Friday, 28 November 2014

Science and the Afterlife

It seems to be widely believed that modern science has shown that there is no afterlife, that this life is the only one we will have, that only this physical world exists and only gullible people are disposed to question such established truths.

This is a complete travesty of what is actually the case.  What very few people seem to know, or  understand, is that science completely leaves out consciousness in its description of reality.  Indeed, so far as science is concerned, we might as well all be what has been termed philosophical zombies  -- that is to say we might as well all be entirely devoid of any conscious experiences whatsoever, even though we externally look and behave exactly like real people.

This is because it is held that we are merely very sophisticated biological machines.  Thus it is the physical events in our brains, together with the input from our 5 senses, which wholly explains everything we ever do, say, and think.  In and of itself consciousness is not regarded as having any causal efficacy.  Hence I am typing this out, not because of an intent on my part to express certain ideas, but due to physical laws playing out.

Now materialists deny this, but only by advancing a transparently false metaphysical hypothesis.  This hypothesis is that consciousness is the very same thing as the underlying neuronal activity, or it is the very same thing as what the brain does.  Note here they are not saying that such processes causes or produces consciousness, rather consciousness is one and the very same thing as some physical process.

It seems to me transparently clear that such a claim is vacuous.  Physical things and processes are characterised by mass, electric charge  and so on. They have a location, they can be measured and anyone can potentially observe them.    Conscious experience, on the other hand, is wholly defined by its qualitativeness -- the pain of a toothache, the taste of Pepsi, the experience of greenness, the feeling of contentment  -- all these are paradigmatic examples of conscious experiences, or qualia as they are sometimes referred to.  Most importantly ones consciousness can only be known by you, no one else can observe your pain, your jealousy and so on.   Since physical processes and conscious experiences have absolutely nothing in common whatsoever, then to say they are one and the very same thing is simply an abuse of language (although of course it is still possible one can cause the other, and vice versa).

The truth of the matter is that we have this philosophical problem called the mind/body problem.  It's persisted for thousands of years and we are no closer to solving it now in the 21st Century than we have ever been.  The proposed materialist solutions are acts of desperation.

The truth is that consciousness exists in its own right.  And we cannot perceive anyone else's consciousness, we can only infer it from their bodily behaviour.  So consciousness itself is invisible, we only infer its presence in other people via the voluntary movement of their bodies and their speech.  When their bodies cease to function at death nothing can be definitively concluded about the consciousness which formerly was able to move that body.

This blog entry by me will also be of interest:

Science, the Afterlife, and the Intelligentsia
Science, the Afterlife, and the Intelligentsia


  1. A great post. I just started following your blog but I check it every chance I get.
    Keep it coming!

  2. Well, property dualism says that the word "is" doesn't do the apparently decisive logical work we're tempted to think it does. Normally, saying "X is really Y" implies that the two are alike, have similar properties, not just "the same thing" in some sense of continuity (ie, not just that if one is destroyed, the other is gone too.) The PD perspective is that X and Y can be "the same thing" in that sense of continuity and parallel (also called "numerical identity") but express such different properties that you could swear they cannot be the same thing. Well PD is saying, there are two kinds of "same" - one is, numerical identity, and the other is "to be the same way" - to express the same characteristics. Ordinary intuition is that these two concepts belong together. But if the nature of things is relative, then a "something" like brain activity can appear to be one kind of thing - say from external study - but be quite different as encountered differently - like to be the system yourself. This is not just a matter of how you "imagine" things, it means they ARE different in kind from different points of view. One analogy: what we think are complete objects shown us are more like projections of a shape on paper from different angles.

  3. Neil Bates, first of all I've deleted your first comment as I found it largely incomprehensible and you have expanded on your meaning here anyway.

    I'm still experiencing difficulty in discerning all of your meaning. I myself take great efforts to communicate as simply and effectively as possible in my blog entries, and I would like any comments to follow my example.

    I take it you favour this "property dualism" you talk about? Are you disagreeing with the conclusion of my article? That is are you saying it is not possible consciousness survives? If so then how do you know this?

    Property dualism is the position there's only one substance in the world, but has 2 properties, the physical and the mental. But what causally leads to our voluntary behaviour? Not the property of consciousness I don't think. So property dualism seems to lead to the conclusion that consciousness per se is not causally efficacious. In which case it is incoherent as I explain here:

    An object can look different from different perspectives but that's an irrelevance. It's appearance can be derived from differing perspectives by everything we know about that object.

    Now we cannot a priori derive what particular conscious experience will be correlated with particular brain activity. These correlations have to be discovered. So this differs from seeing an object from differing perspectives.

    It seems to me that we either survive, or consciousness is strongly emergent and has its own causal powers. Reductive materialism is ruled out for the reasons I state in my blog entry. Non-reductive materialism and property dualism are ruled out unless these positions can be squared with a causally efficacious consciousness.

    Anyway I'm currently writing a much longer blog entry which will cover some of this stuff.