Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is there life after death?

  1. Oct 20, 2011 #1
    I've been trying to do some research about it and all I get is either some comment saying we don't really know for sure or an enormous article stating all this parapsychology research that I can't go through in time. Can anyone just tell me what the science is saying for now concerning the afterlife? In like a short answer? It would be helpful thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 20, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    yes, there's a possibility for life after death: offspring. You have to mate first though.
  4. Oct 20, 2011 #3
    This means you need to get a life before death.
  5. Oct 20, 2011 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Science says you're dead.
  6. Oct 20, 2011 #5
    oh really helpful thanks.
  7. Oct 20, 2011 #6
    as in completely and utterly not conscious for like forever right? ok thanks.
  8. Oct 20, 2011 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    At the risk of opening a real can of worms, I'll go out on a limb and answer the OP's question as follows: There is no scientific evidence whatsoever supporting the idea of life after death.
  9. Oct 20, 2011 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    There is a mountain of evidence from a variety of fields that once a person is dead their consciousness ceases. There is no evidence of even a mechanism by which consciousness can survive after death and any claims to the countrary are pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo.
  10. Oct 20, 2011 #9
    ok so basically the major consensus from science is that consciousness as we commonly know it ceases completely after death and does not persist in any form at all. Thanks. Sorry I know this enters can of worms territory but you guys are typically well-versed in the latest science and so I desired your thoughts. Thanks.
  11. Oct 21, 2011 #10


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I looooooooove this answer. It's how I feel. Yeah, you're a lifeless corpse, but your genetic code, lessons, life experience, and successes can live on in the form of your children.
  12. Oct 21, 2011 #11
    I think you should bear in mind that no one in mainstream science is out to take a stand or settle the issue. Any "consensus" is informal. "Science" hasn't issued an official statement and there are no teams out there working on proof or disproof of life after death. That being the case, it would be disingenuous of you to mis-paraphrase what's been said here as a stronger statement than it is.

    I say that because I sense you are fishing for a hard statement about where "Science" stands on life after death to be used in a debate. Without actually settling the issue, what "Science" can, and does, do is demonstrate how unscientific life-after-death "evidence" usually is, and how a variety of unusual but explainable phenomena can misidentified as "ghosts" and the like. There's a difference between that kind of case-by-case analysis and a sweeping statement like "Science Condemns Notion of Life After Death!"

    Probably the strongest thing you can accurately say is more like: "Science hasn't run across any evidence for the continuation of consciousness after death."
  13. Oct 21, 2011 #12


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I would disagree. What you can say is that evidence shows that consciousness ceases when life ceases (and sometimes before) and that all proposals of life after death have either been shown to be wrong (e.g that dead bodies weigh less because they have no soul) or have no evidence showing even a viable mechanism by which they could work.

    If you only say "there's no evidence for it" that leaves it open to the type of arguments we see about the paranormal that shove in answers to that ignorance. It's also important therefore o hammer home that evidence is against life after death and that no viable mechanism had ever been found.
  14. Oct 21, 2011 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

  15. Oct 21, 2011 #14
    The issue I'm addressing is what is the strongest thing you could say and get a consensus. I have read statements by Ramachandran and Sacks, for example, demonstrating that they shy away from outright asserting things like there's no life after death. Not because they believe there is life after death, but because they don't want to become targets for crackpots and fanatics, or deal with disillusioning people to whom that belief seems vital.

    You and I, and others here, may agree your statement about it is good, but will the OP actually find that to be the "consensus" of "Science"? I think he'd have to take a poll of a lot more scientists before he felt confident of that.

    I keep putting "Science" in quotes because it's not a monocoque thing that speaks with one voice: "Science" doesn't come out and issue an official stand on matters like this that the OP might quote in a debate.
  16. Oct 21, 2011 #15
    Gah why is this so complicated? I wish scientists sometimes could be a little more definite with their findings. Does something happen after we die or not? I just want some answers here. I see some sites that say NDE and OBE prove that consciousness after death does exist. It seems dubious to me. Like someone said earlier how does consciousness persist? Perhaps I need to study more about the nature of consciousness a fascinating topic in and of itself. Although a lot of it seems quite difficult.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2011
  17. Oct 21, 2011 #16


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Why are you putting so much onus on scientists to have answers?

    1] observes and tries to explain. There are many things about being human that it is not designed to answer.
    2] can never prove a negative

    But if you must: Science - inasmuch as science has a verdict on death - says it's The End.
  18. Oct 21, 2011 #17
    Well I know science can't answer things that are often relegated to the humanities or the arts but I usually think it can answer everything else, at least in principle. I am inclined to think that consciousness ends at death. Here are a few reasons:

    We have many reasons to suspect that consciousness is intimately tied to brain activity. Numerous cases have shown that if you removed parts of the brain a person's cognitive abilitiy may be impaired. At times a patient may lose memories or memory integration or the ability to recognize certain objects. This shows that many faculties we typically associate with a disembodied consciousness rather only take place squarely within the brain.

    Furthermore, all animals have a natural tendency to protect themselves. Humans are no exception. Why do we have this inclination to protect our bodies? Perhaps we know that without our bodies we die!!! We lose consciousness and our mind doesn't want that. Of course we could provide an evolutionary explanation that organisms that sought to survive were better at spreading their genes. However I think there are probably more reasons than that as to why we try to protect our bodies. Why is it that we feel fear when someone points a gun at our head? Isn't it because we just don't want to die? Even if we had kids or something already. I just think evolution can't explain all of psychology.

    Also, if we consider people who have already lost parts of their body we know that they don't feel anymore in that region of the body. If we lose an arm we don't feel anything in the arm region because the nerve endings are all gone. It's not like there's an immaterial substance still residing there that can feel after the arm is gone. Likewise if the head is gone it seems similarly that we will not feel anything anymore either. It's not like there's an immaterial substance there that stays behind when the head is gone to think and feel stuff.

    SO basically these are the reasons I have for thinking that consciousness ceases after brain death and probably doesn't do anything else after that. It's sad maybe but at least it seems realistic. Of course I do not claim to know the deeper nature of consciousness and perhaps some kind of meager form of consciuosness persists after we die if maybe a form of panpsychism is true. However, I think a flow bown consciousness staying behind after we die seems highly unlikely bcause of how intimately tied to an intact body our consciousness seems to be. Overall this is the position I am at. I am going to study more about the nature of consciousness while I can.
  19. Oct 21, 2011 #18
    I have no recollection of me having existed in the past. Either I have died before and things are such that I cannot remember anything that has happened in that past existence or this is my "first life" or there is no such as living after death.

    In any case, I agree with the general consensus of this thread.

  20. Oct 21, 2011 #19


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I guess now would be a bad time to mention http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantom_limb" [Broken] then...:biggrin:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  21. Oct 22, 2011 #20


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Don't know about "life after death" but I'm damn sure about "death after life".
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook