Life After Death? A Professor Says Yes!

We found this in the Daily Express, a national tabloid newspaper headquartered in London. Well, today it’s probably the Sunday Express. Anyway, their headline is: Life after death: Why scientist declared ‘there IS an afterlife – Memories are separate!’, and they have a comments feature. Here are some excerpts from the news story, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

James Porter Morland is an American philosopher who currently serves as a distinguished professor at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in California.

Ooooooooooooh! Biola University. That’s the bible college founded in 1908 as the Bible Institute Of Los Angeles. We’ve previously posted about the interlocking relationships between the Discovery Institute and Biola. And as we reported earlier, for the celebration of their centennial year, Biola honored Philip E. Johnson: Godfather of Intelligent Design.

Let’s find out what the professor says:

As a dedicated Christian, he declared during Amazon Prime’s “Closer To Truth” series that there is an afterlife. However, besides his faith, Dr Morland also claimed to have scientific evidence to support his views.

Wowie — scientific evidence! We gotta see what that is. The tabloid tells us:

He said in 2014: “Well I think there are certain pieces of evidence that there is an afterlife. The first branch of evidence is theistic-dependent. In other words, whether it’s reasonable to believe in an afterlife or not depends on whether you also think it’s rational to believe in God. Since I think it’s rational to believe that God exists, then I have a reason for thinking there’s an afterlife.”

The professor gives his reasons:

“It would go something like this – God is not finished with us in this life, he has projects for us.” Dr Morland went on to elaborate on this point. He added: “He [God] values versions because he made them, he is not about to annihilate them or snuff them out of existence. And so God will sustain us in existence because we will always matter to him, whether we want to be with him or not.”

That was his “theistic-dependent” argument. Now we’ll learn about his scientific evidence. We’re told:

“The two empirical reasons I have for believing in life after death is the resurrection of Jesus – if, in fact, he rose from the dead. Then he has done there [sic] and told us about it and I’m going to listen to what he has to say.”

And that’s not all. Let’s read on:

Dr Morland went on to detail another well-documented reason for believing in an afterlife. “The second are a bevvy of near-death experiences where people learn things there is absolutely no way they could know and are impossible to adequately explain through deprivation to the brain of oxygen.”

Ah yes, Wikipedia has an article on that: Near-death experience. Then the professor says:

“The truth is there is no scientific approach to how we die, just scientists who have their own approach. And scientists differ on the question and they differ as philosophers, not scientists. The question of whether the mind or consciousness can exist outside the brain is not a scientific question. Let me dispute the claim that everything can be rooted in the brain, if that’s true, there’s no free will.” [Huh?]

That’s a bit difficult to follow, but we must proceed. Here’s another excerpt:

However, Dr Morland took things one step further, claiming the brain does not store memories. [What?] He concluded: “That means that consciousness is an epiphenomenon, it’s a byproduct, it’s caused by the brain, but it doesn’t, in turn, cause anything. If that’s true, then the acceptance of scientific theories is determined by your brain chemistry.” However, Dr Morland took things one step further, claiming the brain does not store memories.

He concluded: “That means that consciousness is an epiphenomenon, it’s a byproduct, it’s caused by the brain, but it doesn’t, in turn, cause anything. If that’s true, then the acceptance of scientific theories is determined by your brain chemistry. The idea that memories are in the brain is absolutely gobbledy-gook – it makes no sense at all. Memories aren’t the sort of thing that can be spatially located in a piece of chemistry.”

Then, in a display of journalistic ethics, the tabloid presents the other side:

However, most scientists are not in agreement. [Gasp!] Sean Carroll, a cosmologist and physics professor at the California Institute of Technology, claimed to have put the debate to bed after extensively studying the laws of physics. He said in 2018: “Claims that some form of consciousness persists after our bodies die and decay into their constituent atoms face one huge, insuperable obstacle.

What’s that huge obstacle? We’re given that in the final paragraph:

“The laws of physics underlying everyday life are completely understood, and there’s no way within those laws to allow for the information stored in our brains to persist after we die. It’s really nothing but atoms and the known forces, there is clearly no way for the soul to survive death. Believing in life after death, to put it mildly requires physics beyond the Standard Model.”

Okay, dear reader. We’ve been given two contradictory opinions — each one claiming to be scientific. What do you think?

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30 responses to “Life After Death? A Professor Says Yes!

  1. ”God is not finished with us in this life, he has projects for us.”
    Ah, no rest for the weary hoping for a more idyllic afterlife. Perhaps a caste or elitist post existence, rich to the right, poor to the left?
    However, Dr Moreland took things one step further, claiming the brain does not store memories.
    Right on, all our memories depart our heads and head outwards to the cosmological ether, there to be stored for eternity, a true example of cloud computing. Don’t forget your password!

  2. It’s clear he’s a philosopher and not a neurologist. Everything that happens in the brain is a product of the neurons that make it up. Once the neurons die, it’s all gone. And, by the way, if he thinks memories are so bloody eternal, has he never forgotten anything? And what about the memories non-human animals have?

