The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer The official site of bestselling author Michael Shermer

Who Are You?

published July 2017

Memories, points of view and the self

Scientific American (cover)

The Discovery is a 2017 Netflix film in which Robert Redford plays a scientist who proves that the afterlife is real. “Once the body dies, some part of our consciousness leaves us and travels to a new plane,” the scientist explains, evidenced by his machine that measures, as another character puts it, “brain wavelengths on a subatomic level leaving the body after death.”

This idea is not too far afield from a real theory called quantum consciousness, proffered by a wide range of people, from physicist Roger Penrose to physician Deepak Chopra. Some versions hold that our mind is not strictly the product of our brain and that consciousness exists separately from material substance, so the death of your physical body is not the end of your conscious existence. Because this is the topic of my next book, Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia (Henry Holt, 2018), the film triggered a number of problems I have identified with all such concepts, both scientific and religious.

First, there is the assumption that our identity is located in our memories, which are presumed to be permanently recorded in the brain: if they could be copied and pasted into a computer or duplicated and implanted into a resurrected body or soul, we would be restored. But that is not how memory works. Memory is not like a DVR that can play back the past on a screen in your mind. Memory is a continually edited and fluid process that utterly depends on the neurons in your brain being functional. It is true that when you go to sleep and wake up the next morning or go under anesthesia for surgery and come back hours later, your memories return, as they do even after socalled profound hypothermia and circulatory arrest. Under this procedure, a patient’s brain is cooled to as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes electrical activity in neurons to stop—suggesting that long-term memories are stored statically. But that cannot happen if your brain dies. That is why CPR has to be done so soon after a heart attack or drowning because if the brain is starved of oxygen-rich blood, the neurons die, along with the memories stored therein.

Second, there is the supposition that copying your brain’s connectome—the diagram of its neural connections—uploading it into a computer (as some scientists suggest) or resurrecting your physical self in an afterlife (as many religions envision) will result in you waking up as if from a long sleep either in a lab or in heaven. But a copy of your memories, your mind or even your soul is not you. It is a copy of you, no different than a twin, and no twin looks at his or her sibling and thinks, “There I am.” Neither duplication nor resurrection can instantiate you in another plane of existence.

Third, your unique identity is more than just your intact memories; it is also your personal point of view. Neuroscientist Kenneth Hayworth, a senior scientist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and president of the Brain Preservation Foundation, divided this entity into the MEMself and the POVself. He believes that if a complete MEMself is transferred into a computer (or, presumably, resurrected in heaven), the POVself will awaken. I disagree. If this were done without the death of the person, there would be two memory selves, each with its own POVself looking out at the world through its unique eyes. At that moment, each would take a different path in life, thereby recording different memories based on different experiences. “You” would not suddenly have two POVs. If you died, there is no known mechanism by which your POVself would be transported from your brain into a computer (or a resurrected body). A POV depends entirely on the continuity of self from one moment to the next, even if that continuity is broken by sleep or anesthesia. Death is a permanent break in continuity, and your personal POV cannot be moved from your brain into some other medium, here or in the hereafter.

If this sounds dispiriting, it is just the opposite. Awareness of our mortality is uplifting because it means that every moment, every day and every relationship matters. Engaging deeply with the world and with other sentient beings brings meaning and purpose. We are each of us unique in the world and in history, geographically and chronologically. Our genomes and connectomes cannot be duplicated, so we are individuals vouchsafed with awareness of our mortality and self-awareness of what that means. What does it mean? Life is not some temporary staging before the big show hereafter—it is our personal proscenium in the drama of the cosmos here and now.

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40 Comments to “Who Are You?”

  1. David Gollon Says:

    You are inspiring- thank you. Doubt, like death is our only certainty. Faith is a Janus whose smiling serenity conceals murderous intent. As our history makes so plain, the crutches of belief systems – even those masquerading as rational or science based are never innocent – belief demands loyalty that becomes ever more desperate as the believer stumbles- those crutches will be wielded like clubs to silence doubt.

