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There Probably is no Afterlife

0 points
5 points
JV-StalinJV-Stalin (PRO)
] I would like to thank Admin for accepting.

Why an Afterlife is Improbable

An afterlife assumes that there are mental events (experience) occurring without brain events. This is a must, if it's not true, then there would be no life after the brain.  I will contend that this probably cannot happen making an afterlife improbable. Put in a syllogistic modus tollens

1. If an afterlife exists, there must be mental events without brain events.

2. There probably cannot be mental events without brain events.

C. Therefore, an afterlife is improbable.

Premise one is self evident. Premise  two is true for a variety of reasons. After extensive research in this  area, philosopher Michael Tooley gave 5 pieces of evidence to support  the likelihood of mind brain dependence [1].

 (1)  When an individual's brain is directly stimulated and put into a  certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding  experience. [2]

(2) Certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all. [3]

(3)  Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which  capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the  brain that was damaged. [4]

(4) When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex. [5]

(5)  Within any given species, the development of mental capacities is  correlated with the development of neurons in the brain [6][7]

With this evidence Tooley concludes that

“All  minds that it is generally agreed that we are definitely acquainted  with ... are either purely physical in nature or else are causally  dependent on something physical in nature."

 The conclusion follows.
Back to Con.

[1] http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/craig-tooley2.html
[2] One example is from the studies of Jose Delgado. He was able to control a person’s mind through the brain [http://www.biotele.com/delgado_%20ebook/chap11.htm][http://www.cabinetmagazine.org/issues/2/psychcivilization.php]
[3] http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/outcomes.html
[4] Ibid
[5] http://facultypages.morris.umn.edu/~meeklesr/compbrainnotes.html
[6] Ibid
[7] http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v490/n7419/fig_tab/490185a_F1.html

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-01-20 15:14:28
| Speak Round
adminadmin (CON)
I'd like to thank my opponent for opening his case.

First of all, I think it's worth reinstating the definition pro put forth in the rules: "Afterlife is defined as you living after your death. Not something such as reincarnation."

It's surprising to me that pro has chosen to focus on mental events without brain events, since having a functioning body is what defines "life" and being conscious does not. An unconscious person with no mental events whatsoever can still be very much alive. However, I'm going to infer from his opening argument his definition of life, which is simply having mental events. I'm also very happy to accept that the central issue of this debate is whether there can be mental events without brain events.

Also note three things. First, pro has the burden of proof in this debate. Second, my rejoinder is not to show that every person experiences afterlife. If I can show that even one person has life after death, there is an afterlife. Third, while I will present evidence for an afterlife, my position in this debate is not that there is a probable afterlife but merely the null hypothesis, that at the very least we don't know.

Due to the complexity of the topic, some of my sources are books. To cite them, I have linked to the appropriate Google Books page when available (which applies to every source this round).

Pro's first premise is wrong

Aside from the aforementioned issue with consciousness as the litmus test for life, there is no reason to suppose that a dead brain cannot be restarted. My opponent has merely asserted that this is "self evident", however, this is not the case. Indeed, an afterlife must take place in one's own body or no body, as otherwise it qualifies as reincarnation, which is specifically excluded by pro's definition. Therefore, your brain being restarted is the most plausible form of afterlife we are discussing and cannot be dismissed as merely "self evidently wrong".

Not only is it likely that it is possible to experience such an afterlife - it is scientifically CERTAIN that people have been clinically brain-dead, and had their brains restarted, because it's happened before (and I'm not just talking about Jesus or Lazarus). People have literally died and come back to life, and that fact is very well established in medical literature dating from the medieval period until today. Pro needs to explain why brains cannot be resurrected, against the facts of hundreds of real cases and sound medical opinion, for this premise to stand. Even if every single one of these cases is a false positive as some hardcore skeptics have claimed, pro also needs to demonstrate why such an afterlife is not possible.

Pro's second premise is wrong

I'll begin by offering a rebuttal to pro's justifications, and then I'll explain my argument to the contrary. I'll number my rebuttal points in the same way as Tooley did.

1. Just because one affects the other does not mean one is dependent on the other. For example, having a debate causes my mind to have an experience but that does not mean my mind is dependent on debating.

2. This refers specifically to mental events that are measurable by science. We don't know whether a dead person has mental states or not without brain events, so this premise is circular, tautological, and begging the question all at once, not to mention scientifically dishonest.

3. This argument is the same as argument one just in reverse, with injury instead of stimulation. My rebuttal to 1 still holds.

4. This is only because brain complexity is specifically defined in relation to mental capacity. That smart creatures share certain brain similarities doesn't prove dependence. Even if it did, it doesn't show which is dependent on the other (the brain on the mind or the mind on the brain).

5. This argument is a restatement of 4 except with the specific example of neurons. My rebuttal to 4 still holds.

Importantly, up to 20% of all people whose brains go into a completely flatline state and then return, retain consciousness and can remember it, proving that there's more to consciousness than merely brain activity - it's much more normal than can be dismissed by a mere lack of scientific rigor. But there's a more important philosophical problem here too.

