Does Sam Harris’ books literally deny any kind of afterlife

 
Tad Trenton's Ghost
 
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Tad Trenton's Ghost
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16 August 2008 16:59
 

I doubt bacteria have minds at all. Insects, like fruit flies, must have at least some sort of conscious existence, but one far removed from ourselves, so it’s possible for them. 

“higher” animals with developed neural systems and brains most certainly have an equal chance of concisouness surviving brain-death as a human would.

Here’s another quote about Harris, one I jst found today before logging on: u

And for all his insistence on reason and scientific study, Harris is surprisingly open—as I discovered in my interview—to paranormal experiences like telepathy, and even to the possibility of consciousness existing outside the human brain.

Harris is working on doctorate in nueroscience. He knows more about this than me, and most other posters. SO if he’s not ready yet to throw in the towel about the afterlife, you shouldn’t be either. Note the interviewer didn’t seem to think this kind of thing scientific, but things may change as the field is explored more carefuly.

[ Edited: 16 August 2008 17:08 by Tad Trenton's Ghost]
 
 
 
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unsmoked
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16 August 2008 18:37
 
Tad Trenton’s Ghost - 16 August 2008 08:59 PM

I doubt bacteria have minds at all. Insects, like fruit flies, must have at least some sort of conscious existence, but one far removed from ourselves, so it’s possible for them. 

“higher” animals with developed neural systems and brains most certainly have an equal chance of concisouness surviving brain-death as a human would.

Tad, a lot of Christians are going to be unhappy about your letting mosquitoes into Heaven, especially immaterial mosquitoes that can zip through a folded copy of the Golden Gate Gazette.  Wham!  Missed again.

 
 
 
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Beam
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18 August 2008 08:06
 
Tad Trenton’s Ghost - 15 August 2008 06:24 PM

We also don’t know for sure if that the mind survives the body’s death, if it’s an eternal state? Why should suppose it should be? I even remeber reading long ago somehwere that “ghosts are not immortal.” I have no idea where, so don’t ask.

It is a good bet that you did not read that in “The Journal of Neuroscience” or “Nature.” But, I may have missed that issue.

 
 
goodgraydrab
 
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goodgraydrab
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18 August 2008 10:04
 
Tad Trenton’s Ghost - 14 August 2008 10:49 PM

We all know that electromagmetic waves exist all the time, even though we can’t see them. I have a wireless router that sends the Internet to my computer in the form of waves. If you computer or TV is damaged, then you will have troubling viewing or downloading. But even so, the Internet and Tv shows are still there. Why can’t it be the same with consciousness, and the brain?

But that’s my argument, and not Sam’s.

There are many many things that we can’t see with the naked eye but we can detect them with instruments and they are measureable. All we have to do is start measuring fresh cadavers.

We can cut off the tip of a leaf and photograph the energy still flowing from the still live remaining part of the leaf into the original shape, even though the tip is missing. This may last minutes to hours. Keep in mind, the energy generating part of the leaf is still living, not like when the whole unit has expired. This might be akin to the process of phantom pain. Certain neuropathways are established and sensations are stored into memory.

I think, “I don’t know” is pretty lame.

 
 
Tad Trenton's Ghost
 
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Tad Trenton's Ghost
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18 August 2008 10:49
 

Actually, I beleive my dad read that to me as a child. I don’t remeber what book it was.

 
 
 
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Traces Elk
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18 August 2008 12:54
 
Tad Trenton’s Ghost - 18 August 2008 02:49 PM

Actually, I beleive my dad read that to me as a child. I don’t remeber what book it was.

This is a bizarre data point, TadTG. Usually when parents read to a child, the result is not as brain dead as you apparently are. If you don’t remember stuff, it may not be your fault. I don’t blame your father, either. Perhaps your brain is malfunctioning. Shit happens.

 
 
Tad Trenton's Ghost
 
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Tad Trenton's Ghost
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18 August 2008 14:04
 

That comment about the possible mortality was intended as food for thought, not as evidence for my position. It does not really matter what the source might have been the way I am using it here.

 
 
 
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Traces Elk
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18 August 2008 14:38
 
Tad Trenton’s Ghost - 18 August 2008 06:04 PM

That comment about the possible mortality was intended as food for thought, not as evidence for my position. It does not really matter what the source might have been the way I am using it here.

You know, TTG, I think you are pretty much a pitiful shit-ass who will deny that anything you’ve written is evidence of your position. It doesn’t matter how you are using it here because nothing you write ever makes any sense. Your position is that of “not making any sense”. You’d belong with the Talking Heads, only you have no talent. The probability that you will provide anyone with food for thought is along the lines of the probability that pigs will learn to sing.

 
 
Ecurb Noselrub
 
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18 August 2008 14:44
 
Salt Creek - 18 August 2008 06:38 PM

The probability that you will provide anyone with food for thought is along the lines of the probability that pigs will learn to sing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHcsAc8db48

 
Tad Trenton's Ghost
 
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Tad Trenton's Ghost
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18 August 2008 15:18
 

You’d belong with the Talking Heads, only you have no talent.

Funny you should mention that, Salt. The Talking Heads are one of my favorite groups. Have a wild, wild life.

 
 
 
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Beam
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19 August 2008 09:37
 

I can’t seem to face up to the facts
I’m tense and nervous and I
Can’t relax
I can’t sleep ‘cause my bed’s on fire
Don’t touch me I’m a real live wire

You start a conversation you can’t even finish it.
You’re talkin’ a lot, but you’re not sayin’ anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?

Psycho Killer,
Qu’est Que C’est
fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa far better
Run run run run run run run away

 
 
LogicAndReason
 
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LogicAndReason
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19 August 2008 15:32
 
Sander - 15 August 2008 01:06 PM

No one wants to disappear Tad but the closest thing to immortality you can hope for is to write this generation’s Cannery Row.

