The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death
Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith)
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
Text Colour-ConventionsNotes Citing this Book


Editors’ Abstract1

  1. Because every single one of us will die, most of us would like to know what — if anything — awaits us afterward, not to mention the fate of lost loved ones. Given the nearly universal vested interest we personally have in deciding this question in favor of an afterlife, it is no surprise that the vast majority of books on the topic affirm the reality of life after death without a backward glance. But the evidence of our senses and the ever-gaining strength of scientific evidence strongly suggest otherwise.
  2. In The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death, Michael Martin and Keith Augustine collect a series of contributions that redress this imbalance in the literature by providing a strong, comprehensive, and up-to-date casebook of the chief arguments against an afterlife all in one place.
  3. Divided into four separate sections,
    1. This essay collection opens the volume with a broad overview of the issues, as contributors consider the strongest available evidence as to whether or not we survive death — in particular the biological basis of all mental states and their grounding in brain activity that ceases to function at death.
    2. Next contributors consider a host of conceptual and empirical difficulties that confront the various ways of "surviving" death — from bodiless minds to bodily resurrection to any form of posthumous survival.
    3. Then essayists turn to internal inconsistencies between traditional theological conceptions of an afterlife — Heaven, Hell, karmic rebirth — and widely held ethical principles central to the belief systems undergirding those notions.
    4. In the final section, authors offer critical evaluations of the main types of evidence for an afterlife.
  4. Fully interdisciplinary, The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life after Death brings together a variety of fields of research to make that case, including cognitive neuroscience, philosophy of mind, personal identity, philosophy of religion, moral philosophy, psychical research, and anomalistic psychology.
  5. As the definitive casebook of arguments against life after death, this collection is required reading for any instructor, researcher, and student in philosophy, religious studies, and theology. It is sure to raise provocative issues new to readers, regardless of background, from those who believe fervently in the reality of an afterlife to those who do not or are undecided on the matter.

In-Page Footnotes ("Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: The Case against Life After Death")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link, numbering mine.


Rowman & Littlefield, 16/03/2015

"Stewart-Williams (Steve) - On the Origin of Afterlife Beliefs by Means of Memetic Selection"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Foreward

Editors’ Abstract1
  1. Somewhere in the mists of the past, we somehow picked up the idea of an afterlife from our culture. So, where did this idea come from in the first place?
  2. The problem is not that there aren’t any plausible theories to explain it; the problem is that there are too many.
    1. Some claim that the belief in an afterlife is wishful thinking;
    2. Others that it’s a way of encouraging socially desirable behavior; and
    3. Others still that it represents ancient people’s best effort to explain strange phenomena such as dreams.
  3. More recently, it has been suggested that afterlife beliefs are the handiwork of evolution by natural selection, or by-products of various evolved psychological capacities.
  4. According to one approach, afterlife beliefs are products of natural selection, but not natural selection operating on genes or any other biological entities. Instead, afterlife beliefs are products of natural selection operating among ideas or memes.

  1. Introduction
  2. A Plethora of Theories
    1. Wishful Thinking
    2. Social Glue
    3. Social Control
    4. Primitive Science
  3. Evolving an Afterlife
    1. A Spandrel in the Works
    2. Afterlife Beliefs as Selfish Memes
  4. Why Go There?

