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Your Paracast Newsletter — March 15, 2020


Gene Steinberg

Forum Super Hero
Staff member
THE PARACAST NEWSLETTER
March 15, 2020
www.theparacast.com


A Double-Header Featuring Researcher Elica Lukes, and Filmmaker James Fox, Featured on The Paracast

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This Week's Episode: Gene and Randall present a "double-header." First up is podcaster and researcher Erica Lukes joins the crew to catch up on recent developments in Ufology, and the ongoing mystery of the Skinwaker Ranch in Utah. Erica hosts a weekly show on KCOR called "UFO Classified," and, as this show was recorded, was working on a UFO/paranormal book with long-time researcher Gordon Lore. Documentary filmmaker James Fox returns to discuss his recently-competed UFO movie, "The Phenomenon," how it came to be, and its long gestation period. Gene and James also offer a few "spoilers" about the film.

J. Randall Murphy's Ufology Society International: Ufology Society International (USI) - Explore the UFO Phenomenon

Erica Lukes site: Home | UFO Classified

Official trailer for "The Phenomenon":

After The Paracast -- Available exclusively for Paracast+ subscribers on March 15: For a change, Gene and Randall play catch up, talking about current events and issues and possibilities in the UFO field. Topics include the possibility that some UFO sightings are actually psyops staged by governments, dealing with major unexpected events, citing the coronavirus as an example, and relating it to how we'd deal with extraterrestrials staging a public landing at one or more locations around the world. What about the danger of ET accidentally bringing an unknown, virulent virus with them? The discussion also includes a sci-fi movie, "Arrival," in 2016, which deals with finding ways to communicate with alien visitors.

Reminder: Please don't forget to visit our famous Paracast Community Forums for the latest news/views/debates on all things paranormal: The Paracast Community Forums. Check out our new YouTube channel at: The Official Paracast Channel

Why Afterlives Are Impossible
By J. Randall Murphy

"I didn't believe in reincarnation in my past life, and I still don't." -— Woody Allen

Understanding why afterlives are impossible requires that we define what we mean by an afterlife. The typical assumption is that persons continue to live after the death of their bodies, usually in some other realm or aspect of this realm that we cannot normally detect with our available senses or equipment, and that they either remain there, or return to this realm by occupying their original bodies, or as is the case with reincarnation, by occupying a new one, or as is the case with hauntings, manifesting themselves as some ghostly apparition.

What I mean by "impossible", is that based on the interpretations above, afterlives are not possible. Therefore no amount of additional information can make afterlives true. It is analogous to saying that if we only had more information, we could prove that there are four sided triangles, or three sided squares. We don't need more information to determine possibility.

With the above premises in place, the key to understanding why afterlives are impossible, is the word “person." What exactly constitutes personhood? Afterlife proponents would have us believe it is the soul. But what exactly do they mean by that? There is certainly no consensus. Some equate it with consciousness, but consciousness is an entirely separate concept than that of personhood. To clear that up, let's have a quick look at what we mean by consciousness and personhood.

Consciousness is the experience of being in the world. In other words, it is what it's like to experience senses, emotions, knowledge, and ideas. However senses, emotions, knowledge, and ideas are only content. Consciousness is more like being aware that there is any content in the first place. This must be true because an awareness of a lack of content is an equally good indicator of consciousness. For example a person who has gone totally blind has an awareness that they can no longer see.

As we contemplate this further, it becomes apparent that the role consciousness plays with respect to personhood is entirely neutral. In other words, consciousness only makes a person aware of their personhood. It doesn't in and of itself constitute personhood. Consider a patient suffering from a condition where they cannot regain consciousness. When their condition is repaired it makes them aware of their own memories, senses, ideas, and so on, not those of some other person.

Another analogy is that consciousness is like a screen that displays your senses, tastes, emotions, etc. But the screen itself is just a blank white surface. If it were moved to a person without one, it would then reflect all the things about that person, not the person it came from.

There are those who would deflect the above, claiming instead that you are your spirit. However the word spirit is often equated with that of a soul, so we're back to square one. The only alternative is to propose that souls or spirits, or whatever they may be called, are different than consciousness alone, and are able to carry with them in some ethereal form, the personality as well as consciousness. Let's say that happens to be the case. That would be a pretty good reason to suppose that there's an afterlife. Right? Not so fast.

