In an article written by Honor Whiteman in “Medical News Today” (May 26, 2017) describes the experience of Janina Kolkiewics, 91 yrs. old, who was declared clinically dead. Eleven hours later she woke up in the hospital’s mortuary. In 2014 a 78-year-old man from Mississippi was declared dead and woke up the next day in a body bag at the morgue. That same year a woman was declared dead as the result of a drug overdose, woke up when she was taken to the operation room to harvest her organs. There have been over thirty such cases reported.
These cases are called ”Lazarus Syndrome” after the Bible’s Lazarus of Bethany. Lazarus syndrome is extremely rare. There are several theories about the cause of these seeming resurrections. Catalepsy, Hypothermia and Locked-in syndrome, as well as neural disorders, such as Epilepsy and Parkinson disease, are suspected. In locked-in syndrome, a patient is aware of their surroundings but they experience complete paralysis of voluntary muscles The Daily Mail reported in 2014 about a 39-year-old female who had Locked-in syndrome. The doctors declared her brain dead and she heard them discussion with her family whether to turn off her life support, while she could not tell them that she was fully conscious.
The fact that such cases do occur and aren’t always recognized brings into question whether the current clinical definition of brain death is sufficient enough to avoid dreadful mistakes and should be revised. There are suggestions that death should not be certified immediately after stopping CPR. But a suitable time should be allowed to see whether ROSC (Return Of Spontaneous Circulation) occurs.
This phenomenon might also play a part in NDEs, (Near Death Experiences) when upon return of the circulation it gives rise to feelings of levitation, total serenity, security, warmth, the experience of absolute dissolution, the presence of light and meeting Beings of light, are experienced, followed by other hallucinations and dreams before waking up.
The fact that Brain Death can be declared and certified of patients with the Lazarus Syndrome is disturbing but hopefully avoidable.
Let’s think this through. For the purpose of this discussion, assume that the supernatural world and God both exist. When I use the word “God” in this post, it means the Christian God, Allah, Yahweh, Brahma, or any other God you believe in; I will assume that you are convinced that this God is the one true God. We will discuss the possibility of an afterlife in your religion.
I started this train of thinking when my mother suffered for 9 years and eventually died from, Alzheimer’s, a dreadful, dreadful disease. Alzheimer’s can only be diagnosed positively by an autopsy after death which can then distinguish it from different dementias which are suffered by other, mostly older, people. We will discuss Alzheimer’s only.
What our family observed was the slowly deterioration of her cognitive abilities, her awareness and, at the later stages, her consciousness, a direct result of the slowly dying brain. I read as much as I could find about this dreaded disease, including many of the neuroscience publications, trying to understand what was happening. The literature explained that consciousness and awareness are brain-functions that are totally dependent on a healthy material brain. When the brain dies, consciousness and awareness die with it. In other dementias, lost functions are sometimes restored but not in Alzheimer’s. In the end, my mother was totally unaware and unconscious. My mother was a devoted Christian and my family is sure she resides in heaven.
By observing that awareness and memory, need a living material brain and confirmation of this from my readings in neuroscience, for an example, https://medium.com/@guglielm/zapping-elderly-brains-with-electricity-improves-short-term-memory-for-almost-an-hour-4ec861eab47 it seems to me that it is immaterial whether God or the supernatural world exist, since someone without a functioning material brain won’t be aware of either of them as the brain dies. Restoring awareness and memory in an unproven nonmaterial medium, is just another unwarranted conclusion unsupported by evidence.
The questions arising from my observations are many. Consider a copy made of the data in my mother’s brain in an unknown medium at a time before she contracted the disease. What would happen to her experiences after that point? In the supernatural world, would she have a gap in her memories of her life on earth? In that case, why did she have to live through her earthly life at all? There is also the dubious question of being a copy. If we ever are able to copy our brain data into a machine or other body, the copy would think it was you, but you would know that it isn’t you. So, who would be the “real” you?
