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# Never Say Die: Why We Can't Imagine Death [Preview]

Why so many of us think our minds continue on after we die

Image: Robert Stahl / Getty Images

### In Brief

• Almost everyone has a tendency to imagine the mind continuing to exist after the death of the body.
• Even people who believe the mind ceases to exist at death show this type of psychological-continuity reasoning in studies.
• Rather than being a by-product of religion or an emotional security blanket, such beliefs stem from the very nature of our consciousness.

Everybody’s wonderin’ what and where they all came from.

Everybody’s worryin’ ’bout where they’re gonna go when the whole thing’s done.

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1. 1. Schenn 10:43 AM 10/3/08

in an 11 dimensional universe, its foolish and egotistical to think that life and conciousness only occur in 3.

2. 2. msavoy 11:02 AM 10/3/08

Death isn’t “like” anything we’ve ever experienced, however. Because we have never consciously been without consciousness, even our best simulations of true nothingness just aren’t good enough.

Part of the problem is that for those who are dead, being dead represents the total antithesis for/what the term 'experience' means, the total lack of/ incapacity to experience. and therein lies the problem. How do you experience what can not be experienced? You can't.

An approach to understanding this would be to cite the example of those who have lost their ability to see, can still recall the experiences of sight through memory.

I don't know if the same thing could be said for those who have lost their sense of hearing. There is no comparable capacity to recall the experience of hearing as their is for sight. The same incapacity to experience hearing once someone loses their sense of hearing might underscore to a far greater degree the incapacity for experiencing the non-experience of death.

3. 3. OptiMystic 11:25 AM 10/3/08

Interesting; this is actually completely backwards from what I would have expected. It seems to me that there are a lot of people running around professing belief in an afterlife that really don't believe in if you press them into discussion. They just want to believe (which is on point with the article).

4. 4. cuddl3bot 01:01 PM 10/3/08

I agree with the first poster and i would also like to say,
i am not my body. what makes me ME is not just chemical reactions and randomness. I don't believe this, i know it. Then again i don't believe anyone can KNOW anything, so what the crap am i talking about...

: )

5. 5. cuddl3bot 01:03 PM 10/3/08

i didn't notice the note about the original title. that is hilarious.

6. 6. sds 04:30 PM 10/3/08

There's a fallacy at the basis of this argument: you are correlating the existence of a mind with the existence of a brain. Where's your evidence that there's a causal relationship between the two?

7. 7. Laurie Siegel 06:33 PM 10/3/08

Insatiably curious about anything pertaining to life, I avoid the
notion of dying, like the plague. I am forever seeking answers,
not for the purpose of being smart, but a need to understand why things are and what motivates the choices we make.
This is the time of year, for Jews, to reflect and atone for their sins, praying that they will be entered into the "Book of Life."
I cannot comprehend this tradition. . The agony of pain and suffering is child's play compared with unimaginable horror
of everlasting solitude.

8. 8. Har Sukhdeep Singh 07:38 PM 10/3/08

Science deals with physical reality only however subtle that can be. Consciousness knows e but it is yet to know for sure what happens to itself. In this ignorance we like to live even after bodies die. Atheist believe it is the dead end of both but for believers it is the end of our body only. And the fact is we don't want to die and we still hope we live as consciousness after death- may be we never die per se.

9. 9. Har Sukhdeep Singh 07:40 PM 10/3/08

Science deals with physical reality only however subtle that can be. Consciousness knows that body dies for sure but it is yet to know for sure what happens to itself. In this ignorance we like to live even after bodies die. Atheist believe it is the dead end of both but for believers it is the end of our body only. And the fact is we don't want to die and we still hope we live as consciousness after death- may be we never die per se.

10. 10. neon_photons 08:09 PM 10/3/08

I say believe there is or isn't an afterlife; whatever keeps you out of a straightjacket. Having concluded that there is no afterlife can be as much of a security blanket as wanting to think there is one. As my sister's 92 year-old neighbor has said, "I just wanna get the hell outta here"...not everyone wants to live forever. I nearly died from an accident years ago. From the time the headlights were coming at me to when I woke up barfing as they wheeled me through emergency, I do not remember a thing...pure nothingness...that's the best I can imagine what death should feel like given the boundaries of our knowledge on this topic in science at present. My family members later told me that while I was half conscious, I muttered to everyone in the ambulance that my leg hurt, leave me alone and I just wanted to go back to my house. I honestly do not remember that. Though we'll never be able to comprehend while we're alive just what it feels like to be dead, I still think it is ridiculous to categorize every single person who's ever experienced remote viewing or the like as out of their minds. Some (maybe most?) no doubt are, but every single one of them? I don't think that's probable.

11. 11. riborp 02:38 PM 10/4/08

It makes an interesting study. I believe, when we're quite ignorant about life itself; it's hardly of any intrigue to discuss about afterlife. I mean, do we know fully what life or death is?Whatever science can give us is only about the shell of everything, not the core. So, although it's a nice try, I think it'd be a better subject for those who really have died.

12. 12. bobbya10 02:44 AM 10/5/08

The body and brain are essentially the same organism. The body carries out the tasks that originate in the mind/brain complex. Also when part of the body is non responsive the brain acts as though that part of the body is still functioning. But when you die, the physical brain will no longer function. If, indeed there is a eternal soul that soul would consist of energy not mass and would lack the ability to connect with self (consciousness).

13. 13. bobbya10 03:00 AM 10/5/08

When the body dies the brain no longer functions in a conscious manner. Consciousness depends on the living brain. If there is a eternal soul then it most likely consists of energy and not mass. I assume the soul is the energy used to link the brain to consciousness. You lose two, but one escapes death and that is the soul.

14. 14. sfanetti in reply to sds 07:24 AM 10/5/08

We experience what it is like to be dead every time we get drunk and black out and every time we sleep. When we go through deep sleep - our consciousness turns off completely - and we have no memory of anything during that time. When you die, the lights go out. No neurons firing and you have no thoughts or memories.

Ask yourself what life was like the year before you were born. You have no conscious recollection of that time - death will be like that.

Life is beautiful, transient, and fleeting. I think people should enjoy themselves while they are here - but in the end it does not matter. Everybody ceases to exist - just like every movie ends and every party ends.

15. 15. sfanetti in reply to bobbya10 07:29 AM 10/5/08

Why do you think there is some magical "energy" associated with consciousness? Isn't it more likely that what we experience as consciousness is a metastate that is the emergent result of billions of circuits processing data? If you have a stroke that interrupts a cruicial area - like the fusiform cingulus - you would not be able to recognize anyone's face. Your own kids and wife would look like strangers. In every other respect you are perfectly fine and conscious of reality.

The mind is what the brain does. Without a running brain - you can't have mind.

16. 16. sfanetti in reply to sds 07:32 AM 10/5/08

Shoot yourself in the brain and tell me what the relationshipt between brain and mind are.

17. 17. cdmgsdad 03:25 PM 10/5/08

The living are conscious that they will die, but the dead are conscious of nothing at all"--Ecclessiastes 9:5

18. 18. cdmgsdad 03:25 PM 10/5/08

"The living are conscious that they will die, but the dead are conscious of nothing at all"--Ecclessiastes 9:5

19. 19. al 02:19 AM 10/7/08

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote (excuse my poor translation from german):
"If it were the thought of not-being that makes death seems so horrible to us, then we should think with similar reluctance about the time before we existed. Because it is indisputably certain that not-being after death can not be different from not-being before birth, and therefore not any more lamentable. A whole eternity has passed while we were not here yet, and somehow that does not sadden us at all" (from "Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung").
The most eloquent philosopher of all on man's obsession with after-life.LOL.

20. 20. queenofegypt in reply to al 02:18 PM 10/7/08

Absolutely awesome, I was thinking that same thing, why don't we think and wonder about pre-life as much as after life?

I wonder though, isn't the belief in afterlife a critical part of morality? Otherwise, who cares?

21. 21. Dana Laslejia in reply to Laurie Siegel 03:08 PM 10/7/08

l

22. 22. Dana Laslejia in reply to Laurie Siegel 03:12 PM 10/7/08

Actually, "The book of Life" refers to being marked for having a good life, not afterlife. It is a common misconception. The book of life is, as most things in religion, metaphorical more than literal anyway. At least that is what I think.

23. 23. Unknownreasons 12:45 AM 10/8/08

Proof their is non. we assume to much with no foundation for what was said. the only proof here is what can be proven. what has been said is an idea with no proof. one day as we know more we will be able to answer this question. until then we can realize that we know very little about existence. from this reading 1000 new questions have come up that we can not answer. to much assumptions will lead to bad decisions. every thing no matter how you want to believe otherwise is connected. you can say you have no purpose or connection to every thing but you do. go and open your eyes to the world and truly pay attention to it and see the connections happening every second. Behind every thing is a reason. nothing just happens. start paying attention. most of all if you agree or don't agree we don't have the answers. so think what you want but until you can prove your theory it is still a theory.
answer this why do we need living organism? organism can just not exist and that would be fine but we do and their must be a reason.

24. 24. jfc 04:45 PM 10/8/08

For to start, I want to apologize for my grammar (english is not my first language). Well, I guess since everyone of us is influenced by the environment and by that I mean our minds are 'castable' (by culture, way of life, pros and cons during our life) I don't think THESE minds would still be out there when our body passes away. Life is a mistery, we don't know why we exist and for what, and since then we could not know what is waiting for us beyond death.I might be wrong. I might be right about it, but it seems we need to feel what we see is not all that exists. We did not know cells exist until we created a microscope and saw them. So why conclude there's nothing else out there 'invisible' to our eyes anyway? I kind of contradicted myself.

25. 25. jfc 04:48 PM 10/8/08

For to start, I want to apologize for my grammar (english is not my first language). Well, I guess since everyone of us is influenced by the environment and by that I mean our minds are 'castable' (by culture, way of life, pros and cons during our life) I don't think THESE minds would still be out there when our body passes away. Life is a mistery, we don't know why we exist and for what, and since then we could not know what is waiting for us beyond death.I might be wrong. I might be right about it, but it seems we need to feel what we see is not all that exists. We did not know cells exist until we created a microscope and saw them. So why conclude there's nothing else out there 'invisible' to our eyes anyway? I kind of contradicted myself.

26. 26. Durum 01:24 PM 10/9/08

Where did the author's assertion that there is no afterlife come from? I'll tell you what, it didn't come from science, it came from his personal theology, or lack thereof.

Scientists need to stick to science and leave the questions of life after death to the theologians.

27. 27. waterbergs 04:51 AM 10/10/08

It is rather interesting to bring the content of another of the artcles Sciam's is presently displaying to bear on this one. In "The Certainy Bias" Burton agrues that we should always be wary of those who state something with certainty that they can not justify with evidence.

It strikes me that this present article is a rather good example of just such behaviour. Jesse Bering present some interesting studies on the mind and death, but lurches wildly out of the evidential zone to emphatically state that there is no aftelife (with no reason given) and emphatically state that belief in such things is, "fantastically illogical". Metaphysical and beyond the remit of science - yes. Illogical - no.

Bering is simply displaying his/her personal predjudices and parading them as science, in exactly the manner the Burton dislikes so much. Perhaps they should have a chat?

28. 28. wriotgrrl in reply to sds 01:39 PM 10/10/08

The best analytic philosophy minds of our time have been bandying around the impasse of the assumption you have just articulated: is consciousness only a brain state, or something more? Physicalists argue the same point Mr. Bering is with all the tools of logic and science available. At the same time, others such as Kripke, Levine and the like argue that between Pain and our C-fibers firing there exists something that cannot be explained by science: the felt quality that is part of the causal notion of pain itself. Further, it seems likely to many of these thinkers that science never will be able to approach an explanation of this "gap."

Martin Heidegger proposed Mr. Bering's subject in his Introduction to Metaphysics in the early 20th c. His first line, "Why are there beings at all instead of nothing?" He proceeds to question inside the very sense of being and what manufactures "beings" and then tackles our placeholder concept of nothing--a "something" after all that handily represents an idea we can never acquire as an experience. If we can never acquire it, how can it be legitimately referenced?

Finally, I have to wonder at the whole logical (scientific) venture in the first place. Stephen J. Gould so succinctly points out that even our science is constrained within the limits of our history, the knowledge grown out of the choices made by every person before us. The very questions we ask are a direct evolution of every question asked previously back to the beginning of consciousness. These questions are also a direct evolution of all the questions never fathomed, and so never directing future lines of inquiry. That said, while we cannot fathom the real nothingness that is the total end of consciousness, we also cannot comprehend the infinite. Even my writing of the word, "the infinite" or infinity, is our reducing of what we cannot experience into a tidy concept that has referential meaning no matter how erroneous it actually is.

So we are unable to accurately reference concepts we use daily due to lack of experience and lack of ability to experience in a scientifically reliable way. Also given, both our designation of nothingness and of infinence are impossible as true reference points for us at this evolutionary point. Therefore I cannot accept any concrete determination of whether consciousness ends or whether it continues. But it most certainly presents a challenge to popular thinking, and new insights into the ego's justification for itself. And it gives me some enjoyable and terrifying food for thought.

29. 29. jackbutler5555 06:28 PM 10/10/08

Rather than try to understand all this, I asked God what points in the article I should work really hard on to understand.

He said, "Don't worry about all that stuff. I myself had trouble following the discussion. The important thing to remember is that when you die, you go to heaven and you party forever. There's no hell. You can commit sin and still go to heaven. There is rehab, however, for the folks who believe they saw a lot evil where it didn't exist. And don't worry about Hitler. He told me he's sorry as soon as he arrived here. Good enough for me. You should have seen how scared he looked when he walked through the Pearlie Gates."

30. 30. pip 11:01 PM 10/10/08

I agree it is hard to imagine that one day every one of us will cease to exist. it's hard to imagine our family, our friends, our world, our universe carrying on without us. But we have to remind ourselves that the universe is billions of years old, our world is (what is it) 6 billion years old, life has been on earth for billions of years, dinosaurs walked the earth, human civilizations have risen and fallen, and all this happened without our knowing it, before we were born. Now, alive and aware of this we still have no sense of having missed out, or of having been idly waiting in the wings for our turn. That is what death will be like. We were all dead before we were born, and we will be dead again. It will be nothing. And because we will be nothing, we won't know we are nothing. I confess I find that hard to wrap my head around, because it is frightening to know that you will never come this way again. The only comfort is in knowing that you won't know it.

31. 31. TBayguy 11:06 PM 10/10/08

It seems to me that everyone is missing the fact that the soul, and I am not certain that this entity exists, maybe has a conscious portion that remembers all the life experiences of an individual ,even after the death of the brain. However, don't ask me where the soul exist within the body, as it is impossible to explain. Maybe it is the person's intellect that lives on.

32. 32. Horizon 11:57 PM 10/10/08

Mr. Bering, the point of your article is that we can't imagine death because we haven't experienced it? You are one smart scholar.

33. 33. mjbroe02 11:04 AM 10/11/08

Whether or not you believe in God or the soul, you cannot deny life's inexplicable desire to live - to survive. I am not speaking of each individual creature and its own desire to live, but about life as a whole. Why does a bee sting? Even if it doesn't die from the sting, isn't the bee putting itself in harms way? So why? Because it is teaching fear of bees. He is hoping that my children will be more likely to avoid his children. Most of the creatures of the world are willing to sacrifice their own lives for the greater good of their posterity. Why?

34. 34. hkdharmon 02:30 PM 10/11/08

The closest example I can imagine of what non-existence might be like (well, that makes no sense), perhaps that it shouldn't be feared (although it is), is the experience of general anesthesia. After waking from general anesthesia one has no memory of having been asleep. One's eyes close, then open. The time in between does not exist. It is totally unlike having been asleep. When one awakes from normal sleep, one is aware that one has been asleep. When one awakes from general anesthesia, there is no awareness of having been asleep. The moment before the surgery seems to have happened only briefly before awakening. Of course my description is flawed, but this is what I imagine it to be like, but without the open-the-eyes part.

35. 35. connor 09:22 PM 10/11/08

I have to say, this is a very convincing article. But it too is flawed. The simple truth is that death is an impossible thing to comprehend.

While this article talks about how once we die, we're dead and stop existing, because our mind and consciousness are physical as well is not entirely true.

Let me give you an example:

Ray Kurzweil , a leading expert in the field of technology claims that "by 2050 computers could be so powerful that we can actually download our brains into a computer". Some say that this would give a person eternal life inside the computer. After all, that person is dumping his entire brain into the computer. But the computer version of him wouldn't be him. It would be kind of like a 'copy' of him. He would not be experiencing things from the computer's point of view. He would still be himself, until he eventually dies. So what happened? If he transferred his entire brain to the computer, why is he not the computer? It's because there's something more to us than just our physical being. Our consciousness is not purely physical. It cannot be transferred like anything else physical. Therefore, there is something more to life than physical being, and it is impossible for us to know what.

36. 36. bratis99 05:15 AM 10/12/08

Yes I have understood that death has many religious meanings to many different people, until something curious happened to me a few years back while working/traveling through England.

Coming out of a shop on a cold, rainy afternoon I saw my brother Tim walking towards me, I blinked, and thought to myself what's he doing here he's suppose to be in Virginia, I rubbed my eyes and he was gone, but suddenly there he again, smiling and walking towards me.

Later that evening I will learn brother Tim was killed instantly while making his morning coffee in his office.

But what I find most curious is when I saw Tim on that cold afternoon for the second time a small unassuming voice had popped into my head and said, "Talk to Tim"

I'm not an intellectual on death or anything else for that matter nor am I a religious freak, but if death is such a final thing, who said "Talk to Tim"

Richard

37. 37. bratis99 05:17 AM 10/12/08

Yes I have understood that death has many religious meanings to many different people, until something curious happened to me a few years back while working/traveling through England.

Coming out of a shop on a cold, rainy afternoon I saw my brother Tim walking towards me, I blinked, and thought to myself what's he doing here he's suppose to be in Virginia, I rubbed my eyes and he was gone, but suddenly there he again, smiling and walking towards me.

Later that evening I will learn brother Tim was killed instantly while making his morning coffee in his office.

But what I find most curious is when I saw Tim on that cold afternoon for the second time a small unassuming voice had popped into my head and said, "Talk to Tim"

I'm not an intellectual on death or anything else for that matter nor am I a religious freak, but if death is such a final thing, who said "Talk to Tim"

Richard

38. 38. tundramind 10:07 AM 10/12/08

Medicine has shown us that if you injure your brain in certain regions or components some
brain functions maybe affected. If you look at the brain from a component perspective you might experience another what if in our discussion.

39. 39. johnrgarland 01:08 PM 10/12/08

If there is nothing after we die, then there is nothing to worry about.

40. 40. John_Toradze 06:22 PM 10/12/08

Since we haven't a clue what consciousness is, all articles like this one, that profess implicitly to know something that can only be determined if we do know what consciousness is are mental masturbation.

I remember talking to Arthur Young about consciousness. He related to me a conversation he had with Werner Heisenberg, whom he had known. He asked Werner why he didn't extend the uncertainty principle to the photon, and was surprised by Werner's reply. Instead of giving a physics answer, he said, "I did not want to destroy my career in debates on epistomology."

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Making pronouncements now about what is or isn't true about life, death and consciousness is like a caveman discussing the nature of reality.

There is a decent conference on the subject, "Towards a Science of Consciousness" which has explored the subject yearly for quite some time now. These are the leading researchers and philosophers in the field, and they won't even go so far as to claim they are applying science to consciousness yet. I suggest the rest of us, including this author, do the same.

41. 41. Fleeb 01:14 AM 10/13/08

Toradze you complete miss the point. We may not know a hell of a lot about consciousness or how it arises, but one thing is damn certain, it relies on a functioning brain.

42. 42. eloheim 02:43 AM 10/13/08

I wonder if people, when asked, say people still feel/think/want/etc. while they are unconcious or sleeping. I think the author's argument would say, "yes." If not, maybe his hypothesis needs reconsidering. Anyone disagree?

43. 43. Chaosqueued 05:09 PM 10/13/08

the question of death and nothingness always brings to mind a quote from the movie "The Neverending Story"

---
Rockbiter:
Near my home there used to be a beautiful lake, but then it was gone.

Tiny:
Did the lake dry up?

Rockbiter:
No, it just wasn't there anymore. Nothing was there anymore. Not even a dried up lake.

Tiny:
A hole ?

Rockbiter:
No, a hole would be something. Nah, it was nothing.
-----

44. 44. winset in reply to Schenn 07:59 AM 10/14/08

First, a very interesting article! I always thought it so interesting that when asked to imagine nothing, we imagine something! I wonder if someone devoid of all his or her senses could comprehend nothing?

Second, Schenn, you're incorrect in your assumptions (and rather rude in your trite belittlement), our consciousness DOES occur in an 11 dimension universe-- as you exist as part of this universe you exist multidimensionally. This is part of what is so exciting about string theory, yet so misunderstood. Just because we can only comprehend four dimensions unaided does not mean we, or our consciousness, do not occur in them.

45. 45. JDRosanelli 10:48 AM 10/14/08

Dying is like becoming really dumb really fast. you lose all your memories and all cognitive function and your brain turns off. your life and all of reality is compressed to an instance which never was. however, how alive are we now, the reason death is "impossible to imagine" is because we have never experience nonexistence, well have we experienced existence? what are we more than our brain which is no more than billions of cells connected in loop pathways. so how much more "alive" or "conscious" are we when we are alive than dead? if I a brain can have this deep personal experience of consciousness does a rock? does everything have a personal experience of consciousness yet some of us are equipped with better sensory and problem solving tools then others? and if not what part me, my brain, do you remove to make me no more than an fleshy robot? if you lose all of your memories are you still you? if you are blinded are you still you? if you lose all cognitive abilities and your brain shuts off have YOU changed in the slightest? do not fear but acknowledge death, embrace and rejoice over this sensation of reality we, our brains, create, and come to know the answer to the question: what is you?

46. 46. JDRosanelli 10:48 AM 10/14/08

Dying is like becoming really dumb really fast. you lose all your memories and all cognitive function and your brain turns off. your life and all of reality is compressed to an instance which never was. however, how alive are we now, the reason death is "impossible to imagine" is because we have never experience nonexistence, well have we experienced existence? what are we more than our brain which is no more than billions of cells connected in loop pathways. so how much more "alive" or "conscious" are we when we are alive than dead? if I a brain can have this deep personal experience of consciousness does a rock? does everything have a personal experience of consciousness yet some of us are equipped with better sensory and problem solving tools then others? and if not what part me, my brain, do you remove to make me no more than an fleshy robot? if you lose all of your memories are you still you? if you are blinded are you still you? if you lose all cognitive abilities and your brain shuts off have YOU changed in the slightest? do not fear but acknowledge death, embrace and rejoice over this sensation of reality we, our brains, create, and come to know the answer to the question: what is you?

47. 47. philgrimm 05:11 PM 10/14/08

To my mind, the problem with this topic, and Bering's approach to the subject, is that the state of nothingness can be neither proven nor disproven. This entire article sounds too much like a hung-over saturday morning distillation of comments made during just another undergraduate after-hours drunken rehashing of John Locke, Bishop Berkeley and David Hume's greatest hits. Only I think they did it better. And I think they were closer to the truth.

To accept Bering's arguments, you have to accept that the mind=the brain.