  2. Dave Rockwell Says:

    A very powerful point: that every moment of our conscious life is precious beyond price, precisely because life itself is finite. And this spurs our emotional and doomed efforts to find a way out of the trap, and invent these marvelous illusions of immortality. Not to say I would turn down an opportunity to live a whole lot longer – but all things must end, and before they do, I want to do my best to appreciate the real value of my own experience here and now.

  3. howard lea Says:

    i think the only afterlife is the dna passed on to the next generation.

  4. Alfredo Rubalcava Says:

    Your last paragraph is inspirational and true. If only the world would understand the importance of not being deceived into hoping for a better future when the future is now. There is too much human effort being wasted in belief and faith and not enough action…

  5. Herb Van Fleet Says:

    Do not stand at my grave and weep.
    I am not there. I do not sleep.
    I am a thousand winds that blow;
    I am the diamond glints on snow;
    I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
    I am the gentle autumn rain.

    When you awaken in the morning hush
    I am the quick uplifting rush
    Of quiet birds in circling flight.
    I am the soft star that shines at night.
    Do not stand at my grave and cry.
    I am not there, I did not die.

    – Mary Frye 1932

  6. Hugo Gança Says:

    There are interesting issues to explore in this topic, but this article presents weak arguments.

    The “self” or identity under discussion is poorly defined. If identity is linked to memory in any way, then a person recovering from a memory affecting stroke is not the same person who suffered the same stroke.
    Maintaining that your POV cannot be moved to another medium is akin to postulating a (supernatural) soul.
    If the processes that generate your subjective sense of self are generated in a natural way, there is no reason why they could not, in principle, be replicated. Or even simulated.

  7. Mark Hausam Says:

    “A POV depends entirely on the continuity of self from one moment to the next, even if that continuity is broken by sleep or anesthesia. Death is a permanent break in continuity . . .”

    I agree that personal identity is rooted in the continuity of a personal narrative. In other words, an essential part of what makes me “Mark Hausam” is the continuity of my life and experience from the earlier versions of “Mark Hausam.”

    But I don’t see why death must logically be the end of such narrative continuity. If there is an afterlife, and I die and wake up in the afterlife, why couldn’t that be construed as “Mark Hausam” in the afterlife continuing the narrative of “Mark Hausam” on earth? Apart from the question of whether or not this actually happens, I see no inherent, logical problem with it, as if the concept itself is impossible.

  8. Tzindaro Says:

    I once wrote a hoax paper claiming I had accidentally found a way to remove a person’s personality from their body and store it temporarily in water, then transfer it into another person’s body. I said I had then done further experiments and was able to return them to their original bodies with no lasting side effects and no harm done.

    I wrote that this new discovery opened the way to an entertainment industry based on temporary change of sex or species, impersonation of enemy officials by spies or of bank officers by criminals, and rejuvenation by transferring the psyches of elderly, disabled, or dying patients into healthy young bodies of mental defectives who could be bred and grown for that purpose.

    I passed the paper around at a scientific conference and several people, including Ph.Ds, fell for it. One of them became quite worried when I said I had accidentally lost one test subject when the water containing him was accidentally poured down a drain. He actually made an effort to have my alleged research stopped.

  9. Amy Parr Says:

    Consciousness involves experience of time passing from a steady vantage point. We just don’t know what time is, or even if there are potentially other ways (speeds?) to perceive time’s passing from a steady vantage point and what that would mean in terms of an understanding of space, matter, and the scope of reality that includes us. (Please note, I’m not talking about time passing slowly due to boredom etc.)

  10. Mike Milne Says:

    Thank you for a succinct argument – one that I have been trying to push for many years to limited effect. Even otherwise rational people seem to miss the fallacy in the brain upload/download scenario.

