Is a Skeptic-Friendly Afterlife Possible?

#1
This probably doesn't have the meaning that the title might suggest. I don't mean that there is some force in the universe that is hostile to skeptics. I mean, whether there is any version of continuity of consciousness that skeptics would feel comfortable in pondering.

I do not self-identify as a 'skeptic,' which is one reason why I don't usually enter into discussions featuring 'skeptics v believers' as I find this cartoonish and one-dimensional. I self-identify as a person of complex mixture between hope and doubt. It isn't simple or cartoonish.

Many concepts of an afterlife don't work for me because they do not appear (to me anyway) to address what I think are the real problems with the idea. Those real problems (again, imo) are not such things as whether people see or hear things in an OR that they shouldn't be seeing or hearing...fascinating though that may be.

They are such things as Time & Timelessness, Energy, and Entropy.

Anyway, I'd be interested to hear from skeptics (either labeled such, or who self-identify) on whether *any* species of non-mortal consciousness seems plausible to them as possibility. I do hold out such a possibility (or two) but I also think that they are *very* tentative. Speculating that something may be possible in principle is a lot different from illustrating that it is so in fact.

Traditionally, possibilities are parsed into the domains of "materialism" and "idealism," but to me both of these possibilities have *serious* issues. Materialism cannot explain the emergence of a mental world from a physical world, despite its protests. Idealism cannot point to any phenomena that are not dependent upon energy. So it would seem that a "third way" is called for. But the very notion of "continuity of consciousness" would be very different, I think, under such a way.
 
#2
This probably doesn't have the meaning that the title might suggest. I don't mean that there is some force in the universe that is hostile to skeptics. I mean, whether there is any version of continuity of consciousness that skeptics would feel comfortable in pondering.
If you refer to genuine skeptics - then many versions are both comfortable and interesting to them. I think you're question is aimed at pseudo-skeptics - the staunch materialists, the naysayers of all else who have taken a more congenial, though inaccurate and misleading, description for themselves.
 
#3
Hello Saiko. No, I'm not aiming this at "pseudo-"(anybody), whoever or whatever that might be. It asks a genuine question. Do those who self identify as thoughtful skeptics, or like me a complex mixture of doubt and possibility, still hold out a possibility of continuity of consciousness?
 
#4
I certainly hold out the possibility. As for what is plausible - there are all sorts of possibilities. The trick would be how to reliably figure out what is probable.
 
#5
I'm comfortable pondering all sorts of possibilities, including those which get brought up here. I also like to speculate about ways in which we can begin to distinguish between those ideas. I think it's a waste of time starting with a metaphysical position and trying to make stuff fit into it, so I tend to ignore materialism/idealism concerns.

Linda
 
#6
So Arouet and Linda, what *are* some of those ideas? I'm familiar with the usual afterlife ideas, though as I said, they seem unworkable to me. Of course, anything in principle *could* be workable depending on the depth to which we are mistaken about certain key things. Thinking 500 years from now may bear no resemblance to what it does now, and I try to keep this in mind somewhere.
 
#7
I personally think that because "we" know so little of what's going on that we can't even estimate how tiny of a fraction it is that we do understand, a whole lot of things are reasonable to speculate about. I really like your idea, Kai, about matter and energy "tending to exist" and from there, a "tending towards" consciousness (I'd add an intermediary step of "tending towards life" in between those two, also.)
 
#8
Do those who self identify as thoughtful skeptics, or like me a complex mixture of doubt and possibility, still hold out a possibility of continuity of consciousness?
As I said that self-identification is often inaccurate. One who is closed off to that possibility is a believer (in materialism) not a skeptic. Beyond that, at this point in space-time those who are not aware that there is much more than the physical are those who - intentionally or not - do not want to be.
 
#9
Well, that's why I feel that the issue of judging other people is a waste of time. Neither you (Saiko) nor anyone else is ever going to know how *I* feel about things in anything approaching the depth or accuracy with which I know that, and not extending that same courtesy to others strikes me as absurd at best. Thus, these discussions are best rooted in issues. I find the whole discussion of persons a consummate waste of time.
 