We tend to assume that we are a product of this universe, and that this universe created us. This perception has been challenged by the recently emerging biocentric perspective, that claims our consciousness created the universe. It presents perhaps the most compelling rational to date as to why the behavior of light particles, for example, depends on our perception of them as opposed to any kind of physical law [3, 4]. While the falsifiability of this and similar theories remains questionable, the inverse assumption (that our consciousness depends on the universe including the brain, not the universe/brain on our consciousness) must also not be falsifiable. Therefore (with our present understanding) this premise cannot be either shown to be true or false, which moots the entire argument.

We Can Talk To Dead People

If there was no afterlife, then how can psychics talk to dead people?

Most psychics can be easily dismissed as hoaxes - however, there are a few that cannot be discounted so easily.

In one experiment, Kelly and Arcangel employed nine mediums to offer readings for 40 individual sitters – two of the mediums doing six each, while the other seven mediums did four readings each (each sitter had just one reading done). The sittings were done without the actual sitter present (the researchers acted as a ‘proxy’ to keep a blind protocol), and audio recordings of the mediums’ statements were later transcribed. Each sitter was then sent six readings – the correct reading, and five ‘decoy’ readings drawn from those given for others in the group – but were then asked to rate each overall reading on how applicable they thought it was to them, and comment on why they chose the highest rated reading. Thirty-eight of the forty participants returned their ratings – and, amazingly, 14 of the 38 readings were correctly chosen (while at first sight ‘less than half correct’ may seem a rather poor success rate, given there were six readings to choose from, this is actually a number significantly above what would be expected by chance). Additionally, seven other readings were ranked second, and altogether 30 of the 38 readings were ranked in the top half of the ratings. What’s more, one medium in particular stood out above the others: all six of this person’s readings were correctly ranked first by each sitter, at quite astronomical odds!

The actual odds of a medium doing what that last sitter did by chance are about 0.000021%, which (given that this was a double-blind study) is incredible.

This is not an isolated study. Researchers have not done this millions of times until they got the one set of data that supports their conclusion. In fact it is entirely consistent with a large body of evidence, except that until now much of that evidence has been criticized for various methodical issues. This research puts those kinds of issues to rest, showing that in fact the scientific data has been right all along.

There is correlating scientific evidence for this also. The remarkable consistency of post-death experiences, as well as otherwise inexplicable physical phenomena surrounding death, including phenomena witnessed by skeptics, and the apparent normalcy of post-death visitations all in fact lend apparent evidence to the position that there is an afterlife. While these things might possibly be explained away (both skeptics and psychics have issued million-dollar-challenges to anyone who can disprove their view), the body of evidence (as opposed to proof) for an afterlife is very large. The body of evidence against is zero. There is no observed physical evidence against the existence of an afterlife.

Aside from scientific evidence, philosophical justifications for the afterlife fit the scientific data astoundingly well. I don't have the space to explore this aspect in this round, but I'll probably try to get to it later.

Surveys show the majority of scientists agree that real psychic abilities are likely to exist.

A Zombie Apocalypse is Imminent

Zombies are creatures raised from the dead. With their rotting brains they tend not to be the smartest of creatures, they do have a basic form of consciousness, at least enough to find brains to eat and growl scarily around the place. Therefore, if a zombie apocalypse happens, that's an afterlife.

In fact, there is archaeological evidence that this would not be the first time real zombies have attacked people.

The science all stacks up as well...

A zombie pandemic … is something that is plausible, it's something that at least in terms of spread, is very likely... a potential virus leading to an outbreak could overwhelm a city the size of New York in eight to nine days once a single zombie is infected.

Zombie apocalypses appear to be relatively rare, despite the US government helping people get ready for it with useful educational pamphlets about zombie apocalypses (your tax dollars at work). Still there is good reason to believe it might happen one day. And let's not discount all the predictive programming going on, like the Walking Dead series and such.

The resolution is negated.

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-01-26 20:27:50
| Speak Round
JV-StalinJV-Stalin (PRO)

I’d like to thank Con for accepting. I can tell this is going to be a very good debate. I do see there is a bit of problem with my definition, but Con understood where I was coming from. An afterlife is mental events without said brain events.

Premise one
This does not fit the idea of an afterlife that is suppose to be argued for. This is being resurrected. They are coming back to life, not living after they have died. This objection is simply an equivocation fallacy. When Con is saying they live after they have died, he does not mean they are conscious or are actually alive after death, he means they are resurrected.

Premise two

1. Con’s analogy is false. Having a debate causes your mind to have an experience, but your mind started first. This could cause the body to have an experience. This is completely different from the studies I’ve cited. The physical event happens first. The mind being dependent on the brain is the best explanation for this. Sure, they could be non dependant, but this would be an ad hoc view. The best explanation is that they are.

