In a 2022 critique of the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies essay competition on the "best" evidence for life after death ("the survival of human consciousness") and in replies to two commentaries on it, Keith Augustine made passing reference to the parallels between the arguments provided by survival researchers—psychical researchers ostensibly investigating evidence for an afterlife using scientific best practices—and the well-worn fallacies repeatedly committed by creationists and other Christian apologists. In this essay, Augustine highlights several parallel fallacious arguments found among both those at the forefront of "scientific" research into an afterlife and those engaged in Christian apologetics.
Published on the Secular Web
This essay has been significantly revised to reflect updates that were published in the Journal of Near-Death Studies in 2007. Several points have been streamlined for clarity and to remove unnecessary verbiage. The section on psychophysiological correlates has been rewritten to be much more accessible, and now ends on a discussion of what is implied by the influence of medical factors on NDE content. A discussion of circumstantial evidence of temporal lobe instability among NDErs has been added to the section on the role of the temporal lobe in NDEs. A few points have been incorporated into the main text from Augustine's replies to Journal commentaries where they elaborate on points in the lead essays, such as a discussion of why cross-cultural diversity undermines a survivalist interpretation of NDEs. That argument is followed up by a similar one, cut for space from the Journal discussions, about the meaning of the apparently random distribution of pleasant and distressing NDEs. Additionally, a large number of new endnotes have been added to this essay. Most of these summarize the most important points of the Journal exchanges (notes 1-6, 10, 17, 20, 23, 28, and 30-32), but a significant number also concern other issues or recent developments (notes 5, 7, 8, 11-16, and 22).
The first part of this essay discusses what naturalism in the philosophy of religion should entail for one's ontology, considers various proposed criteria for categorizing something as natural, uses an analysis of these proposed criteria to develop theoretical criteria for both the natural and nonnatural, and develops a set of criteria for identifying a potentially supernatural event in practice. The second part of the essay presents a persuasive empirical case for naturalism based on the lack of uncontroversial evidence for any potential instances of supernatural causation, with particular emphasis on the lack of evidence for supernatural causation in our modern scientific account of the history of the universe and in modern parapsychological research.
A review of Whatever Happened to the Soul? edited by Warren Brown, Nancey Murphy, and H. Newton Malony. The book attempts to reconcile Christian theology with the scientific evidence against the existence of a soul.
William Alston's Perceiving God argues that some mystical experiences should be regarded as perceptions of God analogous to the perception of physical objects in sense experience. I conclude that there are several reasons for doubting that mystical experience generally—or Christian mystical experience specifically--can be a form of perception, even given Alston's epistemic commitments.
In this article, Keith Augustine responds to Theodore Schick, Jr.'s arguments against the subjectivity of moral values in his Free Inquiry article "Is Morality a Matter of Taste?"
In this article, Keith Augustine provides an argument that objective moral values probably do not exist if naturalism is true and defends the coherence of moral subjectivism.
An argument against the existence of God based on the lack of evidence for God's existence where, given God's nature, we would expect to find such evidence. (Reprinted from the May 1997 edition of the Campus Freethought Bulletin, a publication of the Campus Freethought Alliance.)
An analysis of the philosophical arguments and scientific evidence against life after death, one which weighs the parapsychological evidence for survival of bodily death against the physiological evidence for the dependence of consciousness on the brain This essay is divided into four main sections: Defining the Problem; The Philosophical Case Against Immortality; The Scientific Case Against Immortality; and Postscript on Survival.
By simply being reactive, nontheistic debaters have allowed religious organizations to set the agenda. The time to create a freethought debate circuit, where both sides have fair legal representation and adequate debate preparation, has finally arrived!
This essay considers whether life is inherently meaningless if death is the permanent end of our conscious existence and our lives are not part of a higher purpose. If a sentient God existed, Augustine argues, then the value that he would attribute to our lives would not be the same as the value that we find in living and thus would be irrelevant. Therefore, we must create our own meaning for our lives regardless of whether or not our lives serve some higher purpose.