    Here’s an interesting twist to the idea: suppose that you’ve been kidnapped, and your mind (whatever you take that to be) has been somehow copied electronically and ‘downloaded’ into a microscopically accurate copy of your body – a bio-robot or whatever. That robot acts like you, thinks like you and has all your memories. Of course it isn’t you – you’re still tied to that chair in the kidnapper’s dungeon – but the robot thinks it’s you, and all your friends think it’s you.

    In an ill-fated attempt to escape, both you and the kidnapper die. The robot carries on living your life. As far as the rest of the universe is concerned, you’re still alive. You aren’t, but no-one will ever know….

    Incidentally, did anyone else notice the hilarious typo in Amazon.com’s description of the book?

  11. Susana Conde Says:

    Justifications for an afterlife are generally based on fear of the finality of death. All we have is here and now, and the tiny percentage of awareness consciousness that prompts our illusion of free will keeps us interested in the world. The rest, as Hamlet said, is silence.

  12. Brent Meeker Says:

    One’s POVself changes all the time – and not continuously. Anesthesia, sleep, concussion are common place discontinuities in POVself. So if your memories are duplicated, including all the unconscious memory that forms habits and character and know-how, it is just invoking magic to say the result would not be you because there was a discontinuity in POV. If you were duplicated at the level of memory, broadly understood, it would be a forking of you – as contemplated in Everett’s interpretation of quantum mechanics.

  13. David William Johnson Says:

    “A POV depends entirely on the continuity of self from one moment to the next, even if that continuity is broken by sleep or anesthesia.”

    How do you know? It’s just as likely that every time you go to sleep, your current “POV” dies…and every time you wake up, a new one is “Born.”

    Basically, what evidence that the “you” who woke up this morning is any more – or any *less* -yesterday’s “you” than that copy we just made on the computer?

  14. Christopher Alexander Says:

    A copy of your memories is NOT the same as a twin, it is totally different. An identical twin only has a copy of your DNA, not your memories. Of course identical twins don’t think they are the same person, their memories and personalities have been different their entire lives.

    A more comparable situation would be to wake up one day and find that instead of one you, there are now two identical copies of you in your bed, sleeping next to one another, identical in every detail including every detail of your brains. Every test indicates both are the “original” you. So which one is you and has your “soul” and which one is the imposter?

    The correct answer is that both of them are “you” – at the moment they wake up, each one is equally you, regardless of which one copied the other or whether both are copies. “You” will experience waking up in the morning in your bed, next to a strange copy of yourself, with no loss of continuity. After that point, the two copies will start having different experiences, and there will now be two different people, with each one being just as much “you” as the other one – each one will simply become a different version of you.

  15. Steve Waclo Says:

    I just finished Ray Kurzweil’s thought provoking book “How to create a mind” and obviously his thinking in regard to the topic is at odds with opinion of some commenters. In his book, Ray spends considerable time exploring the concept of consciousness and yesterday, I sent him a question which expands upon that topic by asking what he believes it means to be human. Conventional definitions I found address a strictly biological definition (genus, etc.) but I would appreciate one which addresses the entire spectrum of human condition and which would apply from infants, through persistent vegetative states and dementia.

    Going way off the res here, but I believe changing demographics and rising health care costs make this a question upon which we need to have consensus.

    By the way, I believe “You die and you rot.”

  16. William Strickler Says:

    You not only exist in your mind, but in the minds of everyone you have had significant contact with. When you die, your brain is lost, but part of you lives on in the minds of others. As long as one person has a memory of you, you can be immortal. Some of us get to be more immortal then others. I may be remembered for 100 years after my death by family and friends. People like daVinci, Beethoven, Adolph Hitler, may be immortal for millennia or forever.

  17. Steve C Says:

    As much as I’d like to eventually experience so-called consciousness upload (or The Rapture of the Nerds as coined by Stross and Doctorow in their book of the same name), I don’t see how it’s possible either. For one thing, as you point out, everything concerning consciousness is housed in the brain. But let’s not forget the subconscious either. I don’t see how one’s consciousness would exist without a subconscious, which, by the way, we don’t fully understand to begin with.