2. This is a straw man of my argument. Con makes it sound like I’m defining mental states as brain states. This is false. I do not mean mental states that can be detected by science at all. We don’t see people who just suffered severe brain injury saying “Hey guys, some crash huh? Look, you can see my brain!”. It’s pointing out when people’s brains are shot, the mind appears to be shot. Of course, it is possible for there to be some hidden mental states. But the debate title is “An afterlife is improbable” not “An afterlife is impossible”. Appealing to some hidden mental state is an ad hoc.

3. Con referred us to a previous response

4. Con’s response here is unjustified. Brain complexity is defined by a variety of things, not just by the complexity of mental events [1][2].

5. Con refers us to the objection above. He claims it still holds, but it directly rebuts Con’s initial response. Con is saying brain complexity is defined by mental complexity, but this argument states mental complexity correlates with neuronal growth. This is requires a completely different response. Meaning, #5 is unrebutted.

Con’s arguments here are mainly appeals to possibility and not probability. Combined with strawmen,

Con brings up stories of people with flat EEGs remembering things. However, this assumes the old view that a flat EEG means death. People with flat EEGs still have this strange type of brain activity [3], so it is still mental activity with brain activity. Furthermore, it is expected that this would happen. Neuroscientist Susan blackmore writes

“If sensory input is reduced or disrupted, the normal input-based model of the world may start to become unstable and break down. In this case the cognitive system will try to get back to normal by creating a new model of the world from imagination... [from] a bird's-eye view, as though from above…..if the OBE occurs when the normal model of reality is replaced by a bird's-eye view constructed from memory, then people who have OBEs should be better able to use such views in memory and in imagery”[4]

Con brings up the idea of biocentricity. I don’t see how this dents my argument at all, since the mind could have created the body and came about simultaneously. Making it dependant on the body, yet still a creation of the mind. Scientifically, biocentricity is flawed. It may be true that under the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics there are superpositions that are broken when they hit a measuring device. However, the idea that a conscious observer is required is not currently accepted, as wavefunctions are broken by quantum decoherence. In a Nobel Prize winning experiment, Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland showed that quantum wave functions can collapse on their own. It was also shown that some states can be observed and measured without collapsing them [5].

Con also claims since this premise can’t be falsified, it can’t be shown true or false. This is irrelevant, because I’m arguing it is more probable than not.

You can talk to what???

Here, Con argues that since mediumship is true, an afterlife exists. First, all that can be demonstrated is that these mediums knew the information. It is unjustified where this information came from. Second, the article is very vague in what was revealed. Magicians can use a variety of tactics to achieve amazing accuracy in psychic readings. I’ve done it many times with stunning accuracy. The trick is to use a cold reading which is just a list of tactics to gain and reveal information about a total stranger, even if it’s not done in person [6]. So, I’d tend to agree the probability is about 0.000021%, but only if you’re dealing with pure guesswork, it does not take a cold reading into account. Furthermore, confirmation bias is subject. Since they asked the sitters to rank the readings. The sitters tend to forget the wrong readings.

Con brings up post-mortem appearances. However, it is more likely that the person in morning is so open to the suggestion that the person is alive, that they see them. We know hallucination is possible with suggestion [7]. We also know that even normal people can hallucinate [8]. We even have stories of ghost sightings that have been solely the result of suggestion [9]. So, post-mortem appearances don’t seem to be supernatural, but psychological.

You’ve got to shoot them in the head

Con unexpectedly brings up zombies as evidence of an afterlife. This hardly counts as an afterlife, since it is defined as you living on after your death. But, if you’re eating your friends and family, then your mind has degraded to the point that it’s no longer you. All his evidence points to the possibility of some virus affecting your mind, but this clearly isn’t an afterlife. Even if the body was alive, the mind could be dead. In this sense, you are still gone. This objection seems to be based on equivocation.

Although, if a zombie apocalypse happens, Con and I will just go to the winchester tavern and wait for this all to blow over.

Back to Con.




[4] Blackmore, Susan. "Out-of-the-Body Experience." InThe Oxford Companion to the Mind. Edited Richard L. Gregory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987: 571-73. p.573 and 133.






Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-01 10:11:37
| Speak Round
adminadmin (CON)
Pro has changed his definition. Originally, in the rules, he stated "Afterlife is defined as you living after your death." Now he's broken his rule by changing the definition to "An afterlife is mental events without said brain events" when it suits him, mid-way through the debate. I will continue the debate on the basis of his new definition, but I ask that voters take this into account in their decisions.

Premise One

Pro has redefined the topic to make this premise a tautology. If an afterlife means "mental events without said brain events", then the premise that "If an afterlife exists, there must be mental events without brain events" is logically self-proving. There is no equivocation fallacy because my opponent just changed that rule up between rounds.

I'm going to challenge this definition outright. I think it's inaccurate to say that an organism with no mental events, such as organisms without brains, are not alive. There are certainly circumstances where a person can be alive but not conscious.

