps somewhat casually – are forcefully confronted. Thus for instance, ‘correlation is not causation’ is countered by the observation that the effects of other organs – the kidney’s role in filtering toxins, for instance – is not disputed, and that it’s highly selective to apply different reasoning to the brain (p. 102). (Who now continues to resist the implications of the correlation between smoking and lung cancer?) To insist otherwise, is a ‘fallacy called moving the goalposts: an utterly unreasonable person pretends to be reasonable, if only more evidence, impossible to obtain, were available’ (p. 103).

Most readers here will find a major weakness in the book’s one-sided consideration of psychical research, as is usually the case with sceptic productions (although this will not be obvious to its natural audience). The arguments are as detailed and skilfully expounded as I have seen anywhere, but they stray little from the long-established script. Important caveats and objections regarding experiments and investigations– some new, others made originally made by psi researchers themselves – are mixed in with the familiar generalisations about cold reading, conjuring tricks, witness unreliability, and so on. Inevitably, studies that support the sceptic view – and that knowledgeable readers will recognise as laughably biased and misinformed - are said to have been carried out by ‘sophisticated’ researchers.

It also appears that, for all the focus on established science, the arguments here are not always less subjective than those they oppose. For instance, Augustine concedes that survivalists do not generally contest the neuroscientific evidence for mind-brain dependence: the problem is the way they interpret it (p. 4). But he nevertheless seems to believe that the great preponderance of evidence of correlation – which the book establishes by piling it up in quantity - obliges us to make the qualitative leap to accept causation.

Out of sheer intellectual honesty, a few brave souls within parapsychology have conceded the daunting challenge that this evidence poses for survival. But their only apparent recourse is to argue – quite implausibly – that the ambiguous parapsychological evidence for survival actually outweighs the virtually incontestable neuroscientific and other evidence for extinction (p. 5).

The claim of ambiguity surely cuts both ways. Even leaving aside evidence of psi, the source of consciousness in brain functions is never more than an appearance – however incontestable to some - and the considerable difficulties for physicalists of establishing how consciousness arises are hardly at all addressed. The writers have little to say about the problems raised by indications, thoroughly catalogued in Irreducible Mind, that mere suggestion can bring about appropriate, and highly complex, biological effects – sudden unexpected cures, stigmata, and the like – implying that, far from being an epiphenomenon, consciousness can exert direct effects on matter in ways utterly mysterious from a physicalist perspective. One imagines that such evidence would be treated on the same basis as paranormal claims (that it is weakly supported and probably spurious), but that can hardly be said about the placebo effect, which is not listed in the index.

Also, the book shows that tendency, marked with atheist and sceptic writers, to make unwarranted assumptions about what should be the case if such-and-such were true, and to hold that, since it is quite clearly not the case, it cannot therefore true. Sentences that begin, ‘One would expect that…’ should be treated with caution. We can accept, to take just one example, that viewed as a biological event, death should happen in a more-or-less uniform biological manner for every individual of the human species. But we cannot go on to infer that afterlife and rebirth must equally be uniform experiences, and that the manifold cultural variations in near-death and reincarnation reports therefore indicate that these are products of the imagination. If consciousness and memory survive the death of the body, one might at least acknowledge the possibility that communities continue to exist that are shaped by culture, and whose actions – for instance in the manner in which they are reborn, in terms of gender, the length of time following death, and so on – conform to the cultural norms that their members are accustomed to.

In this context there’s also a point to be made about differing temperaments. Much that is unflattering is said about those who believe in an afterlife: that they indulge in wishful thinking, that they’re swayed by religious faith in the teeth of the evidence, that they blithely overlook difficult scientific and metaphysical obstacles. But it hardly needs to be pointed out that sceptics have their own mental and emotional quirks: notably, the conservative tendency to seek security in what has been objectively established, and to be repelled by unappealing problems, mysteries and unresolved issues whose investigation, nevertheless, history tells us may lead eventually to new insights, and even to changed worldviews. It’s true that human testimony such as that provided by family members in rebirth cases can be infuriatingly complex and difficult to disentangle, but it doesn’t mean that conclusions cannot, or should not eventually be drawn from it that are potentially every bit as significant as those based on brains scans. And while questions about what survival could possibly mean boggle the literal mind, an imaginative exploration of these mysteries – such as many people follow by immersing themselves in psychical, religious and spirituality literature – can help to provide illumination.

That said, this is an important book, and can be read with profit by believers, if only to remind themselves how formidable the arguments against survival of consciousness can seem to be. It will reinforce the atheistic convictions of its natural audience, and will doubtless encourage young Americans, especially, to disregard the God-talk they hear spouted all around them. To be fair, for many people, it is far more reasonable to trust the conservative, well-established claims of brain science than the apparently uncertain – and often chaotic and incredible – testimony about anomalous experiences. One can only hope that at least some of those who are impressed by the book will have the curiosity to seek out the other side of the story.

THE MYTH OF AN AFTERLIFE: THE CASE AGAINST LIFE AFTER DEATH edited by Michael Martin and Keith Augustine. Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Maryland, 2015. 675pp. £51.95. 978-0-8108-8677-3

References

Kelly, Edward F., et al. (2007). Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century. (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield).

Johnston, Mark (2010). Surviving Death. (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

Scheffler, Samuel (2013) Death and the Afterlife. (New York: Oxford University Press).

Comments

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Chel writes (re:Autism): "Sensory overload is a big problem for us, and many of us feel emotions very strongly while not showing them at all, which gets us stereotyped as emotionless robots. I'm sure there's a point to be made on the mind-brain issue with that, but I don't know what."

What about facial expressions, Chel: Do fear or joy express themselves in your facial expressions at all? Also, are you able to recognise and correctly interpret the emotional expressions of others?

"One person was a fraud, therefore the entire field of research is worthless." Do you also assume that Andrew Wakefield committing fraud means all research into vaccines is worthless?

Julie: In my case and those of many people on the spectrum, they do, but in the case of others, they don't. The autism spectrum is less a spectrum than a big wobbly ball, to paraphrase Dr Who, and can manifest in many different ways. I can interpret most forms of facial expressions, but many of us can't, and many of us who can have to intentionally learn it as opposed to just naturally picking it up. I had to actively learn to tell when people were joking, and my mother developed a habit of smiling with the tip of her tongue poking out between her teeth as an unmissable signal to me that she was joking. I can't control the expression of my emotions very well - as a teenager with depression I used to sob throughout my classes and be unable to stop it, and it took me much longer than most children to stop having tantrums. Other people with it struggle to express emotion at all or don't see why they should.

Julie Baxter:
"Engaging with such people is like trying to plait live eels in a bucket."

Yes, dealing with skeptics is a very slippery business. And, I feel, sometimes reveals something very fishy is going on.
I happen to believe that some skeptics are actively employed and paid for by ecumenical councils, who view believers in the paranormal as a threat to the accepted order of things.
Rather than being seen as opponents of free thought and speech, it makes sense for them to use third party protagonists, other than lobbying parliament to clamp down on paranormal blogs.
They are concerned about a groundswell of belief in these matters, to the detriment of the accepted theology of the church. They believe that it is necessary to oppose at every level and see it as a duty to the public good.
I happen to believe that organisations such as GCHQ have been given a nod and a wink from government mandarins, to indulge in such activity. In doing so, they often use a gloves-off approach. If they deem that their efforts are not producing the desired effects, then they are quite able and willing to engage in skullduggery.
I believe that they have a Transatlantic approach and a coherent strategy in place with our American cousins.

How do you relate to animals, Chel? Are yo able to engage with them in a natural and comfortable way?

Interesting appraisal, Stuart. But my gut feeling is that they are simply people of a rigid fundamentalist mindset. Having said that, I'm most impressed by the amount of time and effort such people are prepared to devote to something with which they are in no way obsessed and which they firmly believe to be utter nonsense. :/

But then no one talks about God more than the devout atheist.

Depends on the animal. Animal body language is simpler than human body language and it's fairly easy to get the gist of it, at least with species I see a lot. Dogs are pretty up-front with their moods, and I didn't have to be told what a happy dog looks like, but I lived with them most of my life, and I can tell when people are happy too. I had to look up species-specific behaviours of other animals because I see them much less - one time I thought I was scaring a guinea pig because it was shaking, but was told that meant it was happy. General behaviours like fear are easier to pick up. I don't think I'm very good at communicating back to the animals though.

I posted a comment here about skeptics and in response to a comment by Julie Baxter.
Julie's comment mentioned 'eels in buckets.'
My post has vanished. So has that part of the comment from Julie.
Does anyone have an explanation as to why that should occur?
Anyone else experienced similar?

I can still see your comment, Stuart. It's on the second page. You need to follow the little arrows after Robbie's post. :)

Oh, its suddenly reappeared. How odd?
Now, I have only 7 comments showing (out of 108)
More oddness!

Yes, I see it now. Thanks Julie.
Your original comment though, still seems to be missing your 'eels in buckets' remarks?

No, its ok. I've found it! Halfway down your comment. Sorry, I thought your comment began with that phrase.
Don't panic Robert!... everythings working fine!

Julie Baxter,
"I'm most impressed by the amount of time and effort such people are prepared to devote to something with which they are in no way obsessed"

Julie, your comments are as oil upon the disturbed waters of my paranoia.
However, I do feel that being such a contentious issue; the mere absence of comments from those 'in the cloth' is rather odd. 'Conspicuous by their absence,' in fact. Maybe, they feel that such interaction is beneath them?

Oh for God's sake . . .

No I would never say something like the *relationship* between mind and body might be empirical rather than metaphysical, not least of all because I can't discern any bloody meaning in it!

