The Instigator
bballboy9876
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Magic8000
Con (against)
Winning
15 Points

Does an afterlife exist?

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Magic8000
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/22/2013 Category: Religion
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,813 times Debate No: 41064
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (11)
Votes (3)

 

bballboy9876

Pro

I believe that there is an afterlife of some sort. This could mean heaven and hell, reincarnation, or anything else other than eternal nothingness. The burden of proof will be on me for this debate. 1st round is for acceptance, 2nd for arguments, 3rd for rebuttals, and 4th for closing statements.

Good luck to my opponent!
Magic8000

Con

Cool topic. I accept.
Debate Round No. 1
bballboy9876

Pro

Thanks for accepting this debate. Good luck to you :)

There are a few different possibilities for an afterlife. However, for the sake of length, I am going to focus on heaven/hell and reincarnation.

While there isn't much evidence for/against heaven and hell, near death experiences is the most convincing piece of evidence out there. These experiences occur after clinical death, which is defined as the time when the heart stops beating, breathing stops, and brain activity ceases(1). Since brain activity ceased, all consciousness should have ceased. However, many people have reported amazing experiences that include, but are not limited to, seeing dead loved ones, traveling down a tunnel of light, and seeing visions of heaven or hell(2). Skeptics could define these experiences as hallucinations caused by the dying brain. However, veridical evidence would seem to disprove this argument. Near death experiencers have reported details that have been confirmed to be true by doctors(3). If these experiences were just hallucinations, how would these people be able to report these real, confirmed details?

Reincarnation also has interesting evidence to support it. Dr. Ian Stevenson conducted research on children who spontaneously remembered a past life(4). This evidence is more reliable than past life regressions, as these regressions rely on hypnosis and can't be trusted. Children have reported details about past lives that have been verified and proven true. Birthmarks have been shown to match up with wounds on the body of the deceased by medical records! These methods systematically rule out normal explanations for this phenomenon.

The evidence for an afterlife is mounting. Whether it be heaven/hell, reincarnation, or something beyond human comprehension, it seems as if consciousness is not destroyed after death.

Over to my opponent.

Sources:
1.http://www.princeton.edu...
2.http://iands.org...
3.http://iands.org...
4.http://reluctant-messenger.com...
Magic8000

Con

I would like to thank Pro for starting this debate. Since this round is for our opening arguments, I will post my case against an afterlife.


Why Afterlife is Improbable


This is the argument in the form of a modus tollens syllogism.


1. If an afterlife exists, there must be mental events without brain events.

2. There probably cannot be mental events without brain events.

C. Therefore, an afterlife is improbable.


Premise one is obviously true. If the mind ends with the brain, there is no afterlife because nothing would live on for any afterlife.


Premise two is true for a variety of reasons. After extensive research in this area, philosopher Michael Tooley gave 5 pieces of evidence to support the likelihood of mind brain dependence [1].


(1) When an individual's brain is directly stimulated and put into a certain physical state, this causes the person to have a corresponding experience. [2]

(2) Certain injuries to the brain make it impossible for a person to have any mental states at all. [3]

(3) Other injuries to the brain destroy various mental capacities. Which capacity is destroyed is tied directly to the particular region of the brain that was damaged. [4]

(4) When we examine the mental capacities of animals, they become more complex as their brains become more complex. [5]

(5) Within any given species, the development of mental capacities is correlated with the development of neurons in the brain [6][7]


With this evidence Tooley concludes that


“All minds that it is generally agreed that we are definitely acquainted with ... are either purely physical in nature or else are causally dependent on something physical in nature."


The conclusion follows.


Thanks, back to Pro.


[1] http://www.leaderu.com...

[2] One example is from the studies of Jose Delgado. He was able to control a person’s mind through the brain [http://www.biotele.com... ][http://www.cabinetmagazine.org...]

[3] http://www.cdc.gov...

[4] Ibid

[5] http://facultypages.morris.umn.edu...

[6] Ibid

[7] http://www.nature.com...

Debate Round No. 2
bballboy9876

Pro

bballboy9876 forfeited this round.
Magic8000

Con

Notice to voters: Pro forfeited because he is having trouble with his internet. He will post his round 3 in the comments. I’m allowing this, do NOT deduct the conduct point for the forfeit.


