Consciousness, science (NDEs), and philosophy

Debate In Quora: What are some scientific arguments for consciousness being able to preserve itself after the death of body.

Seemingly, there is still a long way for the rapprochment between empirical science and philosophy to be a fact. Actually, ‘facts’ appear to be in the exclusive and proud domain of the former, while philosophical arguments or analysis are relegated to a peripheral area – at least, and by and large, in N. American culture. In this vein, it is interesting that many intelligent university students, and many among the educated public, have feelings not only of disinterest and resistance towards philosophy (let alone religion and spirituality), but actual rejection and even hostility. The following exchange in Quora is a recent example.


X. There are some ‘facts’ or experiences by individuals in favor of what goes under the name of NDEs (near death experiences) and LAD (life after death), but I will restrict my answer to the teachings of Buddhism and advaita Vedanta – and my own conviction (for what it is worth). And that, without holding a belief in the notion of (naive or popular) reincarnation, that is, reincarnation of the body

Consciousness (aka awareness), being the only or ultimate (exclusive) reality from the metaphysical viewpoint, is not in need of preserving itself at any  time. It simply IS, and is beyond the time dimension, which is an unreality to IT. Which means that there is no death – of anything or any being – , only apparent transformation of phenomena properly so called. ‘I’ (‘you’) am not a phenomenon. ‘I’ am consciousness, pure, indescribable, and immutable. Obviously, by ‘I’ I don’t mean this body-mind.

Y. Experiences reported by individuals are not facts and do not contribute to any form of scientific argument.

Similarly, your beliefs regarding consciousness are not scientific arguments. Attempting to use faith-based philosophical statements in place of scientific arguments is like trying to use colors to describe flavors. Even if it makes sense to you, it’s non-transferable and definitively different.

In other words, your statements may be interesting, but did not address the question that was asked.

X. Agree about ‘facts’ and scientific arguments. You will have noticed that I wrote ‘facts’ between single colons. Secondly, I also said that the view-point from which I wrote my answer derives from Buddhism and advaita Vedanta, therefore it is philosophical. Do you think that all philosophy is irrational, or non-rational? That would include philosophy of mind, phil. of science, of mathematics…Also I did address the viewpoint of science re NDEs, etc., given that there is continuing empirical research in these areas by brain scientists and neuro-physiologists. They work with data and, obviously, with some hypotheses.

Y. It doesn’t matter whether philosophy is rational or non-rational, because the question asked for scientific arguments, not philosophical ones. Scientific arguments are definitively testable, mechanical explanations based upon empirical evidence. None of which are included in your answer.

I think that you fundamentally misunderstand the meaning of some of the words you use. For example, the difference between data and hypotheses.

Also, this punctuation : is a colon. This punctuation ‘ is an apostrophe.

X. Thank you. 1) I know what a colon and a semi-colon are. I wrote, ‘single colons’ meaning ‘single quotation marks’ – my mistake. 2) I know perfectly well what ‘data’ and theory’ mean – as a (retired) general surgeon (FRCS Can), I have read many scientific (not only medical) papers and written in the area of philosophy and medicine. 3) My answer complied with the title of the question, a very debatable issue (see below). 4) I am not interested at all in NDEs or similar topics.

‘Over time, the scientific literature that attempts to explain NDEs as the result of physical changes in a stressed or dying brain has also, commensurately, grown. The causes posited include an oxygen shortage, imperfect anesthesia, and the body’s neurochemical responses to trauma… All of this makes NDEs perhaps the only spiritual experience that we have a chance of investigating in a truly thorough, scientific way. It makes them a vehicle for exploring the ancient human belief that we are more than meat. And it makes them a lens through which to peer at the workings of consciousness—one of the great mysteries of human existence, even for the most resolute materialist…  many other [articles]  are in mainstream medical publications… There is no shortage of scientific theories about what causes near-death experiences…’

Y. The consistent narrative of spiritual experiences during critical hypoxia does not support any scientific argument for the preservation of consciousness after death. Neither do Buddhist, Taoist, or Jungian philosophy. Also, theory and hypothesis are not the same thing.

This will be my last reply.

X. You prove me right in my contention. There is an on-going scientific investigation of the phenomenon even if the conclusions are negative so far. It may never – or will likely never – be proven. Whatever be the case,your attitude appears arrogant. Why?


About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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