Resurrection is different from reincarnation. Reincarnation is when you come back in a new body, resurrection is when you come back in the same body. This debate is not about reincarnation, as pro explicitly stated in the rules. Therefore it must be about resurrection. There is no other kind of afterlife - either you're in the same body, or you're not. This debate is only about whether resurrection is possible.

Premise Two

1. The reason why I put the analogy that way round was to demonstrate that dependence is not an acceptable conclusion, because by the same logic a different experiment would come to the opposite conclusion. It still warrants a rebuttal. I could likewise demonstrate, if you like, that the conclusion is absurd even internally. For example, I think about God a lot, but that doesn't mean I'm God or have the experience of being him. You never show dependence by proving one thing is merely affected by another thing. The earth is affected by solar flares but the earth does not depend on them, and exists even when there isn't a strong solar flare right now.

To claim that it's the best possible alternative over the null hypothesis, you actually need some evidence. It's not enough to dismiss the alternative as an ad hoc view - that would be speculation, not science.

2. I do make it sound like my opponent is defining mental states as brain states. That's because he clearly is. His whole argument is that when a person dies, they don't have brain events. Unless you already believe mental events are brain events there is no causal link here. I maintain that the premise is circular, tautological, and begging the question.

The reason why you don’t see people who just suffered severe brain injury saying “Hey guys, some crash huh? Look, you can see my brain!” may be because the body is dependent on brain events, among countless other explanations. Perhaps some people are consciously thinking that at a crash site. It would be wrong to assume that we would know unless we assume we could measure conscious activity via brain events.

3. I did refer to it as a restatement. It is.

4. First of all, my opponent missed two of my three counter-arguments. Here they are again: "That smart creatures share certain brain similarities doesn't prove dependence. Even if it did, it doesn't show which is dependent on the other (the brain on the mind or the mind on the brain)."

Second, I said "mental capacity" not "mental complexity". I agree with both of my opponent's sources. They show that my opponent was wrong to say there is an exact correlation between mental capacity and brain complexity, which is the whole premise of his argument and voids everything he's said on it. Pro's claim is, and I quote, "When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex". I'm only saying that this cannot be logically or scientifically true unless you define mental capacity in terms of brain complexity. If you look at my opponent's source from the first round, you'll see it defined mental capacity and brain complexity precisely as I said. Pro is refuting his own point, not mine.

5. Whether evolutionary development over a million years or brain development over a single lifetime, you're making the same argument in a marginally different context. If my opponent would care to explain to me why this argument is unique - why neuronal intelligence in an individual organism is fundamentally different from other forms of intelligence development - then I'd be happy to hear it. As of yet, I don't believe my opponent has shown a single reason to believe they are different, so no unique response is justified.

Moving on then.

It's true that a flat EEG does not necessarily mean zero electrical activity, but none of this electrical activity is supposed to be conscious. EEG measures the electrical activity on the surface, where consciousness happens. Activity in this region has never been observed with a flat EEG, which is no surprise because this is exactly what an EEG measures. The researchers in pro's study found activity in the hippocampus, near the middle of the brain. While nobody is quite sure what the hippocampus does, it certainly isn't consciousness. Susan Blackmore is not talking about flatline EEG folks who might be brain dead for days, as some people have been. These are people who aren't supposed to be conscious, let alone have imaginations, as opposed to patients with impaired sensory inputs (such as those who go under with a sedative or the like).

About biocentricity, it dents the argument because if true, it would require the brain to be dependent on the mind, not vice versa. It's not a theory of creation, it's a theory of all existence. I'm not saying biocentricity is true. I'm saying that assuming it's not true as a premise for all the other arguments is not a valid assumption - if so, I'd like to see my opponent try to show why it is a valid assumption. As he has admitted, he can't. He calls that irrelevant because he's merely arguing probability. Again that's not how science works - the likelihood of the conclusion does not excuse you not following the scientific method - but for the sake of argument I'd even like to hear why biocentricity not being true is a probable assumption.

Let's talk about the science behind it then. I don't care what's accepted. Science doesn't accept biocentricity is general but that doesn't mean they reject it either. It's pro that's trying to determine something here, not me. Being able to observe any state and have it act differently as a result - regardless of whether it might be possible for it to act either way normally - is evidence. It's the fact that in repeated experiments, observing the state has an impact on particle behavior. It doesn't prove biocentricity, but it's evidence for.


First pro told us mediums could have known in some other way. I wonder where my opponent believes they got it from, if not for the dead people, assuming that they did in fact gain knowledge they could not have received from life. I suppose pro could argue God told them or something but I'd like to hear him make the argument. If he wants to run a naturalistic explanation then his first rebuttal point is non-unique with his second.