Tune in to Freethinker Podcast with host Edouard Tahmizian for an about an hour-and-fifteen-minute interview with panpsychist philosopher of mind Philip Goff as Tahmizian, Keith Augustine, and Jason Thibodeau query Goff about his reasons for embracing panpsychism, the view that all matter has some degree of a conscious or experiential element to it. Goff expertly fields questions from all three interlocuters about how his panpsychist views differ from those of other philosophers of mind and his rationale for taking this position. He suggests that "physicalist" Galen Strawson holds substantially the same view that he does, their differences largely being semantic ones about the meaning of the term physicalism (or materialism). Goff also responds to criticisms (like those of Massimo Pigliucci) that his picture of the mind is unscientific. He canvasses the hard problem of consciousness, structuralism about physics, why he favors taking the Russellian monist theory of mind in a specifically panpsychist direction, and what it might even mean to say that something like an electron has experiences. Goff also discusses whether arguing from a "top down" cosmopsychism (i.e., that the universe as a whole has experiential aspects, and divides down into our individual consciousnesses) is less problematic than arguing from the "bottom up" that the most fundamental constituents of matter have simple experiential aspects that somehow combine into our more complex, but unified, individual consciousnesses. The discussion then turns to Goff's take on the (classic, Plato-inspired) divine command theory of ethics, fine-tuning arguments, whether there's a middle way between traditional omni-God theism and traditional atheism that may be more attractive than either of those binary choices, whether libertarian free will exists given the possibility of determinism, and how his broader philosophical views impact the question of life's meaning. Check out this wide-ranging interview with a renowned philosopher of mind who has become increasingly prominent in public debates about these issues over the last several years!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this over half-an-hour interview with Keith Augustine, Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief of Internet Infidels, as they discuss what parapsychologists or psychical researchers have presented as the "best" parapsychological evidence for life after death, the largely neuroscientific evidence against life after death, and problematic religious or spiritual conceptions of the purpose of earthly life. The interlocutors then canvass how those who research life after death from an ostensibly scientific starting-point often mirror the same sorts of fallacious reasoning found in Christian apologetics. Check out this quick interview for such a wide range of topics with a long-time afterlife skeptic (and Digital Millennium Copyright Act Agent)!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this 45-minute interview with Keith Augustine as they canvass Augustine's recent exchange with prominent psychical researchers in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (JSE). On Thanksgiving 2021, the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies (BICS) published 29 essays that it had deemed provided "hard evidence 'beyond a reasonable doubt'" for the survival of human consciousness after death. In the Summer 2022 JSE, Augustine critiqued the best of the lot, with the selected authors defending their contest-winning essays against Augustine's critique, and Augustine in turn responding to their defense before participating in a collaboration to design a preregistered experimental design that might advance the scientific debate if implemented. In this interview, Augustine delves into scientific versus legal standards of evidence and how they amount to the same thing for the purposes of this competition, what simple historical tests of survival after death have found, how researchers have used proxy sittings to make it more difficult for mediums to read cues from sitters (séance participants), how one might test paranormal powers scientifically in general, and the neuroscientific case against life after death. Tune in for a discussion that moves these issues outside of the parapsychological echo chamber and into the wider world for everyone to contemplate!
Join host Edouard Tahmizian in this twenty-minute return interview with Keith Augustine, Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief of Internet Infidels, as they review the five main kinds of parapsychological evidence for life after death, the most persuasive of those sources and their weaknesses, and the chiefly (but not wholly) neuroscientific evidence against life after death. The interlocutors then canvass the importance of weighing the total available evidence rather than just some particular subset of it. Check out this succinct interview with our illustrious DMCA Agent!
In this half-hour talk, Edouard Tahmizian chats with Keith Augustine, Executive Director & Editor-in-Chief of Internet Infidels, about why the future looks bright for secularism and the adoption of a naturalistic worldview in light of the rapid secularization of the United States since the 1990s.
Does the afterlife exist? In this episode of the Armchair Atheism podcast, Taylor Carr explores the evidence for life after death and some of the questions surrounding it with philosopher and skeptic Keith Augustine.