I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t believe that an afterlife does not exist. I’m okay with people who believe one way or the other, so long as they accept their belief as being faith based. However, there are many issues with the arguments used against afterlives .We know that damage to the brain has an impact on the way we think and act. Does that mean that the brain is the origin and sole factor in “the self?” It’s nice to think that. But there is a jump on logic which seems unjustified.
If we damaged the brain, and found no difference in expression of the self, we could be pretty certain that “the self” is not dependent, at all, on the brain, as an assumption of dependence on the brain would imply altered activity upon damage. However, there is no reason to jump to the conclusion that just because brain damage impacts the self, or its expression, that the self exists as a product of, or dependent upon the brain.
The easiest way to see this is to look at a car as an analogy. What is “the self?” It is what drives the body to act. If our body is “the car” then “the self” is the driver of the car. The car moves in one direction or another, because the driver wills it. Now, suppose we don’t where the driver resides. Maybe the driver is a product of the antenna. We remove the antenna, and see what happens. Nothing changes. The car drives as it did before. So instead we remove the on-board computer. The car stops. It’s “dead.” Did we just provide evidence that “the driver” is a product of the on-board computer?
No; just because the expression of the driver changed because of a removal of the computer, does not mean that the driver himself is a product of the computer. We can show all kinds of changes in behavior, show how the car is highly dependent on the on-board computer for specific functions, but that does not show that there isn’t something more to the car. The same is true with the body. We have evidence that memories are encoded in the brain. We have evidence that there is a component of self, in the brain. But even that does not suggest that all of the self is in the brain. It says nothing about the persistence of a self, beyond the physical body.
This should not be taken as an argument for the existence of a persistent self/afterlife. There is no evidence that such a thing exists. Our current models work on the idea that all of the self is in the brain, and that’s reasonable for making predictions. But like all other scientific theories, it does not go beyond being a useful predictor. It is not a measure of truth, and it does not address anything which lacks evidence.
- Towards Being Secular (Amazon)