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.
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.
4 days ago