Near Death Experiences


I hold that NDEs are a result of the dying brain. Pro responds to this contention by bringing up a story of an out of body experience. I’ll get to OBEs later, but I will write more on NDEs first. Pro states that all brain activity stops when one is clinically dead. This is untrue, Princeton's article is from Wikipedia [1] which uses a study from 1975 [2]. Recent studies show there is some sort of brain function in the dying brain [3][4]. In fact when the brain gets really close to death, there is a surge in brain activity [5]. No one who's had an NDE could possibly be brain dead. Once you are brain dead, there is no coming back, so there must be some sort of brain function. Neuroscientist Sam Harris writes


“Even in cases where the brain is alleged to have shut down, its activity must return if the subject is to survive and describe the experience. In such cases, there is generally no way to establish that the NDE occurred while the brain was offline.” [6]


NDEs seem to have chemical causes. Michael Shermer writes


A... likely [naturalistic] explanation [for NDEs] looks to biochemical and neurophysiological causes. We know... that the hallucination of flying is triggered by atropine and other belladonna alkaloids... DMT (dimethyltryptamine) causes the perception that the world is enlarging or shrinking. MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine) stimulates the feeling of age regression so that things we have long forgotten are brought back into memory. And, of course, LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) triggers visual and auditory hallucinations and creates a feeling of oneness with the cosmos... The fact that there are receptor sites in the brain for such artificially processed chemicals means that there are naturally produced chemicals in the brain that, under certain conditions (the stress of trauma or an accident, for example), can induce any or all of the experiences typically associated with an NDE. [7]



Another interesting point is that NDEs can be induced by electrical stimulation in the right temporal lobe [8]. Furthermore children who have NDEs are more likely to see living friends and relatives. Which is impossible.


Susan Blackmore writes


A few NDEs have even been recorded in children. It is interesting to note that nowadays children are more likely to see living friends than those who have died, presumably because their playmates only rarely die of diseases like scarlet fever or smallpox. [9]


Out of Body Experiences


Now, what of stories where people have out of body experiences which confirm to what is around them? People before an OBE can see objects and information and the brain can treat these as observations from an OBE. Susan Blackmore says


“If sensory input is reduced or disrupted, the normal input-based model of the world may start to become unstable and break down. In this case the cognitive system will try to get back to normal by creating a new model of the world from imagination... [from] a bird's-eye view, as though from above…..if the OBE occurs when the normal model of reality is replaced by a bird's-eye view constructed from memory, then people who have OBEs should be better able to use such views in memory and in imagery” [10].


Shermer says


“OBEs are easily induced by dissociative anesthetics such as the ketamines... the OBE is a confusion between reality and fantasy, as dreams can be upon first awakening. The brain tries to reconstruct events and in the process visualizes them from above- a normal process we all do when "decentering" ourselves (when you picture yourself sitting on the beach or climbing a mountain, it is usually from above, looking down).” [7]


Evidence points to OBEs and NDEs being a result of natural brain function. This is flawed evidence of an afterlife.


Reincarnation


Pro brings up past life regression as evidence of an afterlife. He recognizes the flaws in hypnosis studies, but brings up the work of a man named “Ian Stevenson”. He interviewed children in India in hopes of them remembering their past lives. There are many problems with Stevenson’s work. Stevenson said there was no possibility for fraud because he saw no motive. However Ian Wilson said many children said their past self lived in a higher class [11] , so there would be motive for a better life. Stevenson hired an anthropologist named David Barker to study these cases. Barker found no convincing evidence of anything paranormal [12]. Another person that was hired was a lawyer by the name of Champe Ransom. His analysis concluded


“Stevenson's cases then do not amount to even half-way decent evidence. In only 11 of the approximately 1,111 rebirth cases had there been no contact between the two families before an investigation was begun. Of those 11, seven were seriously flawed in some respect. What this means is that in the great majority of cases, the two families had met years before a scientific investigation began, and that the likelihood of independent testimony was quite small. The rebirth cases are anecdotal evidence of the weakest sort” [13]


Keith Augustine in “The Case Against Immortality” writes


“...the vast majority of Stevenson's cases come from countries where a religious belief in reincarnation is strong, and rarely elsewhere, seems to indicate that cultural conditioning (rather than reincarnation) generates claims of spontaneous past-life memories. Moreover, reincarnation seems incapable of explaining spontaneous cases where the child claims to remember the 'former life' of a person who has died after the child was born” [14]


Skeptic Robert Carroll suggested that The children or their parents deceived Stevenson, but his personal wants made him too willing to believe them. and that he asked leading questions. The results were also subjected to confirmation bias, leaving out cases that do not support his idea and only using the ones that do [15].


