Although some people claim to have NDEs and experience other various phenomena relating to a possible afterlife, there is no scientific evidence that these experiences do actually provide a glimpse into a possible afterlife. this therefore means that it is possible that when people die, their lives do simply come to an end and that after this life, there is nothing more. The possibility of this cannot be ruled out.
Ideas surrounding the nature of life after death and how it connects to our earthly lives are a fundamental tenet to all religions. Throughout all beliefs, it can be said that an afterlife generally:
- helps people to make sense of life, especially during times of suffering
- gives support and comfort at times of bereavement and loss
- provides a purpose and meaning for life
Having said this, can it then be considered that these are the reasons for why religions promote the existence of an afterlife, in order to comfort those in need and that there is actually no evidence that life after death is true?
7 possible phenomena which are widely reported and believed ca be used as evidence for a disembodied consciousness (soul)
- 1 - Freedom - this is more complex than to just be explained through the brain as a series of electrical impulses.
Most people accept that humans are free, but it is difficult to explain if the brain and the mind are just matter.
- 2 - Telepathy - (ESP) Extra Sensory Perception; this only exists generally in time of high stress or danger, however there is still no physical means of communication
- 3 - Ability to move objects
- 4 - Out Of Body Experiences (OOBEs) - this can be
a - people leaving their body in a meditative state
b - being able to see things, which they could not have done otherwise
- if these are true then a materialist cannot explain them; dualism becomes a possibility
Compelling Evidence Cont.
- 5 - Near Death Experiences (NDEs) - many reports of those who are close to death who leave their bodies; if these are valid and cannot be explained in other ways then the plausibility of dualism increases
- 6 - Sixth Sense - difficult to explain solely in physical terms and makes spiritual sense much more likely; also the suggestion that the mind can exist without the body, again strengthening possiblity of dualism.
- 7 - Paranormal Phenomena - tarot cards, ouija boards etc all claim to be able to provide information that cannot be obtained in any physical way. If there is any truth, again a purely material explanation for the human mind is challeneged.
Can any of these be truly considered as being compelling evidence for the existence of life after death?
Near Death Experiences
Greyson developed the NDE Greyson Scale which identifies the stages in an NDE to determine the type of experience a person had:
- 1 - Experience of being in a tunnel with a light at the end
- 2 - Changes in thinking processes - thinking gets faster
- 3 - Changes in emotional state - sense of peace, unity, love, warmth, and safety
- 4 - Paranormal or psychic component - sense of leaving the body. ESP or visions of future events
- 5 - Transcendental phase; sense of being in a different dimension
Scientific Evidence against NDEs
The atheist psychologist Dr. Susan Blackmore argues that NDEs are only a function of the brain. (Being an atheist will mean that her presumed view is that there is not an afterlife with or without evidence, hence her views are biased.)
Blackmore comments that NDEs are an illusion of the brain:
- Seeing light at the end of the tunnel is because of how cells in the visual system are arranged. If fired randomly, there are more in the centre hence appears brighter and darker around the edges, giving the impression of a tunnel.
- The 'feel good factor' is created by the emotional effects of the person close to death. Under stress, in shock and with lack of oxygen, the body releases a massive surge of endorphins. This then creates the good feelings, hence it is only chemical and nothing more.
Blackmore comments that NDEs are only the product of the brain and cannot happen when is brain is dead.
They can only happen during the period of when the person goes into unconsciousness and when they come out of it, borderline consciousness. (Vardi)
Is this compelling evidence for NDEs being only a function of the brain?
- believed life after death is necessary for moral reasons.
- he argued that we share a sense that we should strive to achieve 'the highest good' - summon bonum
- this is a state where goodness is rewarded with happiness
- if wee feel we ought to strive to achieve this then it must be possible
- Dualism - body and soul are separate; the soul is the charioteer of the mind and body.
-the soul is immortal, whereas the body only mortal.
- these teachings greatly influenced Christianity