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The Brain and The Afterlife

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"It is the most mysterious part of the human body, and yet it dominates the way we live our adult lives, it is the brain"
Robin Winston


Now, I'm not some crazy scientist (The kind who hate religion, and say it is doing nothing more than giving false hope, and slowing the evolution of humanity), nor some religious freak (The kind who hate everything for stupidly religious reason, like that guy who said things about pokemon being satanic), I partially believe in both religion and science (In some crazy way I'm not going to explain) and I pretty much see nearly everything in life both spiritually and logically. So, today, one of my friends (This guy is a religious nutball, but still a good guy, and actually has some belief for Science) and I were talking about the brain, and the mysteries that it holds. One thing that I recall pretty cleatly that he mentioned was "It's pretty freaking creepy to think that all your thoughts and emotions are just one piece of meat in your head, and that when you die, anyone can just take it, and it's as if nothing was there in the first place. Where do all your thoughts go after you die? What happens then? That's why I believe in souls, because I don't want to think that I'll just die and end up nowhere, it's like what's the point of living then?" And then the conversation pretty much took a sharp turn there where we started talking about Heaven, god, and death pretty much. I can't really stop thinking about this whole brain thing. There is no possible way that I can ask an internet forum how the brain works, because apparently no one goes really in depth on that, but what I will ask is, what do you think exactly happen with your thoughts when you die? Why do we choose to exist if we are going to die with nothing left to show of our existance? Are you simply gone forever, with your body nothing more than an empty shell? Do you go to heaven or hell? Do you see nothing more than an endless black void? Are you reborn with no recollection of yourself? Is the brain really where everything we do is centered? Or is it our soul that controls our body? Our do we have a soul inside our brain which is what controls our body, and when the body ages, the soul leaves the body, and finds a new one? I honestly hope this doesn't turn out into an all out flame war, because, this is a really delicate topic in which religious and science nuts just end up ruining for everyone else. Please, post your own thoughts here.
The human mind is unable to understand the human mind. Ironic, really.

Regarding the actual question asked, there are three logical conclusions I can think of:
a) After death, you are nothing and you experience nothing.
The idea of total non-existence is not actually able to be understood by us, because we always associate things with our senses. For example, try imagining you are blind. The first thing that comes to mind is total darkness. But if you truly did not have the sense of vision, you would not even be able to see the darkness; you do not know what darkness looks like. Death would basically be like this but for all your senses.
This is the most logical conclusion I have come to assuming there is no kind of 'spiritual' entity holding your conscious thoughts, or 'soul' if you want to call it that. If such a soul exists, the next two ideas can work.
b) After death, you are taken to an eternal afterlife.
(The nature of this afterlife is totally irrelevant. The location is also irrelevant, but I suppose wouldn't generate much drama if discussed.) The existence of an afterlife would also assume that there is a soul, because if such a soul was not transferred from your mortal body to your ethereal body, you would not still be the same person. If you did not have a separate afterlife body, you wouldn't be able to experience such an afterlife due to a lack of sensory organs. Assuming you would retain memories of your life-life, this would also mean thoughts are kept in the soul rather than the brain.
c) After death, you are reincarnated in a new body.
(Whether you can be reincarnated as a non-human being or not is a different matter.) This option would also imply the existence of a soul, for the same reason as above. I suppose this idea could also work in conjunction with the previous, but for the sake of this discussion I'm keeping them separate. To be reincarnated without any recollection of a past self would imply that memories are kept within your material body (in the brain I suppose) and not in the soul, and conversely, being reincarnated with memory intact would mean the soul contains your memory, not your brain. Having memory contained in a spiritual entity rather than in the material brain doesn't exactly work with trauma-induced memory loss (concussions, amnesia, whatever), unless a spiritual entity can be physically harmed.

Those are my thoughts on what happens after death. I haven't really bothered to think about if a soul truly exists, mainly because it doesn't make a difference to our lives either way (unless you also believe in karma or something, but I'm not going to explain that). So yeah.

(Also maybe the thread title is a little bit misleading? Isn't this thread more about death than the brain?)
May we meet again outside the battlefield.
Originally posted by Forty2
(Also maybe the thread title is a little bit misleading? Isn't this thread more about death than the brain?)


