The intrinsic probability of an afterlife

Throughout human history, individuals, who survived incidences of severe trauma and near death, have experienced other worldly experiences and brought back with them fantastic tales; common experiences include moving through tunnels, seeing bursts of lights, and meeting with deceased people. In the past, it would have been easy to attribute these as a coping mechanism, a way for the mind to avoid trauma while the body attempts to survive and recover. Yet, as medical science steadily advanced, the point has been reached in some cases where even as coping mechanisms near death experiences are useless. The huge scientific advances of recent decades have led to individuals recovering from experiences from which, in a state of nature, there is absolutely no chance of recovery, even in cases where the individual is declared clinically dead but, with the help of modern technologies, miraculously survives. And yet, the near death experiences continue to come.

Many opposed to the idea of an afterlife will try to argue that there are scientific explanations for these phenomena, and whilst these can be disproved, it skirts entirely around the central issue that there is no scientific reason for these occurrences. The fact that individuals suffering from naturally irreparable trauma do not always experience onrushing blackness or nothing at all, but rather wild and other worldly experiences is a phenomenon inherently without scientific or philosophical justification with the lack of an afterlife.

There is no scientific consensus on what exactly causes consciousness. Until an opponent of an afterlife shows that there is a logically coherent argument to illustrate that whatever causes consciousness can ever cease to exist, than we cannot affirm the resolution because we simply do not know. ‘Consciousness’ is a concept that has befuddled scientists and philosophers for millennia, so we need extremely compelling arguments that consciousness can simply end with the death of the body before we dismiss the possibility of an afterlife. We are viewing the issue initially with equal probability: until shown otherwise we assume that the likelihoods of the afterlife existing or not existing are equal so my opponent needs to give positive arguments for the death of consciousness, not just pre-emptive arguments.

I concur with a challenger of an afterlife that we cannot know for sure if the afterlife exists because we do not directly experience it until we are dead (near death experiences may dispute this premise, but I accept it here for the sake of argument). However, his own line of reasoning can be turned against him, as if we can never know anything outside of experience (like what lies beyond death) than the challenger fails to uphold his end of the burden of proof. He needs to present some kind of scientific or philosophical argument against the afterlife, because merely asserting that we cannot know if it exists, it does not affirm the proposition that the afterlife most likely does not exist. In fact, this is a negative argument; we can only guess based on evidence, not truly know and as such, the resolution cannot be affirmed.

Some criticise dualism for not providing an explanation as to how non-material entities such as a soul could interact with a body. This argument faces an insuperable objection in that there is no reason to believe that a soul in a body has to be consistently physical. It is not at all a stretch to believe that consciousness resides in a physical brain during life but continues in a non-physical state after death, especially given that scientists have never really explained what consciousness is physically. Moreover, they provide no explanation whatsoever for the experience of consciousness that we all feel and thus, you have no reason to believe that it does not continue after death. Until they do, they has no positive ground to stand on.

To conclude, the reasons to believe an afterlife exists far outweigh reasons given for the non-existence of an afterlife. Therefore, given my analysis, there is an intrinsic probability of an afterlife.

Contributed by Shane Dunne

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