There are other major problems with the conception of an afterlife. Do mentally defective persons become whole after death? If so, why were they born defective? Do babies, when they die young, grow up in heaven even though they had no later earthly experiences? In that case, they are the lucky ones since they will be spared the troubles of an earthy life. Or do babies remain as babies for eternity?
So an afterlife does not make sense. I know I’ll get back comments such as “We cannot understand God’s will” and “we are not intelligent enough to understand his ways.” Of course, such answers beg the questions “Why do we have the capacity to question and contemplate his (God’s) actions?” and “Why do we have different gods?” I want to know the answer to these questions. I will be listening but please refrain from stating that I am ‘barking up the wrong tree’ without explaining why. And please refrain from quoting scripture out of holy books, which, as I experience time after time, is usually out of context, they won’t be taken seriously. I expect some well reasoned logical discussion.
Please “share” with as many people as you can, since I need as many opinions as I can gather. I will be listening.
When looking at the symptoms of Delusion Disorder (DD), as outlined by Alistair Munro in his book Delusional Disorder (Cambridge University Press), a number of claims can be made, including the following claims:
1-It (DD) is a primary disorder.
2-It (DD) is a stable disorder characterized by the presence of delusions to which the patient clings with extraordinary tenacity.
3-DD is a chronic and frequently lifelong disorder.
4-The delusions associated with DD are logically constructed and internally consistent.
5-The delusions associated with DD do not interfere with general logical reasoning, although (within the delusional system) the logic is perverted.
6-There is generally no effect on behavior. When disturbed behavior occurs, it is directly related to the delusions associated with DD.
7-Individuals with delusional disorder (DD) experience heightened self-reference. Insignificant events (for others) are, for the individuals afflicted with DD, of enormous significance creating a highly-charged atmosphere around the delusions.
One difficulty with the diagnosis of DD is that almost all of these features can be found in "normal" beliefs. Many religious beliefs hold exactly the same features. (R.D. Laing)
If one proposes that religion is a delusion, the objection has been that it couldn’t possibly be true because it would mean that the majority of people are delusional, since the major portion of the human population belongs to one religion or another. So it seemed to be an untenable hypothesis.
In an article in Scientific American (a well-respected magazine in the science community), written by Dana G. Smith, on March 1, 2019, psychiatrist Randolph Nesse, one of the founders of evolutionary medicine, explained: “Why Natural Selection did not get rid of our species’ onerous psychiatric disorders.” Since approximately 20 percent of Americans suffer from mental disorders and while 50 percent will be having mental problems during their lifetime, Nesse states that “these high rates are caused by natural selection and are not influenced by our emotional well being.”
This was selected for during our species’ long evolutionary adaptation. However, mental disorders are now maladaptive; they are not advantages any more in our quickly changing modern mental landscape.
It is, therefore, possible that many humans are susceptible to delusions since they were useful during natural selection and in the survival of the human race by giving humans and our hominid ancestors the strength to face a cruel nature with all its perils. Rituals to solicit mighty gods were one way to feel we could have some influence on those natural forces. We now know what these natural forces are and how to deal with, predict and mitigate them.
It is, therefore, most likely that religion is a delusional disorder and that it is widespread. The strength off this delusion might be weak or strong depending on the individual. Since we have inherited genes, which have the tendency to form delusions, it will be very difficult to totally erase the religion delusions.
What puzzles me greatly, is why so many people, with a good education and great learning skills, buy into the delusion of religions. I can understand that great philosophers in the past when the actual knowledge of the reality of nature was much more limited than it is now, tried to explain the world around us, since the urge to discover, what is behind the horizon, seems to be an inherited drive that has been of a great advantage during evolution. We know so much more now that we can understand why the ancient suppositions are not tenable anymore.
The urge to influence an unpredictable nature rather than feeling helpless created gods, in some religions many gods, each master of a part of nature and in the major religions today one god, master of everything, which led to the invention of rituals which could influence the happenings in the real world, such as offerings, prayer and idolatry.