Yes one or two authors advanced the objection that souls wouldn't be able to travel from A to B in an afterlife realm. They seem to think that the afterlife realm must just be like the physical realm and require energy to move from A to B even though one's soul is not physical (no idea why you're blathering on about Braude..., I'm talking about the "arguments" your fellow authors advanced). But the broader point is that most of the authors (not so much yourself), make all sorts of asinine objections.

All this stuff you keep writing fails to make any substantive points against any of the issues I raise. This conversation is a complete waste of time. It is very reminiscent of the "conversations" I used to have on the JREF board, at least with the more articulate "skeptics". Everyone there seemed to fail to understand my points and go off on a tangent, as you do. Thank God I was eventually banned from there!

Not wasting any more of my time with you Keith. I'll write a review. It'll be fair. I've said positive things about your arguments on facebook (eg https://www.facebook.com/groups/humanconciousnessgroup/permalink/10153814884057433/). I'm not going to allow your unpleasantness, rudeness and hostility stop me from being impartial.

I was addressing Keith Augustine above. Never knew there was another page until my post failed to appear.

Ian Wardell,
Yeah, neither did I. The arrows are so small, I thought that they were muck on my screen.
If it hadn't been for Julie's timely intervention; I would have convinced myself that there was a plot against me.

This guy seems to be coming out with all the same stuff argued against here: http://www.consciousentities.com/2012/10/near-death-a-view-from-hell/
Someone want a look?

I'd also like to say this business is a lot more complicated than both sides have a tendency to make it sound. I'm on a forum elsewhere where I'm acquainted with at least three atheists who read the tarot. Belief isn't all or nothing.

Ian, I didn't say that you held that "the *relationship* between mind and body might be empirical rather than metaphysical." I asked you to explain what you think that statement means since you were the one to invent the idea and then attribute it to me. Since I never said anything like that, I don't know why you would expect me to explain something that you made up.

"But the broader point is that most of the authors (not so much yourself), make all sorts of asinine objections.... I've said positive things about your arguments on facebook."

If that's your honest opinion, it's curious that you didn't have a single positive thing to say about the volume here until the very end when pushed into a corner. For you earlier complained "I think your book should address the strongest arguments/reasons for survival, not attack the weak silly positions." If The Myth of an Afterlife does contain both "asinine objections" and not-so-asinine objections, as you claim, then you should have followed your own advice and had the honesty to "address the strongest arguments/reasons for [extinction]" presented in it, and the fortitude to refrain from attacking "the weak silly positions" in your comments here, since doing so would have merely held yourself to the same standard that you hold my contributors to. Why do you hold the volume to a standard that you do not hold yourself to, if not to be critical just for the sake of being critical (because you see afterlife skeptics as the enemy, rather than people who simply come to a conclusion that happens to be different from your own conclusion)?

"All this stuff you keep writing fails to make any substantive points against any of the issues I raise."

This is simply not true. I addressed your first nine points directly and to the point, and you did not rebut them. Instead you responded by bringing in new points, some of which I also replied to anyway, even though they were diversions from those original nine points.

In a real debate rebuttal (whether in an oral debate, or in a journal), one is expected to respond to what was said earlier, not keep bringing in new objections. I understand that some people do not like to have their statements challenged (Donald Trump comes to mind), but that is what debate is. No one gets to be a dictator or a censor in the free marketplace of ideas. There's an old saying about staying out of the kitchen if you can't stand the heat.

"one or two authors advanced the objection that souls wouldn't be able to travel from A to B in an afterlife realm. They seem to think that the afterlife realm must just be like the physical realm and require energy to move from A to B even though one's soul is not physical (no idea why you're blathering on about Braude..."

This is a new objection from you, one that Robert alludes to in his review. Braude is the one who talked about whether the soul would need an energy source in his analogy, which was your original point #4 that I responded to. (I'll quote you from #4 for you: "There's all sorts of silly points brought up such as what is the power source of souls to enable them to travel around Heaven!")

The only time any power source is ever mentioned is in response to an analogy made by Stephen Braude which invokes power sources, block quoted on pp. 126-127 of the brain damage chapter. The end of that Braude quotation says, to jog your memory: "Like connection to a wall outlet or docking station (which can both expand and constrain the device’s functions), physical embodiment would simply be one possible medium for cognitive expression. And like running on battery power, disembodied existence or possession of an astral body might be others" (Immortal Remains, p. 291). If this idea is silly, then Braude is the silly one since he brought it up, and my contributors merely responded to what he said. End of story.

Now your new objection about moving from place to place in Heaven refers to Michael Martin's chapter on Heaven. There he asks "what disembodied existence would be like in time and space" on the assumption that Heaven is a location that disembodied minds somehow inhabit, as most believers in Heaven suppose (and that I agree is an idea difficult to make sense of--see the top of p. 6 of the Introduction, for example--which is why I think most believers really believe in astral bodies without realizing it; but Martin can hardly be criticized for addressing what Heaven proponents suppose). (There are ambiguous, flowery, and metaphorical understandings of Heaven like participating in the beautific vision in the presence of God, whatever that would mean in practice.)

There Martin asks how a soul moves from place to place. Now I suppose it could move from place to place by walking with it's astral legs, or instantaneously teleporting from one place to the other by will, or what have you. I don't think that Martin meant that no answers were possible, but simply that any possible answer is equally incredible/fantastical, and that is hard to deny even if you are a believer. He goes on to question how it would be possible to think in a timeless realm since every chain of thoughts is a temporal process with a beginning and end, and this is a deeper conceptual worry, to be sure.

His question is, verbatim: "How would a soul move from place to place?" (p. 428). This is one question taking up one sentence of his entire essay, so his argument hardly hinges on whether it is answerable. He never includes your addition to his question, '...without a power source'--you made that up. It is followed by two similar questions: "How would it recognize other souls? What would disembodied souls do all day long, since presumably there would be no need to sleep?"

It is never claimed that these three incidental questions are unanswerable. (Notice that Martin never mentions them again, and no other author mentions them at all.) Again, the idea is that any particular answer is going to be equally incredible. It is up to those who believe in Heaven to say exactly what existence in Heaven could be like, and this is all Martin is asking Heaven proponents to provide--some credible positive of account of what Heaven could be like. I see Martin's question as akin to wondering what survival proponents who believe that grandma is smiling down upon them think about what Aristotle or Alexander the Great have been doing with themselves for the past 2,000+ years. It's not that it's impossible for Aristotle to have been occupying himself during all this time in some hard-to-fathom way; it's that it strains credulity to take the idea seriously. (If you don't like that idea, perhaps you should ask yourself what extinct animal souls have been doing with themselves for millions of years since they went extinct.)

These questions are about what the world would have to be like if survival really occurred. Now I know you might invoke reincarnation or something like that since you have a penchant for that particular idea. But not every survivalist does (most early psychical researchers found the idea anathema, as you know), and such questions remain legitimate given that what happens after death (if anything at all does) is hardly settled science. Whether we have purely nonphysical souls, or instead astral bodies, for example, is purely hypothetical, so to assume one instead of the other and then criticize someone else for critiquing the other simply favors your preference without justifying that preference. This is why the volume critiques both--because there are no good grounds for saying that nonphysical minds are what souls really are, not astral bodies (or vice versa). These conceptions are all made up, not something that science has discovered about the nature of souls. If anything a scientific picture of the world makes it appear as if neither sort of thing exists.

"Yet Juan you kept posting this Karl Osis on various forums claiming this experiment has demonstrated life after death."

I have not said that, but those experiments make it less implausible that there is the astral body.

" The reason psi believers do not like Wikipedia is because it is pro science. It supports the naturalist skeptic point of view."

No, the reason is that Wikipedia filter out the paranormal. Parapsychology is also science.

And you have not yet responded to my previous comments.

"It's not that it's impossible for Aristotle to have been occupying himself during all this time in some hard-to-fathom way; it's that it strains credulity to take the idea seriously."

That is stupid, because going against common sense says nothing about its truth nor is doing science.

"This is why the volume critiques both--because there are no good grounds for saying that nonphysical minds are what souls really are, not astral bodies (or vice versa). These conceptions are all made up, not something that science has discovered about the nature of souls. If anything a scientific picture of the world makes it appear as if neither sort of thing exists."

Except NDEs, apparitions, mediumship and children who remember past lives that provide convergent evidence for the existence of an afterlife.

Keith Augustine said:

{quote}
"Now your new objection about moving from place to place in Heaven refers to Michael Martin's

chapter on Heaven. There he asks "what disembodied existence would be like in time and space"

. . .

His question is, verbatim: "How would a soul move from place to place?" (p. 428). This is one

question taking up one sentence of his entire essay, so his argument hardly hinges on whether it

is answerable. He never includes your addition to his question, '...without a power source'--you

made that up. It is followed by two similar questions: "How would it recognize other souls? What

would disembodied souls do all day long, since presumably there would be no need to sleep?""
{/quote}

First of all, yes, that indeed is the quote I had in mind. I couldn't remember who had said it.

I remember making some facetious remark on facebook at the time suggesting the use of batteries. Can't find it now.

Yes, it's just a throwaway remark which he never expands on at all. But presumably he thinks it's problematic in *some* manner, otherwise he wouldn't have mentioned it. The question is, how would it be problematic? Well, it ain't logically impossible, nor metaphysically impossible. So he must be thinking along the lines that it is naturally impossible, that the laws operating in what you label "heaven" do not permit locomotion of souls.

