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Rowanda's Question Of Consciousness After Death

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Posted by Paul R. Martin on December 13, 2003 00:40:09 UTC

Hi Rowanda,

Sorry for being so late to respond.

"The big question is whether my consciousness will survive my death."

I agree with Kyle that your question is closely linked to the question of whether or not consciousness exists outside the brain. Kyle said,

"You could reduce this question to: "Does consciousness arise purely from the physical brain state?""

You said,

"I do not expect proofs. Just evidence one way or the other. Theories are of interest, but only if they apply to my awareness and sense of self surviving."

In that spirit (so to speak), I think that reports of Near Death Experience (NDE) offer the best approach to the most convincing evidence.

Since these reports are anecdotal and unrepeatable, science shies away from them. But I think they deserve study anyway. Here's how I would bend the rules of scientific investigation in order to make the reports acceptable:

1. Station scientifically trained observers in settings such as recovery rooms which are likely to produce people fresh from an NDE.

2. Select for study, NDE reports which indicate that the experiencer had access to information during the NDE which was inaccessible via known information channels.

3. Systematically rule out all physical possibilities for the accessing, or guessing at, the reported information.

In my view, if only one such event can be found, it should prove that there are some conscious functions that operate outside the brain.

I have heard of several such reports, although I don't think any scientist has followed up on them. One from Seattle was a woman who reported viewing the scene of the operating room where her unconscious body was being worked on. Her vantage point was high enough above the scene that she could look down on the roof of the hospital and she noticed a red tennis shoe lodged somewhere on the roof or in a rain gutter. After hearing her report, someone went up on the roof, and sure enough, there was the shoe in a position from which it was impossible to see either from the ground or from any window.

Now, I don't know if that story is true or if it is an urban legend, but if there had been a trained observer on the scene to document the report, do the investigation to discover the shoe, and rule out any possibility that the person could have know about it, then I think that could provide the evidence you are looking for.

I have also heard a similar report but by a person who had a completely flat EKG for (I think) tens of minutes during the experience.

It seems to me that with the modern medical technology in our trauma centers, ORs, and ICUs, it should be possible to catch a convincing case in the act if indeed consciousness functions outside the brain. Or, if all such reports are hoaxes, a compilation of exposures of otherwise-convincing cases should begin to provide evidence to the contrary.

It is a short leap from proving that consciousness can operate outside the brain to supposing that consciousness can continue to operate after brain death.

Warm regards,


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