Well, I was going to ask about the brain, but sort of got sidetracked while writing it somehow.
As someone who takes a scientific approach to everything, I believe that the brain is just a collection of elementary particles obeying a simple set of laws. I have no reason to believe in a super-natural explanation for it, instead believing thought and consciousness to be emergent properties of sufficiently complex systems.

As I have a "machine"-like view of it, my view of death is similar to simply flipping a switch: it stops working with no further thoughts, senses or experiences. However, given a sufficiently powerful device, it should be at least theoretically possible (but still not feasible with our current level of technology) to make a "backup scan" to "clone" or save a dying brain and simulate it virtually, which could in theory be used to create an "artificial afterlife".

Another interesting idea of a virtual afterlife is Frank J. Tipler's idea of Omega Point cosmology, an idea that during a hypothetical collapse of the universe, one could use the (by the idea claimed) infinite amount of computing power one can harness from it to eternally emulate all possible brain states, essentially resurrecting everyone who ever did and could have existed into a virtual reality as the universe is destroyed. The actual science behind this idea can be questioned, though.

As a side note, I took notice of your friend's comment that he believed in souls etc. because he didn't like the implications alternative. While I believe in freedom of thought, i.e. everyone should be allowed to come to their own conclusions of how the universe works and so on, I must say that I consider "I believe this because the alternative scares me" to be a very bad argument. Instead of exploring all possibilities, one lures oneself into a false sense of security by blocking any idea that threatens to shake the foundation of the cozy little wall you've built around yourself.

In my personal opinion, one should not shelter oneself from ideas from any side of the fence. Sure, disagreeing with the other side is fair, as long as you have a good reason to. I don't consider fear to be such a reason, but an excuse to remain in a comfortable state of mind without having to worry about having to question one's beliefs.

I personally have a quite pessimistic look on the universe. As someone who places great faith in the first two laws of thermodynamics, I see that our universe is eventually doomed as we rapidly run out of negative entropy. To oversimplify, there's finite usable energy in the universe, and at some point, there won't be enough left to sustain any life of any kind anywhere in the universe. At that point, anything that any civilization in the universe has ever accomplished will have been for nothing, as there's no one left to appreciate it. In essence, any life would thus be futile.

What's my philosophy to deal with this? Briefly summarized:

Everything is in the end pointless, but we have the capacity of feeling joy, so let's try to make the best out of the situation. The futility of everything should not be used as an excuse to do something with bad long-term outcomes; instead we should try to allow as many generations as possible to feel joy as well in the finite time our and all other species have left. True, the joy itself is also rendered futile in the large scope of things, but it does mean something to us here and now, and that's what we should focus on.
Simply, the brain is a sort of giant computer- electrical impulses flow through our brain via synapses, which sorta work like wires that can "reconnect" and recreate themselves to help information flow to certain control centers in the brain faster. It's much, much more complex, but basically that is the idea.


I believe Forty2's hypothesis A, that you cease to exist upon death. This is my conclusion because there is no evidence otherwise empirically that is strong enough to change my conclusion. (if at all.) The default is that nothing happens when you die, and I require more than faith to affirm anything else. Basically, I am addressing this using the scientific method as much as possible as nothing physically seems to change in your body when you die aside from the normal dying stuff. That could be incorrect, but frankly looking at it without faith doesn't suggest anything else. COULD molecules look exactly like monkeys? Yes. But there is no point worrying about it because there is no way to find out.

So basically, I'd defaulting to A, but there is really no way to tell.

EDIT:
Also Smallhacker's post is great and I agree 100% with that too.
I tend to just think of the brain as a bunch of firing neurons, just an infinitely complex computer. Is there some kind of actual "soul" inside there? I dunno, overall it makes more sense for the "soul" to merely be a the portion of our brain we use for deciding right and wrong, however that portion of our brain came into being.