Now, it seems to me that the only way one could suppose there's a difficulty here is if one were to imagine the afterlife realm is just like the physical realm where Newton's 3 laws of motion apply. So one requires force to move one's soul, and hence a source of energy or power in order to do this. Of course this just transparently begs the question in thinking that both the soul and the afterlife realm are material and operate according to physical laws! I was assuming he had that in mind. If his argument is not this, then what the heck is it, and why doesn't he expand on it??

And incidentally I have no difficulty in imagining that one can instantaneously wish to be anywhere where one likes, and appearing there. If there is difficulty in this notion, then what is it? You guys had 700 pages to explain, but never bothered...

Also this point about recognising other souls. In this physical reality we recognise other people by the appearance of their bodies. I assume he's thinking that we don't have any bodies in the afterlife, so how would we recognise each other? But the onus is upon him to argue how it is *impossible*. *He* is the one arguing against an afterlife. A person who believes in an afterlife could simply say he doesn't know, but that's not sufficient to give any reason to disbelieve in an afterlife realm. Not unless *difficulties* are advanced. So Martin would have to argue that it is only logically or metaphysically possible to recognise other people or souls by their physical bodies. But he doesn't do so again. Despite being a 700 page huge book the authors make all these throwaway remarks without any analysis or even a clarification of what they mean.

What do souls do all day? This is kinda like the nincompoops who ask the unemployed or retired what could they possibly do all day! As a matter of interest I address that particular question in my latest entry in my 2nd blog: http://ianwardells.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/nothing-to-do.html

But perhaps Martin and other "skeptics" think that in the afterlife we couldn't do any of the things we do now? Maybe we couldn't. Should I just trust them on this? They have some deep knowledge about about any possible afterlife realm not allowing any activities that we do now? Obviously not. "Skeptics" need to advance *arguments*.

OK, I'll leave it at that for the moment. I'll address the other parts of your post later, or tomorrow (not the stuff about the empirical relationship between mind and body -- I'm sick to death of saying I don't know what the heck you're talking about).

As an aside, this weekend I glanced through the pages of one of the very first comprehensive books I read on the subject: Colin Wilson's 'The Afterlife'. Despite having been written more than thirty years ago, it's contents and analysis are still pertinent today and I regard it as one of the most compelling reads on the subject. I do so miss Colin Wilson.He was one of the most exciting thinkers of our time.

"The question is, how would it be problematic? Well, it ain't logically impossible, nor metaphysically impossible. So he must be thinking along the lines that it is naturally impossible, that the laws operating in what you label "heaven" do not permit locomotion of souls."

Why do you interpret Martin in the least charitable way possible?

Martin never says that Newton's laws of motion apply, or that one needs physical forces or power sources (let alone that this is the only conception possible). You add that to his "throwaway" comment. Of course your straw man "transparently begs the question" that the soul and the afterlife "operate according to physical laws"--you set it up to do so!

"If his argument is not this, then what the heck is it, and why doesn't he expand on it??"

Perhaps it's a more charitable interpretation of the argument, like the one I already mentioned before you answered me. Look at what he actually says, in context: "It is difficult enough to imagine even in a rough way what disembodied existence would be like in time and space. How would a soul move from place to place? How would it recognize other souls? What would disembodied souls do all day long, since presumably there would be no need to sleep?"

He says it's "difficult" (never "impossible") to have even a rough idea what it would be like to be disembodied (by which I assume he means completely bodiless) and yet still exist in some sort of spatiotemporal environment (which is what Heaven proponents expect--and his essay is about a "place" called Heaven, which most believers talk about as if it were "up there" where grandma "smiles down" on you from because they have no other concrete way of imagining such a place--reinforcing the point that concretely imagining it is difficult to do since no one literally thinks of it as in the sky, at least not anymore).

That idea is what connects the next three ideas together: how would souls move about, how would they recognize each other, what would they do all day. What all of these questions have in common is the difficulty (not the impossibility) of imagining a concrete answer that doesn't seem fantastical/to strain credulity. I think he means to suggest that any particular answer is going to be equally fantastical, and thus no imaginable answer seems very believable/plausible. Commenting on an NDE account on p. 539, I say something similar to this: "There is a fantastic quality to this story, such as transferring from place to place “instantly,” as if by magic."

In any case, if Martin's "throwaway" comment was so difficult for you to interpret, why not just ignore it altogether if its meaning was unclear to you, since he says so many other things that are clearer to you, and since nothing else he says hinges on what he means by this minor "throwaway" comment anyway? If nothing hinges on it, why you do blow it up to poster size for courtroom analysis, except to make Martin, and by extension the volume, look bad?

In other words, why would you make a big deal about one possible but uncharitable interpretation of his words, on something that he does not expand upon and does not evidently regard as very important, when he says plenty of other things that are not unclear and that are expanded on? If you're unclear on what he means, why would you not either ignore it, or perhaps just point out that it should have been clearer, instead of interpreting it in the most uncharitably critical way possible? To get at the truth?

"And incidentally I have no difficulty in imagining that one can instantaneously wish to be anywhere where one likes, and appearing there. If there is difficulty in this notion, then what is it?"

Wow, and you think I split hairs! I'm sure that you have "no difficulty imagining" Aristotle engaging in various activities for the last 2300 years, either, and yet the question as to what he has been doing all this time (or perhaps what that stegosaurus on display at your local museum has been doing since it died) does not seem to me imprudent to ask survivalists. The question is about what could he (or it) credibly, plausibly, or realistically could be doing right now. Do you really not see that any particular answer to such questions seems fantastical?

"A person who believes in an afterlife could simply say he doesn't know, but that's not sufficient to give any reason to disbelieve in an afterlife realm."

Perhaps this is why he doesn't expand on the comment--because the comment was not important enough to expand upon. Of course one can say one doesn't know; what else would one say? If I told you that extraterrestrials took one of your ancestors from 1000 years ago to their home planet and extended his life by thousands of years, you might ask what that ancestor has been doing there since then. The question is not about what is logically possible, metaphysically possible, or nomologically possible--it is about what credible answer could possibly be imagined, with the implication that no credible answer can be imagined.

"about the empirical relationship between mind and body -- I'm sick to death of saying I don't know what the heck you're talking about"

My God that's easy. We can have empirical evidence that having a functioning brain is a necessary condition for having consciousness. That idea is a hypothesis (the dependence thesis) that has observational consequences. If those consequences are found, the hypothesis is confirmed. If they are not, it is falsified. It's that simple.

You are the one who complicates the issue by bringing in whether science can in principle explain consciousness. "Mysterian" Colin McGinn doesn't think that science can explain consciousness (or, more accurately, he thinks that we cannot understand how consciousness arises, just like a cat cannot understand calculus), yet McGinn also rhetorically asks "Why does brain damage obliterate mental faculties if minds do not owe their existence to brains" with the implication that minds do owe their existence to brains (hence why brain damage can obliterate mental faculties).

You insist that someone like McGinn cannot hold both views at the same time, not me. I see no contradiction in accepting both, and if there really was one, don't you think that one of McGinn's harshest critics (like Daniel Dennett) would have used it to rebut him by now?

You want to piggyback on McGinn's mysterianism because a plausible case can be made for it given how little we currently understand consciousness; maybe we don't understand it because in principle we cannot ever understand it. But the truth of that proposition does not entail that it is false that having a functioning brain is a prerequisite for having consciousness. McGinn appeals to evidence for the latter while simultaneously believing the former. If he can do it without contradicting himself, so can anyone else. (In fact, I just checked and he is not the only person to endorse both views--see this list of other mysterians, most of whom also accept the dependence thesis.) The existence of an explanatory gap does not undermine the dependence thesis, and the mind-brain correlations that we actually find provide evidence for the dependence thesis. That's all there is to it.

On the question of consciousness, I find the following lecture most interesting:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jO_dGwu2gbg

"I see Martin's question as akin to wondering what survival proponents who believe that grandma is smiling down upon them think about what Aristotle or Alexander the Great have been doing with themselves for the past 2,000+ years. It's not that it's impossible for Aristotle to have been occupying himself during all this time in some hard-to-fathom way; it's that it strains credulity to take the idea seriously. (If you don't like that idea, perhaps you should ask yourself what extinct animal souls have been doing with themselves for millions of years since they went extinct.)"

"He says it's "difficult" (never "impossible") to have even a rough idea what it would be like to be disembodied (by which I assume he means completely bodiless) and yet still exist in some sort of spatiotemporal environment (which is what Heaven proponents expect--and his essay is about a "place" called Heaven, which most believers talk about as if it were "up there" where grandma "smiles down" on you from because they have no other concrete way of imagining such a place--reinforcing the point that concretely imagining it is difficult to do since no one literally thinks of it as in the sky, at least not anymore)."

Have you no shame? This stuff is pedestrian in the extreme - and if you don't understand why then there's simply no way that I can explain it to you. Please excuse me while I pop along and write a 700 word thesis on the nuances of contemporary brain surgery.

Back soon. :)

Ps. I underestimate my capabilities '700 page thesis'. :)

Why would you assume they can't do the same things people do now? Maybe physical interactions wouldn't be possible, but what are we doing right this minute thanks to the internet?

In response to the comments by Steve001 about ectoplasm being nothing more than cheesecloth, I wonder how cheesecloth is stored in the pores of the skin or even in the ears. Such credible researchers as Drs. Charles Richet and Gustave Geley observed it coming from the pores of Eva C. on many occasions. Dr. T. Glen Hamilton also observed ectoplasm flowing from various orifices of the body where storage of cheesecloth would have been impossible. They all saw it reabsorbed by the medium. To reabsorb cheesecloth would be a real feat.

All that is not to suggest that some charlatans didn't attempt to dupe the public by using cheesecloth, but one or two black crows does not mean all crows are black.

