Espiritualidade e Sociedade

Stephen E. Braude

>    A Rational Guide to the Best Evidence of postmortem survival

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Stephen E. Braude
>    A Rational Guide to the Best Evidence of postmortem survival




Vital Preliminaries


In order to evaluate the cases taken as evidence of postmortem survival, we must first be clear about what, exactly, we’re considering or hoping to establish. Strictly speaking, we have no proof of survival. Nor can we. We know quite well what proof amounts to in formal systems such as logic and mathematics. But empirical claims never enjoy that degree of certitude, and yet we can still have good reasons for believing many things that nevertheless remain vulnerable to possible revision or subsequent rejection. So what participants in the survival debate need to consider is something more modest than a slam-dunk proof - namely, whether there’s sufficient evidence for, and a rational basis for belief in, the survival of bodily death.

And that investigation immediately confronts an interesting challenge. On the surface, the inquiry into survival may seem to be straightforwardly empirical. But no study of ostensible survival cases can be entirely empirical. Every branch of science rests on numerous, typically unrecognized, abstract presuppositions, both metaphysical and methodological - for example, concerning the nature of observation, explanation, causality, or properties, or the appropriate investigative procedures for a given domain. It’s all too easy for scientists to lose sight of these basic presuppositions, especially as a science becomes more developed. But if those assumptions are indefensible or otherwise questionable, that particular scientific enterprise has nothing firm to stand on, no matter how attractive or promising it might be initially, or on the surface. In fact, this is widely recognized in certain prominent areas of science - for example, in memory trace theory and (for that matter) in many areas of so-called cognitive science - not to mention the perennial slugfest between competing grand theories in physics. And to complicate matters further, whereas mainstream scientists can do much of their normal business while keeping their basic assumptions safely in the background, in the case of survival research conceptual problems dominate the foreground. In more mainstream areas of science, scrutiny of underlying assumptions is likely to occur only during major challenges to the scientific consensus (or in Kuhnian terms, a challenge to the prevailing paradigm).

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Essay submitted to the BICS competition:
What is the best available evidence for the Survival of Human Consciousness after Permanent Bodily Death?


Stephen E. Braude






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