Has anyone else noticed that civil dialogue with atheists, even more than religious fundamentalists, seems to be nearly impossible?
I left a brief comment to a bitter cartoon that an atheist I know, and care about, posted on FB that compared life to a video game in which you would always be killed no matter what you did. I said something like, "Well, the idea of life as futile is nothing new. Camus recognized this as he traced it back to the Myth of Sisyphus. Given this point of view, what motivates you to work so hard at a number of things (the atheist in question was working his way through law school) ?
That throws the atheist notion that belief in an afterlife is foolish into serious doubt. At least read the Pamela Reynolds case in that cchapter. I'll send you a link to a PDF
Anonymous Atheist: Until your speculative musings on consciousness can be reproduced with scientific accuracy that is peer reviewed (and review-able) I am not interested. But I would encourage to search for evidence.
Otherwise, we're merely quibbling about speculative hypothets, which is not something I intend to use my time doing.
(I sent him the PDF of my book)
Jonathan: Many events that science investigates cannot be reproduced on demand, but this case involved some scientific rigor.
(I'm referring to the Pam Reynolds case which can also be found in https://zaporacle.com/life-lessons-from-the-living-dead/ )
The findings of the Dutch prospective NDE studies which can be found in cardiologist Pim Van Lommel's book Consciousness Beyond Life were published in Lancet, a peer reviewed medical journal. I reference Von Lommel's work with the Dutch study extensively.
That you assume they are "speculative musings" (when they are actually empirically based) reveals a common set of prejudices known as "scientism." My challenge to you, when you have time, is to read that chapter and remember that your philosophy is philosophy. It is not peer reviewed science, but closer to a set of musings. What I just asked you to read is far more empirical.
Anonymous Atheist: I did not claim that my philosophy was not philosophy. Nor did I claim it was peer reviewed. Lets not pretend I did.
and I skimmed van Lommel's article in lancet. His finding was the a mere 18% of people during cardiac arrest experienced an NDE, and that most of those died soon thereafter.
No where does is mention the cause of NDE's except that it is an "unknown mechanism." He then goes over several of the speculations that some people have as to what causes NDE. But again, these were, and are, speculations.
and just so we're clear Empirical, according to merriam websters is "originating in or based on observation or experiment" and "capable of being confirmed, verified, or disproved by observation or experiment."
He mentions at the end that there is a "lack of evidence for any other theories for NDE, the thus far assumed, but never proven, concept that consciousness and memories are localised in the brain." In essence, you don't have an explanation so my speculative musing, somehow, wins by default is logically inconsistent. If not outright incoherent.
I understand that this NDE thing really fascinates you, and you think that if I believed it then somehow I would be "cured" of my athiesm. Thanks, but no thanks.
Please do not waste my time by bringing this up to me anymore.
Jonathan Zap: You don't seem to notice the empirical evidence given in the very chapter, the Pam Reynolds case for example, that points affirmatively toward consciousness as nonlocal and not in the brain. That is not a musing, but a well evidenced solid conclusion. I won't bring it up again, but I'll leave you one last thought. What I, and some other well-informed non-religious, non-theist people have consistently observed is that dialogue with atheists is difficult, even painful, because there is a kind of rude dismissiveness, as if anyone with another point of view is some sort of superstitious rube wasting their time. Psychologically, this looks to be me like a fundamentalism (which can be secular or religious) where someone holds an absolutist postion and to even question it is offensive. I won't bring it up again, but I will be available if you should ever want to rise to the challenge of Socratic dialogue, which can certainly be aggressive, but where dismissiveness doesn't shut down a rigorous exchange of ideas.
Anonymous Atheist: I think we can dismiss anything [he’s referring to Pam Reynolds] heard during her supposed NDE, outright. Medical 'brain death' and literal cessation of all brain activity are two different things. It is, at the very least, possible that there was some modicum of brain activity that connected to some deep subconsciousness that she experienced as a near death experience. Or at the very least your paper has not excluded it as a possibility. Aside from a brief bloc quote by a neuro-surgeon (not a neurologist or neuro scientist mind you) who says he does not "think" it could be explained by based on experiences in that surgery room.
