• SIN Series – Death: What Happens After?

    Imagine for a moment that you live about 10,000 years ago. You probably live with a small tribe of fellow hunter-gatherers. Perhaps your tribe has discovered a rudimentary agriculture.

    Death is all around you. You watch as your children and parents and friends die. Some just never wake up. Some are seriously injured and die in pain. It’s quickly obvious that those people that die don’t come back. You don’t see them again… ever.

    I suspect that those people felt the same as we do now. I greatly miss my grandfather. When I spot to look at his WWII medals and picture, I still get a little snuffly thinking about him. He’s been gone for over a decade now and there’s nothing in this universe that can replace him.

    From the beginning, our earliest ancestors who recognized death and had an emotional response to it, we have probably wondered… what happened to them?

    Feeling such a close connection with a dear loved one, we can’t help but wish we could see them again. Being a modern human, many of our species can’t help but feel that we are somehow special. That thing that makes us special must not be intrinsic to the body or other animals would be like that (they are) and so it may be something that can survive after death.

    Combine these basic fears, desires, and primitive logic with a group who sought to control others and we get the idea of a soul. A part of us that lives on in an afterlife (hopefully being the saxophone player in an all-girl cabaret in New Orleans). An afterlife where we will see our loved ones again. Where all the trials and troubles of our life will disappear and there will be no pain, no suffering, no fear.

    It’s a pretty powerful message.

    It’s also false.

    Everything that we are, everything that we perceive is nothing more than chemical reactions in the cells of our brain. This is easy to show to be true.

    A quick search of the literature find many research reports of changes in personality (some permanent) following traumatic brain injury. The research on this goes back a long way. Examples:

    What these articles tell us is that, things like personality are directly related to the brain, chemistry or architecture. We know that drug use can alter the personality (and memories). We know that hormone changes in other parts of the body can have an effect on personality (generally short term). Heck, I get grumpy if I don’t eat. Give me some stress and deny me a meal and I’m a complete asshole.

    Who we are is directly tied to our bodies. Remove the body and we can’t be us anymore. This is one reason I don’t see us being able to upload consciousness to computers anytime soon. It’s not just the brain.

    When we die our brain is the first and easiest to get permanent damage. Limbs can be reattached successfully after several hours (this source suggests even a full day), even in warm temperatures.

    But the brain, the brain starts to fail in as little as twenty minutes without a constant blood flow, but recovery past 3-5 minutes is complex. Certain medical procedures and drugs can extend that time to maybe another 10 minutes before unrecoverable brain damage occurs. Cats and dogs, under laboratory conditions, have come back to life after an hour of no oxygen to the brain.

    The point is that we are our brain. We are not a soul. We are not some kind of supernatural entity just living in a body for a time. Our brain energy can’t be stored in a lava lamp.

    Community Season 5 Episode 4
    Community Season 5 Episode 4

    When we die… that’s it. That’s the end.

    That’s super depressing…

    No it’s not. It’s amazing.

    We don’t have to try to live up to someone/something else’s ideals of what we should be. We can be free to be ourselves. We can do things that we want to do.

    It’s like Minecraft. There’s no story in Minecraft. It’s just you, living in the world. You can explore. You can build a house. You can build an exact replica of 18th century Paris. You can do anything that you want to.

    Write the damn book. Talk to that cute girl. Go to France. Figure out what you love and do it. Become awesome.

    What has become important to me is making a difference. I won’t be remembered by many people when I’m gone. But I know that my work has directly affected millions of people over the last decade. They may not remember me or even know who I am, but they are better people because of what I’ve done.

    How much more of a legacy could anyone want?

    I don’t want to die. I like being alive. But I don’t fear death like I did when I was younger.

    Category: AtheismBiologyCulturefeaturedLifeResearchScienceSociety


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • Jeff Pinner

      I suspect I’m a bit older than you sir, as it was my uncles that served in WWII, my father being an unwitting member of the Manhattan Project. My memories of my grandfather (paternal) were only enhanced by the thousand people who turned out for his funeral, most remembering him as the founder of the church in which it was held, but many of them his union brothers showing their respect for a founder who went to his grave with scars from the Flint sit-down strike. When some wonder why a small business owner would be so pro-union, I simply have to tell the story of the preceding two generations of my family – the first a proud member of the UAW who was promoted to line management as the only way to get him out of the union, the second a middle manager in GM, and myself, now a business owner. Each of us has left a mark – the first in small concepts like the weekend, the second in the products he helped produce which defeated fascism and later defended our nation, and me, in the concepts and techniques I’ve passed to my customers both young and old. America is a better place in some small way because of each of us. Good enough for lives that will be little noted nor long remembered.

    • Good stuff, KM. Nothing fro me to disagree with there! Will have to check out some of the links, too.

    • Doc Bill

      Wait, wait! I just saw the movie “CHAPPiE” and all you need is that helmet thing and a Sony VAIO … Oh, and a spare Scout robot.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        You guys aren’t supposed to know about the scout robots yet. Wait… damn!

    • When we die our bodies will be recycled by the best little environmental workers: bacteria. Organic molecules will be reused to build another biological creatures by following instructions encoded into DNA. There are about 200 billion Shakespearean atoms in each one of us.


      “But I don’t fear death like I did when I was younger.”

      Really? We’ll see when the time comes. 😀

      • Doc Bill

        I can feel the starched sheets beneath me, the oxygen tube in my nose, bright lights – and my children gathered around me, one last time. I only wish I could witness their collective gasp when after my final breath they learn that 40 million dollars has been transferred to Porn.Com.

        • Porn.com? Never heard of it. 😀

      • kraut2

        When you hit sixty, you likely have more dead friends than live ones, and you really have to confront your own mortality. I only fear dying in agony, as I have experienced some severe pain in the past. I know I can handle pain, but I like to die in peace, not in pieces.

        When I think about my more or less immanent demise – maybe if I am lucky another good fifteen years? – I don’t fear it, I just feel some sadness to have to say a final goodbye to this place called earth where the positive experiences outweighed the negative ones, that I will no longer be able to experience life in all it’s facets..
        And a feeling of how lucky I and my family have been to live a life that was sofar void of violence that million of others have to experience.

        But the clouds are gathering, and I fear things might change faster than we think possible.

        BTW – Worrying about ones legacy is a sign of weakness, a sign you are not grounded in yourself. I simply don’t give a shit how I am perceived by anybody at present, much less how in the future.
        I lived primarily for myself and my family; whatever else I did was because I thought it was the right thing to do.
        Whoever wants to piss on my grave (which will not exist) is welcome to it.