Personally I believe that there is an after life, for the sole reason that that's what my religion teaches and there is no possible way to have proof one way or the other. Since I believe my religion in other ways that I believe to be proved (don't bother getting tangential on that statement, I'll just ignore you), there is no reason for me to believe otherwise in this subject where no evidence exists to either side. I mean, you got those people who claim to die, go to heaven, and come back, but that could easily just be your brain firing wildly as it dies. Simply, if you don't have a religion, then you should not believe there is an afterlife. If your religion teaches it, there is no good reason not to believe it. It's just something that humanity doesn't, and cannot ever, know for certain.
I am actually majoring in neuroscience now, and just completed a course on biological psychology. Coupling that with my own personal research, I've found the brain to be utterly fascinating. It is simply amazing that humans have evolved to the point where we can use electroencephalograms to read brain waves, and further use magnets to alter the brain. I could write for hours on this topic here, and as much as I'd really love to (and I'd likely have some rather fascinating information to share) .. well, I'll keep to the topic at hand. Maybe I'll create my own thread or blog about the brain at some point.

Anyway, death. I won't get into the debate about what is right and what is wrong, because nobody really knows for sure. As long as we have believers of Christianity (and other religions), and believers of science, we'll just be stuck in an endless debate. I am, however, a firm believer of the science route. The brain is our body's central computer. It controls how we perceive the world - from vision in our occipital lobe, to memories in our hippocampus. Without such a computer, we would cease to function, cease to perceive, and .. cease to exist. The idea of a soul, I believe was coined by Aristotle when he said it existed in the pineal gland. However, its location was proven to be untrue soon after. I don't really believe in a soul, though. Such a view would be taken upon by an animistic dualist - that is, someone who believes the body and mind exist separately. I believe we are one whole being, and once we die, that's it. With no brain to process anything, we will simply rot away in the ground.

As for what happens AFTER death .. again, who knows really? However, following my personal thoughts on the case, I would go with some sort of variation of sleeping without dreaming (or a subconscious black void, if you will). Seeing as how sleep involves your brain acting at a very low activity (and expanding on this fact, the coma), then it makes sense to me that after you die, you'll enter such a void. Except, obviously, you wouldn't wake up. The idea of an "eternal afterlife" or "reanimation", though, as coined by Forty2, would once again be within the views of someone who believes we exist as a body and a soul. Following the scientific view, these would essentially be impossible.

The moral of the story? We don't know what is right or what is wrong (and probably never will), but there are key subgroups in this world who have their own thoughts in the matter. Even though I am far from religious, and don't believe in a "greater being" or a soul, I personally respect all views on it. There is nothing at all wrong with hypothesizing about the unknown.
Originally posted by S.N.N.
...Seeing as how sleep involves your brain acting at a very low activity...

If I get you right on this; that the brain has low activity while sleeping, then I must say I've read another very opposite story. The brain act at very high activity while sleeping, all the experiences and events you have observed recently gets threated while you sleep. The brain does this so you don't turn mentaly insane, its like, storing your downloaded movies and series on your computer to an external harddrive (our thoughts is transfered to our subconscious). Its within this process the electrical impulses make us dream. Well. I'm starting to lose my very low insight on this term already so lets head over to the thread question.

Well, this is a VERY interesting term indeed, yet VERY twisted. I have no concrete oppinion on what happen after you die, but I believe the siencentists yes. After you die its just game over, meaning your mind does not excist anymore. Its of course hard to image the enterity, but I've always conected eternity to time traveling, actually. What I mean here is that if you die, then you would not realize you was gone for a second if someone woke you up to life again in the year 42XX. The same would be if you was waken up in year 154XX. Eternity for me is actually so complex that its feels like the most simplest thing in the universe, VERY hard to describe this further so I won't.

TL;DR. If you die, your mind doesn't excist anymore.
Originally posted by Uhrix
Originally posted by S.N.N.
acting at a very low activity...

If I get you right on this; that the brain has low activity while sleeping, then I must say I've read another very opposite story.


I should have clarified and said death would be closer to stage 3 and 4 sleep. Stages 1, 2, and REM consist of pretty high brain activity (stage 2 has sleep spindles, and REM sleep is .. well, where you'd dream). In stages 3 and 4 - also known as "slow wave sleep" - brain activity decreases substantially.

Let me put it in simpler terms and say that I think death would be like the period of NREM sleep where the brain activity is the lowest.
Quote
Why do we choose to exist if we are going to die with nothing left to show of our existance?


one day the sun will implode and everything we ever knew to exist will be so long gone. that day isn't today, so 'live it up bro'.