As for hokey stuff, like flat images on cloth, etc., I agree that they look ridiculous as do many of the alleged materializations. Some look like mannequins or carnival dolls, but the first question to ask is, were the mediums who produced such ridiculous looking objects really so stupid as to think they could fool people with such ridiculous materializations? The person who really digs deeply into the subject will find that these were all imperfect materializations. The materializing spirit must project his or her thoughts into the ectoplasm and build up the image. Most of them are no better at doing this than most of us are at drawing self-portraits.

I could write much more, but will leave it at that. Keep in mind that Richet, Geley, Hamilton, et al did not base their conclusions on one or two sittings. They observed scores of sittings with various mediums until strictly controlled conditions and often under adequate lighting.

For that matter, why would dead people have to do anything at all all day? Boredom is an evolutionary mechanism prompted by brain chemistry to encourage continued hunting/gathering. Why would dead people/animals need to do either, and if they don't have brain chemistry anymore why would they be prompted to?

If I were to wake from an operation to find - shock!... horror! - the surgeon has removed the wrong leg: after the shock, the realisation that I have to go through all this again; that I would soon have no legs instead of the expected one leg, remaining: once that awful realisation had passed, what then? My mind would still be telling me that my leg was still in place, for it expects it to be so. It still sends out neurons and those neurons still tell of nothing untoward.
That is expectation.
However, looking upon the space where my leg should have been; my eyes tell of something different. There is an obvious difference and conflict between what my mind is telling me and the knowledge that my eyes are revealing. My eyes are seeing the truth of my predicament.
That is reason.
Yet, no matter how much truth my eyes discern and however much I feed my reason, expectation holds sway. When I close my eyes, my leg remains in place. Therefore; as far as we - as mind - are concerned; we always expect more than we reason ourselves to receive.
That is conscious-reality.
We are 'hard-wired' to be greedy. Yet, something else must be in play. At some point, reason must hold sway; for if it did not do so, then we would not be able to take in the bigger picture of our situation. We would not be able to come to terms with our situation. Humanity could not progress.
So, what is it that enables our reason to overcome and/or adjust our expectation? Well, we can say that reason is not dependent solely upon sight. Nor touch. Nor indeed upon any of the five senses. This is where the number-crunching ability of our brain comes in. Where the pros and cons of a situation are analysed and the probabilities are calculated. The result is perceptive awareness.
That is perception. That is the foundation stone for skepticism.
So, thanking my lucky-stars that the surgeon was not completely and entirely unfit to practice and that my eyes, at least, remained in place; I turn them upwards; to the 'heavens.'
Being inquisitive by nature, I wonder; what lay on the other side of our Sun?
What can I call upon to determine such? After all, I have no personal knowledge. Yes, I can see to each side and round about and take what I would deem, an 'educated guess.' Yet, in effect, I am starting with a clean slate. So, I turn to the apparatus at my disposal.
Conscious-reality in its current form can be disregarded on the grounds that I have no knowledge and therefore, expectation and reason - the constituents of conscious-reality - can also be dismissed.
To proceed, conscious reality has to be modified.
To begin with, I cannot have 100% expectation for I have no knowledge.
Secondly,I cannot have 100% reason as none of my five senses can be brought into play.
Therefore, in order for conscious-reality to continue, as it must, then there must be something else in play. Something to which our conscious-reality can turn to when other imput is missing or subdued. If not, then our ability to perceive would not be able to function. Our number-crunching ability would remain dormant.
The answer to this enigma is: 'Belief.' The ability of the mind to override everything which is hard-wired into our system.
Belief takes from expectation part of the memory of such.
Belief takes from reason part of the memory of past reasoning.
In order to make room for those part-memories, conscious reality is suspended.
The mind and brain, bypassing conscious reality, then enters into a quantum-state of computations.
One can say that; belief is a quantum-answer to the unknown. Belief is an unconscious reality. Once we test our belief and find our answers to be true, or, experience phenomena that defies and goes beyond that which our perception is telling us ought to be; then the belief in our ability to believe gains confidence. In doing so, our dormant concious-reality is fed these results and a new understanding emerges. Our perception changes with the added imput. We are forever changed and view the world and everything it contains with a new understanding. An understanding that there is more to existence than is overtly obvious to the sense's.
So, I can forgive the surgeon's error and thank him for my new found understanding. Then, I can tell him that I expect to see him in Court. Belief may be an unconcious reality, yet; it is a reality all the same. And, it has, ultimately; expectation and reason to be fulfilled.
Who are skeptics, to deny that?

I'm working on a final response to Keith. Maybe won't be posted until tomorrow, or even until a couple of days time. I really don't have the time that he appears to have.

Incidentally, I've been thinking about Newcomb's paradox since last night. It was sparked off by this article in the guardian and the comments beneath:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/alexs-adventures-in-numberland/2016/nov/28/newcombs-problem-divides-philosophers-which-side-are-you-on?CMP=fb_gu

I think that this is indeed a paradox, but it ought not to be a paradox if the "skeptics"/materialists are correct and we are mere biological robots. Hence I think that this paradox demonstrates we are not mere biological robots.

Take box 'B'. :)

Well, the answer is clearly take both boxes. However, that isn't important. If we were to use a robot to make the "choice" then we would program it to choose just box B for maximum gain.

I don't see how that demonstrates anything. It's a demonstration of the prediction powers of the hypothetical predictor, not so much of how our minds work except on an individual basis. (And I'd say pick B, because the predictor would have predicted that you'd consider that.)

And I think the answer is, quite clearly, take box 'B'. :)

Incidentally, regarding Keith's accusation I'm not charitable to my opponents. I think that accusation is something almost all of us can be accused of, although it seems to me that "skeptics" appear to be the worst in this regard. But, regardless, I think that I'm perhaps not as bad as others tend to be. For example, read part 3 of my essay in the following link regarding my attempt to justify the belief in materialism:

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

Let me just say something simple about charity. The most negative amazon.com "reviews" of the volume were written by people who admit at the outset that they have not so much as skimmed the volume, nor have any intention of ever doing so. You would think that readers with that inclination would thus have nothing at all to say about it, and use their energy commenting on the books that they have read, or do intend to read.

A lot of the negative comments from critical regular readers, whether they have seen the volume or not, are transparently made because the volume argues against an afterlife, not because of how it argues, or whether the volume measures up compared to similar works. To anyone who is not already a committed believer in an afterlife, it is obvious that such comments object to the very existence of such a volume, not to anything that the chapters happen to say. Such critics should just state at the outset that their real view is that books arguing against an afterlife should not be written; that one should either argue for an afterlife, be undecided about it, or barring either of those, keep one's opinions to oneself. It would save people who come to the amazon.com page because they are interested in arguments against an afterlife a lot of wasted time (one woman's amazon.com comment on such a review complained about it wasting her time) to just admit that you want to censor the other side of the case because you don't want to see it being aired to anyone (since you could simply refrain from reading such material yourself if it bothered you so much).

In a comment on an amazon.com review, for example, one critic complains about arguments against an afterlife being shoved down everyone's throats, as if mortalists go door to door trying to deconvert people. Had he refrained from buying the book (and then reviewing its 700 pages within one week of purchasing it--a fast reader?), or avoided going searching for arguments against an afterlife online, he likely never would have encountered such arguments. Far from being shoved down anyone's throats, they don't come up in regular conversation, so you'll only find them if you go looking for them.

A legitimate criticism of the volume would have the form: "I had high hopes for this anthology, but it didn't do nearly as good a job covering X as I had hoped. If you want to know more about X, I recommend reading Julien Musolino's The Soul Fallacy instead."

But of course most of the actual criticisms are not of the this form, because the objection is not to what the book says, but to the fact that it argues against an afterlife. Those wanting to avoid such arguments can hardly fault me for misleading them--I couldn't have used a more explicit title and subtitle to indicate what the book is about.

My problem with Ian's lack of charity is that he only has negative things to say about the volume here and in comments on other professional reviews where his comments are most widely going to be seen, and his comments in these places are not even true (nowhere in the volume has anyone "essentially asserted that we scientifically understand consciousness"--anyone who comments on the issue in the volume actually points out that there is debate about this in the literature, citing authors like David Chalmers and Joseph Levine on it). That Ian quietly says positive things 1% of the time somewhere else--where his comments are less likely to be read (like on personal Facebook postings without huge numbers of followers)--does not make up for intentionally creating a false impression that the volume was poorly done everywhere else.

My criticisms remain unanswered.

Juan: I take it that your criticism is that NDEs, apparitions, etc. constitute evidence for the existence of souls/astral bodies? Whether such phenomena are indeed evidence for an afterlife is discussed in the volume. The Introduction includes a nice 13-page overview (pp. 19-31) about why such sources of evidence, if they are evidence for anything, are probably not evidence for personal survival, given the features of that evidence alone (ignoring neuroscience or conceptual arguments). (For example, the widely acknowledged fact that mediumistic controls are clearly inventions of trance mediums rather than channeled spirits, even if only subconsciously invented.) Check it out on Google Books or amazon.com "look inside" if you don't want to commit to your own copy.

If you meant my off-the-cuff remarks about what Aristotle has been doing with himself for the past 2,300 or so years (which is not an argument that I would proffer as among the best), you should see pp. 71-72 of psychical researcher Gardner Murphy's "Difficulties Confronting the Survival Hypothesis" about how our minds are socially/culturally embedded in a particular historical period, what Murphy talks about under the heading "The Cultural Difficulty."

