Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication
I am getting several messages from people who read some of my articles on 'after life', 'near death experiences' and other related articles and my replies here to some Qs people asked me to explain the scientific points of view on these issues.
I can confirm one thing: People are fascinated by mystery! By death. By after life. By near death experiences. By souls - good and bad (ghosts!?).
But there are no mysteries as far as scientists are concerned. Majority of them have very firm views.
Recently I participated in a debate on 'souls' where a few scientists took on people who believe in 'souls', 'after life', and 'reincarnations'.
I am posting here some of the points that were discussed to show what scientists think of these beliefs.
A request though. This is a controversial subject and you need to keep your emotions in check while reading this and try to understand things from a scientist's point of view. Read this article that would help you in the process: why-is-it-difficult-for-scientists-to-have-high-eqs
But first watch this wonderful video titled "Death and the After life" where a physicist, Dr. Sean Carroll explains why he doesn't believe in 'after life and souls'.
This is what Stephen Hawking, the famous theoretical physicist and cosmologist said about after life:
The belief that heaven or an afterlife awaits us is a "fairy story" for people afraid of death. There was nothing beyond the moment when the brain flickers for the final time.
'I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark', he added. Hawking completely rejects the notion of life beyond death and emphasise the need to fulfil our potential on Earth by making good use of our lives. In answer to a question on how we should live, he said, simply: "We should seek the greatest value of our action."
Further he argues that tiny quantum fluctuations in the very early universe became the seeds from which galaxies, stars, and ultimately human life emerged. "Science predicts that many different kinds of universe will be spontaneously created out of nothing. It is a matter of chance which we are in, he says!
Okay, now let us move on to the discussion...
'What will happen at the time of or after death?'
Scientists: Nothing. You just cease to exist after death. Your body decomposes and the atoms and energy that it constituted is re-cycled. Period.
In order to study the existence or non-existence of something, there needs to be information about it that we can test. We cannot 'test' souls. We cannot do anything about proving things that don't have a chance of existing in the first place. We cannot test baseless beliefs. we cannot test peoples' wild imaginations.
For most iterations of an ‘afterlife’, there’s absolutely nothing we can measure. Sometimes someone makes a claim that the body loses a bit of mass after they die. Okay, we can test and measure that. But when it was done, it was found that it was gas that escaped from the body and caused the weight loss!
Evidence of absence - the evidence of any kind that suggests something is missing or that it does not exist. We have that a lot in these cases. Not the evidence of presence.
There is no evidence that souls exist, that Heaven exists, that after-life exists. Those who want to believe what they want to believe cannot understand this. And we don't understand death too properly to come to firm conclusions about it. Science is trying to first find out what consciousness is.
And what will happen at the time of death? People say they have experienced several things and according to science, these are all illusions created by the brain and scientists were able to reproduce them in labs using certain techniques. Please read these articles Dr. Krishna wrote here:
and here: science-tries-to-strengthen-your-minds-permanently-by-making-you-realize-reality
One person from general public: Why do skeptics continually repeat this falsehood that there is no evidence for a "life after death"? Memories of previous lives, apparitions, NDEs, DBV's, the evidence is huge. I am not suggesting that the evidence is necessarily compelling, but it is simply false to say it doesn't exist.
The fact that scientists can reproduce certain experiences is an irrelevance. You need to show that such experiences do not have an origin in some external reality. Appropriate stimulation of the brain might allow us access to perceptions of other realities.
Science cannot *in principle* find out what consciousness is. At least not how science is currently construed. See an essay by me:
Scientists: Had you watched the Sean's video, you would have understood why we are skeptics.
The things you say 'evidence' is just bullshit. Creative Stories people tell to deceive the innocent. Why is it false to say it doesn't exist? Give me reasons and Show me the proof to make me accept it.
Why is it irrelevant when we are able to produce 'ghost - effects', 'Near death experiences' in labs to show people how they occur in reality? What external reality do you want us to consider? Okay, electromagnetic radiation in some places that cause hallucinations of ghosts. Apart from what science makes us understand we cannot accept other things just based on misconceptions and baseless beliefs.
Science is interested with the facts, not fairy tales or crazy claims. Because facts are based on measurable, observable and quantifiable incidents that can be repeated. If it cannot be repeated, there's nothing to be researched and trusted.
Another person from GP: One 'Bhagwat Geeta As It is' for you my scientist friends!
Scientists: Smile :). We have read these creative stories. We know Lord Krishna mentioned about souls in it. Just stories don't convince us. They were based on beliefs people had in ancient times. One mythological story doesn't give us evidence to accept souls.
The change of facts in our field is again based on new data provided, not the change based on belief or opinion. To beat inaccuracy, you need the weapon of absolute truth - not another inaccuracy!
