Debating the afterlife: TONIGHT! (UPDATE: Post-debate wrapup)

I just got word of this event that takes place tonight in NYC. The event is sold out but will be aired live via web streaming beginning at 6:45 East US time.

Death Is Not Final – IQ2 Debates.

NeuroLogica Blog » Afterlife Debate.

Against this proposition will be me [Dr. Steven Novella] and Sean Carroll. Sean is a physicist, so he will cover the physics angle, while I will cover the neuroscience.

For the proposition will be Eben Alexander, author of Proof of Heaven, and Raymond Moody, author of Life after Life.


Esquire digs into “heaven” doctor’s NDE story. It’s not pretty. | Doubtful News.

Heaven is hot | Doubtful News.

UPDATE (8-May-2014) So how did it go? Dr. Novella writes up a quick review.

NeuroLogica Blog » After the Afterlife Debate.

The conclusion? What some say is good evidence is clearly NOT compelling to everyone.

  12 comments for “Debating the afterlife: TONIGHT! (UPDATE: Post-debate wrapup)

  1. May 7, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    I don’t see the point. The underlying questions have yet to be answered with any degree of certainty. They will be arguing unfalsifiable conditions and ideas. It might be entertaining, but the debate will certainly not find a resolution.

  2. Peter Robinson
    May 7, 2014 at 3:12 PM

    Though at least the good guys can highlight the entire lack of credible evidence for the claims of an afterlife, and hopefully show up the waffle for what it is.

  3. RayG
    May 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM

    While I certainly don’t deny anyone’s right to BELIEVE in the after life- for all I know it could exist. What I DON’T believe is that it is possible to know… OR that Old Uncle Murray has been tickling my feet from beyond the grave for some reason. Wouldn’t you have something better to do than be a pain in the ass?

  4. Bo Gardiner
    May 7, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    “I don’t see the point. The underlying questions have yet to be answered with any degree of certainty. They will be arguing unfalsifiable conditions and ideas. It might be entertaining, but the debate will certainly not find a resolution.

    Obviously the very reasonable point is to debate the quality of the scientific evidence for NDEs and the claim that they’re sufficient to suggest an afterlife.

  5. Haldurson
    May 7, 2014 at 6:34 PM

    I don’t see how you can both believe that brain damage can cause loss of our senses and our reasoning faculties AND still believe that there is life after death, both at the same time. they seem mutually exclusive to me. You either can reason and sense reality without a properly functioning brain, or you cannot.

  6. May 7, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    Yes, reason prevails!

  7. May 8, 2014 at 12:28 AM

    You can believe it because you believe that the brain is separate from the soul. If you happen to think you have a soul, it doesn’t really matter what happens to your brain.

  8. May 8, 2014 at 5:07 AM

    There is no ‘we’ outside ourselves, although I accept that this commonly held illusion gives comfort to some people, it is simply a survival idea that will have evolved in the minds of our proto-human ancestors. I recommend that people read the recent book ‘We are Our Brains’ by Dick Swaab, which explains what ‘we’ are in easy to read language (this book, originally in Dutch, is available in English and 13 other languages). Professor Swaab is one of the World’s leading brain scientists.

  9. One Eyed Jack
    May 8, 2014 at 8:13 AM

    That was his point, Jim.

    If you believe consciousness is separate from the physical (hence OBE), then how do you explain brain damage? Damage to our physical being should be irrelevant to a conscious soul.

    You just restated his point.

  10. Haldurson
    May 8, 2014 at 2:47 PM

    True, that’s what I meant, but I probably should have said it slightly differently. Clearly after brain death, there still can be cellular life, and I know that’s not what people mean when they talk about life after death. What they mean is that we can continue to exist as individuals with the same self-identity, memories, and personality. Any other kind of life after death would be meaningless without a kind of continuity. Without that continuity, the obsession with an afterlife would be ridiculous.

    To me, the connection between physicality and all three of personality, memories, and senses has been established beyond any reasonable doubt. I knew that from a fairly young age, because a neighbor’s kid contracted encephilitis and nearly died. But he did recover, but had total amnesia, and had to relearn how to do just about everything. His personality had changed drastically as well (from the somewhat bratty kid he was to someone who was almost the opposite of that). To a layman like me, it seemed like his slate had nearly been wiped clean, and he was starting again from scratch and the result was a different person. I don’t know how a doctor would describe it, so take that with a grain of salt.

  11. Z-one
    May 8, 2014 at 7:41 PM

    Is it too much to expect Dr. Alexander to acknowledge his false memory of Carl Sagan’s words on page 302 of “The Demon Haunted World”?

  12. Bonnie
    May 9, 2014 at 10:29 AM

    There doesn’t seem to be any point to debating an issue that cannot be either proved or disproved. It’s like debating the existence of God, angels, or ghosts. I’m a Christian, but I would never try to convince anyone of the existence of beings or a state of being that can’t be proven – I have enough doubts of my own!

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