The fact that she was able to describe the 'bone saw' warrants a bit more scrutiny. I'll grant, for sake of argument, that she had been under general anesthesia for 90 mins with eyes taped shut and did not see any of the surgical instruments that were used on her. Granted. Do you really expect me to believe that the most reasonable (and logical) explanation for her being able to describe a bone saw is an out of body experience? Is it not possible that she saw such an instrument at some time before in her life? At another hospital with a relative? Was it not described to her before her own surgery? Did she do her own research on it? Did she see it a hollywood movie or television show (plastic surgey is a popular topic among 39 year old women)? Again your paper does not exclude these possibilities aside from a one paragraph bloc quote I mentioned earlier.
If I understand correctly then what you are arguing is that the most likely and reasonable explanation of her ability to describe a "midas rex" bone saw is an out of body, non-localized experienced consciousness? That is what is the most likely explanation. Really?
Her describing it is one form of evidence, certainly, but it is certainly not empirical evidence (see merriam websters definition above). If it were empirical evidence of what you claim it is I would think that this would be a HUGE finding. Effectively ending any speculation of life after death debate. Scholars of many fields would be interested researching this. It seems rather telling that you are spending your time bringing this up to me, someone who is not qualified in neurology, neuro-science, theology, or philosophy.
(I should mention/note at this point that I have brought up quite a few hypotheticals, which I stated earlier I had no interest in quibbling over. Apparently I was wrong about wanting to quibble over them, but I was correct in stating that they would be quibbled over)
Next, you may be right that I am rude, and dismissive. I'll grant you that. But that point is an ad hominem argument, which is to say that it does not address the real criticism; which is that your claim has not met its burden of proof sufficient to make me believe it.
As long as we're trading barbs here, I'll let you know that your point that atheists are the real fundamentalists is not new, nor creative, not interesting.
Fundamentalism (according to merriam websters) is "a movement or attitude stressing strict and literal adherence to a set of basic principles." Lets not get bogged down in whether or not atheism is a movement or not, for sake of argument and brevity I'll assume it is. I'll also grant, for sake of argument, that it is an attitude of strict adherence to a basic set of principles, namely that you should believe only what the evidence shows and what you can prove. Or if you prefer, a strict adherence to the scientific method
If that is how you want to define fundamentalist athiest fine. I'll own that. But I would point out that if do not need to follow the evidence then you can believe whatever you want, and all beliefs should be treated as of equal value. Which is absurd, and unworkable in practice.
Jonathan Zap: There were many other aspects of the case you didn't take on, the specific things she heard, the technicians standing at her feet talking about finding a vein in her leg, etc. But before I go further, I want to point out a couple of things:
I have no desire to offend you whatsoever, quite the opposite.
Also, I'm not try to "cure" your atheism. I don't personally talk or even think about "God." To me, even the word seems nonsensical and irritating. I have long felt that this word is forever contaminated by anthropomorphisms, historical and cognitive scar tissue and clap trap such that it is a linguistic radioactive tar baby as far as I'm concerned.
I am interested in showing you, and others, that the position of neurological materialism, that consciousness—if admitted to exist at all —many neurological materialists like Daniel Dennett deny such a thing exists— is reducible to an epiphenomenon or secondary effect of biochemical process in the brain is wrong and definitively disproven by a number of findings from NDE research and some other fields. Although many atheists side with NM, there is absolutely no reason why they have to be linked. One of my interests in NDE came from my own spontaneous OBEs and other experiences that gave me first hand encounters with another dimension of life than what materialism can account for. Of course, I don't expect that to prove anything to anyone else; it is just to let you know my position is not merely a theoretical construct. I was raised by scientists, my dad is an atheist, so was my grandfather, I'm fairly anti-religious, and another dimension of life does not require a God.