  1. Introduction:
    • Story of Granny packing her cases the day before her death having just been told by her dead parents it was time to go.
    • Do such-like stories add up to a “reasonable case” for life after death? They can all be picked apart and given a non-supernaturalist explanation.
    • If you didn’t already have the concept of an afterlife, a supernaturalist explanation wouldn’t occur to you and “it’s time to go” wouldn’t be equated with dying (except coincidentally). So, where do such ideas come from?
  2. A Plethora of Theories:
    • There are just too many explanations – as give in the ToC. So, how to choose between them?
    • Stewart-Williams would prefer not to, but to come up with an over-arching explanation. This is the memetic explanation of religious beliefs.
    • The plan of the paper is to whiz through the “theories” and then outline the memetic approach.
    • We’re referred to "Stewart-Williams (Steve) - Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life: How Evolutionary Theory Undermines Everything You Thought You Knew" for a fuller exposition.
    • The theories examined:-
      1. Wishful Thinking:
        • Stewart-Williams thinks there’s more than a grain of truth in this. Not only – inter alia – does it help us to overcome the belief that a finite life has no meaning, it helps us to comfort others. But – in general – we don’t invent our own account of life after death, or of religion generally, but adopt one that’s current in our culture. How did these arise in the first place?
        • However, it’s an incomplete explanation for two reasons:-
          1. Belief in an afterlife doesn’t always provide much comfort – we still fear death – so maybe it’s like an addiction that – once acquired – provides little comfort in itself, but its withdrawal gives a lot of discomfort.
          2. Lots of the beliefs about the afterlife – Hell for instance – are anything but comforting. On account of this “damnable doctrine” (Stewart-Williams describes it as “a good candidate for the most unpleasant idea devised by human minds”) Darwin wrote that he could hardly see why anyone could wish Christianity true. Rather than providing comfort, afterlife beliefs provide fears that people would not otherwise have.
      2. Social Glue:
        • Has the advantage that it explains both the positive and negative elements of afterlife beliefs – encouraging socially beneficial and discouraging socially harmful practices respectively.
        • Two objections:-
          1. Not all religions are socially cohesive, or at least they have not always been in practice.
          2. While – once created – religious systems may be socially cohesive, how did they arise in the first place?
      3. Social Control:
        • Religious systems in general – and afterlife beliefs in particular – function for the benefit of their promoters. Parents control children, husbands wives, masters slaves, upper lower classes, rulers subjects, priests …
        • Many doubtless really do believe – examples of drowning “walkers on water” – but sincere believers may be perpetuating beliefs invented by unscrupulous manipulators.
        • Objection: Religious systems are often “grass roots” liberation phenomena.
      4. Primitive Science:
        • Edward Taylor3, and the suggestion that religious beliefs arose as an honest attempt to explain anomalous life-experiences in the pre-scientific age. Dreaming4 experiences – eg. of leaving the body, or meeting the dead – may have given rise to beliefs in souls and life after death.
        • Two objections:-
          1. If knowledge is the only goal, why are people so reluctant to give up their afterlife beliefs in the face of scientific evidence?
          2. If religious ideas are to explain human experience, why are they often so disconnected from it?
  3. Evolving an Afterlife
    1. Afterlife beliefs as adaptations?
      • The least plausible application of Darwinism to religious belief is the most obvious – that religious beliefs (in an afterlife) supply a survival advantage.
      • So, they provide believers with confidence and purpose, or lower anxiety and improve health, or bind groups together.
      • The objections are:-
        1. The variety of afterlife beliefs – disembodied existence, bodily resurrection, reincarnation – how can they all be the result of the same adaptation?
        2. Choice of belief is determined by where people grew up – which suggests culture rather than biology.
        3. Millions make their way through life without religious beliefs.
      • This makes such beliefs poor candidates for being adaptations. Real psychological adaptations – emotions, for instance – are universal, and you can’t be talked out of them.
      • There might be an evolved tendency to conform oneself to the beliefs of one’s community, but this is not specific to religious beliefs (and religious belief-acquisition might be a special case).
    2. A Spandrel in the Works:
      • Rather that being a direct product of evolution, religious beliefs piggy-back on those habits of mind that are. The preferred candidate is the Theory of Mind, leading to the use of separate vocabularies for mental and physical phenomena.
      • This results in the thought that minds – not being obviously spatially extended – are distinct from bodies.
      • While not forcing the idea that minds might be separable from the body, and so might survive bodily death, it makes the notion come naturally.
      • So – Stewart-Williams claims – a by-product of the Theory of Mind is our proneness to believe – falsely – that the mind/soul is distinct from the activity of the brain5, separable from the body and capable of a variety of post-mortem adventures.
      • Stewart-Williams is a “big fan” of the by-product approach, but now considers a third Darwinian alternative.
    3. Afterlife Beliefs as Selfish Memes:
      • Stewart-Williams thinks memetics by far the most exciting recent explanation of religious belief. Brief discussion of what memes are6. The important point from the author’s perspective is that there doesn’t need to be – though there often is – anything “true” or useful or pleasurable about successful memes – the important factor is just that they are “catchy”. All they need are the attributes – whatever these might be – that keep them in circulation in the culture.
      • Rather than displacing the other explanations, memetics provides the overarching theory that draws together the elements of truth in the other theories.
      • The “selection pressures” include:-
        1. Comfort,
        2. Social cohesion,
        3. Behaviour manipulation, and
        4. Explanation.
      • These pressures may conflict – cultural evolution is much like biological evolution in this regard – and so – for instance – the more successful memes (that are in fact false) should not be too readily falsifiable. The “life after death” meme fits perfectly – it provides comfort, and there’s nothing obvious in the ordinary run of things to explicitly contradict it, and it even makes sense of some anomalous experiences.
      • Stewart-Williams doesn’t agree that the memetic approach is in conflict with the spandrel approach. He thinks the most successful memes are themselves by-products of evolved psychological tendencies of thought. The spandrel approach describes the environment in which all memes – including religious ones – must adapt.
      • We are now treated to a “just so” story about the evolution of afterlife beliefs.
        1. Comfort: Our large brains and intelligence were presumably selected for for the sensible reasons rehearsed. An unintended consequence of this development was that – uniquely amongst the animals – human beings developed the understanding that each individual is one day going to die. This in turn developed a psychological selection pressure for beliefs that allayed concerns about death. The evidence of costly burials going back to Palaeolithic times shows that such beliefs may be tens of thousands of years old.
        2. Social Cohesion: with the rise of agriculture, group-size increased so as to exceed the Dunbar number7 (150) and cultural institutions are required to maintain group cohesiveness artificially, and afterlife beliefs – and religious beliefs generally – are suitable8 & already had a foot in the door.
      • Stewart-Williams notes that memes compete against one another, and compares the rather shadowy and bleak afterlife of Hades and Sheol with the results of a fully-developed post-Arms-Race “Heaven & Hell”.
      • Also, memes don’t need to be advantageous to the believer, only to themselves. Why do people – contrary to what is actually found – believe that losing their afterlife-beliefs would be terrible? Stewart-Williams’ answer is that the afterlife memes have themselves evolved to include the content that their abandonment would be terrible, hence resulting in their perpetuation. He admits this is pure speculation – which I agree – but suggests this is a fruitful area of new ideas about the origins and persistence of afterlife beliefs – which I doubt.
  4. Why Go There?
    • Why bother to dislodge people’s comforting illusions about an afterlife? Why promote the view that death is the end? Stewart-Williams thinks there’s truth in the usual suggestion that facing the fact that our time is finite makes us focus on it better, but prefers the following four reasons for arguing that death really is the end:-
      1. Because it’s true.
      2. Afterlife beliefs are not always comforting, but cause grief and distress.
      3. Getting rid of superstition allows us to get a more accurate view of the – sometimes starkly – beautiful world.
      4. The importance of grieving a real loss (not just a “moving house”).
    • Even if afterlife beliefs are comforting, they aren’t hugely so. It’s not as though you can tell by looking at how the berieved are coping whether they are atheists or not.
    • The reason for this is that even those who profess belief can’t really walk the walk.

In-Page Footnotes ("Stewart-Williams (Steve) - On the Origin of Afterlife Beliefs by Means of Memetic Selection")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link, numbering mine.

Footnote 2:
  • My first thought is that this paper ought to be an afterword rather than a foreword.
  • The reason being that the presumption of this paper is that any belief in an afterlife is unsupported, and that the burden is to explain how such false beliefs arose, give that they are false.
  • But, it is the burden of the book as a whole to argue that belief in an afterlife is indeed unsupported; so, this paper is somewhat cart before horse.
Footnote 3: I’m not clear who this is. No reference is given.

Footnote 4: This is the only example given, and is a bit feeble – though dreams have had important religious significance from shamanism onwards.

Footnote 5:
  • The central role of the brain in thought is a relatively recent discovery, though maybe known to Descartes if not to Aristotle.
  • Though maybe Descartes had a lesser role for the brain, as the immaterial mind was the thinking thing - though if needed to be connected to the brain (via the pineal gland) to get sensations in and motor commands out.
Footnote 6: Footnote 7: See Web Link.

Footnote 8: This section seems a bit feeble, and doesn’t follow up the four-fold map onto “selection pressures” that I’d expected.

"Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: Preface"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Preface

"Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: Introduction"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Chapter 1

Editors’ Abstract1
    The Introduction provides a general overview of the issues discussed in The Myth of an Afterlife in more detail in the individual selections, structured according to the four parts of the volume, plus preceding introductory and subsequent concluding comments.

  1. Preliminary Considerations
  2. Empirical Arguments for Annihilation
  3. Conceptual and Empirical Difficulties for Survival
  4. Problematic Models of the Afterlife
  5. Dubious Evidence for Survival
  6. The Importance of Empirical Consideration
  7. Alternative Paranormal Explanations of the Survival Evidence
  8. Concluding Remarks

In-Page Footnotes ("Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: Introduction")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: Part 1 - Empirical Arguments for Annihilation: Introduction"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Introduction to Part 1

"McCormick (Matt) - Dead as a Doornail: Souls, Brains, and Survival"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 2

Editors’ Abstract1
    There is a strong probabilistic case that human cognitive abilities, memories, personalities, thoughts, emotions, conscious awareness, and self-awareness are dependent upon the brain to occur/exist and thus cannot survive the death of the brain. This paper a broad overview of the general lines of evidence that even the highest mental functions are produced by brain activity, evidence that does not sit well with the notion of any sort of soul or ethereal double that can function completely independently of the brain. Yet this notion is presupposed by all versions of the survival hypothesis that do not depend exclusively upon miraculous bodily resurrection.