    All we know for sure is that absolutely everything relating to sentience and consciousness resides in the brain. We have ample proof of this garnered through millennia of first hand evidence. Brain injuries, beside inducing a lack of consciousness or death, can lead to multiple and varied disabilities including loss of motor control, speech, and memory just to name a few.

    The idea that there is some sort of universal consciousness that becomes individualized and dips into meatspace for about 80 years is just a retelling of the same religious trope to which humanity has been hopelessly addicted for tens of thousands of years. Unfortunately, now that quantum physics has went mainstream, contemporary witch doctors (I’m looking at you, Deepak Chopra) have attached to the theory like leechs and twisted it to their own book-selling, panel discussion purposes.

    I appreciate your statements at the end but the current “scientific” version of the afterlife trope shows that even the smartest of us can’t let it go and, frankly, probably never will.

  18. Violet Weinberg Says:

    My son has Secondary Multiple Sclerosis. In the last couple of years I have begun to realize he’s not the same person. Yes, he has the same memories, (well, maybe not), but his world view, his values, his concepts of love and life are all foreign to the person I have raised from birth and shared values with. Absent is his critical thinking, his sense of empathy and compassion, his ability to understand his effects on others. He is an altogether different person. Someone I love……do I? When I think of love-as-a-verb….yes I do love him……..but that’s responsibility in action. But I don’t like him. His brain is full of lesions and black holes. So it makes sense he may not be the same person….not even the same body. So any time we have brain damage of various sorts……depending on where the damage is….we change and are not the same person……and brain changes go on through the years without MS……accidents, aging and experiences. What about the brain changes that occur in the process of death?? All this talk seems to infer the “I” remains the same….and it doesn’t.

  19. Nyles7 Says:

    There are four (4) known forces that dictate the workings of the universe, and yet, just here on earth, there are approximately 7 billion people, each claiming to be a unique conscious individual.
    Something seems out of place with those figures. The universe obviously conserves and so, one would think, this should apply to all life.
    It would be far more in line to imagine that all life is essentially one “thing” and that subjective individuality might just be due to our inability to share memories with others. If this is the case then why couldn’t you extend your life through some sort of memory transfer, which we know is hardwired someplace in the central nervous system.
    On this unknown topic your surety appears to be little more than arrogance.
    The principle of Occam’s razor certainly doesn’t sit well with your logic.

  20. Joe Feehan Says:

    “All we know for sure is that absolutely everything relating to sentience and consciousness resides in the brain.”

    There have been studies of people making choices at a vending machine. Some of the subjects report that they intended to buy chips but ended up buying candy. They have no explanation for changing their minds. I wish I had the article in front of me now, because the researches suggested that such choices are often influenced by bodily functions that have nothing to do with logic or consciousness. Again I wish I had the article handy – the researchers also found that subjects who had problems with certain (I don’t remember which) bodily systems could no longer make decisions. So, putting your brain into someone else’s body (or into a machine) probably will not recreate you. And you won’t be able to decide if you are you or not.

  21. Jim Davis Says:

    While I agree with the sentiments expressed in the last paragraph I don’t agree with the basic argument you are making prior to that. I consider myself an agnostic atheist and therefore I don’t think there is a soul or afterlife. I am also agnostic about the idea of downloading your personality, your “self” into a computer. I can’t imagine that if it did become possible the enormous complexity involved would place it in the far distant future.

    I have always agreed with the idea that everything we are is contained in the physical brain. I think that our “self” and our POV is a result of several things. First would be the storage of all the information we have obtained over our lifetime. But it would seem that the concept of consciousness and self would involve some process taking place in our physical brain that arranges this information into some form of gestalt that is our personality and POV from minute to minute. It’s probably also true that new information and new rearranging of our POV could also modify some of this old information. In addition memories are often lost over time and this will affect our current POV.