48. 48. bergis in reply to Durum 03:23 AM 10/15/08

why is it that religion and the belief in an afterlife should be 'untouchable' by science. I can se no reasons why. Thinking like that makes sense only to religious people.

49. 49. halfhearted 08:35 AM 10/15/08

I understand this , 'prediction', But personal expierence , forces me to disagree, In May of 07 , I had fallen to the ground , and lost my bowels , I was 'gone' for several minutes . At hospitol Er. I suffered 100% blockage , and was clinically dead , for a great deal of time . In Feb , 08' , I saw my body slumpped over in my truck . I was rising above the area , and saw a yard w/ sculptured shrubs . I was at a height where I was looking down at a 6 to 8 block area . The fish scuptures , intriged me as I was soon ' looking' down on the entire area from several miles above . The next thing I was aware of , was being back in my truck , ( 3rd heart attack.) I later searched this area (next to the freeway) , knocked on doors , and was directed 2 houses down , and met a man who had been sculpturing his 25 or 30 shrubs as fish in his back yard . Privately .
My Dr.'s , nor I know what has allowed me to 'come back to life" Here , but I have had 3 incredible personal expierences , Which go unawnsered , by this hypothesis .

50. 50. epocalypse 09:17 AM 10/15/08

I personally maintain a contradictory set of beliefs based on two clauses:

I. All things exist.

This relates to my own view of the matter at hand, which is that, out of my own necessity, I believe, defend and argue that the life of the mind does not end and cannot end. This is not because I have no image of the alternative, in fact, quite the contrary. My rational side (which epitomizes my deepest fears) believes that the only reasonable conclusion is that when a person dies, their consciousness, sense, feeling and perception cede into nothingness, bringing their version of the world with them. I suppose the simplest way to say it is that when we die, the universe ends, largely because all things that give us meaning end. Without perception, awareness, analysis, self and thought, there is no trace of any form of existence. Logically, death is nothingness, the end, the only true end we are ever aware of. It can only be defined as the complete and utter lack of everything, the opposite of life which encompasses all perception and meaning. I cannot handle, at this time, the idea of that end, although I can picture it, and it horrifies me. So, to defend my own sanity, and to live my life, i argue the exact opposite, which is that life and existence are beyond any true ending. Its the only way I can handle my life.

51. 51. jonniecumlately 10:20 AM 10/15/08

So, when I die, I will no longer exsist. There will be no cosequence to have exsisted. And the only way to know I exsisted, is if everyone else remembers me...

Guess I need to make quite a stir to be remembered in eternity by every one left.

But if I kill off every one who is going to be left behind, then none of this has been, as there will be no one to remember there once was. So none of this is really happening!

Good thing there isn't a creator who is keeping watch over all and who we will all need to make an accounting to when it is all over...

52. 52. Dusty 10:36 AM 10/15/08

I think that our when our brain shuts down our mind ceases to exist. Although it would not surprise me to find out otherwise. We like to think of ourselved as enlightened, but the reality is that there is far, far more that we don't know. My tendency is to hope that there is reincarnation or heaven or whaterever; however I do fear the unknown so I am not sure what to wish for! haha

It does give me comfort though to think about the fact that matter cannot be created or destroyed. I like to think that each of our cells contain a speck of energy that has been recycled for eons. It has been many things previously and will continue to become parts of other things in the future.

I like to imagine that perhaps the energy in a cell in my fingertip was once a part of a microscopic creature in primordial ooze. Or perhaps one of my energy bits was once on the wing of a pterodactyl, or on a giant redwood leaf, or on a comet from a planet a zillion miles away.

I want to be cremated because I want all my energies released and recycled as quickly as possible. I like to imagine all the things that my released energy might become. The future extends an awfully long way, even when the sun has exploded or the earth has ceased to exist, all those energy particles that were once mine will continue.

I think of it as the ultimate recycle plan, it works for me!

53. 53. Fasahd 10:37 AM 10/15/08

The fact that there exists the demensions of space and time at all is mindblowing and makes about as much sense as Eschers "Drawing Hands". We are the universe looking back at itself. As David Duetch put it, while we may be a biological scum on the face of the planet, this biological scum has universality. We contain the embodiment of the whole of the universe and whats more contain it with increasingly fine grain detail with the passing of time. Lacking any coherent understanding of the role of consciousness in reality and what exists in a concrete form outside of the perception from which is our only basis of judging it, I have to assume that the universe is alive and learning and that whatever conciousness may be it existed for some purpose and that when it disipates, while we may lose our ego and perception, the lifetime experience go back into the fold to serve the future evolution of the universe. Too heady?

54. 54. 2deep4yu 10:38 AM 10/15/08

It's one of the basic fundamentals of religion: we want our consciousness to live on in the "heaven" of our belief. Not amazingly, when we're told that our non-feeling, non-cognizant soul is all that will move on, we become disinterested in pursuing a religious path; what point is there in an afterlife that we don't/can't consciously experience?

55. 55. 2deep4yu 10:45 AM 10/15/08

It's one of the fundamentals of religion: we want our consciousness to live on in the "heaven" of our belief. Not amazingly - when we're told that our non-feeling, non-cognizant soul is all that will move on, we become disinterested in pursuing a religious path; what point is there in an afterlife that we can't/don't consciously experience?

56. 56. M Krishnamachary 11:13 AM 10/15/08

The closing words may be altered to read " very much living their other lives ". The " Veda " surmises that our ethereal body is everlasting. It is also known as soul. The exact words of the Srimad Bhagavadgita are the " soul " of all living beings are immortal. They take new bodies, discard old bodies as they get enfeebled and die.

57. 57. M Krishnamachary 11:19 AM 10/15/08

The closing words of the above five page article may be altered to read "very much to lead their other lives". in place of "very much to lead their dead lives ".
The "Veda" proclaims that soul lives on, in another plane, might or might not take on another body as it wishes.

58. 58. Damien Walder 11:30 AM 10/15/08

Let's all agree that the brain does not function under optimal conditions at the threshold of death. If you see a light, be glad.
If there's nothing there, than there's nothing to be glad of - or to fear.
Watched my Father leave his body (so to speak) with fewer and fewer features of his mind surfacing - a few mild strokes (on top of varied and widespread cancers) led to the brain and other organs shutting down more or less sequentially. I think the brain went quite early.
It's worth noting that the brain cannot function without: blood to supply oxygen, cellular and enzymatic activity to maintain the neurons, dendrons, synapses etc. The "mind" cannot be biologically linked to the brain, as it would also share in the brain's death. The link, if there is such a thing as mind or soul in any living thing, would need to exist on some other basis. Neither science nor religion have adequately quantified or qualified such a condition.
I suspect the soul functions in society (and in our brains) as a necessary fiction to keep us from being overwhelmed by nihilistic urges.
So far, so good!

59. 59. b0scho02 12:57 PM 10/15/08

1. All of our ability to understand is filtered through our mental mechanisms, as noted by the author. We can never attain a full understanding of our existence because we are trapped within a human brain's limitations of perspective.
2. Therefore, as someone previously noted, atheism is as much an act of faith as deism, as each claims to have knowledge that is unattainable. Only frank agnosticism can be defended as factual without narcissistically inflating the value of your perspective.
3. Believe what you choose.

60. 60. b0scho02 in reply to bergis 01:02 PM 10/15/08

see my post. science cannot see what is beyond human capacity to see.

61. 61. dantanner 01:21 PM 10/15/08

There is no supreme being, no heaven, no hell, and no afterlife.

62. 62. Odradek 01:32 PM 10/15/08

It would be nice if this discussion would become more mainstream. When you imagine the evil perpetrated by so many religions through history, goaded on by lavish promises of reward in the afterlife, the alternative of non-existence might make some realize that their self lives on only in community memory - and that memory is wholly based on the individuals actions during their existence.

63. 63. timj2k2 01:59 PM 10/15/08

If you'd simply take the time to research, there are literally thousands of excellent, substantial examples of "dead" people who have identified themselves through more than name and have spoken very clearly and candidly to someone who is still physically present in this world. Yet, because we somehow believe this to be an impossibility, we quickly dismiss what they have to say. Soon a day will come when we no longer need a medium to hear what these (very much alive) people trying to say and many of us will still refuse to believe that mind and body are not one in the same.

64. 64. timj2k2 02:01 PM 10/15/08

There are literally thousands of excellent, substantial examples of "dead" people who have spoken very clearly and candidly to someone who is still physically present in this world. Yet, because we somehow believe them to be disadvantaged we quickly dismiss what they have to say. That's not very scientific of us. Soon a day will come when we no longer need a medium to hear these people and many of us will still refuse to believe that death has no sting.

65. 65. timj2k2 02:05 PM 10/15/08

*sigh* sorry for the double post.

66. 66. satnightride 02:27 PM 10/15/08

You want to know what its like to be dead? Think of what it was like before you were born and there you go. Nothingness forever.

67. 67. schimberg in reply to queenofegypt 02:30 PM 10/15/08

Morality, like beauty, is in the "eye of the beholder".
Belief or dis-belief in an afterlife can work both ways.
Some fundamentalist religious people have very firm beliefs in the afterlife, and they actually want to help bring about that afterlife in the form of "armageddon" or world-wide religious wars. How "moral" is that?
In my view it is very immoral.
On the other hand, atheists and others who do not believe in an afterlife, in my view, have much more reason to be "moral" since this is the only life they will experience. If you believe that this is the only life experience you'll have, why would you be inclined to act out in ways that could shorten the length of your "life experience"? Wouldn't you be more inclined to try to extend the length of your life and foster more enjoyment from it? If you believe that you'll have an afterlife, or another life after this one, I think it's easier to reason that you'll "have another chance" at living morally.
I think that the belief in an afterlife, especially when associated with an organized religion, has great potential for negative consequences in this real life; much more so than with a dis-belief in the afterlife.
Especially for people with offspring. If you believe that this is your one and only life, and your children have only one life, then you'll be more likely to try to make their life more long and enjoyable.

68. 68. schimberg in reply to queenofegypt 02:32 PM 10/15/08

Morality, like beauty, is in the "eye of the beholder".
Belief or dis-belief in an afterlife can work both ways.
Some fundamentalist religious people have very firm beliefs in the afterlife, and they actually want to help bring about that afterlife in the form of "armageddon" or world-wide religious wars. How "moral" is that?
In my view it is very immoral.
On the other hand, atheists and others who do not believe in an afterlife, in my view, have much more reason to be "moral" since this is the only life they will experience. If you believe that this is the only life experience you'll have, why would you be inclined to act out in ways that could shorten the length of your "life experience"? Wouldn't you be more inclined to try to extend the length of your life and foster more enjoyment from it? If you believe that you'll have an afterlife, or another life after this one, I think it's easier to reason that you'll "have another chance" at living morally.
I think that the belief in an afterlife, especially when associated with an organized religion, has great potential for negative consequences in this real life; much more so than with a dis-belief in the afterlife.
Especially for people with offspring. If you believe that this is your one and only life, and your children have only one life, then you'll be more likely to try to make their life more long and enjoyable.

I think that is a good point that most people miss. We all know that we, including our brains, are made of molecules and then of atoms like all other matter we perceive with our 5 senses. When you get down to the heart of the matter, our skin is also made of molecules and atoms. What then, keeps our personal being separate from the rest of the universe around us? As I understand it (I'm a dentist, not a physicist), molecules and atoms can be broken down at last to energy. Thus, we are beings of energy which are only discrete from the energy around us for a short time and for some unknown reason. When that reason passes and the barrier is gone, our molecules, etc. are again mixed with those around us. My theory is that our minds are energy and that since energy is never created nor destroyed, our personalities existed before birth into the present form and continue to exist after the death of this form. Perhaps young children are more in touch with this 'memory' than adults are. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult to imagine not existing even after death. There is a part of our personality that knows that we have always been and will always be. Now, what got the whole thing started is a matter for another forum. I have my opinions, but that's what they are, after all.

70. 70. hotblack 02:47 PM 10/15/08

Having been pronounced dead once already, I can say, it was exactly like going into dreamless sleep. You experience the sputtering of your bodies life in a slowing flash, and then it's off. Ever have a night of dreamless deep sleep? It's just like that. You're not really conscious while you're doing it, so you might as well be dead. You only know you were in it once you've awakened.

Wanting to believe in fairy tales of human/angels in a human-centric utopia carnival in the sky with a human god, is understandable, but more telling of an individuals ego than anything.

Fear, Greed, Ego. Mans greatest motivations. Poetic that they'll be our beginning and end.

71. 71. Dale C. 03:03 PM 10/15/08

Thank You Angeladtao for your interpretation of the scenario ! I propose however that to leap from the concept of Eternal Energy to Eternal Personalities is a religious leap... How about the following: Each individual is more like a lightbulb that conveys light and when it is no longer works,
it no longer is what it was formerly, a device that conveys light yet is still a lightbulb... this satisfies the extinguishists and the religious peoples. The former see just the expired lightbulb and the latter continue to ask about the seemingly endless sources of light, the rememberance of light in that lightbulb, where does light come from... etc... Is that a helpful way of seeing the matter ?

72. 72. danielpauldavis 03:11 PM 10/15/08

The real mystery is why these folks insist that what even they admit everyone knows intuitively is somehow wrong.

73. 73. Angeladtao 04:02 PM 10/15/08

Perhaps my pronouncement that "everyone knows intuitively" was a bit presumptuous. I was going with the theme of the article and was not expressing my complete tolerance of anyone else's right to subscribe to any theory they want. After all, it really is only theory until it happens to us. I thought that the inability to actually comprehend our own death even though we know it is a fact could be explained that way while children are more in touch with the pre-life existence than adults. I am not religious, only spiritual, and would never try to convince anyone that there is some reason for it all that they should believe. I have my ideas, but I don't think this is the forum for them. I also have another point that supports my theory, but it will be a stretch for those of you who don't know me and my lack of giddiness, for lack of a better word. My sister-in-law, who is an atheist, told me in a shocked and awed voice, that when the remains of her son who was killed in Iraq were flown over their home overseas, he appeared to her in the flesh just as he was when he was alive. He hugged her and told her that everything was okay. He was happy and that she shouldn't worry about him. I know her. She's doesn't make up magical stories. I don't have any explanation for what she told me except perhaps that the energy that is the personality just after death might with great effort pull together enough molecules to form the body for just that fleeting moment to say good by. This isn't scientific. As I said, I don't have any good explanation for why our molecules hold together to form a vessel for our personality energies for the time that they do. One of my best friends is a psychologist and has told me that these after death experiences are not as uncommon as anyone might think. People don't talk about them for fear of being thought crazy. Or these experiences are dismissed as expressions of grief. What ever. My thoughts to people who have been severely injured and have experienced only nothingness is that perhaps that isn't quite the same as being thoroughly, unequivocally dead. I, too, have spent some time in the ICU with a breathing tube down my throat. I have only darkness and no knowledge of passage of time to show for it.

74. 74. Benrow77 in reply to Schenn 04:02 PM 10/15/08

Nerd

75. 75. Benrow77 in reply to Schenn 04:03 PM 10/15/08

Nerd.

76. 76. Angeladtao 04:11 PM 10/15/08

What does that mean? Is is a personal attack on me as a person or some sort of new slang that has meaning regarding my comment that I don't know about yet?

77. 77. xolos 04:32 PM 10/15/08

Of course none of uscan think about death brcause we really have no frikkin clue, Ive though about it and its nothingness. I have thought when we sleep and dont recall a dream, you are in bed laying there and then suddenly you are waking up to the alarm clock screaming. What happened in the 8 hours you were sleeping? You dont remember a dream, it was as if time didnt matter for those 8 hours of sleep it did not exist. Why would death be different, It just Nothing. You dont know, dont care, you are no more.

78. 78. Angeladtao 04:35 PM 10/15/08

That is certainly as valid an argument as any other.

Dale C., You have made an interesting point. I will copy and paste it into my notebook for further thought if I have your permission. I'll not carry the name, of course. My sister-in-law's experience might have been some sort of cosmic after image, like that left on the retina when an intense light is turned off. Thanks for your input.

80. 80. qyj4789 05:59 PM 10/15/08

The question of afterlife is not whether or not our mind will continue to exist, but do we possess an immortal soul. A soul is different from our mind. It does not require our body to exist. Everyone must answer for themselves at some point in their life this question. This is the culmination of our existence as human beings. Most people on here will think I'm crazy, but you really should look into what the Bible has to say about this. It offers proof that is undeniable. Another interesting book on this topic is "Flatland". I truly believe that after death, we will continue to exist in something like another dimension. Why do I believe this? Just look at the world around you---do you really think that all of this was created from a paricle of dust? If so, where did that particle come from? If you understand that, please answer me, b/c I have never heard a better answer than the one given in Genesis 1:1.

81. 81. tolga 06:22 PM 10/15/08

When I was nine years old I was in a traffic accident and was unconscious. When I came to I had a distinct understanding of what death was all about; you're so utterly gone that there's not even an inkling of an understanding of your self and being, it's completely meaningless. If I never came to and in fact was dead It would be as if I had never existed at all (as far as I was concerned) Even that revelation was by the virtue of my brain starting to function again. It just was weird. There was nothing to register whether I existed then or ever.

82. 82. Farlo 06:49 PM 10/15/08

Why do we perceive death to be different than pre-birth, or more precisely, pre-conception? The is a whole lot of time when our brain isn't functioning, when it doesn't exist Why should death be different than pre-conception? We don't spend nearly as much time pondering what happened to us before we were born.

83. 83. NeonPhotons 07:27 PM 10/15/08

If the radio is broken, does the radio station cease to exist?

84. 84. John Blake 09:48 PM 10/15/08

"The grizzly bear is fierce and wild,
It has devoured the infant child.
The infant child is unaware
It has been eaten by the bear."

Anyone who has experienced total anesthesia during a major medical operation will tell you that "oblivion" as distinct from mere lack of consciousness is the proper term.

On 'tother hand, ubiquitous security/surveillance cameras have registered many inexplicable "ghost images" undetected by persons in the vicinity. There is also a nigh-universal human cultural tradition that asserts "spirits of the dead" appear when individuals perish without realizing it (for example, in sudden accidents or episodes of mass destruction).

Whether an experiment could be designed to resolve --confirm or falsify-- such issues remains an open question. To date, the 125-year old British Society for Psychical Research has found nothing to propose.

Angeladtao, Dale C. here giving you permission to paste any correspondence and use my name real name Dale C. ... My interest in this subject is one only of a philosopher trying to get a grasp on the INEFFABLE...

Your Endless Energy proposal is probably the best way to satisfy both the Extinguishists, Spirtualist and Religious all at once... I propose the lightbulb as a concrete example that we all understand and Light as that form of energy that is visable to all of us who can see... it also has an interesting entymology as Alethia and alot of metaphysical and ontological discussions revolve around this matter...

The contributions of several on this discussion group advising that the state of being during anesthesia as a sort of non-being is also helpful... it is a temporary 'Lights Out' !

86. 86. Kellen 11:41 PM 10/15/08

How encouraging to see this topic discussed. We have such fear about it that the denial is high and talking about it with friends is difficult. It's also interesting that in our culture we still distinguish between "mind" and "brain" as if there are separate entities. For those who think "mind" goes on, how will it "know" it has gone on with brain? How will it see where it is without eyes or hear without ears?

87. 87. Endroren 03:20 PM 10/16/08

Under other circumstances, an experience realized by a vast majority of the population would be treated as evidence to support that experience. In the case of life after death, where the majority of people in the world feel that in some way our conscious lives on after we die, this group experience is written off as a vast delusion. Many scientists and intellectuals insist that only they, our mental superiors, can help us see through this mass hallucination we are experiencing.

These hard and fast determinations are made with less information or evidence than we have available about the surface conditions on Mercury, the presence of other worlds around stars, or the existence of muons. And yet somehow, it is acceptable to make blanket statements about the continuation of consciousness beyond death as if they were hard proven science.

It strikes me that Jesse Bering and others of the same mindset, tend to approach this matter with the conclusion already in mind. This attitude is the same one criticized in creationists. Unfortunately, we live in a world where even if one wished to pursue legitimate scientific study of this matter, in an attempt to discover the truth rather than collecting support for a preconceived idea, those researchers would be dismissed as crazy.

I don't know what the truth is. I am open to the idea that consciousness ends at death, but I also think that ruling out the existence of consciousness (in some form) beyond death is premature considering the lack of legitimate scientific study into the matter. The sort of close minded thinking exemplified in this article, however, will never bring us closer to a true understanding of the matter.

88. 88. iceberg 07:46 PM 10/16/08

The best way to approximate what death is like is to think about your mindset BEFORE YOU WERE BORN - that was nothingness. I think this whole article over-intellectualizes the subject

89. 89. Pneulemen 09:14 PM 10/16/08

sds: Where is the proof that there isn't a causal relationship behind the mind and the brain? The mind as conscious beings as humans has hitherto existed has so far needed a corporeal brain to breach the metaphysical realm that is the mind. No, I disagree that there is a fallacy in his discourse, since your statement is in fact the fallacious one, to infer that there is no causal relationship between the mind and the brain. Shall I scoop your brain out and see if your mind can still persist in its fallacious cognizance of such an ignorant statement.

90. 90. Pneulemen 09:16 PM 10/16/08

sds: Where is the proof that there isn't a causal relationship behind the mind and the brain? The mind as conscious beings as humans has hitherto existed has so far needed a corporeal brain to breach the metaphysical realm that is the mind. No, I disagree that there is a fallacy in his discourse, since your statement is in fact the fallacious one, to infer that there is no causal relationship between the mind and the brain. Shall I scoop your brain out and see if your mind can still persist in its fallacious cognizance of such an ignorant statement.

91. 91. Pneulemen 09:17 PM 10/16/08

sds: Where is the proof that there isn't a causal relationship behind the mind and the brain? The mind as conscious beings as humans has hitherto existed has so far needed a corporeal brain to breach the metaphysical realm that is the mind. No, I disagree that there is a fallacy in his discourse, since your statement is in fact the fallacious one, to infer that there is no causal relationship between the mind and the brain. Shall I scoop your brain out and see if your mind can still persist in its fallacious cognizance of such an ignorant statement.

92. 92. Pneulemen 09:18 PM 10/16/08

sds: Where is the proof that there isn't a causal relationship behind the mind and the brain? The mind as conscious beings as humans has hitherto existed has so far needed a corporeal brain to breach the metaphysical realm that is the mind. No, I disagree that there is a fallacy in his discourse, since your statement is in fact the fallacious one, to infer that there is no causal relationship between the mind and the brain. Shall I scoop your brain out and see if your mind can still persist in its fallacious cognizance of such an ignorant statement.

93. 93. Pneulemen 09:21 PM 10/16/08

sds: Where is the proof that there isn't a causal relationship behind the mind and the brain? The mind as conscious beings as humans has hitherto existed has so far needed a corporeal brain to breach the metaphysical realm that is the mind. No, I disagree that there is a fallacy in his discourse, since your statement is in fact the fallacious one, to infer that there is no causal relationship between the mind and the brain. Shall I scoop your brain out and see if your mind can still persist in its fallacious cognizance of such an ignorant statement.