In-Page Footnotes ("McCormick (Matt) - Dead as a Doornail: Souls, Brains, and Survival")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Mercer (Jean) - Explaining Personality: Soul Theory versus Behavior Genetics"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 3

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper explores the causes of the unique individual patterns of reaction we call personality and compares the view that these are determined by the individual’s soul with the view that biological factors are responsible for personality characteristics. The paper discusses current evidence for genetic influences on temperament, psychopathology, and intelligence and examines complexities such as the influence of environment and epigenetic factors. It concludes that in all likelihood our unique personality traits are determined by biological factors alone, without any need to appeal to a nonmaterial or ethereal element.

In-Page Footnotes ("Mercer (Jean) - Explaining Personality: Soul Theory versus Behavior Genetics")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Weisman (David) - Dissolution into Death: The Mind’s Last Symptoms Indicate Annihilation"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 4

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper looks at progressive neurological diseases showing brain decline correlated with the decline of consciousness, as well as the content of consciousness. For instance, a young man’s healthy and fully functional brain generated an intelligent and lovely self, but then an aggressive brain tumor grew deep within his brain. As the tumor grew, it rendered brain tissue dysfunction and direct effects followed. From focal destruction of brain tissue, an aphasia first results. What follows is the dissolution of a functional brain, a mind, a person, and what some call a soul. From more widespread destruction of brain tissue, more functions erode until a minimally conscious state results. Intact and functional brain tissue is required to produce one’s consciousness and personality. When these brain tissues become dysfunctional and die, everything taken as the soul appears to die with them.

In-Page Footnotes ("Weisman (David) - Dissolution into Death: The Mind’s Last Symptoms Indicate Annihilation")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Gennaro (Rocco) & Fishman (Yonatan I.) - The Argument from Brain Damage Vindicated"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 5

Editors’ Abstract1
    It has long been known that brain damage has important negative effects on one’s mental life and even eliminates one’s ability to have certain conscious experiences. It thus stands to reason that when all of one’s brain activity ceases upon death, consciousness is no longer possible and so neither is an afterlife. It seems clear that human consciousness is dependent upon functioning brains. This essay reviews some of the overall neurological evidence from brain damage studies and concludes that our argument from brain damage has been vindicated by such overwhelming evidence. It also puts forth a more mature philosophical rationale against an afterlife and counters several replies to the argument.

In-Page Footnotes ("Gennaro (Rocco) & Fishman (Yonatan I.) - The Argument from Brain Damage Vindicated")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Piccinini (Gualtiero) & Bahar (Sonya) - No Mental Life after Brain Death: The Argument from the Neural Localization of Mental Functions"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 6

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper samples the large body of neuroscientific evidence suggesting that each mental function takes place within specific neural structures. For instance, vision appears to occur in the visual cortex, motor control in the motor cortex, spatial memory in the hippocampus, and cognitive control in the prefrontal cortex. Evidence comes from neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, brain stimulation, neuroimaging, lesion studies, and behavioral genetics. If mental functions take place within neural structures, mental functions cannot survive brain death. Therefore, there is no mental life after brain death.

In-Page Footnotes ("Piccinini (Gualtiero) & Bahar (Sonya) - No Mental Life after Brain Death: The Argument from the Neural Localization of Mental Functions")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Alvarez (Carlos J.) - The Neural Substrate of Emotions and Emotional Processing"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 7

Editors’ Abstract1
    Until recently emotion and emotional processing have been largely neglected by experimental psychology and neuroscience more generally. This paper reviews the substantial psychological and neuroscientific evidence that each emotion is localized in specific neural structures, and thus that it is not necessary to invoke souls or spirits to explain emotions or emotional processing often held to be distinctive of a soul. In addition, the paper aims to demonstrate the adaptive and biological value of emotion for humans and other animals. It closes by focusing on recent research on neural processing of emotions and emotional words.

In-Page Footnotes ("Alvarez (Carlos J.) - The Neural Substrate of Emotions and Emotional Processing")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Hines (Terence) - Brain, Language, and Survival after Death"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 8

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper reviews the neuroanatomical bases of language processing in the brain. It argues that the highly detailed anatomical structures that process different aspects of language render any extracorporeal mind superfluous. Though conceivable, the reality of a mind that can exist independently of the brain would make redundant the neural architecture and complex processing mechanisms necessary for the production and understanding of language. Since these structures and mechanisms are manifestly not redundant, how could normal language function be preserved after their destruction by death, allowing the dead to understand or produce language?

In-Page Footnotes ("Hines (Terence) - Brain, Language, and Survival after Death")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Horder (Jamie) - The Brain that Doesn’t Know Itself: Persons Oblivious to their Neurological Deficits"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 9

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper surveys the neuroscientific evidence that brain lesions and drug intoxication can not only disrupt mental functions like perception and motor control, but can also remove one’s very awareness that these functions are impaired or altered. Such deficits imply that consciousness of one’s mental faculties, no less than the faculties themselves, is a product of particular neural structures. But this is inconsistent with any view — such as the dualistic interactionism of John Eccles — that holds that the conscious self interacts with and uses the brain rather than being constituted by it.

In-Page Footnotes ("Horder (Jamie) - The Brain that Doesn’t Know Itself: Persons Oblivious to their Neurological Deficits")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Augustine (Keith) & Fishman (Yonatan I.) - The Dualist’s Dilemma: The High Cost of Reconciling Neuroscience with a Soul"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 1, Chapter 10

Editors’ Abstract1
  1. Tight correlations between mental states and brain states have been observed time and again within
    1. the ethology of biologically ingrained animal behaviors,
    2. the comparative psychology of animal minds,
    3. the evolutionary psychology of mental adaptations,
    4. the behavioral genetics of inherited mental traits,
    5. the developmental psychology of the maturing mind,
    6. the psychopharmacology of mind-altering substances, and
    7. cognitive neuroscience more generally.
  2. They imply that our mental lives are only made possible because of brain activity — that having a functioning brain is a necessary condition for having conscious experiences.
  3. This dependence thesis yields predictions that have been spectacularly confirmed by the evidence, whereas its antithesis has been massively disconfirmed — at least so long as it is not formulated so vaguely as to yield no specific empirical consequences at all.
  4. Dualists are thus forced to make a difficult choice: either
    1. retain a belief in personal survival at the expense of ignoring or dismissing the implications of our best evidence, or
    2. accept those implications at the expense of acknowledging that the prospects for personal survival are extremely dim.