    Therefore it seems to me that while the idea of quantum consciousness may be correct I don’t see that it makes much difference. People like Chopra would imply that quantum uncertainty means that we have free will. It would seem that any quantum uncertainty on a subatomic level wouldn’t have any effect on decision making. I am pretty convinced right now that any decision we make is the only decision we could have made at that instant in time using the information existing in our physical brain and arranged by the mechanism that generates our POV at that instant.

    So I agree with you that the idea of a metaphysical mind that can exist after death and move on to an existence in religious afterlife is impossible. But I think that there is some very small possibility that in the far future the chemical and electrical information and the diagram of its neural connections could be copied before complete brain death and stored in a computer and/or placed in a synthetic body.

    I am a SF fan and this situation has been addressed by numerous authors over the years as a plot device and they have usually uncovered the many questions involved such as having multiple copies existing at one time. It’s an interesting concept but one that is not yet ready for prime time if ever.

  22. Ray Madison Says:

    What gives us life is our intelligence, and what gives our intelligence life is our energy, and what our energy gives life to is, and are, our physical properties. What directs our intelligence is the brain that over eons has been intelligently and energetically evolved to use those physical properties for survival purposes. If these physical systems are damaged to the extent that the intelligence systems cannot use them, the systems die. The memories that the intelligent systems have stored for trial and error references and predictive purposes will disappear, and even if transferred to some other system before “death”, will be essentially useless with respect to serving some other physical system’s purposes.
    If we have progeny, however, our memories, along with our intelligent energies, can be transferred in the form of behavioral instincts, although how biological entities decide which instincts are necessarily transferable depends on each species, and on each individual’s acquired survival purposes.
    Machines such as computers have no adaptive survival purposes of their own, so even if they could deal with an insertion of “educated” energy, ours would be evolutionarily useless.

  23. DR. Sidethink Says:

    We don’t have the kind of minds nor the language for these things to make sense .

    It’s like trying to play chess against a dog.

    If anything , the dog is hoping that you will toss him a pawn .

    Isn’t a Zen exercise to UN answer the Question
    “What is the meaning of life ? ”

    Shantih

    RJP

  24. Ray Madison Says:

    Dr. Sidethink: Is not a hopeful dog at least intelligent enough to hope, or do you think that as a human, you have nothing biologically in common with the biological intelligence that was used to make a dog? And in the wilds, can you survive the predators that a dog can easily and purposefully kill and eat? Or don’t you think that survival purposes require intelligence?

  25. Merv Wingard Says:

    I’m not sure whether there is some logical fallacy in my thinking or scientific fact about the mind/brain that I am overlooking, but when it comes to the life after death conundrum, I am comforted with the thought that I ‘die’ every night (and sometimes in the afternoon) when I ‘experience’ deep sleep. That is, I have no memories, experiences, thoughts, consciousness, etc. during deep sleep. If I were to die in that state, I would stay in it for eternity. So, I conclude, such will happen when I die from any other state of being.

    I find it comforting because I wouldn’t really want to spend eternity with just whatever I cherish in my conscious thought. I have meditated about 50 years (I’m in my middle 80’s), and I have had the good fortune to have experienced many of the results this practice can bring (ecstacies, timelessness, peace beyond understanding, oneness, etc.). It has also liberated me from from a great many anxieties associated with the rituals, compulsions, expectations, desires and everyday experiences of life. It has made a not very exceptional human being such as I find conscious living pretty nice, yet still filled with the rituals, compulsions, expectations, desires and everyday experiences of life, though they now come and go without causing dramatic reactions.

    I think this Self, so much talked about, is not just memories and brain/mind stuff, but our bodies and its interaction with the physical world around us (food, air, minerals, magnetism, intestinal flora, cosmic rays, etc.) and our interactions with our social environment (rituals, compulsions, etc.). Only a tiny amount is conscious. The self, usually understood only as the conscious part of our being, is every bit of this, not one whit less. When we die, all of it goes, some (the electro/chemical stuff) quickly and some (the minerals) more slowly. The mind stuff is completely a part of the body and the environment—the universe, if you will. It would be impossible for our puny consciousness to exist without everything else.