94. 94. Pneulemen 09:24 PM 10/16/08

My apologies all, I have recently stumbled upon this, and didn't realize that I had accidentally posted the my statement, my browser failed to refresh accordingly. Any webmasters online? Please remove my redundant posts. Thank you. CP

95. 95. Wiley Wiggins 02:33 AM 10/17/08

I tend to think about the period of time after I am dead and my 'experience' of it in the same terms that I think about all the time before I was born and my 'experience' of that- basically that there is no experience. My life as I know it is bookended by my birth and my death. No logical gymnastics necessary to understand that.

Really, the only reason we have anxiety about all that time before and after we have working brains, is because we are railroaded along our lives with a linear experience of time. If we could escape that perspective somehow and see time (or our chunk of it) as a whole, we might be less anxious about being finite.

Somebody get to work on that, please.

96. 96. Zagreus 03:17 AM 10/17/08

Observation of the universe changes it. Why?

97. 97. Zagreus 03:19 AM 10/17/08

Observation of the universe changes it. Why?

98. 98. Zagreus 04:21 AM 10/17/08

Rhetorically, science and metaphysics are incompatible. No dusty tome written over two thousand years ago is going to disprove evolution. It was proven correct by science, only scientific method can disprove it. Likewise, it is at best pseudoscience to perform research on things like the existence of gods or an afterlife. Why is an article like this even in a respected magazine like Scientific American?

99. 99. Zagreus 04:39 AM 10/17/08

It was however, very interesting. Unscientific, but a compelling argument. It kinda goes back to that question: If a child was born without sensory organs of any kind, what kind of consciousness could you possibly say he has?

100. 100. MarcusM 09:01 AM 10/17/08

The assumption this article fails to address is the conflation of the mind and the self. This has heavy roots in science and Modernism, but should not be ignored merely because it is widely accepted.

Most people imagine themselves existing after death, because many things they consider to be "part of themselves," their goals, their legacy, their children and other family members, continue to exist after death.

People imagine themselves existing after death because, as a matter of fact, they do. This does not mean they always imagine having a mind after death.

101. 101. MarcusM 09:01 AM 10/17/08

The assumption this article fails to address is the conflation of the mind and the self. This has heavy roots in science and Modernism, but should not be ignored merely because it is widely accepted.

Most people imagine themselves existing after death, because many things they consider to be "part of themselves," their goals, their legacy, their children and other family members, continue to exist after death.

People imagine themselves existing after death because, as a matter of fact, they do. This does not mean they always imagine having a mind after death.

102. 102. MarcusM 09:01 AM 10/17/08

103. 103. mAineAc 09:23 AM 10/17/08

If the universe is infinite, then this means that at some point all of the atoms and molecular make-up will at some point re-assemble in the exact same way it is right now. Does this mean that when this happens our same consciousness that exists at this time will exist at that time? Will we know what we know now? If the molecules that make up my body are assembled exactly as they are now, which means that everything has evolved about the same way they are now, will the world be as messed up as it is now?

104. 104. isthisstupid 09:38 AM 10/17/08

First: people don't fret about 'pre-birth' nearly so much as they do about death because pre-birth events aren't a mystery. Humans are insatiably and instinctively curious and self-centered, these are both evolutionarily adaptive for survival. We are driven by an urge to know, but to specifically know in ways that relate to ourselves. We can in some ways know what happened before we were born, and therefore it doesn't 'feel' like the same kind of nothingness as when we die. Not only do we not know what happens to us after death, we don't know what happens to our friends, family, etc. Pre-birth is essentially inconsequential with regards to the human existence because history creates a backwards timeline for us to digest and apply to our own lives.

Second: science (and by extension humanity) and its understanding of just about has proven time and again to be fallible. Think of the technology we have today that 100 years ago would be classified as supernatural, impossible, or imagined. It is the ultimate exercise in hubris to stand up and say that you as one human among billions at this one instant among eons know the answers to these metaphysical questions. Just because science currently indicates the mind and brain are one doesn't make it so, just scientific evidence that the sun orbited the earth didn't make it so. Advances in science make it possible to refute or support previous ideas, but we at this instant have no way of knowing which way it will go.

What's wrong with just saying "I don't know, so all I can do is live the best I can"?

105. 105. insightful earthling 11:57 AM 10/17/08

I think this is all a load of flaming bullshit. Your brain is one of the most powerful things and we only use 10% of it. Imagine if we could tap into more parts and utilize it? Now I don't consider myself extremely religious or anything, but undoubtedly believe that we still go on--and the cycle turns over and continues. There are way too many strange phenomenons that go on in the world, both in the past and the present. We cannot ignore those and label them as "bogus" or "instilled beliefs from our ancestors." People are afraid of embracing the unknown or the unnatural so they try to pen death as "a black hole." Turn on the freaking light and look all around you--we are such complex human beings and our imprint is everlasting.

106. 106. sds in reply to sfanetti 01:36 PM 10/17/08

You missed a key word in my comment, and that word is "causal."

107. 107. jessicrap in reply to cuddl3bot 02:36 PM 10/17/08

Haha, that's what I believe too and It can cause problems sometimes... we are, after all, pretty darn small and inexperienced as a species, relative to how old the universe is.

In order to study consciousness we'd first have to figure out what the heck it is in the first place. I personally believe humans can't really study their consciousness. Imagine a dog trying to study his own consciousness. We'd probably laugh and think it was pretty futile, since all he knows is what he knows and all he has is his little dog perspective. Humans are no different. All we know is what we know, and all we know is what we experience in our consciousness, all we know is what we experience through our very limited perspectives.

108. 108. jessicrap 02:45 PM 10/17/08

I think in order to even begin studying consciousness you'd have to first know what the heck it is. I don't think humans can really study their own consciousness since that's all we have. All we have is what we experience through our very limited perspectives; we could never "see outside the box." Consciousness and perspectives go hand-in-hand I think. Imagine a dog trying to study his own consciousness. We'd probably laugh and think that it was pretty futile, since all he has is his little doggy perspective. Humans are no different. We don't know *^&*!

109. 109. jessicrap 02:48 PM 10/17/08

Dang, I thought my first comment didn't get posted so I posted another incoherent one. Sorry, guys. Just ignore that last one.

110. 110. jessicrap in reply to insightful earthling 02:51 PM 10/17/08

Actually, we use all 100 percent of it. That whole 10 percent thing was misinterpreted. We're only using 10 percent of it at a given time. Remember, we're not using storage space all the time, and that's what a lot of our brain is used for.

111. 111. isthisstupid 02:55 PM 10/17/08

First: people don't fret about 'pre-birth' nearly so much as they do about death because pre-birth events aren't a mystery. Humans are insatiably and instinctively curious and self-centered, these are both evolutionarily adaptive for survival. We are driven by an urge to know, but to specifically know in ways that relate to ourselves. We can in some ways know what happened before we were born, and therefore it doesn't 'feel' like the same kind of nothingness as when we die. Not only do we not know what happens to us after death, we don't know what happens to our friends, family, etc. Pre-birth is essentially inconsequential with regards to the human existence because history creates a backwards timeline for us to digest and apply to our own lives.

Second: science (and by extension humanity) and its understanding of just about has proven time and again to be fallible. Think of the technology we have today that 100 years ago would be classified as supernatural, impossible, or imagined. It is the ultimate exercise in hubris to stand up and say that you as one human among billions at this one instant among eons know the answers to these metaphysical questions. Just because science currently indicates the mind and brain are one doesn't make it so, just scientific evidence that the sun orbited the earth didn't make it so. Advances in science make it possible to refute or support previous ideas, but we at this instant have no way of knowing which way it will go.

What's wrong with just saying "I don't know, so all I can do is live the best I can"?

112. 112. Pneulemen in reply to sds 03:19 PM 10/17/08

No, I didn't miss that keyword or active word at all, my response stands, and I re-iterate, where is your proof that there is no "causal" relationship between the mind and the brain. Note, that to infer that the mind exist independent of the brain is to imply that a mind doesn't need a corporeal mechanism to come into being, whereas those who have not the faculty of the brain necessarily haven't the mind to think otherwise. So you still maintain that there is no causal relationship between the brain and the mind? One can have a brain and have no mind and mind, but one can have a mind but cannot in all probability have no brain. What does this imply? Well, here is the implication; that the mind is dependent on the corporeal mechanism that is the brain to come into being. The statement; the brain causes the mind and or the mind is caused by the brain is far from fallacious. Perhaps it doesn't address the type of mind, but it will nonetheless be a mind, to which is dependent on the brain to become.
So, no, I didn't miss your active word that is "causal", perhaps you could enlighten us as to what you mean by your relative meaning of "causal" if you have one.

113. 113. grimcity in reply to Schenn 03:57 PM 10/17/08

Schenn, if there were a billion dimensions, it wouldn't change the fact that we're stuck in the 3rd one.

114. 114. sylvanvideo 07:35 PM 10/17/08

The mistake the author is making (common in Western thought) is the assumption that consciousness is a creation of the brain What is true is that matter (bodies, brains, etc.) is created by consciousness. Consciousness is neither born nor does it die. It has always been, and will always be, as it is not within the time/space continuum. This truth cannot be grasped by the brain, but directly experienced by the awareness that underlies the physical world. If you don't believe that, and want proof, go jump in a lake!

115. 115. l3roken 07:47 PM 10/17/08

Thing is I can imagine how it is to be dead since I have first hand experience about it. Its not "the state of death myself that I can remember" cause as you have noted, it is not logical. Its the state of awakening and not remembering anything of me in "the death" period. I have been disconnected.

116. 116. geritusa in reply to msavoy 08:02 PM 10/17/08

For the living know they will die; but the dead do not know anything, nor have they any longer a reward, for their memory is forgotten. (Ecclesiastes 9:5)

117. 117. seculardemocrat 04:27 AM 10/18/08

I have often complained to my theist friends and relations that it is quite unfair that I will only know if I am wrong and they will only know if they are right... but I'm still an atheist!

118. 118. vsdnath 12:16 PM 10/18/08

All these discussions about brain,mind,consciousness,afterlife,etc comes to nothing if we cannot comprehend the DESTINY of Mankind,in the first place.Every man,in his life-time,must have experienced the happenings of certain things,as per his evolutionary status,which are beyond his reasoning.Similarly,the most intelligent people,including Scientists,must have noticed certain happenings that are beyond the realms of REASONING.The existence of consciousness after the death of the physical body is one such happening.The Force behind such happenings could be understood ONLY when the Mankind reaches that DESTINY i.e identifying ourselves with the all-pervasive SUPER-CONSCIOUSNESS.

119. 119. ZachRYals 12:32 PM 10/18/08

If the human body is made of matter, its only reasonable to believe it can never be destroyed, only reorganized. Is cognition the result of perception? I see, I think, therefore I am. Is my body not made up of everything on this planet, and at some point wont I be everything?
What if we do live on after death? What about our memories, our books, or architecture, everything about our existence. We will always exist. Just in different forms. When I die my body wont evaporate into space, float into the sun and become nothing. I will rot, sink into some aquifer, float into some cloud, be drunk my some hillbilly, or mountain goat. My conciousness doesnt even matter, becuase its just a by product of my perception, and If I ca not perceive I cant think. Actually what Im saying cant be verbalized to well, but its pretty cut and dry, we will always be here, just not in the form of john or jane doe. It pretty much makes all the metaphors that religion put forth make sense.

I'm sorry of the general discordance of this, I just haven't tried to really assemble these thoughts, so its just rambling/

120. 120. Pneulemen in reply to sylvanvideo 03:16 PM 10/18/08

You mean your lake of ignorance? Everything that you have so far said is pure irrational speculation which have no foundation whatsoever. All notions that we as humans as thinking beings as conscious beings are concerned about only matter in the conscious state, without the brain and its extended faculties of which are its sensory inputs that comprise our limited experience in conscious existence there can be no thought, no understanding the differences of one thing over another, no "consciousness". And to state that Consciousness is independent of cerebral matter and has hitherto existed is absurd when there is no foundation to state that a "Consciousness" have hitherto existed. Where are you deriving the variables that allow you to come to that conclusion, you are void of all logic, you are simply stating your own individual idealistic notions of how conscious existence should be. No, I think you can swim all you like in your lake of ignorance. Proof is the foundation of science dontcha know?

121. 121. howler24 06:56 PM 10/18/08

I would like to point out a couple of things.

No one...NO ONE....knows what happens when we die. Studying molecules, bio-electric and chemical reactions, and making theories doesn't mean jack squat. Every single human being feels some kind of pull towards the afterlife. Those who say otherwise are lying, and we all know it.

Science can explain the HOW of things, but can (will) never explain the WHY of things. We wonder the reason behind stuff, but science offers no explanation. Billions spent on the Large Hadron(sp) Collider, and yet it will never give us reall meaning behind the formation and nature of the universe. If you think it doesn't matter or that it's irrelevant, why do you not kill yourself? Not being mean, but consider you consume resources that the rest of us could use. Logically, since it doesn't matter, you shouldn't mind offing yourself. You won't of course. And there is a reason why....

Science can't really explain life. What is it? Can you define it? What is consciousness? We all have it, but it can't really be measured or dupilcated in a lab.

Those steeped in science have to realize there are things that just can't be explained away. All explanations of what happens after we die, whether it be organized religion or this articles of this type, are simply means of dealing with the insecurity of not knowing.

122. 122. Pedigree 05:24 AM 10/19/08

MBT , My Big Toe by Thomas Campbell will blow this narrow minded article to shreds. Most of you will blow MBT away the same way before you even read it also .'Experience' something which is highly probable if you get rid of beliefs and you may become wise. Don't worry if you don't it is how it's suppose to be anyhow.

123. 123. Pedigree in reply to Schenn 06:29 AM 10/19/08

So true. It is the easy-writing-road to say we die and that's it. When you really take the time and do specialized research in what happens when you physically die (not bone headed dogmatic science) to say we don't survive becomes a ludicrous ill informed statement. I 'stumbledupon' this article and realize it is for a closed mind science types so I knew after the heading the outcome.
If you believe you die and that's it end of you forever then no one can change your mind except yourself. The author is a believer and will always be in this life....

124. 124. Wwanderer 11:39 AM 10/19/08

Haven't read this thoroughly yet, but it's very thought-provoking.

But as for not being able to imagine being dead, I would say that the experience of anaesthesia is a good start. It's just a blank nothing in which you don't exist, or might as well not until you wake up.

125. 125. Billl I. 12:49 PM 10/19/08

If death is not the end of self then it may be quite likely that a presently existing region of self has already experienced life and death.

If so, one need only access this region of self to verify this, even though such verification would, by its nature, be quite subjective.

This region of self would exist in what is presently called the subconscious and/or unconscious.

Techniques exist for accessing such, although they, too, are subjective in nature. (Science would have an imaginary and impartial observer look from the outside-in; clearly this approach is ineffective for answering such questions.)

Regards

Bill I.
http://www.realitytest.com/doors.htm

126. 126. Pastrami Hernandez 12:56 PM 10/19/08

There is a recognized phenomenon that makes this question more open ended than it might seem. That is what is commonly referred to as "the hard problem of consciousness." Many people simply ignore the problem, but the fact is it is there, and logically solid, and it gives solid evidence that a mechanistic/materialistic view of human consciousness can't help but always come up a little bit short. What the implications are for this particular question is unclear, but it is reasonable to think people have recognized this problem intuitively even if it hadn't been thought through in ages past. So really we still have no good ways of exploring this question with any reliability, but to say that extinctionism is the only reasonable position one can take and that other beliefs are sadly irrational is simply false.

127. 127. ralph137 04:31 PM 10/19/08

There seems to be evidence that the Universe existed before I became aware of it. I assume it will still exist after I am no longer aware. While aware of it I try and enjoy a good lunch every day.

128. 128. nemonemini 06:36 PM 10/19/08

Human soul beliefs aren't as superstitious as scientists appear to think, cf

129. 129. l3roken 08:01 PM 10/19/08

Why would I not been dead dead afterall? Which part of me would go to afterlife? Me as 3 yrs old kid, 15 yrs old adolescent, 35 yrs old father, 60 yrs old grandpa, 85 yrs old FUBAR with no spare nerves left? All those characters I was in my life died or will die eventually. Next year, if I would have some bad luck to be awarded with some brain stroke, I may be an entirely different person, as some people I have witnessed. I am my brains and if something alters my nerves then I would change. I clearly doubt my consciousness would survive brain death. As I am getting older, louder becomes a thunder of millions souls that each generation is echoing as they are closer to termination. 1950ties gone, '60ties gone, '70ties.. It s just a fraction of time but it still hurts me.. everything will be so forgotten.. Only thing left is to hope that this world is entirely artificial creation of a superior intelligence (like in the matrix movie). Some stuff I have witnessed lately are truly weird in its coincidence or is just paranoid product of my brain. What would I do with my insane afterlife?

130. 130. whovian222 in reply to Horizon 10:26 PM 10/19/08

"Mr. Bering, the point of your article is that we can't imagine death because we haven't experienced it? You are one smart scholar."

No the point of the article is that you can't imagine death because there's nothing TOO experience. You're one dumb non-scholar!

131. 131. AUi 10:41 PM 10/19/08

Science is just as closed minded now as when the establishment believed the Earth was flat and all the planets revolved around us. All scientific methods of observation up to those times indicated it was so. On the other hand there has been much scientific research into paranormal or metaphysical subjects: ESP, precognition, remote viewing, past life regression (hypnosis) etc. The military had groups trying remote viewing for tactical intelligence. Libraries are full of these kinds of books, open your eyes. Accounts tell of children remembering past lives and accurately describing far away towns and people they never met. Then there are the religious stories claiming people have been raised from the dead--hard to prove--but done medically to drowning victims or in open heart surgery. Many ancient religions have a theme about being reborn or to "die before you die."

I had a vision once that was like a waking dream, brought on in a deep meditative state. I had been a soldier that was hit by a bomb. I could feel people carrying my limp body, and hear the sounds of vehicles outside. I got the impression of a nurse talking to me. I remember that I said to myself, I was "gone" that there was no going back to my past life, and felt tremendous sorrow, but that I had to "leave." That led to a sensation of pushing, almost like being squeezed out of the body--which led to a similar sensation of being born, again with a similar feeling of people handling me, bright lights, and the previous grief coming through as a baby crying. The overall feeling of "pushing" not unlike other similar body functions,whether sex, childbirth or even elimination. Many experiments seem to indicate the consciousness is not tied to the physical body, but this leaves the door open on questions of the afterlife, possession, psychic abilities, etc. Why can psychics help police with unsolved murders? Are they reading an "Akashic record" or are there spirits guiding them? At some level the verbal intellect of a person can't go along for the ride into these unexplored areas, which imply the subconscious or "soul" mind's eye. As they say, the caterpillar has to "die" so the butterfly can be born.

132. 132. Matty Smith in reply to b0scho02 01:23 AM 10/20/08

"3. Believe what you choose."

It strikes me that that is a pretty silly response to the problem here. A much more sensible response - one that doesn't force into the territory of pixiedust and meta-dragons - is to believe, tentatively, whatever is best evidenced: Fallibilism.

In which case, science and naturalism provide us with the best answers, unless they are disproven.

133. 133. Matty Smith 01:29 AM 10/20/08

"3. Believe what you choose."

It strikes me that that is a pretty silly response to the problem here. A much more sensible response - one that doesn't force into the territory of pixiedust and meta-dragons - is to believe, tentatively, whatever is best evidenced: Fallibilism.

In which case, science and naturalism provide us with the best answers, unless they are disproven.

134. 134. sarahpalinbigliar 12:11 PM 10/20/08

Sarah Palin is not alive, by your definition, since she hasn't been able to generate an original thought in many years, if ever. She is rather programmable, such as some worms are, so that's always a mark in her favor.

135. 135. sarahpalinbigliar 12:12 PM 10/20/08

When a puma bit my butt, I was in the afterlife for about 37 seconds. So there! And I remember looking down and thinking, wow, my butt won't be as hot as my boobs.

136. 136. Leonardo49 03:09 PM 10/20/08

I enjoyed Bering's article but I did feel that there is a way to get some handle on what it is to not be, not exist and that is to think back to before I was born. There was a time when I did not exist. If I think back to the eighteenth century, I did not exist; if I think ahead to the twenty-second century (barring some amazing scientific discover) I will not exist. It seems to me that I have perfectly good way to imagine not existing and that is to think of the time before I became conscious, or better yet, think back to a time before I existed.
One more comment: I became convinced that we almost certainly cannot and do not survive our death when I heard the following statement by George Santayana from his The Life of Reason: "The fact of having been born is a bad augury for immortality." George Santayana, The Life of Reason (1905)

Leonard Schulte

137. 137. jiohdi 01:05 PM 10/21/08

I have never known a moment when i did not exist and I never shall...

if you come from nothing and return to nothing, what prevents this mysterious nothing from spitting you up again in another body?

138. 138. braj 07:48 AM 10/22/08

How would you explain the case of past life-recalling?.. there are many classic cases, for example, a child recalls that he was a business man in his past life and now people trace his bank locker-key as per the child's information.

139. 139. braj 07:49 AM 10/22/08

How would you explain the case of past life-recalling?.. there are many classic cases, for example, a child recalls that he was a business man in his past life and now people trace his bank locker-key as per the child's information.

"I'm not a believer of past life or dogmatic rebirth", but still I would like to know the scientific idea behind this fact.

140. 140. KJeroH 10:52 AM 10/22/08

We don't know and anything beyond that is sheer speculation. You can't prove there is or isn't an afterlife of some sort. Just because we haven't been able to perceive one doesn't mean it is illogical to believe in one. But as another poster said, we need to believe whatever it takes to keep us out of a straitjacket. That is the only logic that matters. For myself, I can't help but believe that there is a viable beginning from where everything sprang and from which everything returns. But the concept that consciousness is a brief spark in an eternal darkness is too much for me to accept.

141. 141. kesptical1 11:04 AM 10/22/08

to me, it is fallacious to believe that death is more of a "black abyss" than a white garden, or return to a collective unconscious, or anything else. Nobody living understands. Why support the black abyss? especially considering that for some reason we, still only matter, can choose to act and dream.

When I think of whatever energy drives my cells to function, I am stupified that I cannot talk to my refrigerator...and in this realm of thought, Anything is possible.

142. 142. jasciu 11:08 AM 10/22/08

1) We are animals first, humans with imaginations second. We live in a dangerous world, in an unsure world where death is just around the cornor. Try to remember your own anxiety as an infant or notice the fearful stages of growth in your children, especially when they realize how dependent they are on the adults. Humanity was also in this state of anxiety in our early history. Tigers were big and all we had were spears. Part of us feels this all time. We feel vulnerable in our animal natures and limited. We strive for growth, mastery and propagation just like every living thing that has ever existed. We crave and greed for anything that represents more abundant and secure biological life - even when it is actually taken care of in our advanced civilization. Anything that limits our power to influence and control the world around us and uphold this security is theatening but it is most apparent in simple hunter gatherer groups.

2) However, we are social animals - like some herd or pack animals but not at all like big cats, sharks, or hawks. We need each other and the group to compete against other animals and nature. But we also compete with our fellow humans for mastery and status. Knowing our place allows us take on specific jobs in the group and to feel purpose and meaning. We test and gauge our status wihin the group. We constantly compare ourselves (and judge others) by cultural standards of mastery. Early in history and our physical skills were the important measure but that soon turned to social skills. The function of our direct perceptual senses is to guage our level of security, protection and worth within the group. Getting our fellow humans approval and esteem enhances this protection because somebody is literally watching your back. In a sufficiently advanced civlization, when the food supply, healthcare, shelter and education are taken care of the impulse to grow - to have more abundant life - does not go away. That is because the emotional part of us knows we are still limited and vulnerable without our cultural and group protections. So we unconsciously compare worth, significance and power in our society - to find our place in it and to gather as many protectve affliations around us as possible.