At the end of the section Murphy writes: "the degree of cogency to be assigned it will vary with the individual reader. But it is, I believe, an extremely serious difficulty--a difficulty which must be met with facts and with logic, not simply with protest. It is an aspect of the general proposition that personality as we know it is an expression of a particular group of relationships realized but once in the course of life on this planet. Could it be transferred to utterly different circumstances? And if it were so transferred, would it still be the personality which we know?"

Of course that's just a question and not a fully developed argument; all I was saying is that it is not an unreasonable question to ask, even if not much hinges on the fact that any answer is hard-to-fathom (not knowing the answer to a question is not showing that a question cannot be answered, of course).

Juan said, "My criticisms remain unanswered."

What to say? My *points* above remain unanswered. If Keith Augustine had been sitting next to Prof. Ivor Grattan-Guinness, he too could have cupped his hands and captured (briefly) the lights. Then there's the rest of what was observed (in Europe and the US).

You seem surprisingly thin-skinned Keith. You are surely aware that negative comments regarding what you write on this subject comes with the territory? And besides, all the reviews of this book are more or less positive, even from those who subscribe to survival in some form. Unjustifiably so in my opinion . .but let's not go there again... But anyway, it's ridiculous to take umbrage at some negative comments from some random individual on the net, such as my good self.

BTW, regarding my comment on that site, well-spotted! Do you not only read the reviews, but every single comment? There are quite a lot of them, even in that one link!

But I'd rather you and other people just read my mini-review . And also my other blog entries about this book here and here .

BTW my comments on your book on Facebook are public. Also I've made comments in facebook groups which have thousands of members. I've said that I agree with some of the stuff you've said about NDEs.

I think Murphy needs to get it into his head that what might survive is that which makes me me. That which makes one the very same self from their birth to their deaths. Not the particular psychological states one just happens to have shortly before one dies.

"The Introduction includes a nice 13-page overview (pp. 19-31) about why such sources of evidence, if they are evidence for anything, are probably not evidence for personal survival, given the features of that evidence alone (ignoring neuroscience or conceptual arguments). (For example, the widely acknowledged fact that mediumistic controls are clearly inventions of trance mediums rather than channeled spirits, even if only subconsciously invented.) "

I was referring to other criticisms, but about the controls, despite the controls of the mediums seem to be constructs of the medium's subconscious, the fact that in some cases the personality, manners, errors, etc., of certain deceased human beings is present makes the survivalist hypothesis the most plausible.

"It is an aspect of the general proposition that personality as we know it is an expression of a particular group of relationships realized but once in the course of life on this planet. Could it be transferred to utterly different circumstances? And if it were so transferred, would it still be the personality which we know?"".

I do not see an insurmountable problem, because personality can continue to develop in an afterlife.

"I do not see an insurmountable problem, because personality can continue to develop in an afterlife."

I like that, Juan! I've always thought of life as an existential quest. And, should it continue, it will simply continue to be so. :)

There are not many recent skeptic books that have been written on the subject of an afterlife. To be honest there are not that many at all compared to the thousands written by believers.

Remember Keith has chosen to communicate here. He is only one person. It's not possible that he will answer everyone single question. We should respect that he here debating in the first place.

I believe that death is the end. There seems to be no conclusive evidence we survive death. Nothing robust that will ever just convince mainstream science.

For me the Myth of the Afterlife is a good academic volume but too expensive. In 2016 another skeptic book was released its called "Spooky Science: Confronting the Pseudoscience of the Afterlife" by John Grant. You can obtain this book quite cheap around $10.

I was wondering have you read this book Keith?

"Remember Keith has chosen to communicate here."

Yes, after stating that he intended only to be brief, he's blathered on interminably! But, all credit to Robert, I know no sceptic forums that would have been so accommodating. :)

Actually, Julie, I'm pleased to see important questions being aired here, and regret not having had time to take much part, or even do more than skim the comments. Hope to have a closer look at the week-end. Thanks to everyone who contributed.

"Actually, Julie, I'm pleased to see important questions being aired here, and regret not having had time to take much part, or even do more than skim the comments. Hope to have a closer look at the week-end. Thanks to everyone who contributed."

:)

Arouet,
"In 2016 another skeptic book was released its called "Spooky Science: Confronting the Pseudoscience of the Afterlife" by John Grant".

Greetings Arouet. The title of that book certainly doesn't inspire much confidence!

"You seem surprisingly thin-skinned Keith."

That seems like the pot calling the kettle black, Ian. Throughout this whole thing, I addressed (most of) what you asked me to address (and wouldn't have bothered if you hadn't insisted that I respond), and yet you continued to hold on to points that I'd shown were fabrications (like that anyone in the volume endorsed the idea that the soul couldn't move around without a "power source"). You should have just conceded that you were wrong on those points, and then proceeded the defend the other half of your points against my responses to them. Instead, you would just trot out some new objection. Again, that is not how debate works: you are quite reasonably expected to respond to what your opponent actually said.

Remember, I only came here to point out the forthcoming JP exchange (and would've been quite happy to leave the discussion to everyone else after that one comment), but you requested that I point out which of your points attacked straw men and so forth, and so I did. Again, you could have just left it at that, but you insisted on further engaging. Does that sound like a thick-skinned response?

"You are surely aware that negative comments regarding what you write on this subject comes with the territory?"

I have no problem with legitimate criticism: I'll concede a shortcoming where there is one to be found. But you argue against what you wish we would have said, rather than what we actually did say. Given your penchant for distorting their actual views, you ought to make it a personal rule to directly quote your opponents before responding to them. If you made some presentation about the history of slavery, and I rebutted you by asking you why you want to bring slavery back, would that be a legitimate criticism? You can't just make up anything you like. And were someone to smear your writings by constantly telling others things about them that were demonstrably not true, whenever he had the chance, would you refrain from responding for all time, or eventually correct that person?

Anyway, if I was so thin-skinned, do you think I would have been content to say nothing in response to Robert's review (e.g., I did not respond to the false Wikipedia-editing claim for over a year), or refrained from writing a formal response to William Hasker's overly critical NDPR review on a blog or something? (I did shortly engage Hasker on The Brains Blog, but only because he asked me to let him know if any of my contributors were going to respond to his review. Gualtiero Piccinini's blog response was brief, but Hasker decided to comment there anyway, perhaps because he was "thin-skinned.")

About your mini-review. You asked me in a private e-mail for my thoughts on it, and I did not give a full reply, but I did give a partial one. I pointed out that the terminal lucidity cases and phenomena like acquired savant syndrome you mention to defeat part of the volume's argument are actually addressed in the volume--if I recall correctly I gave you page numbers. You brushed it off with something like "I can't remember everything in the book." But surely you would remember if the volume addressed an argument that you were going to make anyway, no? You would think you would make a note of it when you encountered it, to be sure to respond to it. Or was your forgetfulness just convenient?

Arouet: I have not looked into Grant's book so I can't comment on it. I agree with you about the price of The Myth of an Afterlife, though. Were it up to me, it would have come out in paperback from the start. I hope that ultimately there is a paperback edition so that the book is more affordable, but those decisions are out of my control. Given how rare books arguing against an afterlife are, I don't expect there to be any second or third editions like you might find for books on other topics.

Julie/Robert: I do regret having posted so much here since this is a blog and not a discussion forum. If Ian had not been so keen on engagement about his points (if he had not posted here at all, for example), I would have left it to others to have their say since everyone is entitled to their opinion and it's not my place to try to dominate the discussion (most of what I have said here has been in response to questions asked of me, FWIW--not all of the questions, admittedly!)

Ian deserves special attention, though, since he claims to have read the volume and attributes absurd things to it that it does not actually say, and he does this repeatedly in different venues at different times. Whenever a review of the book is posted that allows comments, Ian is sure to say something overly critical about the book there if he discovers it before comments are closed (sorry about the Brains Blog, old chap!). He's made it a personal mission to "review" the book on his blog and on amazon.com, so that his misrepresentations will be there for all to see. If anything is said about the book anywhere where comments are still open, Ian can't seem to refrain from injecting something critical just for the sake of being critical about it. Why he has so much intolerance for allowing readers to make up their minds about the volume without his input is anyone's guess.

By contrast, while I pull no punches when I engage survivalists in the literature, you'll never see me badmouthing their (usually quite popular) works on amazon.com even when I think they are poorly done. It's not my place or my prerogative to cast their works in a negative light so that their potential readers might shy away from looking into them. Let readers make up their own minds about what's worth looking into without my input. To do otherwise just reeks of sour grapes.

Right, you're not thin-skinned, presumably you must just be pretending to be then. Sighs . .who cares...

Keith, I wouldn't dream of badmouthing anyone's work just for the sake of it, including your own. An objective appraisal of a book is not to "badmouth" it. I do however try and give an honest appraisal. I have done so on my blog. And on here I have supplied some further arguments. These arguments have been essentially ignored by you, and you instead focus on the trivial non-consequential stuff, hoping that people won't have picked up on the fact that you haven't addressed any of the substantive arguments. This is a dishonest and reprehensible thing to do. Shame on you.

I'm not interested in playing these games. I'll probably summarise the major defects of the book tomorrow and leave it at that.

I'm really curious about this - sceptic who wants to believe, I admit. I have had experiences with two really good cold-readers, but I knew that was what they were doing. (It was a lot of fun in itself, though.) Does anyone here have the gift themselves or know anyone who does? I want to see if anyone can pick up anything about me.

Here is a fairly good review of the book by William Hasker:

http://ndpr.nd.edu/news/62746-the-myth-of-an-afterlife-the-case-against-life-after-death/

Keith Augustine:
"I do regret having posted so much here since this is a blog and not a discussion forum."
Keith, I suggest to you that it is both. Yet, being a blogger, I am not inclined to discuss this matter with you.

