I have a single, simple question for you. It may at first seem frivolous, but I assure you that I am dead serious and consider its implications profound and its answers revelatory of the Christian mindset.
If I believed in a compassionate, all-powerful God who answers prayers, I would pray every day for Him to eradicate all human disease.
My question is predicated on the a priori assumption that you do not do this.
My only question for you is: WHY NOT?
Just to recap a point from an earlier post:
I am an agnostic because I have no Knowledge as to whether or not a specific god exists.
I am an Atheist because I my lack belief in any god.
I am an Agnostic Atheist because I do not believe in any gods because I have no knowledge or evidence for their existence. No faith is required to hold this position.
Quick thought: If we say – as most believers do – that their god has a plan for them and that everything that happens to us is part of this plan. Whether we understand Gods mind is not important as He alone knows the reason why things happen. Therefore why pray? Surely prayer is asking your god to change his plans? Should Theists not desist from constantly imploring him to change his mind?
As a former member of your ranks I retain a certain affection for your persistant inquiry. That is something that is lost among the majority of believers. Anyway as to our imperfect world I think it can be justified in two ways. The first is absolute total freedom. The world we live in permits us to fend for ourselves, disease can be eradicated without explicit divine intervention. Smallpox, once the scourge of europe and the americas, now exists only in laboratories. Many other diseases have been eradicated any many will soon follow suit. As horrid as a world is with malignant microbes is, I feel hope in the fact that we, really only 450 years or so practicing science, have gone to great lengths in combatting them. The human race is thus free to stand on its own. I think that the idea of mankind living perpetually in a sort of garden of eden may seem appealing, but upon further consideration it really is not. Man, fallen as the Christian knows, is not suited to live in such an environment. A once read a study on a tribe in africa, the efe that subsides entirely off the land, they do not have agriculture, or science, or written language,their extent of technology is a bow and arrow, they also have few predators and disease is not as much of a problem there as it is in the rift valley. They are unable to discover the great truths of our universe or reap the benefits of modern technology because they were never forced to survive in spite of their environment. In a way disease led us to discover microbes and from that discovery microbiology was born. I think a proper prayer for a christian to utter in this regard is thus, Lord, please facilitate new discoveries and help us to improve our lives upon the wondrous planet you have given us. Unfortunately, many people see prayer as a celestial ATM. This is most likely do to the trash culture that we have.
The second part of the answer is the afterlife. Obviously I am aware that almost everyone on this site will see it has simply "the great fiction" But the persistence of similar NDE's at least sow a seed of doubt. Also the difficulty in explaining the origin of Christianity without the resurrection seems to suggest that there could be a life after death. Nietzsche in his work, the antichrist, postulated that St.Paul was the architect of Christianity as a whole, and he invented the resurrection and promised the afterlife to gullible low class citizens of the empire. Apart from the latter part of the statement being untrue, Christianity was embraced by the educated greeks after much effort by St.Paul, Nietzsche fails to adress the obvious, why would St. Paul bother? He knew that death would come and gained little materially, especially considering that he was a roman citizen and therefore a member of the privileged elite in Jerusalem. So if there is an afterlife then the imperfect nature of our world is totally justified. The only thing that matters in this life is our charitable works towards our less privileged brothers and sisters and our reaction to the many trail, tribulations, and injustices that torment our existence. The Christian can hope in a final justice. The trilemma of Epicurus(and Hume) is justified in the next life, not this one.
I think it is pretty strange to jump to a conclusion of an "afterlife" based on similarity of NDE's. What tends to be a common denominator IN NDE's is the patients all having hallucination, which is NOT possible if one is actually BRAIN DEAD.
Just wanted to point that out.