3) As our brains evolved and abstraction and symbolic abilities developed we imagined we could be gods! Eventually, our egos created complex systems of symbols representing physical skills. Language itself is simply a finite symbolic representation of reality. Our situation was so perilous in the wild we tended to make false correlations in nature, thus creating symbolic "magic" to allow us to feel more in control. We created institualized ritual to control the environment and its ceremonies to control each other. Magic turned into religion. Religion turned into divine states. Divine states turned into secular society and political philosophies. Thus, magical ritual, religion and its descendent institutions allowed for defined heirarchy, castes, classes and organizational efficiencies.

4) Our egos do not like to hear we have weaknesses, may not be able to contribute to the group, are simply competing status seeking animals, we are the cause our own suffering or that we are vulnerable, limited and will one day die. We deny our animal natures and limitations becuase we are imaginative (unlike non human species). So we seek ways of removing our guilt and feelings of vulnerability by latching on to anything or anybody who can make us feel secure, safe and confident that all will be well, and in their care that we will prosper, grow, be significant and live a much fuller life. This is the "heroic impulse". It is pervasive within all cultures except the most simple and egalitarian. We value and acknowledge those symbols (not reality) that which will make us feel safe or make us feel like winners. Of course, this had loads of survival value in the forest because some did have real heroic skills - as hunter gatherers - but the impulse to affiliate with the "heroic" has been distorted to an absurd point. Acquisition of possesions, titles, status, large families, and attachment to symbols far and long divorced from actual survival needs is what drives our culture and politics. The impuluse for more, more, more drives our economic systems. In fact, it is OUR need for MORE SECURE LIFE and our unconsciousness of why we desire MORE SECURE LIFE that creates the economic system - a system that depends on 4% growth per year despite that fact that we live in a finite world with finite resources. Unbridled and un-reflective thinking in service of the fear of death is what makes the human animal insane in comparison to other species. The fundamental confusion is taking mere words or concepts to be reality.

6) Biologically, abstracting egos arise from the left hemisphere of the brain. The symbolic processors of the left brain take fear arising from the amygdala and rationalizes an insulating symbolic defense - many of which are words or concepts that promise protection. The left hemisphere also tends to mask perceptual realities of the right hemisphere since this holistic part does not harbor linguistic processors. The right hemisphere cannot argue for itself even though it harbors many intelligences! This effectively removes feelings of vulnerability and fear from our thinking selves but it also veils broader realities and perceptions that could have survival value. This is a necessary condition for mental health and negotiation in a highly symbolic environments which most people live in. Cultures are systems of symbols that reinforce a consensual strategy against this fear of death or awareness of limitation and vulnerability. We create competing symbolic environments and are constantly defending our symbols that denote our status and power. We especially defend ourselves from "symbolic death" that threantens insignificance or loss of approval among our fellows. Cultural values change as the demands of survival from the environment change. We create complex symbolic absolutist views and cultural sanctioned rituals, rules and behaviors that institutionalize the strategy against death because total faith brings the most confidence. That is why suicide bombers say they love death as much as we love life - they are assured a place in paradise. These emotional displacements provide order and sense of meaning to our world and provide confidence. The value of the concept of immortality, gods and single great hero, God, has provided the greatest sense of relief for many cultures.

7) Furthermore, we create conflict and suffering through mutual exclusive competing symbols within and between our arbitrary rule-bound cultures. Thus, individuals will constantly compare who's up and who's down, one street gang will fight another over graffiti, how clothing is worn, territoral encroachment; soceer games will erupt in violence over a game, protestants rebel against catholics, children will protest the sibling's bigger (and worthier) ice cream scoop, republicans and democrats will demean and "symbolically" fight each to other's social death (the inability to influence others). Our egos constantly strive to strengthen its stature compared to others. Our egos are willing to defend, belittle or even fight to the death any symbol or person who threatens our unconscious immortality symbols because our ego's imaginary life is at stake. The impulse to prove oneself right and the other wrong is simply the defense of the ego against imaginary death.

8) Whether it be God, Nirvana or our imagined legacies on earth, our political philsophies, or our disciplines, our egos find something to latch on to, no matter where we live. Cultures, religions and all absolutist philosophies exist to provide approval-seeking humans ways of organizing, encouraging, coping, prospering, staving off fear of death and moving civilzation forward toward some imagined good life - even at the expense of present happiness. We are social beings that create our own environments whose need for a sense-of-belonging and self esteem is universal so convienently adopt the prevailing notions that imply worth. The need for human-connection and approval is primary and real, cultural values are secondary and imaginery. This is a very important point!

9) Our egos can be exploited, controlled and abused by those who use our needs, hopes and dreams to suit their own agendas or by those that insist to withdraw their respect unless we tow the cultural line. We all, quite naturally, give our loyalty and our lives to those who best can communicate to our emotions the symbols that promise security, strength and success but most importantly - a sense of belonging. The success of leadership is proportional to the level of alignment of culturally adopted values to the real demands of the environment. Blind following often leads to disaster. Following a worldview, hero or personal expression is only useful to the extent that it actually haromonizes with the reality of others, other cultures and the physical environment.

10) So, we only contribute more suffering in the world when we allow the ego unbridled comparison, identification and power-seeking or when we let our egos get competitive, huffy and violent over whose coping mechanisms, behaviors, opinions are best. Judgment and negativity is the primary diagnostic of absolutism - whether it is ubridled praise or criticism. Acceptance (tolerance), enjoyment and enthusiasm is the primary diagnostic for awareness of the extreme comparative activity of the ego.

143. 143. Dolmance 11:33 AM 10/22/08

I understand that as human beings, less than one percent of our genetic code makes us the individuals we are. So it seems to me that within all the planets that host carbon based life in all the galaxies and all the universes - if that code is recreated naturally, like some cosmic throw of the dice, then simple mathematics suggest that we come back and come back and come back, like "The Great Return," that Nietzsche used to write about. And if that's the case, then we do come back - only without our memories or the same constellation of friends and family (Thanks God!!!), and maybe a few extra fingers and toes and maybe even some gills. All I ask in a future incarnation is that we still have sex the old fashioned way, instead of being reduced to fertilizing buried eggs somewhere.

Yes, it sounds absurd, but the fact that we exist at all seems kind of absurd too.

144. 144. Jean 11:34 AM 10/22/08

Yeah, our belief is the main thing, even if we know it is still belief and can be no other, except for the blessed assurance some of us so prominently experience while still alive. Sometimes the belief that even if we are reduced to insensate atoms a loving God can reconstruct us [if desiring to do so] and believing the promise that such is indeed desired...allows us to live out our alives in an assured and enhanced manner. We like to think we are eternally enjoyed by someone. So where is the harm?

145. 145. mrlooney 11:48 AM 10/22/08

"You want to know what its like to be dead? Think of what it was like before you were born and there you go. Nothingness forever. "

Good point. So death is nothing to be feared as we've already Not experienced it before. :)

146. 146. Cosmic 12:03 PM 10/22/08

Ironically I just had a friend die. Way before he became terminally ill he told of sitting next to a grandmother's death bed and suddenly feeling the room fill up with a presence and a remarkable sense of peace. He checked her and she had died. He was a cynical youth at the time and this wasn't anything he expected. Another friend heard her father's voice in her head saying a phrase...nothing he had ever said before. Later she learned that he had suddenly died. The weird thing--her sister had the same experience. Discrepant events like these stories lead people to believe in something else. And why shouldn't they?

147. 147. justadude 12:34 PM 10/22/08

so you are saying that there is nothing to human beings, or actually any living creature, beyond its physical makeup. isn't that in itself an extremely limited viewpoint? aren't you being considerably closed-minded?

148. 148. Hedgehog 12:36 PM 10/22/08

We still do not know enough about the brain to actually tell how thinking takes place. We know that certain neurons are active but exactly how they form sentences, concepts, emotions is far from being understood. And so long, I believe, we can only speculate about consciousness AND no-consciousness. Both of them are well beyond our understanding.

149. 149. francescas 12:39 PM 10/22/08

I completely agree with the ideas reflected in this article. It cannot be considered an argument because no one could ever make a factual counterpart of this idea.

As hard as it is to accept that death is in fact the end, we must remember that accepting this is only hard because we cannot conceptualize it.

My father has always referred to death as "The final nap" and yet he believes that he will see my dead mother when he dies. Sadly, he cannot see through this false logic when I, a fifteen year old girl, can.

150. 150. francescas 12:41 PM 10/22/08

I completely agree with the ideas reflected in this article. It cannot be considered an argument because no one could ever make a factual counterpart of this idea.

As hard as it is to accept that death is in fact the end, we must remember that accepting this is only hard because we cannot conceptualize it.

My father has always referred to death as "The final nap" and yet he believes that he will see my dead mother when he dies. Sadly, he cannot see through this false logic when I, a fifteen year old girl, can.

151. 151. jasciu 12:43 PM 10/22/08

The simulation constraint hypothesis is at best a supplement of Terror Managment Theory.....there is just too much non-contradictory cross displinary evidence that supports TMT. Ernest Becker argued brilliantly we are:

We are animals first, humans with imaginations second. We live in a dangerous world, in an unsure world where death is just around the cornor. Note the fear in ima financial marketsTry to remember your own anxiety as an infant or notice the fearful stages of growth in your children, especially when they realize how dependent they are on the adults. Humanity was also in this state of anxiety in our early history. Tigers were big and all we had were spears. Part of us feels this all time. We feel vulnerable in our animal natures and limited. We strive for growth, mastery and propagation just like every living thing that has ever existed. We crave and greed for anything that represents more abundant and secure biological life - even when it is actually taken care of in our advanced civilization. In the following essay remember we are animals. Thinking animals but animals nevertheless.

Biologically, abstracting egoarise from the left hemisphere of the brain. The symbolic processors of the left brain take fear arising from the amygdala and rationalizes an insulating symbolic defense - many of which are words or concepts that promise protection. The left hemisphere also tends to mask perceptual realities of the right hemisphere since this holistic part does not harbor linguistic processors. The right hemisphere cannot argue for itself even though it harbors many intelligences! This effectively removes feelings of vulnerability and fear from our thinking selves but it also veils broader realities and perceptions that could have survival value. This is a necessary condition for mental health and negotiation in a highly symbolic environments which most people live in. Cultures are systems of symbols that reinforce a consensual strategy against this fear of death or awareness of limitation and vulnerability. We create competing symbolic environments and are constantly defending our symbols that denote our status and power. We especially defend ourselves from "symbolic death" that threantens insignificance or loss of approval among our fellows. Cultural values change as the demands of survival from the environment change. We create complex symbolic absolutist views and cultural sanctioned rituals, rules and behaviors that institutionalize the strategy against death because total faith brings the most confidence.

152. 152. Philosurfer 12:53 PM 10/22/08

Solomon answered this question nearly 3000 years ago:

"For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten"

153. 153. Black 02:09 PM 10/22/08

From an evolutionary as well as from a cognitive point of view, it stands to reason (pun not intended) that our rational conscious self, would could not conceive death. It would defeat the very purpose of its existence. Our feeling of consciousness is our principle of reality. It induces sense and meaning in all things around us, creates habits out of repetitions, truth out of necessities in order for us to be a functional system in an otherwise incoherent environment. It would be a self-defeating exercise  and nonsensical - for consciousness to let itself conceive of the non-existence of itself. If so, our sense of an ordered reality would be shattered by such overwhelming fears that nothing less a crippling anxiety would be left.

154. 154. Black 02:10 PM 10/22/08

From an evolutionary as well as from a cognitive point of view, it stands to reason (pun not intended) that our ‘rational’ conscious self, would could not conceive death. It would defeat the very purpose of its existence. Our feeling of consciousness is our principle of reality. It induces sense and meaning in all things around us, creates habits out of repetitions, truth out of necessities in order for us to be a functional system in an otherwise incoherent environment. It would be a self-defeating exercise – and nonsensical - for consciousness to let itself conceive of the non-existence of itself. If so, our sense of an ordered reality would be shattered by such overwhelming fears that nothing less a crippling anxiety would be left.

155. 155. larkru 02:11 PM 10/22/08

Most of my social circle were born after 1950. When asked what life's like after death, I've resopnded: "Think back on how things were for you in 1932; what life was like for you in that year. That's how it will be after death." the reactions have been interesting.

156. 156. JohnnyPK 02:15 PM 10/22/08

Im EXTREMELY SURPRISED one evolutionary theory was not mentioned for why we believe consciousness exists after death: Believing consciousness exists after ones own death ensures one cares enough to stay alive to raise ones own offspring. On the other hand, if one knew for a fact that consciousness ended after death, there would be no motivation to care about what happens to ones offspring after death.

Nearly everyone who has been a parent, especially with babies or toddlers, knows the fear of being unable to care for their children and the children being on their own. This could be seen as an evolutionary foundation for believing that the world continues to exist after death and, more importantly, that one will still care about the world even after one dies.

I suspect that this may be the same mechanism which makes predators carefully attack prey in the safest way possible that will still ensure a meal for their offspring. They know (biologically, if not intellectually) that if they die procuring a meal, their offspring will also die or at least suffer and likely not reproduce.

If this theory is accepted, then an argument could be made that children more strongly believe mind continues to exist because they dont yet have a mature rationality to oppose these evolutionary tendencies. As people get older, expanding rationality would counter these biological tendencies, as evidenced in this article and ensuing comments. This would explain why suicide is rare in the non-human biological world but does happen occasionally with humans. Sometimes rationality overwhelms the biological tendencies.

157. 157. transhuman 02:24 PM 10/22/08

This

158. 158. transhuman 02:41 PM 10/22/08

This article would be more credible if we already had a working explanation of consciousness, but we don't. The article is trying to explain the nonexistence of something (consciousness) whose existence we don't even have an explanation for. How do we know something stops existing when we can't even prove its existence? Consciousness defies any physical/mathematical explanation, because it is immaterial to begin with. The philosophy of materialism requires material in order to be useful, so perhaps the subject of nonexistence is beyond the realm of science.

159. 159. Nonononn 03:51 PM 10/22/08

Well... i don't mean to be rude but some of this seems quite obvious...
Just think. Everything we talk and see and IMAGINE is a mix of everything we've experienced.
To put it simple: "Try to imagine death" is the same thing as "Try to imagine some color you've never seen". There's absolutely no way of doing that.

I still think that science and religion will both never know what's death's like.

160. 160. Nonononn 03:55 PM 10/22/08

Well... i don't mean to be rude but some of this seems quite obvious...
Just think. Everything we talk and see and sense and IMAGINE is a mix of everything we've experienced.
To put it simple: "Try to imagine death" is the same thing as "Try to imagine some color you've never seen". There's absolutely no way of doing that.

I still think that science and religion will both never know what's death's like.

161. 161. Dr Lynn Johnson 03:56 PM 10/22/08

The article is interesting but begs the question, a bad scientific
strategy. One reason we don't imagine our own death is that every
single society has a tradition of ghosts appearing after death
-adcrf.org documents those in our society, and William James
documented the same phenomenon in America and Europe. Another is that
every society has accounts of near-death autoscopic experiences-
IANDS.ORG will illustrate that. The OBE/NDE literature is replete with
verified perceptions, including when the patient's eeg is flat - see
data. Another is that psychic experiences are similarly ubiquitous,
including Jessica Utts's famous statistical analysis of remote viewing
- and I have never met or heard of a remote viewer who is atheist.
Many societies have amazing accounts of reincarnation data - Ian
Stevenson's work. In other words, the theory that the brain equals the
mind is an unsettled question to all but the closed-minded.
Recognizing that is vital to this list because psychologists have a
historical antipathy towards spirituality and religion, which puts
them (us?) at odds with our patients' experiences and convictions.

162. 162. Nonononn in reply to larkru 03:59 PM 10/22/08

Interesting... I strongly agree with the way you're thinking

163. 163. Darth Vohra in reply to msavoy 04:58 PM 10/22/08

Since death cannot be experienced because it is non-concious, meaning that we are not concious of when it happens, and our brain is as good as a head of lettice at that point. If that holds true, then why can't death be like when you're unconcious, except its irreversible?

and by the way, msavoy, people who are deaf CAN hear again, with implants or hearing aids. Therefore, we can describe the experience of not being able to hear, and the experience of hearing.

164. 164. Darth Vohra in reply to msavoy 04:59 PM 10/22/08

Since death cannot be experienced because it is non-concious, meaning that we are not concious of when it happens, and our brain is as good as a head of lettice at that point. If that holds true, then why can't death be like when you're unconcious, except its irreversible?

and by the way, msavoy, people who are deaf CAN hear again, with implants or hearing aids. Therefore, we can describe the experience of not being able to hear, and the experience of hearing.

165. 165. ZenaV 05:18 PM 10/22/08

My Uncle said he didn't believe in GOD. When he started getting close to death, he was frightened and thought the devil had come to take him to hell, which we figured was just one of the horrible dreams that morphine gives you. But as we comforted him, I said, "It will be alright". And at gut level I felt that was true. Later that night he breathed his last and there was the most beautiful smile on his face that I knew right away, that it really WAS alright and GOD takes in and cares for good people. It's not what we say we believe, it's our acts that makes us the people we are and wheter we belong to GOD or not. And he was a good man. And all that that implies.

166. 166. doomy562 06:09 PM 10/22/08

They way i think life ends is the same way it started. I'm not exactly saying its a cycle but I can't say that it can't be...

What i mean is that how was your life before you were born. To a person, it felt pretty much instant, and we didn't have to wait millions of years to be born (and thats going with the idea we only live once). How is it possible that time didn't affect us before we were born.. it was because we weren't born in to a physical body. Time only affects something that is physical.

Now can we use this to know what happens when we die? I think we can, when we die, we wouldn't know it happens because our brain (physical) is dead. But I don't think its the physical aspects of us that make us alive or not. How were we born if we were technically dead or non-existent to begin with.

I personally don't think its an end. Then thing I learned from science is that Matter makes up everything. It can't be created nor destroyed. In that sense, we are made of matter, which in theory means we can't be destroyed.

But going back with birth, how can something be born out of nothing. And when were we created? (which in theory is impossible since you can't create something out of nothing, so that means we were always here.) So is it possible we managed not to be born for millions of years, to be born for about 70 years then die forever. I see that to be somewhat crazy.

People might say where is the "part" that makes us...us. Well I don't think its something physical in the sense we can see it (can be considered a soul to some people). People might ask where do we put this when some is dead. The universe is infinite amount of space, i think we can find somewhere for the "soul" to be at til its reborn to a physical body.

I think the "soul" more as a driver, and the body as a machine. The soul drives the brain and the brain is the car. It gives us the ability to see, to hear and feelings based on the parts connected to it.

So to sum this up, I think when we die we won't know it happend (sense our brain or car is dead, not giving us the ability to be know whats happening). And if we are ever to live again, which I think we do (doesn't mean just human, can be animal, or even plant... who knows) it would feel instant because time (which man made up) only affects something physical.

167. 167. psngray 06:43 PM 10/22/08

Ceasing to exist sounds like a huge relief, sign me up. Putting up with the endless renditions of the afterlife, in any philosophy I've ever heard, have all sounded pretty grim. I'm cool with just stopping. Great article.

168. 168. Quasimodo 06:49 PM 10/22/08

I hate it when you present somebody's poem and don't attribute it. It makes me think you don't understand your business at all. It makes me hope you lose your job soon. Shame on Sci Am for allowing its 'journalists' to do that non-attribution crap.

169. 169. Archimedes 06:52 PM 10/22/08

I hold a B.S. in Biochemistry. I am a Registered Nurse. I am a Vietnam War combat veteran (infantry). I am a Deist. You might say that, given the aforementioned, I would agree with the hypothesis of the author. However, I don't. I have seen ghosts on several occassions the same being witnessed by other individuals. In Vietnam, I could tell, sometimes, when some one was about to killed in action. This was referred to in Vietnamas the "100 yard stare" or he's "seen the ghost."
As a hospice RN, I've seen, on several occassions, a person's spirit leave their body at or near the time of death. I can not argue with other individuals perception of reality but must respect the same. Please respect those, who like "doubting Thomas" in the Bible, did not believe until he had actually seen the ghost!

170. 170. Clown Soldier 12:26 AM 10/23/08

If I were to hypothesize a main contributor to the belief in the afterlife it would be the brains' development of object permanence. Before you have object permanence as an infant, you incorrectly experience objects as not existing when they are out of sight. After your brain develops object permanence your biased in the other direction. People don't understand that rocks decay, and have a hard time imagining when television didn't exist. Object permanence makes us think by its very function that objects have a continuation. Besides that, as far as your concept of self is concerned, your dead long before you die. What I mean is, from infancy your self concept or what it is like to be you fades into existence, and if you're lucky to live old enough you fade out of existence. If people want to know what it is like to die, go observe the thousands/millions of both elderly, stroke, and other persons with TBI who have no concept of time, themselves, or many other aspects of what we would consider alive cognition. They have lost their concept of object permance. The article ended with a small bit on object permance, but I think that this wiring in the brain as more influence on conciousness than we think.

171. 171. bobbi varadi 12:49 AM 10/23/08

Im sorry, but i have first hand experience on the after life. Before I knew that my brother had died, Hecame to me in spirit outside in my backyard where I was sitting. First there was a most wonderful ,beautiful PEACE around me.Then I heard my brother speak . He told me ,THEY SAID I CAN STAY ! BUT YOU CAN COME TO MY HOUSE AND HELP ME ! I didnt understand what he meant buy this, so I asked WHAT HAPPENED? He told me he was STUCK , I still didnt understand. HE told me , I HAVE TO GO ,BUT I DONT WANT TO LEAVE YOU ! Thats what i heard , and when i did go to his house , it all made sense to me. I had found my brother hanging himself on the back of his bedroom door ,and it all made sense to me at that moment . I THANK MY BROTHER FOR COMING TO ME AND LETTING ME KNOW BEFORE I FOUND HIM LIKE THAT... IT helped me know that he was able to come to me AFTER DEATH , so i wouldnt be so scared to see what happened to him. AND most of all , I THANK GOD FOR THE WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE TO KNOW HIS BEAUTIFUL PRESENCE !!!!!!

172. 172. Fernando Lins 01:07 AM 10/23/08

I' strongly recommend to the author of the study and also to authors of similar studies to experiment with DMT (Dimethyltryptamine) before writing, as it awakens powerful atrophied senses in ourselves, which otherwise we are unaware of, and which can make us sense realms beyond the four dimensional universe our physical bodies dwell into, which are as much real as the Universe perceived by the classical five senses.

The faithful can name these transcendental dimensions as the "Spiritual World," as the sentient beings of these realms don't have the constraints of our physical bodies, like space-time, physiological, psychological, emotional and other needs.

Then they will know for sure, from a conscious experience that there is a transcendental essence for each of us sentient beings, and that the multiple existences so prevalent in Eastern Philosophies are an irrefutable part of the existence.

DMT is not a psychedelic or an hallucinogen drug; it is naturally secreted in minute amounts by the pineal gland deep inside our brains during deep sleep, triggering the state of dreaming while we are deep asleep and therefore unconscious of our dreams.