All the things that constitute personhood have been proven beyond any reasonable doubt to be attributable to some aspect of our biology. Believers in afterlives would no doubt resist this truth, but I wonder how many of them wouldn't mind missing their morning cup of coffee. Let's face it, biochemistry has a huge effect on personality. Consider the differences between the sexes alone. Different hormones directly and significantly affect personality. Add to that all the other psychoactive compounds. The evidence is overwhelming.

Similar proof from neuroscience is available for all sensory and memory functions. Therefore retaining our gender, memories, intellect, and sensory systems after death are all very important requirements if personhood is to be retained. So the question is: What takes over for all these entirely biological systems and material compounds after death?

Proponents of afterlives might say that they don't know what takes over, but something does. I might be tempted to agree that such a thing is possible, but unfortunately, either way, the result is the same. The heavy lifting for personhood must be done either by our physical systems, or by some sort of replacement for our physical systems; otherwise there can be no continuity of personhood. So now we apply the logic.

With consciousness playing a neutral role, and biological systems doing all the heavy lifting, then regardless of whatever mechanisms takes over for our biological systems after their death, the best that such replacements can ever be are copies. They can never be your original biological systems, especially after they have been reduced to a pile of ash. Therefore everything responsible for personhood has not undergone any continuity.

In other words, your afterlife copy can have exact duplicates of all the memories, feelings, and senses that you do. It might even think it is you (sans body). But as we have just seen, it cannot be you. Hence, because there can be no continuity of personhood, there can be no afterlife in the sense we defined it at the start. The only way to truly retain continuity of personhood is to literally never die, body and soul or spirit, or whatever else you want to call it.

This realization should inform anyone who bases their assumptions about afterlives on the initial premises above, that they need to rethink their position and formulate possible hypotheses to explain the phenomena reported. For example, if we are to accept that the phenomena that leads people to believe in afterlives is something real, then we should be asking how these copies are possible.

We may never be able to prove any particular theory, but at least exploring possible theories is better than wasting time trying to prove impossible ones. As a final thought, if it is actually the case that an afterlife copy takes over for us upon our death, perhaps it would be best to have treated ourselves well during life, so as to give them a good start in their new existence.

Note: Please visit the following topic thread in The Paracast forums for more discussions about Randall’s column: Philosophy, Science, and The Unexplained.

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Farlig Gulstein

Skilled Investigator
The only way to truly retain continuity of personhood is to literally never die, body and soul or spirit, or whatever else you want to call it.
If you argue that biology is a significant basis for continuity of personhood, then you would have to take into consideration the fact that every day you have biological cells in your body dying off in large numbers. The vast majority of cells are replaced by new cells. In your argument, Randall, a new biological body implies lack of continuity of personhood. So, hasn’t your ‘J. Randall Murphy’ personhood actually changed over and over through the years of your life, by replacement cells?

Another thing. It is certain that, biologically, you are not the same today as when you emerged from your mother. You have continually changed from conception, to birth, through all ages, like for instance age 3, 7, 13, 17, 22, 34, 47, 58. So, are all these biologically changing examples of so-called J. Randall Murphy actually ‘non-continuous’ discrete biological entities? No one thinks so. So a "biological angle" may not be all that helpful to your argument.

Regardless, human beings typically sleep once a day. Someone aged 60 has slept around 22,000 times. I personally don’t have the slightest idea of what goes on when I sleep, other than some very short dreams here and there. Other than that, I am out, blank. I personally cannot confirm my continuous "personhood". An external observer may tell me there is physical continuity, but the idea that the person I was yesterday is still the same me today is an assumption made by everyone.

Nevertheless, just to make sure I am not misunderstood, I do indeed think I am the same ‘person’ that I was at age 7, even after many thousands of sleep cycles, various drunken stupors in my youth, and going unconscious by anesthesia once during an operation. But continuity of the person before and after sleep is still an assumption that we all grant. If we accept that level of continuity of personhood, then, for me at least, a future resurrection that facilitates a new life after death could be considered analogous to sleeping and awaking. Indeed, authors of the books of the Bible described the death of both righteous and unrighteous in terms of sleeping until the day of resurrection and judgment. And that proposed event is indeed the principal Judeo-Christian view of “afterlife”.