Second he objected the experiment wasn't fair. There were quite a few subpoints here:

  • cold reading - this was specifically accounted for by the researchers. The study was double blind. The mediums never saw or spoke to the people whom they were giving readings about, nor did the people ever see or speak to the mediums. As for the sitters, they were not provided the information the mediums had to reveal, so they can't have subliminally revealed it.
  • vague details - the research doesn't reveal the actual readings because for obvious reasons they are confidential and private, but we do know it can't have been just a bunch of vague generalizations because those could apply to anybody. To consistently rank first in the ranking mechanism available, there had to be some specific distinguishing details of that person that could not apply to any other person the mediums gave readings for.
  • confirmation bias - there were no wrong readings to forget. The psychics only got one shot, the sitters wrote their readings down and put them in sealed envelopes, posting them directly to the homes of the subjects. If the psychics got the reading wrong the first time they fail. 

This is the most through study ever done on mediums. It was specifically designed to control for every kind of bias or trick known to mankind. It cannot possibly have been any of the above that caused, or even contributed to, the mediums' incredible success rate.

While it is possible that every single post-mortem appearance is a hallucination, it doesn't seem very probable. That's a lot of hallucinations, and people don't hallucinate that easily even if they are normal (consider when the last time was that you hallucinated). I'm not claiming certainty either, but it strikes me as more likely that there's some particular phenomenon around death that is not part of our everyday psyche. Anything else would have to be stretching the believably a lot. Just because suggestion is possible with stage magic and such does not imply that this is what's happened in all of the billions of post-death experiences people have had.


This is the most important argument of the whole debate.

I have no doubt the human race would survive such an apocalypse. The question is merely whether it will happen, and I'm glad we seem to agree it will, because it pays to be prepared.

As for not coming back in the same mental state as when you left, that's an odd criterion. Living things change their mental state yet continue to live. Why is a mental state not allowed to change during death before coming back to life?

The resolution is negated.

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-07 14:32:29
| Speak Round
JV-StalinJV-Stalin (PRO)

Premise Unus

Con claims I have changed my definition to fit me. This is clearly false. What do you think I mean by “you”. We are clearly just beings that participate in the activity of consciousness. Living after death is us with consciousness after our death. Or simply mental events without brain events. It’s just a similar restatement. Ironically, if Con wishes to challenge this he must concede that my position is correct. Which in a sense he does. He claims premise one is a tautology. It essentially is, that’s why I called it self-evident. There’s nothing wrong with that, many laws in philosophy are indeed tautologies. For instance the Identity of Indiscernibles is tautological. If A=B, what is true for A is true for B. He then claims there is no equivocation fallacy. This is only true if the definition is changed, which it wasn’t.

He challenges the definition which kills his entire case and supports mine. If you can be alive without being conscious, then being alive must be in some sense physical. I’ve been supporting a variation of that throughout the entire debate! Furthermore, it kills his objection because it makes this idea of an afterlife meaningless. If we can are resurrected, we are not living on after death because life itself is in some sense physical, an afterlife must be after this physical world. This demonstrates that what Con is defending is full of inconsistencies and contradictory views.

Con has been inconsistent in this section and shot himself in the foot. I’d like to point out his objection here has been entirely semantical. It doesn’t further the debate at all. He also claimed this is the only thing that matters. This means his strongest argument is simply sematical. Does that really do anything to my position? Clearly not.

Premise Duo

Con has repeatedly made the claim that x doesn’t prove dependence. I will respond to them all in this section. Con brings about more false analogies to support his position. For instance, his God analogy is false because that’s an internal mental event. Completely irrelevant. His solar flare analogy is false because affecting the Earth does nothing to the flare. Nor is there evidence to support the Earth is contingent on the flares. However, with my evidence it does show the mind is contingent on the brain. What criteria of evidence would demonstrate dependence? Con needs to answer that because otherwise he can commit the moving goalpost fallacy over and over again. Similar to the vague definition of “kind” given by creationists. All evidence supports the idea that the mind is contingent on the physical. Take perception for example. Physical perception organs are required to perceive. Similarly, if the parts of the brain that process things like smell, hearing, sight, ect are damaged so are the perception. Memory is stored in the brain. I’d say everyone of us has forgot things. Some have damaged brains so they cannot remember things. Alzheimer's for example. The act of thinking uses words and pictures, which are dependant on perception and memory. Beliefs and knowledge are also dependant on our memories and perception. This proves they are contingent. Much like a sound and a wave. We see sound/wave correlations and claim they are contingent on each other. If we wish to adopt Con’s position, we have to argue against the dependence of the sound and wave. When we affect the wave we know we affect the sound. Similar to the mind and brain. In reference to the claim of 4, I didn’t respond to it because I responded to it in the first point.

On point 2, he claims I am saying mental states are brain states. In round 1, I quoted Tooley saying

“All minds that it is generally agreed that we are definitely acquainted with ... are either purely physical in nature or else are causally dependent on something physical in nature."

Con then posits some ad hoc view that the body may be dependant on the brain. This leads to a bit of an interaction problem. How would the mind have any effect on the body if this were true? Furthermore, something Con has ignored throughout this entire debate, it is simpler to just say the mind is dependant on the brain.