For me DMT is an illuminogen gift for humanity, as it allows their users to attain a state of hyper consciousness that opens the gates or lifts the veils that prevent us from perceiving these higher dimensions and communicating with beings that are the dwellers of these higher realms and who can help us accelerate our journey towards the full consciousness state which is our ultimate goal.

173. 173. EB 02:12 AM 10/23/08

Strange,
Tomorrow night, I could look into the sky and see a new supermassive star in the sky. That star could shine its light on our planet for millions of years, then explode in a supernova and condense into a singularity of a black hole with a beam of energy pointed right at our world that would annihilate all life here, if not vaporize our entire solar system.

But the fact could be, that this entire cycle could have already unfolded from beginning to 'end' in true time, before the very first photons of that star's birth ever reach my eyes, and "I" will be long gone before the eventuality .

Look up, you do not see what "IS", or what is coming. You see what was, and the image and power of these things and events have maintained cohesion over millions and billions of years and miles. Though they may be long 'gone' from where they were, they are still-and-yet 'here', now. After they have come to and passed Us, they will still have yet to arrive at some other location in space and time. Waves of energy still imprinted with the information set in them when they were sent off. They still "are" and still will "be", even though what they remember and represent is no more.

When does a life or a thing 'end'? What 'defines' a person or species, or any concentration of mass and/or energy, and when CAN it truly be 'defined'? The moment it ceases to be in a particular form in it's temporal surroundings? Or, rather, when every thing it did/caused/interacted with/changed/influenced reaches an absolute conclusion? Is there such a thing?

Is our energy, what animates us and every fundamental particle that makes up our being, "Entangled"? From prior existences and forms in every Dimension? Does our Consciousness impart information, does our mind "Entangle" our essence into the very fabric of the Cosmos? May we experience Spooky Action on a quantum level that is beyond the pale of 4 Dimensional physics, or are we perhaps experiencing it,,, now? Do we feel it and it's potential all the way down to an atomic level? Therefore we must resort to mental gymnastics and denial to convince ourselves that what we sense is impossible, based on our observations-to-date of the as-of-yet-observable, and our ultimately subjective interpretations of the same?

The 'before you were born' rationale seems a logical fallacy. Comparing what ostensibly never existed, to what has in fact existed. Dice that were never there to roll, to those that were there and were rolled. Fiction to Fact.

174. 174. bkurilko in reply to sds 02:19 AM 10/23/08

"Where's your evidence that there's a causal relationship between the two? "

How about brain injury? What happens if you use a drug, or drink caffeine? What about a lobotomy? It alters your personality, reactions, and mental state. I have seen nothing but evidence that supports this. Still waiting for a shred of evidence of an eternal soul, beyond religious faith.

175. 175. bkurilko 02:23 AM 10/23/08

It seems that many posters have completely missed or ignored the entire point of this article.

"Where's your evidence that there's a causal relationship between the two? " [mind and brain]

How about brain injury? What happens if you use a drug, or drink caffeine? What about a lobotomy? It alters your personality, reactions, and mental state. If I can drink 3 cokes and be basically a different personality for a few hours, I really doubt somehow the soda has interacted with my soul. I have seen nothing but evidence that supports this. Still waiting for a shred of evidence of an eternal soul, beyond religious faith.

176. 176. hotblack 03:07 AM 10/23/08

I see a lot of wishful thinking in these responses.

Hope is nice.

Enjoy.

177. 177. shinetins 05:25 AM 10/23/08

An interesting article. The mind cannot understand itself, just like a ruler cannot measure itself. Death is something that we have never experienced, but thoughts are formed by everything that we have. So we cannot get to know death with our thoughts, or by reasoning. There must be other ways. Anyone who has practised meditation should know what it means.

178. 178. Randy 05:35 AM 10/23/08

"Death does not concern us, because as long as we exist, death is not here. And when it does come, we no longer exist." (Epicurus)

179. 179. Randy in reply to Schenn 05:39 AM 10/23/08

It seems to me that believing we survive death is the ultimate egocentric position.

"I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking."
-- Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World

180. 180. mfritz0 05:45 AM 10/23/08

A logical question, Do you/we exist now? and another question to consider, Why? If we are indeed only the sum of our parts and our parts are only of the physical world as we know it. Would not it seem logical to believe that if we can exist now, It is possible to exist in a future time? Be that as it may, perhaps it may take billions of years before our molecules and DNA sequencing reoccurs through the entropy of nature, since we exist now, it is possible we can exist again, our mere existance is proof of that. Now the only question is. Do we experience the deminsion of time when we do not exist?

181. 181. farrer 07:19 AM 10/23/08

While the whole point of this article strives to prove that the concept of "life after death" is irrational, the author fails to see that the concept that after death there is only nothingness is equally irrational because where is the basis of concrete proof that the author's theory holds true? What scientific study has proven that a living organism's mind ceases to exist after death? Or better yet, can it ever be proven to be so in the first place?

182. 182. knnewhouse 07:22 AM 10/23/08

183. 183. farrer 07:24 AM 10/23/08

While the whole article attempts very hard to prove that the idea that there is life after death is irrational, the author has not realised that his assumption that after death there is nothingness has never been scientifically proven to be true, and is unlikely ever to be so proven, because we are talking about a non-concrete entitiy. Science can only prove or disprove what can exist in space - it is a discipline that observes only the tangible.

184. 184. Clustermind 07:39 AM 10/23/08

I can imagine death actually; it is called an idea;

I wonder why some people can not think of Ideas

Maybe some people have no afterlife

Why should all people have an afterlife ?

185. 185. sandan 08:13 AM 10/23/08

This article while making some good points about "Physical" existence discounts the soul....So, in a 3 dimensional world using 5 senses we get hypnotized and can get wrapped up in the illusion that this is all there is. What if the soul experiences differently beyond the limits of 3 dimensions and 5 senses....The book "Flatland" demonstrates these points pretty well.

186. 186. Butterandbagels 09:35 AM 10/23/08

While this article has merit, it only looks at the physical aspect of a human being. Are we not spiritual beings as well, with a soul? This may be a desperate flail by my ego, but I believe in God, and I don't believe that human existance is due to some biological fluke. Our existance is purposeful, to me anyway. It keeps me from curling up in a fetal position.

187. 187. robert schmidt 09:36 AM 10/23/08

Maybe if people realized that death was the true end of them, they would support more research into prolonging (quality) life and consciousness (transhumanism?). It seems to me that if the world were to discover that a giant asteroid was headed our way and would result in a mass extinction event, humanity would spend all it could to stop it. But we dont need a global catastrophe to threaten our existence because we are all going to die anyway, maybe not together, but eventually, yet we dont seem to look at the same way as the global catastrophe. It is sort of like a plane crash. When one happens it makes the papers and the NTSB studies it to make sure it will never happen again. Yet more people likely died in car crashes that day and the same effort was not applied to prevent them. I guess that is another failing of the mind. It seems fascinated with big phenomenon and tends to ignore everyday experience that may ultimately have a bigger impact on our lives.

188. 188. frgough 09:38 AM 10/23/08

"The mind is what the brain does."

This is demonstrably false. There are multiple documented cases of patients with extreme hydrocephalus that has destroyed 90%+ of the brain still having normal intelligence. This fact alone demonstrates that mind is not tied to brain.

189. 189. teslaX 09:59 AM 10/23/08

From my strange experience when I was younger I believe there is an experience beyond death. When I was eleven I was in a situation where I knew I wouldn't survive. It was an Easter Sunday and my parents and I were at their cabin on a lake. I went out in the boat early in the morning with my new dog. I knew there weren't any other people at their cabins because there were no lights around the lake. While out in the middle of the lake the dog jumped ship. As I leaned over to pull the dog back in I went overboard as well. The momentum pushed the boat further away and the wind made the situation. Since it was early in the year the ice had just left the lake the week before so it was still quite cold. I was wearing heavy cloths and boots. As soon as I reached the surface of the water and saw the boat moving away I knew I was a goner. My parents were still asleep so they couldn't help and I thought I was alone. Within minutes my cloths were soaking up water and I was unable to float. I was a good swimmer but that really didn't matter with all the heavy clothing I was wearing. I started going down. I held my breath for as long as I could but then just gave up the ship and faced the facts....there was nobody to save me and I was going to drown. I inhaled water and let what ever was going to happen happen. I felt myself leave my body and I seemed to be floating in the air above the lake. I could see my body in the water and as I looked around I could see the lake and trees and what amazed me was I could see things in more detail than I ever could before. I was permeated with a warm feeling that felt wonderful. Everything of this earth became meaningless and I had a realization that what we are as humans was just a small part of the big picture. Soon I was floating through what appeared to be a spinning vortex. As I moved down the vortex I could see through the sides of it and I had the feeling that more was going on there than what I had exerienced during my life up to that point. Towards the end of the tunnel there was a bright inviting light and as I approached I heard a voice telling me it wasn't my time. The next thing I remember was lying in the bottom of a boat and not happy about it. It's seems that on that morning some folks who had a cabin on the lake were going to their cabin after Easter service. They saw the empty boat on the water and my dog swimming away. They managed to get their boat out and they found my floating body and revived me. Luckily he was a well trained fireman. Due to this exerience I know there's more to it.

190. 190. dotcom in reply to Schenn 10:51 AM 10/23/08

I've been living in a world of fear for the past two years. It's a long story and not relevant. I have suffered 3 nightmares where I was shot and died. In all of them... you can tell there is the scene, life. There is also my ego... my brain thinking about the situation. One in particular, the story plays out and after a struggle... I'm shot and it turns black. No noise, no sight, it's like somebody turned off the TV. I hear the shot.... and it's over... There is nothing for a second before I wake... . It was a strange reality when I woke up. The last of the three... the story plays out... and once I'm shot... the ego stops... the "sound" literally changed... imagine changing the sound on surround sound from Stereo to Hall or whatever.... and my perception of reality changed from being to not being. As if I went from being in the movie, in the TV... and next I'm just viewing the show.... There wasn't a feeling of afterlife. It was more of a feeling, my dream continued.... and I didn't. I choose to believe in a greater one... not in the afterlife. There are many reasons I choose to believe. It's either a grand design or a great big accident. I hope I can give somebody credit for the perfect mechanics that we love to muck up. You believe in nothing... I believe in something.

191. 191. SABATINO 11:23 AM 10/23/08

That's why atheism,or lack of faith,makes no sense to me.They will NEVER know if the are right.They will only know if they WRONG...It appears they are ignoring "risk /reward".My possition is that HAVING FAITH IS MORE RATIONAL THAN NOT...I WILL NEVER KNOW IF I'M WRONG....THANKS FOR REMINDING ME.IT NOT ONLY MAKES MORE SENSE,IT IS ALSO COMFORTING....I WONDER WHY ANYONE WOULD WANT TO ROB ME OF MY FAITH?MOST THAT DO,CALL THEMSELVES MUMANISTS...I'M STILL TRYING TO SOLVE THAT CONTRADICTION.ANY ANSWERS OUT THERE?

192. 192. Jon Brooks 11:25 AM 10/23/08

I would love to believe in a continuation of whatever form of energy/matter being we are. If not just for myself but for the others who seemed to find no justice or happiness in life. My own belief is that we are given life by God to appreciate the physical world. Using the analogy if we are not ever matter how can we ever appreciate it so we have a period here to appreciate it. I think that matter coalesces around the vibrational energy of a soul within the cell walls at conception. The material part of us that is matter is ours to play with as we see fit, to believe or not to believe in whatever we want. To study, love, play and compose are all suitable for enhancing both the energy and matter part of us. When we die that energy nodule, or field gradient or whatever that caused the matter to coalesce to begin with leaves from its over 1 trillion replications as a whole and carries with it via modulations and overtones on the inital fundemental all of our
being but in a new form. I pray there is a God to greet it once this occurs
and we join together again in phase once again. Since other articles in Scientific American have pointed out there may be 10 to the 528th different
parallel universes so the probability of anything you can imagine is equal to 1..somewhere, I can imagine that I'll steer my vector gradient the right way to get there in at least 1 of them at that moment. Enjoy.

193. 193. SABATINO 11:36 AM 10/23/08

EVEN IF WE TAKE THE GOD QUESTION OUT OF THE CONVERSATION.AND REFLECT ON THE WHOLE PHENOMINA OF LIFE IS MIND BLOWING.IF INDEED THAT'S ALL THEIR IS,I FOR ONE WANT TO SAY THANK YOU.

194. 194. Sage 12:40 PM 10/23/08

the higher self is projected onto the earth vehicle [body] via a hologram.
it would only take a little study to confirm this.

195. 195. SABATINO in reply to Sage 12:50 PM 10/23/08

INTERESTING.WHAT SAY YOU ABOUT WHO MIGHT BE ACTIVATING THOSE TOOLS?

196. 196. Nathaniel 02:05 PM 10/23/08

It is impossible to think about what it would be like to be incapable of thinking. In fact, we can't even imagine what it would be like to have different mental capacity. IE: a genius cannot imagine what it would be like to be of average intelligence nor can the average person imagine what it would be like to be a genius. Because, just as this article has stated, we rely on our experiences to test hypotheses. Since we have no memories of having diminished or increased mental function, and any changes throughout our life are so gradual that we don't notice the difference, we cannot imagine what it would be like.

The fun part is that we see the universe in the same way. I know that the universe exists because I am experiencing it right now. However, if I cease to exist, I will not be around to experience the universe. Does it then cease to exist? Just like death, you simply cannot wrap your mind around that concept.

The only reason I really believe in an afterlife is because I have experienced ghosts first hand. So to me the persistence of a spirit is something I have never questioned. The prospect that fascinates me the most is poltergeists. If a spirit after death can do all those things, why couldn't a person in life? Telekinesis, teleportation, mind control, are these all within our reach while we live?

197. 197. merlic 04:49 PM 10/23/08

I wonder what it would be like if it were in fact an evolutionary necessity (for some intelligent specie) to comprehend the cessation of the mind. But then there raises another question. What exactly would understanding the cessation of the mind entail? It couldn't possibly be as simple as understanding biological death?

198. 198. Chaosqueued 05:11 PM 10/23/08

I'd also say that the mind will never know what killed it do inpart to LAG. That is right everything you experience in life, your day to day activities, is delayed by a few miliseconds due to the time it takes for neurons to fire. There was an excellent article in this magazine that talked about it. How our brians are always anticipating what will happen due to the natural delay.

199. 199. Chaosqueued 05:25 PM 10/23/08

Some replies to posts:

danielpauldavis at 03:11 PM on 10/15/08
The real mystery is why these folks insist that what even they admit everyone knows intuitively is somehow wrong.

- Logical Fallacy "Appeal To Widespread Belief (Bandwagon Argument, Peer Pressure, Appeal to Common Practice)"

qyj4789 at 05:59 PM on 10/15/08
Most people on here will think I'm crazy, but you really should look into what the Bible has to say about this. It offers proof that is undeniable

- No it doesn't. It offers stories and metaphors. It was written by people like you and me and has the knowledge and insight of a couple thousand year old culture. Logical Fallacy "Argument From Age (Wisdom of the Ancients)"

I truly believe that after death, we will continue to exist in something like another dimension. Why do I believe this? Just look at the world around you---do you really think that all of this was created from a paricle of dust?

- Are you really that egotistical to think that when you die here there will be another whole dimention made for you to go play in?

braj at 07:48 AM on 10/22/08
How would you explain the case of past life-recalling?.. there are many classic cases, for example, a child recalls that he was a business man in his past life and now people trace his bank locker-key as per the child's information.

- liars, cheats, con-persons (self-deceivers fall under here, you can con yourself).

kesptical1 at 11:04 AM on 10/22/08
to me, it is fallacious to believe that death is more of a "black abyss" than a white garden, or return to a collective unconscious, or anything else. Nobody living understands. Why support the black abyss?

- A black abyss would be something. Death is nothing. You still haven't gotten the idea of what nothing truely is, cause every time you describe it you attach something to it. A good way to try and grasp what nothing really is, is to use describtive words about it than tell yourself "this is defeinately what nothing is NOT." It is like showing what infinity is by saying a bunch of big numbers to show what infinity is NOT. Any number you can think of is not infinite.

- This is the real problem with religion and believing that there is something after death. This allows people to speculate that something could be better than what is right now. If you go at for a perspective of nothing after we die, you'll quickly realize that something is always better than nothing. Friends don't go to a better place, enemies aren't worse off. They are just nothing.

Dolmance at 11:33 AM on 10/22/08
I understand that as human beings, less than one percent of our genetic code makes us the individuals we are. So it seems to me that within all the planets that host carbon based life in all the galaxies and all the universes - if that code is recreated naturally, like some cosmic throw of the dice, then simple mathematics suggest that we come back and come back and come back

- Your genes don't make you you. Your social circumstance has a large say in this. You can say genes would make one predisposed to X, Y, and Z, but if circumstance on time A brings out X, and time B bring out Y, are you the same? Are you the same if C brought out Z, or if D brought out any other combination.... Every person is unique in their circumstances for the sum of their whole like.

Philosurfer at 12:53 PM on 10/22/08
Solomon answered this question nearly 3000 years ago:

- Logical Fallacy "Appeal To Widespread Belief (Bandwagon Argument, Peer Pressure, Appeal to Common Practice)"

knnewhouse at 07:22 AM on 10/23/08
Was what I experienced "real" or just an hallucination? There is no doubt in my mind, It was real!

- The mind can't tell the difference between reality from outside and fantasy from the inside.

sandan at 08:13 AM on 10/23/08
This article while making some good points about "Physical" existence discounts the soul....So, in a 3 dimensional world using 5 senses we get hypnotized and can get wrapped up in the illusion that this is all there is. What if the soul experiences differently beyond the limits of 3 dimensions and 5 senses....The book "Flatland" demonstrates these points pretty well.

- There is definately more than 5 senses and i'm not talking about that ESP junk. What sense is a headache? What sense is hunger? What sense is hot/cold? What sense is time? What sense is Up and down? What sense is balance? ect.

frgough at 09:38 AM on 10/23/08
"The mind is what the brain does."
This is demonstrably false. There are multiple documented cases of patients with extreme hydrocephalus that has destroyed 90%+ of the brain still having normal intelligence. This fact alone demonstrates that mind is not tied to brain.

- What about the cases where < 1% of the brain was destroyed and there was no longer any function?

200. 200. jodiodi 05:43 PM 10/23/08

I have 'died' twice: no heartbeat, no respirations. I suffered Sudden Cardiac Death on two separate occasions. The first time, I knew something was happening and was 'somewhere else' for a while and heard the people trying to revive me toward the end of my experience. The second time, I was getting out of my car and the next thing I knew, I was in the hospital with cracked ribs from CPR, a sore chest and a sore throat from being intubated. I apparently went out when talking to someone after I parked the car. I don't remember it at all and have no memory of being anywhere else. I'm not sure what the next 'death' will be like, but I hope my previous experiences are precursors. I wouldn't mind simply not being anymore or spending eternity in that other place I visited. We're all going to die so there's no real reason to fear it.

201. 201. almxx 06:23 PM 10/23/08

I'm afraid scientists will always be facing the conundrum of not believing those who have "near death" experiences, because they weren't totally "dead"; on the other hand, they don't believe what the "spirits" of the dead say, because they can't really identify them.

202. 202. Lucius Drake in reply to Durum 06:31 PM 10/23/08

"Scientists need to stick to science and leave the questions of life after death to the theologians."

As an atheist, theology does not, and never can, provide me with any answers regarding death. If I were to leave questions of that sort to theologists, I would remain unsatisfied.
In this case a scientist is sticking to science. The biological cessation of life and our pyschological inability to truly imagine it.

203. 203. Marcus31 06:53 PM 10/23/08

It's not hard to imagine what it will be like to be dead. Just think what it was like before you were born. It wasn't a bad thing not to be around. There is no more reason to imagine you were around then than there is to imagine you will be around after your death.

204. 204. Kenkat 08:05 PM 10/23/08

I hate "scientist's who try to define life after death. These are always people who say they have never experienced something they cannot explain. I have experienced an nde, I have experienced my husbands death and contact with him since then, I have talked to God and Jesus and my angelic guides. I have talked to other family who have passed over. The good thing for all you scientist's out there who can't "prove" life after death, God Believes in You. He will be there for you at the end whether you believe it or not. Open your eyes and take a good look at your life, I am positive at some point in time God had to step in and produce a miracle on your behalf. You were just too closed off to accept or recognize it. None of us is here by accident and I think you should spend your time making sure you are doing the job you came here to do instead of trying to disprove so called "theories". Wouldn't you benefit more by trying to see the miracles in your own life? The only thing that matters in your life is LOVE. It's all we bring with us and all we take when we go. I pray you will discover the miracle of your being soon.

205. 205. merlic in reply to sds 09:21 PM 10/23/08

That there is "not" a causal relationship between the two has yet to be substantiated in any way, and is something I'm afraid seems so much less likely to be proven than the reverse.

206. 206. merlic in reply to bratis99 09:40 PM 10/23/08

Was he by any chance in the Pentagon when the planes hit?

207. 207. undrgrndgirl 09:41 PM 10/23/08

no one really knows what happens at birth either...

208. 208. merlic in reply to jiohdi 10:14 PM 10/23/08

Now that is the question we've all been evading.

209. 209. merlic in reply to Chaosqueued 10:22 PM 10/23/08

Perhaps that 'less than 1%' was imperative to the normal continuity of that one individual's character? You seem to be a scientist; is that not the most probable cause?

210. 210. merlic in reply to Jon Brooks 10:29 PM 10/23/08

You can rationalize your belief with as much poetry and divine reverence as you like, but you have to admit everything you are saying is in fact borne from your own inherent biological evolution; especially is it evident in the fear of uncertainty about your future, which you solve through your persistence in self assurance, saying that things will get better with time.

211. 211. Mel 10:53 PM 10/23/08

What about the possibility that mind is nonlocal? Or part of a hologram? Or that our life is just an illusion of a dreaming mind?

212. 212. Lorlong 11:24 PM 10/23/08

It really is interesting that so many people speculate about life after death and come up with so many different ideas, when all one has to do it look in the Bible for the answer. It's all there and not at all hard to see what happens. \\it's all to do with wheather you want to go to heaven or should I say the word, hell. For those who haven,t closed their minds off, the choice is made of wheather you accept what Jesus did on the Cross for you or not. By asking His forgiveness for sin in our life, we can receive eternal life with Him.. John 3:16.

213. 213. mathraper in reply to Schenn 11:45 PM 10/23/08

what does a dimension have to do with life?

The dentist is the smartest philosopher here. Loved that post.

Yours was the very best and most worthwhile post here. So well articulated and so inspiring.

216. 216. TruthSeeker 12:09 AM 10/24/08

217. 217. SMiFMD in reply to Schenn 02:30 AM 10/24/08

you mean 4 dimensions right?
Length; width; height & time. Please remember that Super-symmetry (string theory) is still a "theory" which still has not been proven physically; only in mathmatics is 10 spatial and 1 time dimension been shown. Also, keep in mind that super-symmetry either has 11 or 26 dimensions.

218. 218. merlic in reply to TruthSeeker 02:32 AM 10/24/08

The ring on the nightstand is what you would call synchronicity, or the occurrence of two or more causally unrelated events that come together in a meaningful way. The catch is that you alone are responsible for the "meaning" of this artificial coincidence, not some supernatural entity or cosmological force, which admittedly many people turn to when they just can't explain something (God, astrology, etc).