The Brain is a very complex living thing. It's the thing in life that controls everything. It has a certain part that always thinks about the same thing so you'll survive. I've wondered about the brain a lot and wondering if Doc Brown's Read your thoughts machine will ever exist. Yup The Brain is pretty neat, however I like Pinky more.


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Originally posted by Smallhacker
As I have a "machine"-like view of it, my view of death is similar to simply flipping a switch: it stops working with no further thoughts, senses or experiences. However, given a sufficiently powerful device, it should be at least theoretically possible (but still not feasible with our current level of technology) to make a "backup scan" to "clone" or save a dying brain and simulate it virtually, which could in theory be used to create an "artificial afterlife".

Another interesting idea of a virtual afterlife is Frank J. Tipler's idea of Omega Point cosmology, an idea that during a hypothetical collapse of the universe, one could use the (by the idea claimed) infinite amount of computing power one can harness from it to eternally emulate all possible brain states, essentially resurrecting everyone who ever did and could have existed into a virtual reality as the universe is destroyed. The actual science behind this idea can be questioned, though.

Could it reasonably be said that this is reincarnation? Although it *is* true that the "data", so say it, is exactly the same as you and therefore may as well be you, is it really *you*? What would it mean if instead of running the virtual afterlife *after* you died, you ran it *while* you were still alive? From that brain's/data's (?) perspective, it may as well be real..

A hypothetical situation, what if people could do that easily through some service of the future, and run that mind through various situations to see how they would react, like if they'd be happy if they went through a simulated divorce? Would it be considered a breach of life? Would it be cruel? Would it mean anything if that mind was subject to a virtualized hell? What is it that makes us say that people "experience" discomfort, if the exact equivalent going through the same ordeal isn't exactly "experiencing" discomfort?

World Community Grid: Thread | Team
 
I've been thinking about this for a while. And actually, today I heard something very interesting that may contradict what a few of you said about your senses doing nothing when you die. You can still hear for an hour after you die.

Anyways, back to the topic. I believe we just die. Game over. No continues, no 1-ups. I say this because there is no evidence to support an afterlife. Ok, there actually is a little bit of evidence, but I won't go into detail. Anyways, most of what I believe about the afterlife actually comes from before you're born. As we know, 2 cells combine to create the life cycle: sperm and egg cells. Then you have 1 cell. This cell divides up and forms your body. It forms your lungs, heart, liver, and more. All the way to your brain. When you come out of the womb, you're ready for the outside world. Where did a soul come in? When did it form? It didn't. Jumping about 80 years later, you die. Since there was no soul, what happens when you die? Nothing. You just lie there, lifeless.
Now, that may sound depressing, but the only reason people believe in an afterlife is because they can't bare the thought of there being nothing when you die.

Now remember, nothing is certain. For all I know, I could be wrong. This entire topic has been a question of humans ever since we had the ability to think. The only way we'll know for sure is if someone dies, comes back to life and tells us what happened, which frankly I doubt will ever happen.
Brain, eh?

A bunch of meat, full of neurons, with a lot of electricity. The energy comes from food, water, etc.

But now, the question: "Why i am this person?". Now, i don't know. Nobody knows, really.

Afterlife? I believe in Quantum Immortality. It depends if you believe in the "Many-Worlds Interpretation". It says that, if you die, and you have a chance of surviving, there will be always other universe where you don't die. From other's point of view (depending of the universe), you die, from your point of view, you're always alive. Althought that's only when you have a chance of surviving. When you can't survive, then you just die in every universe, and i can't answer what happens next.
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Originally posted by moltensnow
I've been thinking about this for a while. And actually, today I heard something very interesting that may contradict what a few of you said about your senses doing nothing when you die. You can still hear for an hour after you die.

By definition, death is the point where brain activity has permanently stopped (i.e. it's impossible to revive the person with current technology). If you are able to hear, it means there's still some brain activity, meaning that the person, by definition, is still alive to some degree.

Originally posted by Neutron
Quantum Immortality

Oh crap, how did I forget to bring that up? I could go on and on about that.

I actually created a similar idea when I was young (long before I even heard about quantum physics). The reasoning was more naive, though. It went something like this:

Death is something that the universe can't comprehend, so whenever a person dies, the universe is split into two: one where the person dies (which is what the rest of us experience) and one where the person survives.

I have no idea how or why it would work. It's simply something silly I came up with when I was like 10 or so.

