Friday, January 16, 2009

Rebuttal To An Post Made By Pz Myers

First, before I get to the rebuttal their was a comment on his blog that i need to address.

Posted by: Kel

Interesting side note to all this:

It's interesting that people who believe in some sort of afterlife fear death the most. While those content with effectively ceasing to exist, aren't as scared of it.

My response

Not true i for one feared death a lot when i believe in materialism.

Now to the post

We never personally experience the extinction of our consciousness, of course, except for the limited loss of sleep — and we always wake up from that (at least, until the last time), so we at least have personal evidence that would inductively imply immortality.

Response: True agree.

It's also a set of beliefs that are remarkably pervasive. Our language and culture and habits of thought make the idea of survival after death continually crop up.

Even when we want to believe that our minds end at death, it is a real struggle to think in this way. A study I published in the Journal of Cognition and Culture in 2002 reveals the illusion of immortality operating in full swing in the minds of undergraduate students who were asked a series of questions about the psychological faculties of a dead man.

Richard, I told the students, had been killed instantaneously when his vehicle plunged into a utility pole. After the participants read a narrative about Richard's state of mind just prior to the accident, I queried them as to whether the man, now that he was dead, retained the capacity to experience mental states. "Is Richard still thinking about his wife?" I asked them. "Can he still taste the flavor of the breath mint he ate just before he died? Does he want to be alive?"

You can imagine the looks I got, because apparently not many people pause to consider whether souls have taste buds, become randy or get headaches. Yet most gave answers indicative of "psychological continuity reasoning," in which they envisioned Richard's mind to continue functioning despite his death. This finding came as no surprise given that, on a separate scale, most respondents classified themselves as having a belief in some form of an afterlife.

What was surprising, however, was that many participants who had identified themselves as having "extinctivist" beliefs (they had ticked off the box that read: "What we think of as the 'soul,' or conscious personality of a person, ceases permanently when the body dies") occasionally gave psychological-continuity responses, too. Thirty-two percent of the extinctivists' answers betrayed their hidden reasoning that emotions and desires survive death; another 36 percent of their responses suggested the extinctivists reasoned this way for mental states related to knowledge (such as remembering, believing or knowing). One particularly vehement extinctivist thought the whole line of questioning silly and seemed to regard me as a numbskull for even asking. But just as well--he proceeded to point out that of course Richard knows he is dead, because there's no afterlife and Richard sees that now.

Response: True, a lot of people believe in an afterlife, so what? the evidence is what we are after. Attacking people for believing in an afterlife doesn't make any apparent evidence for it go away.

Bering also does not discuss (in this piece, at least) another important factor: we rapidly learn that death is not a game of peek-a-boo, it has significant differences from ordinary departures. We learn from our experience that death is permanent. As we get older, we experience this more and more often, and we learn fairly rapidly that there is something about the nature of death that makes it more tragic, since we feel grief and loss. We build psychological coping mechanisms there, as well, and once again, fraudulent religion is ready to leap in and take advantage of another normal human reaction: denial. Promoting denial is a short-term tool for deepening a dependency on superstition, but it is again no virtue to foster irrationality by using personal fears and heartbreak.

Response: The same can be said of materialists, especially if the evidence for survival is true, the psychological fear of persisting forever is also terrifying to many materialists and even some non materialists. Why? because of it getting repetitive, boring over time. This would be true, however it appears that many souls get reincarnated which means that not every soul spends eternity in a afterlife realm.

Update: I have posted a comment on PZ Myers post. Yuu can find it here.


Reckless Divinity said...

That was brave of you to post on PZ Myers blog since believers are crucified there.

I think the whole point of Jesse Bering's original post was to show that a belief in the afterlife is natural and rooted in our own cognitive reasoning for making sense of reality, since naturally it is hard to picture something that has no qualitive experience within the self.

What I have always wondered is how does the dualist reconcile NREM deep dreamless sleep and Anesthesia with survivalism. Meaning if these things can biologically turn off consciousness why would consciousness survival the ultimate switch off - death?

Leo MacDonald said...

Thanks. That is the assumption that consciousness is wiped out with general anesthesia. The problem is that may not be so, such in Pam Reyold's case.

Reckless Divinity said...

Well I know there is anesthetic awareness for when the dosage is not sufficient enough to switch it off, but generally it switches it off, this part is not an assumption. Death switching it off is an assumption. Pam Reynold's case speaking for all of humanity is an assumption. My question really is generally speaking it switches it off, how do you reconcile that? How do you reconcile dreamless sleep with dualism? How do you reconcile these things can be turned off in living things? Where does the "I" go? This is what I left dualism, as much as I wanted to believe I couldn't reconcile it with these biological switch off mechanisms.

Leo MacDonald said...

Hi Reckless

You can switch of your music too or channels in your tv too. That doesn't prove that your music has completely vanished.

Reckless Divinity said...

Switch off the music and the sound waves dissipate losing it's original form. Turn on the radio and new waves are produced. There is no continuous stream if it is switched off.

If consciousness survives death then you would have to propose an analogy that shows a continued stream of the same identity. If consciousness survives death without a body then why can it be turned off within the body? I have wrestled with these questions before and have answers to support dualism, I just never found my answers strong enough.


This comment below was made by Dean Radin on his blog. I personally like the analogy and find it a compelling one.

"A simple way to illustrate the neuroscience fallacy of the brain = mind argument is by analogy with understanding how a radio works. Say you knew nothing about physics. You listen to a talk show on a radio and become curious about where the voices come from. You take the radio apart and soon notice that there is a one-to-one correlation between the voices and the electrical currents in the radio circuits. You logically conclude that the voices are obviously caused by the radio itself. If you damage part of the radio to prove your point, then the voices will become degraded or disappear altogether. Case closed."

"The brain as a generator of mind is the prevailing explanation in the neurosciences, but the brain as a receiver of mind provides the identical results. If one ignores the psi data then the generator model seems sufficient. But if one accepts the psi data, the receiver model begins to look more appealing."

"I recommend a new book, Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century, for a comprehensive and scholarly review of the evidence (more than just psi) suggesting that brain as receiver is a better model of mind than brain as generator. The former model has profound consequences for revising our scientific understanding of who and what we are, which is one of the reasons mainstream neuroscience tends to ignore the countervailing evidence."