  1. Introduction: A Probabilistic Argument
  2. Scientific Reasoning I: Mill's Methods and Modern Epidemiological
    • When Correlation Indicates Causation
  3. Scientific Reasoning II: Inference to the Best Explanation, Testability, and Predictive Success
    • Parsimony: Tempering Explanations to Minimize False Beliefs
    • Plausibility: Harmonizing Explanations with Background Knowledge
    • Testability & Confirmation: Checking Hypotheses Against the Data
      • Confirmation of the Dependence Thesis from Failed Attempts to Falsify It
      • Confirmation of the Dependence Thesis from the Falsification of its Rival
    • Scope: Bringing Disparate Facts Together
    • Fertility: Generating New Lines of Research
    • Overview
      • Table 10.1: Evaluation of the dependence and independence theses according to inference to the best explanation
  4. Scientific Reasoning III: Bayesian and Information-Theoretic Approaches
    • Bayesian Probability
    • Bayesian Confirmation Theory
    • A Bayesian Approach to the Dependence and Independence Theses
    • The Probabilistic Price of Ad Hoc Accommodation: Simplicity vs. Goodness of Fit
      • Simplicity Reflected in the Likelihood
      • Simplicity Reflected in the Prior Probability
    • Prediction vs. Accommodation
    • Bayesian Analysis of the Dependence and Independence Theses
  5. The Dualist's Dilemma: Reject Science, or Reject Personal Survival?
    • What's Left for a Soul to Do?
  6. Conclusion

In-Page Footnotes ("Augustine (Keith) & Fishman (Yonatan I.) - The Dualist’s Dilemma: The High Cost of Reconciling Neuroscience with a Soul")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link, numbering mine.

"Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: Part 2 - Conceptual & Empirical Difficulties For Survival: Introduction"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Introduction to Part 2

"Bradley (Raymond D.) - Why Survival is Metaphysically Impossible"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 11

Editors’ Abstract1
    Human bodies have a totally different mode of existence from those collections of mental properties (intelligence, will power, consciousness, etc.) that we call minds. They belong to the ontological category of physical substances or entities, whereas mental properties belong to the ontological category of properties or attributes, and as such can exist only so long as their physical bearers exist. Mental properties “emerge” (in a sense that makes emergence ubiquitous throughout the natural world) when the constituent parts of a biological organism — especially its brain—are configured in certain sorts of ways. A view of reality that is both conceptually coherent and scientifically comprehensive makes the very idea of surviving one’s bodily death literally absurd.

In-Page Footnotes ("Bradley (Raymond D.) - Why Survival is Metaphysically Impossible")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Drange (Theodore M.) - Conceptual Problems Confronting a Totally Disembodied Afterlife"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 12

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper presents and defends an argument for the conclusion that a personal afterlife in the absence of any sort of body at all is not conceptually possible. The main idea behind the argument is that there would be no way for the identities of people in a bodiless state to be established, either by others or by themselves. The argument raises a significant challenge to explaining just how someone in a totally disembodied afterlife could ever be identified — a challenge that has yet to be met.

In-Page Footnotes ("Drange (Theodore M.) - Conceptual Problems Confronting a Totally Disembodied Afterlife")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Kim (Jaegwon) - What Could Pair a Nonphysical Soul to a Physical Body?"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 13

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper argues that since nonphysical souls lack a position in space, they cannot have the pairing relations that would allow them to interact with physical bodies. For example, if two rifles (A and B) are fired at the same time, and consequently Andy and Buddy are killed, we can only say that rifle A killed Andy while rifle B killed Buddy, rather than the other way around, if there are appropriate spatial relations (such as distance and orientation) that pair Andy’s death to A’s firing, and Buddy’s death to B’s firing. But no such pairing relations are available to nonphysical minds that lack spatial positions altogether. And attributing spatial location to nonphysical souls raises more problems than it solves, such as how to find particular souls at particular locations, how souls taken to be geometric points in space could retain enough structure to have sufficient causal powers to influence bodies, and why spatial entities more robust than points shouldn’t simply be conceived of as exotic physical entities like astral bodies.

In-Page Footnotes ("Kim (Jaegwon) - What Could Pair a Nonphysical Soul to a Physical Body?")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Wilson (David L.) - Nonphysical Souls Would Violate Physical Laws"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 14

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper argues that nonphysical souls would violate fundamental physical laws if they were able to influence brain events. Though we have no idea how nonphysical souls might operate, we know quite a bit about how brains work, so we can consider each of the ways that an external force could interrupt brain processes enough to control one’s body. It concludes that there is no way that a nonphysical soul could interact with the brain — neither by introducing new energy into the physical world, nor by borrowing existing energy from it — without apparently violating one or more basic laws of physics, such as the law of conservation of energy. And despite widespread appeals to quantum mechanics to give interactionism an air of scientific respectability, the essential randomness of quantum processes prohibits the distinctly nonrandom influence that a nonphysical soul must have on brain events in order to control the body, and quantum mechanical uncertainty is not great enough to allow neurons to fire action potentials.

In-Page Footnotes ("Wilson (David L.) - Nonphysical Souls Would Violate Physical Laws")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Papineau (David) - There is No Trace of Any Soul Linked to the Body"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 15

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper argues that all apparently special forces characteristically reduce to a few fundamental physical forces which conserve energy and operate throughout nature. Consequently, there are probably no special mental forces originating from souls and acting upon bodies and brains in addition to the basic, energy-conserving physical forces. Moreover, physiological and biochemical research have failed to uncover any evidence of forces over and above the basic physical forces acting on living bodies. It is as if all organic processes can be fully accounted for in terms of normal physical forces — that is, as if there are no souls or ethereal doubles interacting with living bodies.

In-Page Footnotes ("Papineau (David) - There is No Trace of Any Soul Linked to the Body")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Angel (Leonard) - Since Physical Formulas are Not Violated, No Soul Controls the Body"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 16

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper provides evidence from the history of the natural sciences in philosophy (particularly mathematical physics, chemistry, and biology) that a “piloting” soul would have to make physical changes in human beings violating well-established physical laws. But, among other things, it has been discovered that there can be no such changes, and thus that there is no piloting soul.

In-Page Footnotes ("Angel (Leonard) - Since Physical Formulas are Not Violated, No Soul Controls the Body")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Blackmore (Susan) - The Implausibility of Astral Bodies and Astral Worlds"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 17

Editors’ Abstract1
    Astral body views posit that an exotic double with a definite location in space — an astral or ethereal body — leaves the normal biological body during out-of-body experiences or after death. In this paper the severe difficulties confronting such a view are reviewed, difficulties concerning not only the nature of the double which travels, but the nature of the world in which it travels. Three exhaustive possibilities are considered: that a physical double travels in the physical world; that a nonphysical double travels in the physical world; and that a nonphysical double travels in a nonphysical (but objective) world. Careful analysis shows that none of these possibilities can adequately resolve the problems that they generate.