This merited repeating….

 
workinprogress
 
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workinprogress
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27 August 2008 04:07
 
Sander - 14 August 2008 05:46 PM
Tad Trenton’s Ghost - 14 August 2008 03:58 AM

When it comes to the afterlife, Sam’s position is that he just doesn’t know. I had a direct quote from him on another thread taken form an online debate, not from his books:

Paraphrasing Sam: The idea is that if you damage part of the brain you lose the ability to speak English but if the brain is destroyed altogether by death you will be able to recognize grandma in the afterlife.

But, Sam Harris is careful to distinguish between what is almost certain (that our personal consciousness is a manifestation of brain function and doesn’t survive bodily death), and what is a remote possibility that cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand (conscious properties may not be completely reducible to physical forces).

I managed to dig up an interview he did a while back in which he left the door open at least a crack, for some sort of property dualism:

You are a neuroscientist. Do you think there’s any chance that human consciousness can survive after death?

I just don’t know. One thing I can tell you is that we don’t know what the actual relationship between consciousness and the physical world is. There are good reasons to be skeptical of the naive conception of a soul. We know that almost everything we take ourselves to be subjectively—all of our cognitive powers, our ability to understand language, our ability to acknowledge anything in our physical environment through our senses—this is mediated by the brain. So the idea that a brain can die and a soul that still speaks English and recognizes Granny is going to float away into the afterlife, that seems to be profoundly implausible. And yet we do not know what the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity ultimately is. For instance, we could be living in a universe where consciousness goes all the way down to the bedrock so that there is some interior subjective dimension to an electron. So I’m actually quite skeptical of our ever being able to resolve that question—what the real relationship between consciousness and matter ultimately is.

That’s interesting. Most evolutionary biologists would say consciousness is rooted in the brain. It will not survive death. You are not willing to make that claim.

I just don’t know. I’m trying to be honest about my gradations of certainty. I think consciousness poses a unique problem. If we were living in a universe where consciousness survived death, or transcended the brain so that single neurons were conscious—or subatomic particles had an interior dimension—we would not expect to see it by our present techniques of neuro-imaging or cellular neuroscience. And we would never expect to see it. And so we have a problem. There are profound philosophical and epistemological problems that anyone must confront who’s trying to reduce consciousness to the workings of the brain. This discourse is in its infancy, and who knows where it’s going to go?

—By Steve Paulson

 
goodgraydrab
 
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goodgraydrab
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27 August 2008 11:11
 
workinprogress - 27 August 2008 08:07 AM

But, Sam Harris is careful to distinguish between what is almost certain (that our personal consciousness is a manifestation of brain function and doesn’t survive bodily death), and what is a remote possibility that cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand (conscious properties may not be completely reducible to physical forces).

I, for one, think Sam’s synapses are misfiring. Hope he’s still oriented to person, time and place. I’ve heard Wiccans call thought and imagination magical for the same reason as described in his excerpt (was that wave of the hand or wave of the wand?). Scientists are studying how genes may pass on certain propensities for specific behaviors which may or may not manifest themselves, but that is not thought or consciousness. He should stick to the areas of Perception, Memory and the Physical Structure of the Brain. One electron a thought does not make, ask any advanced Alzeimer’s patient.

[ Edited: 27 August 2008 11:15 by goodgraydrab]
 
 
workinprogress
 
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workinprogress
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27 August 2008 14:08
 
goodgraydrab - 27 August 2008 03:11 PM
workinprogress - 27 August 2008 08:07 AM

But, Sam Harris is careful to distinguish between what is almost certain (that our personal consciousness is a manifestation of brain function and doesn’t survive bodily death), and what is a remote possibility that cannot be dismissed with a wave of the hand (conscious properties may not be completely reducible to physical forces).

I, for one, think Sam’s synapses are misfiring. Hope he’s still oriented to person, time and place. I’ve heard Wiccans call thought and imagination magical for the same reason as described in his excerpt (was that wave of the hand or wave of the wand?). Scientists are studying how genes may pass on certain propensities for specific behaviors which may or may not manifest themselves, but that is not thought or consciousness. He should stick to the areas of Perception, Memory and the Physical Structure of the Brain. One electron a thought does not make, ask any advanced Alzeimer’s patient.

This isn’t about thoughts, it’s a question of whether there are fundamental properties of consciousness that cannot be reduced to materialistic explanations such as emergence. Sam Harris is taking the proper approach that the question cannot be answered one way or the other at the present time, and dogmatic physicalists such as Daniel Dennett, dismiss questions of property dualism without any consideration. Dennett answers David Chalmers’s question of whether a zombie could imitate true sentience by offering up that the zombie is impossible and would have to possess subjective experiences before having the appearance of consciousness.

Dennett’s position is based on personal belief formed by his approach to understanding the world, just as much as Chalmers’s belief that qualia cannot be reduced to physical explanations, is formed around a fundamental personal belief that there must be something more to consciousness. Right now, Harris’s more modest approach of leaving the question open until consciousness can be better understood, is a better approach to take.

I think this would be good place to give a shout-out for one of my favourite podcasts: The Brain Science Podcast by Dr. Ginger Campbell. Episode 43 features an interview with Neurologist Robert Burton, author of On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not. Burton presents a good case that our beliefs and feelings of certainty are mental sensations, and not a higher level rationalization process to confirm evidence or knowledge. Burton’s approach would advise taking a more modest approach to when we feel that we have the right answers and everyone else is wrong. Some people, even those who think they are 100% rational and capable of evaluating the truth, have too high an opinion of their own wisdom.