All I have to do to refute Con’s objection to point 4 is demonstrate seperate ways of defining said events. Which I have. I gave seperate ways of defining brain complexity, furthermore mental capacity would clearly be defined by our observations of the creature. You don’t have to crack open someone’s head to determine its mental capacity.

I never claimed point 5 was different from 4. That’s a strawman. I said it refutes his point 4, because it gives a separate way of defining brain complexity.

The other stuff

Con misunderstands my argument. I’m saying since there is brain activity it is more probable to think the brain maps out a false memory instead of some ontological experience.

Con says biocentricity does dent my argument. But he didn’t respond to why I think it doesn’t. There is nothing wrong with the idea that the body and mind come into existence simultaneously because of the mind. Making them dependant. Con furthermore ignored the refutation of biocentricity. He also claimed probability isn’t how science works. Con has given no source for this. On a University of Georgia article titled “What is science” states

“....we can't know many things with absolute certainty - we only know the observable evidence. However, we can reach the best possible conclusion based on the most complete and modern evidence available.”[1]

This is what I’m doing. Making Con’s objection irrelevant. One problem with Con’s argument here is that I’m making a philosophical argument using science to come to a philosophical conclusion. If Con wishes to extend the scientific method into philosophy, he is promoting the rejected philosophy of logical positivism [2]. He then needs to show this rejected and flawed philosophy is valid.

Although I feel I have refuted the idea, I will propose a philosophical argument that demonstrates biocentricity is self-refuting and incoherent. Biocentricity is essentially a type of idealism. It states the world is the way it is because of our minds. Nothing is mind-independent. We know that consciousness is just a process. We are not consciousness, we are beings that have consciousness. This is not compatible with biocentrism, because it proposes some mind-independent thing, the entity itself. One could say this being is a mind, but this would be redefining terms. If there was some brain that popped into existence, if this was the only mind that existed it would be a brain that is conscious. But the only thing that exists isn’t consciousness, there is still the being that has consciousness.

A short psychic that breaks out of jail is a small medium at large

Since I only have to refute the idea of an afterlife, I could concede to the ideas of telepathy or some alien experimenting on humans. It’s still simpler than a whole entire world full of unembodied dead people.

Con tries to respond to my many naturalist examples. I find he misunderstood them.

Cold reading: I said it could be done even when not in the room. The tactics can be transferred. For example, that book you stopped reading, you should finish it. You should also get that door fixed. I don’t have to be looking at Con or the voters to make these claims. Most people have messed up doors and have stopped reading a book half way though. Other statements like “You are shy at times, but can be really outgoing” are utterly contradictory, but the sitter only focuses on the parts that fit them. I know it sounds absurd, but I’ve done it before and people don’t notice. It’s called double speak. None of these techniques need anyone present and there are so much more like these. Having someone present is just a bonus, not a necessity.

Vagueness: The conception of what is personal is entirely subjective. Someone could rank the simple statements I gave as extremely personal and non-vague.

Confirmation Bias: Nowhere did I claim there had to be multiple readings. One shot is all they need. For example one can read the statement “Your great grandmother died of some condition of the chest, or it could have been your grandmother or even mother.” We now have three chances for the statement to be true. One can remember one statement, but forget the other and then state he knew my grandmother died of a heart attack.

The naturalistic explanation still holds.

Con makes the statement

“That's a lot of hallucinations, and people don't hallucinate that easily even if they are normal”. This reminds me of the story of the perfect bowhunter (It’s not actually called that). A bowhunter claims to be the best marksman in history. When asked to prove it, he shoots his arrow in a field, runs up to it and then draws a target around it. The arrow hit dead center! He is clearly the perfect bowhunter. This is false the same way Con’s statement is false. If someone hallucinates, they are clearly open to the suggestion. Those who didn't hallucinate simply didn’t report any appearances. It is still a simpler solution.

Night of the living dead

Zombies will definitely come to being. We’ll have to hit them in the head!

If you're eating your friends. You are no longer you. Your mind has been degraded so far. Living things change their mental states, but there are certain things that never changes. Such as, well zombieness. Furthermore my other arguments here were dropped


Con has dropped many arguments and has inconsistent contradictory views that he uses to try to help his case. Ultimately, Con had to resort in a lot of ad hoc hypothesis to hold onto his view. He has a vague classification of what is dependant on what. In the end, my position is the most probable.

Now to Con’s finial.



Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-12 10:02:12
| Speak Round
adminadmin (CON)
I thank pro for a fun debate.



At the outset the rules stated the definition was "you living after your death." Then he realised that this is incompatible with his first premise as I proved in round 1, so he changed it to "mental events without brain events". Even if we were to accept pro's false assertion that the definition of "you" implies that the first definition should read "you being conscious after death" (he must be using some really strange dictionary) that's still not logically or semantically equivalent to "you being conscious without brain events". As a fact, it doesn't - people who aren't conscious are people too.

