Feed on Posts or Comments 22 April 2018

Christianity &Science Johnson on 14 Oct 2008 03:39 am

Why We Can’t Imagine Death

This article states reality as clearly and as bluntly as possible:

Never Say Die: Why We Can’t Imagine Death

It says:

Why do we wonder where our mind goes when the body is dead? Shouldn’t it be obvious that the mind is dead, too?

Yes, it should be obvious to anyone with a brain, who is willing to use that brain rationally. Unfortunately, most are not willing to accept reality:

And yet people in every culture believe in an afterlife of some kind or, at the very least, are unsure about what happens to the mind at death.

The author labels these beliefs, rightfully, as irrational. He then goes on to explain from where such beliefs might arise:

Back when you were still in diapers, you learned that people didn’t cease to exist simply because you couldn’t see them. Developmental psychologists even have a fancy term for this basic concept: “person permanence.” Such an off-line social awareness leads us to tacitly assume that the people we know are somewhere doing something. As I’m writing this article in Belfast, for example, my mind’s eye conjures up my friend Ginger in New Orleans walking her poodle or playfully bickering with her husband, things that I know she does routinely.

As I’ve argued in my 2006 Behavioral and Brain Sciences article, “The Folk Psychology of Souls,” human cognition is not equipped to update the list of players in our complex social rosters by accommodating a particular person’s sudden inexistence. We can’t simply switch off our person-permanence thinking just because someone has died. This inability is especially the case, of course, for those whom we were closest to and whom we frequently imagined to be actively engaging in various activities when out of sight.

And so person permanence may be the final cognitive hurdle that gets in the way of our effectively realizing the dead as they truly are—infinitely in situ, inanimate carbon residue. Instead it’s much more “natural” to imagine them as existing in some vague, unobservable locale, very much living their dead lives.

That makes some sense, if you are irrational. A rational person, on the other hand, accepts reality and updates the status board for dead people without any difficulty.

It’s an interesting article, but it leaves a gaping hole, which is this: Given that irrational people can’t handle the idea of death, why do they have to create so much religious nonsense to go along with it? To see how ridiculous the nonsense gets, look at this comic:

The absurdity is painful. In this case, Christianity has a complete story for what happens after death, and the story includes things like demons and eternal torture. It’s nuts. Apparently there is still no explanation for where such absurdity comes from, nor why anyone in their right mind would believe one bit of it.

If you are a Christian, and you are starting to realize that the afterlife story of Christianity is ridiculous, this web site can help you to see reality clearly:


In particular, turn to Chapter 27, which talks about death: When you die, you die

3 Responses to “Why We Can’t Imagine Death”

  1. on 14 Oct 2008 at 10:44 am 1.Hermes said …

    Death is final. If you are revived, you weren’t dead. Death is cell death.

    Reports from an ‘afterlife’ come from ‘people who died’ are not from people who were really dead, but people who are ‘clinically dead’; not breathing, no heart beat. When that happens, blood does not feed the brain. Senses fail, including the visual cortex, so the remaining part of the brain that is active attempts to make sense of being disconnected from valid sensory input.

    Let’s take a look at the process of dying and what we know about human physiology;

    1. Death is not a clear line; on one side alive, on the other completely dead. Death happens in stages as individual cells no longer retain integrity for a variety of reasons, often because of oxygen starvation from organ failure or trauma that prevents the blood from circulating.

    2. All of our thoughts are contained in a structure of neurons.

    3. When people start to die, the brain is frequently one of the last organs to be starved of oxygen.

    4. The ‘tunnel of light’ is caused by the visual cortex loosing oxygen and the remaining parts of the brain attempting to deal with that. The same ‘tunnel’ can be simulated. Pilots experience this when they use a centrifuge under high G forces for training or to test new gear.

    5. People who live after being through this oxygen starvation tell stories based on their brain’s attempt to deal with the stress. They talk about ‘flash backs’, they talk about ‘stepping outside’ of themselves and seeing themselves. The same thing the pilots in the centrifuges report.

    6. The more time the brain or any organ is starved, the more damage.

    7. Traumatic brain damage can change ‘who’ a person is, from memories through personalities. If there was a unique person detached from the brain, then where did the first person go when the personality changed and where did the second person come from? The answer is simple if you know how the brain works; there is no such thing as mind/body dualism.

    These are facts. So, what can we with confidence say about what exists after life? We already know. Surgeons in emergency rooms know, EMS teams know, morticians know, and families and friends at bed sides know. All else is arrogance, fantasy, and wishful thinking of those who witness that finality.

  2. on 15 Oct 2008 at 4:42 am 2.blank slate said …


    related somewhat, and very interesting. of course she has not claimed to have died, but she does have a very interesting story.

  3. on 15 Oct 2008 at 9:04 am 3.Hermes said …

    Good video. I’m a TED junky;


    Also, WNYC’s Radio Lab has a section on the issues of this blog post as well as some strange discoveries in neurology;


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