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Death Is Not Final

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  • Can Neuroscience Prove Consciousness Is Created in the Brain?

    Clip: Eben Alexander and Steven Novella debate the origins of human consciousness, whether or not it is a phenomenon that is produced by the brain itself.

  • Death Is Not Final: Closing Statements

    Clip: Closing statement from debaters Dr. Eben Alexander, Dr. Raymond Moody, Sean Carroll, and Dr. Steven Novella.

  • Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness After Death

    Clip: Sean Carroll disagrees with Raymond Moody and Eben Alexander about the relationship between consciousness and the laws of quantum mechanics.

Debate Details

If consciousness is just the workings of neurons and synapses, how do we explain the phenomenon of near-death experience? By some accounts, about 3% of the U.S. population has had one: an out-of-body experience often characterized by remarkable visions and feelings of peace and joy, all while the physical body is close to death. To skeptics, there are more plausible, natural explanations, like oxygen deprivation. Is the prospect of an existence after death “real” and provable by science, or a construct of wishful thinking about our own mortality?

The Debaters

For the motion

Dr. Eben Alexander

Neurosurgeon & Author, Proof of Heaven

Eben Alexander, M.D., is a renowned academic neurosurgeon. A transcendental near-death experience (NDE) during a week-long coma from an inexplicable... Read More

Dr. Raymond Moody

Medical Doctor & Author, Life After Life

Raymond A. Moody, Jr., M.D., Ph.D., is a medical doctor and the best-selling and award-winning author of twelve books, including Life After Life (1975)... Read More

Against the motion

Sean Carroll

Physicist & Writer

Sean Carroll is a physicist and author. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1993, and is now on the faculty at the California Institute of Technology... Read More

Dr. Steven Novella

Academic Neurologist, Yale School of Medicine

Steven Novella, M.D., is an academic clinical neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine. He is the founder and current executive editor of... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Human consciousness remains a mystery. People may claim that it's produced by the brain and bound by the laws of physics, but the truth is that the origins of consciousness is a mystery.
  • Previously established by respected philosophers, from Plato to William James, mind-body dualism and the immateriality of the soul have been further supported by recent studies on the afterlife.
  • Near death experiences (NDEs), as well as psychic phenomena—experienced throughout history—provide strong evidence that consciousness exists independently of the body and thus, independently of physical life.
Against The Motion
  • Humans, composed entirely of atoms, are part of the natural world and subject to its laws. Individual life and consciousness are not immaterial and thus cannot extend beyond physical death.
  • NDEs, the centerpiece of recent research, are purely anecdotal, descriptive accounts, which, despite some commonalities, are not evidence of a universal experience but rather reflect the subject's cultural background.
  • NDEs are simply altered mental states akin to the complex brain phenomena that occur in delusions, hallucinations, oxygen deprivation, and drug-induced experiences. There is no evidence that they have occurred while subjects' brains were inactive.

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The Research

The Research

Eternity for Atheists

Jim Holt
July 29, 2007

If God is dead, does that mean we cannot survive our own deaths?

Near-Death Experience

The Skeptic’s Dictionary
January 10, 2014

A brief presentation of a skeptical view of NDEs.

Near Death Experience with Bruce Greyson

Essentials of Noetic Sciences Teleseminar Series
October 10, 2013

Bruce Greyson discusses how cumulative research into near death experiences challenges both a classical physical view of reality, and an exclusively neuroscience-based view of consciousness.

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