    Sweet dreams and deep sleep.

  26. Barbara Harwood Says:

    There seem to have been instances of children who appear to have memories of previous lives, and in some instances, they seem to have been backed up by evidence. There are also children who are born with talents which they could not have learned in their short lifetimes. At the same time, the idea of karma seems unrealistic in that when a person is being punished for something, it helps to know why. In my own case, my memories started when I was about two years old.
    Memories claimed by people who have been clinically dead for a brief period seem real to them, but are often experienced in hospitals where they are most probably under the influence of drugs.

  27. Peter S. Says:

    Michael Shermer: I’m enjoying the steady stream of sensibility. Please keep up the good work!

    Herb Van Fleet: thanks for the poem.

    Mike Milne: Yes, I did [1]! I sent a note to Amazon. Immorality – hilarious.

    Cheers,
    Peter

    [1] Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans’ belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immorality by radical life extentionists, extropians, transhumanists, cryonicists, and mind-uploaders, along with utopians who have attempted to create heaven on earth.

  28. DR. Sidethink Says:

    Ray Madison Says:
    July 12th, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Dr. Sidethink: Is not a hopeful dog at least intelligent enough to hope, or do you think that as a human, you have nothing biologically in common with the biological intelligence that was used to make a dog

    *********************
    Thanks for your reply

    A bit of “Zen” diagramming will clear things up rather nicely.

    There are a lot of points in dog-space that I could not understand.

    Dr. S.

  29. artrichard Says:

    after all don’t we have to admit (as per Leonard Mlodinow) there is as yet “no working definition of consciousness”…we don’t know how it “emerges” nor it’s interaction with inert matter..
    like some “god of the gaps” consciousness has unlimited (and I mean UNLIMITED) possibilities for future understanding…
    we cannot disprove what we don’t know nor what doesn’t exist…along with the sweet enjoyment of living…the mysterious could be also considered

  30. E. Jeff Justis Says:

    There is but one certainty! When consciousness is no more, our atoms, electrons, up quarks, down quarks and Higgs bosons will remain, joining in the happy collage of the Universe.

  31. awc Says:

    I’m a naturalist materialist.

    So if you restart the consciousness in the same machine (body) think of sleep, there will be a possibility of persistence of self. Migrate the program to a new computer (body /brain) it may claim to be the same being and indistinguishable it certainly is not.

    Then again … a rose is a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

    Awc

  32. Larry Says:

    Interesting piece but assuming there is some static POV is begging the question for the rest of your argument. We are in constant flux, a dynamic existence where we are different from moment to moment. Also there is a difference between copying memories and a genetically identical twin. The analogy is not apt. A twin is like someone having the same make, model, year, color and options vehicle as another person. The other is more like quantum entanglement, where two particles are in every respect that we can measure or observe in the exact same state of being and therefore not discernibly two different particles but two of one particle.

  33. Traruh Synred Says:

    >It is a copy of you, no different than a twin, and no twin looks at his or her sibling and thinks, “There I am.” Neither duplication nor resurrection can instantiate you in another plane of existence.

    “No different than a twin?” A twin does not have the same memories and is never identical.

    While agree that these upload/resurrection ideas a bloody silly [a], this argument is specious.

    [a] And feel the pull of confirmation bias.

  34. Roger Linse Says:

    I find most of these comments over-thought. Our relationships to
    dogs are the same as our relationships to the universe. We always
    want to be larger than we are.

  35. Tom Curtis Says:

    Davis (July 12th, 2017 at 3:25 pm): Concur.