But more fundamentally, he has continuously assumed all life is conscious. He has never shown why this ought to be the case. And on that note, since when was this debate limited to conscious human beings with ordinarily functioning brains? I've said this throughout and pro has never answered me as to how he has provided a complete definition.

In arguing against this I don't concede his position is correct. He was right in saying an afterlife was living after your death. Consciousness has nothing to do with it. And the problem here is that it defeats the first premise, which his whole position is premised on. Ergo his position is wrong.


Tautologies are OK in most forms of logic but not in debate. Debate makes special rules about tautologies because there is a basic presumption that every topic must be debatable, an assumption that does not hold true in formal logic. If a tautological argument can be made for a resolution, then the definition must be wrong because otherwise the topic is not debatable.


Pro argues that "[if] life itself is in some sense physical, an afterlife must be after this physical world. This demonstrates that what Con is defending is full of inconsistencies and contradictory views."

In fact, this counter argument is what is inconsistent because it's a non-sequiter. If A has B then !A has !B does not follow (he's thinking of A=B then !A=!B). Life may have the property of being physical (though that has never been an assumption of mine and does not validate his definition) but that doesn't mean an afterlife cannot have the property of being physical. So everything from a reanimated skeleton to a clinically dead person brought back to life by modern science can be viewed as an afterlife without the view being inconsistent or contradictory.


My response to his first premise has not been semantical - his redefinition in response to it has been. If he was not willing to enter into semantical arguments, he would return to the original fair definition that he is required by the rules to adhere to anyway. The reason he doesn't is that if he returns to "you living after your death" my round 1 counterargument kicks in again, and he dropped that.


False Analogies

Just because pro can point out differences does not mean the analogy I gave was not analogous. On none of my counter-analysis has pro actually engaged with the critical issue of my point, dismissing it entirely by pointing out that it's an analogy as opposed to a direct rebuttal. That in and of itself does not disprove an analogy.

Crucially, he missed the fact that each of my analogies was used as a demonstration of some other important principle that I in each case stated a sentence or two earlier. The majority of these points have been completely dropped.

Demonstrating Dependence

My opponent has the burden of proof in this debate. HE needs to evidence his position, and if I challenge the evidence, he needs to be the one who either drops it or explains why it's good. Saying that I haven't shown what would demonstrate dependence is asking me to do his job for him. If he wants me to then of course I'll say that you can't demonstrate dependence of the mind on the brain or vice versa, because there is no dependence. This is pro evading his burden.

Perception, Memory, Knowledge

This is a convoluted restatement of the first of the "five reasons to believe" that I demolished in round one. It's no more true no matter how you express it. Causation does not prove dependence or contingence.

Mental/Brain States Same?

Just because Tooley can make the distinction doesn't mean pro's argument does. Pro's case has never been internally consistent. If pro does make the distinction as he claims, then unless he presupposes that mental events are brain events there is no causal link in his second subpoint. I've said that consistently and never got an answer.

Interaction Problem

This view is no more ad hoc than pro's. Challenging his assumption is not appealing to an ad hoc view - making the assumption is. Nor is it any simpler to say "mind dependent on brain" than "brain on mind", but even if it was simple does not have to be true. Irrational numbers are real, but not simple, for instance.

How would it work? The mind would give commands to the body. How does his model work? The body gives commands to the mind. Pro does not explicate his interaction problem and just asserts there is one, but even if there were it would hold true under either of our models.

Point 3

Yeah there was one. Pro dropped it because not even he could tell how it was unique.

Different Definitions

I love how quickly my opponent can go from claiming he never changes definitions to saying he can define things differently when it suits him (or as he puts it "demonstrating different ways of defining" - somebody explain how that makes any literal sense). The fact is the research report on which the whole of his fourth point depends used a definition fundamentally incompatible with the position pro is defending in this debate. Sure pro can define words differently when it suits him, as he has done elsewhere but not admitted, yet this only invalidates his research.

Point 5

Apparently it's a strawman to say this point is different from point 4. In that case labeling this as a separate point is a strawman. This is not a unique argument and thus does not warrant its own response as pro once fervently asserted.

After-death hallucinations

It is not more probable to think some lingering electrical activity deep within the brain is necessarily a false memory machine than any other explanation, especially when that part of the brain has been ruled out as any source of consciousness and the only evidence pro has is the testimony of a neuroscientist who doesn't even support pro's view (and whom he quoted out of context). Pro offers no rebuttal to my substantial analysis.


Just because biocentricity being true doesn't necessarily mean pro is wrong does not mean pro can assume it, because it might still mean pro is wrong. Furthermore, if two things come into existence simultaneously they aren't necessarily dependent.

We don't know that consciousness is just a process. That's an assumption, and it's not one that has any scientific or philosophical support. Pro's objection presupposes a reality outside of consciousness, when in biocentrism that is merely an illusion.

