6:42pm

Tue May 17, 2011
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Final Word On Life After Death

We have had a wonderful discussion today on the limits of consciousness and what does, or does not, continue at the end of biological functioning. Here are a few worthy quotes from the comments:

"Assuming there's no alternate plane of existence and near death experiences are hallucinations produced by the brain, wouldn't our afterlife be the mark we leave on this earth?"

"I do ponder, though, that as we incorporate new matter over our lives, we DO become different beings--our "I-ness" changes over time."

"There are millions of anecdotal NDEs (Near Death Experiences) with folks who were dead and have a similar story of a tunnel of light etc. Hawking and likeminded people will say this is the brain shutting down based on lack of oxygen etc. Maybe but maybe not."

"From a naturalistic perspective, there's no evidence for an immaterial self or soul with one's memories and personality that persists after death. But there's also no reason to suppose that death is the onset of darkness, emptiness or nothingness"

For myself I remain fully and firmly agnostic on the question. If ever there was a place where firm convictions seem misplaced this is it. There simply is no controlled, experimental verifiable information to support either the "you rot" vs. "you go on" positions.

In the absence of said information we are all free to believe as we like but, I would argue, it behooves us to remember that truly "public" knowledge on the subject - the kind science exemplifies - remains in short supply.

Perhaps after Iris Dement's song we should let Shakespeare's Prospero take us out...

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

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