#11
Hi all, been here before but a long time ago. I'm still a skeptic, but have written off the "skeptical and atheist communities" as a bunch of egotistical douchewaffles. Reintro out of the way, I find Kai's question very interesting. I do not believe in any continuity of consciousness following the death of the brain as far as individuals are concerned. There is simply too much evidence that brain trauma can radically alter that consciousness to such a degree that it is incomparable to the pre-trauma version (lost memories, altered personalities etc...). BUT.....

I do have some sense that physics as we know it allows for some loopholes here, especially when we're talking about quantum physics and the varying interpretations and resulting consequences.

I happen to cling to the idea of a multiverse. I don't know it to be true, but I strongly suspect that it is, and the version I cling to is one in which every quantum event splits off its own new universe, a separate possibility. Stay with me here.... So "I" might get hit by a bus tomorrow in this universe, but there are virtually infinite universes splitting off at every moment in which "I" escape that fate. In this universe, my friends and family mourn my loss, but in countless others, this isn't necessary as "I" am still very much alive and thriving. I only experience one timeline, but I would only remember one time line due to the limitations of my physical brain. I could wake up tomorrow in the universe where I'm a billionaire, or a starving child in Africa, and "I" wouldn't notice because "I" only have my memories, recalled from the physical substrate of my brain, in the universe in which I am aware, to fall back on.

Extrapolate that out and you can see where immortality becomes not just a possibility, but an inevitability even as the possible universes in which I survive dwindles down to zero as time passes. Surely, there is a perfect universe in which I escape every possible demise and live forever. Obviously, technology has to come to my rescue in any such universe.

So what about people who "died" thousands of years ago? Well, they died in "this" universe thousands of years ago, but given the infinite possibilities, surely they also "lived" in universes in which technology sprung thousands of years before it did in this one, affording them the same escape clause.

The alternate version, in which there is only one universe also has an escape clause but not nearly as interesting. Consider a lone universe, where when I get hit by the bus "I" am truly dead, no longer conscious. Even in that solitary universe my impact will be ever lasting. I flapped my butterfly wings and caused a hurricane if you get my drift. My presence can not be undone, and no matter how diluted over a period of time, it remains a part of a sum that is the ultimate fate of that single universe.

So yes, I can imagine a world in which all conscious beings are effectively immortal.
 
#12
I know, mind blown right? No? Maybe? Probably not. That was actually a red herring, the whole thing. It was meant to illustrate that I think we have a problem when we talk about "life after death" because life, as we know it is a deeply personal experience, and that experience is clouded, no matter how you chop it up, by our ability to perceive that experience. I lost the concept of "I" or "me" surviving anything called death years ago when I realized that "I" am only the sum of my experiences and memories. I don't buy "consciousness" as something that can survive death because it can barely survive falling asleep at night. "I" am ultimately just a thing that exists and perceives via my senses and brain, and so "I" can't imagine life with out those senses and brain to provide me with food for thought.

The concept of a disembodied consciousness is incoherent to me. I rant, I know. Just thinking out loud here, don't shoot me.
 
#13
No one's shooting here, I hope. That was interesting, whether a red herring or not.

I agree it is very unlikely (perhaps not impossible, just very unlikely) that personality-based survival is possible post-brain. But again, we don't have an explanation of survival "intra-brain" either, and I doubt that one will be forthcoming that can be in any way transparent. However, if consciousness is existential relation rather than thing, then the possibility remains, however remote, that there exists an "ALL-relation" which would be the final, or most inclusive form of this principle. This Gestalt consciousness, it seems to me, if it exists, would have properties radically different from organic beings, yet all the while in a sense dependent upon them for "its" own awareness. It too would be a form of "physical" consciousness, the body of which is the world, but it would not be subject to time in the fashion that "life" is, because all-inclusion would have to include time. It is also conceivable (in fact likely, once the core assumption is made) that this all-inclusion would hold within its matrix the entirety of all lives that have ever existed (or will ever exist) and that this would constitute a kind of "survival." Exactly what kind of survival, of course, would be very much up in the air. But the bare possibility does not seem unthinkable.

The a
 
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#14
It is also conceivable (in fact likely, once the core assumption is made) that this all-inclusion would hold within its matrix the entirety of all lives that have ever existed (or will ever exist) and that this would constitute a kind of "survival." Exactly what kind of survival, of course, would be very much up in the air. But the bare possibility does not seem unthinkable.
This is essentially the only kind of metaphysical hyper-consciousness that I can imagine. It would have to be something so much bigger than talking to my dead grandma or guessing at shapes on cards. Again, I think personality and a sense of "self" must end with the death of the brain. This is the problem I have with most proponents. They seem to take anomaly hunting at face value and to me, are probably missing the bigger picture as a result. Is there something bigger? Probably, that makes sense, but reducing it to the egotistical desire to preserve one's "self" is the stumbling block IMHO.
 