  3. This makes me angry as few other arguments do. My grandmother died of a brain tumour, at that time inoperable, and her personality, awareness, and most pitifully of all her memories went bit by bit.

  4. Michael Fugate

    Isn’t this J P Moreland the DI fellow traveler?

    My favorite is the idea that the brain is like a radio or television picking up signals from the beyond. It is just a receiver. Memories are in the “cloud”. Doesn’t Ockham’s razor make this less likely- especially since we know memories are chemically stored in say Drosophila.

    In the end this is just wishful thinking, like not wanting to be kin to monkeys.

  5. Michael Fugate asks: “Isn’t this J P Moreland the DI fellow traveler?”

    They have a “fellow” by that name, but the Discoveroids always use his initials. I assume it’s the same guy.

  6. Not the first philosopher going off the rails. It’s called substance dualism.
    Near-death experiences as proof for afterlife? I am surprised he doesn’t use the many claims of reincarnation as a proof. But wait, those contradict Christian thinking …

  7. He [God] values versions because he made them, he is not about to annihilate them or snuff them out of existence.
    And did God make tribolites?
    There was once the belief that there could not be extinctions.

  8. For being a professor, he sure has a strange idea of what constitutes scientific evidence.

  9. chris schilling

    “Empirical” and the “resurrection of Jesus” in the same sentence — together at last!

    The professor drove his “bevvy”[sic] to the levee
    But the levee was dry.

  10. ” a bevvy of near-death experiences where people learn things there is absolutely no way they could know and are impossible to adequately explain through deprivation to the brain of oxygen.”

    I am ready to be convinced of the inadequacy of my worldview, as soon as these are properly documented and confirmed.

    Until then, there are better arguments for God on FaceBook

  11. @Paul Braterman
    I’m sure that the examples of knowledge not learned by physical means have been demonstated not to be due to ESP.
    Although I don’t know how advanced the studies of ESP have been, so that they can exclude the possibilities of foreknowledge, telepathy, clairvoyance, etc. Not to mention demonic posssession. Or divine illumination – we can’t rule out prophecy, can we?

  12. Michael Fugate

    But why couldn’t oxygen deprivation lead to the unloading of memories? On the other hand, why aren’t people exploiting this to gain knowledge? Maybe this was how Genesis was written- one partial suffocation at a time and why there are two versions?

  13. @Michael Fugate

    Isn’t this J P Moreland the DI fellow traveler?

    More than that, he’s a full-blown DI CSC Fellow. He also edited The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for An Intelligent Designer. In addition to being a philosopher, he’s also a Theologian and Christian Apologist, and an advocacy for subordinating Science to Religion (‘Theistic Science’/’Theistic Realism’). In other words he’s as far from being a “scientist” as you can get in academia.

  14. But the questions are obvious. Are there really such things as near-death experiences? Are they always to be explained by oxygen deficiencies or some other physical cause in the distressed brain? Do they really share important commonalities across cultures?

    I think that there is evidence from observation that they are experiences, and that they are strongly consistent. Are they real? That would depend on what you mean by “real”.

    The question is causation. I have seen accounts that NDE-like experiences can be induced in subjects in a centrifuge that drains blood from the brain, with the implication that it must follow that the experience is not necessarily associated with approaching death. I don’t doubt that the reports are correct, but would observe that blood draining from the brain often IS a harbinger of death.

    I have also seen reports like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMYhgTgE6MU, in which it is categorically stated that subjects had actually died – there was no EEG activity in the brain at all – before being resuscitated, but were able accurately to describe events around them while they were in that state, including events that they could not have seen from their position on the gurney.

    I quite appreciate the weight of Dr Carroll’s statement about life after death requiring physics beyond the Standard Model. But I understand that a unified field theory requires the same, and further, that physics and science generally has nothing to say about the supernatural, except that it can never be accepted in science anyway, and that would be true even if the supernatural actually existed.

    I find myself reduced to a familiar and galling position: I don’t know. Unsatisfactory, is it not?

  15. “The question of whether the mind or consciousness can exist outside the brain is not a scientific question.”

    “Dr Morland also claimed to have scientific evidence to support his views.”
    Aha. Scientific evidence for a non-scientific question.
    ‘Nuff said.

  16. @Dave Luckett, “I have also seen reports like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMYhgTgE6MU, in which it is categorically stated that subjects had actually died – there was no EEG activity in the brain at all – before being resuscitated, but were able accurately to describe events around them while they were in that state, including events that they could not have seen from their position on the gurney.”

    Let me invoke Hume’s criterion. which is more likely, that ” were able accurately to describe events around them while they were in that state, including events that they could not have seen from their position on the gurney.”, or that everyday exlanations, such as conicidence, overinterpretation of resemblances, confabulated memories, and even lying, provide sufficient explanation?

  17. Paul Braterman, I am unable to compute the probability of either. As I said, I don’t know.

  18. For one thing it’s totally unclear when exactly someone is dead. There are many examples of people whose memories were lost, sometimes forever, due to head injuries. A

  19. Hm, I pushed a few wrong buttons.
    As so often apologists want to have it both ways. Memories that “survive” death are supposed to be evidence for a supernatural cloud a la internet. Memories that get lost do not confirm that “memories are” … “the sort of thing that can be spatially located in a piece of chemistry”. This “method” works very well when arguing for usual predetermined conclusions.