I did not say that one should jump to a conclusion, I merely said that it was something to consider, furthermore the NDE's that have been entered into the many studies published all must be in patients who had absolutely no brain function, they were in effect brain dead. This may arise from the fact that we do not yet fully understand consciousness. A study recently published suggests that consciousness may be a product of quantum mechanics,therefore it could be assumed that some residual consciousness remains after all brain activity ceases, but that was repudiated by fellow scientists, albiet not totally. So the question remains. Some MD on nbc said that his experience with NDE's led him to believe a couple of years ago.
We now have the technology and scientific knowledge to begin exploring the ultimate question,” says Dr Sam Parnia, leader of the research team at London’s Hammersmith Hospital. “To be honest, I started off as a sceptic but having weighed up all the evidence I now think that there is something going on.
Several scientific studies have suggested that the mind – or ‘soul’ - lives on after the body has died and the brain ceased to function. One study published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal found that one in ten cardiac arrest survivors experienced emotions, visions or lucid thoughts while they were clinically dead. In medical terms they were “flatliners” or unconscious with no signs of brain activity, pulse or breathing.
About one in four people who have a near-death experience also have a much more profound – and sometimes disturbing – experience such as watching doctors try and resuscitate their bodies. These ‘out-of-body experiences’ often include seeing a bright light, traveling down a tunnel, seeing their dead body from above, and meeting deceased relatives.
Dr Parnia has previously studied near-death experiences. Two years ago his work was published in the prestigious medical journal Resuscitation. Dr Parnia’s team rigorously interviewed 63 cardiac arrest patients and discovered that seven had memories of their brief period of ‘death’, although only four passed the Grayson scale, the strict medical criteria for assessing near-death experiences. These four recounted feelings of peace and joy, they lost awareness of their own bodies, time speeded up, they saw a bright light and entered another world, encountered a mystical being and faced a “point of no return”.
According to modern medicine all of these patients were effectively dead. Their brains had shut down and no thoughts or feelings were possible. There was certainly no possibility of the complex brain activity required for dreaming or hallucinating.
Dr Parnia’s initial trial was especially rigorous - he wanted to confound his critics before they could muster their arguments. To rule out the possibility that near-death experiences resulted from hallucinations after the brain had collapsed through lack of oxygen, he rigorously monitored the concentrations of the vital gas in the patients’ blood. Crucially, none of those who underwent the experiences had low levels of oxygen.
He was also able to rule out claims that unusual combinations of drugs were to blame because the resuscitation procedure was the same in every case, regardless of whether they had a near-death experience or not.
“Arch sceptics will always attack our work,” says Dr Parnia. “I’m content with that. That’s how science progresses. What is clear is that something profound is happening. The mind – the thing that is ‘you’ – your ‘soul’ if you will - carries on after conventional science says it should have drifted into nothingness.”
Dr Parnia says that every near-death experience is subtly different but that they all share eight or nine key features, whatever the nationality, culture or religion of the patient. These include intense feelings of calmness, traveling down a long dark tunnel, being drawn into an intense loving light, seeing your dead body from above, and meeting long-deceased relatives or friends. A few experience a brief form of ‘hell’ where they are drawn, petrified, into a dark swirling well of bitterness, hatred and fear.
Look it up, even if the tissue is viable, if there are no electrical pulses or synapsis, then there can be no consciousness.
As for the Quantum Mechanics theory here is a good article if you have any interest.
Well you might be aware that Cardiac Arrest patient's EEG usually flatlines around 10-20 seconds after cardiac arrest. No electrical pulses means flat EEG, so in that 10-20 second space a patient may still have brain function without a pulse, so they would be "clinically" dead and still retain brain function, that I will concede, but the EEG flatlines within seconds. This is proven by the fact that they do not even retain a gag reflex which is among the most basic of brain functions. Also the patients pupils are fixed and dilated.If there is no brain activity you cannot retain or create any memories. Once a person's brainwaves have ceased, indicating that all mental activity has stopped - perceiving, thinking, and remembering - how do we explain their accurate perception of events going on around their 'deceased' body (both sight and sound), and their accurate reporting of events taking place even at significant distances from their clinically-dead body? The dying brain theory has been very much debunked by cold hard medical facts. The reason Penrose would throw his weight behind such a phony quantum based theory is because this is a genuine mystery. If the debate was so simple then millions would't be spent on so much research. I personally am an undergraduate planning on going into the medical field and one of my professors, an agnostic by the way, has had access to some of the files of the massive forthcoming University of Florida study on NDE's and he says that from what they have discovered so far there is no correlation between religious belief and experience of NDE's. Of course the study isn't published yet so I cannot give you a link, sorry.