You find the ring and, intentionally or not, use this miracle to support your fundamental belief that your husband wanted you to find it, a mechanism by which you are better able to cope with the fact that he is now gone forever. An assurance, if you will, that everything will be all right. But in the end it's simply a self induced assurance, not a reality. On the other hand, maybe you didn't find the ring by coincidence at all; that "click" in your subconscious, that little edge that made you return to the nightstand, it may have never happened. It's quite probable that you invented that feeling much after you found the ring itself. I have done this on many occasion. After accomplishing something that provides a favorable outcome, such as winning the lottery, you go on to invent a reason for why exactly you chose the numbers that you did. You say it's unexplainable, that it just made sense at the time. It most likely never happened. In your case, you were in fact not even thinking about the ring. You must have been surprised, anyone would have been after finding something so precious after so long a time. You find the ring in the first instance, and then after go on to create a story that provides significance to this event. You aggrandize the story until it becomes a self evident truth, one that resonates in your being and helps establish a sense of clarity within all the confusion.

This isn't proof of an existence, whether conscious or not, beyond biological death; this is simply proof of one's insistence to delude oneself for sake of sanity, so that one can live on one's life without falling into total despair.

219. 219. knnewhouse 02:41 AM 10/24/08

You have yet to learn the ultimate truth.

220. 220. merlic in reply to knnewhouse 02:54 AM 10/24/08

Yeah, that doesn't really contribute anything. That you would know the ultimate truth is for one laughable, but that by being the moderate, by admitting there is in fact some ultimate truth out there somewhere, you are entitled to feel complacent , even though you yourself are not entirely cognizant of this so-called truth; by admitting you have no conviction whatsoever, you can sit idly by and criticize anyone that does. Not very respectable if you ask me.

221. 221. GoAskAlice 03:19 AM 10/24/08

It's not our minds that are immortal but rather the energy of our spirit that lives on. It's that intangible energy which we can not measure in the physical world that many of us believe lives on. I like to think of it as an undiscovered energy like infrared and microwaves used to be. We never knew this energy existed until we had the means by which to measure it. Perhaps the same is true of the soul.

222. 222. Press to Digitate 03:39 AM 10/24/08

There are millions of ghost encounters reported annually around the world in all cultures, by observers of all levels of education and of all belief systems, many with corroborating physical evidence or information transfer. More than a million intelligable EVPs recorded of the dead in electronic media have been verified as unattributable to terrestrial RF signals or other prosaic sources. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have verifiably relayed information from deceased spirits through Mediumship, Trance-Channelling, or whatever you choose to call it. Thousands of Near Death Experiences have empircal validation, in the form of sensible witnesses to the external consciousness or remote information retrieval by the "dead" from locations outside the ER/OR where the temporary clincical death occured. Moreover, thousands of individuals have reported details of past lives which have been independently confirmed upon investigation. Taken collectively, the empirical scientific evidence for a Quantum Consciousness, independent of our physiology, which transcends death is completely insurmoutable. The materialist proponents of "death is death" can offer no contradictory factual evidence; their fundamentalist scientific dogma rests on nothing but superstition. Its rather silly to take them seriously.

223. 223. yowzaa 03:40 AM 10/24/08

You have to consider the infinite amount of time before you were born and first started experiencing consciousness. After all that time not existing why now existence? And what law of physics says that in another trillion years or so that "you" could not exist again? maybe as an advanced dust mite with conscious awareness.

224. 224. yowzaa 03:41 AM 10/24/08

You have to consider the infinite amount of time before you were born and first started experiencing consciousness. After all that time not existing why now existence? And what law of physics says that in another trillion years or so that "you" could not exist again? maybe as an advanced dust mite with conscious awareness.

225. 225. knnewhouse in reply to Laurie Siegel 04:45 AM 10/24/08

Laurie, I read your message. I am here if you would like to talk.

226. 226. knnewhouse in reply to merlic 05:03 AM 10/24/08

Respectfully, listen to the song "Wish you were here" by Pink Floyd. Think about the meaning or multiple meanings of the lyrics. Duh!

227. 227. knnewhouse in reply to merlic 05:39 AM 10/24/08

Respectfully, listen to the song, "Wish you were here" by Pink Floyd. Think about the meaning or multiple meanings of the lyrics. Duh!

228. 228. wonderer in reply to cuddl3bot 09:47 AM 10/24/08

I agree. Take for example the case of Andrew Vandal and the famous "Boy with no Brain" of Prf John Lorber - Andrew Vandal only had a Brain Stem and yet lived for about 5 years and showed emotions and bubbliness and non-verbal communication. So: "you need a working cerebral cortex to harbor propositional knowledge of any sort" is completely false. The mind is not a product of the brain.

229. 229. bo moore 11:21 AM 10/24/08

This question of belief in an afterlife has behind it the question of consciousness: to ask anyone , What happens after death? is to lead them to belief in an afterlife. Humans learn by copying; children copy adults, which brings us to a useful reason for belief in an afterlife. Our children depend on adults well into their teens. In "ancient" times, those adults likely died before children were mature - hence ancestor worship (requiring existence after death) in which the dead parents served as a protectors and memory devices. That is, the young could better remember what they were taught and retain the powerful feeling of being protected by adults. Many myths record this effect: a child has a protector animal, wizard, dead person who can only be seen by them.

230. 230. jwr1389 01:44 PM 10/24/08

It is interesting to see that a lot of these posts exemplify the exact phenomenon that is at the heart of this article: that, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, most people are still unwilling to give up their irrational view that somehow, some part of us survives death. In the words of scientist and author Carl Sagan, "I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking." I couldn't have said it better myself. I'm with you guys 100% in terms of emotion: I wish I was not, at some point, going to cease permanently. But there is simply no credible evidence to suggest that that is not the case.
I would have had no right to say that 200 years ago; we didn't have adequate scientific knowledge of what we were or where we came from to know for sure what death was. But when Darwin published, all of that changed, and since then, the real, hard scientific evidence on the matter has been supportive of the same implication that evolution was supportive of, which is that we are, essentially, organic machines. So when that machine's fuel (blood) stops reaching that machine's hardware (brain), that machines software (mind) ceases to run. We call that death.
CREDIBLE evidence supports this. You might have a wealth of INcredible evidence to combat what I have just said, but I suspect that it will have logical flaws in either the methods used to gain the information, or the conclusions implied from the information. If this is the case, it renders that answer to the question invalid, because questions, of any magniutde, lie solely within the realm of logic. For questions that don't have ego-threatening implications, mostly everyone intuitively accepts this principle: If someone were to tell you that they believed that the earth was flat, you would, rightfully, dismiss them as crazy. However for ego-threatening questions like "Are we immortal?" people seem to abandon this principle. Pseudo-scientific evidence suddenly becomes sufficient. So I would love to hear some REAL scientific evidence to combat the claim that I have just made. Keep in mind, however, that something that combats my claim combats the theory of evolution, and modern biology in general. Which is fine, as long as it has extraordinary evidence to back it up.

231. 231. njguy 02:56 PM 10/24/08

This has got to be one of the dumbest articles I've ever read.

Put your Pen down, open your mind, close your mouth, and research the subject. It's no longer a matter of religion or belief. It's a matter of proof and evidence. Things are now reversed. It's the closed minded Skeptic that believes the extremely far fetched that can attempt to explain away the huge amount of data collected over the years.

Start researching now. Here are are some broad categories to get you started:

232. 232. njguy 03:03 PM 10/24/08

I do have a tip though. Put your pen down, open your mind, close your mouth, and research the subject. It's that simple.

Your article doesn't address any of the data collected to date supporting survival of consciousness. What is your argument based on? Your feelings? That just doesn't cut it.

You should also take a look at Skeptics through the years who didn't believe, but after actually researching the subject, concluded that the Afterlife does in fact exists. People like Einstein, Freud, Yung, Edison, and on and on and on.

If you have to tell yourself dead is dead in order to live life to its fullest, that's fine and dandy. But if you're going to write an article on the subject, do some research and show both side of the debate. Then let your readers decide. To anyone who's done so, the answer is very simple.

Best of luck to you.

233. 233. LosAngelesJim 03:50 PM 10/24/08

I think we all have experienced the nothingness referred to in this article. It is the state we were in before we were born.

I wonder if asking people to think about what it was like before they were born will help them imagine a state of nothingness after they die.

234. 234. erosell 04:09 PM 10/24/08

I remember clearly as a child wondering why I found it so completely impossible to imagine my thoughts (self) ceasing to exist. I couldn't visualize MY ceasing to exist even though I knew that that was what happenned. As I've gotten older, the extinction of my Self seems much more imaginable, but still difficult to completely imagine on some days. Particularly I remember thinking as a child (age 10 this was a big concern) that I would think about what I was thinking about and that that was like there's another level and depth to Me, like there was More me, and therefore less possiblity that my mind ceasing could be true. Really, at 10 for some reason all the metaphysical issues (life, death, and God) suddendly seemed very important and most of those issues are still unanswered for me, which leads me to suspect that at 10 we have all the cognitive ability we well ever devolop, just that as we age we learn more conceptual tools to use.

235. 235. erosell 04:12 PM 10/24/08

correlation between existance of a mind and a brain is easy:

calm rational guy has a car accident and hits his head and his entire presonality changes perminantly to agresive, reactive, and angry. Why? His brain chemistry has changed so now he is a Different person. Utlimately a very depressing reality. "There but for the grace of God go I" for real.

236. 236. njguy in reply to erosell 05:44 PM 10/24/08

237. 237. Spin-oza 08:17 PM 10/24/08

Interesting essay from an evolutionary perspective.

However, EPICURUS (341-271 BCE) over two thousand years ago understood the reality of death better as illustrated in the quotation below. The timeless perspective of great wisdom from a truly gifted philosophical mind:

". . . death is nothing to us.
For all good and evil consists in sensation, but death is deprivation of sensation. And therefore a right understanding that death is nothing to us makes the mortality of life enjoyable, not because it adds to it an infinite span of time, but because it takes away the craving for immortality.
For there is nothing terrible in life for the man who has truly comprehended that there is nothing terrible in not living.
[Death] does not then concern either the living or the dead, since for the former it is not, and the latter are no more. "

Indeed... there is more wisdom and truth contained in that thought than a distillation of all the religions combined.

238. 238. egfx 09:04 PM 10/24/08

"This article was originally titled 'the end' ". What they forgot to mention was that we have experienced non existence, not through dreams but through an infinite amount of time before our birth.

239. 239. seaoftea 06:38 AM 10/25/08

I don't understand why it is so hard to imagine being unconscious or dead. Do you know what it is like to taste nothing, see nothing, hear nothing? Why is it so hard than to imagine what it is like to think nothing? What I find hard is to grasp consciousness itself. We know that we are conscious but we cannot explain it.

240. 240. Escadrille 07:03 AM 10/25/08

In a mechanistic universe, this article seems to intelligently make a case for absolute death. However, what bothers me about the argument remains a nagging feeling that our understanding of the universe is still highly subjective and consequently inaccurate. For instance, I am not overly confident that we precisely know what is "real" in the universe, scientifically speaking. Therefore, making a case, pro or con, is fraught with risk when one makes assumptions.

Nevertheless, this is a subject that needs frank and open discussion and I welcome the very interesting responses I am finding here. Kudos!

241. 241. dasan13 08:01 AM 10/25/08

I think we humans believe we are eternal because the stuff we are made of has been around since the big bang. (And before that, inside the tiny, hot dot) Somewhere in our genetic code is written the history of evolution. When we die, we decompose and turn into organic matter. I would like to decompose right into the earth and mix with the soil that will feed a tree that my grandchildren, great-grandchildren might climb. Even this vision is not eternal since earth's days are numbered. But the stuff we are made of will be in this universe forever.

242. 242. sonellenos 12:39 PM 10/25/08

I personally get the feeling that most people don't truly understand what death is also. I feel like you'd truly be messed up if you tried to really conceptualize it. When I think about it, it's like imagining the world BEFORE I was born. That's essentially what it will be like after death. I will have no thoughts or existence the same as before 1984. It's all it comes down to.
-S.

243. 243. stuufe 01:16 PM 10/25/08

There are so many philosophical issues that are being ignored in this article - suppose that's natural as answering them all would take a couple of books worth of writing. However, there is a basic problem with taking a 'scientific' approach to certain questions (such as death). We are very much adopting a 'god's eye view' of reality, when in fact this is very much an impossible task. I don't think people believe in afterlife for purely the psychological reasons listed here, but because there are other ways of viewing reality than the one proposed here.

244. 244. Spin-oza 03:01 PM 10/25/08

KENKAT is emblematic of overtly delusional bible-god cultists, who have completely succumbed to childish, wishful thinking... to the point that they "hate" the reality that science provides, to the adults on the planet.

Exhibit A:

"I hate "scientist's who try to define life after death. These are always people who say they have never experienced something they cannot explain. I have experienced an nde, I have experienced my husbands death and contact with him since then, I have talked to God and Jesus and my angelic guides. I have talked to other family who have passed over. The good thing for all you scientist's out there who can't "prove" life after death, God Believes in You."

Yessir! Talks with the dead... angelic "guides"... conversations with the Creator of the Universe and the resurrected god-man who somehow roamed the planet briefly, leaving no credible historical evidence, ... conveniently during an age of incredible ignorance of the Natural World when the "miraculous" was common place, long before the age of Science, Reason and technology.

Sadly... tragically, this woman has conflated her apparently now empty life with her husband's death. Having been indoctrinated by paternalistic, authoritarian bible dogma, she now desparately clings to an imagined afterlife... a "soul" somehow surviving the body, and magically available for chats.

This case should make clear why "subjective truth" (in this case mental illness) can be so patently bogus. Nothing could illustrate the strength of science any better because it is a dialog (versus dogma) of provable, intersubjective reality (versus hallucinations).

Ironically, she proclaims to all those silly, myopic "scientists" that "god believes in you". How reassuring! The OMNI-SKY-god of the bible actually "believes" in his frail, mortal creation: WHAT A GUY!!!

SENECA:

"RELIGION is viewed as true by the common folk,
as false by the Wise,
as useful by the Rulers".

Indeed.

245. 245. elrond911 in reply to cuddl3bot 05:58 PM 10/25/08

This is one of the most interesting articles i've ever read... the line in which the author says... You will not know when you are dead... makes me want to do only one thing... Enjoy life until that moment comes

246. 246. Petz 07:50 PM 10/25/08

Hundreds of years ago, people heckled and laughed at Columbus for thinking the world to be round. Did their disbelief change what was the Truth?

So it is with a belief or not in the afterlife. As humans we try to "prove" or "disprove" what deep inside... we ALL already know. We do this with tests, surveys, whatever instrument is available And yet, til we experience it, as an individual no one on this planet will ever know for sure.

I encourage you to pay attention to the "gut feeling" or inner voice that is trying to help answer these questions. The answers lie within us all. I personally, without any doubt...know that life does indeed go on. Not as we understand it or know it...but we do not die!

247. 247. Featherwind 08:13 PM 10/25/08

Hi. Well, How can the authoress speak with conviction, and knowing,?
Experience is a great teacher.. Why have a brain at all if there is nothing beyond this life? Why love? Everything is energy. yes, my brain..is physical..it will rot when I die...but my soul/spirit..the light in me goes on!
I know this as I have seen animals that have passed, as well as people.NO ONE can tell me differently..I experienced it. I hope everyone can be open to experience the beauty and love, here in physical, and beyond. . Until we as individuals experience some aspect of all that is, we will always wonder.

248. 248. gregsmall 10:20 PM 10/25/08

The word "believe" implies that we're talking not about science but on religion where people just believe and often don't ask any evidence or proof.
This is a principal difference between religion-like thinking and science.
But since the article was already published on Scientific American website (h-mm), I'd like to comment it in a scientific way.
All life (organic and probably nonorganic) is the process of utilization on matter in different ways. Utilization support progress since on the next matter re-use it will be used on a higher level, more sophisticated and more advanced. Death means life and progress.
The specifics of a homo-sapience is that he has a qualitative matter side-effect -- a self conciseness and ability to think abstractly. An ape became a human when it said "I am..".
More than that, a group of humans can generate a collective mind. This is probably another dimension -- the dimension of a human intelligence. This dimension exists until the last human is dead.
You as a human individual can participate in imputing into this dimension in different ways, and in this way you will "live" after your physical death.
Your self-consciousness -- "YOU" -- will die with your brain death. The matter will be utilized on a molecular or atomic levels in different life activities (including another life). But atoms have no identity (they are not Bourne).
All the above is not new of course. I just pulled it up in this context, and want to finish with a message:
Please don't be childish. Take it. And leave a good deeds after you.
But if you really like this "life after death" idea, please frequent religious, mystics etc web sites. You'll find more understanding there.
sciam.com, are we shot of scientific topics?

249. 249. Theotherguy in reply to Petz 11:10 PM 10/25/08

Now Petz, your example of Columbus is actually on the side of science rather than mysticism!

Aside from the fact that Columbus did not profess the world to be round, and did not set out on his voyage to prove the world was round, and the fact that it was commonly known that the world was round since the time of the ancient Greeks, people intuitively "know" that the world is flat! Ask any young child, and they will find it absurd to think that we live on a ball. Common experience seems to give us the gut feeling that we live on a 2D plane, and everything seems to fall towards it.

Now, the "gut feelings" of humanity are hard-wired instincts based on the lives of our distant ancestors. Ancient people lived in roaming nomadic tribes of a handful of people, living in a world of predators, prey, friends and enemies. We are well adapted for this world, and the assumptions that got us through it may not necessarily be true! We cannot comprehend the very large, the very small, the very fast, the very slow, the very long, the very short. We can only comprehend what is in the middle, between the size of an ant and the size of a mountain, the speed of a bee and the speed of growing crops, time measured in seconds, or time measured in lifetimes.

In the same way, we cannot comprehend our own death. Why? Because it incurs no advantage on you while you are alive to think about death. There is no selective pressure to give you "gut feelings" about death, and the "gut feelings" we may or may not have about "life after death" have no guarantee of being true or false. These "gut feelings" are merely assumptions and heuristics. They do not depend on evidence or truth, only on what has worked in the past.

This is why we must use science to discover the truth. Using your example of the roundness of the Earth, Greek scientists found this out themselves through experiment and careful analysis of evidence. They overturned the "gut feeling" of the common man by figuring out independently how things worked. Science doesn't take "gut feelings" into account, because they could very well be wrong. Science takes an unbiased account of the evidence, and then discovers what truth it can through analysis of this evidence.

250. 250. anotherconsumer 11:16 PM 10/25/08

Imagining death is rather simple. Just think about what things were like 20 years before you were born... make it 300,000 years before you were born. If you can think back to then, then you will know what death is like.

251. 251. anotherconsumer 11:17 PM 10/25/08

Just try to remember 100,000 years before you were born and that's about what death will be lie.

252. 252. EB 04:33 AM 10/26/08

Funny point there.

In a literal sense, an "agnostic" that chains himself to whatever is 'proven' to a degree of certainty, is by nature the last to leave one level of comprehension, and the last to arrive at the next level of understanding. It is they who, in essence, truly fear the unknown.

Always in some form of denial, and several Dimensions short of a Reality as a result.

Where would they be, and how small a Universe would they live in, had "madmen" not gone before them and lit the way?

253. 253. Spin-oza 11:40 AM 10/26/08

On the one hand, it is very difficult for a sentient being to imagine the reality of non-existence... but on the other, we are literally surrounded by death. Death of plants, insects, and animals of every type, whether due to drought, lack of habitat... selfish human sport or glutonous pleasure. Initimate death of our "pets"... our friends and family... death indeed surrounds and defines life itself.

Thus we MUST rationalize death in some form... some narrative in our brains must make sense to us.

Religions have long capitalized on this paralyzing fear to many by offering childish promises of the eternal... and the Abrahamic faiths have only made matters worse. Christianity promises eternal rewards to believers in this absurd parody as Demigods... and eternal torture to those whose conscience dictates a skeptical path. (I wonder what these "souls" will do to pass the time... in eternity... forever... and ever... and ever, etc., etc..)

Religion and god-constructs were born from human fraility and mortality... and a profound lack of understanding of the Natural World. A desire for an existence beyond Nature... beyond the Universe itself. Understandable, but sad nonetheless.

THE FACT that death is natural and is embedded at the very moment of our birth makes clear, at least to the adults on the planet, that life is precious indeed and we should both individually and as a society, seek to maximize the time we have. That we exist at all is astonishing indeed... and should be celebrated!

DEATH merely represents inevitable change... from which NOTHING is immune. Without constant change, there cannot be life. The only thing immutable is Nature itself. You may call Nature "god"... it matters not.

It is what it is... not what you'd like it to be.

Deus sive Natura.

254. 254. Ericimo 01:33 PM 10/26/08

No, but what is foolish is to assume WITHOUT EVIDENCE that even with the death of the brain that the mind/consciousness will continue in dimensions the mind cannot perceive when the brain is alive...but also that the mind will suddenly perceive those demensions BECAUSE the brain has ceased to function.

That is the very height of irrationality.

255. 255. Ericimo 01:35 PM 10/26/08

There is no reason to assume that the mind continues to function (in any spatial dimension) after the brain has ceased to function.

256. 256. njguy in reply to Ericimo 05:08 PM 10/26/08

WITHOUT EVIDENCE. You must be joking. There's enough evidence available now to convince any Skeptic the reality of an afterlife. But for an uber skeptic like yourself, no evidence would be enough. Your mind is made up regardless of the facts that exist. Again, you lose all credibility when you say it does NOT exist. Where's your proof? I'm really very interested how you come to this conclusion.

I think I just had a braingasm. Jeeze.......

258. 258. EB 01:44 AM 10/27/08

Simple conclusions.

Life being a cosmic accident here on this lowly planet, obviously the Universe came complete with an entire body of immutable natural law to govern every aspect of it.

As Nature abhors a vacuum, it is obvious that each individual mind springs from an ethereal nothing, and ends abruptly in complete oblivion.

259. 259. Franciscosuriba 01:53 AM 10/27/08

I think that the subconscious (that entity called soul) is part of a bigger one perhaps situated very near of us but imperceptible to us. The subconscious is in permanent contact with the bigger entity, so when the organic life end, the subconscious, the soul just jump, a quantic jump, and return home. Probably this soul does'nt remember anything at all about his organic life or maybe yes, but that is without significance to us, the people that still are living.

260. 260. Thistlin in reply to EB 05:15 AM 10/27/08

For being a "simple" conclusion, a lot of people manage to avoid reaching it. I think it is a bit arrogant to think that they reach other conclusions only out of wishful thinking.

Mind is, of course, not a thing but a process, using brain to sustain its function, much like the flame on a candle is a process using the candle and wick to sustain itself. This is, however, only an analogy, so that what happens to candles is not particularly relevant to what happens to mind.

The existence of forms of mental deterioration--especially when memory physically stored in brain gets destroyed--is good evidence that the thing we think of as "self" is an illusion brought on by the ability of the process of mind to access memories. Destroy this ability and self seems to vanish.