In-Page Footnotes ("Blackmore (Susan) - The Implausibility of Astral Bodies and Astral Worlds")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Drange (Theodore M.) - The Pluralizability Objection to a New-Body Afterlife"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 18

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper presents and defends that an afterlife in which a person receives a new body after his or her old body is destroyed (as it is on some notions of bodily resurrection) is conceptually impossible. The main idea behind this argument is that such an afterlife would conceptually require that a person be a kind of thing that could be rendered plural. But since persons are not that type of thing, such an afterlife is not conceptually possible.

In-Page Footnotes ("Drange (Theodore M.) - The Pluralizability Objection to a New-Body Afterlife")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Olson (Eric) - Life After Death and the Devastation of the Grave"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 2, Chapter 19, 2015: 409-423

Author’s Abstract1
  1. This paper – written for non-specialist readers – asks whether life after death is in any sense possible given the apparent fact that after we die our remains decay to the point where only randomly scattered atoms remain.
  2. The paper argues that this is possible only if our remains are not in fact dispersed in this way, and discusses how that might be the case.

  1. Life After Death
  2. Total Destruction
  3. The Soul
  4. Body-Snatching
  5. Radical Resurrection
  6. Irreversibility
  7. Atomic Reassembly
  8. The Transporter
  9. Duplicates and Originals
  10. Survival and Causal Connections

  1. As Olson says in his Abstract, this paper is for non-specialist readers.
  2. It is basically a re-working of parts of "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death", without the difficult – but important – sections on Immanent Causation3. We are referred to this paper, and to Dean Zimmerman’s original ‘falling elevator’ paper for a continuation of this discussion.
  3. As I’ve written extensive Notes4 on Olson’s paper above there’s no point repeating them here. I just note the correspondences and any change of emphasis, or anything new that struck me. The comments below are indexed to the Sections of this paper.
  4. Life After Death:
    • The question is not so much whether there is an afterlife, but whether there could be (for beings such as us).
    • Just how would our post-mortem survival be accomplished? We need an explanation.
    • Otherwise, it might be something that even God couldn’t accomplish5.
    • Olson effectively defines death6 as “an event in which one’s biological functions cease and cannot be restarted by any possible medical intervention” (eg. after incineration).
    • He ignores trivial cases such as
      1. Freezing and subsequent repair and resuscitation7.
      2. Living on in the memories of others.
    • The interesting cases are:-
      1. “The life of the world to come”, whether this be in heaven, hell or more generally in some time or place somehow removed8 from the one we currently inhabit, or
      2. Reincarnation9.
    • Olson will not focus on reincarnation, as he doesn’t consider it a majority10 view, and he thinks it has “special problems” to be addressed later.
    • Instead, he considers just what it would take for us to exist post-mortem in the next world conscious and with memories11 of our past life in this world.
  5. Total Destruction:
    • Olson rehearses what this means – the scattering of your atoms at random across the void – and contrasts the situation where some recognisable ruins remain – so that you might be reconstructed – with a sandcastle washed away by the tide.
    • Olson can think of two reasons why – despite appearances – you might persist though totally destroyed
      1. One – preservation – is that the total destruction of death is largely an illusion12.
      2. The other is radical resurrection, whereby God restores us to being despite our total destruction.
  6. The Soul:
    • According to this view, an immaterial part of us – the soul13 – survives death and
      1. Either finds its way (somehow) to the next world, where it may – but need not – acquire a new body,
      2. Or attaches itself to a newly conceived foetus – the only possibility for reincarnation14, thinks Olson.
    • The soul must be a very special part of you, because the mere fact that a part of you – a carbon atom (say) – survives your death doesn’t mean that you do! The soul must enable you to be conscious and remember your past life.
    • The usual claim by those who hold this view is that it’s your soul that experiences and does these things pre-mortem, with the body its tool for action.
    • This view has been endorsed by great thinkers of the past – and is accepted by the vast bulk of religious people today. "Swinburne (Richard) - The Evolution of the Soul" (1997) is a contemporary defense of this – the Platonic Model of life after death.
    • There’s disagreement amongst philosophers as to whether the Platonic Model is even possible, but even if it is, it’s very unlikely to be actual because:-
      1. On the “soul view” a sharp blow to the head ought to leave the soul fully conscious, albeit disconnected from its body, but this isn’t what we find. So, if a minor brain assault leads to unconsciousness, how could you remain conscious if your brain was totally destroyed? We’re referred to "Van Inwagen (Peter) - Metaphysics", pp. 196-815.
      2. Every mental phenomenon we know of varies with the state of one’s brain. Even where the connections aren’t known, we know there must be some. These facts suggest that mental goings-on are physical processes in the brain rather than events in the soul. So, it looks like there is no immaterial soul; and that even if there is, it has nothing to do with our mental abilities, and so16 of no more post-mortem interest than our carbon atoms.
    • For these and other reasons, most contemporary philosophers and cognitive scientists regard this model as a lost cause. While we might hope the experts are wrong, it’s unwise to bet against the settled scientific consensus.
  7. Body-Snatching:
    • See section 3 of "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death" – this account is much the same.
    • The advantage is that no immaterial soul is required – though this advantage is (for atheists) outweighed by the need for a supernatural being (on the “soul view” we might be naturally immortal).
    • While it appears to show that life after death is indeed possible17, but Olson thinks the main objections are theological. The objections are the same as previously given.
  8. Radical Resurrection:
    • So, rejecting souls and body snatching – how else might we survive death?
    • Olson rehearses the “Colossus of Rhodes” example introduced in Section 2 of "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death". As the Colossus has been totally destroyed (rather than broken into pieces that might be rediscovered and reassembled) no amount of ingenuity can do more than create an exact replica.
    • While God might create a perfect replica from the very atoms that made up the Colossus, even he cannot recreate the original18.
  9. Irreversibility:
    • This is a recapitulation of the rest of Section 2 of "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death".
    • Olson’s objection – the “irreversibility principle” – is effectively an intuition that others might not share.
    • He says that it’d be open to debate if your organic parts still existed and could be reassembled and repaired, but this isn’t the case envisaged.
  10. Atomic Reassembly:
    • For all that, some people don’t share Olson’s intuition and claim that a person could be restored after total destruction. Olson cites:-
      1. Hick (John) - Philosophy of Religion 4th Ed. 1990, pp. 122-419, and
      2. "Baker (Lynne Rudder) - Death and the Afterlife".
    • Just what is wrong with the reassembly model, in which God gathers our atoms and reassembles them as a watchmaker the scattered parts of a disassembled watch?
    • Olson considers the following difficulties:-
      1. A continuous space-time path is required from this world to the next, as for the body-snatching case.
      2. Even atoms aren’t indestructible, so life after death could be prevented by atomic destruction that even God couldn’t repair.
      3. Our atoms enter the food chain and will eventually form part of other people. This20 becomes a greater problem as (geological) time goes by.
      4. Given metabolism21, there’s no such collection as “your original atoms”.
      5. Having the same atoms is not necessary for persistence even in this world – Olson imagines that sometime in the remote future some other person might possess the same atoms in the same configuration as you – yet not be you – as (apart from for an instant) that person’s career would bear no similarity to yours.
    • How does this compare with the watch-repair? Well, the disassembled watch hasn’t been totally destroyed. Its parts remain – otherwise there would be no difference between reassembling a watch and manufacturing a new one from new materials.
    • Your atoms are not like the gears of a watch, but like the grains of sand making up a sandcastle. There’s no natural or salient22 way of putting them back together.
  11. The Transporter:
    • So, as the particular atoms we’re made up of is irrelevant, cannot God just take any appropriate atoms and arrange them as you are now: would that person be you?
    • This resembles Star Trek teletransportation23. As Olson describes it, the process involves scanning and dispersing the local body – thus totally destroying it – and sending information to the destination, where new atoms are configured as were the originals.
    • Olson isn’t claiming this is how God gets us to the next world – but it shows that – if teletransportation is possible – he could do so: indeed, he could “note” the configuration of your atoms at the “appropriate” moment of your life without disturbing you at all, and recreate you at Judgement Day. Does the Star Trek model of radical resurrection work?
  12. Duplicates and Originals:
    • While the Star Trek model solves many of the problems associated with the reassembly model, it has many new problems of its own.
      1. The first is the problem of duplication.
        • If it becomes possible to exactly duplicate a Rembrandt, the original is still the version that should be displayed as the genuine article, even if there’s no aesthetic difference between it and the copy.
        • Olson applies this model – rather obscurely – to the Colossus24. What would you do differently to send a copy than to transport the original? And how would you know25 which was which?
        • Some processes – like tossing a coin – have chance outcomes (so we might toss a coin to determine which is the original), but this doesn’t help in this case – if we repeat the process we might end up with two26 “originals”, which is impossible.
        • So, if the Star Trek model is correct when applied to life after death, there’s no difference between you being recreated and a duplicate being created, and having life after death ceases to be a fundamental question of human existence27.
      2. A second28 problem is the case29 where the scan does not disperse the original, but just grabs the information.
        • The scanned individual would be universally considered to remain self-identical, with the teletransportee a duplicate.
        • But, the previously considered logic of the teletransporter as a means of transport would imply that this man is also the original, and the logic of identity implies a contradiction30.
        • So, it looks like we have a situation whereby whether the original is or isn’t destroyed affects whether the teletransportee is or isn’t identical to the original, which Olson takes to be absurd31.
    • So, for these and other (unspecified) reasons, teletransportation only leads to a duplicate being transported.
    • So, why do viewers of Star Trek not share this intuition? Olson’s answer is that Star Trek is a work of fiction, and that we suspend disbelief and go along with the plot unless it’s so absurd that we lose patience. But teletransportation isn’t obviously absurd. Olson imagines that most people would go along with the notion of Captain Kirk discovering the largest prime number, despite there being a mathematical proof that this is impossible. So, the fact that audiences go along with fictions is no guide to their possibility32.
  13. Survival and Causal Connections33:
    • Olson draws things together, and gives the reason why radical resurrection and teletransportation don’t work. While the individual would think of themselves as the prior person, they would be wrong.
    • The reason is the wrong sort of causation34. To continue to exist, an individual has to at least partly cause itself to continue existing; all the work cannot be done by an external agency.
    • The bottom line is that if the devastation of the grave isn’t an illusion, we’re doomed. We must hope we’re souls or our bodies are snatched away.
    • See the footnote for the details.