I should say that in light of my worldview as an Abrahamic Theist, I do not see convincing proof of actual reincarnation of previous-lived human beings. I do concede, however, that there are very strange phenomena that seem to be for many people, like Leslie Kean,
convincing evidence of actual reincarnation. I think other explanations are possible, especially if one grant’s that there are practically undetectable NHI’s (non-human intelligences) in our world among us influencing our human experience.

I also have a very difficult time with the idea that haunted homes, buildings or sites, or poltergeists, are the result of the lingering ‘ghosts’ of previously-lived human beings. I do, nevertheless, think there are cases where there definitely are observable effects of ‘something’ going on involving intelligences that is very strange, and sometimes annoying. I have had minor experiences.

It seems that for many people, once the concepts of reincarnation, or ghost-hauntings are acknowledged, then suddenly the ancient practice of mediumship is brought front and center (compare 1 Samuel 28.3-25, and see here). Mediums are often the ones who claim to be in direct contact with discarnate human spirits. However, again, if NHI’s actually are among us in our world and if they can profoundly influence our mental perceptions, then they could be doing all kinds of ethereal impersonations, for mediums, in hauntings, and for certain phenomena taken as evidence of reincarnation, so that in all these various different forms they bewilder, befuddle, berate and befright humans. I think they probably do UFO stuff too.

As far as the actual question of ‘afterlife’ in this essay goes, I would have preferred a more thorough-going definition of what you mean by ‘afterlife’. Because for a significant part of the world, ‘afterlife’ is included in terms of resurrection from the dead into everlasting life, at least for Abrahamic Theists, which, as I said, I would be included among. The biblical expectation is indeed a transformed immortal resurrection body unlike our current mortal body.

Finally, ha ha, there actually IS a “Four-Sided Triangle” :D but it is an old Hammer Sci-Fi movie that will certainly carry you back to 1953, even if it is a bit of a bore (starring actress excepted).


But in two-dimensional geometry, triangles, BY DEFINITION, can never be anything but three sided and three angled. Otherwise, BY DEFINITION, it is not a triangle.
 

USI Calgary

J. Randall Murphy
Staff member
If you argue that biology is a significant basis for continuity of personhood, then you would have to take into consideration the fact that every day you have biological cells in your body dying off in large numbers. The vast majority of cells are replaced by new cells. In your argument, Randall, a new biological body implies lack of continuity of personhood. So, hasn’t your ‘J. Randall Murphy’ personhood actually changed over and over through the years of your life, by replacement cells?
You are obviously one of the deeper thinkers here, and your point is certainly worth considering. I didn't have the time to go into such depth in my initial post. Questions like yours above I think are better taken in bite sized pieces after the initial argument has been absorbed. It is a point I've done some reflecting on, and so far, I look at is this way:

The situation with cellular replacement as you've described above, is that while it is true that a person's cells die and are replaced, unless the replacements are transplants, they are not replaced by someone else's or something else's cells. They are replaced by your own cells that have been built by your own systems, and are therefore still you.
Another thing. It is certain that, biologically, you are not the same today as when you emerged from your mother. You have continually changed from conception, to birth, through all ages, like for instance age 3, 7, 13, 17, 22, 34, 47, 58. So, are all these biologically changing examples of so-called J. Randall Murphy actually ‘non-continuous’ discrete biological entities? No one thinks so. So a "biological angle" may not be all that helpful to your argument.
The same logic as given for the initial issue of cellular replacement applies here. In all instances, unless a transplant is the case, the addition, growth, and replacement of your cells is done by your own systems and are therefore a part of you. In other words, while we are alive we continually repair ourselves, not someone else.
Regardless, human beings typically sleep once a day. Someone aged 60 has slept around 22,000 times. I personally don’t have the slightest idea of what goes on when I sleep, other than some very short dreams here and there. Other than that, I am out, blank. I personally cannot confirm my continuous "personhood". An external observer may tell me there is physical continuity, but the idea that the person I was yesterday is still the same me today is an assumption made by everyone.
As outlined in the initial article, consciousness plays a neutral role with respect to personhood. So going to sleep doesn't change who you are. It just means that you are no longer having any experience of who you are. Upon regaining consciousness, you can verify who you are a number of ways. Hypothetically, you could also be continuously monitored so that if you were to be switched with a copy, it could be detected.