261. 261. vkatoppo 07:09 AM 10/27/08

I think we do have experience with nothingness, to a certain extent. The time before we were born. Before the so-called spark of self-consciousness started (don't know exactly when - maybe sometime after the first specialized brain cells were constructed). We have no awareness of the self in that period of time. I guess we could extrapolate that non-existence of the self before we were born to the nothingness of death. Which kinda explain the theory of self-consciousness is generated when the biological brain is constructed. Therefore, it is not with a leap of imagination that with the deconstruction of our brain (death), our self-consciousness would cease.

262. 262. Dsstar555 09:58 AM 10/27/08

263. 263. Dsstar555 10:29 AM 10/27/08

Another thing, Jesse Bering is a psychologist not a neuroscientist nor a anthropologist. One cannot make assumptions that our ancient ancestors behaviors are the sole reasons for why we act the way we act today, mainly because no one knows where the hell we come from. Evidently our human race is much older then we once presumed and that our Cro-magnon ancestors didnt merge with the Neatherthals of the past. In other words humans didnt come from apes, in fact many archaeologists and scientists are now coming to conclusions that we are much older than 200,000 years, and may have existed alongside these "apemen" as well as dinosaurs, More skeletons, models and arhchitectures are being discovered and are going back further and further in time, way before the ancient Sumerians. In fact many anthropologists aligned with this belief believe that if the true ancestors of the ape man exists today they would look something like Big Foot. woops. So this throws human behavior and Darwinism out the window. Im not saying evolution is wrong, im just saying that it isnt 100% accurate, especially when it comes to our existence, because no one knows just how old we are or when we evolved.

Anyone who studies Quatum Mechanics knows that the human body is an illusion anyway shaped by our beliefs and perspectives because we have the power to do that. A thought can be meaured in a labratory, just like any other real thing. We shape the world around us with our thoughts including our beliefs. Learn about the teachings of Entanglement and how we are all connecetd and you'll see whatI mean. Personally I believe that Quantum Mechanics has more merit than believing that nothing happens when you die, but thats just my belief. BTW, the true translation of the line in Genesis is not "In the beginning there was the word" What it really says is "In the beginning there was thought"

Maybe the reason why everyone since the "presumed beginning" of our race believes that the mind is immortal is because........it is? Just a thought

264. 264. guntharen in reply to Schenn 12:34 PM 10/27/08

Although ,logically,you are non-existent when dead do people not believe that something of themselves is carried on in their children?Your dna is passed on offering you a type of immortality until you no longer have any decendants.That is what comforts in the face of death that apart of me will live on in all my decendants

265. 265. bassettd 04:12 PM 10/27/08

I think that the body is like a car very complicated, but with out a driver it is unable to do anything. My view of the human body is that it is a self repairing and replacing robot very sofisticated but unable to do anything untill it recieves a driver. Spirit, life force call it whatever.

266. 266. Truthseeker 06:45 PM 10/27/08

I have no idea why anyone would have a problem imagining the end of their own existence. Even though I was raised as a Christian (and still have many core beliefs in comon with Christians) I have no desire for my consciousness to continue after my body/brain suts down. I view the idea of life after death as a curse not a blessing. When some representative of a group asks me if I want to live forever, I generally reply "God! I hope not!" and further reply that I cannot conceive of a worse fate. When my time comes I want only to slip away - fade to black, power down, all done.

267. 267. maureenhayes 01:02 PM 10/28/08

As a ghost hunter, it seems apparent to me that Something of our essence remains after death. How else can one explain hauntings otherwise? Presumably, many don't believe in ghosts, but I have seen ghostly phenomena which I know is legitimate, because I was There. Although some of this phenomena may be a sort of recorded imprint of energy, there is another phenomena which seems to retain the "personality" of the deceased. I cannot explain what a "ghost" actually is at this point; I think we just lack the technology to measure other-dimensional beings. However, there is a true and real entity there, whatever it is, and this would seemingly indicate some sort of "life after death".

268. 268. DRHX 04:02 PM 10/28/08

We have all experienced death before. It came before we were born and will be the same once we die: nothing. Furthermore, yes the mind is a product of the brain and the body, not a product of magic.

269. 269. martineden 07:30 PM 10/28/08

Very interesting, and as an atheist I still sometimes find myself thinking along these lines. It's kind of akin to imagining that someone is watching us when there is no one around.
However, it is not true that we have never experienced nonexistence...if that oxymoronic statement even makes any sense. After all, we were all born at a particular time on a particular date. Everything that occurred before that instant we were essentially dead to. I have never seen a dinosaur, a Roman centurian, or a civil war battle. Neither did any atrocity of WWs I & II have the slightest effect on me. Why then is is so hard to imagine this same lack of essence after death? After all, it's nothing we haven't already gone through...so to speak.

270. 270. martineden 07:31 PM 10/28/08

Very interesting, and as an atheist I still sometimes find myself thinking along these lines. It's kind of akin to imagining that someone is watching us when there is no one around.
However, it is not true that we have never experienced nonexistence...if that oxymoronic statement even makes any sense. After all, we were all born at a particular time on a particular date. Everything that occurred before that instant we were essentially dead to. I have never seen a dinosaur, a Roman centurian, or a civil war battle. Neither did any atrocity of WWs I & II have the slightest effect on me. Why then is is so hard to imagine this same lack of essence after death? After all, it's nothing we haven't already gone through...so to speak.

271. 271. martineden 07:32 PM 10/28/08

Very interesting, and as an atheist I still sometimes find myself thinking along these lines. It's kind of akin to imagining that someone is watching us when there is no one around.
However, it is not true that we have never experienced nonexistence...if that oxymoronic statement even makes any sense. After all, we were all born at a particular time on a particular date. Everything that occurred before that instant we were essentially dead to. I have never seen a dinosaur, a Roman centurian, or a civil war battle. Neither did any atrocity of WWs I & II have the slightest effect on me. Why then is is so hard to imagine this same lack of essence after death? After all, it's nothing we haven't already gone through...so to speak.

272. 272. bogm2004 08:57 PM 10/28/08

As many of the defenders of the idea of an continuously after dead conciousness you are
making many suppositions based on subjective facts. You may have to consider that conciousness reside not in the cortex or that it is created only
by cognitive processes, but reside in the quantic level of existence where the rules of time and space change so it has a different continuity and not depends of physical elements.
If you take into an account the documented experiences of people describing events that occurs when they cerebral functions are stopped, you may find the theory of a conciousness solely created by the
brain invalid. The brain only adds physical expirience to something more complex and extended. Obiously when the brain dies that physical expirience cese but not the rest of the expirience which resides in other energy level of existence

Maybe when you the scientist can make the bridge between the quantic and the classic physics can find the explanation, meanwhile the only thing you can do is fight again that your intuition knows.

273. 273. Amina Haider 01:01 AM 10/29/08

It is pure blasphemy not to believe in life after death...i dont think any psychological theory can ever prove anything against it...its all crap...its like hypnotising into believing that everything finishes into eternal nothingness...thats not true...our existence is of two kinds the physical and that of the soul...the soul never dies, no scientific bullshit can ever deny that!

The mind is what the brain does- just because you don't understand that doesn't mean it is not so.
Life is a brief time of light and consciousness between endless darkness. make the most of now becasue there is nothing else

Enjoy your soul and life everlasting- you will be alone in the afterlife. You sound very angry and therefore scared.
Just enjoy now. be grateful that you were born. Do you know what the odds are that YOU specifically were born

be calm be happy - death may hurt but after death doesn't

276. 276. Jan Jitso 05:34 AM 10/29/08

In science there is an unsolvable problem, namely the First Cause, the start of the universe. Job said that animals walking on the surface of Earth live in a "two-dimensional" world, while man digs gold and diamonds. In this respect "God" is four-dimensional, not understood by us but friendly according to the religions. And of course controlling future destinations.
Our limited knowledge is reflected in words like hell (from dutch region hel, where in pre-writing epoch the vowel may have indicated form, first consonant border-sharpness and last letter information on movement), which meant glittering surface of cold water where one should not get lost.
Presently after-death of p.e. extinctionists may be imagined by believers as the soul locked up in the coffin together with the stinking body remains without being able to shut the nose (notice that this is unlogical from 3-dimensional view). Paradise no longer is appreciated as a place of rest with harp music since we can reach nice tropical islands. The "technical" term stays unchanged: "being near to God like water at the bottom of the ocean".

277. 277. scimagpa 10:04 AM 10/29/08

In what sense is the intuition of continuity false?

The statement I am dead. contradicts what is presupposes. Death cannot be an experience. For the same reasons one cannot experience or remember coming into being. With this in mind some religionists warn of the delusion of pseudo-ipseity.- the delusion that ones self is independently real. The author directs his criticism at this same delusion, and nothing more.

278. 278. Chaosqueued 01:42 PM 10/29/08

I've seen a lot of people in these comments using the terms "open minded" and "closed minded" wrong.

If you accept every idea that is told to you with out any critical thinking or evaluation you are NOT "open minded," you are Gullible. Being open minded means you are in a constant mode of evaluation on your known information and new in coming information. Close minded means you are no longer willing to evaluate new information.

Let us use "hospitality" as being analogous to open mindedness. Hospitality means you are readily receptive to guests. Open mindedness would than mean you are readily receptive to information. There is now a knock on the door. At a knock on the door, do you let everyone enter your house with out an initial evaluation? An intelligent person would weed out potential miscreants. A gullible one would not. So stop using the "close minded" statement against everyone that disagrees with you. If the evidence can't back you up, you more than likely fall into the gullible category.

One must remember, Extraordinary claims require Extraordinary proof. Occam's Razor states that the solution with the least amount of assumptions is the preferred one.

Pareidolia explains faces in smoke, Jesus on toast, EVP in white noise, etc. Ghosts and holy spirits have more assumptions.

279. 279. scimagpa in reply to scimagpa 03:02 PM 10/29/08

(don't mean to spam, but I gotta fix these typos)

In what sense is the intuition of continuity false?

The statement "I am dead." contradicts what it presupposes. Death cannot be an experience. For the same reasons one cannot experience or remember coming into being. With this in mind some religionists warn of the delusion of "pseudo-ipseity" - the delusion that one's "self" is independently real. The author directs his criticism at this same delusion, and nothing more.

PS Any attitude toward the afterlife can be assailed as a product of wish fulfillment, lest we forget the deathwish, or the wish simply to remain ignorant, with which so many physicians - and propagandists - are familiar.

280. 280. scimagpa in reply to martineden 03:32 PM 10/29/08

There's a difference between imagining something and experiencing something. Experience is a present tense and personal sort of thing. Try this experiment. Try to truthfully say or think "I do not exist." or "I remember not existing."

Here is a quote from the "Towards a Science of Consciousness" website "http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/tucson2008.htm"

This is from the flyer for the 2008 conference.
"The eighth biennial Tucson conference continues
an interdisciplinary tradition of intense, far-ranging
and rigorous discussions on all approaches to the
fundamental issue of how the brain produces
conscious experience."

Mr Toradze says these same scientists "won't even go so far as to claim they are applying science to consciousness yet"

This claim is obviously false. Further examples abound.

Also see the syllabus for the webcourse at "http://www.consciousness.arizona.edu/documents/SyllabusforConsciousness-TheWebCourse2008_005.pdf"

where we find the following among many other similar examples;
"Our Lectures will explore new scientific findings about everyday
consciousness, and explore what we know about altered conscious states."

283. 283. Hamfest 05:22 PM 10/30/08

The reason most of us believe in an afterlife is rational and scientific. E=MC2 is the answer. Explained: Energy equals mass x the speed of light squared. To travel the speed of light squared is an "impossiblity" or "irrational" concept (such as death). So, to be pure energy (as in a state of death) you would exist in all places at all times simultaneously. In effect, you are everywhere. Therefore, you have a residual memory of an after/before life. How that state of being is experienced is beyond my pay grade.

284. 284. EB 10:46 PM 10/30/08

According to the Theory of Imflation, every fundamental particle of the Universe has at one time travelled exponentially FASTER than the speed of light. The speed of ,,, Thought,,, perhaps.

285. 285. EB 01:15 AM 10/31/08

grr, thats 'Inflation',

of course.

286. 286. scimagpa 07:55 AM 10/31/08

Can continuity be real if the "self" is not?

In Buddhist doctrine one of the "three marks of existence," or three features common to all existing things, is "anatta" meaning "no-soul". There is no "atman," no unchanging substratum, no identity over time. So, my present self is really not the same as my past or future selves were or will be. It is a thought - like other thoughts in its impermanence. On the other hand Buddhism affirms both reincarnation and karma. So there is continuity, but not for the self. If the Buddha understood this continuity, he did not publicize his explanation. Perhaps he considered it more of a distraction than a help.
Other religious systems try to de-emphasize the ego, less explicitly and with varying degrees of success. Are these attempts also motivated by insight into the illusory nature of the ego? I suppose it's a matter for further study.

"There is only one transmigrant."

287. 287. Chaosqueued in reply to Hamfest 01:02 PM 10/31/08

Hamfest-
"E=MC2 is the answer. Explained: Energy equals mass x the speed of light squared. To travel the speed of light squared is an "impossiblity" or "irrational" concept (such as death). So, to be pure energy (as in a state of death) you would exist in all places at all times simultaneously."

- That explanation would be incorrect. You are using a bogus scientific logic. E=mc^2 is the REST mass of an object. The "c squared" part doesn't mean you have to go the 9 * 10^16 m/s to get this energy. It is a constant, a value that says how much energy you get out of a mass at rest. It is not a formula to turn things from mass to energy. You are forgetting to square your units. Mass = kg; c = m/s, E = kg m^2/s^2 = kg m/s^2 m = N m = J

If you take .5 kg of matter and throw it at .5 kg of anti matter, they will annihilate each other and their rest mases alone will produce 9*10^16 J of energy. 1 ton of TNT = 4.184 *10^9 J, so the energy produced is about 21 megatons of TNT. That is a very large hydrogen bomb.

EB-
"The speed of ,,, Thought,,, perhaps"

- The process of the electrical and chemical signals that flow through our nervous system is considerably slower than c (the speed of light in a vacuum). And Cherenkov radiation shows us that the speed of light can move like molasses.

Nothing with mass has ever or will ever travel faster than c. Yes, the universe can be expanding faster than c, but this is due to the space forming in the gaps not velocities of object through space. A subtle difference.

288. 288. EB in reply to Chaosqueued 06:37 PM 10/31/08

Yes, lots of very interesting work with light in recent years. I remember them getting it down to around 28 mph in the lab, but I can't remember if they had gotten slower/stopped, or if they were confident they would soon.
Of course, its only recently been proven that photons do indeed have mass. There was a very interesting program about that discovery on Nova (I believe it was) not too long ago.

The work with Quantum Entanglement fascinates me to no end, and I have an unshkeable feeling we will learn there is a great deal more for us to learn from that.

My reference to the speed of 'Thought' was meant as a concept in abstract, an entertaining of possibility. I know the chemical and electrical impulses themselves are constrained in a biological bottleneck according to the Laws of Physics (as we currently understand them).

What I meant by the speed of Thought was a Mind's ability to perceive/conceive beyond such boundaries. From ancient Past to far-off Future, from one outer limit of the Universe to another, into other dimensions and alternate realities, to play through a myriad of possibilities, within the blink of an eye, so to speak. It doesnt take us X-billion years to Think about something X-billion years removed.

Its not the speed at which the Thought propagates, but rather the 'distances' those Thoughts can so easily span.

289. 289. scimagpa 06:34 AM 11/1/08

PS
The notion of an afterlife is only "wildly illogical" starting from; "The mind is what the brain does." or some such premise. For most of our history, the role of the brain in mental life was little known. The Greeks, for example, thought of the brain as a kind of heat-sink.
More recently, William James likened the brain to a radio receiver which receives but does not originate its content. Some of our contemporaries are also making suggestions along these lines. I think that consciousness is a feature of reality as a whole. It is, in part, the intuition of continuity, which can be, strictly speaking, a property only of the Whole.

290. 290. Bradley 01:07 PM 11/1/08

Assuming your question is valid and indicates a universal condition among human beings, I think turning to two sources of knowledge would offer an explanation, one from philosophy (namely the Buddha) and the other from brain science in general. From the second source, it is likely that human beings imagine or engage in vicarious experiences due to the actions of the mirror neuron system. There are models available for us to view how dead individuals behave, with the real models showing no activity, and the myriad entertainment or imaginary models showing or describing impossible activity. In either case, the ability of the reasoning part of the brain to hold irrational beliefs and to be reinforced by emotions is well known. The particular beliefs that people hold vary from person to person depending on culturally acquired ideas. Long ago the Buddha noted that by viewing a body be consumed by carrion eaters and then slowly decompose (a commonly available scene in his environment but not in ours) one could identify with the process. In this way the viewer would be convinced, due to lack of evidence, to abandon such unfounded ideas as the existence of a soul or the continuation of a self after death. Still that leaves open the possibility that absence of evidence does not indicate evidence of absence. And even now there are those who seek scientific evidence that there is something unaccounted for when the body of a dead person is compared to the same person before death. Uneducated children if also interested would tend to rely on empathy and currently held ideas rather than objective reasoning.

291. 291. sephers165 05:48 PM 11/7/08

Wow this is absolute hogwash. If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true ... and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.

292. 292. PEG in reply to sfanetti 03:48 AM 11/8/08

Claiming to have an understanding of mind is stupid.
science can not claim to support any notion of anything they can not study. Religion and the mind are outside of the scientist realm. This is something for philosophers/theologians not sciam. Sciam wants science to be the all knowning authority on everything, dont get me wrong science has alot to offer but not in this area of inquiry. There is what is observable, and what we can determine from mathematics , but that is not all there is.
Materialism /reductionism make the claim that all that we can determine is all that there is but they acknowledge that our minds evolved according to natural processes by pure chance and they dont suspect that maybe we have limitations that limit our minds from unerstanding everything there is to know?
Paint a picture with science , but keep in mind it is not going to be an image of all that there is, just all that we can see atm.

293. 293. Valinor 01:59 PM 11/8/08

This is actually a very interesting scientific article. I believe that the fact we cannot imagine death (well, most of us, not all) is something inherent and instinctive. We know that we do not actually die, this is why we cannot imagine death. Even Homo Neanderthalensis believed in the afterlife. There is a BBC documentary on Near-death experiences and the most shocking case it shows is that of a woman who, due to a brain aneurism, had to undergo an operation during which her brain activity was literally paused by the doctors. Nevertheless, she had a fantastic experience to recount when she woke up...The documentary is called "The day I died" and you can find it on youtube.

294. 294. Mr. Coffee 01:04 AM 11/11/08

I imagine death is just like before being born.
I have no memory of whether or not I was conscious before birth (in fact, I have little memory of anything before I was 2 or 3 years old). Therefore, why should I expect to have any prescience about whether or not I will be conscious after I die?
Birth and death are the ultimate "discontinuities", making what came before and what comes after, unknowable.

295. 295. thankful 04:05 AM 11/11/08

The author assumes that consciousness is necessary in order to experience beingness. Consider the idea that consciousness is a tool that we use in this reality to experience this reality. Now consider that we are more than our consciousness. I use this idea and belief system in order to allow myself the ability to experience more than this reality. Go ahead and free yourself and live beyond the constraints of limits that others wish to impose upon you. You can free yourself from mental slavery. Experiencing the unknown is available for those willing to explore outside of the accepted realms. Happy hunting.

296. 296. eyespot 09:36 AM 11/11/08

Well, WAS the dog sleeping or dead already? In the print article version of "The End" there was a picture of a dog sleeping or dead on a roadway and the caption indicated that "urban four-year-olds and children from hunter-horticultural societies are equally good at telling the difference." Well, good for the four year olds but *I* am not sure whether or not the dog is dead and it is driving me nuts. I believe it is sleeping due to the tail and ear positions but initially I thought it was dead due to fact that is was very dirty looking and my initial take was that he was in the middle of a roadway--an odd area for a nap. Please put a 41 year old urbanite's mind to rest please!

297. 297. MD1 01:47 AM 11/12/08

Its very easy to sum this all up.

What do you remember before you were born?

From which you came so shall you return. Whats so hard about that?

298. 298. RK in reply to sds 05:18 AM 11/13/08

Brain damage certainly proves mind comes from brain. Don't be silly and ask us to prove monism.
To those who are discussing the experience of death: there is no experience. When your brain shuts down, you cease to have sensory input and sensation. All the "you" stops; there is no experience whatsoever. Thus, talking about what it is like to be dead is meaningless. Your sensory neurons aren't signaling to a brain that is not processing; it is silly to wonder what "nothing" is like. The agrammatical sentence "there isn't nothing" is true. There is no nothing, no anything, the you that processes sensation is no longer.

299. 299. krishna rao in reply to Har Sukhdeep Singh 10:29 AM 11/13/08

hi.. mr. singh.. ur thoughts are going well.. and of course your quest about "life after death" or "no death" is considerable...
but mr. singh.. it is certainly not possible to be immortal..
even big galaxies and huge stars has their "start" and "end"
after all we are a part of this universe... we have that "start" and "end"
as a rapid process(</= 100)...

300. 300. Ool 11:48 AM 11/13/08

Actually none of us can ever die because in an infinite event space the beyond astronomically improbable possibility of someone with the memory of our present existence continuing to live is, despite the near-infinitesimal likelihood, still statistically inevitable.

301. 301. Insaan Abdullah 08:43 PM 11/16/08

Before we can ask intelligent questions concerning death we must be able to understand questions concerning life. We can't know about death until we know about life. They are both phases or stages in our evolving from one level to the next and so on. Let's ask ourselves about the mysteries of life. What is intelligence? What is mind? What is life? What is thought? What is man? We must see and understand 2 + 2 = 4 before we can hope to discover the higher mysteries of mathematics. We must crawl before we walk. We must live and come to understand life and the reason for it before we question the higher stages of it which opens up to us in death. Death is not the end, but we must discover that it is not the end. We must delve deeply into the ocean of knowledge that is life to find the bright and clear meaning to it and to death.

302. 302. jbrody845 10:53 AM 11/17/08

You might at least give credit to the amazing Ernest Becker when you discuss Terror Management. His books Denial of Death and Escape from Evil are deep and thoughtful and yet surprisingly dismissed by the academy.
He may not have been the first, but surely he was the major promulgator of the fear of death as our basic motivating factor.

303. 303. db8rt 01:22 PM 11/17/08

through my own personal inquiry into the matter, i cannot help but believe that we exhibit an awareness of the physical world, an awareness of our bodies, and an awareness of our mind and thoughts that operates beyond the thinker, or ego. while there is no question that the mechanisms of the physical form evaporate into "inanimate carbon residue" upon death, what about this witness to form that is the template upon which the causal chain experience plays out?

don't dreams throw a wrench in the mix? if the witness is anchored in physical form, how do we experience dreams where we operate in a world outside the limits of this universes known potential? The actual experience of the dreamer is as real as it gets, but doesn't really fit into our empirically identifiable and timely world.

so while your ego definitely won't be around to find out what happens after death, i tend to agree with eastern philosophical thought in that the innate witness experiencing everything we call life is something different from the succession of causal existence in space-time--and is unborn and undying.

304. 304. verdai 06:12 PM 11/19/08

the writer has no experience and therefore cannot testify.

In any other event, see Ool.

305. 305. Reggie 08:21 AM 11/20/08

What if everything dies but at the end of the universe the big crunch happens and then there is a new and very similar universe? If it has you in it because it is so similar is that going to be you or a just some kind of copy?

