The science of consciousness after death

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The science of consciousness after death

Laleh K. Quinn, PhD 

Quote:When the results of observations and experiments designed to investigate the possible continuance of consciousness after bodily death are interpreted according to standard scientific criteria, they strongly indicate the reality of the hypothesis. We fail to acknowledge it because of metaphysical biases ingrained in our culture and, in particular, academia, argues Dr. Quinn.

Quote:As a skeptical academic scientist myself, I was nonetheless always intrigued by those rare, highly intelligent people who held non-materialist positions. I was raised in the materialist academic tradition that poo-pooed anything having to do with the continuation of consciousness after death. Even though this was not possible on the worldview I was indoctrinated into, I still secretly devoured the words of those brave, iconoclastic voices. When I first read The Varieties of Religious Experience, by William James, I experienced a mixture of extreme joy coupled with anger. Joy because James was suggesting that mystical experiences were valid and worthy of exploration, pointing to the reality of a world unseen. And anger because my academic colleagues were dead set against even discussing such possibilities. Buoyed by my dead intellectual forebears, I fully immersed myself into the search for evidence that consciousness continues on after death; and the evidence is overwhelming: as strong, or even stronger, than for any of the scientific claims that I, as a neuroscientist, have encountered.

Here’s how I came to that conclusion. I decided to go about it in the way that I was trained to do as an academic. The scientific method requires several steps. First you must have an understanding of the existing knowledge within the field you’re interested in. This includes having a grasp of both the already existing data and the theoretical background. Then you perform scientific experiments in order to further the knowledge within the field. This involves both observational studies and the creation and testing of hypotheses. Good science also requires an open mind to observations that do not fit into current theory. The history of science is full of overthrown theories that were held onto just because people have a tendency to be adverse to change. We need to ensure we’re not throwing out observations just because they don’t fit into the current theoretical understanding; that’s how theories are modified and evolve.

As a neuroscientist, I attempt to discover how the brain functions, how different brain regions perform different tasks, and what the underlying neural signatures of different behaviors might be. This field is wide open. It’s like being an explorer, since so little is known. We all gather data and, if our techniques are sound, we present what we find, which adds to the growing corpus of understanding. We set up our hypotheses and test them. And, most importantly, we make observations with open minds, so not to be blinded by theoretical biases. Then, others may accept our findings; not as absolute truth, but as probable truth. That’s how a lot of science works.
I attempted to do the same with the hypothesis that consciousness continues after death, and I tried to do it as rigorously as I do my neuroscience research in the lab...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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Interesting, Sci ! If those are Stephen Pinker's observations of the (this) field, goodness me, he's almost like a caricature of a sceptic.
(This post was last modified: 2024-01-25, 04:58 PM by tim. Edited 1 time in total.)
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  • Sciborg_S_Patel
(2024-01-25, 06:04 AM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: The science of consciousness after death
Laleh K. Quinn, PhD 
................
When the results of observations and experiments designed to investigate the possible continuance of consciousness after bodily death are interpreted according to standard scientific criteria, they strongly indicate the reality of the hypothesis. We fail to acknowledge it because of metaphysical biases ingrained in our culture and, in particular, academia, argues Dr. Quinn.
.................

I generally agree with Quinn that the evidence in favor of survival is overwhelming, except for his specific claim that there is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence for paranormal phenomena indicative of survival. That claim runs into the deep controversy caused by entrenched scientism, the issue of what really are science and the scientific method.

The basic problem is that paranormal phenomena are by their very nature generally not conducive to the scientific method, given the common strict definition of it. That makes much of the evidence for these phenomena "unscientific" by definition.

The 6 steps of the Scientific Method (from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f...%20and%206) :

Quote:- 1. Ask a Question
- 2. Do Background Research
- 3. Construct a Hypothesis
    A hypothesis is an educated guess about how things work. It is an attempt to answer your question with an explanation that can be tested. A good       hypothesis allows you to then make a prediction:
    "If _____[I do this] _____, then _____[this]_____ will happen."
    State both your hypothesis and the resulting prediction you will be testing. Predictions must be easy to measure.
- 4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    Your experiment tests whether your prediction is accurate and thus your hypothesis is supported or not. It is important for your experiment to be a fair test.      You conduct a fair test by making sure that you change only one factor at a time while keeping all other conditions the same.
    You should also repeat your experiments several times to make sure that the first results weren't just an accident.
- 5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
- 6. Communicate Your Results

The crucial issue is step 4 - the experiment. Much of the paranormal phenomena indicative of survival are infrequent, spontaneous, uncontrollable and unpredictable and therefore can't be evoked at will in an experiment, as witness NDEs and cases of the reincarnation type (CORT). The investigators mostly have to retroactively look for past occurrences, record anecdotal testimony from accounts of the experiences, and analyze that data, most importantly including trying to verify factual statements in the accounts.