Today, however, when we have so much more knowledge and have so many answers why cling to old myths and old morals that do not fit today’s society. Clinging to old superstitions and belief in the supernatural, without evidence seems illogical. We must never stop searching for more answers and we are doing that, at an exponential rate.
Why then are so many bright people still clinging to their religion is a puzzle to me. We are driven by a strong desire to discover more and more, but perhaps it is also driven by the inborn emotion of fear of the unknown. Fear is a powerful motivator, which has been also a very successful emotion, during evolution. We will always make speculations about the unknown until we find an answer. We will always have a wish to know what lies ahead, a tendency that is very financially rewarding for psychics, who pretend to have the power to predict the future and religions which allays the fear of death or the promise of eternal life.
This is the end of my rambling, today. I expect a strong reaction, hopefully, a civil discussion, of constructive criticism, from which we can all learn.
When we discuss the problems in science which we haven’t solved yet, it is sometimes postulated that our intelligence is limited, so that, even if we are making progress, we will not be able to find all the secrets of the universe.
Science, after we make progress and make new discoveries, will throw up other questions. These questions are very challenging but we will suggest answers and then look for observations to sort out which answers are the best fit for our observations.
Entanglement was one of these hypotheses, as the results of some laboratory test seemed to make no sense, and scientists devised other methods to probe farther and eventually found out that it was a real phenomenon. However, that posed the question of what causes it and why is it there. Quantum mechanics seem so different from common sense so we must keep exploring, pose the next questions and find ways to test the new hypotheses to go further forward in science.
This seemingly never-ending search brings up the question whether final answers are beyond our ability to understand. Perhaps we are not intelligent enough to be able the grasp the total reality of the universe.
The sentiment that we never will be able to “know it all” would be fatal to further progress in discovering what makes the universe go. Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions but it is also a possibility that we just still don’t know which questions to ask. Don’t give up; it only takes one human to dream up the right question, just like Einstein did, to put us back on the right track. It might take a long time, while encountering many dead ends, but there is no reason to believe that our intelligence will be forever unable to find the correct answers.
We will keep searching for more answers and dismiss the pessimists who think we are approaching the limits of our intelligence. We also must dismiss those that declare by any new discovery that it is the final proof of the existence of some higher power by presenting a totally twisted explanation. Deepak Chopra comes to mind here, showing a total misunderstanding of the meaning of the new discoveries. This has been done many times in the past and is still a well-loved conclusion by the “God did it” crowd.
Let us not be discouraged by thinking we are at the limits of understanding or that a magic Deity created the universe. These particular attitudes would prevent us from looking farther. Before coming to premature conclusions, let’s abide with this motto: We don’t know yet, but time will tell!
It is possible that sometime in the future uploading of a person’s total brain contents in a computer will be accomplished. Since one’s awareness of one’s “self” is dependent upon one’s memory, if the copy of your brain content is perfect, the awareness would be exactly the same as yours and thus the “copy” would be absolutely convinced it is you, but then you look at the machine and you know it is not you, but a copy. After you die, the copy lives on and thinks it is you, but you are gone because you as a person can rely only on your living material brain, as is observed by the deterioration of awareness in Alzheimer’s patients. This, and other neuroscience research on brain injuries, and surgeries, is an undeniable fact.
To have full awareness in a supposed afterlife would require a copy in a medium other than that of a material brain. If one inherited an exact copy of the brain upon death, some people would be demented in the afterlife or would perhaps be a baby forever. A restoration of a brain that suffered from disease or brain injury, a mental disorder, mental deficiencies and immature brains, such as those found in babies, must be accomplished. If we assume that such restorations are possible, we will still end up with a copy and not be our “self.”
What conclusion can we draw considering the factual observations of what happens to awareness after the material brain dies and is destroyed?
Using Occam’s razor, what do you conclude?
Isn’t it ironic that theists often claim science is very limited in explaining the world around us and then try and prove their claim that god exists with contrived explanations using scientific discoveries?