Another person from GP: You are asking for proof for soul (Athma). But you cannot disprove the same also because proof can be given for existence but not for non-existence. Like you studied science under a proper teacher putting your utmost faith in him/her, you must also learn about athma (soul) from a proper teacher. Then only you will understand Athma. Remember where science stops, spirituality (Not a proper word but will do for now) starts.
Scientists: This article written by Dr. Krishna is for you:
“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.” ―
If you say a soul exists, it is you who have to prove it really exists.
Science says there is no evidence - Like Sean Carroll said in the video above
"There is no known particle, field, or force that can interact with people and carry the information needed for an afterlife or reincarnation. And, quantum field theory (proven accurate to many decimal places) says that there cannot be anything we don’t already know about that could interact with things on a human scale.
We accept that. If you have one, you have to provide in order to make people believe you. Mere words and stories don't suffice.
The initially falls towards those that make a positive claim - in this case that a type of Afterlife is “a thing” or 'soul is a substance'.
The same person from GP: Burden of Proof? We don’t need any proof to know. We experience and feel the same.
Will human instinct always miss the truth? Being a doubter you should doubt this first.
You must follow the truth but nothing else. Then only you will be able to see the truth about Athma. Doubting will get you nowhere, but Verifying with experience will. We never talk of belief. We SEE and EXPERIENCE Athma but may be not to its full extent. I can tell you ladoo is sweet. But you will know that only when you taste a ladoo.
What rational reasons makes you not to see one (Athma) that we see?
Scientists: First watch the video we posted here and then give reply. Without reading fully my reply/watching the video where scientists give rational reasons for their assumptions, you cannot give replies and argue things without understanding the scientists’ view! Scientists tried but couldn’t find any souls!
You can feel fear without any rationale. Feelings don’t prove anything except a person’s uncontrolled emotions! They lead to beliefs - which are just your assumptions and opinions without any evidence. We don’t give importance to these misconceptions.
You can see sweets, there is proof, so you can eat and taste them. How can you feel something that doesn’t exist? Oh,yes, you can hallucinate!
One person from GP: We have many science fiction books and movies. Do you ask people who write them or create them to prove them? Why you are being partial to spiritualists Only? Poets imagine many things. Do you ask them to prove it?
You have missed the argument. Spirit cannot be proved. Because. YOU ARE THE SPIRIT. Do you need to prove yourself? Spirit has to be realized or understood, not proved in physical laboratory.
Scientists: So you are making spirit theory equivalent to fiction. Great :)
We don't ask 'fiction' writers to provide proof because they don't claim their fiction is fact. And we ask you to provide evidence because you say what you think is real and true. That is the difference.
We are not the spirit. We are living entities based on science. We can prove ourselves to be living entities based on science. Not based on spirit. That is the difference between a fact and an imagination!
One person from the GP: We don't even have evidence of a mind. But still aren't we all believing it exists?
Scientists: Mind isn't a thing. It is the mental capacity. It is a person's ability to think and reason; the intellect. Aren't we all aware of it? Aren't we conscious of it? Or do you think you don't have a mind? :)
Then how are you asking this Q? The very fact that you are able to think and ask this Q itself is evidence that you are capable of thinking and have the capacity to reason.
A person from GP: Some scientists too worked on this and showed that re-incarnation is true.
You can learn more here:
Scientists: Yes, there are some 'scientists' who is after name, fame and money. They often create sensations to sustain their desires. But those types of work has been described as “bordering on pseudoscience,” by scientists, and is challenged by credible other scientists who think that notions of survival may arise from mundane causes.
One person from the general public: Why don't you investigate further?
Scientists: It costs money. We cannot waste our precious resources on things that catches somebody's fancy or stupid stories. It can be put use to some useful work that can really help the world. Unless there appears to be at least a reasonable chance of some tangible outcome, You don’t just throw science at random guesses and hope something comes out; you bet on those things which look like they have a good chance of paying off.
There’s just no realistic, practical, repeatable experiment that can be done here. Personal anecdotes can’t be used because they’re neither consistent nor repeatable, and many of them have non-metaphysical explanations that can be successfully tested.
But scientists still tried. There have been tons and tons of studies over millennia, some good science, some bad, but all indirect of course and never with a positive reproducible outcome.
Reincarnation has been investigated by interviewing memories of people remembering past lives. Statistical analysis of the data showed weird properties like reincarnation respecting national borders.
Souls have boundaries?! Contrary to what people who believe in them say! These weird properties are already explained by psychology, so scientifically there is no need to introduce an afterlife to explain that phenomenon. Reincarnation falls for Ocham's razor, which is the scientific principle that you should not invent stuff in your explanations when not needed.