Given the strict definition of the scientific method, veridical NDE OOBEs and veridical CORT accounts amount to valid "scientific evidence" only to the extent that witness accounts and experiencer accounts are accepted as valid evidence and more than just "anecdotes". Of course, the legions of faithful fundamentalist devotees of the religion of scientism that presently control establishment Science then preemtively reject any and all anecdotal evidence regardless of whether it was later confirmed by investigation. In doing this they automatically ignore common sense considerations of the weight of multiple investigationally confirmed statements, and of multiple witnesses, etc., and also ignore the fact that "anecdotal" is defined as "not necessarily true or reliable, because of being based on personal accounts rather than facts or research", which allows anecdotal evidence to become scientific evidence after investigation.
(This post was last modified: 2024-01-25, 06:17 PM by nbtruthman. Edited 1 time in total.)
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(2024-01-25, 06:07 PM)nbtruthman Wrote: I generally agree with Quinn that the evidence in favor of survival is overwhelming, except for his specific claim that there is an overwhelming amount of scientific evidence for paranormal phenomena indicative of survival. That claim runs into the deep controversy caused by entrenched scientism, the issue of what really are science and the scientific method.

The basic problem is that paranormal phenomena are by their very nature generally not conducive to the scientific method, given the common strict definition of it. That makes much of the evidence for these phenomena "unscientific" by definition.

The 6 steps of the Scientific Method (from https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-f...%20and%206) :


The crucial issue is step 4 - the experiment. Much of the paranormal phenomena indicative of survival are infrequent, spontaneous, uncontrollable and unpredictable and therefore can't be evoked at will in an experiment, as witness NDEs and cases of the reincarnation type (CORT). The investigators mostly have to retroactively look for past occurrences, record anecdotal testimony from accounts of the experiences, and analyze that data, most importantly including trying to verify factual statements in the accounts.

Given the strict definition of the scientific method, veridical NDE OOBEs and veridical CORT accounts amount to valid "scientific evidence" only to the extent that witness accounts and experiencer accounts are accepted as valid evidence and more than just "anecdotes". Of course, the legions of faithful fundamentalist devotees of the religion of scientism that presently control establishment Science then preemtively reject any and all anecdotal evidence regardless of whether it was later confirmed by investigation. In doing this they automatically ignore common sense considerations of the weight of multiple investigationally confirmed statements, and of multiple witnesses, etc., and also ignore the fact that "anecdotal" is defined as "not necessarily true or reliable, because of being based on personal accounts rather than facts or research", which allows anecdotal evidence to become scientific evidence after investigation.

I think this would make it difficult to talk about many phenomena even unrelated to the paranormal that isn't easily replicated...or at least we cannot talk of their investigation as doing Science...But are reports from anthropologists or zoologists to be considered somewhere between an anecdote and scientific observation?

I do agree with those who say Survival is better thought of as passing a legal test. Obviously some aspects of Survival are tested in medical settings at the least, but the overall argument for Survival requires the testimony of witnesses and judge of their character.

A legal case also asks us to consider the volume of witnesses, and Survival passes that test as well.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2024-01-25, 10:10 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel. Edited 1 time in total.)
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(2024-01-25, 10:08 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: I think this would make it difficult to talk about many phenomena even unrelated to the paranormal that isn't easily replicated...or at least we cannot talk of their investigation as doing Science...But are reports from anthropologists or zoologists to be considered somewhere between an anecdote and scientific observation?

I do agree with those who say Survival is better thought of as passing a legal test. Obviously some aspects of Survival are tested in medical settings at the least, but the overall argument for Survival requires the testimony of witnesses and judge of their character.

A legal case also asks us to consider the volume of witnesses, and Survival passes that test as well.

Technically yes, but in practice, witness accounts especially with expert witnesses are generally accepted in non-hard sciences like anthropology and zoology. However, the scientism religious fundamentalists apply a sort of selective hyperskepticism to the paranormal evidence, because it is simply impossible according to their fixed-in-stone belief system.
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