Thursday, 7 January 2021

Commenting on a negative review of the Netflix series "Surviving Death"

As a preliminary, I should point out that I haven't watched this series of programmes, nor have I read the book that the series is based on. Since, though, there's plenty of reviews of this series of programmes, I am now sufficiently intrigued that I plan to watch both the series and read the book, and possibly review both. So, for the first time ever, I'll be subscribing to Netflix!

Anyway, here's a negative review of the series from The Daily Beast that I'll make a few comments on:

‘Surviving Death’: Netflix’s New Series on the Afterlife Is Crackpot Nonsense

First thing to say is that there aren't any detailed arguments here.  It adopts a flippant dismissive tone rather than a measured approach.  But, for what it's worth, let's look at what it has to say:

The article says:

[E]lderly hospice patients often state that they see, and speak to, their deceased relatives. Alas, Surviving Death ignores any non-supernatural explanation for these phenomena—say, that cultural programming inspires like-minded deathbed visions, or that aged men and women whose minds are deteriorating, and who’ve lost everyone they cherish, might naturally retreat into comforting family-reunion fantasies.

So, cultural programming or fantasy might make you see someone and talk to them.  My immediate reaction here is to ask why not prefer the more obvious and straightforward explanation that they are in actual communication with them?  From what I've read they certainly seem to be.  Of course, they might have retorted that the notion they are really in communication with dead people is an extraordinary claim.  But, in the review, they don't say that and no argument is presented to support that contention.   And besides, as I have extensively argued in my blog, for example here, I do not think the notion that it is an extraordinary claim can be justified.

The article also says:

Everyone spotlighted by Surviving Death agrees that grief is at the root of people’s desire to believe in the afterlife.

For many people that might well be so.  And, of course, having a desire that something is true doesn't make it any more likely to be true.  But, also, it doesn't make it any more likely to be false either.  In short, it doesn't matter that many people have a desire to believe in an afterlife. What are relevant are the reasons and evidence that can bear on this issue. 

The article also says:

Where are the bitter, angry ghosts who want to vent to those they left behind?

Communication, whether via mediumship or perceiving an apparition, will presumably be of a telepathic nature.  Are anger and bitterness conveyed in general telepathic communications? Of course, it might be that the anger has dissipated in the afterlife realm -- this is suggested by NDEs who often report feeling unconditional love from the beings they perceive.  

The article also says:
Surviving Death boasts an extremely limited view of the afterlife—one in which all ghosts communicate in the same indirect-clue fashion, and have the same unrevealing things to say.
I do agree that the "unrevealing things to say" accusation makes mediumship somewhat less convincing than it otherwise might have been.  Having said that, we need to remember that the alleged communication isn't conveyed by words, but rather telepathy.  Can telepathy convey the same information as a spoken language? Telepathy might be elicited via an emotional resonance between two or more beings, which primarily convey feelings rather than "cold" information.  So, a detailed description of the afterlife via telepathy might be difficult.

The article also says:

 And there’s also one woman’s extended tall tale about foreseeing her death at the moment of her child’s birth|.

I'm not sure that premonitions are completely impossible.  I have more to say on this issue in another blog post here.   But, even granting it's a "tall tale", it is not generally disputed there's a great deal of nonsense out there.  But, how does this negate the more convincing evidence, or the fundamental problem that if there is no afterlife how the brain somehow produces consciousness?

The article also says:

[I]n late passages about children who claim to be reincarnated souls, the show doesn’t cast a single sideways glance at the adults and kids making these assertions.

Not sure what this means? With Ian Stevenson and his successors, it's not as if children are simply believed, their claims are thoroughly investigated. If investigations reveal their memories match up to past events, and which couldn't have been obtained by any normal obvious manner, then we need to entertain the various hypotheses. Reincarnation is the most straightforward obvious one and that fits all the facts.  Of course, we should be extremely sceptical about anyone claiming to have been a famous person.

Well, that's it.  I need to watch these programmes!

1 comment:

  1. The truth is that a narrow minded quasi-intellectual would always criticize anything beyond their comprehension. Being sceptical is definitely ok. But that also mean being scpetical is searching for for answers. Ans that is what the DOPS of UVA has been doing for over 50 years.

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