First, lets make clear what we mean by “God” since some people mix things up by claiming that “God is nature” or “God is energy” or other fuzzy definitions. The most common conception of “God” in this type of a debate is that “God” is an almighty, intelligent entity who created the universe and mankind and, while having unlimited power, directs the universe and judges each individual that lives and has lived.
When theists are asked to prove that this entity exists, they first invoke science to prove there was a beginning (Big Bang) and thus, since the universe had a beginning, there must have been a cause and that cause was god. Theists sidestep the question “Who created God out of nothing?”
New cosmetological discoveries have indicated that the Big Bang might not have been the beginning. Theists will now have to drop the claim of a ‘beginning’ for the universe, repeated over and over again, as if this is a proven fact. There are several theories awaiting confirmation such as the theory of a pulsing universe or the theory of the existence of a multiverse. There is no “fact” that the universe was “created out of nothing.”
I suggest that we do not draw such definite conclusions from scientific observations. Please go to the website to read about the latest observations in that NASA report before jumping again to premature conclusions. https://medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/there-was-no-big-bang-singularity-ae438985fcca
Many philosophical statement have been made to connect consciousness and awareness not only to the brain but also to connect somehow to, and reside in, a supernatural realm that makes it possible that when the brain dies one’s awareness and consciousness continue to exist for eternity. For those who propose this because of the wish to avoid the reality of death, neuro-science research is now coming to the conclusion that consciousness and awareness are functions totally depended on the material brain and that in reality brain death is the end of consciousness and awareness.
A new study indicates that our brains operate under the same laws as any other matter. The second law of thermodynamics is the essential rule of the physical universe. Systems move naturally from a low to a high rate of entropy. Scientist recently discovered parts of the brain which form a circuit that provides consciousness. They believe that consciousness has risen in response to entropy.
Scientists from the University of Toronto (Jose Luis Perez Velazques) and Paris Descartes University (Ramon Guavarra Erra)
applied a kind of probability theory, to look at statistical models neural networks. This method has been very good in determining the thermodynamic properties and entropy present in other systems.
"We find a surprisingly simple result,” they wrote. “Normal wakeful states are characterized by the greatest number of possible configurations of interactions between brain networks, representing highest entropy values." Consciousness in this view isn’t due to connectivity in and of itself, but how many different ways the brain can connect certain bundles of neurons to others. Due to the presence of high entropy, these scientists believe that to maximize the exchange of information between neurons, consciousness arose as an “emergent property,” helping to improve survival, but leading to a higher rate of entropy as a result.
Conclusion is that since it is now clear that consciousness and awareness are functions totally depended on a living material brain, when it dies, you as an individual are gone and no philosophical musings based on the desire to live forever will alter that reality.
When discussing religious affiliations, we run into a relatively new term called the “Nones”. Who are these Nones? They are generally regarded as:
These percentages are generally increasing in all the above categories while the “Highly Devout”, actively involved in their church (29%), (some of them, 10%, also believing in psychics, reincarnation and that spiritual energy can be located in physical objects), are slowly declining. (for a total of 40%). This decline is highly disputed by religious organizations but is observable by the smaller congregations and empty church buildings being converted into more mundane uses, such as apartments and office buildings. The current revelations of unethical behaviour of many religious leaders will possibly also accelerate this decline.
What will that mean for society as a whole? The hope is that a secular society, with a strict separation between State and Church will develop, and that “freedom of religion” is respected in the way it was intended, as the freedom to believe in and practice any religion, and not as the distorted version of some religious groups that interprets it as the right to force their worldview on others. Morality is developed by our culture and cannot be derived from ancient scriptures which do not apply to our modern society. Wikipedia: "morality" refers to whatever (if anything) is actually right or wrong, which may be independent of the values or mores held by any particular peoples or cultures.”
This is not intended as a debate on morality. I leave that to a future OP. This is simply a conclusion based on the information gleaned from a recent Pew Research Centre Survey, a well-respected Institute.
Ben Andrews, www.origin-of-religion.com