Ultimately, the evidence of an afterlife presented by Pro has been flawed and easily explained by naturalistic explanations.


Back to Pro


Sources

________________________________________________________________________

[1] http://www.princeton.edu... Click the “full article” button and the at the bottom of the page says “The article content of this page came from Wikipedia”

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...

[3] http://www.uofmhealth.org...

[4] http://abcnews.go.com...

[5] http://www.nature.com...

[6] http://www.samharris.org...

[7] Michael Shermer, Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time (New York, N.Y.: W.H. Freeman and Company, 1997), p. 80.

[8] Morse, Melvin. Closer to the Light. New York: Villard Books, 1990. p. 104

[9] http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk...

[10] Blackmore, Susan. "Out-of-the-Body Experience." In The Oxford Companion to the Mind. Edited Richard L. Gregory. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987: 571-73. p.573 and 133.

[11] Edwards, Paul. "Introduction." In Immortality. Edited Paul Edwards. New York: Macmillan, 1992: p.12

[12] Ibid

[13] Ibid p.14

[14] http://www.infidels.org...

[15] http://www.skepdic.com...

Debate Round No. 3
bballboy9876

Pro

Con asserts that NDEs are products of the dying brain. Some facts, however, would seem to suggest that this isn't the case. For example, blind people see during NDEs and NDEs are very consistent around the world. The most convincing evidence, however, is that those who experience NDEs undergo a radical transformation in their beliefs and lifestyles (1). This would seem to suggest that these experiences are extremely vivid, maybe even more vivid than life on Earth. If these experiences are enough to convince people to change their beliefs, than they should be taken seriously.

However Ian Wilson said many children said their past self lived in a higher class [11] , so there would be motive for a better life.

Children told lies about past lives just to say that they lived in a higher class in a previous life? What would be the point of that?


...the vast majority of Stevenson's cases come from countries where a religious belief in reincarnation is strong, and rarely elsewhere, seems to indicate that cultural conditioning (rather than reincarnation) generates claims of spontaneous past-life memories.

While Stevenson's cases may come from countries where belief in reincarnation is strong, there are many examples of similar cases happening in the United States. Dr. Jim Tucker conducted studies in the United States and believes that the children telling the stories were truly reincarnated(2). He even has a theory of how reincarnation can work using quantum mechanics.

Conclusion: The Near Death Experience should be taken seriously because of consistencies around the world and the fact that these experiences transform the belief of those who have the opportunity to experience them. The spontaneous memory of a past life by children should be taken seriously as well, as these children don't have a motive to lie. Many of these memories have been found to be valid. It seems that evidence of an afterlife is mounting, and new evidence will only continue to emerge in the near future.

I thank my opponent for his time, patience, and respect during this debate. I hope that this debate was helpful to the readers.

Sources:
1.http://noetic.org...
2.http://www.dailymail.co.uk...


Magic8000

Con

Here is Pro’s round 3


“I thank my opponent for allowing me to post my 3rd round here.


There isn't a specific part of your argument that I will be refuting. I will be responding to the whole argument.


Con uses many points that seem to point to a mind-brain dependence. A possible explanation for this is that the body is just a temporary "vessel" for the soul. It is possible that all humans have souls, and these souls need a body. This could explain why memories would be lost in between reincarnations.


Think about it from a scientific perspective. Our consciousness came from nothing before, so why couldn't it again?”