#15
I happen to cling to the idea of a multiverse. I don't know it to be true, but I strongly suspect that it is, and the version I cling to is one in which every quantum event splits off its own new universe, a separate possibility. Stay with me here.... So "I" might get hit by a bus tomorrow in this universe, but there are virtually infinite universes splitting off at every moment in which "I" escape that fate. In this universe, my friends and family mourn my loss, but in countless others, this isn't necessary as "I" am still very much alive and thriving. I only experience one timeline, but I would only remember one time line due to the limitations of my physical brain. I could wake up tomorrow in the universe where I'm a billionaire, or a starving child in Africa, and "I" wouldn't notice because "I" only have my memories, recalled from the physical substrate of my brain, in the universe in which I am aware, to fall back on.

Extrapolate that out and you can see where immortality becomes not just a possibility, but an inevitability even as the possible universes in which I survive dwindles down to zero as time passes. Surely, there is a perfect universe in which I escape every possible demise and live forever. Obviously, technology has to come to my rescue in any such universe.

So what about people who "died" thousands of years ago? Well, they died in "this" universe thousands of years ago, but given the infinite possibilities, surely they also "lived" in universes in which technology sprung thousands of years before it did in this one, affording them the same escape clause.

So yes, I can imagine a world in which all conscious beings are effectively immortal.
Hey erik the bassist, So a modified Frank Tipler style solipsism? I love it. :D

In this version, every one of us will then see the ultimate success of our own fate, while ironically witnessing the demise of those around us; as we have split to differing time-space pathways. And while you see me dying of pneumonia at age 93, I will ultimately witness in my own personal 6 dimensional time-space-line where such a fate is rendered moot. Maybe this is what Christ meant when he admonished curricular doubt among the apostles with "I tell you truthfully, some of you who are standing here will not taste of death before they see the Son of Man descending in glory." They get to live their religious utopia, while I on the other hand, have my Aston Martin DB-9, 8 girlfriends, my jet and ultimately find a cure for dying (at least for me). :)

You have raised an excellent point with this example, as you implicate in your next post. This conjectured consecution of events introduces the problem of an unconstrained hypothesis. In order to be tested via any semblance of method, a hypothesis must be constrained - that is set about by parameters which are both restrictive and devised so as to allow for objective testing of the hypothesis, without exculpatory stipulation. As many skeptics point out, an unconstrained hypothesis always has an answer, always offers an avenue of plausible deniability or adaptive explanation. It absorbs doubt darts like a 1950's cheesy version of the movie The Blob. You can never kill it, and The Blob-pothesis can never be held to account for repetitive measure.

What we do not get is that many of our defaulted acceptances, stem from unconstrained hypotheses as well.

But what if, the ultimate reality of the afterlife/continue-life is exclusively ontological, that is, one of being indeed innately unconstrained? :eek: What do we do then?
 
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#16
This is essentially the only kind of metaphysical hyper-consciousness that I can imagine. It would have to be something so much bigger than talking to my dead grandma or guessing at shapes on cards. Again, I think personality and a sense of "self" must end with the death of the brain. This is the problem I have with most proponents. They seem to take anomaly hunting at face value and to me, are probably missing the bigger picture as a result. Is there something bigger? Probably, that makes sense, but reducing it to the egotistical desire to preserve one's "self" is the stumbling block IMHO.
I may be a bit out of my depth in this particular thread. However, I don't feel it is correct to characterise a proponent's view of the afterlife as an 'egotistical desire to preserve one's "self"'. There are those who accept some sort of afterlife in spite of, rather than because of their desires.
 
#17
Sorry, don't want to come off as a drive by, but I have to stop thinking and go to bed. I have an impossibly long stretch of obligations for the next 72 hours (work, gig, sleep, work, gig, sleep) and I'm just coming off being very sick so I have to rest. I'm following the thread via email but won't have the time for a cogent reply until Saturday at the soonest. Keep well, and FTR, I like the new tone around here, not nearly as contentious as I remember being several years ago.
 