In-Page Footnotes ("Olson (Eric) - Life After Death and the Devastation of the Grave")

Footnote 1: Repeated by the Editors at Web Link.

Footnote 2: Footnote 3: Though Olson does mention this briefly in Section 10.

Footnote 5:
  • There have been disputes about this. Most people (on reflection) think there are some things that even God cannot do.
  • Olson gives two examples:-
    1. God can’t make it the case that there’s a greatest prime number.
    2. God can’t make it the case that he himself never existed (if he did exist).
  • Others (eg. Descartes) have claimed that God is sovereign even over the laws of logic and mathematics, though it’s difficult to see how this can be so without changing the subject in these cases (or at all, in Olson’s second example).
  • Yet others have claimed that the things God cannot do aren’t proper tasks, or he’s be able to do them.
  • See:-
Footnote 7:
  • As I’ve noted elsewhere, the resurrection of Jesus – while requiring a miracle – isn’t the same order of miracle as after total bodily destruction.
  • So, Olson isn’t concerned with the Transhumanists (Click here for Note).
Footnote 8: Christian materialist and maybe some Biblical literalists seem to agree, but most Christians probably consider heaven and hell to be – along with God – outside of space and time altogether.

Footnote 10: Maybe not, but there are a lot of Buddhist and Hindus who believe in reincarnation.

Footnote 11: Olson allows for the case of a reincarnated infant remembering her past life – but – while so-called evidences of memories of past lives are often used to support claims for reincarnation – this isn’t supposed to be the normal case.

Footnote 12: Footnote 15: We’re referred to the 2nd edition, 2002. I have the 3rd edition, 2008, and the pagination seems to differ. I’ll chase this up eventually.

Footnote 16:
  • This is all very quick, though I can’t see anything obvious against the first point.
  • Maybe, like the (supposed) luz bone, the soul might be a bare particular – it is often taken to be “simple” – without parts – so, God might then provide stored memories in the next life to whatever the mental processor is.
  • But it’s a rather different role for the soul under this approach than has been traditionally conceived, where it was the “thinking thing”.
Footnote 17: This was the intention of "Van Inwagen (Peter) - The Possibility of Resurrection" - the suggestion was to show logical possibility, not to demonstrate how it’s done.

Footnote 18:
  • Olson will go on to explain why this is so in the next Section.
  • Note also that this has nothing to do with the logic of identity not allowing duplicates to be self-identical, as there is only one thing existent at a time. So, this objection isn’t rescued by four-dimensionalism.
Footnote 19: Footnote 20: Considered as the “cannibalism” objection in medieval times.

Footnote 21: This is – as always – important. We are organisms (Click here for Note) not “bodies” (Click here for Note).

Footnote 22: This is the key point – they could make anything you like that’s made of the same raw materials.