  20. And of course apologist JPM, again as so often, can’t decide whether his supernatural “explanation” (yeah, I know, TomS, this word is misplaced) is meant to complement or to replace science. A priori I don’t exclude a supernatural reality. The total lack of any progress in terms of knowledge and understanding since say Plotinus destroys all credibility of dualism afaIc.

  21. Anybody who can read Dutch and enjoys some good old cringing should take a look here:

    https://godenenmensen.com/2019/08/05/pim-van-lommel-en-de-cloud-van-bewustzijn-1-2/

    Four episodes called “Pim van Lommel and the cloud of consciousness”.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pim_van_Lommel

  22. Let us assume supernatural explanations.
    Let us assume the reports about knowledge do not admit a natural explanation.
    How do we decide between different supernatural explanations?
    Let us assume that “life after death” works as an explanation. Does it exclude other supernatural explanations?
    Maybe the observers and the subject are in telepathic communication. What controls are there in the observations which rule that out?
    Maybe the body has been taken over by another spirit, one which is demonic, a trickster, a guardian angel, a god. The body was not dead, but only has that appearance which the invading spirit takes over for a while.
    When one admits the possibiity of supernatural action, what can be ruled out?
    I remember going to a lecture by a researcher in the paranormal, where he explained the controls that he used to differentiate between different aspects of the paranormal: telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance and telekinesis. (If someone is able to tell what the hidden card shows, is that due to his knowing it, or because he forced that card to be chosen, or because he knows what you are going to say, or because he forces your record of what the card is, or what?)

  23. Michael Fugate

    Just remember – Harry Potter is real….
    https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/sep/02/harry-potter-books-removed-from-catholic-school-on-exorcists-advice
    Biblical magic can have no competition.

  24. TomS: I don’t know whether a supernatural explanation is possible at all. I’m far from being able to decide on which explanation it is. Please, one problem at a time.

  25. @Dave Luckett
    I don’t think there is such a thing as a supernatural explanation.
    Once one rules out natural explanations, ther are no rules to guide you: Clairvoyance or psychokinesis or spirit possession or divine will or original sin or witchcraft or luck or whatever, they all work equally well. Which is to say none of them work at all.
    Do you ever hear an explanation of why it’s not that wrong kind of supernatura?

  26. “God is not finished with us in this life, he has projects for us.”

    My wife will be glad I can finally finish the basement remodeling.

  27. TomS, I rather think not, either. That’s perfectly acceptable as an expression of opinion. But thinking is not knowing.

    You would reject supernatural cause on the grounds that there’s no knowing what the supernatural cause is. If the cause is unknown – as is, I submit, the case with NDE’s – would you reject natural cause on the same ground? The expansion of the singularity appears to be causeless, or at the very least, the cause is unknown. Are we to reject its natural causation, on the grounds that we do not know what natural cause it was? That there appear to be no rules to guide us?

    “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Undeniably true. And that will always be so. I’m afraid I have less trust in human ratiocination than you appear to have. Where there is no evidence, I do not know.

  28. Re “‘It would go something like this – God is not finished with us in this life, he has projects for us.’ Dr Morland went on to elaborate on this point. He added: ‘He [God] values versions because he made them, he is not about to annihilate them or snuff them out of existence. And so God will sustain us in existence because we will always matter to him, whether we want to be with him or not.'”

    So much for “God is ineffable” and “no one can know the mind of God.” This guy knows! He should be Pope, don’t you think?

  29. @Dave Luckett
    I am not ruling out action by the supernatural with effect in the natural. What I am ruling out are explanations invoking the supernatural.
    As I understand explanations, they provide limits on what happens. But the supernatural operates with looser limits than the natural. (Perhaps without any limits at all. But I don’t need to talk about the omniscient and omnipotent. All I know is that super-natural means that the limits of natural laws are not operative.)
    Take the example being dealt a natural royal flush. How do I explain that?
    What if I say that it does not violate the law of conservaton of matter and energy? That’s true, but it does not rule out any other possible deal. It isn’t an explanation.
    What if I say that the deck that was being used was not the standard 52-card deck, but it is the pinochle deck, which ony has A-K-Q-J-10-9. That makes the probability much greater. Why is there a pinochle deck? That means that there is another explanation needed, yes. But it is a partial explanation.
    But if I say that the deck being used was augmented with Uno cards. That makes the propability far less. That isn’t an explanation.
    And if I say that the spirits are involved, that is even worse as an explanation.
    Because there is no expectation for what the spirits would with the cards, not even ruling out violation the law of conservation of energy and matter.

  30. Michael Fugate

    Thinking of these verses in John
    Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

    He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

    If Jesus were God, he would know that the seed does not die. And knowing this, couldn’t that mean that Jesus didn’t die and was no resurrected? At least not in the sense that most people understand it. Couldn’t this also mean that eternal life occurs due to reproduction?