"Our most striking finding was that Near-Death Experiences do not have a physical or medical root. After all, 100 per cent of the patients suffered a shortage of oxygen, 100 per cent were given morphine-like medications, 100 per cent were victims of severe stress, so those are plainly not the reasons why 18 per cent had Near-Death Experiences and 82 per cent didn't. If they had been triggered by any one of those things, everyone would have had Near-Death Experiences." (Van Lommel 1995)
Plus Tracey, Dr. Parnia is still a skeptic and he is really trying hard to find a medical explanationhttp://www.skeptiko.com/sam-parnia-claims-near-death-experience-probably-an-illusion/
I think if you read the entire piece you will realize that that the title is a bit optimistic, anyway he also makes a slight mistake, he said that aristotle and plato and different views on the soul, they did not really, the greek philosopher and pseudoscientist Epicurus was the one who said that the soul was a product of bodily functions and it died along with the body. CPR in a way does restart the brain. The brain cannot function without a steady stream of oxygenated blood, the CPR provides that blood and restores brain function when there previously was none.
NDE is a bit of a misnomer, if their EEG is flat and they have no pulse, the're dead.
The DMT theory is being thrown around, as it the CO2 theory, but neither of them are really being taken that seriously. I am not saying that there is no possible way a natural process can account for these NDE's but as of today there is none.
Check out Dr. Kenneth RIng's study with people who are born blind having NDE where they can see.
Also read up on John Eccles, a nobel prize winning neurophysiologist and devout theist, catholic by the way.
Strict Materialism and Religious Fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin guys, at least keep an open mind.
Hi John Baptiste,
I have read the original paper as reported in the Lancet and it seems that Dr Parnia is doing nothing short of quote-mining....to serve their own purpose...
Seriously, ANYONE who says...." I started out as a sceptic"...is much like the beginnings of near EVERY Penthouse Forum story...starting with ..." I never believed these stories were true until.... MY experience...."
Again, cardiac arrest is NOT BRAINDEAD. CPR does NOT jumpstart the brain again, but the HEART.
As well as Dr Parnia stated, there are "key" features in those who've had NDE (THE NEAR is "key" here...they AIN'T DEAD).... is that over 72% of those claiming to have had NDE either have religious affiliation OR have heard of what an "NDE is "like" prior to having one themselves.
As such, all this really "proves" is the unconscious mind has the capacity to bring forth stored information. It related ZERO to any afterlife scenario. If the "findings showed that EVERYONE having been through the trauma and associated clinical death and subsequent CPR... then there WOULD be conclusive evidence. In the Study though he originally cited FROM the Lancet, there were 344 cardiac patients involved and of those.. only 62 actually had this "nde" experience...whether in assumed" core form or more superficial.Less than 20% had NDE.. as I said shows more about information they have stored, due to religious beliefs and indoctrination.
So...yeah.. cheers to you too.
There is a difference between a flat EEG and the irreversible necrosis of the neurons, And yes you are right about cold water drowning, the low temperatures prevent the cells from dying, it is the same principle that applies to cryogenics. And in this state there is no brain activity, none, their EEG's are flat but the neurons can be coaxed back to life with a flow of oxygenated blood. The skin tone is not related to brain functions, any brain stem activity would be given away by a gag reflex, or pupil contraction as a response to light. The reviving of the patient follows the same principle in both the cold water drowning and cardiac arrest patient, it's just that the cold water patients can be revived far later, when normal cardiac arrest patients brain would be damaged beyond repair.