Footnote 24:
  • He’d have been better sticking to the Rembrandt, because in that case there is a fact of the matter about which is the original.
  • In the case of the Colossus, this is not the case – as Olson has already demonstrated that it cannot be resurrected.
  • But – for the sake of the argument – it is supposed that is has been.
Footnote 25:
  • Olson stresses this epistemological factor.
  • You just can’t tell by checking which is which, as they are qualitatively identical.
  • The same is approximately true of manufactured goods, but you get round it practically speaking by tracking space-time paths, but with serial numbers applied post-manufacture to resolve cases of dispute.
  • Olson’s point here is how could a recipient tell whether it’s the original or a copy that’s been teletransported? – and it’s true that he wouldn’t be able to tell in the case of dishonesty.
Footnote 26: This duplication objection is defeated by perdurantist (Click here for Note) considerations.

Footnote 27:
  • All this treats human beings as in the same category as artefacts.
  • No doubt Baker (Lynne Rudder) would try to bring the FPP (Click here for Note) into this, with good cause.
  • She would claim that there’s a fact of the matter whether your FPP gets carried forward, and I’d agree, though not for her reason (she effectively thinks that FPPs are substances in their own right).
  • If my FPP is carried forward via teletransportation or any other method, I have what I want out of life after death – whether or not I’ve strictly-speaking survived.
  • My view is that this survival would be identity-preserving (relying on perdurantism if necessary).
  • But, I don’t think that teletransportation would preserve my FPP. The lights would turn off for me and turn on for someone else who would have my memories and character. Click here for Note.
Footnote 28: This looks rather like the first problem to me.

Footnote 29:
  • This is Parfit (Derek)’s branch-line case.
  • It has already been considered in the account of teletransportation to the next life – but the difference is that in that case, the pre- and post-mortem individuals are (naturally) not both around at the same time, so the logical pressure to treat them as distinct individuals is not there.
Footnote 30:
  • As noted above, perdurantism – which treats individuals as space-time worms – would not flag a contradiction here.
  • Olson, however, always rules this out of court.
Footnote 31:
  • This is in violation of the “only x and y” principle, beloved of Wiggins (David), originally invoked in response to Closest Continuer theories of personal identity (Click here for Note).
Footnote 32:
  • I like this explanation: effectively it argues against Descartes’s “conceivability implies possibility” argument for the real distinction between mind and matter.
  • But, anyone who knew Euclid’s proof (Web Link) would not be taken in by any plot that suggested the greatest prime had been found; as Olson says, they would lose patience.
  • But, I’ve found that even when the issues are explained, people still insist that if the technology could be got to work, you would be transported because you’d think you had been, and that’s enough.
  • Maybe this is symptomatic of people being impatient of “proofs”, or (say) of adopting something like the approach in "Moore (G.E.) - Proof of an External World" - if you can see two hands before you, that defeats any convoluted theory that says they don’t exist.
  • But, as noted, the above “proof” that teletransportation cannot be identity-preserving depends on an endurantist (Click here for Note) account of persistence, so the intuitions of the many may be correct after all.
Footnote 33:
  • The draft version is entitled “Immanent Causation”, and the text differs somewhat. In brief:-
    1. Accepting all the criticisms of the various models, why can’t we move something from A to B by simply building something exactly similar at B?
    2. This is a “hard metaphysical question” to which Olson wishes he knew the answer. But part of the answer has to do with causal connections.
    3. In the usual case, the mental and physical states of a continuant are caused directly by prior states, but in the case of the teletransportee, the causal connection with the pre-transported person is tenuous - because (says Olson) the teletransportee’s existence depends wholly on the workings of the machine.
    4. Olson notes that the difference in the atoms that make up the individuals is not the key issue – it’s just a consequence of the process.
    5. Similarly, the 21st century Colossus isn’t identical to the ancient one because the latter isn’t causally responsible for the existence of the former.
    6. An individual – eg. you – only continues to exist if it causes itself to continue existing.
    7. External factors can assist your continued existence, and some will be essential, but they can’t do the whole job.
    8. The “work” doesn’t need to be conscious or effortful – stones maintain themselves in existence with no thought or effort at all.
    9. Philosophically, the required process is called immanent causation. Take beliefs: my continuing to hold a particular belief is immanently caused; if I persuade you to adopt this belief, your believing is not immanently caused. If I lose this belief and you then persuade me, then while my later belief is caused by my earlier one, it is not immanently caused as the causal chain passes entirely outside of me.
    10. So, for Olson, the reason the Star Trek model doesn’t work is that you don’t immanently cause yourself to “exist again” – all the work is done by God.
    11. Indeed, the principle of immanent causation explains why nothing that has been totally destroyed can ever exist again, as all the work has to be done by an external agency – be it a construction company, a teletransportation machine, or God.
    12. We’re referred to Zimmerman (Dean)’s “falling elevator” model for a “challenge” to the claim, and to "Olson (Eric) - Immanent Causation and Life After Death" for further discussion of immanent causation.
    13. So, Olson says that if we want life after death, we have to hope that the devastation of the grave is an illusion and that we are either immaterial souls or we’re snatched bodily away.
  • The difference from the published version is basically a bit of truncation – there’s no example of immanent causation – and the avoidance of the forbidding terminology of immanent causation.
Footnote 34:

"Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: Part 3 - Problematic Models Of The Afterlife: Introduction"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Introduction to Part 3

"Martin (L. Michael) - Problems with Heaven"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 3, Chapter 20

Editors’ Abstract1
    Belief in Heaven is an essential part of the great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Famous theologians have written about it, and ordinary theists hope to go there after death. However, the concept of Heaven is neither clear nor unproblematic. There are three serious problems with the notion of Heaven. First, the concept of Heaven lacks coherence. Second, it is doubtful that theists can reconcile the heavenly character of Heaven with standard defenses against the argument from evil, such as the free will defense. Finally, Heaven is unfair and thus in conflict with the goodness of God.

In-Page Footnotes ("Martin (L. Michael) - Problems with Heaven")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Bradley (Raymond D.) - Can God Condemn One to an Afterlife in Hell?"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 3, Chapter 21

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper argues that God is not logically able to condemn a person to Hell by considering what is entailed by accepting the best argument to the contrary, the so-called free will defense expounded by Christian apologists Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig. It argues that the free will defense is logically fallacious, involves a philosophical fiction, and is based on a fraudulent account of Scripture, concluding that the problem of postmortem evil puts would-be believers in a logical and moral straightjacket from which there is no escape without heresy or contradiction.

COMMENT: See "Lewis (David), Kitcher (Philip) - Divine Evil".

In-Page Footnotes ("Bradley (Raymond D.) - Can God Condemn One to an Afterlife in Hell?")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Smythe (Ingrid Hansen) - Objections to Karma and Rebirth: An Introduction"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 3, Chapter 22

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper presents moral and epistemological objections to the twin theories of karma and rebirth. It not only considers whether there is any evidence that a principle of karmic rebirth actually operates, but asks whether a karmic principle could provide us with a solid moral education, a comprehensive explanation of evil, or a sufficient reason to do good to others. More fundamentally, how would the law of karma evaluate us, and who or what would be doing the evaluating? It also takes stock of the broader social ramifications of accepting the doctrine, such as whether its widespread acceptance has promoted or hindered societal well-being.

