I blogged about the “Death is not Final” debate a few days ago, but until now all you had were my notes.
Now, here is the actual debate itself …
Dr. Steven Novella nails it when he makes the observation that every aspect of NDEs (Near Death Experiences) can be induced in the lab with appropriate stimulation of the brain, and also points out that the mind is the brain. We can mess with the brain and see exactly what it does to the mind, there is no evidence of any mental activity that happens independently of the brain.
One other point to pick out is that Eben Alexander claims at 1:26:30 that Carl Sagan believed that the evidence for past life experiences in children is overwhelming. He went as far as citing Sagan’s Demon-Haunted World, pg 302. This is simply not factually correct at all, If you read Sagan, here is what he actually wrote, and you will clearly see that he did not “believe”, but rather simply was talking about ideas that could be tested …
“Perhaps one percent of the time, someone who has an idea that smells, feels, and looks indistinguishable from the usual run of pseudoscience will turn out to be right. Maybe some undiscovered reptile left over from the Cretaceous period will indeed be found in Loch Ness or the Congo Republic; or we will find artifacts of an advanced, non-human species elsewhere in the Solar System. At the time of writing there are three claims in the ESP field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study:
(1) that by thought alone humans can (barely) affect random number generators in computers;
(2) that young children sometimes report the details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation;
(3) that people under mild sensory deprivation can receive thoughts or images “projected” at them.
I pick these claims not because I think they’re likely to be valid (I don’t), but as examples of contentions that might be true. The last three have at least some, although still dubious, experimental support. Of course, I could be wrong.”
~Demon-Haunted World, pg 302 – Carl Sagan
Eben was wrong about what he though Sagan believed … but then he was also wrong about rather a lot of other stuff as well. It might also perhaps be worth pointing out that even if Sagan had actually believed, it still does not verify it as true, because for such an extraordinary claim you need extraordinary evidence, an appeal to authority (especially a case one) does not cut it.
So how did the debate go?
Like this …
But that result is quite frankly meaningless. Yes, it is a result that aligns with what I think is true, and it is also encouraging that after all the arguments were thrashed out the audience went against the motion due to the lack of credible evidence for it and that was also despite the heavy bias we can all have in leaning towards the motion.
So why is this a meaningless result? Basically because while debates are interesting, reality is not something we get to vote on, so winning a debate does not establish “truth”, only evidence can do that.
- Steven Novella blogs about what happened in his debate here.
- Sean Carroll also blogs about it all here.
- Eben Alexander blogs about it all here
- Dr Moody has a website, but does not appear to have any post debate commentary.