My Response


If Pro’s rebuttal was a plausible alternative, it still wouldn’t matter. The argument is probabilistic, an afterlife is still improbable. The mind being dependent on the brain explains these lines of fact much more better than the temporary vessel model. If the body was a simple vessel, why should we observe any of the 5 listed phenomena? How could a temporary vessel affect the soul itself? The soul must still be causally dependant. Pro says that it could be the case that the souls need the body. This is what Michael Tooley said too. It doesn’t seem to help Pro, because if the souls need the body, then no body means no soul. Pro also says that could explain why memories are lost. Wait a minute, if memories are lost because that’s stored in the body, then the very personality would be lost because that too is in the body. Jose Delgado’s studies are one of many that show that [1][2]. Personality can also change with brain injury, surgery [3] and of course under the influence of drugs. So, the memories and personality must all be lost. Then, what is being reincarnated? Everything that makes up you is lost. Pro would have to claim that we’re reincarnated, but everything that makes us “us” is lost and dead. Which is contradictory because we wouldn't live on at all.


My argument still stands, the mind is either causally dependant on the brain or a part of the brain itself. Both refute an afterlife. This stands as the most likely position. In order for Pro’s rebuttals to work, he must have a very contradictory view of identity.


Thanks

Sources

___________________________________________________________________

[1] http://www.biotele.com...

[2] http://www.cabinetmagazine.org...

[3] http://www.psychologytoday.com...

Debate Round No. 4
11 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by bballboy9876 3 years ago
bballboy9876
I thank my opponent for allowing me to post my 3rd round here.

There isn't a specific part of your argument that I will be refuting. I will be responding to the whole argument.

Con uses many points that seem to point to a mind-brain dependence. A possible explanation for this is that the body is just a temporary "vessel" for the soul. It is possible that all humans have souls, and these souls need a body. This could explain why memories would be lost in between reincarnations.

Think about it from a scientific perspective. Our consciousness came from nothing before, so why couldn't it again?
Posted by Magic8000 3 years ago
Magic8000
Yeah.
Posted by bballboy9876 3 years ago
bballboy9876
Sorry, But My Internet IS Down And I Won't Be Able To Post My Argument In Time. Is It Ok If I Post My Argument In The Comments When My Internet IS Back Up?
Posted by Magic8000 3 years ago
Magic8000
Sorry Mystic. You can always challenge Pro sometime in the future
Posted by MysticEgg 3 years ago
MysticEgg
Dang it, Magic! I'll have to be on the sidelines for this one. Bonne chance.
Posted by bballboy9876 3 years ago
bballboy9876
By closing statements, I mean response to your opponent's rebuttals and a conclusion based on everything that has been said in the debate. And yes, I would love to hear your arguments! Hearing both sides of the argument would be very enlightening, in my opinion.
Posted by DudeStop 3 years ago
DudeStop
Go magic.
Posted by Magic8000 3 years ago
Magic8000
I'm still going to make a case against an afterlife in R2 if that's OK.
Posted by Magic8000 3 years ago
Magic8000
What do you mean closing statements? Is it defense of your orignal argument?
Posted by bballboy9876 3 years ago
bballboy9876
I changed it. The burden of proof is now on me. I just thought that hearing both sides of the argument would be more interesting :)
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by iamanatheistandthisiswhy 3 years ago
iamanatheistandthisiswhy
bballboy9876Magic8000Tied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: I believe Con's arguments were far stronger and well supported than those given by Pro, as such arguments and sources go to Con. Conduct points have not been awarded as requested by Con after the forfeit of Pro. Grammar and spelling are equal. Very nice debate.
Vote Placed by Rational_Thinker9119 3 years ago
Rational_Thinker9119
bballboy9876Magic8000Tied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro offered NDE's and OBE's as evidence of an afterlife. Con argued for mind-brain dependence. Pro rebutted by saying the body is just a vessel, but Con showed that is improbable due to the clear mind-brain dependence we see. Con also showed that NDE's and OBE's can be explained scientifically. Con also sufficiently questioned the validity of the studies done, due to the fact that the subjects may have a cultural predisposition towards a certain position. I have to say Con won this, but Pro did well. Con also had a more rich variety of sources that I found more credible.
Vote Placed by KingDebater 3 years ago
KingDebater
bballboy9876Magic8000Tied
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: Arguments to Con because he refuted Pro's arguments and made convincing ones of his own supporting his case. Sources to Con because he had sources relevant to his case.