I'm still working on my summary. 1900 words so far. Might take some time. So maybe next few days. I'll put it on my blog and on Amazon eventually. If however Keith you think I've been unfair in any aspect, and I agree, I'll alter it accordingly.

Might as well paste the beginning in now. Let me know if there are any problems with it Keith.

Introduction,

This is a huge book of 700+ pages with a total of 29 contributors all sporting impressive academic credentials. Ideally what I would like to see in this book are to have the very strongest arguments for survival and extinction (“Life after death” and simply nothingness after death) addressed in depth, and arguments advanced as to why each contributor thinks that the case for extinction is the more compelling. Unfortunately we do not get that.

Instead what we get is an exclusive focus on arguments for extinction. A good proportion of the book focuses on the tight correlations between mental states and brain states. Cognitive functions, emotions, one's intellect, all these are profoundly affected by alterations in the brain. If changes in the brain can bring about such changes, then how could we possibly survive the death of the brain? It is also stated there is no evidence for a soul, and a soul is not required in any case since a purely physical account can wholly explain what we human beings are. Alleged conceptual difficulties involved in survival are also advanced. Thus for example how do we recognise other souls in the afterlife realm if they do not have bodies? How do souls travel from A to B in the afterlife realm? The evidence for survival is also addressed; primarily NDEs, the research by Ian Stevenson for the evidence suggesting reincarnation in the form of children's alleged memories of previous lives, and mediumship. But all such evidence is dismissed as being of very poor quality, at best.

Arguments for Extinction

a) What is the "soul"?,

In attempting to establish whether we survive in some form it is crucial to specify upfront what we are supposing might survive. Many of the authors do provide a definition. And all of these definitions are essentially the same. Thus, for example, Matt McCormick in his chapter says:


The common view is that something that makes me up will survive, that I will have eternal life, that I will be reincarnated, or that my soul will go to heaven. The things that are essential to me as an individual consciousness are my beliefs, my hopes, my dispositions, my emotional reactions, and my memories. So popular depictions of the soul seem to identify it with what we usually call a person’s mind. In what follows, then, we will treat “mind” and “soul” interchangeably.


First of all, I would say it doesn't matter what popular depictions of the soul might be. What we ought to be interested is a concept of a soul that people have given some thought to. And I submit that anyone holding such a concept of a soul has failed to give any such thought. Compare our present adult selves to when we were children. We now have a much increased intelligence, we have differing interests, we have differing memories, our emotional reactions are very different. Even having a few alcoholic drinks can change our personality quite appreciably. So if the soul is simply the sum of such characteristics, then our self as a child has quite literally ceased to exist. And are we to imagine our souls cease to exist after a few alcoholic drinks, only to return when we are sober? And why would our present selves survive the deaths of our bodies, but all other past selves cease to exist? I submit that such a concept of the soul is utterly preposterous.

I propose instead that the soul is my inner essence, that which makes me me, that indelible sense of a self which has persisted from childhood to adulthood, despite my beliefs, hopes, dispositions, emotional reactions, memories all being different. None of these constitute the self/soul rather they are properties or attributes of the self/soul. The self changes when one is drunk, but only in a comparable manner to which a table might change if we paint it a different colour (alterational change), and not change in the sense of smashing the table up and replacing it with a similar one (existential change).

Now it might well be that none of the authors of "the myth of an afterlife" find such a concept of the soul or self remotely plausible. Perhaps they feel they can readily demolish such a concept of the self or soul. But if so, it would have been helpful to have actually done so in this 700 page book. At least one of the authors! Irrespective of this, I really see no point to the concept of a "soul" they propose. If we have literally ceased to exist since we were children, or after a few drinks, or even from one hour to the next with fluctuating moods, then how on earth could we expect to survive the deaths of our bodies? Of course we couldn't expect such a "soul" to survive. But that makes this whole book fairly pointless. They merely need to point out the mind-body correlations to refute this notion of the "soul". They oblige, indeed they do so . . . relentlessly.


If this is going to be any kind of worthy discussion then I think the best approach might be to deal with your review piece-by-piece, Ian. I am interested to understand Keith's reasoning in relation to points such as the above.

Might be many believers in an afterlife disagree with my concept of the self or soul of course, so if anyone wants to comment, feel free.

Keith, I have to say that what concerns me is the inability you seem to have in dealing with phenomenal evidence or "physical phenomena", whether this points to a discarnate source or evidence for an intelligence of non-human origin.
From your book re "haunting and poltergeist outbreaks" ... "Lange and Houran conclude that most reports do not offer evidence of survival, but rather represent the predictable human tendency to interpret ambiguous psychological and physical phenomena as paranormal due to contextual factors that influence normal processes underlying imagination, cognition and personality."

Of course they do say "most reports", to their credit, implying not all?

But you can clearly see this last sentence is hopelessly inadequate in dealing with, say, multiply witnessed phenomena such as the light phenomena at Scole (as detailed above) and in the Report and frankly amounts to a kind of whitewash statement on other phenomena.

I personally do not think the new Psi Encyclopedia is critical enough. I think this will put some people off and the entire thing being dismissed as written by cranks. I will give an example.

Michael Potts on his entry for Padre Pio ends the article by suggesting that "Padre’ Pio’s stigmata might be explained in terms of natural psychokinesis." Firstly there is no such thing as 'natural' psychokinesis. It is an alleged paranormal power.

Secondly there is a simple explanation for the stigmata - self infliction. Amico Bignami a physician personally investigated the wounds and found traces of iodine. Other physicians noted after investigation the wounds were not deep but only on the surface level. For example the physician Giorgio Festa noted that "at the edges of the lesions, the skin is perfectly normal and does not show any sign of edema, of penetration, or of redness, even when examined with a good magnifying glass". Other physicians did x-rays and blood tests and there were no abnormalities.

This all points to some kind of chemical being used for the wounds. It was discovered that Padre Pio had a bottle of carbolic acid in his bed room, after investigation he said he had requested it from the doctor for sterilization. Does that seem likely?

At his death there were no wounds on his hands, this is because the skin had healed up by then. He wore gloves most of his life. Michael Potts does not mention many of these details.

Potts says that the stigmata might have been the result of psychokinesis? How does that even make sense? Honestly this sort of thing is an embarrassment, ignoring the possible realistic explanation of self-infliction with a chemical, in favor of a wild speculation that has no evidence at all. These sorts of articles are damaging the reputation of the Society for Psychical Research. I appreciate the hard work you are putting in, but people will walk away reading these articles just thinking they are written by utter crackpots. Is that what you guys want? It is very strange! I look to see what other articles you put out.

It has been noted that most academics do not take the claims of parapsychology seriously. It does not make testable predictions, it is pseudoscience. The field has made no progress whatsoever in demonstrating anything.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parapsychology

Ah the troll Jon Donnis from bad psychics fame,

Still trolling people on your "Waller Joel" account I see? Don't you 'skeptics' have better things to be doing?

Ian writes: "If this is going to be any kind of worthy discussion then I think the best approach might be to deal with your review piece-by-piece, Ian. I am interested to understand Keith's reasoning in relation to points such as the above."

I find your perspective interesting, Ian, because it seems to me that the older we get the more we regress to the outlook we held in childhood. Traditionally (I suppose) it's called 'second childhood'. But, whatever, I do tend to find that the influence of the world on my psyche lessens as I pass through middle age.

Children have the gift of perception, in that they 'see true'. They also understand what makes them happy or sad and don't try to hide/disguise their emotions. So, as you suggest, I think there might well be a 'me' that survives life experience in tact - at least at the fundamental level.

My apologies: The above posting by me was intended to be in response to the following comment by Ian Wardell:

"Might be many believers in an afterlife disagree with my concept of the self or soul of course, so if anyone wants to comment, feel free."

My only excuse for the error is that my screen tends to roll around quite alarmingly when scrolling up and down Robert's blog! :)

Julie Baxter:
"My only excuse for the error is that my screen tends to roll around quite alarmingly when scrolling up and down Robert's blog! :)"
Julie, if you are using a mouse to scroll and that mouse has the function of automatic scrolling when depressing the scroll wheel; then depressing that wheel once will disable the function and enable you to scroll normally.

"Julie, if you are using a mouse to scroll and that mouse has the function of automatic scrolling when depressing the scroll wheel; then depressing that wheel once will disable the function and enable you to scroll normally."

Stuart, you are a sweetheart. Thank you. :)

"Stuart, you are a sweetheart. Thank you. :)"
Julie, pleased to be of assistance. Any further help will be charged at £15 per hour.

"Any further help will be charged at £15 per hour."

LOL! I so love a chap with a generous heart. :)

Waller Joel:
"It has been noted that most academics do not take the claims of parapsychology seriously. It does not make testable predictions, it is pseudoscience. The field has made no progress whatsoever in demonstrating anything."

WJ, is this a call for the abolition of the Church?

These are kind of concerning me, what do people think?:
http://www.nature.com/news/brain-decoding-reading-minds-1.13989
http://www.nature.com/news/fragment-of-rat-brain-simulated-in-supercomputer-1.18536

"There seems to be no conclusive evidence we survive death. Nothing robust that will ever just convince mainstream science."

Nonetheless, it is reasonable to believe that there is a afterlife due to convergent evidence of NDEs, apparitions, mediumship, and children reminiscent of their past lives.

"But all such evidence is dismissed as being of very poor quality, at best."

Those objections have already been answered by the defenders and have not been answered. If the evidence of the paranormal is so weak, how the super-psi hypothesis was invented? Come on, you could have gone through so many pages with saying "I'm not convinced."

@Juan: anyone who has ever tried to reason with a Jehova's Witness will understand exactly what it's like to attempt any meaningful debate with a militant sceptic.