Something else that an atheist in good standing does not need to team up with is scientism. An aspect of scientism is that it regards certain paranormal phenomena, for reasons too complex to explain here, (see my friend George Hansen's book, The Trickster and the Paranormal) with irrational anger. It steps off the scientific method in its irrational antipathy to this sort of research. It will often do research by proclamation and instead of investigating the unexplained, explains away the uninvestigated. It's unresearched proclamations are often shifting, shoot-from-the-hip notions. A study of parapsychological experiments showed that the majority ( I think it was about 88%) used at least double-blind methodology whereas for all scientific experiments involving human subjects the figure was about 28%. Parapsychologists that I've met, like Garret Modde lhttp://ecee.colorado.edu/fac_staff/personnel_pages/moddel.html a CU professor, physicist and engineer, use better than double-blind methodology and incredible rigor in their paranormal research. You asked for peer reviewed published material and I pointed out that Van Lomel's work is published in the highly prestigious journal Lancet. A top flight neuro-surgeon is quoted by the BBC and you raise doubts because he is not a neurologist? Do you really think that a top neurosurgeon doesn't know about as much or more as a neurologist? From what I understand a neuro-surgeon is like a neurologist who can also do surgery.
What I'm getting at is that if you examine your attitude you'll see that there is an opposition to this material that is not entirely based on logic, reason or science. Whether or not consciousness is reducible to neurological function is a key question that has vast implications. I think I've given you enough evidence for you, or any reasonable person, to conclude that NM is a failed theory, or at the very least needs to be seriously questioned. If you follow through on this one issue, the failure of NM, it may take you to some interesting and liberating places. I propose putting atheism off to the side and focusing in specifically on NM.
Anonymous Atheist: To answer you questions, yes, I question everyone's credentials, thats what a CV is for (evidence). Would you rather I just assume that your assertion that he is a top flight neuro surgeon is exact and true? And that the context of the bloc quote you use was the that of trying to disprove 'neurological materialism'?
Which, by the way, seems to be a concept that you invented. So in that sense I agree its absurd.
Next, it depends on the neuro scientist, and the neurologist he or she is compared to. I'm sure your average, probably even lower performing, neuro surgeon knows more neuro chemistry and neuro science than I do. But what I think and know is NOT THE POINT.
Thats great that you have a single article, that you cite and readily reference. However nowhere in that article by Van Lommen did I see the phrase "neurological materialism" which leads me to think further you made it up.
Thanks for letting me know I should check my attitude, and that you think I'm being irrational. I believe you that those were not intended as offensive.
Please believe me that I mean no offense when I say that your tin-foil hat theory real nifty. But the the fact that your bothering me (and from what I can tell, anyone else on the internet who will listen) leads me to believe this is all you will amount to
[The link leads to a photo of what appears to be a young homeless man holding a cardboard sign that reads "Time Traveler Help! Need money for a new flux capicator"
Good luck getting published somewhere respectable.
And with that the anonymous atheist whom I had met in person two or three times, whom I had dinner with and a great, agreeable one-on-one conversation, who on another occasion had been over to my house for a very pleasant dinner and a movie, and whose brother I had been close friends with for four years, defriended me from facebook.
Among many of the new atheists, or among many of the materialist skeptics, you often find not the wish to have a debate, and to win the debate, but the wish for there to actually be no debate. The thing I find corrupt is that many of these people don't want there to be an opposing side. They define their position as illuminated and other positions as delusory. And when you define the other side as delusion, it's almost wishing that no debate at all take place. You don't want to prevail, you simply don't want there to be a debate. I find that very dispiriting because, in that sense, they've defined a new kind of anti-intellectualism. —Mitch Horowitz, http://www.realitysandwich.com/state_occult_2013
Note added July 25, 2013: There was a sad, hopeful and meaningful epilogue to this story. The good news: I was refriended by the anonymous atheist. The bad news: We reconnected over the suicide of his brother at age 24. Death and tragedy can sometimes awaken us to what connects us and the flimsyness of what often causes us to become alienated from each other.