Again, the same logic applies. If it is the case that the being that is assumed to be you is a copy, then that being is not you. Only you, are you, regardless of whether or not some copy or changeling thinks they are you.
Nevertheless, just to make sure I am not misunderstood, I do indeed think I am the same ‘person’ that I was at age 7, even after many thousands of sleep cycles, various drunken stupors in my youth, and going unconscious by anesthesia once during an operation. But continuity of the person before and after sleep is still an assumption that we all grant. If we accept that level of continuity of personhood, then, for me at least, a future resurrection that facilitates a new life after death could be considered analogous to sleeping and awaking. Indeed, authors of the books of the Bible described the death of both righteous and unrighteous in terms of sleeping until the day of resurrection and judgment. And that proposed event is indeed the principal Judeo-Christian view of “afterlife”.
The problem with the sort of Judeo-Christian afterlife described above, is that as outlined in the initial post, the best that any resurrected person can be is a copy of some kind. So in addition to the issue of continuity of consciousness, there remains the issue of what is responsible for the workings of this copy in the afterlife? The only possibilities are either a replica or a simulation. They certainly cannot be the same physical person because those ashes are presumably still sitting in the crypt.
I should say that in light of my worldview as an Abrahamic Theist, I do not see convincing proof of actual reincarnation of previous-lived human beings. I do concede, however, that there are very strange phenomena that seem to be for many people, like Leslie Kean,
convincing evidence of actual reincarnation. I think other explanations are possible, especially if one grant’s that there are practically undetectable NHI’s (non-human intelligences) in our world among us influencing our human experience.

I also have a very difficult time with the idea that haunted homes, buildings or sites, or poltergeists, are the result of the lingering ‘ghosts’ of previously-lived human beings. I do, nevertheless, think there are cases where there definitely are observable effects of ‘something’ going on involving intelligences that is very strange, and sometimes annoying. I have had minor experiences.
Like you, there's no question in my mind that something out of the ordinary is going on.
It seems that for many people, once the concepts of reincarnation, or ghost-hauntings are acknowledged, then suddenly the ancient practice of mediumship is brought front and center (compare 1 Samuel 28.3-25, and see here). Mediums are often the ones who claim to be in direct contact with discarnate human spirits. However, again, if NHI’s actually are among us in our world and if they can profoundly influence our mental perceptions, then they could be doing all kinds of ethereal impersonations, for mediums, in hauntings, and for certain phenomena taken as evidence of reincarnation, so that in all these various different forms they bewilder, befuddle, berate and befright humans. I think they probably do UFO stuff too.
Very possibly. Also, when it comes to spirit mediums and such, there have been plenty of examples of perfectly human intelligences behind the practice, and a very skilled magician, reader, performer, can make things seem supernatural when they're not.
As far as the actual question of ‘afterlife’ in this essay goes, I would have preferred a more thorough-going definition of what you mean by ‘afterlife’. Because for a significant part of the world, ‘afterlife’ is included in terms of resurrection from the dead into everlasting life, at least for Abrahamic Theists, which, as I said, I would be included among. The biblical expectation is indeed a transformed immortal resurrection body unlike our current mortal body.
The initial definition covers the above contingency, just not in religiously specific terms. The idea of resurrection can only be one of two things:
  1. A copy of the original person
  2. A reconstitution of the original person
If the original person's remains are still in the urn or crypt or grave, or whatever the case may be, then the option of a reconstitution is off the table, and the only remaining option is a copy, in which case the copy is not the original person, even if they think they are. If there is some third option I'm missing, it has yet to be illuminated.
Finally, ha ha, there actually IS a “Four-Sided Triangle” :D but it is an old Hammer Sci-Fi movie that will certainly carry you back to 1953, even if it is a bit of a bore (starring actress excepted). But in two-dimensional geometry, triangles, BY DEFINITION, can never be anything but three sided and three angled. Otherwise, BY DEFINITION, it is not a triangle.
Hey thanks for including that. I've heard references to it a number of times, but have never seen it. Now having viewed it, I see the prototype of the Star Trek transporter, and a similarity with The Fly. Lena is copied. She thinks she is the same Lena she is a copy of. But of course that cannot be the case, as is made obvious in the picture.

Finally, there might be one sort of loophole we haven't covered yet. But I'm hoping someone else will bring it up. It's also been covered someplace in the long running consciousness thread.
 
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