My apologies for the missing 'h' in 'Jehovah's'. I was multitasking at the time of writing. (Cooking lunch and addressing the internet.) And my grandmother thought radio was a distraction! ;)

Julie Baxter,

Michael Prescott recently on his own blog admitted that James H. Hyslop was 'gullible'. So even spiritualists admit Hyslop was gullible. He was not a critical researcher like Walter Franklin Prince or Frank Podmore.

On November 26, 2016 at 12:42 PM on this blog you pasted in a quote from Hyslop (part of which) read:

"I regard the existence of discarnate spirits as scientifically proved and I no longer refer to the skeptic as having any right to speak on the subject."

I fail to understand why this was quoted, it appears to be an appeal to authority. Do you think spirits have been scientifically proven?

As for Hylsop, it was the medium Leonora Piper that convinced him of spirits. Yet Frank Podmore demolished this claim.

Frank Podmore wrote that Hyslop's séance sittings with Piper "do not obviously call for any supernormal explanation" and "I cannot point to a single instance in which a precise and unambiguous piece of information has been furnished of a kind which could not have proceeded from the medium's own mind, working upon the materials provided and the hints let drop by the sitter. (Modern Spiritualism: A History and a Criticism, 1902).

Therefore the skeptic has the right to speak on the subject. James Hyslop was a gullible fool I am afraid when it came to spiritualism.

"Nonetheless, it is reasonable to believe that there is a afterlife due to convergent evidence of NDEs, apparitions, mediumship, and children reminiscent of their past lives."

No it isn't. All those things have naturalistic explanations without recourse to the paranormal. Look up anomalistic psychology.

Agnostic writes: "Michael Prescott recently on his own blog admitted that James H. Hyslop was 'gullible'. So even spiritualists admit Hyslop was gullible. He was not a critical researcher like Walter Franklin Prince or Frank Podmore."

Then go back, read my posting again and tell me where I made a pronouncement one way or another about Hyslop.

That aside, might it be an idea for you to find the courage to represent yourself under your real name, just so that we don't mistake you for some shyster of a troll?

Agnostic, if you read any of these blogs, you would know the anomalistic psychology argument has been argued against thousands and thousands of times. Still, I'm sure "psychology" explains how someone can see what's in a locked room a floor above them in a building they've never been in.

chel: "These are kind of concerning me, what do people think?:"

Interesting and, it would appear, problematic for remote viewers. If I could see (remotely) into the strongrooms of the Bank of England and it were then to be robbed, then I could possibly be a prime suspect! Those who have lucid dreams could also make the list.
And those who just had wishful thoughts. And the maintenance staff. And the cleaners. And, the bank staff themselves! Where does it end?
On reflection, I would say that there is nothing to be concerned about.
Except for, the amount charged by lawyers to unravel this lot.

Michael Tymn are you still active on this blog?

"I wonder how cheesecloth is stored in the pores of the skin or even in the ears. Such credible researchers as Drs. Charles Richet and Gustave Geley observed it coming from the pores of Eva C. on many occasions."

I am afraid I am not convinced by this argument because the medium you describe Eva C, was caught in fraud.

In Simeon Edmunds book "Spiritualism: A Critical Survey", 1966 on page 110, we read:

"In 1920 Eva C came to London at the invitation of the SPR. Forty séances, held under the direction of Dr. E. J. Dingwall and Dr. J. V. Woolley, proved entirely negative. The small amount of 'ectoplasm' produced proved on analysis to be nothing more than chewed up paper."

As for Gustav Geley, he had fraudulent photographs of Eva C depicting wires, but he chose to keep these photos private. They were discovered only after his death (Lambert, 1954).

*Lambert, Rudolf. (1953). Dr. Geley's Reports on the Medium Eva. Journal for the Society for Psychical Reseach 37: 380-386. .

So Geley was far from a credible researcher. As for the 'ectoplasm' coming out of Eva's ear. Look online on Google Images for Eva C. There is a photograph of a piece of cloth with a newspaper clipping of someones head attached to it. I honestly find it hard to believe that deep down you even believe in this stuff. It is so blatantly fraudulent.

"Still, I'm sure "psychology" explains how someone can see what's in a locked room a floor above them in a building they've never been in." (citation needed)

Have you got a peer-reviewed scientific journal for this claim? What case are you talking about? Cite the peer-reviewed scientific evidence please. Thank you.

I believe Keith Augustine has ceased posting.

All good things come to an end.

"I believe Keith Augustine has ceased posting.

All good things come to an end."

And, fortunately, so do nightmares!

But what a surprise that our Keith, after haranguing Ian endlessly for further clarification, scuttles off like a rat up a drain just as soon as Ian addresses the issues.

That aside, I do admire your courage, JzG, for admitting to your role as. Wikipedia admin - even if you couldn't quite bring yourself to reveal your identity. It's hardly something to be proud of, is it?

https://www.amazon.com/Self-Does-Not-Die-Experiences/dp/0997560800/
I don't need a "peer-reviewed scientific journal". You said "psychology" explained every case. I cited one of many which couldn't possibly be explained that way. If you want to claim they were lying that's a separate claim not covered by your last one. Also, what precisely do you imagine a "peer-reviewed scientific journal" could do with the statement that people who were there could not?

Yes, it seems that Keith doesn't intend to post again. That's just as well since, as I said to him before, he's concentrating on the unimportant details rather than the *substantive* issues I bring up.

Hence, establishing the correlations between mind and brain states can be regarded as "scientific", but only in a trivial sense. Compare to establishing the correlations between damaging certain components of a TV set and the characteristic way to how it affects the picture. This is only "scientific" in the most banal of senses. A truly scientific explanation would be to have some hypothesis that *explains* the output of the TV set. The correlations then provides evidence (or not) for that hypothesis. Same goes for the brain and consciousness and self.

And Keith transparently fails to understand the filter hypothesis. I've pointed this out to him earlier in the thread. He's said he's explained his reasoning. Well, he does no such thing! I've explained why his understanding of the filter hypothesis cannot possibly be correct. He's failed to address what I said. Oh yes, and none of the other contributors even mention the filter hypothesis. In fact they all give the impression that merely establishing correlations provides compelling evidence the brain produces consciousness. This point about the kidney’s role in filtering toxins not being disputed is a complete irrelevance to anyone who understands the mind-body problem {sighs}. Which brings me to the point that none of the contributors seem to be aware of the problematic nature of materialism. Nor do any of them seem to be aware of the problematic nature of supposing consciousness has no causal efficacy.

Then there's the fact that all of the contributors have this ludicrous conception of the self.

I could go on and on and on, but the issue is this -- most of the contributors (not Keith, or Susan Blackmore) don't seem to have given much thought whatsoever about a life after death. They just bang on about the mind-brain correlations, and implicitly assume that materialism is correct (talk about begging the question!). So why were they invited to write chapters??

Anyway Keith (I know you're reading this). I don't think you have anything to be concerned about. Apart from William Hasker's, none of the reviews pick up on *any* of these major problems with this book, not even from those who subscribe to an afterlife.

And nobody's interested in what I have to say. There's only Julie on here (and yourself of course), who's expressed any interest in my criticisms. And when I put a review on my blog, scarcely anyone will read it. Indeed, you arguing with me on here will probably only serve to bring my criticisms to peoples' attention! I would just concentrate on Jim Matlock's criticisms if I were you.

Ian, "Keith transparently fails to understand the filter hypothesis. I've pointed this out to him earlier in the thread."

From their book in his chapter Keith and his colleague say that Alzheimer's seems to falsify the filter idea.

There's one leading Alzheimer's research professor Rudy Tanzi who talks on the location of memory and the filter idea.
"There are a subset of neuroscientists who are getting past the reductionist view, that we're nothing more than our nerve cells firing and the emotions and thoughts that come along with that. The majority view is still there's no mind without the brain, you're nothing more than your brain, your entire consciousness is based on the thoughts and feelings that you have because of your brain. Neuroscientists mostly believe that what you experience in the memory of feelings, images, thoughts are actually in your brain. So I challenge them all the time, "Where are they?"

Later on he says, "You need the brain. You need a brain and you need the cognitive self to experience the bliss that comes with a perfect meditation, where you've created your mind, you're tapping into pure awareness, you've gone nonlocal. The mistake is to believe, oh now I don't have any brain activity. You can't do it without a brain. The brain is always going to be the projector, it's always making the movie. Ok, but that doesn't mean just like when you project a movie, it doesn't mean that the movie exists inside the projector. Right. Just like when you hear music on the radio, you hear a band playing on the radio, the band is not in the radio. But we're happy to say that the experiences and the memories are in the brain." [ironic here last sentence].

Later he says, "It's the transceiver and the receiver both at once. But even the most sublime feelings of unity, oneness with the universe, tapping into being, just pure awareness being aware of awareness, all the things we strive for when we meditate, you need a brain to experience it."

Just later he says, "you still have to know, you still have to be aware of the beautiful gifts that pure awareness bring you. And that's probably why we're born, that's why there's a universe, that's why there's consciousness. Pure awareness, God, everything, existence, can only do one thing. Be aware. It can only be aware of one thing. Itself. So all of this are just an amazing amount of feedback loops of pure awareness being aware of itself, and as soon as that awareness takes an object within itself, to be aware of, you create consciousness. And of course it seems like subject-object split but it's not because the only thing pure awareness can be aware of is itself. So it's all one loop. So you substitute subject-object with a loop. Of awareness looking back at itself. So we are a higher ordered structure, assembly of consciousness, a colony of bacteria and human cells that have come together as one way to create a universe of consciousness that is a result of that pure awareness being aware of itself. We're just one."