What is Science

Pro has no observable evidence of the kind of afterlife he's looking for because he hasn't died. If he asserts that no afterlife involving our skeletons rising from graves is valid, and no psychics are valid, then he has no valid way of testing the existence of an afterlife and cannot scientifically fulfill his burden of proof. All he's said is based on conjecture extrapolating from a few known facts to reach fanciful conclusions.

Logical Positivism

Pro has not demonstrated anything logically. Most of his points are illogical, and a few rely on a mix of science and unproven assumptions to make logical deductions. All I'm saying is that his assumptions are absurd and science rarely supports his view.



What con fails to grasp about my study is that the psychics had to do better than describe something that could fit any one. If they did it would not be their specific reading that would be selected as best from among the other psychic readings for different people. If all the readings just had generic statements, or vague statements, the chance that any one reading would be chosen as the best one for a given participant (over readings for 5 other random participants) would be random (because vague statements etc can apply to anyone). However, the psychics beat the random odds consistently (random 16%, actual results 37%). And the one perfect psychic who was chosen first every time cannot be ignored. All of the naturalistic explanations pro gave are actually singled out by the researchers as being impossible explanations in this specific case.


Pro's entire rebuttal comes down to this: "If someone hallucinates, they are clearly open to the suggestion". In other words, he assumes that things like post-death appearances are hallucinations. This fact remains unproven.

Just because an explanation does not invoke something supernatural does not mean it's simpler, nor is simplicity a qualifier for truth. The non-normalcy of hallucination and the frequency of such incidents around death does indicate that something different is going on when somebody has died.


Actually people do change entirely. Some people do eat the flesh of other people. Some people get mental diseases. Some people even decide to act like zombies, like the people at New Zealand's annual zombierun festival. Medications and parasites exist that routinely practice mind control, even on humans. So to say that our zombieness never changes is patently false. My opponent's rebuttal to the zombie apocalypse will save nobody when the day is at hand.


I have shown that zombies are real (be very afraid) and psychics are too. The actual science I cited in support of my points remains unrefuted. Pro's single point is based on pseudoscientific quackery and every logical fallacy I know.

The resolution is negated.

Return To Top | Posted:
2014-02-13 20:21:48
| Speak Round

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Yep, I read those. My comment was born from magic's opening to his latest round. All good though!
Posted 2014-02-03 20:38:57
"I don't want to make a wrong assumption about what the agreed terms are" - you could always check the rules on the tab above :)
Posted 2014-02-02 22:54:52
If there's a problem with con's definition that pro is "understanding" maybe you guys should restate the definition here for the sake of the judges?
I don't want to make a wrong assumption about what the agreed terms are especially when the scope for pro's case is already so small...
Posted 2014-02-02 22:52:28
Meh... I might as well take this.
Posted 2014-01-16 19:15:55
The judging period on this debate is over

Previous Judgments

2014-02-15 08:33:19
PinkieJudge: Pinkie    TOP JUDGE
Win awarded to: admin
2014-02-15 22:12:25
nzlockieJudge: nzlockie    TOP JUDGE
Win awarded to: admin
The reasoning for this win is simple. I agree with CON that PRO changed the definition of the debate part way through. I'm sure that PRO didn't do this for any dodgy reason - but the fact is that resurrection is VERY different to reincarnation. If PRO meant resurrection he should have specified it, it was too late to restrict it after the debate had started.
Bearing in mind that I was allowing examples that fell into the definition of resurrection, I totally bought CON's contention that PRO's first premise was wrong. I didn't feel that PRO proved that life stops when brain events do. CON's bringing up people who have died and been brought back scored points. PRO almost had me with his points about there still being brain activity there. I reduced CON's points to half after that.
CON's arguments about Bio-whatever, Mediums and Zombies did nothing for me - I felt that PRO handled each of those effectively in his initial response to them.
In the end it came down to the fact that given the "new" definition, I was not convinced that PRO had met his burden of proof. I would have needed more evidence along the lines of CON's people who had died and come back had not really died in the first place.

PRO: I feel like the definition was just too loose at the beginning for what you were thinking. And I also think that if the definition had said what you meant it to say - it wouldn't have really been a fair debate. Allowing resurrection was the only thing that evened this debate up.
I really liked your "small medium large" bit.
As stated above, I felt like I needed you to attack the resurrection examples CON brought up a bit more. I get that you made a point, I think I would have felt better with you making it more emphatic and supporting your stance with professional opinions in agreement.
CON: I respected the way you addressed the change in definition, making the point without going on about it. Kudos for that.
As stated above, I felt like the three other points you made were all losers right out of the gate. I actually think they weakened your case rather than strengthening it. The zombie one had no substance behind it, the bio one was too theoretical and the medium one used a pretty weak source. I felt that the full article completely supported PRO's contention that they were using cold readings.
I think that for this debate you were on the right track with asking the question of what constitutes life. I also liked when you brought up the idea that an organism might not need a brain to be considered alive - had PRO attacked you more I think this would have been a good route to go down.
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Afterlife is defined as you living after your death. Not something such as reincarnation.