#18
I do not believe in any continuity of consciousness following the death of the brain as far as individuals are concerned. There is simply too much evidence that brain trauma can radically alter that consciousness to such a degree that it is incomparable to the pre-trauma version (lost memories, altered personalities etc...).
But the evidence on NDEs, apparitions, mediumship, etc., can not be underestimated, but if it is taken seriously, then we must adopt some variant of the filter model, where consciousness depends on the brain instrumentally but not existentially.

I happen to cling to the idea of a multiverse. I don't know it to be true, but I strongly suspect that it is, and the version I cling to is one in which every quantum event splits off its own new universe, a separate possibility. Stay with me here.... So "I" might get hit by a bus tomorrow in this universe, but there are virtually infinite universes splitting off at every moment in which "I" escape that fate. In this universe, my friends and family mourn my loss, but in countless others, this isn't necessary as "I" am still very much alive and thriving. I only experience one timeline, but I would only remember one time line due to the limitations of my physical brain. I could wake up tomorrow in the universe where I'm a billionaire, or a starving child in Africa, and "I" wouldn't notice because "I" only have my memories, recalled from the physical substrate of my brain, in the universe in which I am aware, to fall back on.

Extrapolate that out and you can see where immortality becomes not just a possibility, but an inevitability even as the possible universes in which I survive dwindles down to zero as time passes. Surely, there is a perfect universe in which I escape every possible demise and live forever. Obviously, technology has to come to my rescue in any such universe.
There are objections in this theory. First, my I of other universe is not me, is another version of me, so if I die, my other versions may be alive, but they are not I because there is no continuity between them. And second, eventually all versions of us will have died in all universes if they exist.
 
#19
I don't buy "consciousness" as something that can survive death because it can barely survive falling asleep at night.
Yet consciousness returns on waking. It is conceivable that death is another awakening.

"I" am ultimately just a thing that exists and perceives via my senses and brain, and so "I" can't imagine life with out those senses and brain to provide me with food for thought.
The parapsychology and psychic research show that there are ESP and PK, which may be the way we interact with the world without recourse to the senses / brain.

The concept of a disembodied consciousness is incoherent to me. I rant, I know. Just thinking out loud here, don't shoot me.
The concept of a disembodied consciousness is incoherent, but the afterlife does not require the concept of a disembodied consciousness, for the afterlife may be the continuity of consciousness in an imaginary body and environment, like dreams, or may be continuity of consciousness in an objective body, but consists of an unknown matter by modern physics.
 
#20
Even if most reported obe details would be verified correct, it would still be far from concluding survival hypothesis. Perhaps the most elusive problem about consciousness is the cradle of ego(or self, me, existential awareness, the "thing" speaking to me is the one who is typing here while speaking to you is the one who would be reading this post after I would have posted it).

Consider the possibility that our ego is based on some substances inside our brain, when these substances are inactive, our ego would be unconscious, when our brain disintegrates irrevocably, our ego would disappear eternally. In this case, it's still possible that there are other mechanisms inside brain go to collect informations during nde and temporarily cache those informations in brain's "local memory area" without notifying nders' ego, the nders themselves didn't know that process' happening because meanwhile their ego was unconscious. During the process of their awakening, the substances which essentially accommodate the existence of their ego gradually became active, it is within this time their ego read and deciphered the informations collected and cached in their brain's "local memory area", if they had never awoken again, the informations still had been collected and cached there but they wouldn't have read them and later told us, after all, it is when they were alive again after nde, they narrated their experiences, no one would know for certainty if they had never been alive again after nde, where would their ego go.

To say someone flew out of his body to see remote events, is more like comics for children, because we don't know whether our ego would participate the informations' collecting and caching, or what role it would take in that participation, in case it would not participate the process? Maybe something else collected the informations and crammed them into brain without notifying nders' ego, and it is while their ego was recovering from unconsciousness, they read the informations from their prepared local cache, in such a hypothesis, they, more precisely, their ego, had never ever moved out of their brain but just slept within their brain waiting for the next opportunity of being able to read brain's "local memory area" again, and the process of collecting and caching those informations into their brain's "local memory area", has nothing to do with nders' ego. There would be mistakes both in information collecting and in ego's deciphering so we observed both correct reported obe details and incorrect ones.