In-Page Footnotes ("Smythe (Ingrid Hansen) - Objections to Karma and Rebirth: An Introduction")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Martin (L. Michael) & Augustine (Keith) - The Myth of an Afterlife: Part 4 - Dubious Evidence for Survival: Introduction"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Introduction to Part 4

"Lange (Rense) & Houran (James) - Giving Up the Ghost to Psychology"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 4, Chapter 23

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper explores why people report haunting and poltergeist outbreaks, which have been traditionally interpreted as direct and dramatic evidence of spirits. Deliberate deceit and psychopathology can explain some cases, but a more complex process is often at work. Synthesizing qualitative and quantitative research, we conclude that most reports do not offer evidence of survival, but rather represent the predictable human tendency to interpret ambiguous psychological and physical phenomena as paranormal due to contextual factors that influence normal processes underlying imagination, cognition, and personality.

In-Page Footnotes ("Lange (Rense) & Houran (James) - Giving Up the Ghost to Psychology")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Blackmore (Susan) - Out-of-Body Experiences are not Evidence for Survival"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 4, Chapter 24

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper reviews the evidence that something leaves the body during out-of-body experiences (OBEs) and thus could potentially survive death. First, during OBEs people can purportedly see things at a distance without using the recognized senses. Second, some claim that the double or astral body can be detected. Finally, there is evidence from OBEs occurring near death. This paper evaluates each in turn.

In-Page Footnotes ("Blackmore (Susan) - Out-of-Body Experiences are not Evidence for Survival")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Augustine (Keith) - Near-Death Experiences are Hallucinations"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 4, Chapter 25

Editors’ Abstract1
    Reports of near-death experiences (NDEs) with suggestive or manifestly hallucinatory features strongly imply that NDEs are not glimpses of an afterlife, but rather internally generated fantasies. Such features include discrepancies between what is seen in the seemingly physical environment of “out-of-body” NDEs and what is actually happening in the physical world at the time, bodily sensations felt after near-death experiencers (NDErs) have ostensibly departed the physical world altogether and entered a transcendental realm, encounters with living persons and fictional characters while NDErs are ostensibly in a transcendental realm, hallucinatory imagery in NDEs, medical influences on the experience itself, the ubiquitous influence of culture and personal expectation on the content (not merely the description) of NDEs, and the failure of “prophetic” NDEs to accurately forecast future events, among other things.

In-Page Footnotes ("Augustine (Keith) - Near-Death Experiences are Hallucinations")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Ransom (Champe) - A Critique of Ian Stevenson’s Rebirth Research"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 4, Chapter 26

Editors’ Abstract1
    This abbreviated critique notes several weaknesses in Ian Stevenson’s reincarnation research based on an examination of the cases at the University of Virginia’s then Division of Parapsychology. The analysis raises issues about the use of leading questions, the inadequate depth of the investigations, the substantial allowance left for memory distortions and embellishment in the case reports, and the likelihood of contamination by normal sources in the vast majority of cases due to communication between the families of the deceased and the families of the “reborn” long before any investigation ensued. In addition, the weaknesses of the cases are somewhat obscured by Stevenson discussing them in a general way in a separate part of the report or book rather than in the actual presentation of the case itself. The critique concludes that both the behavioral and informational features of the “rebirth data” are weak.

In-Page Footnotes ("Ransom (Champe) - A Critique of Ian Stevenson’s Rebirth Research")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Angel (Leonard) - Is There Adequate Empirical Evidence for Reincarnation? An Analysis of Ian Stevenson’s Work"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 4, Chapter 27

Editors’ Abstract1
    This article reviews the research of “top rebirth scientist” Ian Stevenson on spontaneous past-life memory cases, focusing on three key problems with Stevenson’s work.
    1. First, his research of entirely anecdotal case reports contains a number of errors and omissions.
    2. Second, like other reincarnation researchers, Stevenson has done no controlled experimental work on such cases; yet only such research could ever resolve whether the correspondences found between a child’s statements and a deceased person’s life exceed what we might find by chance.
    3. Finally, the best reincarnation research should at least meet the standards met by typical empirical research, but Stevenson’s methodology does not even meet the standards expected of third- or fourth-year college students.

In-Page Footnotes ("Angel (Leonard) - Is There Adequate Empirical Evidence for Reincarnation? An Analysis of Ian Stevenson’s Work")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Larsen (Claus Flodin) - Conjecturing Up Spirits in the Improvisations of Mediums"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 4, Chapter 28

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper provides an analysis of the “Arizona experiments” conducted by experimental mediumship researcher Gary E. Schwartz, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona, in 1999. During the experiments, a number of “psychics” were tested for their ability to communicate with the dead, and afterward Schwartz concluded that his results produced strong scientific support for the existence of an afterlife. This paper critically evaluates Schwartz’s arguments for this claim.

In-Page Footnotes ("Larsen (Claus Flodin) - Conjecturing Up Spirits in the Improvisations of Mediums")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Battista (Christian), Gauvrit (Nicolas) & LeBel (Etienne) - Madness in the Method: Fatal Flaws in Recent Mediumship Experiments"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 4, Chapter 29

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper reviews one of the most methodologically rigorous studies of mediumship conducted to date. On the surface, the statistical procedures used by Julie Beischel and Gary E. Schwartz in the study seem to support the existence of anomalous information reception (AIR), but in fact have been misapplied. Other methodological flaws are fatal, including unaccounted for researcher degrees of freedom, which completely calls into question Beischel and Schwartz’s conclusion regarding AIR. We conclude by proposing an experimental design more appropriate for the small sample sizes typically used in experimental mediumship research.

In-Page Footnotes ("Battista (Christian), Gauvrit (Nicolas) & LeBel (Etienne) - Madness in the Method: Fatal Flaws in Recent Mediumship Experiments")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

"Lester (David) - Is There Life After Death? A Review of the Supporting Evidence"

Source: Martin & Augustine - The Myth of an Afterlife, Part 4, Chapter 30

Editors’ Abstract1
    This paper reviews recent empirical research into the possibility of life after death. First, it focuses on inconsistencies in accounts of the afterlife from different sources of supposed evidence for survival. Next, it reviews problematic aspects of survival research on apparitions, near-death experiences, and reincarnation claims, among other things. Finally, it examines whether any recent near-death research has addressed previous methodological criticisms, concluding that such research has not in fact advanced.

In-Page Footnotes ("Lester (David) - Is There Life After Death? A Review of the Supporting Evidence")

Footnote 1: Taken from Web Link.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2017
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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