  36. Patrick May Says:

    Science fiction authors have solved the continuity problem you raise in several ways. The most straightforward is incremental change from purely biological to purely artificial. As technology progresses, we will augment our biological brains with hardware. Over time the percentage of hardware relative to wetware will increase. As our biological organ deteriorates, the artificial components will take on more and more responsibility. The transition will be seamless and fully continuous.

    Obviously we don’t have the technology to accomplish this now, but there is no reason in principle that it can’t be created.

  37. jakob Says:

    One of the weakest arguments I have ever read. It presupposes memory and consciousness are the same. “First, there is the assumption that our identity is located in our memories” but our identity has more to do with our consciousness than our memories, which in psychological terms are most inaccurate anyway, with false memories being most common, and a memory evolving which it often does.

    Consciousness however is the mechanism that overrides the neurophysiological processes, rather like the brain being the thorroid storage system, but as a local storage system with the material being sent to the server, where consciousness is not even in the brain unless you know of any neurophysiologist who has even been able to isolate the area of the brain responsible for consciousness….but of course they cant!

    In some respects the brain is a wonderful biological engine, but its finite lifespan and even its finite amount of ‘memory’ just dont cut it when it comes to consciousness, and the theories that abound that the more powerful computers get then the likelihood of them developing consciousness is equally absurd.

    The brain is remarkable, but it is no consciousness, just the same as other parts of the body and its organs are equally remarkable….

    You avoid the quantum experiments i.e. the double split experiments?

    The spookiest thing you can think of is no less weird than some scientific facts that years ago would have you burned at the stake.

    Its inconvenient for science to have consciousness now firmly on the menu, and the distinct possibility that our bodies including our brain are finite biological vehicles that our consciousness can use.

    As a 65 year old why is it inside I’m 19 when biologically that is ridiculous, but in conciousness time is relative.

    There are just too many examples now of NDEs and other incidents that show conciousness must reside elsewhere.

  38. Kevin Brady Says:

    Jakob, you put what I was going to say so well I won’t repeat it, but we know without question that the way we choose to look at matter can change or even possibly create it, including its actions in the past, e.g, the double slit experiment. I think this experiment alone kills the notion of materialism where the brain and consciousness exist as separate from other matter.

    It seems to me most materialists start with the premise that only the brain creates consciousness and then contort all sorts of theories and explanations to try and prove it, while ignoring evidence to the contrary staring them in the face.

    We live in a mysterious universe and I believe we need to use science as far as we can take it to attempt to understand it, and God knows there is much pseudo-scientific nonsense out there, especially with quantum physics, but the truth will eventually prevail, and discussions like these are fascinating and most certainly welcome.

  39. Bryon Ehlmann Says:

    Mortality/immortally may very well be like time in that, according to Einstein, it’s relative. That is, from the dying person’s frame of reference or perspective, the“You”—i.e., the MEMself and POVself and the soul—will live forever, while not so from the perspective of living. How this happens is that “You” will lose you sense of time, and thus be frozen in time, just before death while believing that you exist in heaven or hell or wherever, and absolutely nothing will ever happen to make you believe otherwise. This immortality is not supernatural, and your relativistic never-ending experience, thus afterlife, is logically consistent. And, surprisingly, it requires no memory. For more detail, just do an internet search on the “natural afterlife.”

  40. Kevin Brady Says:

    It amazes me how complicated we make all this and how our biases affect our thinking. Those who think everything “ends” at death have a bias that they are more intelligent and those who believe there is more are “superstitious”and simple minded. But that itself is simple minded.

    We always experience consciousness, and its the ONLY thing we can be sure is true. I love the Moody Blues take on Descartes “I think, I think I am, therefore I am, I think.”

    The idea of “nothingness” in itself seems very contradictory to me, and it is something by definition that no one has ever experienced, nor again by definition ever could, so why do so many believe it? This is NOT the same as having no memory of past events, or being unaware of something, or forgetting.

    I do agree with Micheal that we bring meaning to life by focusing on the present moment and life now. But isn’t that self-evident somehow?

    Interesting stuff to contemplate for sure.

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