Ego(or self, me, existential awareness, the "thing" speaking to me is the one who is typing here while speaking to you is the one who would be reading this post after I would have posted it) is the most important part to something we usually refer to as "me", it is not equal to our memories, for example, someone who has been amnesiac and has lost most of his memories, would still feel himself is existing and is the same person before he had his amnesia. While we could record most of our memories into hard disk drive thus let it carry the same memories of ours but the computer it is fixed in can't be us. So ego!=memories, and memories about ndes don't necessarily suggest nders' ego participated the whole process of those experiences.

I would like to add my thoughts about 2 reasons which lead towards my hypothesis, though not strongly:
1. it seems the informations reported by nders were not intentionally collected by nders' ego, this inclination suggests that those informations were collected by some mechanisms which aren't directly dictated by nders' ego, or their will or wish.
Consider in our physical reality, one person is standing in the yard of a hospital, there are hills north of this hospital, a river east of it, a mall south of it and an avenue west of it. This person would like to take a walk but towards to which direction depends on his mood, if he expects to inhale some fresh air then he might take to the hills, he might also either think moist breeze from river would comfort him, or prefer to see a platoon of diverse limousines outside the mall, or want to walk along pedestrian ways on the sides of avenue as this has always been his habit.
But in nde, he went to the top of the hospital building and saw a pair of red shoes, it seems he took the choice determined by someone else without his own reason.

2. a lot of nde reports say their experiences are timeless. This sounds great, because the arrow of time is the increasing of entropy and the asymptote to our universe's inevitable Heat Death apocalypse, by stopping time or denying time we could defy the bleak future of our universe. But our ego or existential awareness depends on a kind of "sense" of time's continuous elapse, our thoughts or memories about happened events must to be organized by something defines "it starts as ... then ... then ... finally ...", after all, when nders narrate the events in their ndes, there still be an order of the sequence of events. A timeless existence of our ego is unimaginable, there must be a time-line to accommodate our awareness, we must to be clear about "immediate past", "present", and "immediate next" to organize our awareness. Maybe nders have been shown a possibility of timeless existence of our awareness, just can't be imagined by non-nders. But it is also possible that when the unknown mechanisms are collecting and caching informations during nde, they somehow drop, lose or litter the informations about time-line thus when later nders' ego decipher those informations they feel a strange timelessness.

There is another possibility, although very vague, that is, even if truth is human ego depends on some substances and a certain relationship structure connecting those component substances in our brain, it doesn't completely rule out ego surviving after death. Because in case those substances and structures are actually subatomic, for example, quantum, superstring scale, or intertwine with hyper spatial temporal structures? As we observed, after people die, large compounds - organisms, cells, neurons or even molecules, atoms, etcetera disintegrate for sure, but in case there are still teeny structures remaining somewhere which continue accommodate the existence of human ego?

As we completely unable to figure out human ego dwells in where, current science can only explain by neuro science, that if those cells and neurons and chemicals are integrated in the way my brain exists like it is now, there must be A PERSON who is like me, but it doesn't necessary to be a ME.

Consider in another universe, which is completely identical to our universe, and there is another person who is another person to me but completely identical to me in every teeny aspects, and his existence could be explained by neuro science, and I'm not necessarily be existent to demonstrate that those cells, neurons, chemicals and field structures could form a person like me, so that doesn't explain the existence of my ego. And the same applys to anyone, when someone researches another person, by neuro science he can explain why this person exists and thinks in this way and acts in this way, but when refers to himself, neuro science can still explain whey there is a person like him to exist and think in his way and act in his way but neuro science just can't explain why this person is not someone else for example one of the other people he had researched before, but just HIMSELF.

So neuro and brain science are intrinsically unable to solve the problem about ego, even after they would have solved every mysteries they could, they eventually can relate "substance structures and traits" to "the phenomenons revealed by those structures and traits", for example, they can relate "a person's neuro structures and traits" to "this person's feelings and way of thinking", but they eventually can't explain why this person is me, or you, or someone else.

Perhaps we meant not to know.

Sorry for my bad English if my grammar or usage is too bad as to uncomprehensible please notify me. Within very limited time of mine I had tried to express my meaning as best as I could but I grasp deviant and erroneous grammar rules and little vocabulary. I really like to discuss here. Thanks for anyone if undertaken my awful English sentences.
 
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