I do want to through out that in my book, life isn't necassary, there is no point, and it's just there to mangle with while you living. To live is to be here, and once you're dead, you've been terminated. Memory is stored in the brain, not in the "soul". My mother I was said she believed having "dejavu" meant to have your soul remember something in it's past lives. Yet the new brain and body are completely different. I challenged that if reincarnation is real, and that is what dejavu meant, could you look at a picture of you from the past life and know it was you? Yet your brain can store what you look like, and since you only get one brain, you can't think anothers. When you're dead, you're gone, so you might as well live it up today.
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All of your thoughts are just electrical impulses running through your brain, when you die, the impulses stop, you are done, you no longer exist. Your body is still there, but you are gone. From a scientific perspective that's all we can determine. It is quite possible that your actual mind or personality or something is intangible and is transferred to a new body when you are reincarnated or you go to some sort of afterlife, but scientifically all we can be sure about is that your brain no longer works, "you" are no longer in your body if you still exist.

Originally posted by cyphermur9t
The Brain is pretty neat, however I like Pinky more.

Best post.

Otherwise Smalls summed it up in his first post in this thread, that'd be what I agree with and what seems to be the most defined truth.

This is a thing that's happening, now. Achievements in old video games.
Thank you for the layout, Erik557.
Man, I wish this would've worked. Oh well.
If not for respect, but dramatic effect, take on the face of Guy Fawkes.
Just to confuse you: What if everything, so-called 'life', is just, a 'virtual reality'? If 'dreaming' and the 'dream' world is just a virtual world created by the brain, then it would be possible life is created by another similar 'organ'. Then that would mean we're in a paradoxical state which is infinitely 'inside' nothing/something and is infinitely 'outside' infinite amounts of inner 'dream' states? (I don't understand what I just typed. Seriously)

Anyway, it doesn't matter where you go when you die (except if Hell really existed, it'll be best to avoid that one), the only thing that matters is that you do not make a mess of your life (carefree stupidity is rather care-free and stupid) and make something that matters.

And also, an intriguing question (with some statements); You are born in a totally random place. You are born in a completely random time. You do not know your existence before you existed. Then why are you in 'your' body? Isn't it rather random?

Uh, about that confusing message I said earlier: That means we practically die every morning we wake up. Then that might be what death is, only that every dying person (hence every one) in 'Life' is merely a projection from nothing/something. And what is the difference between nothing and something? Nothing. Nothing is the difference between nothing and something. Nothing, therefore, is what something has that nothing hasn't. Something is nothing by itself...

Similarly, as death might take greater dimensions, we cannot perceive death, as much as Windows 95 can't understand Windows 7.

EDIT: Also, as much as the Earth ain't significant to the universe, nothing is significant. (In which something is significant, which debilitates this stupid theory due typing-addiction virus I might have gotten recently)

lol i dont even Maybe, "instead of sleepin', we go up wakin'" or something.

Plus, to note, you would not know anything about it being a dream inside a dream if you don't see anything that gives you a clue about the difference between "reality" and "fantasy/dreams".
the way i see it, there isn't even free will: everything is just a sequence of choices made by your brain through some complicated (and, to make matters worse, personalized) decision tree. at various stages throughout, you may feel as though you are making the choice or choosing to be indecisive of your own free will, but really the only reason you made that choice is being you were "destined" to make it, because of the initial surrounding conditions and how your brain is wired. the brain responds to stimuli from the surroundingsm and goes through its decision tree in exactly one way. (you could find a way to argue about the influence of quantum mechanical phenomena on the brain, but i assert that synapses and such are already too macroscopic for meaningful quantum superposition states, and therefore have no real effect.) in essence, the brain is just another computer.

taking such a mechanical viewpoint on the issue, death is really just the the point when everything stops. nothing special happens. no thinking, no feeling, nothing. i imagine it to be something like a sensory deprivation but without the payoff of vivid hallucinations. the moments leading up to the point where the brain stops working would be kinda like the ones before losing consciousness, except maybe coupled with the realization that you won't wake up afterwards to fuzzily remember the event.

of course, we can really only speculate about the final result, given that as of yet, no one has died and lived to tell the tale.

YEAAAHH!!
we are all 😎 but some are more 😎 than others
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