Wednesday, 16 March 2022

The degrading of our mental faculties as we age

I know I keep banging on about the same topic, but I just find it extraordinary that people (mainly skeptics, but also some believers) think the degrading of our mental faculties arising from a dysfunctional or impaired brain will also apply in any afterlife.  Hence, if someone is suffering from dementia at the time of their death, then they will also be suffering forevermore from dementia in any possible afterlife.  For example, Bill Nye said:

"People my age have a lot of grandparents and parents who are not as sharp, certainly not as athletically capable or physically capable as they were when they were younger.

"And so watching ourselves die is to me, overwhelming evidence that there is no life after death.

"There's certainly no — it doesn't seem to be any reason to think that when you die, you go back to your optimum age at your optimum athletic ability in your optimum intellectual sharpness."


a) The brain produces consciousness and the self.

b) Consciousness and the self/soul can exist apart from the brain.  However, when the self/ soul is associated with a brain (embodied), the brain affects the self's/soul's conscious states.

If there is an afterlife, at least in the sense of a soul dwelling in some afterlife realm, then "a" cannot be true. So if there is an afterlife we must subscribe to "b".

So assuming "b", any deterioration in our mental faculties that happens as a consequence of a dysfunctional or impaired brain is . .well . . due to the brain and the brain alone... duh... Or, in other words, it's not due to any change in the soul or self. Therefore, there cannot be any implications for our mental faculties in any afterlife. To understand this, consider the following analogy.

Bob has normal visual acuity. One day he puts on a pair of fake eyeglasses that just uses normal glass in the frame rather than lenses.  So his vision is not altered. What if he continues to wear them year after year and never takes them off during this time?  Also, he never cleans the glass nor replaces it? As time goes by, the glass will accumulate dirt and possible damage, and Bob's vision will progressively get worse and worse. But then, one day, he whips the eyeglasses off, and voila! His vision returns to his initial visual acuity.

So why on earth would it be any different for the soul or self? If the brain doesn't create the self, soul, or consciousness, how on earth could the detrimental effects arising from a dysfunctional brain somehow mysteriously linger on when one is in a disembodied state, as in the afterlife?  Our souls will no longer be associated with a brain, hence a dysfunctional or impaired brain cannot possibly affect our mental faculties in any afterlife.  It's just silly to suppose otherwise, and I think people are simply not thinking this through.



  1. Hi Ian!

    I'm perhaps marginally younger than the lot that frequents your blog - I just recently turned 20 - but I wanted to reach out to you and tell you that your blog posts like this have brought me an insurmountable amount of comfort, that there could potentially be *something* after we die. Not only that, but you taught me what in God's name materialism was, and why I, like you, personally dislike it so much. I didn't even realize it was a philosophy - let alone, the main one we hear whenever anyone scientific speaks about anything.

    Your open-mindedness is so refreshing, and gives me a lot of faith, for lack of a better word, in humanity as a whole. I don't want to believe the universe was just a series of coincidences, I want to believe that we're here for some reason, whatever that reason may be. And I want to reject the notions that claim there can't possibly be an afterlife. That's actually how I found you, through your amazon review of "The Myth of an Afterlife", I believe, as your response to that book was so profound and unlike anything I'd ever read, that I just had to read the rest of what you said, and then some.

    It'd be my absolute pleasure if we could have a conversation sometime. Unsure of if you can see my email if I post this, but I'd very much like to pick your brain about all of these ideas you've discussed here, and then some.

    Thank you for giving me some hope, man. I really needed it.

    1. Hi, thanks for your kind words! I do have my own facebook group that focuses on philosophical issues, especially whether there's an afterlife. It's called "Philosophical and Miscellaneous Thoughts"

      90% of the posts on there are from me. People can ask me questions on there, although there's no guarantee I'll be able to answer. I think I'm good at the philosophical issues, but I don't have a detailed knowledge of the various evidence pointing to an afterlife. But plenty of that on the net.


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