People tried Weighing the body at the time of death to find the soul of it exist and leaving the body at the time of death. No evidence found.
A soul within the body, affecting it, would have to interact with the atoms of the body and hence be measurable as well as learn and store information eternally. Science would have found such an entity long ago if it existed. Again no proof found.
Experiments on prayer and blessings shows praying to any God/deity/spirit is equally effective aka no more effective than a pep talk, which is also explained by psychology. No scientific need for the divine powers here.
The soul was originally proposed to explain personality and the difference between alive and dead, but now personality is scientifically explained by neurology and the difference is explained scientifically by metabolism. No scientific need for the soul.
Tons of people hear voices speaking to them, and thus qualify as prophets and Godmen and good souls. None have been able to reproduce to get new information from the voice. Many have been diagnosed with Schizophrenia .
A person from the general public: Why can't we accept indirect evidence?
Scientists: We know of concepts (including specific particles of mass or energy) in physics that must exist or should exist in order to explain certain phenomena, but the inability of physicists to observe, measure, or replicate such things is NOT considered proof that they don’t exist.
But the only evidence I have seen of any weight is inferential, indirect, circumstantial, or experiential and limited in nature. There is such evidence but it is not considered validated, able to be replicated, or “scientific” in the realistic sense.
Studies of supposed reincarnation experiences (past life experiences) have not been validated or have been debunked.
Studies attempting to measure a change in mass at the moment of death are similarly not finding anything if valid.
I don’t know of any scientifically validated claims of angels, ghosts, demons, the dead, or any such things to the extent that they exist having any potential direct effects on or direct physical communications with people living in this world, nor of physically observing such things.
There are other indirect forms of proof or evidence but they involve religion and not scientific evidence and cannot be replicated and could not stand scientific scrutiny.
A Person from GP: Genes made of DNA and RNA can live after life and therefore can they be considered as 'evidence of soul"?
Scientists: Your genes (made of DNA and RNA) are passed on to your offsprings. They are not your soul. Those chemicals that represent DNA and RNA that are present in your body get disintegrated and recycled - if not immediately, after sometime. They are not eternal like people describe souls.
Moreover, the orientation patterns (of chemicals) and numbers of genes make what type of individuals we become. They are just chemicals and molecules made from them. That's all.
GP: Neuroscientists have discovered that if you sever the connections between the left and right hemisphere of the brain the personality remains completely intact. This implies we have souls. Does the brain produce the soul or not?
Scientists: What has brain got to do with souls? How does a split brain imply the existence of a ‘soul’? How can brains produce 'souls'? Brains are responsible for consciousness and minds that's all.
Besides the general philosophical question of how this implies a ‘soul’, one needs to account for the fact that ‘split brain’ persons still have extensive inter-hemisphere communication - just not through the major tract, the corpus collosum. It is only certain kinds of communication that is lost. Cutting the corpus collosum is like cutting the interstate highway system. Travel is impaired, but it’s still possible to get from point A to Point B via secondary roads. Souls have nothing to do with it.
General Public: What about god men who experienced these 'soul things'?
A Neuro-scientist: People whose brains have been damaged in some small way will often exhibit behavioral or functional changes for the worst in ways which reflect the known purposes of the areas of the brain which received damage. People have lost the ability to speak; they have become unable to use words appropriately while speaking; they have lost the emotional regulation afforded by certain areas of the brain; they have lost defining memories; all of this in ways which could be expected given knowledge of the brain regions which had been damaged.
A believer in the afterlife could witness the effects of incremental damage to a person’s ability to function, behave, and retain the personality by which they were known, all the while suspecting that if and when the brain is destroyed completely, off of the body will rise a soul which is capable of remembering grandma and speaking English.
Likewise a person whose brain has undergone some change or damage can 'imagine' things of the 'past life', talk about souls wandering in the sky. I don't give much importance to it. We need not investigate into these stories too. We know how and why they arise.
We only have to treat such patients. Period.
You heard from scientists what they think about these things. It is difficult to make scientists accept anything unless it sticks to scientific method and methodology. Providing factual evidence is one such thing.
If you can't do that scientists will not give your argument a second thought. Don't blame them for it. Go search for what they insist on providing!
According to science there is no evidence of souls. If it is ‘matter’ , it would have been existed in some measurable entity. Scientists tried but couldn’t find any measurable thing that went out of a dead body or during death - neither matter, nor energy.
Therefore, what ever people say about souls is just imaginative and creative stories that originated when science didn’t develop to explain things and provide evidence through scientific methods.
Therefore if you ask such Qs, the answers you get too are imaginative and creative stories that don’t deal with facts and reality based on evidence.