From https://explore.scimednet.org/index.php/2016/11/11/evolution-of-the-brain-consciousness-and-lucid-dreaming-rudolph-tanzi/

Obviously this is beyond a pure materialist idea, brain = consciousness, and leaves open the question of where memory is stored at least.

For myself, re these Scole light phenomena, there seems to be *another* way (i.e. another form) consciousness can be produced in some other form - from awareness "out there/in here" acting through something else (i.e. the unknown structure of these lights, but which clearly have mass). i.e. in the same way awareness, in Tanzi's view, acts through the human form to give our form of consciousness.

So the idea then, for us, in some kind of afterlife, would be to have an "afterlife form" itself having some form of consciousness (but different from present human consciousness). And which in essence comes to consciousness in this other form through this pure awareness now acting through this.
Clearly, pure awareness has kind of consciousness-giving properties to what we term *objects* (and must infuse everything) with the latter essentially being meaningless without this pure awareness. Meaning then being injected from the outside from some deeply subtle form.
This doesn't of course deny meaning within the object's structure itself, otherwise rendering physics and chemistry etc. and physical laws invalid. I mean, we observe properties and laws clearly.

Alan said:
"From their book in his chapter Keith and his colleague say that Alzheimer's seems to falsify the filter idea".

You're going to have to provide a reference for that. And I think only Keith is aware of the filter hypothesis out of all the contributors, or at least all the others remain silent. And he misunderstands it anyway. And besides, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to falsify the filter hypothesis. When we merely receive white noise on a TV screen, does this falsify the notion of TV signals?

The filter hypothesis is a metaphysical hypothesis, so we lack a scientific explanation of how it supposedly works. So how could we falsify it? Same goes for the production hypothesis.

This underscores the point I keep banging on about -- namely the mind-body problem is (currently) a metaphysical problem, not a scientific one. (and even if it were a scientific issue, I do not subscribe to the falsificationism notion of scientific progress).

Rudy Tanzi:
"You need the brain. You need a brain and you need the cognitive self to experience the bliss that comes with a perfect meditation, where you've created your mind, you're tapping into pure awareness, you've gone nonlocal".

Dear God . . Come back materialists. All is forgiven!

Ian Wardell :
"And nobody's interested in what I have to say. There's only Julie on here (and yourself of course), who's expressed any interest in my criticisms."

Ian, I for one am interested in what you have to say. I'm sure that most others are too.
However, I haven't read the book to which you are referring and therefore feel a little out of my depth. I am not an erudite monster that some appear to be. Still, I was hoping to come in at some point, as this is such an interesting topic. Personally, I'm rather disappointed that Keith has left, as I expected the discussion to last longer than it has. It was just warming up! Your points are interesting as are all others. And, you have a blog you say? I didn't know that. I'll have to have a look sometime.

So, perhaps now we all see the futility of these discussions with pseudo-sceptics? :/

You have to look it up Ian where they say Alzheimer's seems to falsify the filter, instrument and independence ideas. Not that it *actually* falsifies the filter view. So it's whether there's the possibility of consciousness with a big C out there, as has been said by some.

Besides, if NDE'ers are tapping into something, there's no reason that something isn't effecting now.

I don't have a lot of time so I'll just respond to Ian's last post. I haven't been posting here because I've been busy. I don't expect those on the other side of the pond to know this, but I started posting here around Thanksgiving break, which is the only reason I had the time then to continue the discussion (that I had not intended on starting to begin with, if you recall). There won't be another break until Christmas/New Year's, and I can't say I'll necessarily want to spend my free time arguing incessantly when the time comes. So don't expect anything more from me anytime soon.

In the future, Ian, if you don't want me wasting my time on trivial arguments, then stop making trivial arguments. If you have something of substance to say, then just say that. Then there won't be any opportunity for me to address your trivial points instead of your substantive ones. I had about a week when I had time to respond had you conceded that you were wrong on about half of those first nine points that you stated, and then defended the remaining ones against what I had already said in response to them. I wasn't selective. You asked me what was unfair, and I quoted you and numbered the 9 points. You are the one who started bringing in new objections after that, not me.

One other thing about the TV set analogy. It's not my analogy. If you go back over the text, I specifically state that it's a poor analogy for mind-brain relations. I suggest a drone would be a better one. So anything I say about TV sets is to get people to move away from that poor analogy, not to critique the filter theory. Since I have my reply to Matlock handy (it is already done), pp. 230-231 is where I say the filter theory has already been falsified for the reasons laid out in the volume, reasons you have said nothing about. And quit tilting at windmills: Maybe Ian can refute Bertrand Russell by saying that he didn't seem to be aware of the problematic nature of materialism since Russell was a mortalist and argued for mortalism but not for materialism. Come on Bertie, why did you fail to address the problems of a position that you do not hold in the first place? And consciousness' efficacy is only problematic if one assumes your POV, Ian. Do you think my contributors hold your POV? Most of this is addressed in my forthcoming Journal of Parapsychology reply for those who are interested.

I said in my previous comment:
"Dear God . . Come back materialists. All is forgiven!"

I was only kidding!

Keith in his latest comment says:

"Since I have my reply to Matlock handy (it is already done), pp. 230-231 is where I say the filter theory has already been falsified for the reasons laid out in the volume, reasons you have said nothing about".

My Response:
Well, as I said, in the volume you simply fail to understand it. I have your response to Jim Matlock, but I haven't bothered to read it.

Why don't you simply paste in your refutation of the filter theory here. If it involves something more than I've already addressed, I'll be happy to address these additional arguments.

Just to paste in what I said about the filter hypothesis in a previous comment:

Keith Augusine and Yonatan I. Fishman say in the book:


"It doesn’t take much reflection to see that a television receiver is a terrible analogy for making sense of known mind-brain correlations. For the analogues would have to be:

Broadcast station → Electromagnetic signal → TV receiver → TV program images
External soul ↔ Interactive forces ↔ Brain ↔ Behavior

On this analogy, mental activity itself occurs in the external soul, just as the images of a television program originate from the broadcast station. But no damage to the local circuitry of your TV set can have any effect on the television program recording playing at the remote broadcast station, or on the signal that the station puts out".

My own metaphors would be:

Electromagnetic signal → TV receiver → TV program images

Soul or Self → Brain → Mind

Damage to a TV set doesn’t affect “the television program recording playing at the remote broadcast station, or on the signal that the station puts out”. But on the “filter” model, likewise damage to the brain doesn’t affect the self/soul, only the mind. The problem here that Keith Augustine conflates the mind with the self/soul. This harks back to the position of what actually survives. What I propose survives differs from what all the authors of the myth of an afterlife allege would have to survive. They all think that it would have to be what we are like *now*. Our *present* personalities. Our *present* interests, intelligence, memories, dispositions etc.

I, in contrast, hold that the self is that underlying reality making one the very same individual from when one were a toddler, to the present time when we are adults, to when one is drunk and so on and so forth. Throughout these different times our interests, intelligence, behaviour and so on all change . Therefore these latter attributes cannot *constitute* the self since that would entail that the self quite literally changes after, for example, one has had a few alcoholic drinks. The self changes when one is drunk, but only in a comparable manner to which a table might change if we paint it a different colour (alterational change), and not change in the sense of smashing the table up and replacing it with a similar one (existential change).

So the self is the TV programme. Not the quality of the picture itself which Augustine et al hold.

"Dear God . . Come back materialists. All is forgiven!"

Be careful what you wish for . . . . . . . .

Keith said:


"One other thing about the TV set analogy. It's not my analogy. If you go back over the text, I specifically state that it's a poor analogy for mind-brain relations. I suggest a drone would be a better one".

A drone?? Where specifically in the book do you suggest this howler?? How the heck could a drone be a good analogy? This just demonstrates that you have absolutely no idea what the filter hypothesis is. Which is pretty bad since I keep explaining myself on this issue, and you are simply not reading what I say or you have no comprehension of what I'm saying.

TV sets are an example of where an extra ingredient is required to explain its output. Or a radio. Or a prism. In each case the device or thing in question is insufficient to explain the phenomena produced and an extra ingredient is required. And a drone is obviously not such an example . .

Read my essay:

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

If you can't be bothered, then just read section 6 of it.

If even that is too much then just read part iv of section 6.

In my personal opinion, the argument that is taking place here regarding the TV relay analogy, shows more about the fallacy of trying to explain interdimensional matters from the viewpoint of our own dimension than anything else.
The sight of erudite people tearing lumps out of each other, although interesting and whimsically amusing, really leaves one in despair. What chance is there of progress, when the battleground can't even be established?

I have a question. I comprehend the idea of quantum processes going on in the brain, and it seems like that's confirmed. However, I'm not sure how one gets from this to independent consciousness. I'm sure it does make sense to people proposing the theory but I can't really get why it would be different. Can anyone with a better grasp of quantum physics put it in simple words for me?

"All those things have naturalistic explanations without recourse to the paranormal. Look up anomalistic psychology."

You're wrong. Works have already been written refuting all normal causes.

"Throughout these different times our interests, intelligence, behaviour and so on all change . Therefore these latter attributes cannot *constitute* the self since that would entail that the self quite literally changes after, for example, one has had a few alcoholic drinks. "

According to cases of mediumship, what survives biological death is the self with all its attributes, that is, as it was as a child, an elder, etc., but what is shown during a session is a portion only to be recognizable by someone present.

"TV sets are an example of where an extra ingredient is required to explain its output. "

That is what I wrote when I said that the brain is a cause of consciousness but not the only cause, because after biological death could act another causes supporting the consciousness.

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