I'm impressed. This is the first I've heard anyone mention the work of Roger Penrose. I find it odd however, that you would not put much stock in it. I think it is the last best hope for a medical explanation of human consciousness that might be independent of the scientific method.
Penrose's work is not well understood by the lay public. But basically, there is a fundamental difference between what Penrose is talking about and the "usual" Quantum Mechanical behaviors observed in nature. Penrose is talking about what is called "Objective State Vector Reduction" which is an extraordinarily rare occurrence in the universe. It is the only process in nature that is truly non-deterministic and non-algorithmic. This means that it is inaccessible to the scientific method. This is precisely the kind of candidate one needs to speak of the "supernatural"; by definition.
If I were an apologist I would have latched onto this a long time ago but I've yet to see anyone pick it up. Despite how rare it is, it happens literally thousands or millions of times per second in layer 5 of the cerebral cortex of the human brain in what are called large pyramidal or "Betz" cells. This should be a red flag for further research. But no one seems to quite understand the significance of this.
As for being brain dead, I don't think that data will tell you anything. The Quantum Coherence that occurs in the water within microtubules "reduces" to a classical state whether the brain is alive or dead. Shifts in the density and location of water inside the microtubule as a result causes the microtubule to change shape. Changes in the shape of the microtubules cause changes in the growth of the cytoskeleton, which in turn shapes the direction of axonal and dendritic growth. This also occurs even after brain death.
This is significant because the probability of a neuron firing depends partly on something called spatial and temporal summation; the location at which dendrites synapse with neighboring neurons and the spatial distribution of those synapses on those neurons. This is ultiamately influenced by objective state vector reduction, which is a process inaccessible to the scientific method (one cannot predict the outcome of that system with a given, initial set of conditions). There is your "god".
btw, I think Penrose is also right in saying that "artifical intelligence" and other such schemes at mimicking human intelligence will fail because human consciousness is a fudamentally different animal. The human brain is not a computer and any computer that can "think" will be something of a kind and type we would not today call a computer. Penrose made this argument quite well also. The mystery of human consciousness is an extremely challenging one and not one that's going to be solved by software engineers.
This is significant because the probability of a neuron firing depends partly on something called spatial and temporal summation; the location at which dendrites synapse with neighboring neurons and the spatial distribution of those synapses on those neurons.
Should have read:
This is significant because the probability of a neuron firing depends partly on something called spatial and temporal summation; the relative time at which dendrites synapse (and fire) with neighboring neurons and the spatial distribution of those synapses on those neurons.
Oh, and, no offense to software engineers. Its no issue of brains, its an issue of specialty.
We now have the technology and scientific knowledge to begin exploring the ultimate question,” says Dr Sam Parnia,
I admire his confidence in science.
But I seriously doubt it.
If anything we are awash in hubris. We are a LONG, LONG way from understanding human consciousness, imo. I think we'll have viable fusion reactors before we have a complete understanding of human consciousness. In fact, I'd argue that the question of human consciousness is going to vex the scientific method and community more thoroughly and ruthlessly than anything we've ever encountered, in my little heterodox, wicked little opinion. ;-)
Finally, whew! that link you provided is awful. The author doesn't understand anything he's talking about, despite his great effort. What Roger Penrose was saying was what the eternal optimist of a scientist would say when faced with what he discovered:
Well, gee, the scientific method flat out fails completely to explain human consciousness, we already know that, its the only thing we know cannot be explained by the scientific method, so, maybe, quantum mechanics is just wrong and we'll figure it all out later.
Wrong. What objective state vector reduction tells us is that the laws of nature itself bar any investigation into this. Sorry, but its a fact. I'm a deconverter, why do you think I avoid this topic? ;-)