306. 306. g2em3 03:26 AM 11/21/08

We are all so very afraid of the end we hide all of it we can, unless it is on TV or in the Movies, then hell yeah bring it on. Death is The End except for hair and nails, they continue to grow.

307. 307. bunturbuff 05:15 AM 11/21/08

One lifetime is more than enough for me.

308. 308. bunturbuff 05:25 AM 11/21/08

No afterlife = no pain.

309. 309. OpenObserver 09:42 PM 11/21/08

Humans continually limit themselves and this article provides excellent substantiation of this. There is massive evidence that at least some life goes on beyond what science calls death. Other writers in this discussion have described there experiences in detail and I myself have experienced an unambiguous situation in which my dog informed me of her death by means of a flying cane (that had emotional connection to the dog) causing a loud sound that corresponded to the approximate time of her death. But we don't have to look far to find "maverick" researchers who do not follow the "line" that is propagated by current institutional science. I suggestion the book "The Final Theory" by Mark McCutcheon who with surprising logic and math challenges the theories of Newton and Einstein. And also any book by Rupert Sheldrake for new thinking in the field of biology. Unfortunately most responses in this discussion seemed to use the word "science" to mean "institutional science" or "propagandized science" without really knowing it. True science as I see it, is science being open to whatever our senses and sensors tell us. There is limitation enough in this.

310. 310. miafrancesca 12:18 PM 11/22/08

I am surprised that those who have suffered comas or grand mal seizures were not mentioned. As an epileptic myself, I've experienced a (lack thereof) state of mind where 15-20 minutes have passed by, although it seemed like a mere second has only passed during the seizure and aftermath. I usually fall into a deep depression because I end up dwelling on whether death is similar to my moment of complete nothingness.

311. 311. WizeHowl 04:12 AM 11/29/08

Having died seven times, twice as a baby, when I obviously could not have remembered anything, but four times in my late teens, early twenties and one at forty.

I have very clear memories of the moments I was dead for most of them, however there was one occasion the last, were there was nothing, and I mean nothing. There is just a period of time in my memory that no longer exists.

The times I do remember, however are very distinct. You hear stories of a bright light, there is not light, what there is, is no pain, no feeling what so ever, and that includes feelings of love, loss, pain or grief. There was just serenity, tranquillity and peace. On each occasion I watched as doctors, ambulance and nurses tried to revive me, on one occasion I was declared dead by the doctor and the time noted. The next thing I knew I was been wheeled to the mortuary and opened my eyes and asked the wardsman where he was taking me, he nearly had a heart attack himself.

Is there life after death, or are we doomed to be extinctivists, even I can not be sure, as I said the last time, there was simply nothing. I can only relate my own experiences.

312. 312. Seaman in reply to halfhearted 10:19 PM 11/29/08

Maybe you should go see a psychiatrist next time.

313. 313. Seaman in reply to WizeHowl 10:24 PM 11/29/08

you too

314. 314. Seaman 10:29 PM 11/29/08

So how does our learned professor deal with metamorphosis in humans where they say the afterlife is found. We see it in animals and can read about it in humans until it happens to us, or course, and would this not be the time we know about it first hand?

315. 315. professor1965 02:18 PM 12/11/08

I always assumed the idea that death was the end of existence was an obvious possibility. Children discuss it more intelligently than anyone is given credit for in this article.

The other issue that is important here is that existence after death is NOT a scientific question. The author assumes (and states) that it is fallacy to think the mind lives after the body dies, but as an issue for science, there is simply no data and therefore no theory. Examining why people believe the mind lives after death is an empirical question, but whether there is life after death is not a question that science purports to ever be able to answer. Let's remember that science deals only with the observable and remains appropriately distanced from any questions about things that cannot be observed and measured. We as scientists do not conclude that things that have not been observed do not exist.

316. 316. kateskills 01:00 AM 12/21/08

We have experienced unconsciousness before we were conceived/born. That is what death is.

317. 317. santosh mishra 01:03 PM 12/28/08

Consciousness is one thing science has not understood so far. We know it is the subject which perceives the object and the act of perception is mediated by the mind-brain complex. So, by process of exclusion, all that can be perceived by the mind is not the SUBJECT but the object. Science deals with objects only because it needs observation.

May be one day we shall say consciousness is something like the DARK ENERGY, which pervades everywhere bu can not be perceived.

318. 318. santosh mishra 01:06 PM 12/28/08

Consciousness is one thing science has not understood so far. We know it is the subject which perceives the object and the act of perception is mediated by the mind-brain complex. So, by process of exclusion, all that can be perceived by the mind is not the SUBJECT but the object. Science deals with objects only because it needs observation.

May be one day we shall say consciousness is something like the DARK ENERGY, which pervades everywhere bu can not be perceived.

319. 319. legup2p in reply to hkdharmon 12:30 AM 1/10/09

I can tell you ... not that it adds to this general thread ... that after 23 surgeries I have experienced some marked differences in time perception after anesthetic naps. Most of my experiences were much as you describe; go to "sleep" (amazingly quickly I might add) wake up and the perceived time passed is indeterminate, but seemingly short. After only a few experiences I was far less apprehensive and attempted to focus on this very thing ... including the actual time and "feeling" of going under. I told the anesthetist my intention of being "aware" of going under and asked him to coordinate my initial fast acting anesthesia with my counting to 3. At some point between the word 'three' and one second later I was out. Now the amnesia drug administered may have some impact on post-surgical recall, but in several subsequent attempts I never improved my awareness.

I had one particularly difficult take-down of a colostomy (to reconnect my colon to my original ... uh ... "port") that was horribly complicated by extreme adhesions I had grown in response to several earlier surgeries. I was put under at 7:15AM ... rolled to ICU at 12:20AM. When I finally regained consciousness I knew immediately it had been far too long. I even had the "sense" that it had been well over twelve hours even though we had discussed the surgeon's expectation of 5 or 6 hours. All of that just to make the point that even in what is the closest you will likely dance on the edge of death, your worldly consciousness still experiences some connection.

One last perplexing thought I have; if one truly believes that death is the total and complete extinction of the individual, I can't understand why on earth one would not focus entirely on life's most lustful and enjoyable experiences. Why care about anyone or anything? I realize one's behavior would best be kept within the constraints of the law, if only to avoid finding oneself living out life in the antithesis of the original intention, but what would fortify any notion of restraint?

If we exist as absolute individuals in just a momentary window of an eternal past/future with a complete void of our experiences once dead, then why would one consider anything any further?

As those who currently claim atheism (increasingly in vogue) are quick to mock and befuddle persons of any religious persuasion that centrals a "creator", I have to ask, if not God, who? If not who, what? Surely an intelligent man wouldn't ask me to believe this whole thing "just happened". That's far more ludicrous than any religion I know.

320. 320. worthless_philosopher 06:36 PM 1/20/09

Great article! I've only read the first page ... hopefully I don't get disappointed. To continue ...

321. 321. worthless_philosopher in reply to worthless_philosopher 08:17 PM 1/20/09

... Okay, finished the article. I have only to say what has been said before; Death may be the greatest of all human blessings (we'll all get our turn.)

322. 322. sleepyhead4 01:11 PM 1/31/09

It is amazing the idea that we try to perceive our death, but the amazing part is if we are gone then there is nothing to be aware of. Instead it is the first time we realize the world around us.

We can imagine our family members, how the world will continue. The idea of after-life, to some atheists and agnostics seems like they truly believe that people our religious because they are afraid of death. So religion comforts them.

Faith is kind of like courage, if you don't have it, you think it is silly. And the courageous pitty the cowardly, and still protect them. For what does a coward know but to save his/her own skin. The same with an atheist as to think of only him/herself as "aware," and to assume that which created him/herself and obviously greater is not just as aware.

Faith is sought, it is a lived experience, it is not for the cowardly and those afraid to be wrong.

323. 323. Neil Bee 05:06 PM 2/7/09

Wait a minute ... if the mind is like what happens in the brain and not the object, then it can happen again somewhere else. That doesn't have to be a specific material computer either, it could be a Platonically real structure in another dimension that minds "run on." There doesn't have to be an avenue of transmission either, just a recreation "somewhere". Food for thought, or wild speculation?

324. 324. Neil Bee 05:10 PM 2/7/09

If your mind is what happens in your brain, instead of your brain - and that makes sense - then death of the brain doesn't have to be the end of your mind. Your mind can happen again in another system, and still be "you." Even if there's no way to formally "upload" yourself to another system, all there needs to a "Platonic" computer which can have your mind happening in it, as a conceptual entity in another dimension (since "information" shouldn't even need matter to have meaning.) Food for thought, or over the top fantasy?

325. 325. Indigenous 04:21 AM 4/7/09

It is amazing to see that the simple things are missed. When a child is born, the child knows that if he or she thinks something then others are thinking too. The child doesn't understand why a parent for example doesn't know what he or she( the child) is thinking. The child wants a glass of water, he or she thinks that the parent knows this because of the fact that he or she (the child) is thinking it. So how is it that people "believe" that consciousness or mind is separate in each person, that it is contained within ones brain, body or soul. How is it that mankind as fallen into a state of faithlessness. When one dies the consciouness will cease to exist. Think about sleeping, you do not experience consciousness. Therefore all people who have died are sleeping and all those that are living are awake. Sleeping is an unconscious state and being awake is a conscious state. To exist after you die would mean that you still have consciousness or mind and if this is true then you would not be dead. To die is to be without consciousness. To live is to have consciousness. If I stood before you and told you everything you had done in your life you would be struck with such a dumbness and would understand that your ego or soul is not independent of mind and that mind/spirit is life eternal, that you are a creation of this mind/spirit and cannot be separated from it whether you are alive/awake or dead/asleep. The reason people "believe" in an afterlife or consciousness in death is that they have lost faith in the living God/mind/spirit of creation. Therefore, "I die because I "believe" in death." How then can I live again. I must be resurrected from death/awakened from my sleep. Then I will be conscious again. And because I am resurrected it does not mean that I will be without ego if when I die I had still trusted in my own consciouness. Until a person leaves his or er "beliefs" to live by faith he cannot inherit what is referred to as "The kingdom of Heaven or consciouness without ego." Does this mean that there will be no individuality, far from it. There will be greater individuality because no system of "beliefs" will exist, only faith and the abilty to create in images.consciounes of the infinite mind/spirit.

326. 326. Deva 08:29 PM 4/24/09

I don't really struggle to imagine what death is like. I just think about how I "felt" and what I "thought" before I was conceived, gestated, and birthed. I thought nothing, felt nothing, desired nothing. That is what I imagine I will "experience" when I die. In short, this life is all we've got. We were dead forever before we were born and we will be dead forever after we die. Out matter and energy is constantly recycled, but never configured exactly the same, and our living thoughts can only be passed on if we write them down or preserve and pass them on somehow. Culture is our only means of "spiritual" evolution. I am fine with this. It wasn't painful or unsettling to not have been born yet. My only fear is that I will not live this life fully, which has led me to live an extraordinary life thus far. Enjoy the moment and do what you really mean to do. You will never pass this way again.

327. 327. Deva in reply to legup2p 09:16 PM 4/24/09

"One last perplexing thought I have; if one truly believes that death is the total and complete extinction of the individual, I can't understand why on earth one would not focus entirely on life's most lustful and enjoyable experiences."

Because we each construct our own sense of meaning. For me, though I do not believe in any kind of afterlife whatsoever, I *decided* that the meaning of life was to learn and to leave a legacy of that learning. I do know others who came to different conclusions and who live hedonistically, both religious and atheist. According to *my constructed* sense of things, it is better to decide for yourself than to let others decide for you. There are many kinds of pleasures and many sources of meaning. For me, knowing that my work may live on and benefit generations to come makes all the struggles I face worth it and brings me infinitely more joy than having sex, eating, drinking, procreating, or any other source of bodily satisfaction. Also, the notion that I have heard expressed (am which may be implicit in your comment) that people who believe in nothing will be innately hurtful to others appears to have no bearing. Most people dislike hurting others. If we were innately sadistic, we would not need boot camp and years of "boys don't cry" indoctrination to get men to kill. Instead, most men (who are psychologically normal) can only be coaxed to kill when they believe that they are averting more suffering than they are causing. Men approach war in much the same way women approach abortion, knowing that there is something extremely against their inner moral sense, but justifying it as a sacrifice which must be made to avert even greater suffering.

There is a war of control between The Source or what we preceive to be as nothingness, and stillness and the physical universe which we precive as real. There is a higer plane of existance! In otherwords, "The Reality" that seems as the none reality is actually the realtiy and the illision of realty or the physical universe which we think is realty, is actually not real! We are shadows and reflections of the higher plane. Avators in a video game so to speak, that canot escape the game. But we do represent or reflect something real, just as the avatitares of a video game reflect the creativity of the mind of the software designer. But I beleive that its not a person but a great force. Maybe when we we do our part best we remind the higer plane of somthing that makes what we represent, stronger and more real in it! The great knowledge, conciousness and life of the universe is ballanced with its polerity, but neither are the highest reality, which is that the ballance of allthings is what is real! That everything is. I try my best to rap my head around it. But Im not quite there yet. If I ever figure it out though I wounder what it would do to me? LOl! Peace!

329. 329. suetiggers in reply to cuddl3bot 05:49 PM 6/10/09

I like your attitude. And that's you, right? :)

330. 330. suetiggers in reply to cuddl3bot 05:52 PM 6/10/09

To cuddle3bot re. Then again i don't believe anyone can KNOW anything, so what the crap am i talking about...

: )

I like your attitude. And that is YOU, right? :) Keep on keepin on till you can't...but I hope your attitude lives on someway...we humans need more of it

331. 331. gehubb 12:26 PM 7/1/09

I just try to remember back before I was born and figure that will be what death is like, nothing.....

332. 332. suetiggers in reply to cuddl3bot 12:33 PM 7/1/09

nice sense of humility...and humor :)

333. 333. suetiggers 12:34 PM 7/1/09

To: cuddl3bot

nice sense of humility....and humor :)

334. 334. keg233 04:19 AM 7/2/09

there is a difference between being clinically dead (i.e. without a heart beat) and actually being dead (un-recesitatable). The reason people can be resucitated is because the cells that make up our tissues have not stopped functioning, therfore our brains are still working and we are still conscious - kinda, until it would gradually fade out into nothingness, or death. So even after someone is pronounced dead it is possible that thier brains ares till alive, and if their brains are alive then there nerves are most likly still working and they can still sense the world around them with all 5 senses, but they cannot respond, because well their "dead".

Really the only way to die instantaniously, or the closest we can come anyway, would be to instantaniously dissmantel the brain itself so that it can no longer communicate with its self or the body. But since nothing is instantanious we just have to get as close as we can. Foe example a granade in the mouth would not be instantanious but it would dissmantel the brain faster then neurons can send action potentials, thus this death would be painless and seemily instantanious to the person. And that is pretty much the only way a person can die that would be painless and seemily instantanious.

335. 335. basildave in reply to connor 12:23 AM 7/19/09

Great point Conner... One thing to think about is that everything in the universe is unique. As of yet, there is no such thing as an exact duplicate of something. Even if y0u had some kind of miraculous machine that could duplicate something atom by atom, the spins on the sub atomic particles might be different, and (by definition) it's impossible to know the exact state of all of the electrons, neutrons and protons at any given time. Maybe this uniqueness is significant, I'm not sure.

336. 336. basildave 12:27 AM 7/19/09

I'd like to ask, does anyone want the Judeo-Christian version of the afterlife to be true? I say want because there are seemingly an infinite number of possibilities for an afterlife but the most probable one is nothingness, which even though I won't know it, seems the most frightening to me.

337. 337. Dimitris1988 in reply to neon_photons 10:16 PM 9/19/09

Totally agree. Well said.

338. 338. Dimitris1988 in reply to johnrgarland 10:21 PM 9/19/09

lol

339. 339. PoweroftheMind 12:46 AM 9/23/09

The idea that consciousness or a soul can exist without the brain, is pointless, for even if there were a soul, there would be nothing for it to experience, as it has no senses, it would have no ability for recollection, as memories exist in the brain, and it would have no ability for cognition, as thought is a phenomenon produced by the brain as well.

For all intensive purposes, a soul would not even represent the person it embodied when they were alive, because everything that made them who they were, their personality, their memories, their thoughts and beliefs, are all produced and contained in the brain.

A soul is simply the ability to experience, nothing more. And that is if it exists.

340. 340. hotblack 04:34 PM 11/5/09

I can imagine it.

Remember what it was like when you last went to sleep for the night and didn't dream?

Imagine it being like that, only you don't wake up.
There you go.

341. 341. starlighter 12:46 PM 12/19/09

I am 43. In 1666, most of London burnt down. It happened. I live with my gran. She is 86. She married at 19. It happened. This and other experiences she relates to me. They happened. Where was I - dead. Pure and simple. I remember nowt.

Paul.

342. 342. Alejandroc19 02:39 PM 4/25/10

OMG thats amazing i was telling a friend the same thing the other day. that even if you don't believe in being in anyway after death you still cant imagine not being it's impossible. try you'll see.

343. 343. reggiesupercats!! 04:50 AM 7/28/10

Can someone go to heaven get born and still remember it?
I did, so maybe I'm an angel. I have applied for a job with a psychic telephone business but I think my experiences are about aomething else, not mind reading.
I will try to get the job, but I wanted something more scientific to use it to make money (insert many jokes here) but it doen't exist. All I find is psychic telephone jobs.
With this insight, that I may have, what carerrs would be best for me? I am disabled with schizophrenia which is related to the above, I find it very hard to keep a job because of associated sleeplessness and 675 a month is not enough to support a family, I hope to get married soon.
I wish the government give disabled people the equivalent of minimum wage which would be like 2000 dollars a month not 670 how can I get a car to even go apply? 675 a month for a man who wants a housewife, 3 kids, a car, house payments and vacations?
So im given 675 a month forbidden to live in this way
im dirt, i have no rights? can i have a life now?

344. 344. reggiesupercats!! 08:42 AM 7/28/10

I have a more interesting question. There are bagels in the fridge. Why don't the bagels become baked turkeys? This would be easier for the bagels. When I close the door to the fridge, I'm not sure why the bagels are still in there at all.
No one is looking why not just dissapear to save energy?
Maybe its H-Bar but why doesnt it become cat yarn?
I hope my bagels are still in there.
No someone ate them i guess I'll have to go buy some. lol

345. 345. Nightrain 09:59 PM 9/25/10

What Jesse Bering and most of the commenters here don't seem to realize is that their denial of an afterlife is, itself, a result of dogmatic Western religious beliefs and outdated Newtonian Scientism. The article is sadly based on non-scientific personal beliefs and misinterpreted research, rationalized on the basis of societal opinions rather than current scientific facts.

Many of the foregone comments have been very witty and smug in their uninformed ridicule; but if one were to spend a reasonable amount of time reading some of the research papers by Dr. Dean Radin, Dr. Charles Tart, Dr. Russell Targ, and many other qualified Physicists, one would find an insurmountable wall of facts, which indicate that what we judge as our real world is not what it seems to be. The reality that we are so fond of and intellectually arrogant about is really an illusion, and that our physical bodies are more like dirty filters for a consciousness that exists even when our bodies no longer function. Ideas are not the products of our feeble brains, which cease to function when we die. The mind persists. Consciousness comes from outside ourselves. There is overwhelming evidence that something very real persists after death, that children come back remembering past lives, that our bodies show measured changes before future events happen to us, and that photons are able to change their behavior depending upon whether we are watching the outcome of experiments. Non-locality and entanglement have been repeatedly proven to exist, and those who fail to recognize these facts are either too ignorant, too lazy, too fearful, or too stubborn to read the literature.

Furthermore, most scientists who are aware of these facts are afraid to openly support them for fear of being purged from their academic department seats or of losing funding for their existing research. We are still victims of two kinds of religious dogma; the scientific inquisition as well as the Judeo-christian one, which both stand ready to castigate and ridicule anyone who merely mentions the possibility of what has already been proven by research and witnessed personally by countless credible witnesses.

All the skeptics manage to do is to propagate the same environment of fear that prevented Galileo from proving that the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun.

346. 346. delaco31 10:18 AM 11/24/10

it is difficult to imagine death because we are scare to think at it. many times i thought that i will die. i those moments the world collapsed. it was so hard to fight and to win. i am glad that now i live this day. <a rel="follow" href="http://www.drug-rehab.org/Arizona.html">drug rehab Arizona</a>

347. 347. kalmusc in reply to bratis99 03:42 AM 1/10/11

I think what happened to you proves there is more to life than what we know. A year after my partner passed away, his "soul/spirit/energy" contacted me through another person. If it didn't happend to me personally, I would have NEVER believed these things do happen. As a scientist, I'm still processing the experience. I don't expect to convert non-believers as I was one myself until this happened. All I can say is, you'll see! There is some kind of life after death, at least for some people. I'm a changed person.

348. 348. absolute2986 03:50 AM 5/18/11

Right now we are moving through time. time does not move - we do. we see points of time as we move through it, now when we die will we basically stop moving through time and probably I would imagine exist in all points of time. What are we waiting for you guys!? =)

349. 349. rohanrego 02:53 AM 7/20/11

A great article in use of sophisticated words and use of english language. An very interesting head line too. I read this article a couple of years ago, and have gone a great distance since then, in areas of spiritual development. The writer has used philosophy of the west to explain his views. I would advice him to be better informed and well read on Indian philosophy. To understand that there are more states of consciousness than just consciousness and unconsciousness. Do you know about super-consciousness or sub-consciousness? Not just by reading but by experiencing? Do you know of recent studies on comatose people who have large parts of their brain damaged yet still have a clear level of consciousness intact? Do you know that the mind is a product of the brain, but there is something beyond the mind? You can only understand all this by actual experience through scientific experiments on the human consciousness achieved only by meditation.

350. 350. yrrab 08:39 PM 11/7/11

There really is no point in trying to prove or disprove an abstract notion such as life after death. It is a complete and utter waste of time, fatuous at best and stupid in the extreme.Studies of a dead brain are just that, studies of a dead brain. The essence of mind or soul and its location have never been discovered and would need to be probed whilst the brain is alive not dead, but why bother? Just about the only point worth bearing in mind on this topic is, that our knowledge has been growing for hundreds of years and hopefully will continue to grow. There may as yet be entire areas of science and universal dimensions unknown to us. This must always be the qualifying factor. Back in 1066 for example, the concept of radio waves, gamma waves, ultra violet etc could not have been conceived, yet these existed all the same. So we must consider the possibility that our own energy may metamorphisise into some other measurable pulse both before and after brain death. However, until we have the tools to look into this I would suggest we get on with something more worthwhile.On a purely personal level I find debates with scientist and religious bodies exasperating. Both sides are convinced and neither side can prove a thing.

351. 351. jdiz86 in reply to cuddl3bot 01:53 AM 4/6/12

hahaha.. thanks for the laugh!.

352. 352. elaineb in reply to hotblack 04:26 PM 1/2/13

I respect your experience and have often wondered whether death is like going under for an operation. You have no memory of it - very different from sleeping. However, your experience is not the only expereince reported by people who have clinically 'died' and then come back. Countless individuals have reported seeing a light, or floating above thier body....some have been dead for as long as 45 minutes and have reported seeing ded relatives and feeling a surge of absolute love and joy. I think we have some way to go to prove (if that is even possible) whether the soul or consciousness survives the body. But I do know it is worth exploring.

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